How the PPC Pulled the Cover on Structural Racism in Canada

By: Julia Aguiar

Canada breathed a palpable sigh of relief when it was declared that the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) leader, Maxime Bernier, lost his riding of Beauce, Quebec. The public was quick to call the time of death on the PPC. Far too quick. If Canada writes off the PPC as a frivolous political experiment, then it fails to critically deconstruct the type of racism that the PPC made public. If we are to take the PPC’s resounding failure as a repudiation of the racism of right wing populism as has been suggested, then we fail to recognize the racism that the PPC propagated and indeed exacerbated, as a Canadian problem. A type of racism that is so acutely Canadian, so embedded in our institutions, yet constantly sidestepped.

For far too long, Canada has failed to acknowledge not only the place of racism in this country but its deeply structural nature. To be clear, this type of structural racism has existed in Canada for as long as Canada has been pursuing its fraught colonial project. For many Canadians, it is a lived experience.

As is typical with populist parties, the PPC was founded by breaking away from the established Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). There was a certain disillusionment with the way the CPC was perceived to be betraying its ring wing ideals. A similar genesis story can be seen in the formation of populist party Vox in Spain which had its roots in Spain’s more mainstream People’s Party. It is tempting to consider the PPC in a vacuum for the way that the party is more radical than that of the other four federal parties that made the national debate stage. However, this would be to discount the long established presence of populism in the country. Populism can be co-opted by parties that fall on both the left and right ends of the political spectrum. Canada has seen the populism of the Social Credit Party, the Reform Party of Canada, and the Canadian Alliance. All this to say, populism in Canada is not a new phenomena.

The PPC has been rightly condemned for its overt racism. But then again, the PPC was hardly the only political party that revealed itself to be racist during the federal election campaign. In many ways, throughout the election campaign structural racism in Canada was made explicit yet simultaneously pushed aside. The conversations around racism throughout the election were abysmal and deeply unsettling. Mr. Scheer frequently, and often nonsensically, deployed the language of racism to undermine the platform of Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Singh unfairly shouldered the burden of being the only candidate of colour often being the subject of deeply personal questions that his counterparts did not face. Moreover, Mr. Singh frequently had to steer the conversation away from himself and towards his platform. Mr. Trudeau continued to reveal to Canadians that he is not nearly as progressive as we were made to believe as photos of him donned in brownface and blackface emerged. Though, for how many times he did this, Mr. Trudeau is uncertain.

The way that racism has been spoken about in terms of individuals or in the more radical politics of the PPC rather than as a national problem further points to the failing of Canada to critically engage and dismantle structural racism. As much as Canada likes to think of itself as a haven for marginalized peoples, in actuality, it is something quite different. Moreover, the pronouncement of the PPC as irrelevant without deconstructing the hate they propagated against marginalized peoples should be taken as a profound failing on the part of journalists, political theorists, and Canadians writ large.

The violence and genocide of racism was woven into the fabric of Canada from the outset of its settler-colonial project. Structural racism in Canada was cemented with the building of the transcontinental railroad and continues to endure as Canadians put it off as something that happens down south.

As we are conditioned to see the racism of the PPC as an anomaly, and even un-Canadian, we must remember that these are not the issues of a populist party alone.

To dismantle systems of racism, Canada first has to acknowledge and interrogate them. In doing so, Canada will have to leave abstractions of Canadian niceties and goodness at the door.

Canadians said no to the PPC, but they still have yet to say no to structural racism. 

Populism’s Co-opting of Religion

Europe finds itself navigating a state of Euroscepticism, xenophobia, and right-wing populist movements. At its core, populism pits the ‘pure people’ versus the ‘corrupt elite’. For different groups, this means different things. Most attribute populist rhetoric as nationalistic and socio-economically driven. Religion offers many benefits for populist groups, yet is overlooked in much of the literature. This article attempts to highlight that populist group also draw upon religion as a means to rally ‘the people’.

By basing their identity in Christian culture, populists thus require something to stand in opposition to their ideals and their ‘people’. David French elaborates this point by arguing that populism typically uses mass mobilization against an opposing force. Islam has typically filled this role. This is likely due to the recent immigration crisis that Europe recently faced. Susi Meret and Andreas Beyer Gregerson argue that Islam has transformed into a floating signifier for the Danish People’s Party. They go on to say that “Islam is represented as a main religious and cultural challenger that threatens national identity and security”. National identity here is not limited to the Danish case. Rather any populist group can argue this. Donald Trump has attempted repeatedly to impose a travel ban on Middle Eastern countries because any Muslim could be a threat. The simple fact that a person can be banned because they come from a country where Islam is practiced may seem ludicrous to most, but this type of action and rhetoric strikes a cord with right-wing populists.

It is clear that right-wing populist groups are using religion as an identity, one that they can coopt to represent ‘the pure people’. Populist leader Viktor Orban has recently changed the branding of his government from an “Illberal democracy” to that of a “Christian democracy”. Going further Orban stated earlier this year that “Unless we protect our Christian culture we will lose Europe and Europe will no longer belong to Europeans”. This eludes to the Orban governments stance against immigration, by tying this to Christian culture. Orban has been able to appeal to those who may not be religious but do view immigration negatively. In the case of Hungary, it is clear that the government is becoming increasingly anti immigration and opposed to multiculturalism, likely due to Orban’s coopting of Christian culture.

But is all of this to be unexpected? Nadia Marzouki and Duncan McDonnell seem to think otherwise. They argue that There is nothing new about right-wing populists exploiting religion for political gain. Populism has been known to be very pragmatic and fluid in the make up of policy. Religion serves as a great platform for populists as it already has an established support base that shares a common identity. Not only that, populists are then able to twist long held beliefs to further their own cause. This cause as demonstrated above focuses on limiting immigration to protect the Christian way of life. By doing so, populists paint a picture of doom, one that they alone can offer salvation against. They tell the ‘people’ that the country’s problems are not their fault. Rather, the people are morally upright citizens who are victims of the elites.

Unfortunately, this trend overall seems to be growing, as the new European Commission, which has yet to be created, has already got a taste of populist backlash. In this case, the wound was self inflicted, as according to some, the proposed vice president of “Protecting Our European Way of Life” echoes the far-right rhetoric. This sparked an immediate response from the left with critics arguing that this position title identifies Europe as white and Christian, and migration from the Middle East and Africa as a threat to that identity. This example demonstrates that right-wing populist groups are now being closely identified with Christian values. More importantly, it appears that both the populist and the ‘other’ are both starting to see right-wing populism through the lens of religion.

Untangling International Nationalism

One of the grandest contradictions that can be uncovered when studying modern day far-right nationalist populist movements is there inherent reliance on internationalism. As Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde explained, at the very core of populism is a moral battleground between the pure people and the corrupt elite, which the far-right often intertwines with nationalism as their ideological underpinning. When we take this idea from the world of theory and apply it to real world examples, what emerges is a complex picture of nationalist movements tangled within the larger international landscape. By this, I mean that far-right nationalist populism claims to be the will of the people (often referring to their own ethnicity) pitted against the corrupt elitism of the broader international community. But how could a single nationalist populist movement compete against the broader international community?

The simple answer is that alone, they can’t. As David Motadel alluded to in his article “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism — But They Depend on It,” whether out of pragmatism or a deep despise for internationalism, historically and presently far-right nationalist populist groups frequently form alliances and depend on internationalism. Europe depicts this complexity better than any other. Take for example the Identity and Democracy Group (ID) of the European Parliament. ID is an alliance of European nationalists, which is the fifth largest political group in the European Parliament, holding 73 seats and making up a little over 10% of the whole. ID’s alliance is made up of representatives from 9 countries, predominantly from Italy, France and Germany. By uniting under a single banner, these far-right nationalistic populist groups aim to take on the elitism of internationalism through the European Union.

What is most interesting, if not surprising about the alliance formed by ID, is the existence of an east-west divide between far-right nationalist populist movements. Populism wields the most support in Central and Eastern Europe, notably in the Visegrad Four: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. However, there have been mixed reactions between these populist movements towards ID, and a consolidated nationalist alliance. The Visegrad Four’s far-right nationalist populist movements are much more dispersed amongst the European Parliament, as Poland, has members in the European Conservative and Reformists Group (ECR), while Hungary has members in the Group of the European People’s Party (EPP). Of the four countries listed above, only the Czech Republic has some populist members in ID, as well as in the Renew Europe Group. It’s unclear where Slovakia’s far right Members of the European Parliament are situated, however they are facing tough competition from pro-EU and anti-corruption parties at home. Nonetheless, some informal networks exist that yet again display how nationalist movements rely on internationalism. One notable example is that, rather than creating formal alliances, countries such as Poland and Hungary have insured each other with their veto power in support of one another.

One final observation on international nationalism that Motadel brings to light, is the fragility and frictions that such alliances can cause. I believe this is most evident based upon the east-west divide in populism. One of the greatest obstacles facing right-wing nationalistic populist alliances can be displayed by their treatment of Russia. Some display pro-Russian sentiments, while the Soviet historical memory leads Central and Eastern European populist movements to vehemently oppose such considerations. Another principle natural to all nationalist movements that impacts the fragility of their alliances is that they are intended to be the voice of their own people, not a broader community of like-minded ‘others.’ Thus, it is natural for conflicting policies to emerge, such as the German populist movement’s desire not to destroy the EU, compared to the Italian populist movement’s threats to leave the Eurozone. Ultimately, the study of international nationalism is riddled with contradictions and bumpy relationships, but it is undeniable that these right-wing nationalistic populist movements have something to gain from one another. These gains include international recognition which provides legitimacy to their cause, and legal support through illiberal means.

Is Italy on the Verge of Lapsing into Fascism?

BY Vadzim Malatok

In recent years, the Italian streets have witnessed an increase in the usage of fascist symbols and rhetoric being used by protesters and right-wing politicians, alike. One of the perpetrators of reviving Italy’s “traumatic” past has been said to be none other than Matteo Salvini. And for good reason. The 46-year-old leader of the Italy’s right-wing populist party Northern League was recently involved in yet another daring venture that generated much debate over his supposed admiration for the Italian dictator of the 20th century, Benito Mussolini. 

On October 19, 2019, thousands of Italians gathered together in Rome to protest against the newly formed coalition between the center-left Democratic Party and a populist Five-Star Movement. The so-called “Italian Pride,” led by the centre-right coalition leaders, reminded many of the infamous “march on Rome” that took place on October 27, 1922, and marked Mussolini’s rise to power. 

Not only does the date proximity evokes connotations to the march, but also the overall message of protesters that was delivered by Giorgia Meloni, leader of Brothers of Italy, who said: “[w]e’ll be a strong opposition and won’t let anything go with this government.” Similarly, Mussolini once stated that “[e]ither the Government will be given to us or we shall seize it by marching on Rome.”

Of course, Meloni, unlike Mussolini, chose a softer tone in her rhetoric because an overly aggressive approach wouldn’t be tolerated by the international community of the 21st century – at least not yet. But the message was loud and clear.

What is unclear is to what extent the Italians will entertain this idea of having their fascistic past revived while allowing one of the country’s leaders to imitate Il Duce. The fact is, Salvini has been the center of criticism over his appeal to fascism in the past but without any serious harm to his reputation among the electorate.

On March 4, 2019, Salvini, a de facto Italian Interior Minister, posted a tweet quoting an American poet, Ezra Pound, in an attempt to address his neo-fascist followers.

The tweet, which reads out as “[i]f a man is not willing to take some risk for his own ideas, either his ideas are worthless, or he is worthless,” received a backlash due to its linkage to the author who’s been criticized for his anti-Semitic remarks and fascist appeal.

On another occasion, Salvini tweeted: “Tanti nemici, tanto onore!” in response to criticism that was directed at him over his racist and xenophobic remarks. The quote, which means “so many enemies, so much honor” was not only borrowed from Mussolini’s famous “[m]olti nemici, molto onore,” but was also posted on the late dictator’s birthday.

On May 5, 2019, Salvini addressed his supporters from the balcony in the town of Forli – the same balcony where Mussolini witnessed the execution of four partisans in 1944.

One may wonder why Salvini is so obsessed with the late dictator and the answer is: it is not just because he is Italian. In fact, Salvini and Mussolini have more in common than one might think.

Salvini, just like Mussolini, began his political career on the far-left before moving to the opposite side of the political spectrum. In 2015, he commented by saying that “I’m an old fashioned communist, I know more factories than bankers do.” 

Most importantly, however, Salvini has shown his ability to attract masses, exploit popular discontent, and sway public opinion – the talents that Europeans have witnessed before in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

Of course, other right-wing politicians across the globe share similar prowess in using the language of political populism to influence public opinion, but only Salvini has taken it to the new extremes. Another populist with neo-fascist inclinations is the 2017 French presidential candidate Marie Le Pen, who works side-by-side with Salvini on a number of issues.

While the likes of Salvini and Le Pen haven’t exactly gone the same route as their predecessors such as Mussolini and Hitler, they have been heavily criticized for influencing the rebirth of fascist movements. In Italy, the fascist-like attitudes have been on the rise and will continue to rise while Matteo Salvini is at the center of the Italian political turmoil.

The Need for Difference in the Fascist Cause

Wendy Lower pulls apart the idea that violence in Nazi Germany was the exclusive domain of men in her book Hitler’s Furies. It is nothing new to the field of Gender history that women are capable of violent acts that are not reserved to the gentle touch of poison or accidental death. Lower has written that the Nazi regime attracted “female activism of the most violent kind”. But what is most interesting about Lowers work is that it gives an less explored perspective of the workings of a murderous state.

“The consensus in Holocaust and genocide studies,” Lower wrote “is that the system that makes mass murder possible would not function without the broad participation of society”. If this consensus has been the case perhaps it is only though understanding the individual contributions of diverse groups of people – men, women, and youth, etc. – that we can begin to fully understand the historiography that brings regimes or murderous states to power. Lower herself wrote that terror regimes “feed on the idealism and energy of young people,” it is this that gives a state motivation at times political justification to proceed. This coupled with nurses who kill instead of treat, and teachers who abandon their school children sentencing them to certain death is a reminder that everyone has a role to play in the business of indoctrinating a ‘new’ state.

In thinking about the female role, Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez point out that during the Spanish Civil War women’s position in society was leveraged in favour of the Franco state. Women were placed in roles of espionage as they were unsuspected of such acts and were crucial to spreading the Franco – supported message. To return to the point in which Lower began, broad participation by society is needed to carry out a systemic system that takes hold of society. In this way, fascist regimes do not need to bring every member of its society to be the same but difference can be account for and exploited into achieving a diverse machinery for propaganda and messaging that ultimately results in single fascist cause.

Op/Ed #1 – The boys club has opened, but only to certain kinds of girls: the rise of the populism and female support of right-wing ideologies

From left to right (political ideology notwithstanding): Alice Weidel (German AfD), Marine Le Pen (French National Rally), and Giorgia Meloni (Brothers of Italy). Copyright: The Guardian Design Team

By Christine Collins

In a year packed with nail-biting elections, one political phenomenon has remained constant: the rise of populism. And while its impacts are varied, scholars agree that populism is here to stay. Populism can be understood as a mobilizing discourse characterized by its “us vs. them” mentality. Ultimately, what sets populism apart is that it driven by “the people.” But who are the people? Well, it depends on whom you ask. 

Distinctive and even contradicting at times, it is important to distinguish forms of left and right-wing populism:

  • Left-wing populists can be defined as anti-elitist, fighting for the rights and equality of the common people 
  • Right-wing populists restrict the identity of the people, notably, on the basis of ethnicity and country of origin

One defining trait of right-wing populist political parties is that they tend to be led by charismatic leaders. And in Europe, a number of these leaders are women. 

From Marine Le Pen of the National Rally in France to Alice Weidel of Alternative for Germany (AfD), women are making their mark in this traditionally male-dominated field. While usually this would be a call for celebration, as women have long been outnumbered by their male counterparts in the political arena, the case of women leading right-wing populist parties requires a double-take. Mainly, since these parties are known for female subordination: in Germany, the AfD has reinvigorated an Aryan vision of the nuclear family, composed of the breadwinning father going to work and child-rearing mother in the home. Further, its policies are anti-abortion, and hostile towards gay and lesbian relationships. This raises the question: what motivates women to represent right-wing political movements that shrink away from modern-day feminism? And how are they elected in a traditionally male-dominated playing field? 

To answer the later question, while we may see women’s rise to the top of right-wing populist political parties as an unexpected turn of events, what is perhaps more surprising is who is voting them into power: according to a 2018 study, women across Europe are increasingly drawn to right-wing populist parties. This was demonstrated in the 2012 French presidential race, where Le Pen garnered votes from an almost equal number of men and women. This gender gap is projected to remain narrow, as a 2017 study found that women make up 48 percent of the Front National’s (now National Rally) voting base. 

So what makes right-wing populism so appealing to women? Well, if you can move past the patriarchal ideology, researchers found women voted for parties who promised to strengthen state welfare systems. As European women (especially mothers) are more likely to have lower paying jobs and require state support than their male counterparts, it is reasonable to understand this voting pattern. 

At the same time, right-wing populism is defined by its fiercely anti-immigration rhetoric. This likens back to nationalist movements of the 20th century, where the drive towards a collective unity coupled with a sense of superiority set fascist ideologies apart. As only certain women benefitted from fascist regimes—Aryan, middle-class—so too does modern-day right-wing populism only advantage select women. In this case, “the people” are more narrowly defined based on ethnicity and country of origin. 

To those who view the surge in female representation and participation in politics as a nod to gender equality, think again. Although leaders such as Weidel and Le Pen may look the part, they routinely co-opt the notion of women’s rights as it suits their right-wing agenda. While every woman must be protected in her right “to wear shorts or a miniskirt,” this same privilege does not extend to those wishing to don a hijab in public spaces. So when making your way to the ballot box next election, be mindful that a vote for a female leader is not necessarily a vote for feminism, especially if their name shares the banner of a right-wing populist party.   

The Decriminalization of Abortion in Northern Ireland is Good, but…

A story that made that made the headlines last year in many newspapers around the western world resurfaces as the struggle for the Northern Irish advocators for an abortion ban lift approaches a conclusion. Interestingly, in the UK the Abortion Act of 1967 liberalized rules on abortion in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland. So, Northern Ireland was the only part of the United Kingdom that was still holding a legislated ban on abortion which originated from the conservative political influence of its governance and the important place of religion in the area. Ireland voted for the legalization of abortions only last year in May. It is interesting that it is only now that we see a movement by the government for change in the legislation. Finally, on October 22 at 12am, the ban was lifted.

However, there is still much debate to come and a long way to go before any kind of substantive change is instituted in Northern Ireland. The ban repeal is good, a step in the right direction, but until regulations are provided, it remains similar to the status quo and even goes backwards to previous practices instead of moving forward with the legislation. It is also noteworthy to mention that Northern Ireland has had a very substantive opposing faction to this repeal : the Church(es) (i.e. Catholic and Protestant churches). The abortion issue, in which in the Catholic Church has taken a more pronounced stance, has always been debated against by the church. A member of the Catholic Clergy has gone as far as saying that being pro-choice was committing a mortal sin. Historically, Northern Ireland, or even just Ireland as a whole, has been a very religious country and a great deal of the population (including the leading political parties like the Democratic Unionist Party and to some extent the Sinn Féin) is very conservative in nature. This means that once a government is reinstituted with the conservative parties (as it has not been standing since 2017 in Northern Ireland), debates on the matter will likely restart as this reform was voted by London and not necessarily by the leading political parties of the area.

So, ban lifted, great! Now what? What should we think of this and how should we understand these changes? I am in total accordance with the idea that abortion should be decriminalized and that it should have been done long ago, however, in this instance, the decriminalisation of abortion also means its deregulation as the government was allowed until late March 2020 to regulate abortion. Ironically, this means that Northern Ireland just went from having some of the strictest abortion laws to the most liberal abortion laws in the European context. Now the Northern Irish population is very confused about the law and what is legal as it has no clear legislation or regulation. It should be understood that apart from the dropping of prosecution cases against healthcare professionals and women having sought abortions, not much as changed and not much will change until the new regulation in 2020. Women and girls are still required to go to England to terminate their pregnancies. There is no telling hat kind of restrictions or regulations will be put in place in march of next year.

This “good news” can also be seen as a step back as Northern Ireland is simply looking to go back to practices from 2012 when it comes to abortion. Also, as mentioned previously the fact that this was done without an actual standing government in Northern Ireland will complicate the matter once it comes back to power because of the conservative nature of the area. Even the Irish Times are sensitive to the matter, but frame their pro-choice opinion on bringing Northern Ireland back into the “European mainstream” while remaining conscient of the fact that many of the readers have conservative views tied to their faith.

Therefore, my opinion on this matter remains clear : it is a case of the “one step forward, two steps back.”

Protecting Canada’s Youth from Right-Wing Populism

By: Nadiya Alexandra

With the defeat of the People’s Party of Canada, it may seem like Canada has kicked the threat of right-wing populism. To think so would be a mistake. We need to focus on protecting our democratic values more than ever, but how? The answer is civic education. We need to turn to our youth to ensure they understand the dangers of democratic backsliding and how to meaningfully participate in a democracy.

Many opinions converge to say that populism has already taken root in Canada; what happened in the U.S. could happen here; and there could be a Donald Trump in Canada. It is a scary thought, but Canada should take the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU) as cautionary tales, and act soon. 

Why should we focus on youth? For starters, the majority of North American youth know little about the consequences of authoritarianism. For example, Canadian history is mandatory in schools, but not world history. Joel Westheimer, a prominent civic education scholar outlines the problems associated with this lack of knowledge. 

In the U.S., about 25% of youth between the ages of 16 and 24 think that democracy is a “bad” or “very bad” way of governing. Perhaps more concerning is that 70% of millennials believe it is not essential to live in a country governed by democratic law. It would be interesting to see how Canadian millenials answered these questions. Would we have better results? 

In Ontario, the high-school civics course is a half-credit that is lumped together with careers and can also be taken online. The majority of students say this course is a waste of time, and doesn’t teach how to get involved politically. 

The problems don’t end there. Even if civics is mandatory in Ontario high schools, how we teach civics is possibly entirely wrong. According to Joel Westheimer, there are three main approaches to teaching civic education for democratic participation. The most common approach is teaching students to be personally responsible. While this moulds students to be “good people,” it does not teach them about how to participate or think critically. The second approach focuses on participatory actions like getting involved in student council and the community. The third, and least common, but most important approach is justice-oriented. 

Westheimer’s social-justice oriented citizens need to analyze and understand the interplay of social, economic and political forces. These students ask questions, challenge the status quo, and aim at solving the root of social problems. This is how we should be teaching civics. 

If Canada’s brush with populism is not enough to convince you, we need not look far for examples where populism has a strong hold. Our neighbours to the south have been grappling with far-right populism for years now. The EU is facing rising populism, which shows itself through Brexit, racial intolerance, a so-called “migration crisis” and rising euro-scepticism. If we teach our students how to question and analyze social problems, perhaps we could stop the same things from happening in Canada. 

Scholars in the EU have started making the link between civic education and populism. An 89 Initiative report argues that civic education can restore civic faith among Europe’s youth. This report uses case studies of populism in the United Kingdom (Brexit) and Italy to prove the link between populism and civic education. We should learn from the U.S. and the EU before it is too late for us. 

In the wake of Doug Ford’s education budget cuts, popular dissatisfaction with Canada’s electoral system and the global trend of democratic backsliding, we need to turn our attention to Canada’s youth. We need to ensure high standards of education, which should include how to spot fake news and how to think critically about politics. We need to teach students how to get involved beyond elections. We need to promote democratic participation through civic education. Let’s keep right-wing populism at bay.

Op Ed #1: Spain’s Franco Problem

By Daniel Williams

                When growing up, one of the most common things I heard from my parents is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The goal is to prevent stupid arguments by understanding both sides. That’s a lot harder to do when you’re facing particularly complex issues.

                Spain faces a very complex issue ahead of it, in trying to reckon with its fascist history. This past Thursday the government finally achieved one of its longtime goals, exhuming the remains of dictator Francisco Franco, removing them from a national monument at the Valley of the Fallen. While the remains have been reburied in a small mausoleum, there is no denial that this political move by the government will not be forgotten by its opposition. This sort of maneuvering is not new for formerly fascist countries to deal with. Tensions between resurgent far-right political parties and installed liberal democratic governments have a tendency of sparking whenever old fascist elements get criticized or changed. In turn, far-right governments tend to try and protect the same things that liberal democratic governments try to pull down.

                But Spain is a particularly unique case. Spain’s Francoism was not the same as various other forms of European fascism. Franco’s regime reformed several times, liberalized near its end, and relied extensively on Spain’s heavy Catholic tradition. These, along with the bloody civil war, ensure that Spain’s Francoism stands alone compared to other regimes.

                Here’s the thing: Franco isn’t a taboo for many in Spain. Indeed, at the exhumation and reburial ceremony, protesters showed up to praise Franco’s legacy. And this isn’t a fringe movement the same way that many neo-nazi groups are across Europe. Spain’s far-right is modelled in large part on Franco’s politics, and includes political support. And as an election approaches, the far-right party Vox seems poised to gain politically from the exhumation.

                The issue here is not that there are a high number of Spanish fascists that are out to overthrow the government. Francoism is not exactly the most popular ideology, even though it still exists and has weight in Spain. The issue is that Francoism is so complex. There are elements of Franco’s rule that appeals to many centrists and conservatives. Further, fascism intentionally obfuscates itself, contradicts itself, and attempts to create confusion surrounding the ideology. In historic and political terms, this makes understanding fascism very difficult.

                Franco’s legacy can, as a result, be perceived a million and one ways. He can be seen as someone who saved the nation from communist interference. He could alternatively be seen as a leader who promoted a sense of national identity, or as someone who defended the catholic faith in Spain, or even as a controversial leader with any number of mixed traits. The key is ensuring that Franco’s policies are hard to separate from him as a person, and as a result many social conservatives see attacks on Franco’s legacy as attacks on their beliefs. This drives moderates directly into the hands of far-right beliefs.

                Franco’s political base was founded on this sort of activity, as the fascists incorporated and integrated various other conservative ideologies into their Nationalist banner. From Carlists to staunch Catholics, fascists and military supporters, Franco’s support base was a melting pot for right-wing belief. In the modern context, this ensures that conservatives from all walks of life can look to Franco as a single unifying leader. Especially in light of what some describe as disturbing a tomb, this latest activity specifically draws the attention of Spain’s large catholic population and drives them away from the Socialist government. This attempt at a political power play from the Socialist government has effectively backfired.

                So how do governments break free from legacies as powerful as Franco’s? How do we seek first to understand, when dealing with something as contentious as fascist ideology? This issue has wracked Europe for decades, as various nations deal with fascism in their own ways. And unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. The only thing we can be certain of is that failure to understand will lead to more of this, attempts to change the narrative that simply lead moderates into the arms of those who would very gladly have their pragmatic support.

Works Consulted:

Held “Hostage” by the Government: Boris Johnson’s Populist Rhetoric

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, made the commitment that either “do or die” by October 31st Britain would be leaving the EU. Though as that date comes closer, it is evident that that is not going to happen. Rather, after his return from Brussels with a new Brexit Plan, his plan to remain loyal to the October 31st date fell through in parliament. Today the EU has approved the extension of the the Brexit date to January 31st 2020. Johnson is facing backlash on all ends, from those in support of Brexit and those in opposition.

Johnson has proposed for an election to take place in December in the hopes that it will help his campaign and his plans to push his plan through parliament. He wants the votes in the hopes that he can secure a majority government which will in turn make passing his plan easier. It is evident that his concerns are not focused about leaving the EU with no deal, his “do or die” and a promise of a break soon do not leave room for a deal.

No one wants a no deal break.

The deal is what will make the transition out of the EU as successful for Britain as possible. Johnson is more focused on the break, rather than the success of the break, as seen in his “do or die” rhetoric. Regardless of being for or against Brexit, the deal provides the people of Britain with the opportunity to situate themselves in a Britain outside of the EU.

It is in the face of the Boris Johnson’s failure to live up to his “do or die” claim that Brexiteers have come to criticize Johnson who was supposed to be a pioneering figure for Brexit. As a Brexiteer himself, he had already faced opposition from the those who would like to remain in the EU.

Boris Johnson knows that he is losing momentum, he wants to fuel anger. He wants people to back him in the polls in December if the election takes place, as this would help in pushing his Brexit plans through parliament. Johnson is no stranger to utilizing populists concepts within his own rhetoric. Populism is the idea of “the people” against “the elite” and the elite making decisions for the people. Johnson is known to stand behind this ideal and has built a rhetoric around this ideal. Using the terms like the “surrender bill” and the government holding the country “hostage” he attempts to build up anger against the government in the hopes that it will call for an election, and that he will keep the support of the people if that election were to occur. Even through this rhetoric we can see that:

Boris Johnson is not a successful populist.

However, he is using populist rhetoric to persuade the country to continue backing him, regardless of their growing contempt for his failure to pass a deal within parliament. In the wake of his desire for an election, this rhetoric will not be successful. For one, he does not fully believe in it as he seems to be more concerned with leaving the EU than leaving with a deal. It is also difficult to unite the country against the government when the people themselves are not united. There is great division within the country, as illustrated in the protest orchestrated by the People’s Vote Campaign in London on October 19th; a campaign that fights for the voice of the people in decision making, pushing for a new referendum. The people’s voice is divided and everyone is frustrated with Johnson. His populist rhetoric approach is strengthening this division, rather than the division of the people and the government.

Johnson seems to believe that fear mongering with his populist rhetoric will help him gain the traction that he desires to end up with an election on December 12th. This is not the case. Johnson’s dance with populism has hindered his ability to maintain a backing that would urge for this election date. It is a last attempt at trying to show that he will “do or die” and get a deal passed to leave the EU. One will have to wait to see the success of this rhetoric when he proposes to amend the fixed terms act tomorrow, as he failed to get a majority of the government to an election on the 12th of December.