Populism as a Comparative Tool for Democracy

Populism has always been a torn in the side of democracy. As argued by Catherine Fieschi in A Plague on Both your Populisms, resentment is a sentiment that is as the foundation of populist groups. It deviates their beliefs of democracy into emotions rather than sticking to facts and the legal process. One of the big issues of democracy would be the time it takes to create policies, enforce them, and to change the current government. This means that populist discourses are always enticing for people that are tired of slow process and are not happy with the results, their resentment and anger is drawn to form a mob mentality that is promised radical changes. In a way, populism is necessary for any democracy to properly work. On earth, there is no perfect societies and no communities that think exactly alike. This means that on the political spectrum, there will always be a lot of individuals close to the center, on the right or on the left, with always a handful of people on both extremes. Populism is always a small group of people that makes more noise and its normal that they have more visibility than other political groups, because their takes are more radicals and they challenge the concepts of our society. While it does not mean that they are right or necessary wrong, it helps people think about what they agree with and what they don’t; it reveals that moderation in politics is probably better than too much radical changes or too fast ones. It is true for both left and right populism, as ultimately their goals are similar, change their society in the way they see fit the most.

Gender and Sexual Orientation discrimination: the New Racism

The concept of genders as we know them have changed and transformed in the last years. They have been molded to accommodate the situations the best they could to fit the individuals that did not find themselves fitting in any other gender class. Sexuality on the other hand is something that has been around for a long time, and people can’t seem to accept persons that are homosexuals or members of the LGBTQ community. As Judith Butler reported in her article, Hungarian schools have started to eliminate gender teachings under the pretext that it could turn their children to different sexual orientations. England as well as Poland have also picked up homophobic and transphobic movements as they fear that left uncheck, they will corrupt their youths and change their society for the worse. But like it was showcased in Sarah Marsh’s text, the members of LGBTQ groups are ordinary people that are scared of the right wing aggressiveness and are now uncomfortable to be themselves in public. When we think about it, it does not seem that there are reasons that sexual orientations and gender association would be bad, but the keyword that is exploited here is difference. People don’t like changes and their fear of it becomes exploitable, just like with racism and antisemitism. It makes these minorities easily targetable for right wing hate as they just try to live and exist just as anyone else. Since racism is perceived very poorly, it gives another reason to target the LGBTQ community as it is a “disguised” form of racism.

Is Antisemitism the Same as Racism?

By Louis Lacroix

A recurring theme in the lectures so far this semester is antisemitism and how it evolved through time and particularly the 20th century. This week in particular, it focused on antisemitism in Indonesia after some waves of Jewish immigration in the 1920s and the Holocaust memory in Europe that brings today a trauma of outsiders and the ongoing bad perceptions of Jews. Racism is considered to be the profound hatred and denigration of a group of humans defined by skin color and/or culture by another one or various. We could think of white Americans having racial issues with black Americans or from a more radical perspective the genocide in Rwanda of Tutsis by Hutus. Antisemitism would be a more precise definition of racism, specifically applied to Judaism believers, but one big difference that can set them apart from a normal case of racism would be the globalisation of their defamation and bad reputation. Everywhere their communities seem to go outside of Israel, they’ve had to deal with racism of some kind. Particularly in Europe, a culture of hatred towards Jews was brewed and it almost became a consensus on the continent that Jewish populations are bad, even between bitter rivals like France and Germany. When this hatred culminates in the worst genocide in History orchestrated by one of the worst regime of all time and a sentiment of racism toward that people still persist, it becomes truly concerning. In my perspective, antisemitism is in its own category that transcend racism, because it is a culture that is temporally and globally discriminated against, which seems to have no end and no logic reasons behind it in these modern times.

Op/Ed#2 Greece-Turkey Relations: is a War Imminent?

By Louis Lacroix

Tensions between Greece and Turkey, two of the oldest NATO’s members, have been gaining attention from the rest of Europe in the past. It is said that diplomacy is going so poorly between the neighbors that a war could break out if the situation isn’t defused. But since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following the Great war and the Greco-Turkish war ending in 1922, no military conflict was able to emerge between them even with their history of competition and liberation. While it seems that the two countries are preparing for war, it will never happen as their dispute is about being superior to the other, not their rival’s elimination.

The modern relationship between Greece and Turkey begins with the recognition of Greece independency by the Ottoman Empire in 1832, but the point of focus will be after 1922. Hatred between the Turks and the Greeks never went away, and some events came close to start a new war, but it never happened. One of the best example would be the Istanbul pogrom against Greeks of 1955, as the Turk authorities hindered the influence and wealth of the Greek community in their largest city to provoke their rival and gain more economical autonomy in that region. Although outrage by this turn of events, Athens did not act on it, denouncing the pogrom and helping its Greek migrants. One of the particularly important element of the ongoing conflict is Cyprus. The island was invaded in 1974 and forced the island to split between a Greek and a Turk regime, even though most of the country’s population was of Greek descendancy. While the Cypriots live there in a relatively peaceful manner with one and other of different origins, they got into a political issue between their homelands. The island represents a special case because it embodies the essence of the battle between the two. While they have not taken direct action against the main territories, their nationalist ways have dictated their movements with the goal to humiliate and gain an edge on the other. Since the Turkish side of the island is still not recognized by the world, negotiations with Greece and the other half of Cyprus are still in progress with periods of more stability, with the 2000s having some non concluding attempts at closing the situation peacefully. Yet, direct war has not been declared while menaces of it are looming.

As of today, the tensions are rising once again over the militarization of the Greek side following the arms embargo lift on the Greek Cyprus administration. Furthermore, there has been some discoveries of natural gas and oil in this region of the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek government justifies its more aggressive stance as a mean of defense against Turkish bullying. They made a political calculus; the situation for the Northern Turkish government in Cyprus places them in a corner as they are stuck between the international stage not recognizing their legitimacy and the Greek side arming up. While the world consensus is to avoid war on the island, it would be difficult to impose sanctions on Greece or Cyprus as it will basically be a “liberation” war. Again, if an event like this happen, Turkey nor Greece will push the matter on their territories as the ONU and the United States will condemn the attacker and probably support the invaded. This will only be a blow to Turkish efforts of gaining influence over a foreign territory that has some Turkish individuals, and both of the competitors will go back to finding ways to harm the other.

Realistically, the only way Greece and Turkey are getting into a new war would be through Turkish minority sovereign movements in Greece in the Western Thrace. It would look similar to the situation in Ukraine with Crimea in 2014 and the current invasion, but since Turkey is definitely a lot weaker, they would require quite the mobilization effort from within Greece. Furthermore, after the tragic events of the 1955 Pogrom in Istanbul, there is approximately 2 500 Greeks in Turkey. Since one of the principal arguments to invade a country is justified through “protection” of their cultural population and its getting less and less possible for both sides, there is less interest to conquer territorial parts as the local population would still be very homogenous. It seems that for now that Greeks and Turks will simply continue to hate each other rather than look for the complete annihilation of the other.

A Difference that Unites People: Racism

By Louis Lacroix

To humans, differences between them and other individuals or groups are enough to set them apart in their mind. From a different opinion to the color of the skin, everything matters from that perspective. It’s also hard to accept change as it can be scary and it is exactly what populism is trying to exploit since its creation. This is what author Ivan Kalmar tries to argue about Hungary and Victor Orbán creating a culture of Islamophobia. Immigration is a catalyst for fear and with Europe having large waves of immigrants coming in it’s the perfect excuse to channel racist thoughts based on fear and anxiousness rather than the plain “evil” side of individuals. It is an excuse and an easy way out to blame society’s problems on rather than work out complicated equations to accommodate everyone. Racism then becomes a tool for a political party to manipulate the popular opinion to achieve their social and political goals. This leads to more institutionalized racism like in Turkey with the White Turks defined as the bureaucratic elite and the Black Turks as the common population. This influencing methods are particularly efficient and pernicious because at a certain points these ideas become an individual’s own thoughts and he starts to accept more radicalized positions that the populist group suggests, creating a cycle of hatred. It is a lot easier to blame an external source than to face the problems within their own nation building roots.

Post Nazism and Fascism Memory

By Louis Lacroix

“Memory is the strongest instrument we have to avoid the errors of the past and strengthen the common fabric and shared values of the city.” The Milano è memoria exposition and its creator have created piece to commemorate the past and particularly the tragedy that endured Milan endured on December 12, 1969 with the bomb planted by a neo-fascist group killing 17 and injuring even more. Ironically and dramatically, Fascism and Nazism are two of the most infamous concept of the 20th century, yet they are still brought forward. These ideologies are massively denounced and despised, yet groups will revendicate their names and their ideas. Italy is the prime example for that. The first and the second Republic had to deal for around 30 years after the bombs with the likes of Junio Borghese and strategies of tension that promoted neofascism while hammering the republic. Britain was afflicted with similar problems in the 1980s, where the New Front, compared to a neo-Nazi group, rallied more radicals to support their claims. While memory is powerful and important in forging legacies associated with the terms, it seems that ideologies such as fascism and Nazism won’t because negatively associated enough for younger generations of radicals to completely drop them. I think one of the major problems for the collective memory resides in how it is presented, how the state educates its citizens on the matter. Particularly in this period of time, the alienation of both side of the political spectrum banalize many terms and a part of the problem certainly resides in it.

Op/Ed 1: Romania and a Nostalgia for Nicolae Ceausescu’s Communist Regime

By Louis Lacroix

            Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis has been questioned lately about the integrity of his government as people are losing faith in it, and some old-time partisans even think of a time where Nicolae Ceausescu’s rule was “not that bad” compared to what they experience today. While criticism is a fundamental basis of all democracy, Romanians far-right populism recalling to that time as a positive period compared to Iohannis’ service is deeply saddening and worrying for the future of their nation. Romania chose to re-elect President Klaus Iohannis for a second five-year term on November 10th, 2019, and some of the Romanians are starting to have second thoughts about the sincerity of his government as corruption which was and still is a priority for his party is still going strong. Some of Iohannis criticized decisions include his close relationship with the Social Democratic Party (PSD) to gain more political power, while being in the National Liberal Party, a center-right political party that would essentially make him undisputed as a President. Even the PNL Prime minister, Ludovic Orban, decided to quit the party entirely by the end of 2020 because of a disappointing parliamentary election and this new association.

            This coalition government was formed with the goal to bring political stability. Going back to communist Romania, it was the complete contrary. Nicolae Ceausescu is known for his tragic end at the bloody hands of the Romanian but what is more important here is how he got to that point. One of the turning point of his regime was the Securitate, the secret police service to execute his will upon the population. Furthermore, he instigated a cult of personality around him and his wife to give them a more glorious status compared to his fellow citizens. From 1967 to 1989, his dictatorship of the country just kept getting worse as he kept demanding more from the Romanians in terms of taxation, exportation of agrarian and industrial products, the destruction of many villages for different schemes, and new restrictions on contraception and abortion. As a staple of a dictatorship, freedom of press and speech were both censured. The main thing that made him so bad at leading a country was his own incompetence, and it was the population that suffered for it and it explains why it was the Romanians that ended his term quite radically after years of oppression.

            When looking at how the Romanian democracy system has come so far in the last 25 years, it is hard to find reasons to call back to the dictatorial regime. One of the main improvements that was made in the years following the transition was the development of public relationship departments that would not only bring a more liberal era, but also give the control of Romania back to the Romanians. Their current leader, Klaus Iohannis, even won the Charlemagne Prize for transforming his country into a more standard “European state.” Yet, a Romanian communist past is still something that about 60 percent of the population would want according to a 2014 INSCOP Research poll. One of the biggest things that they look for is to be heard as a population and this is when the comfort of populism comes in. Previously in power, the PSD with Liviu Dragnea was a favorite because of all the tax cuts and in a way, the availability of corruption for the middle class in his government up to 2012. But as corruption grew further into the institution of Romania, Dragnea was caught for money laundering, which opened the door for Iohannis to proceed with some institutional changes. Since it was much more well perceived, the fight against corruption was a good entry for the new President in function since 2014. But as of today, some people are worried about the joint forces of the PNL and the PSD as they once were political rivals, and the justification as previously discussed is stability. It can be worrisome as a party like the PSD with a recent uneasy past of political wrongdoings mixed with a president that sits since 2014 with a solid popular support that a less democratic system could be to come with corruption remaking its roots deep within. The most important thing to remember is that it’s a democratic coalition with both the president and parliamentary elected separately, so a break between the two party could happen easily if a side is unsatisfied. Also, in the current time, a regime that may present a more centralized government will always be better than the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu.


Post-Nazism in the Federal Republic of Germany

After the tremendous destruction that was brought upon all of Germany during the last years of the second World war, reality was hammered in the German conscientiousness. With the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany, they would have to go back to square one, a more liberal and democratic regime, a post Great war repeat of the Republic of Weimar in the 1920-30s. But instead of instead of seeing it fail once again due to disastrous economic and political reasons, West Germany was able to make it work by deconstructing the ideology of Nazism as it was argued by Joachim C. Häberlen. One of the ways to do so was trough the popular culture and it was very interesting to see that things such as the Allies denazification questionnaire was introduced to change the population’s perception of it. The answers highlighted by Werner Sollors were confirming a point that was foreseeable, that Nazism after the war was already getting rejected as an ideology. Still, it shows that no one was really sure of what would actually happen in the late 1940s and 1950s as political instability was omnipresent since the start of the 20th century. Americans while trying to help the German society radically change as fast as possible may have also slowed the process a bit because of initiative like the questionnaire that was perceived as a bit much. It is also shown in the German culture that they were ready to move on from this period of Nazism when Stanley Kramer, an American cineaste, was able to present a movie which dove in the trial of Nuremberg that left no stone unturned.

  • Louis Lacroix

Family Father in Nazism

Nazism image has always been about the “perfect” race, the German Aryans. In their society, men were to be the perfect mix of courage, recklessness, discipline, and most importantly, good strong soldiers. They were the face and the arm of the empire, fulfilling every orders they were given in the name of the Reich. On the other side, women had the role of the perfect mother and spouse. They were meant to support their husband as well as being a stay-at-home mom that would give birth to many strong Aryan boys. But in an interview with “bloody Walter,” author Thomas Kühne shows us a different side to what a men can do and still keep their reputation intact. It is really surprising that they were able to nurse openly their children and be present in their familial life without being judged negatively on it. In fact, it was a positive to be seen as a caring father. This is certainly intriguing that these kinds of comments were not seen or analyzed before. In such a strict society, legal laws and social conventions are very well known and established. Therefore, there should be more context or more information on it. Instead, it was kept quieter. Maybe while it was a good thing, Nazi authorities were laying this information low so it would not affect the image of emotionless and ruthless soldier that has nothing to fear they enjoyed in the mind of the other countries.

  • Louis Lacroix

Internationalism and nationalism – Louis Lacroix

In perspective, internationalism does not seem like a concept that would apply to populist and fascist movements but these groups have proven otherwise. Even though they talk about how “dirty” internationalism is, these groups are ready to associate with one and other to gain traction, publicity, and legitimacy. “We will not give up our identity; I think that unites us all.” This quote from Jörg Meuthen, a member of the European Parliament from the Alternative for Germany party that author David Motadel uses in his article depicts exactly why contradiction is a word associated with such movements. Identity in a cultural or political group is something very important to them and they will try to protect it to the best of their abilities. What makes them special is that they stand out from the rest of the world; it’s their struggle, their fight, their way. When populist and nationalist movements start to associate it creates the problem that these groups are starting to lose their initial goal that prioritize their people first. Associating with another group that wants to stand out as different sets up tensions inside their association because they won’t have identical views about every topics, but they will fight over it. It feels like the original uniqueness of the nationalist organization then becomes less important because it is not all about them in particular anymore. While the leaders of these movements despise internationalism, they still opt to try it so they can the advantages that comes with it.