The election of Donald Trump and the siege of the US Capitol on Jan. 6 made clear the rising political power of the right in America, but this is not an isolated phenomenon—right-wing power is surging across the globe. From India, Brazil, and the Philippines, to Hungary and the US, we find right-wing political movements that are challenging the established order and that are fueled by anti-immigration mania, racism, patriarchy, historical nostalgia, as well as the destruction wrought by colonialism, the fall of Leninist states, and the failure of modern capitalism to meet the needs of masses of people. How are these manifestations of far-right politics similar to one another, where do they differ, and how do we fight against them?
In this special series of The Marc Steiner Show, co-hosted by Marc Steiner and Bill Fletcher Jr., we will examine the rise of the right in the US and beyond, we will explore the different tendencies and motivations fueling today’s surge in far-right politics, and we will engage with a range of critical voices who can help us understand how we got here and what we can do about it. In Episode Four of “Rise of the Right,” Marc and Bill are joined by Kristóf Szombati, Sadia Abbas, and Dimitri Lascaris to discuss the international dimensions and connections between far-right movements around the globe in the 21st century.
Kristóf Szombati is a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany, and the author of The Revolt of the Provinces: Anti-Gypsyism and Right-Wing Politics in Hungary. Sadia Abbas is an associate professor of postcolonial studies in the Department of English at Rutgers University-Newark, where she is also the director of the Center for European Studies; she is the author of At Freedom’s Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament and the novel The Empty Room. Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer, journalist, and activist, and was a candidate in the last federal Green Party leadership race in Canada, finishing second with just over 10,000 votes. He is also a longtime contributor and current board member at The Real News.
Pre-Production: Dwayne Gladden, Stephen Frank, Kayla Rivara, Maximillian Alvarez, Jocelyn Dombroski
Studio: Dwayne Gladden
Post-Production: Stephen Frank
Marc Steiner: Welcome to The Marc Steiner Show here on The Real News. I’m Marc Steiner. It’s good to have you with us. And I’m here, of course, with our co-host Bill Fletcher Jr. who helped create this series, and actually came up with the idea in the beginning. And as we call him the fearless leader of this project on the rise of the right. And we’re taking a deep look at the far right today, where it came from. Its factions, what are the inside? What does it mean for our world and democracy if they succeed? And most importantly, how we fight it. And today we look at the coming of the right wing internationally and what we can do about it. Now, the seizure of the US capital, we all saw January the 6th, made it abundantly clear of the rising power of the right in America. But this is not an isolated phenomenon.
It’s part of our surging right-wing power across the globe. They’ve seized control of countries like Brazil, India, Hungary, on every continent the right-wing movements are inspired by anti-immigration mania, racism, patriarchy, historic nostalgia. The wastelands wrought by colonialism, the fall of Leninists states, and the state and failure of modern capitalism to meet the needs of the masses of people are fueling the support for the right and challenging the established order. On its face, the left seems to be diminished. But is it? What are we witnessing here in the United States? The growth of the far right is fundamentally intertwined with the large reactionary movements that have been underway across the planet for decades.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Indeed, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet bloc, right-wing populist and neofascist formations spread throughout Eastern Europe, sometimes borrowing slogans from the political left in order to advance their own agendas. Yet these formations were all too often viewed as wing nuts and extreme outliers rather than the tip of a larger iceberg. But the phenomenon was not only in Europe. In 1994, at the same time that South Africans were freeing themselves from a brutal apartheid regime, Rwanda witnessed a horrific genocide carried out by right-wing elements of the Hutu government against a racialized Tutsi population and those who stood with it. This demonstrated to the world that the objectives of the far right were not restricted to changes in government, but could rise to an even gross and malevolent level.
Marc Steiner: Now, though, the right-wing push began decades earlier, it was 2008, the financial collapse and recession that came with it that saw right-wing populist political parties and movements spread like a viral infection across the blue planet. It draped its politics in the rhetoric of opposition to globalization. But these movements embrace a particular form of racialized and reactionary nationalism. This nationalism can take extreme forms such as ethnic cleansing, but more than likely acceptable forms such as anti-immigrant legislation, laws restricting religious dress, and opposition to efforts to address racial, ethnic, and gender oppression.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: So today’s program looks at the rise of this global far right movement, some of which see themselves as comrades in arms with other right wingers in the movement against the left. And a movement, well, to restore a new sense of the we against the other. We will examine the situation in Europe, South Asia, and Canada, where we see both similar and very unique patterns within the far right. And from which we can learn valuable lessons, what it portends for the future, and what can be done to stop it.
Marc Steiner: Now to join us here for this conversation besides the two of us, we have Kristóf Szombati. He was a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany. He’s also a fellow at the Center for Social Sciences in Budapest. Sadia Abbas is associate professor of Postcolonial Studies at Rutgers University of Newark and Director of the Center for European Studies at Rutgers New Brunswick. And rounding out our panel is Dimitri Lascaris. He’s a lawyer, a journalist, an activist from Montreal, Quebec. And let me add, Dimitri’s also on the board directors of The Real News Network, but that doesn’t stop him from also being an expert. So, good to have you all three with us.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Thank you for joining us. We want to start with a very open ended question, but we want to look at, in terms of the areas that you are studying or that you are operating within, what would you identify as some of the key features of the far right? So particularly, let’s just say, Sadia, the far right in South Asia, what does that look like? It’s not monolithic. Kristóf, you have given a lot of attention to what’s been operating in Hungary, help us understand that. Dimitri, we were talking as we were getting started about this so-called freedom convoy that took place in Canada that surprised many people on this side of the border in terms of its vitriolic right-wing populism. Where are these things coming from? What’s the trajectory?
Sadia Abbas: It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you. So you asked about South Asia. I think that in the South Asian context, I mean, let’s just take Pakistan and India both. Right now, India is much more dire, I think. And what’s happening to the minorities is, and what is being targeted at the Muslims, but also the Christians and the lower castes is quite – And the Sikhs as well – Is both vicious and it looks like an anarchic spectacle, but it’s also quite systematic. And I think that’s something that we have to keep in mind. So what I would say is that the three things that we do need to keep in mind when we’re thinking about this. One, is the long historical colonial deray of the seeding of basically racialized ethnic separation in South Asia.
I’m writing a book about this, but you will see that even ethnic divisions were given a racial cost by the British. And there’s quite extensive documentation of this. Then there’s the shorter historical deray, but it’s still several decades long, which is the post decolonization, formal decolonization, cultivation of right-wing movements either by the state or by militias.
So in the Indian case, we would say it’s not so much by the state, although the state has now been captured by the Hindu right. And it’s always important to remember, I think, that clerical fascism in places like, I’d say even Turkey, which is becoming more and more authoritarian, is fundamentally tied up to neoliberalism. Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator in the ’80s, was a neoliberal. People forget that. The Hindu right came in, supported by the neoliberal diaspora. So again, it’s a very symbiotic thing.
And then finally, I’d say that we’ve got to pay attention to the immediate triggers. And the immediate trigger, I think, is the economic crisis that’s been engulfing the planet since a little before 2008. In which, in the Indian case, what happened in 2001 and the American model is of attack on the Muslim is worth emulating. Now, Muslim varieties of far right behavior are interestingly angled in relation to that, but I can say more about that later.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Kristóf, when I first met you, you gave a really interesting presentation about Hungary. And I was struck because I remember after the end of the Cold War, Hungary was almost like a flag that the West was flying of this great example of democracy in action and embrace of capitalism. And then something went sour. Can you tell us what exactly happened?
Kristóf Szombati: Sure. I mean, Hungary was called the best pupil of liberal democracy europeanization. There were different terms used, but this was the label that was also espoused by the elites who led the transition from state socialism into liberal capitalism. And for a while this country was at the forefront of this transition or transformation. But I think if we want to understand where this went wrong, what we have to look at is precisely the discontent and disillusionment with this particular transformation. The fact that… I mean, and this is two things. One, is that capitalism didn’t end up propelling Hungary to the status of Austria, which is what politicians more or less promised the people in 1989. Very far from that EU accession, instead of galvanizing and the hopes of the people, especially rural people and people living in deagrarianized industrialized areas, ended up being a disaster for many of these disenfranchised populations.
And the other thing was that democracy also didn’t exactly work as it was promised. It wasn’t as egalitarian as it was promised. There were new elites and these new elites, it became very clear that they could navigate the landscape of global capitalism to their advantage, leaving other people behind. So in this sense, the story in Hungary is not that different from what we see in the US South or in many other parts of the global South. The semi periphery, if we want to use Wallerstein’s terms. But I think it’s a place where these contradictions and disillusionments just became very acute and are very palpable and easily recognizable, perhaps more than in other places. So the Eastern periphery of the EU is just the space which galvanized these national populisms if we want to call them.
And if I may say another thing is that what’s interesting in particular about Hungary, I think the main point of interest is that within the EU, this is the country where the radical right has been in power for the longest. So we actually are getting a sense of a mutation from movement to party to maybe party state. We also see differences with state socialism and with interwar fascism. So I think this is a very interesting place to get a hang of the limitations that the EU imposes on these regimes or doesn’t impose on these regimes, as we rather tend to see. And maybe just a final point in this introductory comment is that one of the things that I came away with in this last 10, 15 years of research that I’ve been doing in and on my home country is that in opposition, the radical right type tends to adopt a populist stance. And in Hungary, this was an explicitly anti-liberal partially selectively, not anti-capitalist, but critique of capitalism was espoused by the right.
So there was a left-wing element, if you will, in the project of the right. And it was a populist project against the liberal elites who steered the country through the stolen transition as the right calls it. And then when the right comes to power, it actually mutates and tends to show its authoritarian face. And I think we saw that with Trump in the US as well. So it’s not unique to Hungary, but we see this transition very, very well. And this is a key element of the strategy, I think. Populism in opposition against the powers that be, mostly liberal elites. And then the adoption of more and more authoritarian elements, and plebiscitary elements to remain in power, and charismatic leadership, I would say. But I can say more about that later.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: And Dimitri, to round us off, we were talking about the so-called freedom convoy in Canada. A lot of people don’t have a sense of the far right in Canada outside of Canada, and certainly in the United States. What exactly is this phenomenon? What’s its roots?
Dimitri Lascaris: Well, first let me say, this is a very important question we’re grappling with. What is the far right? And we have to, I think, begin with an acknowledgement, which I think is coming out of this discussion, that it looks different in different parts of the world, different cultures, different economic systems. Although I think we can identify some common features amongst all of them. And the second thing I think we should acknowledge at the outset of a discussion like this is that the political spectrum really is a spectrum. And there’s no, as far as I can tell, bright line beyond which something is unequivocally far right and something is not unequivocally far right. So for example, I think the line between the Republican Party and the far right in the United States is quite blurred. I would even go so far as to say – And I know Democrats aren’t going to like me saying this – But the right wing of the Democratic Party, which I believe is in control of Democratic Party, is not that different from what we call the far right in the United States.
It is different. There are significant differences but it’s not a nice, neat, bright line. And here in Canada, we see the same thing. So between the Conservative Party, the right wing of the Liberal Party, and what we call the far right, you can see certain important similarities and you can see certain important differences. In this country, I think what we think of as the far right has five principal characteristics. One is religious fundamentalism, and we’re talking particularly about Christianity. You can be profoundly committed to Christian values and not be on the far right. I’m talking about a form of Christian fundamentalism that is very authoritarian. Secondly, an emphasis, even a glorification of individual freedom over collective responsibility. You saw a lot of this in the freedom convoy in Ottawa. The use of violence to achieve its ends is a third, I think, defining characteristic. Fourth, white supremacy. And finally, and it is very important, I think, an intense hostility to establishment institutions.
Some of it well founded, some of it not well founded, and some of it downright delusional. And our task as opponents of the far right trying to understand it and counteract it, the complexity, the challenge we have, I think, if we’re going to get a handle on this problem and deal with it effectively, is to understand what are the legitimate grievances of people who gravitate to the far right. And what are not legitimate grievances. And find a way to address the legitimate grievances without empowering the far right. And I think that’s a very important and complicated task. And merely saying that is fraught with difficulty in the current toxic political discourse prevailing in the West. But I think it has to be said.
Marc Steiner: I’ve been wrestling with this question about, why now? What is happening in the world while this is taking place? I mean, two of you already said that the right is not a monolith. But there’s a right-wing populist reaction to what people are facing across the globe. And I outlined the beginning as we opened this discussion that you see this combination, this frightening meeting at the crossroads of the fall of Leninist states, those contradictions, the crisis in capitalism which is not answer the needs of the people, racism that’s always been there that has bubbled up and become a volcanic eruption across the globe that’s also fueling this. So why now? Why do you all think at this moment the world is facing this onslaught across every continent everywhere in different forms? What is it about this moment that we’re facing this future? Sadia, why don’t you begin?
Sadia Abbas: Why now? I think that it’s both, there’s an element of [inaudible] to it as well as something quite specific. So that sounds like a classic academic fudge. [Marc laughs] But I do think that there are two things here. One of which is, go back to the ’70s and see what they put in place in the ’70s. And then the ’80s you get Margaret Thatcher and Reagan and they begin the gutting of society. I think at some level, what we’re seeing right now is the culmination of that gutting. I mean, there’s an entire generation that has been produced that has no memory of anything prior to the grand… I was reading somebody the other day, I think Bowman called it the Reagan-Thatcher coup. So there’s an entire generation that’s been produced that has no memory of anything other than that. So there’s a certain level of despair about alternatives, and nobody’s helping. I mean, I teach at a university that claims to be very community engaged, and the relentless anti-intellectualism of that institution.
And which is a fundamentally neoliberal… Anti-intellectualism is incredible. So we’re not even preparing our students, but we keep telling them that we’re going to produce these great new entrepreneurs for a society that can no longer observe them. So I think that there’s that element. I think that the sealing of that deal with Blair and Clinton and the Third Wayism that then meant that the coup essentially worked, which laid the foundations for it. And then I think there are two other factors, at least, I’ve argued that in my first book – Three factors, I would say. The fall of the Berlin Wall, which for at least third world countries was… But also I think for Eastern Europe was quite determining. 2001 and the alibi for the absolute gutting of all kinds of personal liberties that that provided to the Western powers.
And now I would say it’s 2008, or depending on where you’re sitting in New York – And I speak as somebody who counts Lesbos in Greece as one of her homes – 2015, the so-called refugee crisis, which coincided in a place like Greece with the debt crisis. Which was, I would say, the bringing home of Europe to a very familiar third world problem, which was the structural adjustment issue around that debt, which was now proving that the EU would do unto its own countries what things like the World Bank and IMF have already done to the rest of the world.
Marc Steiner: So since you called out Greece, let me call out Dimitri –
Dimitri Lascaris: Yeah.
Marc Steiner: …To pick up.
Dimitri Lascaris: I was actually going to talk about Greece in response to your question. I was actually in Lesbos in 2015 to cover the refugee crisis for The Real News. I was also –
Marc Steiner: I remember.
Dimitri Lascaris: …In Athens to cover the referendum, which the government of Alexis Tsipras, the so-called radically left government of Alexis Tsipras, called to deal with the most harsh set of austerity proposals which had been inflicted upon Greece up until that point in time. And what did Mr. Tsipras do, as we covered on The Real News, after the Greek people, amazingly, under threat of expulsion from the Eurozone and the collapse of its financial system, the Greek people voted quite strongly against the memorandum being presented to it, the government, by Greece’s creditors. And Mr. Tsipras promptly ignored the result of this historic referendum and accepted the conditions imposed by the creditors, which precipitated the resignation of Yanis Varoufakis. But what was, I think, really notable for purposes of our discussion was that three months later I think it was, or a month later in September of 2015, there was an election in Greece and the far right neo-Nazi party – Which is probably the most brazenly openly neo-Nazi party in Western Europe – It won the third largest share of the vote in the Greek election.
It had never done that before. It got 7% of the vote. The communists historically have gotten I think around 5%. So it even got a higher share of the vote than the communists. And they did this despite the fact that only a few months earlier, the Greek authorities had charged the leaders of Golden Dawn with effectively operating a criminal organization. Ultimately, the Golden Dawn problem was dealt with, at least ostensibly, by a conviction which was entered by the Greek courts against the leaders of Golden Dawn. And the party has now been outlawed and largely crushed as a political entity. But the phenomena that fueled the rise of the Golden Dawn have not gone away. And unless we get a grip on the reasons why it came into existence, which is effectively… I agree with what’s been said already. That the failures of this crony capitalist neoliberal order to provide social justice, a sustainable society, meaningful equality, a meaningful exercise of democratic rights, protection of the most vulnerable, is fueling the rise of the far right.
And I think you saw this really quite dramatically in the Greek election of 2015, and we have to get a grip on that. The best way to counter the far right, in my opinion, is to create a socially just world and provide real, robust democratic protections to the populists, in particular, the most vulnerable. If we don’t do that, we’re never going to control this phenomenon of the rise of the far right. And it may actually spin out of control.
Marc Steiner: So before we jump to Kristóf, it looks like, Sadia, you wanted to jump in and say something real fast.
Sadia Abbas: I did. I also want to say that one of the things that’s also very important, and I know Bill and I have talked about this in the past, is the failure also of the left to recognize that some of its tried and tested ways of opposing these things aren’t working. So one of the things is that when it came to the Muslim far right, for instance even, there was no recognition that these were very cultivated dispersive projects. That all alternatives of imagination are also being gutted. And the neoliberal order isn’t just providing an economic base upon which the super structure… Out of which it emerges on which it’s imposed. But actually that there’s a very systematic destruction by that neoliberal order of all alternatives.
On the one hand. On the other hand, and I mean all imaginative alternatives to ways of dignified sustainable life. And people are calling for dignity even in places like Tunisia. But then on the other hand, there’s also very little understanding that the right is organized in its – Whatever its lack of monolithism, is also tremendously organized. And it does actually have a project. I’m not sure what the left thinks its project is anymore, to be honest. So I think that’s actually what I wanted to say, anyway.
Marc Steiner: I want to pick up on that point later, but Kristóf, jump in.
Kristóf Szombati: Yeah. I’ll pick up on comments made by both Sadia and Dimitri. And what I wanted to say actually just picks up at once is what Sadia said is this [inaudible], there is no alternative, atmosphere that we’re living in. And I think Eastern year is probably the best laboratory to show that. Because there is this state socialist regime that, well, didn’t exactly fulfill the promises that it pledged to and ended in a really bad way. That really made people want to forget it rather than go back to that. And then in the ’90s and 2000s you see a wholesale espousal on behalf of the post communist forces of neoliberalism. I mean, there’s no better way to destroy the left than to do these two things one after the other, actually. The second itself is already terrible enough. And I think if we look at the places where radical or far right movements and parties have been really strengthened, these are genuinely places where the left cannot articulate the grievances, which I think Dimitri very rightly raises as the key points in this whole mix of why populism, why now.
When you don’t have an alternative capable of articulating that and articulating a project to address those grievances, then you’ll see people going to the right. And I think as Sadia says, the right has a better project at this point, a project that is better suited to this still capitalist, increasingly competitive world order. Because what you see in not only Hungary but all over Europe is these projects of national capitalism. Where you see, oh, well the entrepreneurs and the workers, they’re together. These form a community against the multinational corporations who right-wing elites have a tendency to push out. In Hungary, this is what we’ve said. From strategic sectors, of course, not from all sectors. So you see a very clever bricolage, as the French would say. The right has really learned how to put together a policy and discursive mix which works to their advantage. And I think it’s better suited to the whole context.
I mean, in Hungary really one of the things that keeps this regime going is its ability to actually show its populist credentials by forging this conflict with the EU and showing that it is doing what the people expected to do. For instance, when the European Commission and George Soros supposedly unite to force Hungary to accept refugee quotas, then the government can say, we’re here to protect our borders. At the same time, you can say we have kicked out Austrian banks, we have kicked out… And then I could go on and enumerate a few sectors where transnational corporations have been pushed back and domestic capital has more space to govern.
I’m an anthropologist, by the way. So I talk to people in these rural, deindustrialized areas. And one of the things they tell me is that, well, we know that these capitalists are a capitalist deal. We know they’re corrupt, but it’s better than the foreigners exploiting us. And I think that’s a very powerful, actually, argument. At first, from a leftist perspective, it’s hard to understand why people would only choose one over the other, why there’s no third alternative – Perhaps an anti-capitalist one or a social democratic one – But that is because that alternative has not been articulated.
And so people go for national capitalism, which is the model propagated by the right. And I think that’s very important to understand. Last point, the right is very good at feeding on crisis, triggering crisis, manufacturing crisis. I mean, the whole so-called refugee crisis showed that perfectly in Hungary what the government did – And I’ll be very brief, it’s a long story, but I was also there to witness this – Is they actually transported the refugees, who were moving from Syria and also other countries from the Middle East as far as Afghanistan, into Europe through the Balkans, and Hungary was the gate to the EU. And deliberately the government let these people, put them on trains. And so they arrive in the capital city, then let them stay there for a few weeks. So this is making this a very visible phenomenon for everyone. And then they could start their whole immoral-moral panic about the demographic bomb, about terrorism. So this whole racialization of migrants, if you will. And then when Merkel in Germany said, we welcome the migrants, Immediately, they put everyone on buses and took them to the Austrian border. So they’re extremely good at manufacturing crisis and at ruling the airwaves. Yeah.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: In the opinion of the three of you, what is inhibiting the left from offering an alternative?
Marc Steiner: Maybe add to that, what happened to the left? Where did it go? Dimitri, [crosstalk] you’re about to jump in. Go ahead.
Dimitri Lascaris: Yeah. I mean, I attended the freedom convoy as an observer in Ottawa the last two days of its existence when the police began to move in force. And I went down to the front line and I spoke to a number of people and listened to a lot of conversations that people were having. And what I saw has really strengthened in me the feeling that the left – And I certainly count myself as a member of the left – It’s become extraordinarily rigid and closed-minded in its thinking. And I think we’ve seen this on vivid display with respect to the freedom convoy. So I’m hearing from people on the left in Canada that the people down there, this is all that there… I mean, ostensibly, why that thing began was people were upset with vaccine mandates.
That was clearly the ostensible motivating principle behind that protest. People on the left have been saying to me, oh no, that’s not it at all. It has nothing to do with vaccine mandates. These people are all just a bunch of far right racist, white supremacist bigots, religious fundamentalists, and they have no legitimate complaints and we have to crush them. And by any and all means necessary, even to the point where the government just adopted for the first time in 34 years, it invoked a piece of legislation called the Emergencies Act, supported by the nominally social democratic NDP. The Liberal government couldn’t have got it passed without the support of this so-called left-wing party. And it is a truly draconian piece of legislation, which we can get into in more detail if you like, supported by the left. So their response to what’s going on in Ottawa has been purely authoritarian and closed-minded, in my view.
When I was there and I was talking to people, in fact, the overwhelming concern was vaccine mandates. And one conversation I had in particular struck me with a firefighter/medic who had spent the entire three weeks on the ground in the freezing cold and came from Western Canada. And I asked her, how many of the people here do you think are vaccinated? And she said, probably about half. Half the people are vaccinated. They’re very upset about the fact that vaccines are being, people are being coerced into vaccination. Now, I myself am fully vaccinated. My family’s fully vaccinated. I encourage people to get fully vaccinated. But vaccine mandates are thorny, complex ethical and practical issues that merit discussion. We should be willing to have an open-minded discussion about this. And instead of my colleagues on the left trying to have a discussion with people who are opposed to vaccine mandates in this country, we are just automatically dismissing them as far right lunatics.
And it’s just pushing them into the hands of the right. And I agree completely that the right has done a much better job of exploiting this. The right has taken up the mantle in this country. Right now, as I’m talking, it has taken up the mantle of the protector of the little guy against state authoritarianism and the protection of people who believe in their bodily autonomy. We in the left have ceded that ground to the right in this country. We’re doing it right now. And it’s going to come back to haunt us. We should be prepared to have a conversation with these people. There are people on the ground there that can be dialoged with. We’ve become so rigid and closed-minded in our thinking that we’re missing, I think, a very important opportunity.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: But Dimitri, let me push back. I hear what you’re saying. When people of color carry out demonstrations anywhere in the United States, and I believe in Canada, we are met with a ferocity that makes what happened to those folks in Ottawa look like a picnic. People are murdered, they’re jailed, they’re locked up and everything, and nobody says it. There’s nothing about liberty, civil liberties or anything else is just… Like in the United States, Dimitri, as you probably know, there were laws passed after the protests against the George Floyd murder to make it more difficult for people to legitimately protest. And in fact, in Florida, a law that permits cars to run over demonstrators. Yet when we look at Canada, when you have these anti-vax protesters, we’re supposed to sympathize with them. We’re supposed to feel bad about them when nothing even close to what’s happened to us has happened. So I’m not sure I look at it the same way you do.
Dimitri Lascaris: Well, I just want to correct one thing. I don’t think it’s correct to call this an anti-vax protest. Because as I said, there are people in there who are vaccinated. I don’t think opposition to vaccine mandates makes you an anti-vaxxer. I think opposition to being vaccinated makes you an anti-vaxxer. But what they’re upset about, some of those people, the ones who are vaccinated, is the fact that the vaccination is being coerced. They don’t have a problem with vaccines. They just think people should ultimately make that decision for themselves. So I –
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Are they against smallpox vaccines? Are they against measles, mumps, rubella vaccines? Polio?
Dimitri Lascaris: I think you’d have to ask them that question. And it’s a good question.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: But Dmitri, you know the answer to this.
Dimitri Lascaris: No, no –
Bill Fletcher Jr.: You know the answer to this because we’re seeing it all around, that the same people who every day… I mean, people go into the US military, for example, and there’s a whole round of vaccines that you get and it’s understood you get them. All of a sudden there’s this hoopla around this thing. That’s why I think that this is not about civil liberties or a discussion. It’s something far more nefarious.
Dimitri Lascaris: …Okay. Well, I’ve personally spoken to people who don’t have a problem with certain types of vaccine mandates but do have a problem with this one. There actually are arguments available to you to say that in this set of circumstances, mandating vaccination is going too far. But in other types of medical emergencies, it’s not. It is possible to draw a distinction. So I’m just telling you, I’ve had conversations with people, they have clearly said to me, it’s not that I’m opposed to all vaccine mandates. So for example, one might say, I support vaccine mandates relating to people who work in the healthcare system because they’re constantly in contact with vulnerable populations. But I don’t really see why we’re imposing a vaccine mandate on truckers who spend a long time in their vehicles alone. And this is what these people are saying. So it’s not necessarily the case.
There are people on the ground there who are just opposed to all vaccine mandates no matter what. There are people on the ground there who are opposed to vaccines, period. But there are also people on the ground there who have a more nuanced view. That’s all I’m saying, but I want to address your main point. Your main point was the discrepancy in treatments from the law enforcement. What we’re seeing here with this predominantly white, predominantly right-leaning protest. How is law enforcement responding to that? How does it deal with Black Lives Matter, Indigenous rights? You’re absolutely right that there is a grotesque disparity in how the police are dealing with these two situations. They’re far more brutal, far more quick to pull the trigger, far more willing to violently suppress protests when the people are Indigenous or Black or they’re fighting for social justice.
But that we, as the left, the way we should respond to that is not to say, well, you should apply to these people the same level of brutality you apply to us. The way we should respond to it is to say, you should be every bit as restrained with us as you are with them. You should show the same level of restraint, not to increase generally your level of brutality. So that’s the way to approach it. I’ve seen people on the left who seem to be urging the cops to be brutal. I don’t think we should ever urge the cops to be brutal when it comes to protests. We should always demand that they be restrained and they respect their civil liberties.
Marc Steiner: Sadia, go ahead.
Sadia Abbas: Yeah. I want to actually say that part of what I was saying was slightly different. Because on the one hand, I have to say that white liberal sanctimoniousness is its own order of treacle. So I don’t know what to say about that. I completely agree that coming also to this country was really fascinating because political discourse is so sanctimonious and I don’t ever quite know what to do with it. And in that sense it can be that you can’t even talk to somebody who says they don’t want a vaccine, and suddenly everybody gets… And I’m talking about liberals, which to me is not the same thing as talking about the left. Having said that, I think that what I was trying to say when I talked about the discursive matrix, and I think here I am with Bill, really. Is that when I say that the right, it has a project, it also has a set of aspirations and propositions that it’s willing to sign onto.
The other thing that it’s very good at, and I think that the left tends to romanticize human beings, is also understanding the power of hatred. And those of us who are women, or not white, or African American, or Muslims encounter this every day. So I think we can’t underestimate the power of the capacity to cultivate and generate, through a historical nostalgia, that sort of hatred. Which I think is also in the absence of anything positively imaginative from the left. The left has critique up to a point, but it doesn’t have any commitment to anything like a beautiful or good life anymore. That’s actually what I had in mind when I was talking about imagination. We can’t talk about what it is to have inspirations.
My students, when I go in there and say, well, let’s actually think about what a good human life might look like. And I don’t mean jobs and houses. I mean, beyond that. So I say to them, imagine the American dream, whatever it was. 2.2 children and a dog and a house and your mortgage and you’re 40 years old and you’re sitting on the couch. What are you going to actually talk to your kids about? And that’s the moment. And I say, what is your duty of care to the future? And it’s an interesting thing because they look really startled, and that’s when they start talking about what a good life might look like. So I was actually talking about that, because I do think that hatred, and I do think that’s where the history of race, even in a place like India, which can now turn that whole language of raciology onto people who look like them, so it’s no longer about melanin and phenotype, is not trivial here.
I mean, the West has been very good at cultivating hatred. And there are habits of hatred in this part of the world that have converged with other habits of hatred. So Wojciech Sadurski, the Polish constitutional lawyer, said in a conversation at the Center of European Studies recently, we have to address people’s anxieties and not condescend to them. And we have to take their anxieties seriously. So I said, what anxiety are you taking seriously when you take seriously the anxiety about the foreigner?
Now, if you don’t want to condescend to them, then you have to believe that that’s a serious anxiety. If you want to condescend to them, then you are going to say that it’s some kind of super structural respinning of an economic anxiety. And I don’t think anymore that’s all that’s at stake. I think what the stake is what is planetary life going to look like? And that’s not just an economic issue. And that’s where I think the universities are culpable, where I think the left is culpable. Nobody can tell you what it should look like or that we can actually have aspirations beyond jobs.
Marc Steiner: Kristóf looks like he wants to jump in. Go ahead, Kristóf.
Kristóf Szombati: Yeah. It’s hard to jump into this conversation because Eastern Europe is pretty far from the US and I don’t want to be making any claims about the US right. But I do feel I could connect to Dimitri’s point about the left espousing anti-populism as a language. And anti-populism is, in a way, a liberal or right-wing ploy, whichever you want, to not get us to address particularly these grievances. And these grievances can be very problematic, as Sadia says. So it is very hard for me, who does research on racism in particular – Anti-Roma sentiment, anti-Gypsy politics – To connect to people on this level. I think that’s where it is the hardest for me, on a human level, to connect. But what I do see is that there is a very strong anti-systemic feeling in everyday people right now. In [COVID-19], just multiplied that by three.
There were already suspicions of the establishment. And I think we may think that what the discourse is evolving into around vaccines is completely, I don’t know, just out of our box. And in many cases it is veering into the irrational. But what I do see is that the fuel of that is the earlier suspicions towards the elites, and they just find a release and a target in vaccination right now. So it’s just like the Roma and African Americans, wherever other racialized subgroups can become this target like a screen that people can project onto. Well, this is, it’s vaccination right now. And I think where it’s very hard is also because – I was a former politician – Is what we are proposing to these people, what our project is. And what I sensed is, and this is going to be very banal, is that my life is so distant from theirs.
Kristóf Szombati: So the right has actually succeeded in separating our life worlds to an extent where our experiences and language can’t even connect anymore. These life worlds are so far apart. And so we cannot even begin to think about what Sadia is asking to do about a collective imagination that would bind the city and the countryside together. But that’s I think where we should be starting. And I don’t have any solutions at this point. I just feel that this is where we get lost, is when we encircle ourselves, close ourselves into our increasingly distanced world.
Marc Steiner: You sure? Okay, cool. So just explore this a bit more. I mean, one of the things about… There’s a thread here that I really want to explore for a minute. I mean, so as I said earlier, we have certain countries where the right is firmly entrenched in power. And I don’t see that being loosening up. Whether it’s in Hungary or India or Brazil, or maybe even here in the United States with Trump and the movement around Trump. You see it burgeoning across the globe and in many other societies. And the tenor of the conversation is that the left is lost. Not the left has lost, but the left is lost. And so I want to ask you all of you – And I know, Bill, you have some thought in this as well – That A, there is a real… For all the things we’ve discussed and the roots of the right surge in the world, it’s here. We’re facing it. It’s facing us down and we have to face it.
So can the left do this by themselves? What is the left? Can the left do it without some kind of accommodation to what we call the liberal establishment to face off what we’re being confronted by? And when you look at it in a global sense, we’re at a precipice. And so I’d like to explore what we all mean by the left and what you think that response should be. And I can come back to what you were saying earlier, Kristóf, because I spent years and years as an organizer, as you did, Bill. And so when you work as an organizer, you begin to see commonalities in people that would be opposed to things you think that you believe in. We’ll come to that later maybe if we have time. But just where the left is… Let’s explore this whole notion. So what do we do now? As Mr. Lenin would say, what is to be done? [crosstalk] –
Kristóf Szombati: Can I just jump in with a short story about –
Marc Steiner: Yeah.
Kristóf Szombati: …Because I think this will blow your mind. We currently have elections in six weeks in Hungary.
Marc Steiner: Right.
Kristóf Szombati: Again, and the incumbent is Mr. Orban and his Fidesz party and they’re leading in the polls. And we have already had three elections that have been lost by all of the other forces: liberals, leftists, and the far right party. Which in a way triggered the whole radicalization of Hungarian politics. Now this far right party is currently in alliance with the liberals and the leftists. So everyone has formed this United front against Orban. And this was, for me also on a personal level, because I was still involved in politics when this started… Really in the beginning, this triggered so many debates on the left, and especially amongst my Roma friends. But whether we could work together with a former far right party whose leaders had disassociated themselves from their former racist policies saying, sorry, we no longer believe in that. It was a necessary move for us to get into politics. We’re really sorry about it. But now we’ve left that behind.
And it really asked that people move out of their bastions and start talking to another and start trusting each other. And this was a highly contradictory process, but we have now arrived at a point where the former far right has been, if you will, domesticated into a left-liberal alliance. Now this alliance may still lose this election. I think that would be my prognosis. But what this has taught me is that it is possible, actually, to get some people to change their minds, even if they are political leaders. So on a personal level, this has been very important for me. There’s a whole black side to this story that I can’t explore right now here. But I just want to convey this message that sometimes it is possible to overcome massive differences, massive political differences. Of course, you need an authoritarian regime that is stomping out your liberties and actually threatening you and intimidating you to actually get people to do that. But there is some hope. That offers me some hope.
Marc Steiner: Good.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Dimitri, Sadia. In terms of what is to be… I mean, I have some other questions I want to get to if we have time, but I’d really like to focus on this right now in terms of what is to be done.
Sadia Abbas: Dimitri first, I think.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Okay, cool.
Dimitri Lascaris: I think that’s a wonderful story in the sense that, I mean, a lot of us might cringe at the idea that there was a discussion and an alliance formed between left and right in that manner. What I find so encouraging about it, and I was going to say something very similar although in the Canadian context, is that you’d be amazed at what you can achieve through open-minded dialogue. And I think the potential for achieving common ground, finding common ground is even greater when you’re not talking at a political level, at a leadership level of various political parties, but you’re talking with people on the ground. So an example that I’d like to cite is that there was a poll done recently on a wealth tax in this country, and it found that two thirds of Conservative Party supporters strongly support a wealth tax.
And then you look in the United States and you’ve seen the level of support, for example, for Medicare for All, even amongst people who lean Republican or people who call themselves politically independent. We actually have more common ground with people who gravitate to right-wing parties than we may realize, and if we actually talk to them in an empathetic manner and ask the same of them, that they engage with us respectfully and empathetically, I think we may be able to find quite considerable common ground. I don’t think, Marc, in answer to your question, that the left can do this alone. The forces arrayed against us are extraordinarily powerful, deeply entrenched, and absolutely ruthless. We need to find common ground with those who aren’t necessarily traditionally aligned with us on the political spectrum. And I think it can be done.
Sadia Abbas: I want to say a couple of things. First, well, and I’ve said this actually in my first book too. Some of that conversation was also… And, Dimitri, I agree with you a little bit and then I also disagree. Agreement to the extent that, yes, you can sit and talk to people and be a little bit more open than one sees here. So for instance, on the question of vaccination sometimes, I mean, it’s also a little stunning to me just how quickly people get sanctimonious about it. Oh my God, that person isn’t wearing a mask, and then suddenly there’s this Twitter outrage. And I was like, well, okay fine. It’s hard wearing a mask. But having said that, I mean, having been the Muslim woman who’s sitting in a random conversation in a cafe and being told that she’s the good one.
And then the next minute having to tell someone that I’m not a terrorist. And then having a completely benign conversation turn into a goddamn conversation about sleeper cells in this country. Do you know what I mean? This open dialogue is only open as long as I’m willing to accept this other person’s complete attack on me. And so I stay open to it and I know how to do it. And partly it’s, frankly, the reason I can do it is because I’m from an elite Pakistani family. So as far as I’m concerned, these are just weird creatures talking to me. You know what I mean? And that’s how I [crosstalk] Yeah, seriously. That’s my insulation.
Marc Steiner: Yeah. Right.
Sadia Abbas: That’s my insulation against this country’s profound racism. And I’ve lived here for 30 years, and I have an African American partner. And I know exactly how men look at me, white men look at me, when I go down the street with him and the way that we get stopped on the streets.
And I’ve seen him sit there and talk rationally to some dude in his neighborhood who will sit there supporting Trump. And my partner is talking to him and explaining and trying to meet him on his own ground. And at the end of it’s still like, no, you people are bad. Now, it’s not just coming from white people in my case as a Muslim. I’ve had people who are community engaged leaders in New Jersey. For instance, a Caribbean immigrant herself, who sits there and tells me, well, we don’t need more refugees in this country when the Syrians are coming in. And she looks at me and said, and we basically, we don’t need anymore Muslims. And I said, you know that you’re talking about people like me, don’t you? Yeah, of course. It’s okay. So the question is, what are the lost acceptable prejudices and who is having to explain? It’s one thing for… And I’m sorry to sort of racialize this conversation, even in response.
But it just means [crosstalk] the elephant in the room. I mean, do you know how many times I’ve heard white people talk about their uncles at Thanksgiving? And how difficult it is to have their Republican uncle? You think I don’t have uncles who total assholes? Of course I do. And I’ve not sat there trying to convert them back. I mean, so why are we sitting here still talking about the difficulty of the Thanksgiving dinner?
Dimitri Lascaris: [crosstalk] I’m not saying that everybody on the right is a potential ally. I definitely acknowledge that in some segments of the right things like racism, misogyny run so deep that there’s no conversation to be had. I acknowledge that and it’s sad, but it’s true. But I do believe that there’s significant segments of the right where there’s the potential for finding common ground and those issues are not so formidable as to be incapable of being overcome. But I get it. I also came from a right-wing family, a lot of patriarchy in my family. There was a good deal of bigotry towards non-Greeks when I was growing up. And it can be difficult if not impossible to have conversations with people who have that mindset. I totally acknowledge that.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: I think that we have some level of agreement that there needs to be a united front to respond to the far right. The contours of that are complicated. But there’s one thing about this issue that we’ve been talking around about anxiety. And I like what you were raising, Sadia. And it’s something that I think we on the left have to address, which is drawing out from which you were saying, Sadia, at what point are anxieties considered legitimate? Let me give you an extreme story, but something that’s stuck in my head. When the Mongols invaded Europe, there had never been a military force like them. They just kept winning and they entered into Eastern Europe and Eastern Europeans had never seen the Mongols. They had no idea who they were, but they were coming in and they were defeating everybody. No one could stand up to the Mongols. So these great Christian people in Europe, trying to figure out who the Mongols were, concluded that they were demons created by Jews.
Marc Steiner: [laughs] Right.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: And that the way to deal with this was to lock Jews up in villages and incinerate the villages. And that would be the way of stopping the Mongols. Now, this was addressing the anxiety that these Christians were feeling. And I think we have to really dissect this issue and try to figure out… I mean, there’s a lot going on out there in terms of anxiety about economic collapse, environmental catastrophe, et cetera. But there are these other things that fall within this rubric of anxiety where I feel like Uh-uh (negative), no pasaran. It’s like, we have to draw certain lines. And it seems to me that that’s part of what the left’s moral obligation is, for lack of a better term. Of drawing certain lines and saying, no, this will not pass. This will not be tolerated. There’s not going to be any concessions here.
And in the absence of that, what I worry about is something that I see, which is a political phenomena where there’s this almost belief by some segments of the left that right-wing populism can be dissected into right wing versus populism. As opposed to understanding that there is a phenomenon called right-wing populism around which there’s a bracket and that’s different from other forms of populism.
And that the people like Pat Buchanan and other people who have articulated right-wing populism, they know exactly what they’re doing, and they’re representing a very coherent theory. Now, while they may borrow some of our language, but they have really nefarious objectives that we have to be incredibly clear about. And this is not to say at all, Kristóf, I mean, the alliance that you were talking about, I’m with you a hundred percent. I think that we have to critically identify who the enemy is at any particular moment and move against them. But I think that when it comes to narrative and trying to win back the base, we’ve got to be very, very clear.
Kristóf Szombati: Oh yeah. There’s no dispute, actually. I fully agree with that. Of course the Buchanans are enemies, if you will. And there’s a narrative struggle for hegemony, if you will. So there’s no doubt about that. I think the discussion really is about what you were saying about where you draw the line. And the problem is that I live in a place where we have lost the power to draw lines, if you will. So that’s the next step, if you will. I think the left is… This is one of the countries where it’s the weakest right now. So that strategy is also in question because we cannot draw lines. It’s as simple as that. The question is how we can still create a narrative that a larger group of people can connect to, and we’re even struggling with that.
And the particularity, of course, of this region is the history of state socialism that… It’s very hard to reach back to anything that reeks of Marx. And of course, an added problem is that I, myself, am a socialist, so it’s very hard to get around that problem. Because in the end you end up talking about equality and people say, well, that didn’t work out and it was a lie. And so in the end we always bump into this problem in this part of the world. At least I think in the US you don’t have this problem. But I’m really struggling here with my own people too, for a sense of future, if you will. Just to stand our ground and keep something alive. For me, that is the project right now. So it’s a defensive project at this point. It’s to keep something alive. It’s not an expansionist one. I think there are other places where the situation is perhaps a bit easier.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: I have to appreciate that. I have to get this question in. When, Dimitri, you were identifying earlier on in the program some of the key elements of the far right. And I want to just get the commentary to three of you. The thing that wasn’t mentioned explicitly, although we’ve talked a little bit about it, is this your male supremacy and patriarchy? Because it seems to me that in every one of these far right movements, even far right movements led by women, that male supremacy and misogyny plays a major role. And I’m just curious in terms of how the three of you see that playing out in South Asia, Hungary, Canada, Brazil, wherever. But I’d like us to focus a little bit on that. Whoever would like to start.
Marc Steiner: Sadia, go ahead.
Sadia Abbas: I was going to say one of the gentlemen should start that one.
Marc Steiner: Okay, fine. That’s cool. That’s good. That’s okay.
Sadia Abbas: I want to hear what the guys have to say then I’ll talk.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Good.
Marc Steiner: Cool.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Good.
Marc Steiner: Sounds good to me. Dimitri.
Dimitri Lascaris: Yeah, I think far right politics is definitely a male sport. No doubt about that. It’s an excellent point. I readily acknowledge that. I mean, I’ve never seen a feminist far right party. I don’t think that such a thing will ever exist [inaudible] existed. So. Yes, absolutely. And I would add that to my list of defining characteristics of the far right, for sure. And so for example, when I was down at the freedom convoy, I did notice that, I mean there were women in that crowd, but it was overwhelmingly a male gathering. Which expressed, or evinced particularly male masculine qualities, shall we say? And I think that’s typical of right-wing movements. So for sure, we need to be cognizant of that fact. These are movements that ultimately are going to be working to undermine the rights and wellbeing and freedom of women. One of the many reasons why we must oppose them and find ways of doing that effectively.
Kristóf Szombati: Oh yeah. It’s very similar in Hungary. I mean, if you look at the government and the whole, the energies around that space, it’s very misogynistic and it’s very overtly so. What makes it especially insidious is that the right has deliberately and selectively destroyed all other forms of solidarity except for the family. Very selectively. And then keeping the family alive both materially and symbolically. And it’s very hard to go against that. Because on the level of everyday life, this is the last group where solidarity, or anything beyond the individual that has some reality that you can depend on. And of course, in a semi peripheral context, this ability to depend on people, to rely on people is just crucial. It is one of the most important things in social life. And so it’s very hard to go against this pro-natalist, pro-family politics that the government is pushing also on the discursive level and also materially incredibly powerfully.
And that’s, for instance, one of the obstacles that the left has had a very hard time going against. Because even if we had, and we do have policy alternatives or another vision, people will say you can’t attack the family. It’s the last thing I have. So it just goes back to the point of how clever this politics is in selectively destroying what doesn’t suit them on the level of material existence and keeping alive what suits their purposes.
Sadia Abbas: And to start with what Kristóf was saying there. I mean, for one thing, I should also say that not just women but also queers. I mean, we just had an event at the center about what’s being done to LGBTQ people in Hungary, Romania, Poland, and in Eastern Europe generally, and it’s brutal. But what I also want to say is people often forget that when Thatcher said, there’s no such thing as society, she said, there are only individuals and family. So one of the things to actually pay attention to, which I find so interesting, and you can see this, and this is where you want to see the convergence in global structures. If you watch Bollywood films from the ’80s on and then you watch American film and television and you see the way that family gets imagined over and over again.
And even the kind of way in American television… I stopped watching American television movies. But the way that the word family is almost erratic and sacred, the way that it’s said. And it’s always a very heteropatriarchal family, or even if it’s a queer family, it still has the affect of structure of a heteropatriarchal family. It’s bourgeois, it’s a very particular mode of middle-class love that’s being… Intensely boring middle-class love, I guess what I’m trying to say.
But I also think that speaking of historical nostalgia, but also anxiety, that, Marc, you talked about historical nostalgia. I mean, one of the things that’s also, I think, needs to be taken seriously is that in moments of profound historical transition – And it is also a moment of profound historical transition around the role of women and queer people in society – Anxiety is generated. And we cannot underestimate the anxiety of a certain kind of patriarchal male in that. But there’s also a way in which these far right movements actually learn from each other.
So I’m sitting in ’90s Pakistan watching a television show, and a woman who’s fully covered and a female doctor who’s on the far right, and a clerical male are sitting there and they’re [inaudible] an American right-wing study on contraception and birth control. So hence the neonatal policies. And they’re more than happy to use this. In Doha, way back, and I think it was in the early 2000s when The Guardian covered this, all these patriarchs from various religions met. Normally they hate each other. The Jews, Muslims, and Christians, Orthodox as well as Catholic, if I’m remembering correctly, and Protestant – To talk about their rights and family rights and how they had to be opposed. So the symbiosis and the capacity to learn from each other is also very important. Of course, that’s what the right is doing now.
And there’s a whole cult of the wife and the woman that’s being cultivated ruthlessly. So I think we need to talk about gender. And we also need to talk about… I’ve been talking about imagination. But I guess what, when we talk about hard lines, we’re also talking about judgment. We can’t Third Way ourself out of existence on the left. And I think sometimes we’re in danger of that. We keep trying to meet them on their own turf. And so we’ve conceived on our own, we don’t know what ground we stand on anymore. And we don’t concede that other people have ideologies too, and they’re not the same as ours.
Marc Steiner: So do you want –
Bill Fletcher Jr.: No, I think this has been a fabulous program.
Marc Steiner: I think it has been. Yeah. We’ve touched a lot of areas. And I think just to end with this very quickly, maybe just all of us here just… Again, coming back to the reality that certain countries, the right has surged into power. That it is a rising movement. And we didn’t touch on it as deeply as we have some other things, but that race and racism play a huge role in the rise of the right in this country and across the globe, in the United States and across the world. And I would just like to get the final thoughts from everybody here just about where they think… Nobody’s prescient in this room, but where we think this movement goes, where we think the opposition to the rise of right goes and how we influence it and lead it. How does that happen? How do we stand up to this? Whether you’re in Hungary, whether you’re in India, whether you are in Greece, whether you’re in the United States, Brazil, South Africa, Rwanda, let’s talk a bit about what we think has to be done.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Starting with Kristóf.
Kristóf Szombati: I mean, that’s the million dollar question, right? That you are asking.
Marc Steiner: It is. But I think… Yeah, right.
Kristóf Szombati: Yeah. What your thoughts and questions trigger in my mind was, again, but I’m so in this defensive strategy, that’s probably why I’m thinking about this. But that we need to get people to keep on engaging with politics, because there is a process and dynamic of depoliticization that I see in youth here, and not only in this country. And I think, for me, that’s probably the most formidable and scariest challenge. To prevent the social group that usually is the most critical from disengaging from the political world. Because that is what the right is trying to teach them to do. Let us do our thing… I mean, there’s a paternalist aspect to this politics. We’ll take care of it. Well, we’re here to defend you. Don’t worry. And of course, we’ll listen to your concerns. We are populists, but this is not your terrain.
And so the teaching people not to take part in politics is, for me, the primary battleground, and explaining that they’re doing a disservice to themselves if they go down that path. And of course the tactics, I think, will vary. As I said, in this country, but again, I don’t think Hungary is so particular, it’s the rural-urban divide that needs to be bridged. And the fact that the government has actually pushed a lot of young people out of education. I think that creates opportunities on the left for us to bring educational opportunities to areas which don’t have those right now. So it’s these, I think for me, it’s these kinds of social movements that articulate that kind of vision of education and of taking part in politics on the local level. That is the most important.
Marc Steiner: Dimitri. And then –
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Sadia.
Marc Steiner: …Sadia.
Dimitri Lascaris: First of all, I think a revolution is coming and it’s unavoidable, because we have a radically unsustainable economic system. It’s going to have to happen and it will happen and it may well happen within our lifetimes. The question is what kind of a world will emerge from this revolution? And we could end up with something that is horrible as right-wing and as authoritarian, as lacking in compassion and decency as anything humanity has seen. Or we could come out of this with an extraordinary new world where levels of democracy, social justice, humanity exceed anything that we’ve ever seen.
And to my mind, I don’t know how that’s all going to play out. What I think, if we’re going to win that fight, the struggle of our times, we have to take the oxygen out of the far right’s movement by addressing social justice as robustly and as courageously as we can. It’s a very difficult thing to do when you have governments such as those that we have who are so little interested in social justice and real equality, but that’s where we begin. That’s how we will win this fight. And we need all the allies we can get, and therefore need to seek out those with whom we can have a constructive conversation, but who may not, at least in the first instance, be politically aligned with us.
Sadia Abbas: I’m going to now argue a little bit against myself and agree with Dimitri. Which is that I have the luxury, I teach. So I am, one of the things that keeps me hopeful and happy is that I’m constantly dealing with young people. And in keeping with what he’s saying and what you’re saying is that when Trump got elected, one of the things, even though I was kind of, my stomach was heaving, my task in the classroom was actually to protect my students – Because it was a very liberal campus and left campus – Who had voted for Trump, and try to talk to them and understand where they were coming from from the other students. And it was an interesting task because they were my students, and I did. I talked to them. And in some cases we got through, and in some cases we didn’t.
And I said, I’m completely on the other side of this fight. But I do understand, so talk to me. And we did. And I do that all the time, partly because I love teaching and partly because I’m just lucky to have [inaudible] with students. Having said that, I mean, I think that we need to listen to what’s going on in the rest of the world. We need to pay attention to what’s happening in Tunisia and in Sudan and in Greece. I’ve learned a lot from my activist solidarity network friends in Greece who have been at the front line of many of the so-called crises. I have learned from my so-called anarchist friends who have organized things like the Notara 26 squat in Athens.
And I think that we have to also listen to the young and to talk with the young, because they’re inheriting this world and they actually have some ideas here. And I think that they’re actually phenomenal, because they know about the lack of options that is confronting them. And so what I would say is that I still think that a robust judgment, a commitment to what we believe in and think about, even if we are talking respectfully to others who disagree with us, but also it’s a serious investment in the imagination. And I say that as an educator. Because without that, there’s nothing. Otherwise, it’s climate change, extinction, or a bad revolution that leaves us in [inaudible].
Marc Steiner: Anything to add there, Bill?
Bill Fletcher Jr.: No, other than just to thank the three of you. This has just been a fantastic discussion and very, very thought provoking. I’m sure that our viewers and listeners will join me in that conclusion. This was just great. And I want to thank the three of you for taking this time. In fact, devoting more time than we had originally asked.
Marc Steiner: It’s true.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: So thank you very much.
Marc Steiner: Kristóf Szombati, Sadia Abbas, Kristóf Szombati, it really has been great. Great conversation and great honor also host this series with my friend, colleague, and comrade here, Bill Fletcher Jr. So this was great. I agree with you, Bill. It was really good. So thank you all for being with us today.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Thank you very much.
Kristóf Szombati: Thanks for having us.
Bill Fletcher Jr.: Take care.
Marc Steiner: Thank you. And I just wanted to also say thank you to the crew here that make all this possible. Dwayne Gladden across the glass and Kayla Rivara for putting this all together. Stephen Frank, for being the audio genius that he is here at The Real News Network and making this hum and allowing The Marc Steiner Show to have a home here, to make it home and get it out there for all of you. And just to remind you that if you write to me at email@example.com, I’ll write you right back. I’ll share this with Bill Fletcher. We’ll write back to you about your thoughts on the series. How to expand this series, how to get into the heart of what’s going on with the right in America and the world and really address it together. So I want to thank you all for either listening or watching. However you’re doing this, it’s great to have you with us. So I’m Marc Steiner and thank you so much for being here, and take care.