What drives right-wing populism in Eastern Europe?: part 2, Bulgaria and Poland
“On the Barricades” s06e52
This weekend we analyze the political animal dubbed right-wing populism Eastern Europe, with Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland serving as reference points. So-called right populism is on the rise– it’s in power in Poland and Hungary– and the world including the liberal intellectual establishment of these countries seem shocked by it. To the extent that this brand of politics is ideologically coherent, what is it? Does it offer anything, and is it in any sense a viable prospect given the complete void of established Left political opposition in the region? Hosts Boyan Stanislavsky and Maria Cernat discuss how the historical context of the region explains such backlash, as a reaction to the false promises of capitalist restoration. The “transition”, that was supposed to bring progress in an EU-NATO bundle, instead sacked the state resources and institutions, drove the standard of living down, and ended a relatively more stable period in the socialist republics.
In this second segment, we turn from Romania to the situation in Bulgaria and Poland, looking at the opposite pole in the dynamic of populism: the civic-intellectual vanguards, that is the NGOs and civil society established to defend those criminally accumulating capital. This layer of society failed, Boyan says, to acculturate Eastern Europe to a neoliberal agenda and “European values”, given how hard the capitalist restoration failed to deliver. In this light the reaction behind populism is a healthy rejection. But crucially, the question remains of what to do next. The neoliberal paradigm, which lead nowhere, is only capable of bemoaning the “fascists” but not of offering a better alternative. What can these populist movements and parties actually achieve, and what do they need in order to not just let their electorate down? This and more.
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