The beginning of the Trump presidency can be considered as the last and extreme assertion of an ultra-nationalist and xenophobic right that has been mounting in major European countries for several years.
Amid all the differences, which can not be neglected, there is a common and strongly characteristic element of these political expressions: the strong aversion to immigration.
Immigration was the decisive factor in Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. elections, as well as in the success of Farage’s Brexit referendum. It’s also fostering the growing consensus around Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in Holland and other nationalist and xenophobic politicians across European.
Worse, the fact that center-left governments and even socialists are chasing after the right on their own turf, hoping to stem their electoral gains, only reinforces that these ideas are affecting an increasingly wide section of the public.
Unfortunately we are witnessing the spread of a disease afflicting the late capitalist society, greatly exacerbated by neoliberal policies — a disease that strikes its victims twice. The first when they suffer a worsening of their working and living conditions. The second when they are deceived about the causes of the crisis, and discontent is exploited by those who are directly responsible.
In other words, what we are witnessing is the recurrence of a perverse dynamic that isn’t new.
When citizens can’t envision the possibility of a better future, the weakest strata, exposed on a deteriorating inclined plane, are the easiest ones to make slip. In these situations builds an aversion to all that is external, perceived as dangerous. For the right, that feeling is easy to leverage, as is the case of all ruling classes incapable of genuine government action and political orientation except that of special interests.
Under these conditions, we reach a critical threshold with two possible paths, blurred by the disorientation of politicians.
One is to build consensus around those who feed false fears and rely heavily on self-defense instincts. This perspective involves an increasing convergence around a false notion of national, racial and “civilizational” identity. Historical experience teaches us that a closed society has no future and is destined in the end in entropy.
The alternative is to go against this and fight vigorously for a society open to changes.
The test for the leftist forces and all those who intend to fight for a radical change in the way the system functions is represented precisely by the new wave of migration.
Like the other two major previous migrations — the late 19th and early 20th century, and the one after World War II — this new one also cannot be stopped and is destined to have a profound effect on the demographic balance, social relationships, political structures and cultural patterns of countries on both sides of the Atlantic. That knowledge should be the starting point of a quite different approach to the phenomenon.
We should be thinking about the best ways to govern and develop the full potential means to prepare for a historical shift. The way to do that is to begin to assert a basic truth: that is, the assertion of fundamental rights of equality and freedom. The desire to build a better life is not the preserve of a few populations. Either those rights apply to everyone, or they aren’t so self-evident.