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To understand what just happened in Slovenia, you have to go back to Donald Trump and Roseanne Barr

When you accept where the left is going wrong, you see why the right is gaining votes

Slavoj Zizek
Monday 04 June 2018 20:30 BST
Janez Jansa thanks supporters after his party wins most votes in Slovenian polls

Nothing unexpected happened in the Slovene elections: although the anti-immigrant nationalist-populist Slovene Democratic Party (SDS) of Janez Jansa emerged as the strongest single party, the ruling centre-left coalition got many more votes. After a protracted bargaining, this coalition will probably continue to rule and, through its lack of vision, corruption scandals, and so on, make it sure that SDS will remain a convenient “fascist” threat, a scare ready to be evoked every four years in order to blackmail the majority of voters to elect the same “anti-fascist” pseudo-left.

So let’s first take a look at the ideology of SDS. Two years ago, a text appeared in Demokracija (25 August 2016), the SDS weekly, written by Bernard Brscic, one of its main ideologists. He wrote: “George Soros is one of the most depraved and dangerous people of our time,” responsible for “the invasion of the negroid and Semitic hordes and thereby for the twilight of the EU… as a typical talmudo-Zionist, he is a deadly enemy of the Western civilisation, nation state and white, European man.”

His goal, Brscic went on, is to build a “rainbow coalition composed of social marginals like faggots, feminists, Muslims and work-hating cultural Marxists” which would then perform “a deconstruction of the nation-state, and transform EU into a multicultural dystopia of the United States of Europe.” Furthermore, he wrote, Soros is inconsistent in his promotion of multiculturalism: “He promotes it exclusively in Europe and the US, while in the case of Israel, he, in a way which is for me totally justified, agrees with its monoculturalism, latent racism and building a wall. In contrast to EU and US, he also does not demand from Israel to open its borders and accept ‘refugees’. A hypocrisy proper to Talmudo-Zionism.”

SDS also sympathises with Donald Trump – not least because his wife Melania is of Slovene origins – so it is crucial to look at how Slovenia fits into the ongoing tensions between EU and the US.

After Trump fired the opening shot in the trade war with three of its biggest trading partners by deciding to begin levying tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium from the EU, Canada and Mexico, the question is: will he get his comeuppance? Neither Russia nor China can do this – they are caught in the same game as Trump, they basically all speak the same language of “America (Russia, China…) first.” Only Europe can deliver it, and the new situation offers Europe a unique chance to assert itself as a sovereign power block and to act as if the pact with Iran is still valid. But in this new world of rising popularism, does Europe have enough strength and unity to do it?

Will the new Eastern European post-communist “axis of evil” (stretching from the Baltic States to Slovenia and Croatia) follow the EU resistance to the US, or will it bow to the US and thus provide yet another proof that the quick expansion of the EU to the east was a mistake?

The populist revolt across Europe has been triggered by the fact that people trust less and less the Brussels technocracy, experiencing it as a centre of power with no democratic legitimisation. The result of the Italian elections last week marked the first time in a developed western European country that Eurosceptic populists came properly to power.

There is little doubt that issues of the largely ignored working class are driving both Euroscepticism and support of Trump in the US, with global ramifications. Consider the current uproar in the US over the abrupt cancellation of ABC’s hit TV show Roseanne because of a racist tweet by the show’s star Roseanne Barr. In a column titled “With Roseanne Barr gone, will the US working-class be erased from TV?”, Joan Williams argues that the left should finally start to listen to the white working class. The cancellation “deprived American television of one of the only sympathetic depictions of white working-class life in the past half century – in other words, since television began,” she writes.

Williams unambiguously supports the exclusion of Barr on account of her racist tweets – but she adds: “Virtually all Americans born in the 1940s earned more than their parents; today, it’s less than half. The rust belt revolt that brought both Brexit and Trump reflects rotting factories, dying towns, and a half century of empty promises. Those left behind are very, very angry; Trump is their middle finger. The more he outrages coastal elites, the more his followers gloat they got our goat. Finally, they are being noticed.”

And it is crucial to read Trump’s tariff war with the closest allies of the US against this background: in his populist version of class warfare, Trump’s goal is (also) to protect the American working class (and are metal workers not one of the emblematic figures of the traditional working class?) from “unfair” European competition, thereby saving American jobs. This is why all the protests of public officials and economists in EU, Canada and Mexico, as well as the countermeasures proposed by them, miss the target: they follow the WTO logic of free international trade, while only a new left addressing the concerns of all those left behind can really counter Trump.

At some deep and often obfuscated level, US neocons perceive the EU as enemy number one. This perception explodes in its underground obscene double, the extreme right Christian fundamentalist political vision with its obsessive fear of the New World Order (Obama is in secret collusion with the United Nations; international forces will intervene in the US and put in concentration camps all true American patriots – a couple of years ago, there were rumours that Latin American troops were already in the Midwest plains, building concentration camps).

Hardline Christian fundamentalists like Tim LaHaye and his ilk subscribe to this kind of thinking wholesale. The title of one of LaHaye’s books is The Europa Conspiracy, and it argues that the true enemies of the US are not Islamist terrorists – they are merely puppets secretly manipulated by the European secularists, the true forces of the anti-Christ who want to weaken the US and establish the New World Order under the domination of the United Nations. In one very strange way, LaHaye is right: Europe is not just another geopolitical power block, but a global vision which is ultimately incompatible with strong nation-states.

And this brings us back to Slovenia where nothing special happened, where the same battle rages as all around Europe: SDS also portrays itself as the defender of ordinary working people against the corrupted, non-patriotic elite. The problem of Europe is to remain faithful to its emancipatory legacy threatened by the conservative, populist onslaught – and only a renewed left can do it.

In Slovenia, a new party called simply Levica (Left) also entered parliament this time around with almost 10 per cent of the votes. This party is for the time being the only glimmer of hope: it is the only actor on the political stage which escapes the vicious cycle of the anti-immigrant right and the pseudo-left, these two hands which, as in Escher’s famous image, permanently draw each other as a scarecrow to justify their own existence.

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