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Populism and Nationalism from an Eastern European Perspective

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In Eastern Europe the successful populist parties are mostly Right-wing nationalist (for instance the Hungarian Fidesz and the Polish Law and Justice) or exceptionally left-wing populist (for instance Slovak Direction – Social Democracy in Slovakia) with a huge nationalist sentiment. It seems to be that in this region populism and nationalism have been closely related or merged. Moreover, following the traditional literature on populism (Ghita Ionescu, Ernest Gellner), we can easily say that our contemporary “populist Zeitgeist” can be seen as some kind of (post)modern nationalism. In this paper, I am dealing with the problem, how can we define and analyse populism in Eastern Europe. It is hard to say that populism and nationalism have nothing to do with each other, but I am convinced that populism cannot be identified with nationalism. That is why, I introduce the term of historical-theoretical complex of nationalism and populism.
According to post-Marxist, critical and discursive literature (Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe) it is obviously that populism is not just a Right-wing phenomenon and there is a thing which can be called transnational Left-wing populism (Benjamin Moffitt, Panos Panayotu). This version of populism is not an unknow phenomenon in this part of Europe, because the Communist regimes before 1989 a transnational populist agenda has been created (Antal, 2017b), but the Left-wing populism is seriously underrepresented in contemporary Eastern Europe.
I am investigating here the political theoretical (Antal, 2017a) and historical background of nationalist populism of our time in Eastern Europe analysing examples from the following countries of this region: Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania. My main thought is that the politics in this region has always been populist in that sense there is a constant need to contrast “the people” (as a large powerless group) and “the elite” (a small powerful group). This “never ending” political tradition of Eastern European populism turned up in the history once in nationalist and other times in transnational perspectives. However, the contemporary Right-wing nationalist populism means a relatively new phenomenon, but it has deeply historical ground in the interwar Right-wing nationalism.

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Populism and Nationalism from an Eastern European Perspective

  1. 1. 2nd Populism Specialist Group (PSA) Workshop 23-24 March 2018, University of Bath POPULISM AND NATIONALISM FROM AN EASTERN EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE Attila Antal Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Law Institute of Political Science and Social Theory Research Group at Institute of Political History antal.attila@ajk.elte.hu antal.attila@polhist.hu
  2. 2. Introduction Work in progress Nationalism and populisms have been merged Strong relationship Can not be identified with each other Historical-theoretical complex of populism and nationalism Case study about Hungary (implications on Eastern Europe)
  3. 3. Overview 1. Populism and Nationalism as Historical-Theoretical Complex in Eastern Europe 2. The Right-Wing Nationalist Populism as a Hegemonic and Identity Project 3. Conclusions
  4. 4. 1. Populism and Nationalism as Historical- Theoretical Complex in Eastern Europe • Historical roots • The historical bloc (Gramsci) has always been populist and nationalist • The constant need of contrast „the people” and „the elite” • „Never-ending” political tradition • Even the transnational populism showed nationalist sentiments
  5. 5. 1. Populism and Nationalism as Historical- Theoretical Complex in Eastern Europe • The historical and theoretical base of nationalism has been constructed by populist discursive structures • The nation exists from a populist point of view • Discursive struggle between Left and Right for hegemony based on the imagined concept of the nation
  6. 6. 1. Populism and Nationalism as Historical- Theoretical Complex in Eastern Europe Left-wing populism Right-wing populism Social class The class has lost its cohesive power and disappeared The societies have been redesigned The proletariat has become precariat
  7. 7. 1. Populism and Nationalism as Historical- Theoretical Complex in Eastern Europe Left-wing populism Right-wing populism Social class Being populist from Gramscian (creating hegemony) and Lacalu-Mouffian (create identities from masses) way The reconfiguration of nationalism as biopolitics and civilizationsim The class has lost its cohesive power and disappeared The societies have been redesigned The proletariat has become precariat
  8. 8. 2. The Right-Wing Nationalist Populism as a Hegemonic and Identity Project Fidesz and Jobbik Bipolitics, Civilizationsim Hegemony Populist identity
  9. 9. 2. The Right-Wing Nationalist Populism as a Hegemonic and Identity Project 2.1 The Hegemony of Right-wing Populism • Right-wing breakthrough before 2010 • The Fidesz created hegemonic structures (historical bloc, organic crisis) • The Left has collapsed • Nationalism, antagonizing rhetoric, xenophobia • Post-modern Prince effect
  10. 10. 2. The Right-Wing Nationalist Populism as a Hegemonic and Identity Project 2.2 The Right-wing Nationalist Populism as the Identity Project of Masses • Jobbik as the party of heterogeneous, precarious, and volatile subaltern • Reaction to the transformation and liquidation of the working-class • Going beyond class-based politics and embraces a nationalistic-nativist discursive strategy • Critique of globalized capitalism and the EU
  11. 11. 2. The Right-Wing Nationalist Populism as a Hegemonic and Identity Project 2.3 Nationalism as Biopolitics and Civilizationism • Reconfiguration of nationalism as biopolitics and civilizationsim • Rebirth of interwar Right-wing nationalism • Bionationalism (Kelly, 2004) • Civilizationism (Brubaker, 2017)
  12. 12. 3. Conclusions • Left-populism is underrepresented and nationalist • Right-wing has reconciled the class-based and mass- based aspects of populism -> tensions (Briziarelli, 2018) • This required: hyper-nationalism, xenophobia, racism, hate-politics based on endless political cleavages • The post-modern Princes are entitled to represent “the nation” and “the people” at the same time • „The nation of good people”
  13. 13. References Briziarelli, Marco (2018): Podemos’ Twofold Assault on Hegemony: The Possibilities of the Post- Modern Prince and the Perils of Passive Revolution. In: Óscar García Agustín – Marco Briziarelli (eds.) (2018): Podemos and the New Political Cycle. Left-Wing Populism and Anti-Establishment Politics. Palgrave Macmillan. 97–122. Brubaker, Rogers (2017): Between nationalism and civilizationism: the European populist moment in comparative perspective. Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 40., Issue 8. 1191–1226. De Cleen, Benjamin (2017): Populism and Nationalism. In: Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser – Paul Taggart – Paulina Ochoa Espejo – Pierre Ostiguy (Eds.): Handbook of Populism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://www.academia.edu/31241660/Populism_and_nationalism Gramsci, Antonio (2000): The Antonio Gramsci reader: selected writings, 1916-1935. Edited by Forgacs, David. New York: NYU Press.
  14. 14. References Kelly, Mark (2004): Racism, Nationalism and Biopolitics: Foucaultʼs Society Must Be Defended, 2003. Contretemps 4, September 2004. https://sydney.edu.au/contretemps/4september2004/Kelly.pdf Laclau, Ernesto (2005b): On populist reason. London: Verso. Laclau, Ernesto – Mouffe, Chantal (1985): Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso.
  15. 15. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION!

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