The Bavarian 2018 landtag vote has yet again confirmed that right-wing conservatives and patriots are increasingly commanding support among the European public while shattering the pillars of the Brussels-imposed "liberal order." The refugee crisis and the EU's inability to cope with it have apparently become a wake-up call for the Old Continent. Under these circumstances, Russia has taken on a new significance in the eyes of the European Right as a citadel of traditional values. Simultaneously, on the other side of the ocean, Donald Trump is facing confrontation from the US left-wing political establishment. Simmering political confrontation on the both sides of the Atlantic are exacerbated by a looming economic crisis, foreseen by prominent financiers and economists.
Sputnik reached out to Glenn Diesen, a professor at the Higher School of Economics (Moscow), and author of "The Decay of Western Civilisation and Resurgence of Russia: Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft," asking him to comment on the role of the rising Right, Russia and Donald Trump's US on Europe's future.
Sputnik: The recent elections in Bavaria, Germany, have indicated that the country's major parties are giving way to the right-wing opposition and the Greens. Likewise, in Italy, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands and elsewhere, conservative opposition is gaining ground. What's behind the recent trend? Is it in any way connected to Brussels' migration policy, which envisages spending millions on refugees amid a looming economic crisis?
Glenn Diesen: These new right-wing opposition figures can be referred to as populists or classical conservatives, and they represent a reaction to the excessive political and economic liberalism since the 1980s and 1990s. The rapid demographic changes caused by refugees and migrants have created concerns about societal security, which is the ability of societies to reproduce their culture, traditions, and distinctiveness. Brussels and Berlin were already promoting the EU federalism as an effort to transcend and deconstruct the nation-state, and their open-border policies amplified existing discontent by classical conservatives. However, the radical economic liberalism of globalism is also a source of anger. Europe and the US have traditionally balanced free-market capitalism with state intervention to support strategic industries and protect communities vulnerable to overwhelming market forces.
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Sputnik: Is Russia a natural ally of European conservatives? What's your take on Donald Trump's fight against the globalist establishment? What do you think about the possibility of some sort of "alliance" between European right-wing forces, Russia and Trump's America? Why has Trump found himself in opposition to both Europe and Moscow?
Glenn Diesen: The European conservatives are not identical, and they present both challenges and opportunities. A commonality is that most of them reject the artificial redrawing of ideological borders after the Cold War. Trump and the rest do not divide the world into liberal democracies versus authoritarian states; rather, they see the fight for civilization to be between globalists and nationalists or cosmopolitans versus patriots.
Russia, therefore, switches from being an adversary to an ally, as Russia has emerged as an international conservative leader that stands up for traditional European culture, Christianity, traditional values, and the family unit. Russia has returned to its pre-communist role as the go-to country for Western classical conservatives. The opportunity for Russia is obviously that the new Right are prepared to stop NATO/EU expansionism towards Russian borders and finally reach a post-Cold War settlement.
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Sputnik: In your book "The Decay of Western Civilization and Resurgence of Russia" you discuss the problems of modern Western society, in some sense echoing Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West." Can the ongoing resurgence of the Right in Europe stop the decay?
Glenn Diesen: It is correct that I build on the ideas of Spengler, who argued that civilizations begin to decay once they outgrow the culture they are built upon. This is also similar to the arguments of Pitirim A. Sorokin, Ferdinand Tönnies, and philosophers dating back to Plato. The challenge for all civilizations is to position themselves between stasis and transformation, as it needs to balance the traditional and the modern, spiritualism and materialism, the past and the future, and continuity and change. Human beings are social animals that have been able to organize into very large groups based on in-group distinctiveness. The instinct to reproduce and conserve the group has been the source of security, belonging, meaning, and social cohesion. Yet, human beings also have the contradictory impulse to reach out and engage with the unknown and evolve.
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The West is in decay due to conformity around a liberal delusion that effectively dismantled classical conservativism and any meaningful political pluralism. The new Right can in theory stop or at least slow down the decay by restoring a balance. They appear to recognize the problems facing Western civilization, albeit they do not necessarily have the answers. There are some risks and dangerous historical precedents in terms of attempting to conserve what has already been lost, and the conservatives themselves must be balanced to prevent descending into xenophobia.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.