The recent expulsion oF illegal Roma (“Gypsies”) from France back to Romania sparked protests across Europe from both the liberal media and top politicians–and not only those on the Left. The expulsions, however, proceeded–and they are the tip of a much larger iceberg of European politics.
Incidents like these have to be seen against the background of a long-term re-arrangement of the political space in Western and Eastern Europe. Until recently, the political space of European countries was dominated by two main parties that addressed the entire electoral body–a right-of-center party and a left-of-center party. The latest electoral results in the West, as well as in the East, signal the gradual emergence of a different polarity. We have one predominant centrist party which stands for global capitalism as such, usually with a liberal cultural agenda (tolerance toward abortion, gay rights, religious and ethnic minorities, etc.). Opposing this party is an ever stronger anti-immigrant populist party that, on its fringes, is accompanied by directly racist neo-Fascist groups. How did we get here?
When the Communist regimes disintegrated in 1990, we entered an era in which the predominant form of the exercise of state power became a depoliticized expert administration and coordination of interests. In this new context, the only way to introduce passion into such a nonpolitical realm, to actively mobilize people, is through fear: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of godless sexual depravity, fear of ecological catastrophe and also fear of harassment (Political Correctness is the exemplary liberal form of the politics of fear).
[Extract. Appeared in In These Times, on November 23rd, 2010. (full text).]