The far right around the world
Thanks to the courage of a few young women we have heard about the Taliban’s reneging on their promise to see Afghani girls receive an education, but this is only one aspect of the country’s retreat into religious-based authoritarianism.
Writing in Foreign Affairs Dipali Mukhopadhyay of the US Institute of Peace brings us up to date on what has been going on in Afghanistan since America’s (and Australia’s) inglorious withdrawal last August. The Taliban have not moderated: an extremist regime is pushing Afghanistan to the brink. Well-educated professionals have fled the country, and having driven women out of administrative positions, the Taliban are experiencing tremendous trouble in establishing a functioning government. They are finding, as previous governments have found, that Afghanistan is a heterogeneous patchwork of warlords.
Mukhopadhyay does not predict which way the country will go., but its present situation is unstable. It may fall apart, in which case there will be an even worse humanitarian crisis, or it may come together with a stronger administration, in which case it could provide a secure and supportive base for anti-western terrorist groups.
There was a time when anti-communism was the glue holding the Republican Party together, but since 1989 and the fall of the Soviet empire that’s been rather passé. Writing in The Washington Post – How Republicans moved from Reagan’s “evil empire” to Trump’s praise for Putin – Marc Fisher describes how Trump’s isolationist policies and hyper-partisanship allowed the American right to see Putin as one who shared their ideals and vision. That perception was helped by Russia’s involvement in moves against the Democratic Party and the notion that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. The Republicans now face the problem of disentangling themselves from their previous affections, but they have never found accusations of inconsistency or hypocrisy to be a political burden.
The ABC’s Washington-based Joanna Robin has an article Russia was once enemy number one in the US. So how did Vladimir Putin infiltrate the Republican Party?. It’s a story about shifting loyalties and the influence of right-wing media. It’s also a story about the contrast between Putin the real man, stern-faced and shirtless on horseback, and Obama the soft liberal smiling while riding a bicycle.
The Economist has an article The invasion of Ukraine is making life difficult for right-wing populists. Those who oppose liberal secularism and multiculturalism, who admire Christian conservatism (a movement that has litle to do with the Christianity of the New Testament), and who condemn others for their religious beliefs or sexuality, have found a natural ally in Putin.
Now they don’t know which what to turn. Some, such as the hard-right Serbian government, have thrown their lot in with Russia. Most, however, are trying to extricate themselves from their past behaviour. As Nick Cohen has written in The Guardian Those on the right who loudly praised Putin have now fallen strangely silent.
One who faces a test is Hungary’s hard-right populist president Victor Orbán, who is competing in an election tomorrow, April 3. He is described by the writer of The Economist article as “a nationalist-populist who, like Mr Putin, claims to defend Christian Europe against a global liberal conspiracy”. The Lowy Institute has a contribution by Mateo Szlapek-Sewillo providing a political background to the Hungarian election: As Hungary nears an election, Brussels and Moscow will be watching.
As in other countries the hard right in Hungary has its base in rural regions. In spite of the handicap of a government-controlled media promulgating Orbán’s lies, the left and centrist opposition alliance parties have been on the road travelling through rural regions, criticizing the ruling Fidesz Party’s pro-Putin policies. Adrian Beaumont, writing on Poll Bludger, cites polls showing a strong lead for Orbán. (His post also suggests that in France Macron will face a challenge from Le Pen in this month’s presidential elections.)
The Economist’s writer sees some good coming from Putin’s aggression. “The idea of a unified nationalist-populist movement against Western liberalism, stretching from Moscow via Budapest to Washington, seemed worryingly plausible. Now it looks fanciful and out-of-date. The great majority of American and European conservatives have been horrified by the invasion.”
(Lest we think that the phenomenon of far-right parties using the label “Christian” for electoral purposes happens only in Europe, such groups in Australia routinely reveal their true moral stance by directing or guiding their preferences to One Nation, as seems to be the reason a One Nation member will be elected to the South Australian Legislative Council, with only 4 percent of the vote.)
The Orthodox Church in Russia’s politics
Writing in Open Forum, Scott Kenworthy from the Department of Comparative Religion at Miami University describes Why Russia’s church backs Putin’s war. Any interpretation that the church has been captured by Putin is far too simplistic, he writes. So too is the idea that the church was suppressed under communism: in reality it was an on-again-off-again relationship under communism. The situation is also complicated by the Ukrainian branch of the church having split from the Russian branch in 2019.
The story is more about Putin embracing Patriarch Krill’s moral framework, a framework rooted in Russian nationalism, than the church embracing Putin. Kenworthy writes that Krill has promoted “an influential critique of Western liberalism, consumerism and individualism, contrasted with Russian ‘traditional values’. This idea argues that human rights are not universal, but a product of Western culture, especially when extended to LGBTQ people”.