The fascist West is not an outlandish concept anymore. The post-Second World War order that came into being after defeating fascism as a political and military force in Europe and North America is undergoing transformation. It is being replaced with fascist political mindset supportive of the religious right and populist figures, like former US President Donald Trump.
Populism is an offshoot of fascism. It is characterised by fear of freedom and hatred for religious minorities, especially Jews and Muslims. It is anti-establishment, anti-liberal elite, anti-democracy and anti-pluralism. The fear of immigrants introducing a hyper-ethnic change in the western societies that may turn white people into a minority in their own homeland is at the centre of the rise of populist or fascist forces in Europe and North America.
The latest indication of rise of populist forces comes from France, where Marine Le Pen’s National Rally shattered a glass ceiling in the French parliamentary elections — with an 11-fold increase to 89 seats that gives her party unprecedented power in the incoming national assembly. Commentators are pointing out the possibility of the return of Trump or his more sophisticated version in the next US presidential elections.
Is this the end of the liberal West? What will be the consequences for countries like Pakistan that have long lived on the largesse of liberal forces in Washington and other western capitals?
Populism is an offshoot of fascism. It is characterised by fear of freedom and hatred for religious minorities, especially Jews and Muslims. It is anti-establishment, anti-liberal elite, anti-democracy and anti-pluralism.
Pakistan has in the past lived under the shadow US presidents backed by the religious right — Ronald Reagan in1980s and George Bush in 2010s. Reagan supported an obscurantist military dictatorship, General Ziaul Haq, but did not meddle in the ideological landscape of Pakistan. Bush supported another military dictator, General Musharraf, and harped on themes of liberal democracy in Iraq, for instance. His mantra of “moderate form of Islam” exposed Pakistan to hatred and terror attacks.
It would be interesting to see how fascism (or populism for that matter) is received in Pakistan. People here are opposed to the US foreign policy oriented towards war in the Muslim lands. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started in the Bush tenure and continued through Obama and Trump’s terms. But, interestingly, populist, anti-immigrant, and fascist-religious right wing supporter, Donald Trump, proved to be more anti-war than liberal Obama (in whose tenure a maximum number of drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas were carried out). Trump ended the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Apparently, the Pakistani political spectrum doesn’t include any political party with fascist inclinations. I would add two caveat: First, it is difficult to categorise religious revivalist ideologies that took birth in the British India as fascist, but the practical shape their political offshoots have taken borders on fascism — violence, hatred for minorities, fear of freedom and anti-democracy and anti-pluralism.
Second, they fear the rise of the army’s ranks and files as a constituency that may exercise influence over political leaders. The culture of ranks and files is anti-democracy and anti-pluralism.
Not too long ago, American liberals supported Pakistan’s military dictators. Now, what will American fascists or populists support in Pakistan?
The Pakistani state and its political elite are impressionable. In the post-Zia period, the two main political leaders, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, came under the influence of neo-liberal economic thought, originating in the West, and mindlessly started privatising state-owned businesses and corporations in 1990s. When Musharraf advocated a moderate Islam, universities and think-tanks in the US were debating on reform from within Islam in the wake of 9/11. Then in walks Imran Khan, who tries to block the constitutional process of counting no-confidence votes against him in the National Assembly through the speaker’s ruling or through mob violence. His attempt to prevent members of the parliament from reaching the Assembly is akin to Donald Trump’s move to block the US Congress and Senate from ratifying electoral results of the US presidential elections.
Not too long ago, American liberals supported Pakistan’s military dictators. Now, what will American fascists or populists support in Pakistan? Maybe clowns.