CLARIN

Kirchner And Putin, The Return Of National Populism

Argentine President Kirchner's recent praise for the way Vladimir Putin handles the press signals a broader shared view on leadership, which does not bode well for liberal democratic values.

Putin and Kirchner in Buenos Aires in July
Putin and Kirchner in Buenos Aires in July
Fabián Bosoer

-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has added a new component to her geopolitical and ideological worldview: It seems we are not just interested in having ties with Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin for strategic or pragmatic reasons, or to promote greater multilateralism, bilateral ties or "shared interests." But the topic that has drawn Kirchner to Putin lately is a common outlook in such areas as freedom of expression, media and the role of the state.

The Argentine president told her Russian counterpart in a recent videoconference that Moscow's new digital channel in Spanish was helping "democratize the neurons" of Argentine viewers.

But Russia Today, like its Bolivarian counterpart TeleSur, is not presented as another viewing option allowing us to see "different perspectives" on reality, but nothing less than a means of broadcasting "real culture."

One wonders if this meeting of "Putinism" and "Kirchnerism" has other common roots. Both share, at the end of the day, a similar disdain for the institutions of liberal democracy, the same tendency to identify party with government, government with the state and their critics and opponents with the enemies of the people and nation.

And then there is the view toward enemies of their respective pursuits of cults of personality. Reactions to neoliberalism and its effects have provoked a resurgence of popular movements, governments with leftist flags and a re-emphasis on the state's role in attending to the impoverished and excluded. But this comes with a second reaction, not just against economic liberalism, but also political and cultural liberalism.

The rebirth of anti-liberal and anti-imperialist nationalism is neither new nor progressive. As Alberto Spektorowski recently wrote, we are seeing a return of political "movements" typical of the 20th century, incorporating the Left and the Right, "national populism" characteristic of mass mobilizations and authoritarian and reactionary tendencies.

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