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TOPIC: ideology


Populists With A Plan: Welcome To The Age Of Reactionism

Right-wing reaction to the globalized, liberal order is starting to look less dispersed and more systematic, like 20th-century political movements like socialism and communism.


BUENOS AIRES — In a 2018 text published in the International Studies Quarterly, academics Joseph MacKay and Christopher David La Roche asked why there was no "Reactionary International Theory." In December of that year, speaking with Crisis journal, I myself stressed that beyond Europe and the United States, international reactionism was taking root in Latin America. Then in 2019, "Reactionary Internationalism" and the philosophy of the New Right were the subjects of another paper by Pablo de Orellana and Nicholas Michelsen.

As an emergent trend, the "reactionary international" is worth considering.

This international is comparable in scope to 20th-century currents like the Communist International, Socialist International and Christian Democrat International. While those were prominent in Europe, the new reaction has emerged most emblematically in Anglo-American countries and remains a solidly Western phenomenon. Its expressions in peripheral countries, eastern Europe or Latin America have effectively adopted its mainstream proposals.

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China's Military Intentions Are Clear — And Arming Taiwan Is The Only Deterrence

China is spending more money on weapons and defense than ever. The reason is evident: Xi Jinping wants to take Taiwan. Europe should follow the U.S. and support Taipei militarily as the only way to deter Beijing from war.


BERLIN — Fear is never the best advisor.

It is, however, an understandable emotion when China announces the biggest increase in its defense budget in memory. And when Beijing does so after siding with Russia in the Ukraine war with its supposed "peace plan" and justifying the increase with an alleged "escalating oppression" of China in the world.

The budget plan unveiled by outgoing Premier Li Keqiang calls for a 7.2% increase in defense spending. That's more than in previous years — and just the official figure.

Experts estimate the true spending is much higher, as Beijing finances its military through numerous shadow budgets.

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Nazis. Terrorists! Satanists!? Putin's Rollout Of Big Lies Is Losing Its Punch

The Russian president has resorted to a string of changing lies to justify his war on Ukraine. He has shown contempt along the way for the Christian values he claims to defend. But like arms and ammunition, a regime can also run out of lies.


BOGOTÁ — In time, lies are bound to implode. They'll crash faster than a troubled currency in a financial storm. When a deceitful government can no longer pull the wool over people's eyes, it is forced to seek more lies. That is what Russia's Vladimir Putin and his spokesmen have been doing: looking for new methods of bluster to justify his invasion of Ukraine.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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When launched last February, the official explanation was the shameless lie of wanting to liberate the Ukrainians from a Nazi-style regime. Simultaneously, Putin claimed Ukraine was no country but a mistaken gift of the Soviet Union, which had provisionally granted independence to its 40 million inhabitants and 600,000 square kilometers!

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Economics Of Populism: A Habsburgian Tale From Sweden

While the rise of European right-wing populism is becoming a pan-continental phenomenon, we seem determined to miss its one common driver.

STOCKHOLM — I cast my first vote in a junior-high gym in southern Sweden. I was 13 and it wasn't a real election, but a mock civic exercise to prepare students for their coming life of suffrage. I have a clear memory, back 20 years ago now, that exactly two people in my class of 30 voted for the right-wing Sweden Democrats. They were twin brothers and perhaps best described as true locals in our small city. They were also of some true (or false) local repute, not so much for their political prowess as for their protruding Habsburgian jaws — a result, rumor had it, of family relations having become too intimate in the depths of the Swedish pine forest.

That was then, when far-right affiliation was so rare that it had to have some legend attached to it. But national support for the Sweden Democrats has since jumped to roughly 18%, as similar backing for right-wing parties grows all around Europe: those that have made worldwide headlines like AfD in Germany, Rassemblement National in France, the Lega in Italy, UKIP in the UK; but also similar formations with similar ideas in Austria, Estonia, Norway, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands too, as the political climate keeps trending far rightward.

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Nicolas Truong

The Pundits And Us: Traps Of Our Commentariat Society

Staying updated with the news has become a way to pass time, but there are real effects on the health of the polity.


PARIS — In radio or TV news studios, experts and essay writers, journalists and public speakers are invited to comment on the news of the day, all the time. Is this democratic progress or ideological slippage?

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François Héran*

COVID-19, A Dangerous Pretext For Permanently Closing Borders

A strategy for fighting the pandemic, national confinement morphs into a dangerous ideology if it uses the pretext of health protection to target migrants.


PARIS — For some, the main lesson from this health crisis may be that we should have closed the borders a long time ago. But close them to whom? To migrants alone or to all international travelers? In our brains, the opening or closing of borders has automatically been associated with migration policy.

Yet, we see that this virus makes no difference between a migrant and a tourist or business traveler. It has no ideology, it obeys the law of large numbers and one basic fact: that immigration accounts for a tiny proportion of border crossings — less than 1%. A policy of national confinement that would use health protection as a pretext to target migrants while neglecting 99% of border crossings would be repeating the mistakes of the past, well described by historian Antonin Durand in an article in the online journal De facto.

In 2018, the total number of border crossings worldwide for stays of less than one year reached 1.4 billion, according to the World Tourism Organization. Despite the boom in telecommunications, this number has increased by 50% in ten years. A large part of the travel is for leisure, but also includes visits to relatives, study trips, pilgrimages, business trips (internships, missions, seasonal work). Unsurprisingly, half of all border entries are concentrated in Europe. However, the world record is held by France: More than 89 million people have entered the country in 2018, migration not included. France is followed by Spain (83 million), the United States (80 million), China (63 million) and Italy (62 million).

Without foreign customers, entire sectors are bound to suffer.

It's more difficult to estimate the number of entries for permanent migration, but the order of magnitude is one hundred times smaller. Each year in France, approximately 540,000 entries are due to migration, which is very little considering the total of 90 million temporary or permanent entries: only 0.6%. Even with a large margin of error, this is an indispensable figure for health control. Border controls aimed at slowing the spread of epidemics are legitimate, but there is no justification for reserving them for migrants only, when there are 140 to 200 times more international travelers. We can't disguise migration policy as a health policy.

Yet, such confusion is common. In a recent interview for Le Figaro, Philippe de Villiers rejoiced: The epidemic has sounded the death knell for globalism. As if globalization was to blame for "four deadly crises: health, migration, economic, and soon financial." Clearly, the ideology of national confinement is not a matter of genuine national interest.

The crisis made us realize that professions with a high social utility mobilize immigrants more than others. It is also clear that, without foreign customers, entire sectors are bound to suffer. The 89 million entries in 2018 produced 140 million overnight stays by non-residents — just as many as the number of overnight stays made by French customers! The Louvre would not be the world's leading museum if it did not sell 75% of its tickets to foreigners. And so on and so forth.

The dream of a world closing its borders to all foreigners is a ruinous nightmare.

Did you dream about a world flawlessly applying the ideology of "national confinement"? The border closures brought about by the epidemic give you an empirical proof: A world without migrants and foreign visitors is a world at a standstill. It is a world in which citizens of Northern countries — a bitter irony — can in turn become undesirable foreigners in Southern countries.

It is good that sovereign states seek to guarantee certain strategic productions on their territory for defense and health. But any hint of nationalism reaches its limits when it meets the ruinous effects of national confinement and sovereign decisions of other countries. We do not lose our independence if, instead of baking our own bread, we buy it from a baker; we become interdependent and this is what we call the market, involving cooperation, exchange and regulation. The same applies to international relations, including European integration or international conventions on mobility, migration or asylum.

The tendency to constantly and increasingly cross borders is neither a fad nor an anomaly. It is a groundswell. Under what pretext would we want to dissuade young people, workers or retirees from traveling the world? Migration, on its modest scale, is part of this movement. This mobility must be regulated, it is inevitable, but it is hard to see how we can reverse the increasing globalization of international travel, unless we dream of perpetual confinement.

The dream of a world closing its borders to all foreigners is a ruinous nightmare. Once restrictions end, the world will continue to move — and there will be everything to see.

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food / travel
Pierre Hemme

Faith In Food: When Kosher And Halal Go Haute Cuisine

It's hard to find a starred halal or kosher restaurant, but scattered about the French capital, such upscale restaurants do exist.

PARIS — At first glance, Le Médaillon doesn't look like much. This French restaurant, with its menu derived from organic and halal products, sits across the street from a gloomy set of hospital buildings in a not-very-glamorous sector of Villejuif (Val-de-Marne), a suburb south of Paris.

A warm handshake from the boss, Djamel Bouhadda — better known on the airwaves as Chef Voilà — helps put as at ease. But we only really settled in when a waiter arrives, lifting a silver plate cover to reveal a wonder of culinary inventiveness.

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Stuart Richardson

Al-Qaeda To ISIS And Beyond, The Battle Is Not About To End


The Islamic State is now on the run in Syria and Iraq. Following the terror group's defeat this summer in its self-declared Iraqi capital of Mosul, ISIS has now been driven from its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa. This comes more than four years after ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his "Caliphate" from the pulpit of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul.

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José María Poirier

Pope Francis: The Line Between Populism And The People

As his words and public gestures confirm, Francis is a people's pope, not a populist, and as genuine as he is popular with ordinary folk.


BUENOS AIRES — The Argentine Church has made a point in the past few decades to distance its thinking from both Marxism and capitalism, and this explains in part its sympathies for "Peronism", that overarching national movement that combines ideological elements of both Left and Right.

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Karl Schlögel*

A Dangerous Putin Propaganda Think Tank Lands In Germany

The latest in the perilous liaisons between pro-Russian Germans and Vladimir Putin is taking the propaganda war on the West to a whole new level with a think tank relocated to Berlin.


BERLIN It was only a matter of time before the grand Russian performance arrived in Germany. And it did, at the Berlin Bühne theater last Friday. It was the official opening of the "Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute" in Berlin.

Moscow has always seen the longstanding Russian House in the German capital, with its gigantic entrance hall and small display cases, as a sarcophagus of late socialism — not nearly enough to satisfy Putin's ambitions of "a Russian world."

Instead, the grand opening of the Institute at the Humboldt Carré and a representative branch in central Berlin are aimed at the heart of a city in which decisions of European importance are made.

Until recently you would not have been able to imagine that, at the end of the long and difficult decades-long process of de-escalation between Russians and Germans, the reins could be handed over to a former KGB general, who is a member of "Putin's kleptocracy" (in Amercian academoc Karen Dawisha's words, taken from her brilliant research). Intelligence services, orthodoxy and oligarchy —all rolled into one person.

Your astonishment at these developments, however, only demonstrates that you have not been keeping up with Putin and his think tank, whose policy is one of escalation in both military and ideological terms. They certainly know with whom they are dealing, namely with a Germany that has become tired after all the turbulence and crises of the last few years — Greece, Europe, war in the Ukraine, Brexit — and just wants to be left in peace and resume business-as-usual.

You do not need to be an advocate of conspiracy theories to know that the relocation of the think tank from Vienna to Berlin was carried out with precision timing. Russia's rich men, who stigmatize and persecute independent newspapers editorial, journalists and all sorts of initiatives, have had the audacity to take the war for "cultural hegemony" to foreign soil.

There is no lack of money seeing as the oligarchs made sure to transfer their holdings overseas. And they learned that everyone and everything, from the Nord Stream pipeline to Kensington real estate, is for sale. Sometimes it is even given to you for free.

Their success in Germany is nearly a given due to the fact that this country is the home of a singular "culture of discourse." In Germany, the belief to continue to try and solve the world's problems with people who have long since left the negotiating table, is irrefutable.

Putin fans, Russian standards

The institute's choice of personnel is telling: a former head of the most notable German political trust to promote social democracy; a qualified university lecturer from Rostov-on-Don, Russia; a "talk show general" (who can't even read maps); diplomats who cannot keep their temper under control and want to take advantage of their nobility to take their place in the historic relations between Germany and Russia.

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The Institute's opening last week in Berlin — Photo: DOC

They are all clearly Putin fans, who are more in love with Putin rather than Russia, who loftily "reassure" Russia that "it is not ready yet" and that "no Western standards" should be applied. In short: They claim that Russia is too backwards to be able to tolerate democracy. The West's age old arrogance hidden behind the façade of russophilia.

There were of course good reasons to have moved the institute from Vienna to Berlin. Vienna is too remote and Austria already has plenty of Putin sympathizers. But most of all, Berlin is seen to be, strategically speaking, more important. It seems that Berlin is the place where they could, with very little effort on their part, make the breakthrough needed to see the West and EU crumble once and for all.

Putin's think tanks have read the signs in the West. Coalitions that no one would have thought possible four years ago have become reality. A political left wing that invokes Liebknecht and Luxembourg but does not mind supporting the warlords in Donbass or Russian bombs hitting Aleppo. The right-wing German movement Pegida displaying posters stating "Putin, save us!" and welcoming the Russian President's black Nightwolf Motorcycle Club. And last but not least an incalculably wide field of those victimized and offended now eager to take revenge, revenge on the West and, most of all, on the Americans. For them all: Putin, the avenger is there.

And then you have the surrounding Russian community of more than 200,000 people and several Russian-speaking newspapers. We don't even have to mention the appointed Putin fans who remind us of their presence with hate mail sent to critics on a daily basis.

Putin's friends, such as Gerhard Schröder, Gabriele Krone-Schmalz and Edmund Stoiber, would have us believe that criticizing Putin proves a renaissance of Russo-xenophobia, racism and the subhuman ideology. I have been traveling Russia, this wonderful and large country, for too long to be intimidated by this.

Russia's being a part of Europe means having Putin fans all around you. As if we didn't know. They always assault us by mentioning Russia's outstanding culture, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Pasternak. And they always imply that to attack Putin is to attack Russia. They would have us believe that we "demonize" Putin and that, actually, it is always someone else's fault. May it be the armed aggression against Ukraine or the exclusion and disqualification of doped athletes from international competitions, it is always someone else's fault.

The Putin apologists claim sole monopoly of Russophilia, although they are probably mostly thinking about their male-bonding sessions, having shared a pint of beer and possibly scored a lucrative job posting. That is perfectly fine, they can do whatever they want to but not "in our name."

Those who know a little about Russian culture also know what happened to the great men of literature Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Pasternak. There always has been a Russia of the lords and of those who did not want to be their slaves. The guilt felt by Germans towards the Russians (but not towards the other countries of the former Soviet Union). The gestures of a powerful nation, always preferring to cultivate "German-Russian" relations rather than those to other Eastern European countries. Sentimentality and kitsch and, last but not least, the feeling that we Germans want to be left alone. Despite the fact that a war is raging less than a two-hour flight from Berlin.

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German soldiers during Battle of Stalingrad — Photo: Wikipedia

The normalization of German-Russian relations had advanced so well because generations of people demonstrated their good faith despite geographical borders that divided them. And they did so in Berlin, of all places. Russian Berlin, a place where, like nowhere else, you are able to see the German-Russian embroilment during the "century of extremes." A place that has become a stage for a former KGB general who is supposed to lead the "Dialogue of Civilisations." This is, for me personally, the biggest defeat I had to suffer in my life, scientifically as well as politically.

Berlin does not deserve to become the seat of a neo-imperial, anti-European Internationale after having been the prospective center of a world revolution between the wars, and, later on, Stalin's Komintern, which is nowadays the sanctuary of a community of refugees that encompasses hundreds of thousands of people. Germany's Social Democratic Party, located in Weimar and sister party to the Russian Social Democrats, who are in exile in Berlin, should take a close look at their own history. Only then, should they decide if they want to play this Russian card in the upcoming poker game of national elections.

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Carol Morello and Joby Warrick

Losing On Battlefield, ISIS Spreads Terror Deep And Wide

One expert warns of a new "wolf pack" tactics for sowing terror with small, coordinated attacks like those seen this past week in Istanbul and Dhaka.

WASHINGTON — Massacres attributed to the ­Islamic State have struck on four continents this year, reflecting how the appeal of the group's ideology is growing even as the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria has receded, according to experts.

The slaughter of civilians in three large attacks in the past week alone — in Istanbul on Tuesday, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday, and in Baghdad on Sunday — suggests that militant actions beyond the caliphate's borders are taking place more frequently and not necessarily with any overt direction from some caliphate headquarters. Even more alarmingly, a growing number of attacks, starting with those in Paris and Brussels, were conducted by gangs of assailants instead of by an individual gunman.

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Rodolfo Terragno*

An End To Ideology? The Hidden Rise Of Political Pragmatism

From London to Latin America, the extremism featured on the news and political speeches in vogue belie the rise of pragmatism as the new dominant shaper of policy.

BUENOS AIRES - The world is changing so fast that the ideological divisions we've known are getting swept away. It's a reality that at least in our country, Argentina — and no doubt, others too — is rarely acknowledged.

It's not that ideologies are dead, or that history has ended, as they said after the fall of the Berlin Wall. What the ideologies of the 20th century sought was to establish how to best or most fairly distribute social assets, and that debate will continue for a good while. It is more the all-encompassing theory debate that is moribund; for beyond issues of distribution, fewer aim to give an answer to all social problems which had long provoked ideological confrontation with opponents.

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