Is Conservatism making a Global Comeback?


Last year I posted an article on my website saying that it seems the Right Wing is on the rise in Europe. I do not follow European politics closely and so this trend stunned me, especially as Socialists were busy sewing up the European Union. It seemed the Left had Europe in its pockets.

However, this victory by Le Pen in France is very interesting. It does not mean he will beat Chirac, but he has nevertheless caught everyone by surprise.

I have been toying with the idea for some time that maybe Conservatism is going to make a big come-back across the world. The reason I say this is because from my perspective, I think it is becoming clearer and clearer that the Leftists and Liberals have failed to deliver. Once upon a time people voted for them in the hope of trying something new. The days of the Flower Children were fun and cute. But around the world, the people on the Left of the Political spectrum have failed. Bit by bit I wonder if, at a grassroots level, the world is going to return to conservatism.

The world’s leaders and intellectuals are largely leftist and they have driven the world towards embracing variations on socialism and towards changing society. But it seems to me, many of their promises did not pan out, and people at a grass-roots level may be forming their own opinions and edging more towards conservatism.

It had always seemed to me as if the inevitable trend was LEFT. The first time I ever considered that the trend may go the other was was when an American friend of mine, Jeff Nyquist, predicted in his book “Origins of the Fourth World War”, that a future America might actually be extremely conservative. Jeff is a sociologist. Jeff believed that in time to come, communism, Marxism and the Left would lead the USA to ruin and the left would be discredited. He believed that in the long run, decades away, lay a conservatism which would be far more extreme than today’s conservatives. Jeff predicted the rise of an Ultra-Conservatism which would make todays conservatives look like the Left Wing. And Jeff might just be right.

Since then I have watched trends in the world, and have grown curious about this possibility. Seeing it in Europe stuns me. A friend of mine who is heavily into politics in South Africa told me of the extremism she has seen brewing in places like Britain - with the British National Party. But they are not alone. Ultra Right Wing parties are springing up everywhere and it stuns me.

There was a time in my life when I was open to all sorts of influences and I even pondered the merits of communism once. But my own interests led me to a path of conservatism. I think also, an interest in history naturally causes one to lean towards being conservative.

I have often wondered if Africa won’t perhaps play a big role in pushing the world towards the Right. I say that because it is evident to me that post-Colonial Africa is a big failure and more and more people in the world are perceiving it as such. It seems to me, bit by bit, aid to Africa is drying up and more conditions are being placed on what aid comes. Even here in South Africa, since 1994, there has been a dearth of investment. Considering the opportunities here, and all the pro-South African rhetoric since 1994, the truth is investment here is nowhere near what people expected. Foreign investors have lost money in Africa for decades and nobody is keen to try their luck here.

The post-Colonial African experience might just play a role in pushing the world to the right. I’ll tell you why. Everybody has been pumping a lot of money into Africa. The First World Nations have put lots and lots of money into projects here - with dismal results. And it seems as if people are tiring of throwing good money after bad.

Indeed, I heard a fascinating story some weeks ago. I was told of an American businesswoman who came to Africa with brand new technology for a wireless telephone system. She raised over $30 million to install it in Tanzania. She experienced a myriad of problems mainly with government officials who stood in her way. Eventually, her project failed. Not to be deterred she raised new capital, this time in Europe I think, and she tried the same thing in Ghana. And there too she lost about $30 million. She went back to the USA disgusted by her experiences in Africa and I am told she is now working on a book explaining why, in her opinion, Africa will not survive the 21st century.

She is not alone. I live in Johannesburg. Johannesburg is the “New York” of Africa. I have lived here since 1985. During that time, as a consultant, I move around and meet people. Time and again, people have dreamt up schemes of moving into Africa, developing Africa, etc. Indeed, it is not just in Johannesburg, but also Harare, Zimbabwe, that many companies have launched initiatives deeper into Africa. I have seen many attempts - MYRIADS of attempts actually - by all manner of businesses - with whites only, or blacks only or blacks and whites - as they try to get things going in Africa. 90% of them fail.

In fact, I consulted to a company which has just gone under. It was a group which was getting agencies for its products in Africa. They ran for about 18 months before folding. Among the countries they targetted were Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda. Eventually they did so badly that they ran out of cash and folded. I lost my job. I had been there from the beginning when they were making bold plans to go into Africa. I had been skeptical because of many other failures I’d seen before. But this is the biggest blowout I’ve been involved in personally.

It seems to me that slowly, people outside Africa are waking up to the fact that the Marxist/Leftist Africa isn’t going to make it. Consider this letter which I quote from Chapter 15 of my book: Government by Deception:

"Consider this letter which was published in the Zimbabwe Independent on 21st December 2000 which demonstrates how even the most liberal people get sick and tired of being taken for fools: -
“I hope you will let Zimbabweans know that there are people outside Zimbabwe who once supported Robert Mugabe and his so-called ‘land reform’. In the process of his anti-white sentiment, he has completely lost my support.
“I am a citizen of Norway, one of the countries that have contributed millions of dollars to Zimbabwe that cannot be accounted for. One can only wonder where the money, machinery and equipment went.
“Most of the machinery is sitting unused and deteriorating in open space. The Norwegian people, including myself, are questioning if aid is wasted on Zimbabwe in its economic crisis. As a travel agent I can no longer recommend Zimbabwe as a safe destination. The anti-white mentality is frightening even to a non-colonialist country like Norway. It’s a ‘kick in the face’ and a case of ‘biting the hand that feeds you’.
“It looks to me like Mugabe has to go and hopefully be replaced by someone with a more global outlook.
“Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is in the process of being destroyed by Mugabe’s propaganda and ignorance.
G. Halvorsen, Norway”

Here in Southern Africa, I can clearly detect that underneath it all, there is a lot of conservatism fuelled by the failure of the Marxist nations around us, and by the policies of the current ANC government. While in South Africa the Right Wing as a force is virtually non-existant, conservatism exists inside people.

Conservatism may be spat upon by the media, and the intellectuals and all the world’s trend-setters - yet, it seems to me, conservatism is natural and is making a comeback now that it is obvious that leftist ideas are not panning out.

Jeff Nyquist also wrote in his book that conservative societies throughout history were the longest lasting of all.

In the article below about Le Pen, it mentions a wave of conservatism which is sweeping across Europe. This is very interesting.

It appears to me that massive Third World immigration may also have played a role in moving people towards the right - be it in Europe or America.

I was chatting with a friend some weeks ago. We spoke about whether the world was changing. The Left has moved in everywhere and controls most everything. The Mass Media panders to the left, and so forth. Yet, deep down inside the hearts of ordinary people things may be changing. And maybe events like September 11th will help to accelerate the process? She said to me she thought that the world was changing but it was happening very quietly, and it was happening at a grassroots level across the world. She might be right.

I note too, from an African perspective, that Liberalism may yet be buried here in Africa as it becomes obvious that Liberal Democracy in Africa is a complete failure.

Zimbabwe is to me one of the examples of the failure of liberalism. A very strange thing happened in Zimbabwe which commentators do not mention. When Mugabe came to power in 1980, 2/3rds of the white population left the country by 1985. I was among those who left. Those 2/3rds represented the “Rhodesians” - in other words the CONSERVATIVES. The remaining 1/3rd represented the liberals - they were the whites who were happy to call themselves “Zimbabweans.”

This split among whites was interesting. While the two groups kept in touch with each other and there was not much friction, they did nevertheless differ in their attitudes towards Mugabe and his Marxist ZANU(PF) party. The Liberals believed if you worked with Mugabe and were an obedient subject that things would work out. The Conservatives believed it was a waste of time.

Mugabe was busy taking farms long before 2000. And he made life tough for them. It was an interesting situation. The events of the last 2 years have caused the conservatives (Rhodesians) to turn around and say that they were right. You never could work with him and the only correct course of action was military resistance.

Indeed, last week I heard from an old friend, a liberal, whose family is now packing their bags and leaving Zimbabwe for good to return to Wales.

What has happened in Zimbabwe is a victory for conservatism.

But here in South Africa a similar trend exists. The rich whites in South Africa were normally liberal. They were normally English-speaking and they wanted Apartheid scrapped and the ANC unbanned. But they only numbered 40% of the white population and so could never have things their way in the days of Apartheid.

Since 1994, and the collapse of Apartheid and the National Party, the Liberals in South Africa have been having a field day. They believed they could even come to power and get blacks to vote for them.

But an interesting transformation has occurred. The Liberals, the ones who were always squealing for the unbanning of the ANC and for co-operating with them are now in fact the biggest critics of the ANC. Nobody lays more into the ANC than the Liberals nowadays.

Among the wealthy, I have heard of a general trend towards the right. Everywhere I go in South Africa I hear various sentiments expressed by whites and they generally are becoming more and more angry with the situation here. But the most stunning about-turn, as I say, lies in the Liberal Whites. It is they who have moved by far the most to the right. It is very hard to distinguish between their views and the views of traditional conservatives.

So as I view Africa, from my perspective, close at hand, I think I am clearly watching the death of Liberalism.

There is a saying to the effect that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. My belief is that Liberalism was nice and cute as a theory, but in the real world, which is a complicated world, conservatism became the order of the day due to various realities which set in. There are certain cultural, religious and racial conflicts which arise as a normal part of life and this is what causes all societies to eventually become conservative. It may be that what we are seeing is a natural change in human consciousness and perceptions. No professor, no politician and no newspaper will be able to stop it.

Leftism was a nice experiment for the last century, but its time may be up.

Here is the article which triggered my thoughts above. Note the mention of a trend to the right in several European countries:-

Extreme Rightist Eclipses Socialist to Qualify for Runoff in France
April 22, 2002

PARIS, April 21 - In a major upset not predicted in weeks of opinion
the extreme rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen qualified today to face President
Jacques Chirac, a conservative, in the runoff for the French presidency
next month.

[Copyrighted text deleted. – MEB]

JanL-I thought you weren’t coming back here?

Moderator’s Note: Please do not post entire copyrighted articles on the SDMB; a link to the article is sufficient (as indeed you had already provided), along with a brief quotation where appropriate. I believe the New York Times will require a free registration to follow that link and read the article.

Has “liberal democracy” actually been extensively tried in Africa?

(“Liberal democracy” means a representative government with a constitutional framework which protects individual rights, opposition parties, other independent civic institutions, a free press, an independent judiciary, and the rule of law; there is usually a mixed economy with varying degrees of state involvement in a basically capitalist system.)

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Bloody Vikings!

Right. The U.S. has not elected a liberal (to say nothing of Marxist) president or Congress in over 35 years. The past 22 years, especially, have been repeated victories by centrist parties with a bit more tilt to the right than to the left.

Jeff is obviously clueless.

Regarding LePen’s “victory”:
First, it is hardly the only recent right-wing victory in Europe in recent years. Thatcher is not quite ancient history and Austria has done the Right “proud” lately.

Second, LePen scored a massive 17.06% of the vote–one in six while an additional 28% of the populace completely avoided the polls. It was only the completely fragmented ballot with the most candidates in recent memory (16) that gave him the run-off position. (Even with the other issues, his 17%, this time, is only two points higher than his average over the last 20 years.)

This is not to say that Europe could not “enjoy” a resurgence of authoritarian, anti-humanitarian politics. However, it is a bit premature to either crow victory or mourn defeat at this time.

When you have corned beef the equivalent of the Carnegie Deli, then you can call yourself anything you wish. Until then, pull-e-e-e-z-e!;j :smiley: ;j

Europe IS gradually becoming more authoritarian, but not because they are electing conservatives. The reall authoritarian pressure is coming from the EU, which has had to use more and more enforcement procedures to force recalcitrant countries into line. The EU could potentially morph into a kind of quasi-fascist organization in time, in my opinion.

Eastern European politcs also seem to fit the trend.
The recent Hungarian elections (Sunday) won, thankfully, in my opinion, with a win to the Socialists. Fidesz-MDF (the conservative coalition parties) were slated to win, according to every single pre-election poll, but managed to blow it in the end. One of the more frightening concerns, for me, was Fidesz’s inability to distance themselves from the far-right MIEP party. The MIEP party is well-known for its anti-semitism and rabid nationalism. It gave rise to such tee-shirts as “I am not a tourist. I am a Hungarian.”

Luckily, this election time, Hungarians just barely voted MIEP out of government and also voted Fidesz out.

What seems to me to bother Hungarians the most is this sort of small-nation syndrome, and I believe this is happening in many other nations in Europe. There seems to be a certain apprehension about the EU and the fear of the loss of national identity. Also, especially in Hungary, many voice the concern that “outside forces” (to some, the EU, to others, the Jews) control or will take over the Hungarian economy. And, of course, there’s anti-Gypsy sentiments which play into the far-right rhethoric, although you’d be shocked at how vocal the average Hungarian is against the Gypsy population.

To grossly oversimplify, I think many nations are simply afraid of losing their culture, national identity, etc, and are tending toward parties which play the nationalism and anti-immigration card.

But I’m not a political scientist…

There are 2 separate thing happening in Western Europe:

  1. Social Democrat parties are adopting conservative policies
    so, the whole political specturm is moving rightward.

  2. Far-right parties are getting a few more votes.

i’m not sure that the term “conservatism” will be very much more useful in the future., as I think it covers a wide range of opinions: free marketeers: social conservatives: nationalists, and without a Socialist threat to unite them these disparate groups will go their separate ways.

And if Europe has had 50 years of scoial democracy, arent the “conservatives” the centrists and leftists who want to preserve this status quo?

pulykamell: in my opinion, you are oversimplifying a bit… - Or simply informed by reading the Budapest Sun, or other “balanced” and “objective” news sources. :slight_smile: Let me add my six pence:

-First of all, let’s not forget that the Hungarian left isn’t anything like a normal social democratic movement should be. Let’s face it: these people are essentially the same who helped ruin the economy in the 80s and before (becoming rich in the process - of course, grumbling about the origins of this wealth is wrong and frowned upon - Hey, all thieves are equal, but some are always more equal than others…). Now we have to consider a massive foreign debt, lagging behind in technological advancement, an underdeveloped infrastructure and much more. And now they come back and win the elections. Quaint. And certain figures (granted, only some - but even a few are too many) were involved in ever shadier dealings - like the brutal suppression of the '56 Revolution, politically motivated crimes, etc.

-On FIDESZ and the distance from the far right: both the socialists and the conservatives used extremist votes and often made small “wink-wink/nudge-nudge” signs to them. To do otherwise would have been suicidal, as neither side trusts the other to avoid using these people. Is it bad and sad? Yes, it is, because it causes the parties to move away from the centre and polarizes the whole nation. Let me reiterate: the socialists did the same - actually, they seemed to be very friendly with the communists and the militant “liberals” (read: jacobinists :slight_smile: ). The difference? Nobody cares about the far left, because killing millions In The Name Of Progress is perfectly acceptable in this world. But even the slightest trace of conservativism is “only a step from nazism”.

-The whole antisemitism/fascism-thing is wayyy blown out of proportions (how many Synagogues were torched in Hungary recently? And how many in France, for example?). It doesn’t help that some leftists and ex-communists use it as a weapon against the conservatives. In the last few years, I have been called a Nazi, a Hitler-Youth, a Fascist, a Murderer, a backward country hick, a bad European and much, much more by various journalists, because I don’t vote for their favourite party. No wonder I built up a small and tidy cache of resentment. IMO this is one of the reasons the right almost won - the whole anti-right media bit made me very leery of even considering a vote for the left. I also dislike that the very same people are oh-so-happy to inform the international press that I was educated evil and stupid, that Oh My God This is a Dictatorship!!!1! and that, of course, Hungarians “can’t appreciate democracy” , as “their whole culture is authoritarian” and “their only accomplishments are baggy pants and apricot spirits”. Maybe it is really a minority complex that I get worked up on things like that, but I can’t help it. If you wish, I have a heap of cites for your reading pleasure - only in Hungarian, though. :wink:

-The extremists were kicked out of the Parliament. This is good.

-The problem with the Gypsies is that nothing was done for them - ever. Nobody cared about their education, their wellfare or just about anything. Therefore, they are the most poor and downtrodden. Nobody likes poor people, it is that simple. Unfortunately, an all-encompassing plan to help them is problematic, as:
-it would be too expensive
-especially when there are non-Gypsies who are destitute as well
-which makes positive discrimination an impossible solution.
I think it is slowly changing, but it won’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen overnight in France, or Germany, or Britain. Give us some time. Surprise, surprise: the first steps beyond simple aids were made by the conservatives.

-National identity: yup. I am afraid of * other people * losing it. Ten years ago, people read lots of books. We were pretty ahead in the number of books sold per capita, the reading skills of students was excellent, etc. Now we have “The Weakest Link” (Have you ever wondered why nobody calls this game evil?) and “Survivor” instead. Some progress! A country with a weak national identity and without a certain level of common ground/culture will fall and disappear (we learned this all too painfully, alas…). And national identity is important. It is one of the things that made the USA what it is. Please don’t deny the right from us.

-Also, the success of the right all over Europe boils down to this: they didn’t address many existing problems. If they wish to get reelected, they must:
a) modify their policies (Blair did this in the 90s and he was successful)
b) shout “Nazi!!!” over and over and hope it sticks. Also very successful. Tasteless? You be the judge.
Of course, rereading my rant, it seems pretty incoherent. Sorry for that.

Well, Melan, I certainly am oversimplifying, and I get most of my news from the BBJ (being a former staff photographer there and all.) I feel the BBJ is a fairly balanced and objective newsource.

My opinions are simply based by my interpretation and my experience in Hungary, and my reading of objective news sources, which you obviously don’t find very objective at all. I don’t think anti-Semitism is blown out of proportion at all in Hungary. But this is my opinion. Obviously yours differs.

I would discuss this more here, but I think it’s probably too esoteric for our other readers out there. After all, who follows Hungarian politics? CNN barely devoted a couple minutes to it the day after the election.

Could we please define “conservative”? When we describe a group as becoming “more conservative”, what specifically does that mean?

Well if what you say eventually happens, then what was the point of fighting Hitler then?

I know I’ve read that the Gypsy “problem” in Spain is caused mostly by the Gypsies refusing to use any of the financial or work-training aid available to them, despite the somewhat aggressive attempts of quite a few private charities to do something for them.

Is this true in Hungary as well?


Have they? I can only repeat MEBs question regarding Africa and note that the US never had any left government. But in Europe?? So the EU, social welfare system, state subsidised healthcare and what-not doesn’t exist? It feels strange for me to ask this question given that I don’t belong on the left side of the political bench and I too seem to note a swing to the right, but unfortunately into the uglier parts of the right spectrum.

But again, on what do you base this failure, or are you saying that the percieved harder times is the failure of the liberal left and the socialists, or could it be that the whole political system is failing, or could it be that it is all in our heads and that the real failure is Le Pen and his likes getting too large a portion of the vote?

pulykamell: yup - it is hard to argue about Hungary, when it is really an obscure place (of course, what do I know about the politics of Estonia or Japan? So no blame on others, I guess. :slight_smile:

jayjay: the problem is that the work they would get wouldn’t pay much more than the unemployment and other social transfers. There is no real incentive. This is a vicious circle: you have no skills to get employed (even if you have degrees, this can be hard - if you don’t, it is much worse) - you get money that is enough for substience, but nothing else - you want to work, but can only find a place where the pay is abysmally low (you have no skills, remmeber) and you would lose some of the social transfers - so you get out of work - etc.

The answer, I think, is university level education for the new generation, which will help in finding a well paying job - also stipendiums to afford textbooks and rent, etc. These programs started two or three years ago, and I hope the new government keeps them (or maybe extends them). But there will be no hard and fast results. Things are getting better - I see more new gypsy students at my university than there were three years ago, and I hear of more successful gypsy entrerpreneurs. Maybe things are starting to get better. Too early to tell for certain, though.

Back to the original topic: here is something I read on, and I agree with it:
one of the reasons centrist politics seems to be failing, and LePen achieved his success is that there was no reason to go to the elections - these parties would make no difference. You could choose between a little bit leftist candidate and a little bit right-wing candidate, but the end eresults would be a government that would pursue the same policies as the other. Blair can’t be considered a socialist anymore, and I have doubts about Schröder as well. Many people will and do believe that democracy does not exist anymore - no matter what you do, your voice will not be heard.
Supporters for LePen, or the far left (witness Genova or Seattle) OTOH, are always vocal and they always go to the elections. With a low voter turnout, their percentage will be high. One of the reasons MIEP didn’t get into the Parliament (good riddance, dickheads! It is because of you the conservatives lost!) is the high number of electors who voted (73%!), and, ironically, the extremely polarized campaign. Although the end results are a near draw (about +10 seats to the coming liberal-socialist coalition), the whole election was about two widely different outlooks on future, etc. And the extremists really lost - the far right got ~4,5%, the hardline communists ~3, maybe 3,5. Which, despite my dissatisfaction with the end results (hey, I am a baby eating conservative!), is a good sign. I hope France will learn from this warning, too.


What is your definition of conservative? What is your definition of liberal democracy? I suspect that they are completely different than the definitions that most posters here would use. Please no testimonials or anything of that nature.

Has democracy been tried in Africa? It seems to me that there have been no true democracies in Africa.