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Globalists vs localists

The new division seems to organise the most important political processes, from the election in Greece through the neo-imperial leap of Russia to the formation of the Islamic State



Every day, new analyses emerge in Poland and abroad to address various changes taking place on the left or right side of politics. There is more and more to suggest that speaking about the right wing and the left wing in the traditional sense of the terms is becoming problematic. Today’s left is something completely different than what it used to be several decades ago. What we call right wing has also changed beyond recognition. But are we able to replace those terms with a new, more suitable division? Well, some habits are especially hard to get rid of. And changes in the language we use to describe politics are particularly slow.


For many people who observe the global economy after the downfall of the bipolar division into the world of real socialism and capitalism, it became clear that the former alternative will be replaced with a new one. In 1997, a famous economist Dany Rodrik developed a trilemma theory according to which a modern state can have only two out of the following three characteristics: (1) national sovereignty, (2) full integration with global markets (fully free trade) and (3) democracy. In the Polish context, the conclusions from the thoughts of Rodrik are broadly explored by a prominent intellectual of the young generation Jan Filip Staniłko. Yet, he focuses on purely economic issues. And it should be emphasised that thus phrased problem additionally creates completely new lines of political divisions.

Globalists are those who support unconstrained markets and highly ritual democracy and oppose the political sovereignty that actually protects weaker members of the society from economic turbulence

Developed countries have succeeded in resolving the past conflicts between capital and labour and between tradition and freedom through a compromise-based formula of a democratic national welfare state with market economy. The Eastern Block led by the Soviets initially wanted to take another route but it did not get too far.

What became increasingly important in the new millennium is whether the countries that struggled so much to contain the forces that used to pull them apart will be able to honour the commitments made towards new generations, especially in the progressing globalisation. So according to the trilemma, the new political divisions now involve state locality versus globalism and cultural rooting versus cosmopolitism. In other words, the division into traditional left wing and right wing dating back to the French Revolution has become much less relevant in today’s politics. This new division into globalists and localists currently seems to organise almost all the most important political processes, starting from the election in Greece through the neo-imperial leap of Russia to the formation of the Islamic State.

Globalists are those who support unconstrained markets and highly ritual democracy and oppose the political sovereignty that actually protects weaker members of the society from economic turbulence. Localists choose sovereignty within traditional political entities and advocate the suppression of economic globalisation. Western localists are additionally characterised by the fact that they understand sovereignty also as sovereignty of the people, not only of the state, thus alluding to the idea of democracy versus enlightened technocratism.

In order to win, globalists must challenge all differences and cultural “inequalities” related to religion and custom. Also those connected with language, religion, history and further on the way – with division to sexes. In contract, in order to have the foundations to build sovereignty, localists must defend the uniqueness and specificities of their political people.

Such a dynamic creates an essential existential dilemma for the traditional left and right. In the context of the new conflict, the former left must make a choice: either to give up fighting with traditional institutions, such as family or the Church, or to give up on the social welfare aspect. However, abandonment of equality slogans turns it into a club of global proto-aristocrats (the caste is not fully closed yet) who are incredibly tolerant and “enlightened” but “at the cost of demonstrating open disdain for their fellow citizens or becoming useful idiots of the global capital.” Leftists who value traditional cultural codes are expelled from the comfortable globalist salons. The institutions of the localist post-leftism cannot count on generous subsidies from reigning parties ruled by capital, such as Civic Platform (PO), or on donations directly from the “lords” of the new order, people like George Soros. To understand this logic, we can compare the difficulties of the soc-traditionalist magazine Nowy Obywatel with the leftist globalist Krytyka Polityczna, which has no major problems with grabbing pennies from “aristocratic” heaven.

There is no denying that the useful idiot of globalism in European politics is the sexually enraged conservatism that performs ritual dances around the topics it is fed from the outside

The right wing, on the other hand, must choose whether it opts for rooting or for full freedom of capital flows. But by abandoning an element of classic liberalism, it allows the political authorities to take control of new areas, which something it has been opposing so far. To make matters worse, if it is not careful in how it phrases its message, it may be accused of fascism. And if rightists take the opposite direction and fight for the freedom of capital, they often pay for this either with a call for extreme despotism, including abolishment of elections (e.g. Korwin-Mikke), or with losing their soul and joining the globalist camp as a marginalised advocate of rationed conservatism (e.g. Rostowski and Sikorski).


Progress died, feudalism lives!

The perversity of the new division consists in the fact that it makes people from the former left (supporting labour and freedom) and right (supporting capital and tradition) to often switch places as far as economic issued are concerned. The majority of emancipatory actions of the so called new (globalist) left wing realistically lay the groundwork for economic inequalities unseen over the past century and creates substitute topics to cover up the related problems. After all, capital does not want to print user manuals in one hundred languages and adapt entertainment productions to the local specificities and sensitivity of the audience. It would also love to hire equally educated, obedient and similarly thinking employees all over the world who would never take parental leaves. This would allow capital to move even faster and without constraints. After depleting human and natural resources in one place, it would be easier to move the production elsewhere. A standardised individual and a standardised product mean tremendous savings from the perspective of the elites that manage the capital and of the organisations they sponsor. As has been proven empirically by a French economist Thomas Piketty, growth of profit from capital investment is accompanied by rocketing social inequalities. At a global scale nonetheless.

This is quite consistent with the theory of the new post-state Middle Ages developed by Lech Jęczmyk as well as by the author of this text, albeit with emphasis on different aspects. An ultimate victory of the party of global capital would mean transformation of the party members into a caste of new aristocrats and their courtiers, with the rest of humanity moving hundreds of years backwards. For some time, such a world may even function quite well. But in the long run we would face political chaos and the problem of halted technological progress or even regression.

And what about general education? Well, a new Polish secondary school senior who learns only selected topics about history and laboriously collects “skills” to shine in international rankings is not a world citizen free of any baggage of the past but merely a global serf. A human machine whom global feudal lords can force to do any tasks virtually anywhere. Just like in the past, when cosmopolitan aristocrats did not care at all whether their subjects were Flemish, Swabians or Scots: what mattered was that they paid their dues.

And the conscience of more sensitive members of the elites can always be soothed with cheap sentimentalism. Something like the Easter fund-raising by Izabela Łęcka. In the same spirit, young Polish neo-leftists think that they are fighting globalisation because they buy coffee from certified crops and sign online petitions regarding Chinese workers of Apple once in a while. In the meantime, in the contexts where their voice actually matters, the same people would attack an intolerant and ignorant Polish Catholic without hesitation. The culture of Indians from the rainforests should be protected for some reason but peasants from Biłgoraj must be civilised, Europeanised and forced to work for corporations like peasants for feudal lords.

The conscience of more sensitive members of the elites can always be soothed with cheap sentimentalism. Young Polish neo-leftists think that they are fighting globalisation because they buy coffee from certified crops and sign online petitions regarding Chinese workers of Apple once in a while

Curiously enough, the strong accusation that what today passes as progressiveness and leftism is actually regressiveness and elitism has already been openly phrased by the probably most prominent modern leftist thinker Slavoj Žižek. He writes about this in his most recent book and he underlines this even more in some of his interviews. In Living in the End Times, Žižek emphasises that the European left has died twice. First with the downfall of communism and then with the downfall of social democracy, when it ultimately almost completely betrayed its ideals. In an interview given four years ago to Newsweek, Žižek commented on European politics by saying: “the new division is already a fact. Instead of the traditional bipolarity, the division into the centre-left-wing party and the centre-right-wing party, we today have one formation at the centre of the political scene: a party of liberal capitalism. It is progressive from a moral perspective as it supports abortion, rights for homosexuals etc. Its main opposition is the populist right wing.”

In Europe, this rift started in the peripheries, where the Western welfare state either was the weakest (south) or failed to develop after the fall of communism at all (Central Eastern Europe). But the rest of the West is quickly moving in the same direction, An old political order usually crumbles first in the perimeter, while the centre undergoes an unexpectedly long decay process.

Mordor is at Domaniewska Street!

Even though the globalist versus localist division is becoming increasingly visible, it has failed to create clear identities of new political parties. As a result, things remain interesting, sudden secessions and unexpected motions may still happen. In Greece, the allegedly ultra-leftist Syriza co-forms the government with the extreme right. Even Marine Le Pen from the French National Front has many kind words for Greek leftists. In Poland, which is rather conservative for its region, the ostentatious vulgar globalism of Palikot did not win him applause. The localist party PiS (Law and Order) fights PO (Civil Platform), which masks its globalism slightly better. SLD (Democratic Left Alliance), learning from the mistakes of Janusz P., takes a turn right in terms of moral issues. There is a reason why Magdalena Ogórek suddenly turns out to be a slightly “reformed” Catholic who highly respects Pope Francis.

But in the majority of moral and spiritual issues, globalism is less strict as it may easily win points for permissivism and fully develop the range of its sociotechnical possibilities. This puts European localists, who are acting within democracy, in a difficult spot. On the one hand, they need to reach for the centre, and on the other hand, slowly build the identity their locality is built on.

Thankfully, in the age of crisis economic patriotism comes first. According to studies, younger generations of native Europeans are more conservative, family-oriented and religious. But they return to tradition from a more pragmatic side. They no longer support national culture, family or even religion as a simple emotional reflex. To their own surprise, they slowly discover the usefulness of conservative values as a point of support for their aspirations and the need to feel rooted. Localist youths are also getting better at distinguishing between the substitute topics of post-politics and actual issues. A good example is the referendum regarding homosexual marriages in Slovakia, which failed because the attendance was too poor. Likewise, the attempts in Poland to cause a storm around in vitro and make it an element of the campaign of the right wing were unsuccessful.

There is no denying that the useful idiot of globalism in European politics is the sexually enraged conservatism that performs ritual dances around the topics it is fed from the outside. Whereas national localism must pick its battles wisely and, in certain issues, reach out to the society sitting on the fence and demonstrate its own “wisdom of the stage.” It is on the weak side right now so it has to look for common ground rather than disputes in its dialogue with the constituents and potential supporters. It must not take the bait of the media and when taunted by the globalist camp, it should expose the ideological vanity of the opponent rather than splash around in flippant casuistry.

The fight for the soul of a “lemming” is becoming increasingly easy anyway. Humiliated and exploited by foreign concerns, employees from the large building complex at Domaniewska Street in Warsaw named that part of the city “Mordor at Domaniewska Stret.” The Facebook page whose authors coined that name now has an almost iconic status. And it was not so long ago when website of Radio Maryja was the first search result after you typed in “Satan’s office” in Google. Today, “the young and educated” still most likely have no love for father Rydzyk but they at least know that the den of evil should probably be sought elsewhere.

Fight for people

So far there is no easy way out of the trilemma. Unless we want to risk building a global state, which would probably quickly be turned by global elites into global tyranny. And so the uncontrolled escape from globalisation continues, taking diverse, often mutually exclusive forms in various places. The world of Islam radicalises religiously and experiences one shake after another in connection with the brutal attempts to rebuild the Caliphate. Russia wants to rebuild something resembling the tsar empire. China wants to be the “Middle Kingdom” for the whole Asia again.

Europe first wanted (quite astutely) to create a confederation of national states. But later it failed as it tried to transform into a more cohesive supranational federation. And now, in our part of the world, the party of the global Middle Ages is confronted primarily by defenders of the interests of national states and by advocates of the middle class.

What can be done in such circumstances in Poland? Well, however gullible this may sound, it is best to fight for people and their dignity. After all, not everyone wants to live in an estate guarded like a fortress and surround themselves at work with numb precariat-like slaves. Even if the world finally succumbs to the darkness of the new Middle Ages, there may be oases where national egalitarian republicanism remains a strong brand and continues to attract people.

For instance, there is currently free flow of investment capital and people in the EU. And it is capital and people that European countries compete for today. The problem is that certain strategies of attracting investment push people away and every country must decide for itself which option benefits it more at a specific time. For the past 25 years, Poland has been focused on attracting investors with low labour costs. The effect is that we see more shiny office buildings in the streets but fewer people. It is easy to move around Europe. In Poland, the ratio of pay to costs of living is satisfactory for hardly anyone, and the quality of public services versus the levies is embarrassing.

We have the first generation in a long time whose situation at the verge of adulthood will be worse than that of their parents. We still hope against all hope that incomers from the East will somehow rescue our economy and demography. While all they can do is help us slow down before the inevitable crash against the wall. Besides, in the current system of ruthless exploitation of Polish human resources, the majority of emigrants consider us only a stop on their way to a better future farther in the West.

Honestly speaking, Poland is now a weak, expensive and foul country that refuses to respect even the talents it has developed. And things do not have to be like this, we can fight for people. By supporting the creation of jobs, by encouraging enterprises to invest in new technologies. By repolonising the banking sector and investing government funds in education and national defence. Finally, we can develop our own growth model, like the Scandinavians did. But we need to understand that the old divisions into the left and the right and the ritual disputes around those divisions are less and less meaningful. Or, to make things worse, are cynically exploited by interest groups that serve other masters.


Translation financed by the National Freedom Institute – Centre for Civil Society Development from the Civil Society Organisations Development Programme for 2018-2030

Tłumaczenie sfinansowano przez Narodowy Instytut Wolności – Centrum Rozwoju Społeczeństwa Obywatelskiego ze środków Programu Rozwoju Organizacji Obywatelskich na lata 2018-2030


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