Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Zapatero’s Progressive populism

The Spanish Government announced the enactment of a new law that will allow granting of political asylum in Spain to victims of sexual discrimination (homosexuals). If this governmental bill becomes legally binding, and it most probably will , homosexuals from Cuba, for example, could come to Spain realistically hoping to be granted asylum.

There are several objections one could raise against such a governmental proposal.

First, it can be argued that granting asylum right to homosexuals who are victims of sexual persecution stretches the definition of the right of asylum to the point where one can justifiably ask, if granting such a right to homosexuals then why not to economic migrants (I personally think, in terms of principle, both deserve protection and should be granted the right to enter and reside within the EU, within the framework of asylum protection or liberalizing immigration policies, same difference). Zapatero’s government allows Cuban homosexuals in (despite the fact that their situation, although not good, by no means resembles past discriminatory policies of the Castro regime in the past) while it does nothing concrete to facilitate African immigration to Spain. Why is someone who is dying from hunger in a better position then a persecuted homosexual it is very hard to tell? Economic migrants are victims of social discrimination (one could even say in most of the cases victims of colonial discrimination) and European governments should finally tackle the issue of immigration in an appropriate manner and not engage in humanitarian populism by means of asylum protection.

This brings us to the more general critique of Zapatero’s policies. At the beginning of his government, after the Madrid terrorist attacks, Zapatero wanted to give an ideological framework to his brand of left-wing politics…together with a famous Irish-Australian Professor Philip Petit he designated an ideological guidelines of his future government. Petit’s Republicanism presents this ideology. It is an attempt to place the left-wing political agenda within the realities of the world in which comprehensive welfare state of the old, post second world war style is judged no longer possible, to an extent, very progressive approach towards social policies is to be offered as an antidote to what can essentially be branded as economic neo-liberalism.

To simplify, Zapatero seems to think: if we cannot offer the population welfare protection, we offer them the right of homosexuals to get married and to adopt children. But, does the majority of the population care about this and does it significantly meet their expectations about life? While, my intention is certainly not to criticize policies which I in principle support (homosexual rights) because they go in the direction of creating a genuinely open society, I am critical towards policies where e.g. extensive gay rights are used as an antidote to the inability to pursue genuinely left-wing policies…such as fighting for more social equalities for the overall population. One can justifiable be worried about the long-term effects of such policies. Doesn’t such progressive populism just contribute to the trend where vast portions of the ex-left wing (working class electorate) shift towards radical populist right, that on the other hand fills the gap current European left is not able to fill, that of welfare protection. Le Pen pehnomenon is a worrying sign of that trend. Of course radical right does not offer sound alternative in terms of policies but social and economic populism, but doesn’t Zapatero do the same in a more sophisticated manner?

No comments: