Sunday, 8 June 2014

European Elections in Poland Confirm Dominance of the Right

This article was first published on the LeftEast website

The 2014 European elections have confirmed a number of trends in Polish politics. These include a general disillusionment with the political establishment; the dominance of the right in party politics and the weakness of the left in countering this right-wing hegemony.  

It is hard for any party to claim victory in an election where over 76% of the electorate either did not vote or spoilt their ballot paper.  Although the EU has one of the highest approval ratings in Poland, turnouts in elections are generally low. For almost a decade now the country’s political scene has been dominated by two parties of the conservative right (Citizens’ Platform – PO and Law and Justice Party – PiS). An artificial divide around historical and cultural issues between these parties has formed, with each reliant on the other to mobilise their core electorates. This has helped to enhance political apathy and the sense that there is no alternative to the status quo.

Both of these two right-wing parties ended up virtually neck and neck in the elections, with the ruling PO scoring 32.13% of the vote, narrowly above PiS who gained 31.78%. Compared to the 2009 elections this is a swing to PiS of around 16%. This represents a relative success for PiS and points towards the possibility that it could emerge as the largest party in next year’s parliamentary elections. However, the PiS electorate is traditionally more disciplined in voting than PO voters, which inflates its support when there is such a low turnout.

These elections confirmed that there is currently only one serious electoral party on the Polish left: the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). The SLD won 9.55% of the vote, above its rival Europe Plus-Your Movement (EP-TR) that scored just 3.58%. EP-TR was an alliance between sections of social democracy with the liberal centre, bringing together the ex-President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and the liberal populist Janusz Palikot. This most probably signals the end of Palikot’s attempt to build a new centre-left party, failing to capitalise on his huge success at the last parliamentary elections when his movement won more votes than the SLD.  EP-TR is the latest failed attempt to build a political current that combines liberal economic with left-wing social cultural policies.

The SLD leadership, around former PM Leszek Miller, has attempted to present the SLD’s result as a success for the party. However, the party won over 300,000 less votes than it had done in the 2009 elections. This confirms how the party has been unable to extend beyond its, naturally diminishing, core electorate and build a serious alternative party to PO and PiS.

Poland is one of the few countries in Europe where there were no candidates connected to the European left slate: GUE/NGL. The only left alternative to the SLD and EP-TR was presented by the Greens. Although they put forward candidates in a number of constituencies and ran an energetic campaign on limited resources, they failed to make any notable breakthrough.

The political party that managed to break onto the political scene was the extreme conservative-liberal party: New Right (NP). NP is led by the maverick Janusz Korwin-Mikke, who has been on the margins of the political scene since the early 1990s. NP combine extreme neo-liberalism, with strong conservative policies on social and cultural issues. As examples, they support the total abolition of state education and in the past Korwin-Mikke has claimed that 'women only pretend to resist rape'. They are likely to sit with the far-right in the European Parliament, alongside parties such as the French National Front. Although NP’s vote represents a minority of society it indicates a worrying trend in Polish politics, whereby the ideology of liberal individualism is being combined with strong social conservatism. NP won the largest percentage of the vote amongst young people and have replaced Palikot’s party as the new representative of the frustrated young entrepreneur.

The dominance of PO and PiS in Polish politics will continue at least until next year’s general elections. PO will try to mobilise its electorate by repeating its long-used strategy of raising fears about PiS returning to power. In turn PiS will try to mobilise its base in the hope that it can usurp PO as the largest party and form a new government. The rise of NP means that PiS potentially has a new ally on the right that it could enter government with. It is also likely that the SLD will remain as Poland’s sole major party of the left before these elections and hope that by gaining its standard 10% it could possibly enter government with PO.

The fact that over ¾ of the electorate did not participate in these elections shows how the vast majority of society feels no connection to any of the political parties. More urgently than ever there is a need for a new progressive left alternative in Poland. This needs to be based not on competing with the right for the votes of the ‘liberal centre’ but seeking to win the support of the vast majority of society who presently have no political representative. 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Rather the Useful Idiot

The images from Odessa were truly horrific. Burnt corpses, a strangled pregnant woman, people jumping out of windows to their deaths. Yet perhaps the most disturbing of them all was the scene where a group of young educated looking teenage girls, draped in the Ukrainian flag, were happily making the Molotov Cocktails that would later help cause the deaths of over 40 people. These images encapsulated how the Maidan had transformed from being a movement for hope to one of tragedy.  

On the one hand, the Maidan represented a genuine social explosion of unrest against a corrupt, inefficient and sometimes brutal government. Thousands came onto the streets, amongst them the young aspiring middle class, who believed that Yanukovych had taken away their prospect of enjoying a ‘normal’ life within the EU. Maidan seemed to be following a well-known script, with the lure of the democratic and economic freedoms in the West sweeping away the last authoritarian remnants of the Soviet era.

However, whilst politicians from the West posed for photographs and handed out cookies, the demonstrations were developing into a violent confrontation with the authorities. Furthermore, those leading this fight were the organised groups of the far-right (predominantly the newly formed Right-Sector), which excluded alternative movements from the left.  The regime disintegrated under this pressure after the horrific (although as yet not fullyexplained) shooting of demonstrators and militiamen by snipers. Yet this was not a victory for civil society or democratic values. It was a conquest of power by oligarchs favoured in the west, which were dependent upon the support of the emboldened far-right.

Despite the patriotic rhetoric and symbolism, this is not a new government of unity in Ukraine.  During the first days of the newly formed government the parliament passed laws such as repealing minority languages, outlawing the Communist Party and removing the ban on Nazi propaganda. Some of these bills were rejected by the President, but the political mood had been set. Six members of the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party obtained cabinet positions in the new government. This is a party that the European Parliament had previously described as having views opposed to the EU'sfundamental values and principles and which openly claims the historical tradition of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and its leader Stepan Bandera, which carried out the genocide of around 70,000 Poles during World War Two.   

Yet those in the east of Ukraine have the same concerns as those in the west. They live in this corrupt oligarchal state and have had to endure the living conditions of a country whose GDP per capita remains 20% below what it was when the Soviet Union collapsed. The EU association agreement, that Yanukovych refused to sign, could not be accepted in these eastern regions as it included the conditions for an IMF loan that would have raised energy prices, cut social spending and opened up the country’s uncompetitive industry to the European market. The present government has decided to continue along this path of austerity, which will further depress living standards and widen social divisions.

It is this structural crisis in the country’s economic base that has driven the ongoing social and political rupture in Ukraine. The state is literally fragmenting and the country is being torn apart. These internal pressures are being exacerbated by outside interference (to its east and west) with the country becoming an epicentre of a potential global conflict. The accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation was one stage in a process whose end is unclear. Undoubtedly this was an opportunistic act by Russia that has helped to fuel Ukrainian nationalism and resentment. But it was also carried out peacefully and with at least the acquiescence of the local population, many who were undoubtedly relieved to be escaping a country engulfed in conflict.

The West seems to believe its own propaganda. It wants to claim that all that stands in the way of a free and independent Ukraine, integrated into the west, is an aggressive and interventionist Russia. Whilst not doubting Russia’s own ambitions in Ukraine, what this narrative leaves out is the population of eastern and southern Ukraine as independent actors. It exaggerates the power of Russia and Putin to such an extent that it ignores the opinions and aspirations of the millions of people living in these regions.   

The forces opposing Kiev in Eastern Ukraine copied the tactics deployed by the Maidan protestors in the west of the country, with masked men taking control of government buildings. But whilst western commentators welcomed these actions when they took place in Lviv or Kiev, they were seen as being simply terrorist actions organised by foreign agents when they occurred in Donetsk or Slaviansk.  And when seen in this way the solution is clear: send the army to eastern Ukraine to defeat these outside invaders.

The problem for the Kiev authorities is that the Ukrainian state and armed forces are not strong enough to wage war even against its own people. The army remains weak, chronically underfunded and its forces are disillusioned and divided. This has caused large defections by sections of the armed forces and police, who cannot understand why they should fire on their own people. Assaults by tanks and fighter planes have as yet been insufficient to overthrow opposition administrations in towns such as Slaviansk. With the army unable to carry out this task, the responsibility has fallen onto the newly formed National Guard, the Right Sector and other paramilitary groups to root out the ‘terrorists’.

 The Rubicon was crossed in Odessa, in what can only be described as a fascist pogrom. This was followed less than a week later when more than twenty people were shot, on Victory Day, in the town of Moriupol by members of the National Guard and Right Sector. Behind these events are conflicting accounts of conspiracy and outside involvement. But it is hard to imagine a more effective way of pushing the population of the eastern regions closer towards Russia than by murdering people on their streets. Although much of this has been disguised from our television screens, the ostensible supporters of democracy are riding tanks into towns, burning people in trade union buildings, shooting down unarmed civilians and firing on people queuing to vote outside election offices.  

In order to justify these actions an atmosphere of delusion and self-censorship reigns.  To speak out against these horrors is to be a supporter of Putin and a believer in Russian propaganda. Silence is needed if these atrocities are to continue.

In Poland this atmosphere is all prevailing.  The establishment and media are now united around the previously derided foreign policy precepts of the conservative right. These state that the Russian army is intent on moving westwards through Ukraine and possibly into countries such as the Baltic States and Poland itself. The government has encouraged an atmosphere of war, with PM Donald Tusk announcing that at stake in the European elections is whether children will even be able to go to school in September. Such a climate of fear has helped to justify the government’s policy of raising defence spending by around €24bln by2020 and the call by the Defence Minister, Radosław Sikorski, for 10,000 NATO troops to be deployed in Poland.  It has even allowed Polish politicians to support political forces that raise the banner of Bandera in Ukraine

This atmosphere has permeated large sections of the liberal left in Poland. The country’s liberal mouthpiece, Gazeta Wyborcza, has been doing all it can to prove its anti-Putin credentials. It recently nominated the Russian oligarch, Mikail Khodorovsky, a man who had amassed billions when Yeltsin was selling off the country’s economy to his corrupt friends, as its Person of the Year. The editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, Adam Michnik, has even compared him to Nelson Mandela.  It seems that falling out with Putin is enough to make anyone a hero nowadays.

Whilst the main centre left party (the Democratic Left Alliance) has attempted to diffuse this atmosphere of war and openly warned of the dangers of the far-right in Ukraine, the country’s ‘new left’ has tended to replicate liberal opinion. The leader of the liberal populist Your Movement party, Janusz Palikot, argued that the solution to the Ukrainian crisis was a combination of NATOtroops and shock-therapy. The leader of Political Critique, Sławomir Sierakowski, was an early cheerleader of the Maidan protests, believing them to be a potential source for a renewal of the EU itself. Once this optimistic scenario had proved too far-fetched, Sierakowski then labelled those criticising the new Ukrainian administration as being Putin’s ‘useful idiots’. In the week before the Odessa tragedy he had an article published in the New York Times that claimed that the Right-Sector was not a threat in Ukraine because (wait for it) its leader had met with the Israeli ambassador and told him they would oppose discrimination. Among some ‘progressive’ circles in Poland today it is acceptable to (quite rightly) condemn the far-right when it burns down the rainbow structure in the centre of Warsaw (, but not when its Ukrainian counterparts burn people to death in Odessa. Rather the useful idiot, than the worthless genius.

Those who really fear a Russian invasion of Ukraine should realise that when pro-Kiev forces kill people in eastern Ukraine, so the country falls further apart. If it is really true that the autonomous governments in the eastern regions are led by Russian nationalists and separatists, then those supporting the retention of at least a federal Ukraine need to win the support of the region’s ordinary citizens. The silent majority after all want just peace and stability.

If the country falls into a full blown civil war then all sides will lose their moral high ground as atrocities will be followed by revenge and killing will beget more killing. The prospect of the Maidan being a movement of national renewal in Ukraine that could unite its eastern and western parts has long passed, if it ever indeed existed. Only negotiations between those in power in western and eastern Ukraine and the allowing of internationally observed elections and referendums could possibly offer a peaceful way out of this crisis. As the atmosphere of war intensifies, the radical position is one of moderation. It is harder to call for peace and negotiation than it is for further conflict.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Poland Must Rediscover its Anti-Fascist Voice

Below I reproduce an article I have had published on the openDemocracy site about Poland and the Ukrainian far-right.

Ternopol Mayor Sergei Nadal was asked why Svoboda supports the recognition of descendants of former members of the Ukrainian 14th Division of the Waffen SS as national heroes. "These Ukrainian heroes must be honoured irrespective of what has been written about them in the history books of those peoples who were once our enemies," Nadal answered.
World War Two left too many stories of human misery. Amongst them was the ethnic cleansing carried out in Nazi occupied Poland by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). This reached its peak in 1943, when the UPA Commander ordered the liquidation of the male population, ending in the murder of around 100,000 Poles, the majority of whom were actually women and children.
These killings were carried out by the faction of UPA under the leadership of the Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera. Fighting alongside the German Nazis, who promised them a post-war independent Ukraine, their aim was to purge their future state of all non-Ukrainians. Thankfully, the Nazis and their allies were ultimately defeated and UPA was never able to realise its dream of an ethnically pure Ukraine within a Nazi controlled Europe.    Read More here......


Monday, 17 March 2014

Nurseries Not Guns

Below I reproduce a statement released by the III Congress of Left Women held in Warsaw this weekend.  (Original version here)
As women of the left we stand in solidarity with all women in the world, especially those living in areas of chaos and political tension. 

We oppose policies that are leading to the escalation of conflict and the outbreak of war. We reject the atmosphere of war-fever being created by a section of opinion-makers in Poland. We do not want to send our children to any war that can and should be avoided.

We appeal to all parties of the dispute to find a political solution that respects the rights of residents in the Crimea and abides by international law. So far, the Crimean crisis has caused no casualties, and this should remain the case. 

We reject the policy of "male war games". The excitement caused by inspecting troops, visiting bases or saluting allied aircrafts is alien to us.  We believe that real political leadership does not need to be supported by a background of tanks and guns. 

The atmosphere of war intensifies, rather than nullifies, the everyday problems of Poles. These include a lack of work, low wages, poor access to nurseries, pre-schools and medical treatment.  The government should be dealing with these problems rather than increasing war threats.  

Our appeal is simple: Less guns and more nurseries. Never again war!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Ukrainian People Must Be Free to Determine Their Own Future

The Polish government and opposition are speaking with one voice. Ukrainian sovereignty must be defended, its territorial unity preserved and western governments should do all they can to support the new government in Kiev. The focus of their concern has been on Crimea, and on the manoeuvres of Russian soldiers (official or not) in the region. Whilst these concerns are legitimate, by focusing only on this one aspect of the crisis, other violations made against Ukraine’s sovereignty have tended to be ignored and the wider issue of the self-determination of the Ukrainian people overlooked.

The Russian incursions in Crimea are the culmination of a series of violations made against Ukrainian sovereignty by foreign governments that have destabilised the country and pushed it to the brink of war.  However, the statement made by the US Secretary of State John Kerry that a country cannot invade another on false pretences cannot be taken seriously. This is from someone who represents a country that has made a habit of engaging in illegal wars, funding armed opposition groups and using drones to drop bombs on other countries. In Poland it even violated international law by interrogating terrorist suspects in secret prisons. It is an absurdity to present the actions of Russia in Crimea as being worse than the unlawful invasion of Iraq, which has caused around one million deaths. 

The Euromaidan demonstrations against Yanukovych’s government were a genuine explosion of social discontent against a corrupt regime that had proved itself incapable of solving the country’s growing economic crisis. However, these demonstrations were directly encouraged and influenced by foreign politicians and governments. Those politicians from the USA and the EU (including from Poland) that went to the Euromaidan demonstrations displayed a gross sense of irresponsibility and were willing to overlook the fact that these demonstrations were becoming more violent and that representatives of the far-right were playing an increasingly central role.  One wonders how liberal opinion in Poland would react if leading politicians were to appear on the Independence Day (Marsz Niepodległości) march in Warsaw and openly support the violent demonstration.

The extent of western interference in Ukraine was revealed in the now infamous ‘Fuck the EU’ phone conversation held between Victoria Nuland (Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs) and the US ambassador in Ukraine. It was shown how the US was directly attempting to influence the shape of the new Ukrainian government, pinpointing Yatseniuk as their favoured appointment as Prime Minister (a wish which of course came true). In a speech in December Nuland revealed how the US had spent $5bln to "ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine". Some of this money had been used in supporting the ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2004, where the Bush administration spent $65 million giving ‘democracy training’ to political leaders, helping their favoured oligarchs to assume power.

Despite the West’s claims of neutrality it has clear military and economic interests in Ukraine.  This includes the desire to see Nato expand into Ukraine, up to and including the stationing of a Nato fleet in the Crimea. EU and Nato membership have become synonymous, and the West has backed politicians (such as Tymoszenko) who have supported this aim. This goes against the democratic will of the Ukrainian population, where a majority has a negative attitude towards NATO and opposes Ukraine joining it.

The West, along with Russia, also has its own specific economic interests in the country. Ukraine is an important gas transit network, standing between Russia and its consumers in the Eurasia region. Russia supplies more than half of the country’s gas, but the Ukrainian government has recently signed a $10bln shale gas deal with the US energy giant Chevron.  The West has long pushed economic reforms that have been detrimental to Ukraine’s development. The implementation of the of shock-therapy reforms in Ukraine in the early 1990s resulted in its GDP falling from $77.5 trillion in 1990 to$50.2 trillion in 1997, with the life expectancy of males declining by 5 yearsover the same period. This was connected to a fire-sale of the country’s state assets, that created the corrupt oligarchical capitalism that survives to this day. 

The rejected association agreement offered by the EU to Ukraine, which helped to spark the Euromaidan demonstrations, was packaged alongside a series of IMF structural reforms that would have been particularly harmful to the industrial regions in the east of the country. As Kiev breaks further away from Moscow, so it becomes more dependent upon the West that will insist on economic austerity in return for its (insufficient) credits. This would make an uncompetitive Ukrainian economy reliant upon western imports and lead to the closure of many of its industries in the east. In order for Ukraine to prosper it needs to have sound economic relations to both its east and west and not forced upon a track of deindustrialisation and import dependency. 

Dissatisfaction with corrupt oligarchical capitalism is felt across Ukraine. However, economic austerity and extreme right-wing nationalism are not a basis for national unity. The most radical right-wing elements (around Svoboda and the Right-Sector) could not win their demands through democratic elections, which is why they rejected the compromise solution made between the government,  opposition leaders and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Poland. The subsequent failure of the opposition and these governments to remain committed to this agreement has opened up an unprecedented situation in post-war Europe. An unelected government has been appointed, with the support of the EU, within which many leading positions are filled by members of fascist parties. Surely this must be a matter of grave concern for any progressive in Europe today. 

Yatseniuk has stated that it is not possible for his government to be corrupted because it has no chance of being re-elected. And it is clear why. This new coalition government of parties of oligarchs and the far-right is preparing to implement austerity policies that will result in a further impoverishment of Ukrainian society. As has been the case in many Southern European countries over the past few years, democratic practices need to be suspended in order to carry through such economic programmes. Leszek Miller was correct to point out that the implementation of new austerity policies in Ukraine would result in further social discontent and disorder  (compare this to Palikot’s proposal for Nato intervention and shock-therapyreforms!) The consequences of such a reform programme could be disastrous in a situation where the left is weak; the far-right emboldened by its successes at the Maidan and regional and national divisions have widened. All those proclaiming their support for the sovereignty and territorial unity of Ukraine should oppose this new imposition of neo-liberalism in the country. 

In this rapidly unfolding situation it is imperative that the Ukrainian people regain their right to determine their own future free from outside interference. This goes beyond the immediate crisis in Crimea, and the abstention of military activities in the region, and could include such things as the reaffirmation of the country’s military neutrality; respect for the rights of national minorities, including minority languages;  the creation of a true national unity government without the parties of the far-right;  the abstention from introducing any programme of economic reform until there is a democratically elected government and president;   the cancelling of Ukraine’s foreign debt in order for it to regain its economic sovereignty (as was the case for Poland in the early 1990s) and the granting of the right of regions to hold referendums on their status within Ukraine.  

Ukraine has become an arena for the power games of greater external powers. The only peaceful way out of this situation is for these countries to hand back the right of self-determination to the Ukrainian people. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Gender and Immigration – Two Conservative ideologies

Polska Wersja na Lewica24....

Nearly 25 years since the end of Communism a new cultural and political divide has opened in Europe. This is being exploited by the conservative right,that promotes a regressive ideology of division around issues of gender in the East and immigration in the West. 

As the Winter Olympics begins in Russia, international attention has turned to the discriminatory laws signed by Putin last year that outlaw the ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’. These laws have helped fuel homophobia in Russia and have been justified by the Russian President as protecting conservative family values against the ‘genderless and infertile tolerance’ that has grown in the  West. 

This conservative turn in Russia has been replicated in other countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). In Poland the Catholic Church has rejected the mild liberal turn taking place in the Vatican and declared war on ‘gender theory’. Gender has become a ubiquitous term for the conservative right, bringing together diverse issues such as sexual identity, contraception, equality, abortion, in-vitro treatment, etc. Presently, the conservative right (including many in Citizens Platform - PO) has been engaged in trying stop the passing of laws that outlaw discrimination against lesbian and gays in the EU and defending ‘traditional family values’ in Poland. 

An awkward political alliance has been formed on this question, uniting Catholic right-wing conservatives in Poland with those governing in the Kremlin. Both see themselves as opposing the spread of liberal values from the west, and rather ironically attempt to uphold the official social conservative stance to sexuality that was propagated during Communism.  

This rise of conservative ideology  is not occurring in a social vacuum. In Russia the laws were passed with virtually no opposition in parliament and are supported by the vast majority of the population. In Poland, despite society gradually becoming more liberal on issues of lesbian and gay rights, around 60% of society still oppose allowing same-sex legal partnerships. To some extent, the preservation of conservative attitudes on this issue is one of the failures of Communism, which entrenched the idea that homosexuality is abnormal and a western deviation. Moreover, it reflects the limitations of liberalism, where cultural liberalism has been combined with the precepts of neo-liberal economics. The ideals of individual tolerance have become the symbolic property of a privileged section of society, which excludes the vast majority. In response, large sections of society have fallen back on the certainties of traditional conservative values. 

Whilst the criticisms made against this conservative ideology are correct and necessary, the hypocrisy of the West is evident. Obama may describe the laws passed in Russia as being unacceptable but we hear no similar denunciation of America’s ally Saudi Arabia where homosexuality is both outlawed and punishable by death. The calls for a boycott of the Olympics are reminiscent of the exaggerated and stereotyped representation of the problem of racism in Poland and Ukraine made before Euro2012. There is a certain neo-colonial smugness, that sees those in the east as uneducated hordes who have not yet caught up with the west’s civilised attitudes. 

This viewpoint also represents an idealised view of life in the West. For example, in 1988 Margaret Thatcher’s government introduced laws that were almost identical to those recently passed in Russia and were only repealed in 2003. In the 1980s, those supporting equal rights for lesbians and gays in Britain were termed the ‘loony left’ and were a minority even in the Labour Party. Homophobia remains a serious problem in the West and any advances that have been made have been hard won and certainly not handed down by a benign liberal elite. 

The mainstream conservative right in the West can no longer use homophobia as its ideological weapon, as society has generally moved beyond it on this issue. Yet in these times of economic difficulty, a scapegoat is needed to turn attention away from the regressive economic policies of austerity and follow the tried and trusted strategy of ‘divide and rule’. The chosen culprits are immigrants.
Whilst the conservative right in the east of Europe fear the incursion of liberal values, those in the west of the continent see the influx of migrants as the major threat. The availability of a new pool of cheap and skilled labour from CEE has been exploited by businesses in Western Europe over the past decade. However, since the outbreak of the economic crisis these migrants have become a target for many venting their frustrations at declining living standards. The proposal of new laws restricting the right of migrants to claim benefits in Britain is part of this upsurge in anti-immigrant populism. The right-wing media paints a picture of people from the east `flooding’ the country to live off the social security system, when in fact over the past decade economic migrants from Europe have paid 34% more in tax than they have received in benefits. An atmosphere of near hysteria was whipped up before labour market restrictions were lifted on migrants from Bulgaria and Romania at the beginning of this year, although the predicted flood has turned out to be little more than a trickle. 

Within the EU, the viewpoint that borders should be closed, and the process of economic and social convergence halted, is most strongly held in the richer states in the west. Conversely, the most liberal and progressive stance on the movement and integration of people is held by those in CEE, including by parties of the conservative right. The dictum that ‘being determines consciousness’ is once again confirmed.

The depiction of migrants from CEE as benefit scroungers and criminals is a different version of the same conservative ideology that sees sexual equality as an unnatural deviation. It feeds on the inequalities existent in Europe and offers simplistic although misguided solutions to complex socio-economic problems. When the left is weak or succumbs to this (as to some degree the Labour Party has on immigration in Britain), so the conservative right and its retrograde ideas are strengthened.