Left and Right in a Divided Europe

Written by Sam Vaknin

Even as West European countries seemed to have edged torepparttar right ofrepparttar 125930 political map - all three polities of central Europe lurched torepparttar 125931 left. Socialists were elected to replace economically successful right wing governments in Poland, Hungary and, recently, inrepparttar 125932 Czech Republic.

This apparent schism is, indeed, merely an apparition. The differences between reformed left and new right in both parts ofrepparttar 125933 continent have blurred torepparttar 125934 point of indistinguishability. French socialists have privatized more than their conservative predecessors. The Tories still complain bitterly that Tony Blair, with his nondescript "Third Way", has stolen their thunder.

Nor arerepparttar 125935 "left" and "right" ideologically monolithic and socially homogeneous continental movements. The central European left is more preoccupied with a social - dare I say socialist - agenda than any of its Western coreligionists. Equally,repparttar 125936 central European right is less individualistic, libertarian, religious, and conservative than any of its Western parallels - and much more nationalistic and xenophobic. It sometimes echoesrepparttar 125937 far right in Western Europe - rather thanrepparttar 125938 center-right, mainstream, middle-class orientated parties in power.

Moreover,repparttar 125939 right's victories in Western Europe - in Spain, Denmark,repparttar 125940 Netherlands, Italy - are not without a few important exceptions - notably Britain and, perhaps, come September, Germany. Nor isrepparttar 125941 left's clean sweep ofrepparttar 125942 central European electoral slate either complete or irreversible. Withrepparttar 125943 exception ofrepparttar 125944 outgoing Czech government, not one party in this volatile region has ever remained in power for more than one term. Murmurs of discontent are already audible in Poland and Hungary.

Left and right are imported labels with little explanatory power or relevance to central Europe. To fathomrepparttar 125945 political dynamics of this region, one must realize thatrepparttar 125946 core countries of central Europe (the Czech Republic, Hungary and, to a lesser extent, Poland) experienced industrial capitalism inrepparttar 125947 inter-war period. Thus, a political taxonomy based on urbanization and industrialization may prove to be more powerful thanrepparttar 125948 classic left-right dichotomy.


The enmity betweenrepparttar 125949 urban andrepparttar 125950 bucolic has deep historical roots. Whenrepparttar 125951 teetering Roman Empire fell torepparttar 125952 Barbarians (410-476 AD), five centuries of existential insecurity and mayhem ensued. Vassals pledged allegiance and subservience to local lords in return for protection against nomads and marauders. Trading was confined to fortified medieval cities.

Even as it petered out inrepparttar 125953 west, feudalism remained entrenched inrepparttar 125954 prolix codices and patents ofrepparttar 125955 Habsburg Austro-Hungarian empire which encompassed central Europe and collapsed only in 1918. Well intorepparttar 125956 twentieth century,repparttar 125957 majority ofrepparttar 125958 denizens of these moribund swathes ofrepparttar 125959 continent workedrepparttar 125960 land. This feudal legacy of a brobdignagian agricultural sector in, for instance, Poland - now hampersrepparttar 125961 EU accession talks.

Vassals were little freer than slaves. In comparison, burghers,repparttar 125962 inhabitants ofrepparttar 125963 city, were liberated fromrepparttar 125964 bondage ofrepparttar 125965 feudal labour contract. As a result, they were able to acquire private possessions andrepparttar 125966 city acted as supreme guarantor of their property rights. Urban centers relied on trading and economic might to obtain and secure political autonomy.

John of Paris, arguably one ofrepparttar 125967 first capitalist cities (at least according to Braudel), wrote: "(The individual) had a right to property which was not with impunity to be interfered with by superior authority - because it was acquired by (his) own efforts" (in Georges Duby, "The age ofrepparttar 125968 Cathedrals: Art and Society, 980-1420, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1981). Max Weber, in his opus, "The City" (New York, MacMillan, 1958) wrote optimistically about urbanization: "The medieval citizen was onrepparttar 125969 way towards becoming an economic man ...repparttar 125970 ancient citizen was a political man."

But communism halted this process. It frozerepparttar 125971 early feudal frame of mind of disdain and derision towards "non-productive", "city-based" vocations. Agricultural and industrial occupations were romantically extolled by communist parties everywhere. The cities were berated as hubs of moral turpitude, decadence and greed. Ironically, avowed anti-communist right wing populists, like Hungary's former prime minister, Orban, sought to propagate these sentiments, to their electoral detriment.

Communism was an urban phenomenon - but it abnegated its "bourgeoisie" pedigree. Private property was replaced by communal ownership. Servitude torepparttar 125972 state replaced individualism. Personal mobility was severely curtailed. In communism, feudalism was restored.

Very likerepparttar 125973 Church inrepparttar 125974 Middle Ages, communism sought to monopolize and permeate all discourse, all thinking, and all intellectual pursuits. Communism was characterized by tensions between party, state andrepparttar 125975 economy - exactly asrepparttar 125976 medieval polity was plagued by conflicts between church, king and merchants-bankers.

In communism, political activism was a precondition for advancement and, too often, for personal survival. John of Salisbury might as well have been writing for a communist agitprop department when he penned this in "Policraticus" (1159 AD): "...if (rich people, people with private property) have been stuffed through excessive greed and if they hold in their contents too obstinately, (they) give rise to countless and incurable illnesses and, through their vices, can bring aboutrepparttar 125977 ruin ofrepparttar 125978 body as a whole". The body inrepparttar 125979 text beingrepparttar 125980 body politic.

Workers, both industrial and agricultural, were lionized and idolized in communist times. Withrepparttar 125981 implosion of communism, these frustrated and angry rejects of a failed ideology spawned many grassroots political movements, lately in Poland, inrepparttar 125982 form of "Self Defence". Their envied and despised enemies arerepparttar 125983 well-educated,repparttar 125984 intellectuals,repparttar 125985 self-proclaimed new elite,repparttar 125986 foreigner,repparttar 125987 minority,repparttar 125988 rich, andrepparttar 125989 remote bureaucrat in Brussels.

Like inrepparttar 125990 West,repparttar 125991 hinterland tends to supportrepparttar 125992 right. Orban's Fidesz lost in Budapest inrepparttar 125993 recent elections - but scored big in villages and farms throughout Hungary. Agrarian and peasant parties abound in all three central European countries and often holdrepparttar 125994 balance of power in coalition governments.

A Letter of Congratulation to George Bush

Written by Arthur Zulu

Dear Bush,

I must first of all apologize for not including my address on this letter. In this age of terrorism, one should be wary of disclosing private addresses in public places. So I decided to send you this mail from "an undisclosed secret location."

The purpose of my writing you, however, is to congratulate you for your "decisive" victory inrepparttar November election. You must see what I am doing this moment—playing my ukulele in my garden and singing "God Bless America." Do you know how to play musical instruments?

But I do not even think that that is necessary. For did Bob Kerry not gad about town twanging his guitar with his right fingers and wiping big drops of sweat withrepparttar 125929 left? Didn't know that gals don't like sweaters. And lost badly. I heard he wept profusely too. Was that true? He thought thatrepparttar 125930 ability to play musical instruments win elections, just because Bill Clinton "saxophoned" your dad out of office. But Kerry wasn't Bill.

You have shown that you have guts, and that only gung-ho men rule America. For did you not bungee jump fromrepparttar 125931 top floor of Empire State Buildingrepparttar 125932 other day while singingrepparttar 125933 Star-Spangled Banner--landing unscathed at ground zero and blowing hot kisses to cheering spectators. You might protest enacting such "kamikaze" acts, but that was exactly what you did when you single handedly "vanished" ALL those BEASTS who brought downrepparttar 125934 World Trade Center and flew them blindfolded with their arms chained to their seats for RE-EDUCATION at Guantanamo. And endeared yourself torepparttar 125935 hearts of Americans ever after.

So, why didrepparttar 125936 Democrats suddenly dream uprepparttar 125937 word "electability" and thought that Kerry wasrepparttar 125938 "best thing" to happen to America just because he saved ONE fellow soldier from drowning in a river in far away Vietnam. And they even downplayed your role inrepparttar 125939 war. Or did you not fight?

But all that is history, now. You are electable, Kerry is not. Period. And many of your detractors, not justrepparttar 125940 Democrats, will be put to shame.

Let's considerrepparttar 125941 friends ofrepparttar 125942 earth. Just beforerepparttar 125943 election, they prayed to see your back, saying that you had betterrepparttar 125944 earth perished than honorrepparttar 125945 Kyoto Agreement. But now you won! Do not take them serious.

The earth is gong to die, anyway. TIME magazine gives it about 4 billion years to go. If it doesn't stop turning, a stray asteroid from outer space might just as well kiss it a hasty goodbye.

What do they even do in those earth summits than watch half-naked dancing virgins, gulp down multi-colored wines, swallow exotic meals and leaverepparttar 125946 earth to groan in pains. And yet they say you arerepparttar 125947 earth's mortal enemy.

Even some world leaders (particularly those inrepparttar 125948 EU), and big time politicians are disappointed that you are still around. Not a few of them regard you as a self-willed and strong-headed man. Nelson Mandela who used a word that sounded like "psychopath" andrepparttar 125949 former German official, who called you a "nazi," will be most disappointed. Chirac and Schroder--old Europeans--would weep like babies.

Your list of enemies is a fairly long one (I hope you are keeping a black book). Because Nobel laureates—even these ones—have joinedrepparttar 125950 infamous register. Just beforerepparttar 125951 election a group of them signed a statement calling on all Americans to remove you. Because you are world enemy number one. Imagine such a statement coming fromrepparttar 125952 most distinguished persons on earth. Now, they are walking with their tails between their legs.

Come to think of it, Bush, Did some of them meritrepparttar 125953 award? I know that they would equally ask if you deservedrepparttar 125954 victory. But seriously speaking, was it not Alfred Nobel who inventedrepparttar 125955 explosives, which they now say that you are using to "dynamite" people at random? Don't mind their hypocrisy. Not that you are even itching to be awardedrepparttar 125956 prestigious prize. Damn them!

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