Donald Trump could rise to the most powerful position in the United States and the world, but would not have survived the sifting that politicians in St. Vincent and the Grenadines go through, and, therefore, would not have become the nation’s prime minister.
That is the view of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves as expressed at a press conference on Monday.
His comments came as he was asked to comment on the rise of the far-right internationally and the implication for Caribbean nations, including SVG.
Over the past few years, right-wing governments have come to office in the United States, Brazil, The Philippines, and other capitals and right-wing politics is on the rise in a number of countries across the world.
“I could tell you this. Donald trump could not have been elected prime minister in St. Vincent and the Grenadines because we have a party system which sifts people, twist you inside out and there are people who would be saying — one or two people with money already tried to get themselves catapulted into office you know. But ordinary people twist them, sift them, and, finally, they say to themselves, ‘fool a talk but nah fool a listen’,” he said.
Gonsalves, a leftist leader who says his Unity Labour Party administration is social democratic, said that the rise of the far right is cyclical, but it is a complicated thing to figure out why it arises in some countries and not in others.
According to Wikipedia, far-right politics includes but is not limited to aspects of authoritarianism, anti-communism and nativism
This political philosophy that claims that superior people should have greater rights than inferior people is often associated with the far right.
The far right has historically favoured an elitist society based on its belief in the legitimacy of the rule of a supposed superior minority over the inferior masses.
Gonsalves said there are some general statements that one can make to understand the rise of the far right.
“Usually, a significant number of persons would feel that they are left out of a process, whether the process is globalisation, modern capitalism, monopoly capitalism, and they have a sense of grievance that there are no avenues proper for their own voice.
“And when it gets to leadership at a particular point in time, it erupts, but there has to be some material base for it.”
Gonsalves said that sometimes, ineffective government gives rise to the far right.
“What I worry about in our own Caribbean context is the way in which right wing postulates are given currency by some persons who are quote-unquote educated.”
Among these “ring wing postulates”, Gonsalves mentioned, “‘Don’t worry about anything called solidarity. We must enthrone the individual as individual so issues of political parties are nonsense, we mustn’t have them. What we must have are individuals of brilliance and substances; individuals to rise up.’
“Some even talk about a no-party democracy,” he said.
“Well, we once had a no-party democracy. It’s called colonialism. Some people would want to take us back to that because solidarity prevents the enthronement of their interest; solidarity among working people and peasants and fisher folk.
“And then you have the same idea, ‘Don’t bother about trade unions. Trade unions only take your money, they don’t bother with you otherwise. Where you going with that for; trade unions’ time has passed.’”
The prime minister said these persons also denigrate their own.
“And they see nothing of value around them and they find something else somewhere to attach some value to. Sometimes, they may attach it to some abstraction. It may be a religious belief of some kind. It happens on the left too or the authoritarian left.”
Among the right wing leaders that have emerged recently is Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who won the presidency by a decisive margin.
He follows on the heels of left-wing leaders, Dilma Vana Rousseff who served from 2011 until her impeachment and removal from office in 2016, and Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, who has been changed amidst a wide-ranging corruption scandal.
Asked if the thinks the rise of the far right is also as a result of “the failure of the left”, Gonsalves said:
“Well, the point is this, it depends on how you define on the left. And each country has its own history. I don’t want to get involved in each individual country and saying in Brazil why it is that the current president arose.”
He, however, said that Brazil, historically, had some “rightist tendencies”, adding that there was the “social democratic left” in the form of da Silva and Rousseff.
“It may well be that the programmes which were advanced by Dilma and the way they were organised politically that they allowed space for other ideas to come into the working people and get hold of them: wanting to have the strong man to emerge,” he said.
Gonsalves said that the nature of a party organisation could also help or hinder.
“It is very easy in a presidential system for a rich individual or popular musician, without any real party support base to emerge and people could manipulate such popular individual to come to office, to come to power. But you raise a very complicated issue. It’s an issue that should be discussed.”
Gonsalves said that in his 20 years as leader of the ULP so far, he always tells his colleagues “the gains which we have made are capable of reversal.
“And this is why you have to organise on the ground and you have to educate people about certain principles, including solidarity. If you do that and you have that message going all the time, I am hoping, I am making a contribution to this discussion in a full-length book but solidarity, in this case, among the working people,” he said.