Academia in Dialogue: Rise of Far-Right and Identity Politics

From 7th to 11th of September, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Regional Dialogue Southeast Europe and the Institute for Democratic Engagement Southeast Europe (IDESE) continued the Think Engaged: Academia in Dialogue series.

The second online edition of Academia in Dialogue this year was titled „ Rise of Far-Right and Identity Politics: (South-East) European Experiences“. The sessions had the primary objective to start a substantial regional dialogue on this topic, provide evidence on the far-right movements and offer actionable policy recommendations that can change the existing situation and strengthen democracy.

In the first online session, titled “Post-ideological politics: how to revive ideology?” the participants discussed the broader ideological background of far-right organizations and actors, and how they interact with (neoliberal) post-ideological power politics. They have also discussed the wide range of aspects, including the different framing and the different contexts and impacts of identity politics. The discusants concluded that there are many countries where the far-right is still very much on the rise and that the far-right openly and/or indirectly attacks liberal democracies as a model for societies.

The fight over defining the far-right and controversies over the terms give us space to understand the threat better, because the far-right disguises itself by claiming to be the “real and only” democrats. The far-right uses spaces given through democratic institutions, to undermine those institutions and democracy in general. The participants agreed that the progressive forces have to realize that we are in a time where practice comes first, not discourse.

The second session “Between West and East: “Right-Wing International” in Southeast Europe” discussed the international influence as an essential influence on the far-right in the  SEE region. The participants deliberated about connections of the far-right groups in the region, with their equivalents in other parts of Europe and the world.

In the third and last online session in this series, “On far-right tactics, tools and strategies: Between ideology and pragmatism”, participants discussed specific tools and strategies of the far-right in Southeast Europe. The participants agreed that the internationalization of space is one of the main tactics and tools of the far-right in general. The fact that there are far-right groups that are in conflict with each other, but nonetheless participate together in events and gatherings, show, according to the participants, how flexible these groups actually are and that the construction of the “other” is in that sense much stronger and above the conflicts that they may have amongst each other. All three online sessions were streamed live on Facebook.

The three web-seminars were just a first step in this project line, which the FES SOE plans on developing throughout this and next year. The “Academia in Dialogue” series will continue in 2020 with a live Forum in Belgrade, which is due to take place in November. The AiD Forum will offer an opportunity to further discuss identity politics and the rise of the far-right and build upon conclusions of the three online sessions.

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