More effective than punching a Nazi: tactics that work

Authoritarian politics has become a global crisis that requires creative, new thinking

Credit: Brian Wertheim / Unsplash

Far-right, nationalist, populist, illiberal, authoritarian: However one might describe these politicians, they are increasingly dominating the world stage. They’ve been called a “security threat” and compared to climate change — a global crisis in need of a global response. The outline of what such a response might look like is beginning to take shape, as seen in these articles from prominent media outlets.

Authoritarian politicians are a “global security threat,” writes Jonah Shepp in a recent op-ed for New York Magazine. To know the near-future, he suggests looking to recent events in Austria, where government officials sympathetic to far-right groups illegally seized records from a domestic intelligence agency, including the identities of informants within far-right, extremists groups, jeopardizing domestic terrorism investigations. And yet, as Shepp demonstrates, Austria is far from a global outlier. “So don’t look at what’s happening in Austria and say it couldn’t happen here,” Shepp writes, “it already is.”

For The Nation, John Feffer characterizes rising authoritarianism as a global crisis that requires international cooperation. Feffer worries that progressive tactics rely too much on the “guardrails” of democracy, which authoritarians begin to erode as soon as they step foot in office. “Environmentalists understand that unprecedented change requires an unprecedented response,” Feffer writes. “To deal with the threat of political climate change, a similarly international, broad-based, and fundamentally new approach is called for.”

Polish activists Karolina Wigura and Jaroslaw Kuisz might be the example to follow in combatting illiberalism. In a recent New York Times op-ed, they share three lessons gleaned from their work: First, to find areas of consensus among non-right-wing, populist parties, and to set aside differences in favor of compromise. Second, to spend less time reacting to political provocations on social media, and more time building a long-term strategic plan. Finally, to invigorate voters with stories of optimism and hope that goes beyond a return to the way things were “before the illiberals.” These suggestions can be applied locally, but they could also form the basis of the kind of global strategy Feffer outlines.

In other news:

Is the answer to global warming to reduce the work week to a mere nine hours? That’s the conclusion of one study by the think tank Autonomy. Read more at The Guardian.

A recent win on same-sex marriage in Taiwan could have reverberations throughout Asia, as the country demonstrates that LGBTQ movement can be in alignment with traditional Asian values. Read more in The Washington Post.

Magnolia Mother’s Trust is a model for an unconditional income: small amounts of regularly distributed financial support without any work requirements or other demands. The pilot is small: 20 families in Jackson, Mississippi, are each receiving $1,000 a month for 12 months. But the program could pave the way for more systemic racial justice programs. Read more in The New York Times.

Jessica McKenzie

Jessica McKenzie is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, NY. Previously, she was the managing editor of the civic technology news site Civicist and interned at The Nation magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @jessimckenzi.

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