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The rise of the far right- building a trade union response

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
The internationalisation of the far-right

That the far right poses a serious, growing threat is acknowledged by all genuine democrats. Whether the right will return to fascism is uncertain. The circumstances of today are very different to those of the interwar years, and the far right is a much more fluid and complex phenomenon. But there are also important parallels and similarities, not least the recurring themes of economic crisis, political instability and reaction. Just as it would be a mistake to regard all forms of right-wing radicalism as fascism, so it would be wrong to view fascism as remote, historically defeated or a constantly shrinking component of the far right. Instead, it is better to recognise that the “processes producing actual fascist, material mechanisms” are being generated now within the far-right family and society at large.[1] What follows is an attempt to identify some of these dynamics, assess the strength of the far right and provide an indication of the overall direction of travel.

4.1 The European parliamentary landscape

The 2019 European election results did not produce the far-right surge that many in the commentariat had feared. Instead they revealed a pattern of uneven growth for the far-right family (see Table 1 below). Among the big winners were Orbán’s Fidesz, which took more than half the vote, and Matteo Salvini, whose Lega party won more than a third of the vote and seats to cement its position as Italy’s biggest political force. Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National also narrowly topped the poll, laying down a marker for the 2022 French presidential election. In Poland, the governing PiS also won big, while there were gains for various new parties of the far right, among them the AfD, the People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) and the Vox party in Spain. The four big losers were the Danish People’s Party, Jobbik, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and Geert Wilders’ PVV, which saw its vote absorbed by the newly established Forum for Democracy (FvD).

The big story in the UK was, of course, the triumph of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, a single-issue vehicle with no political programme, democratic structure or membership.[2] As the name implies, the Brexit Party ran on the promise to deliver a clean and swift exit from the EU, and presented the election as a referendum on the issue. The results showed that the Brexit Party cannibalised and surpassed the 2014 vote of Farage’s former party, the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP), winning 30.5 per cent of the vote share and 29 of the UK’s 73 seats. One major consequence of this election was to embolden the hard right within the Tories and pave the way for Boris Johnson’s ascent to the position of party leader, on the promise to leave the EU with or without a deal.

Table 1: Far-right vote share in European Parliament elections: selected countries



2014 vote share

2019 vote share



Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ)





Vlaams Belang









Czech Republic

Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD)





Danish People’s Party (DF)





Conservative People’s Party (EKKRE)





Finns Party (PS)





Rass (RN)





Alternative for Germany (AfD)





Golden Dawn














Brothers of Italy









Party for Freedom (PVV)




Forum for Democracy (FvD)





Law and Justice (PiS)





People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS)










Sweden Democrats





Brexit Party

27.0 (UKIP)



Altogether, the picture to emerge from the European elections was one of a more fragmented and delicately balanced parliamentary system, with the big traditional centre-left and centre-right blocs losing votes and seats in various directions. Parties of the far right are now spread across three different parliamentary groupings: the European People’s Party; the Conservatives and Reformists (of which the Conservative Party remained a member up until Brexit); and the newly established Identity and Democracy grouping headed by Salvini and Le Pen, which has just 10 per cent of all MEPs. This fragmentation means that the far right’s direct influence over lawmaking will remain limited. More significant is the powerful rightward pull they are able to exert on centrist parties.

Yet the European elections represent only a partial indicator of the strength of the far right, in part because they are often the site of protest votes, and in part because voter turnout remains much lower than is normal in a national election, with the working class consistently abstaining in large numbers. At the national level, the far right has experienced mixed electoral fortunes in recent years. In Austria, support for the FPÖ dropped by a third in last September’s parliamentary elections, which had been triggered by a corruption scandal. This resulted in the FPÖ’s return to the opposition benches. The party also succumbed in subsequent state elections for Burgenland, before being routed in the elections for control of the capital Vienna, losing 26 of its 34 seats to become the smallest party in the legislature.

The Danish People’s Party (DF) has experienced an equally dramatic decline since winning a fifth of the popular vote in 2015. As well as losing two-thirds of its votes and three MEPs in the European election, the party lost 21 of its 37 seats in last June’s general election. A big part of the reason for this was that the Social Democrats absorbed much of the DF’s anti-immigration policies and rhetoric to go along with its defence of the welfare state.[3]

One of the headliners of the European far right, the Rassemblement National, has also gone through a challenging period. While President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche lost heavily to the Greens in France’s recent municipal elections, Le Pen’s party did not fare much better. Having taken 1,438 council seats in 463 towns during the 2014 municipal elections, this time around RN came home with a much smaller haul of 840 seats in 258 towns. In mayoral races, Le Pen’s party captured three towns and lost two, while failing to maintain control on a district town hall in Marseille. Polls indicate that Le Pen is on level terms with the faltering Macron, but a poor showing in next year’s regional elections would leave her vulnerable to challenges from disaffected elements within the party.[4]

The once-ascendant AfD in Germany is another party to have suffered recent setbacks. Polling indicates that support for the AfD has fallen from 24 per cent to 18 per cent in eastern Germany in the past year, putting it behind Merkel’s CDU and the radical left Die Linke. During this time the party’s reputation has been marred by scandals and links to racist and antisemitic violence. The rift between its fascist wing and national conservative faction has been played out in public, with the former gaining ground. This exposure is alienating voters in nearly every state with the exception of Saxony, Germany’s southernmost eastern state and AfD’s stronghold, where it is still polling at 26 per cent.[5]

Salvini’s Lega has faced new challenges, but remains in a comparatively strong position. Last year he brought down the ruling coalition in the hope of triggering new elections, but was forced into opposition through an unlikely alliance of the centre-left Democrat Party and the Five Star Movement. Although the right-wing coalition led by Salvini’s party failed to make an expected breakthrough in regional elections earlier this year, it nevertheless consolidated large majorities in its strongholds while coming close in left-wing heartlands such as Tuscany, even overturning a large centre-left majority to win Marche for the far-right Brothers of Italy. The coalition, which also includes Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, now controls 14 out of 20 regions, compared with just three in 2015.[6]

In other parts of Europe, the far right is consolidating or showing signs of growth. Last year saw the Vox party become the third biggest faction in the Spanish parliament, increasing its number of seats from 28 to 52. A recent national opinion poll has suggested that this could rise to 60 seats in the event of a general election.[7] The Sweden Democrats (SD) has quickly moved from the margins to cement its position as the country’s third largest party, winning 17.5 per cent of the vote and 62 seats in the Rikstag. Were the SD to receive upwards of 20 per cent in a future general election, as polls consistently suggest it might do, it would heap the pressure on centrist parties to break the cordon sanitaire and involve it in negotiations. In Finland, meanwhile, the Finns Party (PS) emerged from the 2019 parliamentary elections with a 17.5 per cent share of the vote and 39 seats, making it the largest opposition force. The PS has hardened its position in recent times, and next year’s municipal elections will provide another test of this strategy.[8]

Of the European far-right parties in power, Orbán’s Fidesz and the PiS have enjoyed the greatest electoral success in recent years. As we have seen, Fidesz has managed to monopolise the right to win more than half the Hungarian vote in the European Parliament elections and secure a third consecutive supermajority at a national level. The PiS also matched its European election performance by winning a second term in government, followed by the re-election of its hardline president, Andrzej Duda, in July of this year. In the case of Hungary, however, the government’s claim to legitimacy has been undermined by the steady drift towards authoritarianism, and there are signs of Poland following suit. These are but two (hardline) examples of a trend whereby authoritarian and anti-democratic governing practices have become more visible across the capitalist world.

4.2 Authoritarian neoliberalism and far-right regimes: case studies

Neoliberalism has always relied on authoritarian discourses and practices but the intensification of crises of different kinds and changing patterns of resistance have led to an increasingly authoritarian form of neoliberal governance, characterised by permanent austerity and increased state repression.[9] This authoritarian evolution of neoliberalism has coincided with re-emergence of the far right across the globe. Below we present case studies that explore the interaction between authoritarian neoliberalism and far-right ideologies in different contexts.


4.2.1 Hungary and Poland

Hungary and Poland (pdf version)

Fidesz came to power in 2010 on the back of a popular backlash against austerity and the disastrous outcomes of the ‘transition’ process. In the decade that has passed since that first election, Orbán has presided over the fundamental transformation of Hungarian society. But although he pledged to overturn neoliberalism and austerity, his regime has in fact deepened it in many ways. For example, Orbán’s tax policies have been purposely designed to benefit the most well off. Only a few short months into his first term, Orbán introduced a series of reforms that replaced Hungary’s progressive income tax system with a regressive 16 per cent flat tax rate. The government’s attitude to corporations has also evolved in a more neoliberal direction. While the state has engaged in partial nationalisation and worked to cultivate a national business class – increasingly synonymous with handing public monies and tenders to loyal politicians and oligarchs – this has been accompanied by the introduction of Europe’s most generous corporate welfare systems for multinationals. Since 2017, Hungary has had a flat corporate rate of 9 per cent, the lowest in the EU.[1] It has also emerged as the highest-spending member state on corporate subsidies, the bulk of which is going to German car manufacturers such as Audi, Mercedes and BMW.[2]

Since 1989, and especially since the 2004 EU accession round, German capital has invested heavily in Visegrád countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) because of their geographical proximity, low labour costs (one quarter of German levels), labour market ‘flexibility’ and weak trade unions. Trade union density in Hungary is under 10 per cent, spread across five federations, and Orbán has worked closely with business interests to introduce legislation that promotes flexibilisation while diminishing the rights of workers and trade unions. Institutional guarantees to collective bargaining have been weakened, tripartite labour relations bodies abolished and restrictions have been placed on the right to strike, contributing to a steady decline in industrial action.[3]

As of 2019, Hungary had one of the highest scores in the EU in terms of employment flexibility.[4] This came with the adoption of a controversial ‘slave law’ that allows companies to demand 400 hours of overtime per year, for which payment can be delayed for up to three years. The ‘slave law’ was widely understood to be a response to growing labour shortages caused by the absorption of workers into public works programmes, Orbán’s restrictive immigration policies and high levels of emigration to the West. Significantly, many argue that this spike in emigration has been fuelled by the government’s decision to embrace austerity, with significant cuts to health, education and social welfare resulting in falling living standards for the mass of the population.[5]

The radical retrenchment of Hungary’s social welfare provisions has also signalled a shift towards a punitive ‘workfare state’. ‘Family’, ‘work’, ‘order’, ‘nation’ – the values written into the new Hungarian Constitution – provide the guiding framework for this ‘workfare’ system, where the unemployed are forced to carry out hard labour, often under police supervision. In addition, Hungary’s system is based on the racialisation of poverty, since the Roma are disproportionately impoverished and excluded from the labour market.[6] Similarly, the decision to enshrine the criminalisation of homelessness in the Constitution is targeted mainly at subordinating those on the margins of society – migrants, refugees and the Roma, who constitute a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population. While clear parallels can be drawn between this system and those introduced in other European states, there is little doubt that Orbán’s government is at the forefront of instituting a new carceral order.

Anti-immigration rhetoric and practices

Orbán’s targeting of the Roma population, which includes segregated housing and education, forms part of a broader strategy “to steer popular sentiments of dispossession and disenfranchisement against internal and external ‘enemies’”.[7] In 2015, amid a worsening ‘refugee crisis’, Orbán moved to sharply criticise the EU’s immigration policy and stoke fears about a largely unknown ‘other’, presenting himself as the defender of Christian Europe. He warned that those fleeing the Middle East and Syria were not refugees, but economic migrants and terrorists send by Islamic State to wreak havoc and spread disease. Measures to restrict immigration were presented as necessary to protect the Hungarian “way of life, our culture, our customs and our Christian traditions”. This rhetoric had an enormous impact on public opinion, helping to create a permissive environment for measures targeting refugees. These measures included the erection of a large razor wire fence along its borders with Croatia and Serbia, patrolled by soldiers with the authority to use deadly force; laws to make it easier to reject asylum applications and to criminalise illegal entry; and new powers to push migrants back across the border without the need for arrest or due process.[8]

Even after a dramatic reduction in the number of people seeking entry to Hungary, Orbán kept the issue alive in speeches, in the media and through government-sponsored propaganda. The government launched a ‘Stop Soros’ campaign that combined anti-immigration rhetoric with antisemitic tropes, depicting Soros as conspiring with Brussels to ‘flood’ Europe with refugees. Not only did the government force the closure of the Soros-funded Central European University, but in 2018 a Stop Soros law was introduced, criminalising individuals or organisations that help migrants gain status and imposing a 25 per cent tax on all NGOs that portray immigration in a positive light.[9] This has continued to the present day, with Orbán using the pandemic as an opportunity to further scapegoat migrants and indefinitely suspend the right to asylum.[10]

Radical conservatism and culture wars

In right-wing Hungary and Poland, the ratcheting up of anti-immigrant and anti-refugee politics has been closely linked with a renewal of radical conservatism and escalating culture wars. One mark of Orbán’s success is that he has managed to implant Christian-national ideas in the official state vision for Hungary, a country with historically low levels of religious observance. The Hungarian Constitution, enacted in early 2011, is peppered with references to ‘God’, the ‘Holy Crown of St. Stephen’, the ‘fatherland’ and ‘traditional’ family values, inserting religious rhetoric and practices into all aspects of public life and policy-making.[11] This has brought far-reaching changes in a relatively short space of time: religion has become a foundational aspect of citizenship studies; faith-based organisations now occupy a central role in schools and the provision of care services; and new faith-based universities have been established with generous state funding.[12]

Anti-feminist and anti-LGBT+ framings have also been mainstreamed in public discourse and government policy. Gender studies and feminist studies have been banned in universities, and the government has refused to ratify the 2011 Istanbul Convention to combat violence against women, arguing that it promotes “destructive gender ideologies” and “illegal immigration”.[13] Orbán’s government has increasingly turned to anti-LGBT+ rhetoric in a bid to shore up support. Most recently, the government has banned legal gender recognition for transgender and intersex people, and proposed legislation that would permit only opposite-sex couples to adopt. This is widely seen as part of a strategy to appeal to Orbán’s conservative nationalist base in the midst of a pandemic that has, as of November 2020, left Hungary with the third highest death rate in Europe and facing into a major economic crisis.[14]

Poland has followed a similar path in the short five years that Jarosław Kaczyński’s ultraconservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has been in office, first as a single-party government (2015–19) and since 2019 with the support of junior partners. With the backing of the still-powerful Church, the PiS has sought to align government policy with Catholic teaching and (re)assert the link between Polish national identity and Catholicism. In the area of socio-economic policy, for instance, the government’s expansionary welfare programmes have been oriented to promote ‘family values’.[15] But it is in the sphere of gender politics and social rights that the Polish government has most clearly demonstrated its radical conservatism. A campaign against ‘gender ideology’ was a key aspect of the 2015 election, leading the PiS to make commitments to restrict sexual and reproductive rights. Since then the intensification of state and church-sponsored anti-LGBT+ rhetoric has created a climate in which violent attacks and ‘LGBT-free zones’ are more prevalent, with the EU now asking questions as to whether these zones are violating European laws on minority rights. Meanwhile, in a bid to boost the coalition and mobilise the party rank and file, the PiS has recently deployed the constitutional court to introduce an effective ban on abortion, sparking a new wave of protests across the country.[16]

Culture wars are also being played out on the battlefield of historical memory. For the past decade Orbán’s government has been steadily rewriting the country’s national history to portray Hungary as the victim of Nazi occupation and rehabilitate the antisemitic regime of Miklos Horthy (1919–44), which collaborated with Hitler and participated in the murder of some 500,000 Hungarian Jews. This politicisation of Horthy’s reign is part of an effort to connect with Hungary’s pre-communist past and construct a particular understanding of the Hungarian nation. Statues have been erected in honour of politicians linked to Horthy, laws have been introduced criminalising the insulting or demeaning of national symbols, and the Veritas Research Institute and Archive has been established to promote a revisionist and right-wing version of Hungarian history.[17] Even the school curriculum has been rewritten to reflect a particular right-wing nationalist narrative, leading teachers to protest with slogans such as ‘I will not teach fascism’.[18]

For its part, the PiS has focused principally on the reconstruction and regulation of public memory through the law. The so-called decommunisaton law enacted in 2016 provided for the dismantling of communist-era monuments and the renaming of streets, while the ‘Holocaust law’ of 2018 sought to penalise statements that implied Polish participation or complicity in Nazi crimes. Though it has since been watered down, this “prejudice-mongering” law has had a polarising impact on Polish society, feeding deeply entrenched views of the country’s national history.[19]

Democracy and the rule of law

The authoritarian drift of Hungary and Poland under their respective governments has been most evident where the functioning of democratic institutions and rule of law is concerned. Following his election in 2010, Orbán wasted no time in appointing friends and loyal party apparatchiks to key posts including President of the Republic, the State Audit Office and the Constitutional Court, as well as top positions in cultural and educational institutions. In the first 18 months of its mandate, the Orbán government passed some 363 laws to restructure the state’s major public institutions and cement its position, including substantial reforms to the judicial system, central bank and electoral system. The government also established the National Media and Info-communications Authority, whose five-member council is elected by the Fidesz-dominated parliament, with the power to deny media outlets a licence and impose fines on journalists and media outlets for publishing “improper” articles. In addition, the Orbán regime decided to strengthen the repressive apparatus of the state by establishing a new counter-terrorism force, the TEK, which effectively functions as Orbán’s private army.[20]

It is clear that conditions in Hungary have deteriorated significantly over the past number of years, not just with regard to Orbán’s rhetoric but in different areas relating to democracy, the rule of law and equality. The World Justice Project’s annual Rule of Law Index has established that in Hungary respect for the rule of law was worse overall in 2019 than in 2015, especially when it came to constraints on government powers (ie checks and balances) as well as equal treatment and non-discrimination.[21] Observers from the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) found that Hungary’s 2018 elections “were characterized by a pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources, undermining contestants’ ability to compete on an equal basis”, and expressed particular concerns with the level of intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing.[22]

Media ownership has become highly concentrated and fallen under political direction. Not only does the public media have a clear pro-government bias, but it is estimated that 90 per cent of all media is now directly or indirectly controlled by Fidesz. The Media Pluralism Monitor, a risk assessment tool measuring media pluralism in Europe, has deemed Hungary to be ‘high risk’ when it comes to media and the democratic electoral process.[23] Hungary has also steadily dropped down the World Press Freedom Index rankings since Orbán returned to power, from 56th (out of 180) in 2013 to 89th today.[24]

The coronavirus crisis has provided Orbán with the opportunity – and the necessity – to further consolidate his grip on power. Under the cover of the pandemic he has pushed through pet projects, expanded Fidesz’s control of the arts and legislated jail terms for those convicted of ‘spreading falsehoods’ relating to Covid-19. In March, a ‘Coronavirus Law’ was introduced that declared a state of emergency, allowing Orbán to rule by decree. Although the state of emergency has ended, the government has retained a legislative provision that would enable it to rule by decree in future public health emergencies.[25]

Orbán has spent the past few years batting away the criticisms of human rights organisations and EU bodies, which have censured his government several times to little effect. However, tensions between Budapest and Brussels have now intensified following the launch of the European Commission’s inaugural Rule of Law Report, which levies heavy criticisms at the Hungarian government while expressing serious concerns about the erosion of judicial independence in Poland.[26] Crucially, this comes at a time when the European Parliament and European Council are in negotiations to link the distribution of EU funds to respect for the rule of law – something Hungary and Poland have so far managed to resist. How this dispute plays out will not only determine whether the EU budget and coronavirus recovery package secures approval but will also have a major bearing on the future direction of the EU project.

4.2.2 Turkey

Turkey (pdf version)

Recep Erdoğan’s Turkey has been described as “a capitalist nightmare: a triad of neoliberal economics, political despotism, and Islamist conservatism”.[27] In 2002, when the newly formed Justice and Development Party (AKP) swept to victory with a two-thirds parliamentary majority, it pledged to take swift action to resolve the country’s deepening financial crisis and the accompanying problems of political instability and corruption that had plagued the Turkish state for years. Yet, the AKP’s economic policies did not differ much from what came before. Continuing with the IMF-backed austerity measures that had been adopted by the preceding coalition, the AKP embarked on a rapid programme of economic liberalisation that included privatisation of state assets, contractionary monetary policy and labour-market flexibilisation. These measures, coupled with Erdoğan’s swift diplomatic overtures to the EU and US, were geared towards attracting foreign capital and integrating Turkey’s export economy into the world market.

In the first 15 years of AKP rule, Turkey experienced an influx of FDI and thousands of foreign companies and entered the OECD’s ‘Privatisation Top 10’ list for its large-scale sale of state assets. Capital flows into the country, along with access to cheap credit, also helped to fuel new patterns of consumption, urbanisation and a huge construction boom. The AKP’s neoliberal transformation of the economy produced a period of high growth, leading commentators to make favourable comparisons between Turkey and the BRICS.[28]

However, this ‘economic miracle’ rested on shaky foundations. To begin with, the model was heavily dependent on rocketing capital inflows to support private speculation, with banks and big firms borrowing heavily in foreign currency to sustain their chase for quick profits. It was also based on a consumer boom fuelled by an explosion of household debt. This helped to mask what was a period of jobless growth, marked by falling wages and rising inequality. Another cushion was provided through the widening of social welfare measures to cover hitherto excluded sections of the working class, complemented by the expansion of social assistance offered by religious charities.[29] These policies were implemented in parallel with a broader process of dispossession, involving the retrenchment of access to land and housing and the commodification of the commons.[30]

In the case of Turkey, as elsewhere across the globe, the country’s economic transformation was based on the creation of a disciplined, low-cost and disposable labour force with limited rights and little recourse to collective trade union action. The persistence of high unemployment generated the economic conditions in which large numbers of people could be forced into low-paid, informal and non-unionised work.[31] Laws enacted in the first decade of the Erdoğan era promoted greater labour flexibility and informal hiring practices (subcontracting, agency work etc) while strengthening the previous government’s restrictions on collective bargaining and the right to strike. As well as outlawing strikes for economic, political, sympathy and solidarity reasons, these laws empowered the state to postpone any strike for 60 days. The impact on workers and trade unions is plain to see: collective bargaining coverage more than halved from 11.9 per cent in 2002 to 5.4 per cent in 2012; trade union density plummeted from 29.4 per cent in 2001 to a low of 6.3 per cent in 2013; and labour’s share of national income fell by 25 per cent in the same period.[32]

By the 2010s, the story of Turkey’s economic success, democratisation and political stability had started to unravel. A fresh economic crisis revealed the underlying fragility and unsustainability of Turkey’s model, not least its dependence on foreign capital inflows. With escalating social unrest came moments of acute political crisis. ‘Dependent financialisation’ and liberalisation of the Turkish economy has nonetheless continued apace, drawing the country further into volatile financial systems and generating a pattern of recurring economic and political turmoil.[33] Faced with these challenges, the AKP has come to rely on increasingly authoritarian, repressive and violent modes of governance. Erdoğan has also sought to define a new form of Turkish conservatism that satisfies the AKP’s base and appeals to enough right-wing nationalists to give him the 50 per cent+ majority needed to win presidential elections and secure key constitutional changes.

Authoritarianism and right-wing nationalism

It is difficult to determine a particular date when Erdoğan’s authoritarianism became evident. But the government’s brutal reaction to the 2013 Gezi Park protests, which began as a small campaign against the destruction of a public park before mushrooming into a nationwide cycle of mass demonstrations involving millions of people, can be seen as a critical turning point. The authorities responded to the protests by deploying the police, which used live ammunition, tear gas, plastic bullets and beatings, resulting in over 3,000 arrests, 8,000 injuries and six deaths in the space of a few months.[34] These events coincided with the increasing repression of labour through harassment, intimidation and the arrest of trade unionists under false accusations of terrorism.[35] As the Gezi Park protests spread, Erdoğan used the opportunity to purge moderating influences from key positions, including the then President Abdullah Gül. Erdoğan replaced Gül as the AKP’s candidate for Turkey’s first direct presidential election in 2014, winning an outright majority with 52 per cent of the vote. This was one sure sign of his ambition to convert Turkey’s government into a presidential system.[36]

This period beginning with the Gezi Park protests was marked by an escalation of violent security policies designed to intimidate and suppress dissenting civil society organisations, opposition political groups and social movements. Following the AKP’s loss of its parliamentary majority in the June 2015 elections, the pressure on opposition forces intensified and the playing field was more explicitly altered in the AKP’s favour. Significantly, the government dissolved its ‘resolution process’ for a negotiated settlement to the Kurdish question and launched a military offensive against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which had declared autonomy in the Kurdish region. These security operations were backed up by a right-wing nationalist discourse, encouraging further attacks by nationalist and state forces on Kurdish politicians and citizens in the lead up to the snap election of November. According to the HDP, between July and November there were 200 attacks on HDP premises, 10,000 people were detained and close to 3,000 of them arrested; 11 cities and 45 towns where the HDP had received a large number of votes were declared as emergency areas; and 322 civilians were killed.[37] Moreover, the criminalisation of independent journalists and media outlets became much more widespread in these months, with Bianet reporting a spike in the censoring of news reports and social media accounts, along with a significant increase in attacks and arrests.[38] This “purposefully created climate of violence and fear” enabled the AKP to regain its parliamentary majority while establishing greater control over the institutions of security and state power.[39]

The AKP picked up some 4.5 million votes at the 2015 November election, including scores of votes from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). A number of wider factors played a role in driving the AKP’s drift towards right-wing nationalism and increasing authoritarianism. First, souring relations with the EU dampened Erdoğan’s appetite for democratic reforms and enabled him to adopt an increasingly nationalist and anti-EU discourse. Second, there was a rapid deterioration of Turkish-Syrian relations against the backdrop of the Syrian uprising and Turkey’s ambitions in the Middle East. As the uprising descended into civil war, the AKP began to instrumentalise Sunni Islamic identity and give support to jihadist groups including al-Qaeda and ISIS. Not only did this directly inflame political Islam in Turkey, but it resulted in a ‘blowback’ effect whereby the conflict crossed the border and became increasingly entangled with the Turkish government’s war on the Kurds.[40] Finally, and relatedly, the arrival of 3.4 million Syrian refugees came at a time when Turkey was already struggling with economic inequality, social unrest, sectarian tension and political instability. Grievances among the populations of the big cities in particular were ripe for politicisation by radical nationalists.[41]

Another major turning point in the consolidation of presidential power came after the alleged military coup of July 2016. Erdoğan told supporters that the failed coup was “a gift from God”, which he exploited to stir up nationalist sentiments and justify a wide-ranging clampdown on opponents. The government quickly declared a three-month state of emergency to grant Erdoğan the power to introduce laws by decree without the approval of parliament. This was renewed seven times before officially ending on 18 July 2018. In total, during the state of emergency the president introduced 32 emergency decrees and made approximately 300 amendments to 150 laws, many of which remain in force to this day.[42]

During the state of emergency, nearly 152,000 public servants including teachers, police and military officials, doctors, judges and prosecutors were dismissed or suspended with little or no right to appeal. The authorities also detained over 150,000 people, including 78,000 under draconian anti-terrorism laws. Among those arrested were at least 87 mayors, nine MPs from the HDP, 300 journalists and 570 lawyers. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International documented reports of widespread beatings, torture and other forms of ill-treatment. In addition, some 166 media outlets and 1,719 NGOs were closed down by executive decree. These attacks on freedom of expression extended to the internet and social media, with over 100,000 websites blocked and Twitter receiving more than 7,000 censorship requests from the courts and state in 2017 alone. Freedom of assembly also deteriorated sharply as the authorities used the state of emergency to issue blanket bans on demonstrations, including a ban on May Day for the fourth consecutive year and the banning of five large-scale strikes.[43]

The formal consolidation of Erdoğan’s power came in the midst of this turbulent period. In April 2017, a referendum was held to replace the parliamentary system of government with one based on presidential rule. The vote was proposed by a coalition of the AKP and MHP parties. In the event, citizens voted by a narrow margin of 51 to 49 per cent to approve a series of far-reaching changes to the constitution. These reforms abolished the office of prime minister and gave new powers to the president, including the right to issue decrees, control the national budget, appoint cabinet ministers and state officials, and appoint senior judges and prosecutors. In the aftermath of the vote, Trump called President Erdoğan to congratulate him.[44] Erdoğan officially became the first head of this new system in June 2018, after installing his new presidency and winning snap elections. Yet, just as the referendum exposed the strength of opposition to Erdoğan, the June general election required a formal coalition of the AKP and MHP to secure an overall parliamentary majority, demonstrating the former’s growing dependence on radical nationalism. At one pre-election rally, Erdoğan even went as far as to make the hand gesture of the Grey Wolves, a neo-fascist organisation that is widely regarded as the MHP’s paramilitary wing.[45]

Continued deterioration

Events since the referendum have showed a continued deterioration of the situation in Turkey, further exposing the limitations of the AKP’s political dominance and ability to rule by consent. In recent years the regime has pursued a political strategy that combines right-wing nationalist rhetoric, anti-Kurdish aggression and a confrontational foreign policy with measures to placate the AKP’s traditional core base of religious conservatives. Efforts to construct a common Turkish identity fused with Islam have involved everything from a renewed state focus on specific events of historical importance to the ideological reorientation of education and popular culture. Erdoğan’s attempt to remake his country’s image using religious symbolism and public spectacles has drawn comparisons with aspects of Narendra Modi’s ethnonationalist project in India.[46] Turkey’s aggressive foreign policy, manifested most violently by its interventions in Syria and Libya, has utilised the framing of ‘injustice’ to present its position. The labelling of rivals as ‘others’ links the government’s foreign policy to its domestic objective of forging an exclusivist national identity.[47]

Refugees, along with the Kurds, have been among the main victims of the AKP’s radical nationalist turn and a concerted media effort to portray them as terrorists and criminals.[48] Resentment towards refugees has been growing steadily in recent years and turned increasingly violent amid deepening economic malaise. The Turkish authorities are believed to have illegally deported large numbers of refugees last October, and a sordid deal signed with the EU back in 2016 is now unravelling as the Turkish government has announced that it will no longer prevent refugees from entering the EU at the Greek border.

While the AKP has helped to mainstream hardline nationalist currents, this has not had the desired effect of consolidating its position or legitimising Erdoğan’s rule. Last year’s municipal elections, held at the height of an economic crisis, resulted in the AKP and MHP losing control of key cities such as Ankara and Istanbul to the opposition.[49] These results were a reflection of growing social discontent generated by the regime’s failures of economic policy as well as the (irretrievable) loss of significant Kurdish support. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it plunged Turkey into a crisis of even greater severity than the last, dashing any hopes that an economic recovery would come to Erdoğan’s aid. The government’s subsequent poor handling of the pandemic has led to falling approval ratings, intensifying social antagonisms and an emboldened opposition. With the AKP increasingly reliant on the MHP to get anything done, the latter has been able to exert greater influence over government policy, even securing the premature release of ‘fascist hitman’ and Mafia boss Alaattin Çakıcı, a former member of the Grey Wolves and MHP supporter who had been given a 16-year sentence for murder.[50]

The repression of criticism and political opposition has continued unabated throughout the pandemic. For instance, the government has expanded an auxiliary police force and granted a new 20,000-strong security agency dubbed the ‘night guard’ the right to use weapons. Under the guise of combatting ‘fake news’, ‘incitement’ or ‘spreading fear and panic’, the authorities detained more than 500 social media users, 12 journalists and several doctors in the first few months alone of the pandemic. Repression against Kurdish political representatives has continued, and there have been military incursions into Kurdish areas along the southern Turkish border. The government has also blocked or cut financing and borrowing for opposition-controlled municipalities in a bid to force them into implementing austerity measures. Government figures and their allies have directly contributed to an escalation of right-wing rhetoric, sparking increased violence against LGBT+ people, Kurds and the Armenian community. This has been accompanied by a spike in violence against women, just as the AKP is considering withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention due to its negative impact on ‘family values’.[51]

As Erdoğan looks toward the next presidential election, due to be held some time before 2023, his country appears to be on a perilous, downward spiral. Even before the pandemic hit, Human Rights Watch (HRW) had pointed to “deepening human rights crisis over the past four years with a dramatic erosion of [Turkey’s] rule of law and democracy framework”.[52] In support of HRW’s assessment, a major study into the political rhetoric and governing practices of ruling parties has established that the AKP, Fidesz and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have fast become the most autocratic right-wing regimes in the world, with Trump’s Republican Party not far behind.[53] Reporters Without Borders (RSF) notes that Turkey is now “the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists”, who commonly spend more than a year in jail before trial and often receive long sentences. As with Hungary, Turkey has slid down the World Press Freedom Index over the past few years, from 149th (out of 180) in 2015 to 154th today.[54] Similarly, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has identified Turkey as one of the 10 worst countries for workers, noting that trade unions have been operating “in a climate of fear and under the constant threat of retaliation” since the 2016 coup attempt.[55] The list goes on. Turkey is well on the way to becoming a right-wing dictatorship, but Erdoğan’s rule is far from stable. Herein lies the potential for the regime’s overthrow and/or for its continued radicalisation.

4.2.3 Brazil

Brazil (pdf version)

Bolsonaro and his would-be ‘super-minister’ of the economy Paolo Guedes campaigned on the promise of ultra-liberal economic policies, pledging to shrink the public sector, cut taxes, privatise state assets and flexibilise labour markets. Brazil’s stock market reached a record high in the immediate aftermath of Bolsonaro’s election, even as the international markets were in meltdown. This was a sure sign of confidence among investors that the government would swiftly administer their desired remedy of economic shock therapy.

Bolsonaro picked up where his predecessor Temer left off in attacking trade unions, disbanding the country’s Ministry of Labour within days of taking office. In March 2019, his administration ended automatic deduction of union subs without warning, compromising the financial independence of trade unions.[56] Yet, it has been far from plain sailing in terms of implementing other aspects of his programme. Bolsonaro’s government spent much of 2019 battling to enact reform of the country’s pension system, and this passed only because a cross-party coalition of legislators decided to back it. The government lacks an overall majority in Congress and the parliamentary arithmetic has become even more fragmented following Bolsonaro’s resignation from the Social Liberal Party (PSL) to establish the Alliance for Brazil (APB). The protests in Chile and Lula’s release, both of which emboldened the opposition, also contributed to the government’s prevarication when it came to delivering on the rest of its economic programme.[57] While Guedes was active in the implementation of deregulation measures and privatisation, this did not represent the kind of economic shock therapy that big capital had expected or been promised.[58]

The pandemic has hit Brazil especially hard, in part because of Bolsonaro’s refusal to take the virus seriously and coordinate a major public health response. The president has repeatedly clashed with state governors who have introduced stay-at-home measures, spoken at anti-lockdown rallies and even sacked his health minister for promoting the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance.[59] As of November 2020, the country has the second-highest number of deaths in the world behind the US, with over 167,000 deaths officially recorded.

Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on workers and trade unions. Health unions, trade union federations and social movements, backed by the Public Services International (PSI) and UNI Global, have lodged a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleging that the president’s actions constitute crimes against humanity. The complaint demands that Bolsonaro be held accountable for acting against the recommendations of health authorities and irresponsibly exposing people to contagion, including the 60 per cent of health workers who do not have access to PPE.[60] In economic terms, more than 10 million workers have been impacted by the arbitrary suspension of contracts and reductions in hours and wages, facilitated by an emergency law that was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic and has been extended until the end of 2020.[61]  Approximately 40 per cent of Brazil’s informal workers have lost their jobs, while overall unemployment has risen to 14.4 per cent (13.8 million people) in the third quarter of 2020, its highest rate since 2012.[62]

There have been signs of the government moving to advance its privatisation agenda during the pandemic. Plans have been announced for the privatisation of key public assets such as the post office, the National Bank for Economic Development (BNDES) and Electrobas, the power utility, and the accelerated privatisation of Petrobas, the state-owned oil company – to name but a few.[63] However, Bolsonaro, Guedes and their backers remain frustrated with the slow pace of progress owing to the political context, something that led to the resignation of Brazil’s privatisation minister in August.[64] In October, Bolsonaro signed a decree authorising the exploration of public-private initiatives in the health system, only to revoke the decree one day later after receiving fierce criticism from opposition politicians and the health sector.[65] The government has also suffered setbacks in its efforts to embed certain aspects of anti-worker and anti-trade union legislation. A presidential decree introduced at the start of the pandemic, known as Provisional Measure 927/2020, gave priority to individual agreements between employers and workers over existing collective agreements. Yet this measure expired in July after Congress could not come to a consensus as to whether it should be extended or replaced.

In addition, with one eye on his approval ratings and the political opposition, Bolsonaro has been forced to display a certain degree of pragmatic populism in his approach to the economic crisis. With many people in crowded low-income neighbourhoods struggling, the government introduced an (albeit insufficient) emergency income supplement of R$600 (about £90) for five months. This income support reached approximately 65 million people, or more than 30 per cent of the population, and has been extended till December 2020 at half of its original value. It remains to be seen whether this will be extended further or, as some have suggested, integrated as a permanent part of public policy. But it goes some way to highlighting the tension between Bolsonaro’s stated commitment to neoliberal reforms and the demands of political expediency.[66]

This tension is likely to become greater as 2021 progresses. Brazil had a deficit target of $17 billion before the pandemic, but it is now headed towards $125 billion. The country’s currency has plummeted in value, foreign investment has fallen and unemployment is set to continue rising – how fast and by how much will largely depend on the level of income supports. Bolsonaro’s rich backers, who fear he will try to sustain higher levels of public spending to shore up his popularity in poorer regions, will instead be demanding that the government presses ahead with austerity and the liberalisation programme promised to them.[67] Economy minister Guedes, the ultraliberal ideologue, has even said that breaking the constitutional cap on public spending could lead to Bolsonaro’s impeachment, triggering another political crisis at the heart of the Brazilian state.[68]

The limits of Bolsonaro’s power​​​​​​​

One of the big differences between Bolsonaro and his counterparts (Erdoğan, Modi, Orbán) is that his ability to dominate the country’s political life is to some degree obstructed by the lack of access to a party machine with deep roots in the state and civil society, and by the way the state institutions are set up. Bolsonaro’s fallout with the PSL has deprived him of access to the party’s considerable financial resources and networks while leaving him heavily reliant on centrist parties to secure the support of Congress for legislation. Another important factor is that the constitution gives considerable power to the legislature, as well as to states and municipalities. One consequence of this is that Bolsonaro has been unable to use the pandemic as a pretext for the granting of exceptional powers. State governors and municipal leaders have also managed to largely hold onto autonomy in dealing with the pandemic, enlisting the support of the Supreme Court and that of the Speakers of the House of Representatives and the Senate.[69]

Bolsonaro has found the judiciary to be a particularly hard nut to crack. The Supreme Court has ruled against the President several times in the past few months, most significantly on occasions where he has sought to seize legislative powers.[70] At the height of the pandemic the Court authorised an investigation into allegations that key Bolsonaro supporters were involved in a disinformation and intimidation campaign against public authorities, including members of the judiciary. This was launched in parallel with another investigation into claims by Sergio Moro, former justice minister, that Bolsonaro had pressed him to replace the chief of federal police and tried to interfere in investigations involving his sons and other family members. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the president when it released a video of Bolsonaro swearing at a cabinet meeting, in which he appears to express frustration at not being able to replace law enforcement officials.[71] A magazine exposé published shortly thereafter revealed that Bolsonaro had discussed with key cabinet allies the possibility of sending troops to shut down the Supreme Court and install substitute justices until “that was in order”.[72]

As Bolsonaro’s relationship with legislators and the courts has deteriorated, he has become increasingly reliant on a core group of military-linked advisers and ministers in his government. He has also sparked controversy by addressing anti-lockdown rallies organised by the far right, where calls are routinely made for a military coup against Congress and the judiciary. Although he has not publicly called for a military takeover, Bolsonaro often speaks favourably about the coup of 1964 and the military dictatorship that followed. He has also encouraged his supporters to arm themselves. Under new relaxed laws, gun ownership doubled in 2019, and Bolsonaro has since revoked decrees facilitating the tracing and identification of weapons and ammunition.[73] This serves the dual purpose of pandering to the law and order concerns of his base and creating an army of diehard supporters willing to mobilise in his defence. It is clear that he wishes to retain the threat of violence and even the possibility of military intervention to protect himself from political and judicial challenges.

Culture wars and human rights

Bolsonaro has pushed Brazil deeper into a culture war that is having significant real-world impacts. As in the US, the country’s president and his allies have directly contributed to the spread of misinformation about the severity of Covid-19, its effects and possible cures, fuelling anti-lockdown sentiments and spread of the virus.[74] Bolsonaro continued to downplay the threat even as the country’s hospitals and morgues were full, and took the fact that he contracted and recovered fairly quickly from Covid-19 as a vindication of his approach. Bolsonaro is personally responsible for spreading a number of other conspiracy theories, for example that satellite images and videos of the Amazon burning were fake. He has talked of a conspiracy between NGOs, foreign governments and indigenous communities to prevent Brazil’s development. The number of fires in the rainforest so far this year is at a decade high, surpassing the number recorded in 2019 when the destruction sparked widespread criticism of the government.[75]

Brazilian lawyers and human rights collectives are requesting that the ICC open an investigation against Bolsonaro for inciting genocide against indigenous people. Since the beginning of his campaign in 2018, Bolsonaro has made clear his intentions to open up indigenous reserves to extractive companies. He has described the constitutional right of indigenous populations to occupy their traditional territories as ‘unjustifiable’, comparing them to animals kept in zoos. The ICC’s prosecutors are now analysing 33 of the president’s statements and decisions before deciding whether or not to request an indictment. Bolsonaro has also dismissed 21 of 27 superintendents at the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), and sought to undermine the agency responsible for protecting the interests and cultures of indigenous tribes. As a result, the number of indigenous leaders murdered by illegal loggers, miners and land grabbers in 2019 climbed to its highest rate in 11 years.[76]

Brazil’s continued descent into violence has had severe implications for workers and trade unions. The ITUC reports that the police have been cracking down heavily on strikes calling for a new direction in economic policy, using tear gas, beating up strike organisers and arresting and detaining many people linked to the trade union movement. Several trade union leaders have been subject to arbitrary arrest and multiple death threats, and a number have been murdered with no action by the authorities to investigate or prosecute the killings. In general, trade unionists are afforded little to no protection by the security services or the state. In light of all this, Brazil has been identified as one of the 10 worst countries for workers.[77]

Racist police violence, meanwhile, endures in Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Killings by police in Rio reached a record high of 1,814 in 2019, the highest number since records began in 1998. This accounted for almost a third of the 5,804 people killed by police in Brazil last year, the overwhelming majority of whom were black. The government excluded complaints of police violence from its 2019 human rights report, sparking allegations of a cover-up amid the global outrage over racism and the use of excessive force by police in the US. Police killings spiked once more in the first six months of 2020, even as crime rates dropped dramatically and the Supreme Court banned raids during the pandemic.[78] This has occurred on the watch of a president who campaigned on a strong law and order platform, backs police crackdowns on criminality and has long denied the existence of racial injustice in his country.

Bolsonaro has at times disappointed his evangelical support base with statements and decisions that reflect broader political considerations. In October of this year, he frustrated religious conservative supporters by nominating Kassio Marques, a liberal with a record of flexible rulings, to the Supreme Court. Responding to a backlash over the decision, he sought to allay concerns among conservatives by declaring that “we are going to have a very evangelical minister in the supreme court” next year.[79] But he has brought other parts of the state into line with his socially conservative ideology, for example by appointing evangelical pastor Damares Alves minister for Human Rights, Family and Women. Alves’ ministry has recently introduced a regulation that erects new barriers to abortion access. This follows a national row in which a 10-year-old rape victim looking to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion was hounded by anti-abortion activists, some of whom claimed to be in contact with Alves.[80] Bolsonaro and Alves have frequently voiced their opposition to sexual and reproductive rights, with the former also continuing to publicly express deeply homophobic views. The president described the Supreme Court decision to criminalise homophobia in Brazil, a country that has one of the highest murder rates for LGBT+ individuals, as “completely wrong”.[81]

Just as Trump has drawn on a national history of anti-communist paranoia, so Bolsonaro is reviving the anti-communism of 1930s Brazilian fascism and the military dictatorship. Attacks on communism, ‘gender ideology’ and ‘cultural Marxism’ – an antisemitic trope – were a prominent feature of Bolsonaro’s campaign, and following his election supporters chanted “Death to the communists!”. Since coming to power, Bolsonaro and his allies have displayed an obsession with purging the state of ‘leftist’ values. Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, has even proposed drafting a bill to introduce prison sentences for the production, sale or distribution of communist symbols. Anti-communist rhetoric has also played a role in the government’s response to Covid-19, with the foreign minister Ernesto Araújo writing of a ‘globalist’ plot to usher in world communism. This ‘anti-communism without communism’ stokes up fears of an existential threat to the nation, “which in principle licenses almost any level of violence”.[82]

The results of the November 2020 local elections, the first in his mandate, have severely damaged Bolsonaro’s prospects going into 2021. In the context of a worsening economic and public health crisis, candidates backed by the Brazilian president suffered major losses in the states where he received the greatest support during the 2018 election. Overall, centre-right and right-wing parties made the most substantial gains at the expense of Bolsonaro’s coalition, although there were signs of progress and a possible basis for closer cooperation on the left.[83] At the time of writing, Bolsonaro looks vulnerable to political defeat sooner rather than later, particularly as he still has no official party to speak of. However, the harbingers of violent radicalisation and confrontation are also clear to see.

4.2.4 Colombia

Colombia (pdf version)

After more than 50 years of armed conflict, which claimed 220,000 lives and displaced more than seven million people, in 2016 the Colombian government signed a historic peace agreement with the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). The agreement is organised around six key points: 1) comprehensive rural reform; 2) political participation; 3) an end to conflict including a ceasefire and a laying down of arms, the social, economic and political reincorporation of former FARC combatants and security guarantees; 4) a solution to the illicit drugs problem; 5) victims – comprehensive system for truth, justice, reparations and non-repetition; and 6) implementation and verification.

The Colombian Peace Agreement has been celebrated for tackling the causes of the conflict, including the widespread inequality and lack of access to land and the absence of space for political participation with the historic violent repression of progressive opposition and organised civil society. The agreement is ground-breaking in that it incorporates provisions to address issues of gender, race, land and sexual orientation. However, support for the peace process among the political and economic elite is divided. Certain parts of the political establishment have seen it as a vehicle for modernisation and development, whereas parts of the landowning class and those linked to some of the worst atrocities have fiercely opposed the agreement. Their opposition is thought to stem from the fact of them having benefited from the conflict, and from concerns that their crimes may be exposed by the truth and justice process.

President Ivan Duque comes from the Democratic Centre Party, a party that led opposition to the Peace Agreement. He was elected in 2018 on a promise to ‘modify’ the peace deal,[84] and under his leadership the government’s progress on fulfilling its commitments has stalled. The Kroc Institute reports that implementation of the agreement has slowed down in the past year, noting that a quarter of its 578 provisions have not begun to be implemented, and that ‘minimal’ progress has been made on another third. They also note that commitments on rural reforms “made little progress in the last year”.[85] In fact, the Duque government’s National Development Plan for rural areas is based largely on the privatisation of land for industrial agriculture and mega-extractive projects. Since Duque’s election, there has been a boom in ‘mercenary mining’ – that is, mining operations by subcontractors working for multinationals. Land grabbing and deforestation has also increased under this government. Duque’s doubling down on this model of development is driving environmental degradation, entrenching inequality and exacerbating militarisation and violence in marginalised rural communities.[86]

The Peace Agreement also linked the reform of the rural sector with the voluntary substitution of illicit crops (such as coca). According to the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), crop substitution had been producing positive results, responsible for a low replanting rate of on average 0.2 per cent.[87] But, under pressure from the US, Duque’s government has turned to forced eradication and has talked about reintroducing aerial crop fumigation. The Duque administration has recently cancelled the contract with UNODC to follow up and assess the process, and signalled an escalation of the ‘war on drugs’. In return for this, Trump doubled the budget for Colombia’s war on drugs to $237.5 million.[88]

Another key element of the peace deal was the establishment of a transitional justice system that would seek to provide truth and justice to the greatest possible extent for the country’s victims. In relation to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which forms part of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparations and Guarantees of Non-Repetition, Duque has objected to the statutory law that governs the JEP, which has served to “undermine the legal security” of those intending to appear before the JEP, even though he was overruled by Congress and the Constitutional Court.[89] He also cut the Truth Commission’s budget for 2020 by 30 per cent.[90] This attack on the transitional justice process looks set to continue into 2021, with the JEP issuing a statement in October expressing its concern at further government cuts to budgets deemed “essential for the care and protection of victims, witnesses and interveners”.[91]

The end of conflict?​​​​​​​

Closely linked to the lack of progress in each of these areas is the persistence of violence against activists, ex-combatants and political representatives, which directly threatens the sustainability of the peace process. The Colombian NGO Indepaz reports that 254 social leaders and human rights defenders (environmentalists, farmers, lawyers, indigenous and Afro-Colombian activists, trade unionists, LGBT+, civic and community leaders) and 56 former FARC combatants undergoing a reincorporation process in line with the Peace Agreement were murdered in the first 11 months of 2020.[92] As of November 2020, around 241 former FARC combatants have been killed since the signing of the agreement. Fourteen trade unionists have been assassinated between 2019 and 2020, with another four murder attempts, one case of enforced disappearance and 198 death threats recorded in the same period. Like Turkey and Brazil, Colombia has been identified as one of the 10 worst countries for workers.[93] UN Special Rapporteur Michael Forst has said that those most at risk of violent attacks and murder are social leaders “promoting the implementation of the Peace Agreement and defending land and environmental rights and the rights of ethnic communities against the interests of criminal groups, illegal armed groups and state and non-state actors, such as national and international corporations and other powerful interest groups”.[94] 

Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have criticised the government for failing to use existing mechanisms to ensure the safety of social leaders.[95] These concerns have been echoed by former FARC leaders, who have not only highlighted the government’s failure to provide adequate protection but also noted that the failure to progress key social provisions of the agreement, designed to address the inequities that gave rise to the conflict in the first place, are contributing to the growth of organised crime and disillusionment with the peace process.[96]

Duque’s administration has also come under criticism due to the actions of the military. Among the incidents that attracted public attention last year was the extrajudicial killing of FARC ex-combatant Dimar Torres in April. The military’s conduct was called into further question in May, when the New York Times revealed that senior army officials had pressured soldiers to increase the number of militants killed or captured, with standards of engagement lowered to help improve performance figures. This raised major fears of a policy reminiscent of the days when soldiers were encouraged to increase combatant casualties in order to gain benefits, which resulted in up to 5,000 civilians being murdered and falsely presented as combatant casualties between 1988 and 2014.[97] The final straw came with the revelation that the bombing of an alleged dissident FARC camp in August had killed at least eight children, with Senator Roy Barreras accusing the government of trying to hide the victims’ identities. With the army’s credibility severely dented, Colombia’s Defence Minister Guillermo Botero was forced to resign, making way for former Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo.[98] 

However, things have gone from bad to worse in the 12 months since Trujillo took over. Not only has public security failed to improve, but his tenure has been defined by scandals and a failed terror campaign to quell anti-government protests. The National Army commander Nicasio Martinez was forced to resign after the Supreme Court discovered that the army had been spying on journalists, legislators and the Court itself. With violence raging in rural parts of the country, Trujillo appears to have concentrated much of his energy on silencing protest. The minister’s reign hit a low point in September of this year when he ordered the militarisation of Bogotá in response to protests against a fatal incident of police brutality. This violent response led to a further 13 deaths and dozens of injuries at the hands of the police. The defence minister initially defied a Supreme Court order to issue a formal apology for the police’s actions, and said that he would challenge a ruling to curb violent repression through reforms of the country’s notorious riot police.[99]

Shifting tides​​​​​​​

Colombia stands out in the region as having had only right-wing governments, and having resisted the Pink Tide with a largely uninterrupted process of neoliberalisation. But there are signs of disparate social forces beginning to coalesce around the vision of a transformative peace that challenges Colombia’s decades-long right-wing hegemony. It is significant that, for the first time in Colombian history, a left-wing candidate – Gustavo Petro – advanced to the second round of the 2018 presidential elections, winning 41.8 per cent of the vote. The legitimacy of Duque’s presidency has since been called into question by the discovery of a multitude of alleged irregularities  in the election campaign, leading the national electoral commission to begin an investigation into the president and his team for alleged financial violations.[100] Results from the regional and municipal elections held in October 2019, the first since the Peace Agreement, also indicate a shift in popular opinion in favour of peace and social progress. The outcome of these elections revealed the overwhelming defeat of Duque’s Democratic Centre Party, which lost several cities to progressive factions within the traditional parties or to candidates from the left.[101]

This shift has also manifested itself in sustained mass protests, which first broke out in November 2019, organised by a coalition of trade unions, indigenous groups, student organisations and LGBT+ activists. The strike was originally planned to resist a number of regressive tax, labour and pension reforms known as the paquetazo or the ‘package’, but eventually mobilised 250,000 people onto the streets around a broader agenda. A lack of support for public education, the failings of a privatised health system, environmental destruction, corruption, police brutality, the prevalence of gender violence, the killing of social leaders and the sabotaging of the peace process – all of these grievances came together under a unified banner.[102]

The peace process has opened up space for more visible anti-neoliberal struggle and encouraged unity among opposition forces. The coronavirus pandemic has sharpened these tendencies and exacerbated Duque’s legitimacy crisis, in large part due to the government’s response. A doubling of unemployment to 20 per cent has left millions of people facing an uncertain future, with young people and women particularly impacted. Public money has been directed towards banks and corporations at the expense of struggling SMEs, which account for almost 80 per cent of total employment in the country. Isolation and social distancing measures have been put in place without proper income supports for the country’s poorest, most precarious workers – some 38 million in total. A recent government decree has left many workers in even more precarious conditions, enabling employers to contract workers on an hourly basis and without ensuring that their income meets the minimum wage. Trade unions have also criticised Duque for attempting to resurrect his package of labour reforms under the cover of the emergency and made counter-proposals. In addition, the pandemic has accelerated the crisis of Colombia’s privatised healthcare system, which denies this basic right to millions and has been on the brink of collapse for more than a decade. As of November 2020, Colombia has passed 32,000 deaths from Covid-19, 70 per cent of which have come from the poorest strata in society.[103]

These conditions have led to a sharp decline in the popularity of Duque and his government. Recent events have left the president with an approval rating of just 38 per cent, a downward trend that is set to continue. In October and November 2020 Colombia was engulfed in fresh demonstrations and strikes organised by a coalition of trade unions, students, LGBT+ groups, human rights organisations and the indigenous movement.[104] An impending economic crisis and the likelihood of austerity linked to the extension of an IMF loan will have the effect of pushing only greater numbers of people towards resistance.

Despite this growing momentum behind Colombia’s pro-peace and anti-neoliberal forces, there remains the challenge of building a coherent and effective political project. This task is made all the more difficult by the anti-democratic practices of the Duque administration and the violence. Transparency International has expressed “deep concern” at the growing concentration of power in Duque’s hands during the pandemic, noting that the state of emergency has made the president a temporary legislator. Local decentralised authorities under the control of the opposition have been weakened in relation to central government, and there have been government actions that affect freedom of expression, citizen participation and access to public information. Added to this, people close to the government have been chosen to head the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of the Ombudsman, reducing the independence that these bodies should possess.[105]

International and Colombian civil society organisations have meanwhile suggested that the judiciary’s independence is at risk due to the government party and president ignoring several court orders. Most significantly, in response to the arrest warrant issued to former president Álvaro Uribe, Duque was among Democratic Centre Party figures to publicly criticise the Supreme Court.[106] Uribe is currently being investigated for alleged witness tampering and fraud, but is also alleged to be linked with murders, massacres, displacements and the activities of right-wing paramilitary groups. He remains a dominant voice in Colombian politics and his arrest has formed a rallying point for far-right forces, which regard him as a hero for taking an aggressive stance towards the FARC and the ELN during his time as president.

4.2.5 A wider phenomenon

It is clear that neoliberalism is not inherently opposed to authoritarian practices or far-right ideologies and these practices are not confined only to countries traditionally thought of as authoritarian. Since the onset of the so-called ‘war on terror’ in 2001, but especially since the 2008 financial crisis, these practices have been reinforced by the mainstreaming of far-right ideas by governments laying claim to the centre ground. [1]

In France, the state’s brutal crackdown on protestors has come under criticism from the UN for “severe rights restrictions” and “excessive use of force”, while Amnesty International has denounced the “unprecedented attacks” on the right to peaceful protest and assembly.[2] President Macron has also introduced policies by decree on 29 occasions, including far-reaching labour and pension reforms that faced widespread trade union opposition.[3] Macron has also continued to drift right on questions of immigration and France’s relationship with its Muslim population. This has most recently been seen with the pledge to crack down on ‘Islamic separatism’ in the wake of two terror attacks as part of a strategy to legally embed authoritarian practices.[4]

Across the EU, there have also been signs of member states converging on more restrictive migration policies. One feature of this has been an acceleration of border externalisation measures, with the EU effectively outsourcing its border and migration policy to Turkey in 2016. Recent events in the Mediterranean and the deaths of hundreds of refugees at sea have drawn attention to the tragic consequences of these policies. The EU’s hastily drafted Pact on Migration and Asylum seeks to resolve the problem of burden sharing for relocating refugees, but its emphasis is on deterrence and the strengthening of external border arrangements.[5]

In the US, the conservative think-tank Freedom House ranks the standard of political rights as 33rd in the world.[6] The past two decades in particular have been marked by the continued expansion of executive powers, mass surveillance, the arbitrary detention and torture of terror suspects and the abuse of state secrecy doctrines to shield torture and eavesdropping from judicial review.[7] Moreover, nearly 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the US, with black Americans and Latinos disproportionately more likely to be arrested, imprisoned or killed by police than whites.[8] The Black Lives Matter movement has once again brought to the fore the systemic racism that has long been an inbuilt feature of US society. Trump’s term in office has been characterised by discriminatory domestic policies and at times extreme rhetoric with serious implications for human rights. Key rights and protections for asylum seekers, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT+ people and women have been rolled back, and Trump has stacked the Supreme Court with a conservative majority that could go on to overturn key decisions such as the legalisation of abortion. Growing denunciations of the anti-racist left, of ‘Antifa’ and the teaching of critical race theory, as well as his defence of police and Trump supporters using violence against Black Lives Matter protestors, has encouraged Trump’s more reactionary support base.

However, November’s presidential election saw women, young people, the working class, city dwellers and ethnic minorities turn out in large numbers to hand Joe Biden a victory over his Republican rival.[9] Trump has been defeated electorally, but he has also activated and transformed the scattered and fragmented American far right into something more coherent and dangerous. It does not appear that Trumpism will be going away in the near future, but whether it evolves into something with a clear strategy and direction remains to be seen.

In the UK, there are features of authoritarian neoliberalism with the extension of state powers, an increase in surveillance and the severity of police responses to protest and dissent, alongside the introduction of more exploitative working conditions, anti-union laws and an even-more punitive and discriminatory welfare system. All of this has taken place in a climate of Islamophobia and the persistence of long-standing structural racism. Racism has been found to be “endemic and pervasive” in the UK, manifesting itself at every level of policing.[10] By 2022, the Conservatives’ “hostile environment” measures will have been in place for a full decade, despite the outrage provoked by the Windrush scandal, and there is every possibility of their extension.[11] Under emergency Covid-19 measures the government has given the police new and expansive powers, introduced 300 pieces of secondary legislation (laws created by ministers without parliamentary votes) and progressed legislation such as the Overseas Operations Bill. Plans to curtail the power of the judiciary have been revealed and there have been numerous reports of cronyism and corruption, disinformation campaigns and political appointments.[12]

There have also been times when Boris Johnson and his allies have emulated aspects of Trump’s culture war: casting aspersions on the impartiality of the BBC; mounting staunch defences of Britain’s imperial history; stigmatising Black Lives Matter protestors; attacking the ‘liberal elite’ and ‘political correctness’; prohibiting the use of resources by anti-capitalist organisations in schools; and criticising the teaching of critical race theory in universities.[13]

The situation in the UK is obviously not directly comparable with that in Hungary or Poland, much less Turkey, Brazil, Colombia, the US, India, the Philippines or Israel for that matter. Each of these countries is characterised by varying degrees of authoritarianism and right-wing rhetoric. But they are all different variants of the same wider phenomenon. Viewed from the vantage point of the discussion above, we can see how a) right-wing authoritarian regimes can arrive by the back door, using legal and semi-legal means; b) these regimes are compatible with the central tenets of neoliberal economic thinking; and c) they can radicalise quickly in moments of crisis or when they find themselves running up against political limitations.


4.3 Assessing the global far right​​​​​​​

The past few decades have seen the growing internationalisation of the far right, in terms of mobilisation, issues and narratives, targets, strategies, organisational networks and financing. This is not an entirely new phenomenon. Scholars have documented early attempts by fascist parties to establish trans-European institutions in the interwar period, for example the International Conference of Fascist Parties (1932) and the Fascist International Congress (1934).[14] Many trade union activists will be aware that fascist regimes, supporters and sympathisers rallied behind Franco during the Spanish Civil War. In the post-WWII period, several attempts were made to revive white supremacist, Nazi and neo-fascist ideas and forms of organisation, including a number of largely ineffective pan-European (Nouvel Ordre Européen, the European Social Movement, Circulo Español de Amigos de Europe) and global (World Union of National Socialists, League for Pan-Nordic Friendship) alliances.[15]

By the 1970s, a new generation of ‘Eurofascist’ formations had begun to emerge, most notably the Front National, which became the driving force behind the development of similar parties across Europe. This coincided and overlapped with the emergence of a racist skinhead subculture, which spread across Europe and into North America to become a social movement and ideology of global significance in the space of a decade.[16]

Globalisation processes have accelerated the far right’s expansion across borders and generated the opportunities, as well as the mechanisms, for greater transnational cross-fertilisation. The process of European integration may challenge the core ideological principles of the far right, but has provided an important institutional arena for cooperation. Since the 1980s, radical and extreme-right parties in the European Parliament have made successive attempts to coordinate among themselves for elections and form an official parliamentary group. The 2014 elections marked a breakthrough for Eurosceptic far-right parties across the EU. Following this, there was an attempt to establish a parliamentary group in the form of the European Alliance for Freedom (EAF), which had existed as a pan-European alliance of parties since 2010. This collapsed due to national differences and internal splintering, but has since been resurrected as the Identity and Democracy group in the wake of the 2019 elections.

Outside of these institutionalised forms of cooperation, there is growing evidence of contact between parties and movements of the far right in Europe and beyond. One recent study of the most important far-right organisations in six European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain) found that most of the organisations surveyed (71 per cent) have frequent transnational contacts, either with right-wing groups in other countries or at the international level with umbrella federations.[17] These organisations are meeting online and in person at conferences and rallies, exchanging ideas, sharing resources and developing common platforms.

Closer and more regular contact has given rise to periodic and thus far largely unsuccessful attempts to establish a far-right international. For example, Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has spent almost two years trying to organise Europe’s far-right parties under the banner of The Movement, his Brussels-based think-tank. However, enthusiasm for the idea has waned among leaders of the bigger parties in his sights. Spain’s Vox party is among those to have cooled its contacts with – and interest in – The Movement,[18] instead pursuing an initiative that is independent of Bannon and the likes of Salvini’s Lega. In October of this year, Vox’s leader, Santiago Abascal, launched the Madrid Charter, a declaration of personalities from 15 countries that aims to address “the concern about the advance of communism and the extreme left”. This Madrid Charter marks the beginning of the Madrid Forum, an international initiative to counter the ideological and political threat of Cuba, the São Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group.[19]

One prominent example of the transnationalisation of non-party groups is the French-born Identitarian movement, which promotes the ‘great replacement’ theory that domestic elites are conspiring to replace the white European population with non-white immigrants. The Identitarian movement now has chapters in at least 14 countries and allies in many more, and the reach of Identitarian ideas extends far beyond the groups that share the brand name. Think-tanks, institutes, newspapers, far-right public intellectuals, clothing labels, bars and sports clubs have all drawn inspiration from Identitarianism. The great replacement myth has had a formative impact on American white supremacists and the perpetrators of no fewer than six mass terrorist attacks since 2018, including the Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant.[20]

Identitarianism has evolved alongside a kaleidoscope of transnational groups such as the Atomwaffen (AWD), an influential neo-Nazi terrorist network that promotes violence by affiliated groups, and ‘lone wolves’ across the globe.[21] Groups such as the AWD retain significant organisational power; however, there has been a rapid shift towards a fragmented, post-organisational and ‘leaderless’ paradigm whereby online networks and communities of more loosely affiliated groups and individuals are becoming increasingly important in shaping patterns of far-right activity and violence.[22]

The dynamics of financial globalisation have also facilitated increased flows of ‘dark money’ – that is, the use of non-profits and opaque company structures by rich donors to finance right-wing groups and push radical right-wing ideas into the mainstream. This is not a novel development, but it is one that is having a growing influence on the far right internationally. Researchers at openDemocracy have established that US Christian right groups, some of which are linked to personnel in Trump’s administration, have spent at least $280 million overseas since 2007. Much of this money has gone into campaigns against the rights of women and LGBT+ groups, but more recently they have been using Latin America as a testing ground for spreading misinformation about China’s role in the spread of coronavirus and undermining the WHO. These and other funding networks provide an important forum for meetings and correspondence between far-right political parties and social movements.[23]

There are also more subtle processes of internationalisation taking place, which have contributed to collective experiences and the exchange of tactics and mobilisation patterns. What happens in one country’s election can have ramifications for the political situation elsewhere, just as the outbreak of street protests in one city can inspire similar protests in another. This can overlap with the strategies of far-right organisations, which often send delegations to participate in party conferences and protests in different countries or, in the case of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in eastern Ukraine, recruit volunteers from abroad to gain experience of armed conflict.[24] Finally, as we have seen in section 3, the media and internet has played an increasingly important role in facilitating the rapid diffusion of far-right ideas, frames and strategies across borders. It is largely through these technologies that the fringe ideas and practices of far-right groups and individuals in one small corner of the globe can gain international significance overnight, fuelling dangerous sentiments and real-life actions at a local level.


[1] Ovenden (2019), op cit.

[2] Seymour R (2019). “In what sense is the Brexit Party a party?”. Patreon, 14 May 2019. Available at:

[3] Henley J (2019). “Denmark's centre-left set to win election with anti-immigration shift”. Guardian, 4 June 2019. Available at:

[4] Lichfield J (2020). “The other loser in the French elections’”. Politico, 30 June 2020. Available at:

[5] Brady K (2020). “What's behind Germany's far-right AfD party slump in polls?”. DW, Kate Brady, 10 October 2020. Available at:

[6] Gilbert R (2020). “Italy shows how easily Europe's leftwing strongholds can fall to the right”. Guardian, 22 September 2020. Available at:

[7] “Opinion poll indicates gains for Spain's right”, Majorca Daily Bulletin, 26 October 2020. Available at:

[8] Dine C (2020). “The resistible eise of the Finns party”. Jacobin, 13 February 2020. Available at:

[9] Jessop B (2019). “Authoritarian neoliberalism: periodization and critique”. South Atlantic Quarterly, vol 118, no 2, pp 343–61.

[1] Stubbs P and Lendvai-Bainton N (2019).  ‘Authoritarian Neoliberalism, Radical Conservatism and Social Policy within the European Union’, p 548.

[2] Ede Z (2019). “Tízmilliókkal tömi ki a kormány a multikat minden új munkahely után”. Index, 5 August 2019. Available at:

[3] Szabó I (2017). Hungary: inertia of the old actors, constrained innovation from the new. ETUI. Available at:

[4] Stubbs and Lendvai-Bainton, op cit, p 548.

[5] Pogátsa A and Fabry A (2019). “Viktor Orbán is finally under siege”. Jacobin, 2 February 2019; Stubbs and Lendvai-Bainton, op cit, pp 550–1; Finnsdottir MS (2019). “‘The costs of austerity: labor emigration and the rise of radical right politics in Central and Eastern Europe”. Frontiers in Sociology, vol 4, article 69.

[6] Fekete L (2019). Europe’s Fault Lines: racism and the rise of the right. London & New York, p 99; Fabry A (2018). “Neoliberalism, crisis and authoritarian-ethnicist reaction: the ascendancy of the Orbán regime”. Competition and Change, vol 23, no 2, p 174.

[7] Ibid., p 167.

[8] Livingston L (2020). “Understanding Hungary’s authoritarian response to the pandemic”. Lawfare, 14 April 2020. Available at:;  Gyollai D (2018). Hungary: Country Report: Legal & Policy Framework of Migration Governance. Working Papers – Global Migration: Consequences and Responses, Paper 2018/05 (May 2018), pp 8, 24–9. Available at:

[9] Livingston, op cit.

[10] Monella LM and Palfi R (2020). “Orban uses coronavirus as excuse to suspend asylum rights”. euronews, 3 March 2020. Available at:

[11] Fabry (2018), op cit, p 176.

[12] Stubbs and Lendvai-Bainton, op cit, pp 549–50.

[13] Agence France-Presse (2020). “Hungary's parliament blocks domestic violence treaty”. Guardian, 5 May 2020. Available at:

[14] Szijarto I and Schwartzburg R (2020). “Viktor Orbán is using the coronavirus emergency to crush minorities”. Jacobin, 8 April 2020. Available at:; Batchelor T (2020). “Hungary proposes ban on same-sex adoption as critics accuse Orban of distracting from pandemic”. Independent, 11 November 2020. Available at: 

[15] Konat G (2019). “How Poland’s failed transition fed the nationalist right”. Jacobin, 4 November 2019. Available at:

[16] Wigura K and Kuisz J (2020). “Poland's abortion ban is a cynical attempt to exploit religion by a failing leader”. Guardian, 28 October 2020. Available at:

[17] Fekete, op cit,  p 100; Schwartzburg R and Szijarto I (2019). “The ghosts of a fascist past”. Jacobin, 26 January 2019. Available at:

[18] Dunai M (2020). “Hungarian teachers say new school curriculum pushes nationalist ideology”. Reuters (UK), 4 February 2020. Available at:

[19] Bucholc M and Komornik M (2019). “The Polish ‘Holocaust Law’ revisited: the devastating effects of prejudice-mongering”. Cultures of History Forum, 19 February 2019. Available at:

[20] Fabry (2018), op cit, p 175.

[21] Cited  by Ian Bond and Agata Gostyńska-Jakubowska, Democracy and the Rule of Law: failing partnership?. London/Brussels/Berlin, January 2020, p 4. Available at:

[22] OSCE (2018). Hungary: parliamentary elections 2018. ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission Final Report, Warsaw, 2018, p 1. Cited by Lili Bayer, “How Orbán broke the EU – and got away with it”. Politico, 24 September 2020. Available at:

[23] Bognar E, Batorfy A and Dragomir M (2018). Monitoring Media Pluralism in Europe: application of the media pluralism monitor 2017 in the European Union, FYROM, Serbia & Turkey. Country Report: Hungary. Florence, 2018. Available at:

[24] Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, Hungary. Available at:

[25] Szijarto and Rosa Schwartzburg (2020), op cit. Gall L (2020). “Ending Hungary’s state of emergency won’t end authoritarianism”. Human Rights Watch, 29 May 2020. Available at:

[26] Didili Z (2020). “European Commission unveils its first-ever EU27 Rule of Law Report”. New Europe, 1 October 2020. Available at:

[27] Gündüz ZY (2015). “The ‘new Turkey’: fetishizing growth with fatal results”. Monthly Review, 1 June 2015. Available at:

[28] Tansel C B (2020). “National neoliberalism in Turkey”. Dissent (summer 2019). Available at:; Gündüz, op cit.

[29] Akcay Ü (2018). Neoliberal Populism in Turkey and its Crisis. Institute for International Political Economy Berlin, Working Paper No. 100/2018, pp 10–12.

[30] Dorlach T (2018). “Retrenchment of social policy by other means: a comparison of agricultural and housing policy in Turkey”. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, vol 21, no 3, pp 270–86; Gündüz, op cit.

[31] Toksöz G (2008). Decent Work Country Report – Turkey. ILO Report, Geneva, 2008. Available at:

[32] Özkiziltan D (2019). “Authoritarian neoliberalism in AKP’s Turkey: an industrial relations perspective”. Industrial Relations Journal, vol 50, no 3 (2019), pp 224–5.

[33] Akcay Ü and Güngen A R (2019). The Making of Turkey’s 2018–2019 Economic Crisis. Institute for International Political Economy Berlin, Working Paper No. 120/2019.

[34] Amnesty International (2013). Gezi Park Protests: brutal denial of the right to peaceful assembly in Turkey. London.

[35] Bamford S (2014). “502 trade unionists in court after protest crackdown”. Stronger Unions, 17 January 2014. Available at:

[36] Kirişci K and Sloat A (2019). The Rise and Fall of Liberal Democracy in Turkey: implications for the West. Foreign Policy at Brookings Policy Brief, February 2019, pp 2–3. Available at:

[37] Toktamis KF and David I (2018). “Repression and resistance: fragments of Kurdish politics in Turkey under the AKP regime”. Turkish Studies, vol 19, no 5, p 663.

[38] Önderoğlu D (2015). “Increasing pressure on press: democracy in question”. Bianet (English), 19 October 2015. Available at:

[39] Yılmaz Z and Turner BS (2019). “Turkey’s deepening authoritarianism and the fall of electoral democracy”. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol 65, no 5, pp 694–5.

[40] Hinnebusch R (2015). “Back to enmity: Turkey-Syria relations since the Syrian Uprising”. Orient: Journal of the German Orient Institute, vol 56, no 1, pp 14–22.

[41] Kirişci and Sloat, op cit, p 7.

[42] UNISON (2018). Workers’ and Human Rights in Turkey: a UNISON campaign briefing. November 2018, p 6. Available at:

[43] Ibid; Amnesty International (2017). Amnesty International Report 2016/17: the state of the world’s human rights. London, pp 367–71. Available at:

[44] Renton, D (2018). The New Authoritarians: convergence on the right. London, p 6.

[45] “Erdoğan makes ‘grey wolf’ sign at rally”. Ahval, 10 March 2018. Available at:

[46] Sheran Y (2020). “The end of the secular republic”. The Atlantic, 13 August 2020. Available at:

[47] Zorlu B (2020). “Tensions rising in the Mediterranean: the interplay of domestic and foreign policy and Turkey”. PSA Blog, 7 September 2020. Available at:

[48] “Media in Turkey: 5 thousand 515 instances of hate speech in a year”. Bianet (English), 18 September 2020. Available at:

[49] Ülgen S (2019). “Turkish democracy is the winner in these momentous local elections”. Guardian, 3 April 2019. Available at:

[50] Kayserilioğlu A (2020). “Turkey’s mainstream opposition is squandering the coronavirus crisis”. Jacobin, 24 September 2020. Available at:

[51] Ibid.; Amnesty International (2020). Turkey: Stifling free expression during the COVID-19 pandemic. 16 June 2020. Available at:; Buyuk HF (2020). ‘Istanbul convention’s fate splits Turkish president’s supporters’, Balkan Insight, 10 August 2020. Available at:

[52] Roth K (2020). Human Rights Watch World Report 2020 – Turkey. Available at:

[53] Lührmann A, Medzihorsky J, Hindle G and Lindberg SI (2020). New Global Data on Political Parties: V-Party. V-Dem Institute Briefing Paper No 9, 26 October 2020. Available at:

[54] RSF World Press Freedom Index, Turkey. Available at:

[55] ITUC (2020). 2020 ITUC Global Rights Index: the world’s worst countries for workers. Brussels. Available at:

[56] Moss A (2020). “The edge of democracy”. TUC Blog, 10 February 2020. Available at:

[57] Stott M, Schipani A and Harris B (2019). “Brazil reforms: has Jair Bolsonaro missed his moment?”. Financial Times, 3 December 2019. Available at:

[58] MacDonald SB (2020). “Bolsonaro’s first year: balancing the economy and cultural wars”. Global Americans, 9 January 2020. Available at:

[59] “Brazil’s Bolsonaro joins protest against coronavirus restrictions”. Al Jazeera, 20 April 2020. Available at:

[60] Public Services International (2020). “Global unions denounce Bolsonaro before the ICC for genocide and crimes against humanity”. 27 July 2020. Available at:

[61] Rosely Rocha (2020). “See how the holidays are and the 13th of those who had a suspended work contract”. CUT, 19 October 2020. Available at:

[62] “Unemployment rate rises (14.4%) and is the largest since 2012”. CUT, 30 October 2020. Available at:

[63] Fenae (2020). “Privatizations are advancing and Caixa bankers warn: ‘burning of assets’”. CUT, 20 October 2020. Available at:

[64] Reuters Staff (2020). “Brazil's privatization czar resigns amid economic slowdown”. Reuters, 11 August 2020. Available at:

[65] Petrov A (2020). “Decree leading to private investment in basic health care”. Rio Times, 29 October 2020. Available at:

[66] Pereira A (2020). “A change in Brazil’s national populist government”. OUPblog, 1 November 2020. Available at:

[67] Phillips D (2020). “‘He became a hero’: Bolsonaro sees popularity surge as Covid-19 spreads”. Guardian, 10 October 2020. Available at:

[68] Reuters Staff, op cit.

[69] Peluso Neder Meyer E and Bustamante T (2020). “Authoritarianism without emergency powers: Brazil under COVID-19”. Verfassungsblog, 8 April 2020. Available at:; Singarajah F (2020). “Guest blog: Brazil, Covid-19 and the rule of law”. Bar Council, 22 July 2020. Available at:

[70] Peluso Neder Meyer and Bustamante, op cit.

[71] Stargardter G and Brito R (2020). “In video, Bolsonaro says wanted cops replaced to stop family being ‘screwed’”. Reuters (UK), 22 May 2020. Available at:

[72] Abrantes Martins P (2020). “Supreme crisis: Bolsonaro threatens to attack the Brazilian STF”. Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law, 14 August 2020. Available at:

[73] Platt D (2020). “Is Brazil on the verge of a dictatorship?”. openDemocracy, 17 June 2020. Available at:

[74] Ricard J and Medeiros J (2020). “Using misinformation as a political weapon: Covid-19 and Bolsonaro in Brazil”. Harvard Kennedy School Mis/Information Review, 17 April 2020. Available at:

[75] Sakamoto L (2020). “In Brazil, conspiracies are for professionals”. New Internationalist, 9 October 2020. Available at:; “Fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest jump in OctoberW. Al Jazeera, 2 November 2020. Available at:

[76] Azevedo GS and Fonseca JB (2020). “How Bolsonaro is undermining human rights protection mechanisms in Brazil”. LSE Blog, 02 April 2020. Available at:

[77] ITUC, op cit, pp 20–1, 25.

[78] Krsticevic V (2020). “Brazil excludes complaints of police violence from its annual human rights report”. Merco Press, 13 June 2020. Available at:; Acebes CM (2020). “Brazil suffers its own scourge of police brutality”. Americas Quarterly, 3 June 2020. Available at:

[79] Brito R (2020). “Brazil's Bolsonaro hopes to appoint evangelical minister to supreme court”. Reuters (UK), 6 October 2020. Available at:

[80] Human Rights Watch (2020). “Brazil: revoke regulation curtailing abortion access”. 21 September 2020. Available at:; Hennigan T (2020). “Bolsonaro embroiled in abortion row over 10-year-old rape victim”. Irish Times, 15 September 2020. Available at:

[81] “Brazilian president says decision to criminalise homophobia ‘completely wrong’”. euronews, 15 June 2019. Available at:

[82] Seymour R (2020). “Why is the nationalist right hallucinating a ‘communist enemy’?@. Guardian, 26 September 2020. Available at:; Bevins V (2020). “Where conspiracy reigns”. The Atlantic, 16 September 2020. Available at:

[83] Mier B (2020). “Brazilian elections: a day of shame for the far right”. Brasil Wire, 16 November 2020. Available at:

[84] Burnyeat G, Engstrom P, Gómez-Suárez A and Pearce J (2020). “Justice after war: innovations and challenges of Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace”. LSE Blog, 3 April 2020.

[85] Alsema A (2020). “US monitors urge Colombia to accelerate slowed down peace process’”. Colombia Reports, 17 June 2020. Available at:

[86] Volckhausen T (2019). “Land grabbing, cattle ranching ravage Colombian Amazon after FARC demobilization”. Mongabay, 30 May 2019. Available at:; King E and Wherry S (2020). “Colombia's environmental crisis accelerates under Duque”. nacla, 20 April 2020. Available at:

[87] UNODC (2020). Programa Nacional Integral de Sustitución de Cultivos Ilícitos. Informe No 22 (October 2020). Available at: 

[88] Aguirre M (2020). “Colombia’s President Duque at a crossroads”. Chatham House, 17 March 2020. Available at:

[89] Burnyeat et al., op cit.

[90] Foggin S (2019). “JEP budget for 2020 to reduce by thirty percent”. Latin America Reports, 13 July 2019. Available at:

[91] JEP (2020). “JEP, preocupada por no aprobación de recursos adicionales en presupuesto”. 20 October 2020. Available at:

[93] ITUC (2020), op cit, p 25.

[94] Cited in Aguirre, op cit.

[95] Amnesty International (2020). Why Do They Want to Kill Us? Lack of safe space to defend human rights in Colombia. London, 2020. Available at:

[96] Rueda M (2020). “Colombia Farc: the former rebels who need bodyguards to stay safe”. BBC News, 3 November 2020. Available at:

[97] “El informe de ‘falsos positivos’ que entregó la Fiscalía a la JEP”. Mundo El Heraldo, 27 May 2019. Available at:

[98] Justice for Colombia (2019). “Colombian defence minister resigns over multiple army human rights scandals”. 15 November 2019. Available at:

[99] Castrillón D (2020). “Suprema que ordena medidas para garantizar derecho a protesta pacífica”. CNN Español, 24 September 2020. Available at:

[100] Reuters Staff (2020). “Colombian electoral commission launches probe of Duque campaign”. Reuters, 11 August 2020. Available at:

[101] “Peace, neoliberalism, and political shifts in Colombia”. Dossier no 23. Tricontinental, 3 December 2019.

[102] Peñaranda I and Gómez-Delgado J (2019). “Colombia’s new awakening”. Jacobin, 8 December 2019. Available at:; Franz T and Suárez AG (2019). “Why is Colombia striking for change?”. LSE Blog, 16 December 2019. Available at:

[103] Justice for Colombia (2020). “Coronavirus: what is the impact in Colombia?”. 5 November 2020. Available at:; Zoe PC (2020). “Two years of Duque’s Colombia: deepening neoliberalism, increased violence and a public health crisis” (interview with Milena Ochoa). Peoples Dispatch, 11 August 2020. Available at:

[104] Bamrah G (2020). “Colombian protests culminate in national strike”. PSU Vanguard, 3 November 2020. Available at:;   Campo Palacios D and Dest A (2020). “Empty seats and full streets in the Colombian Minga, nacla, 23 October 2020. Available at:

[105] Transparency International (2020). “Alarm over concentration of power in the presidency in Colombia”, 3 September 2020. Available at:

[106] ABColombia (2020). “Independence of the Colombian judiciary at risk”. 2 November 2020. Available at:

[1] Bruff I (2016). “Authoritarian neoliberalism and the myth of free markets”. Roar, issue 4 (winter 2016). Available at:

[2] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2019). ”France: UN experts denounce severe rights restrictions on ‘gilets jaunes’ protesters”. 18 February 2019. Available at:; Amnesty International (2020). “France: thousands of protesters wrongly punished under draconian laws in pre and post COVID-19 crackdown”. 28 September 2020. Available at:

[3] Salvi E (2020). “Emmanuel Macron has no mandate for his attack on pensions”. Jacobin, 7 March 2020. Available at:

[4] Hanafi S (2020). “Macron steals right’s thunder on fight against radical Islam”. Bloomberg, 2 November 2020. Available at:

[5] Ní Bhriain N (2020). “Europe’s new pact on migration and asylum: more deadly border politics”. In Historical Thunder and Lightning, 1 October 2020. Available at:

[6] Freedom House (2020). Available at:

[7] Greenwald G (2016). “Trump will have vast powers. He can thank Democrats for them”. Washington Post, 11 November 2016. Available at:

[8] Sawyer W and Wagner P (2020). Mass Incarceration: the whole pie 2020. Prison Policy Initiative report. Available at

[9] Roberts M (2020). “US election: women, the young, the working class, the cities and ethnic minorities get rid of Trump”. Michael Roberts Blog, 8 November 2020. Available at:

[10] Joseph-Salisbury R, Connelly L and Wangari-Jones P (2020). “‘The UK is not innocent’: Black Lives Matter, policing and abolition in the UK”. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (online). Available at:

[11] Merrick R (2020). “Hostile environment to stay until at least 2022, Priti Patel’s ‘improvement plan’ suggests”. Independent, 30 September 2020. Available at:

[12] Casalicchio E (2020). “Boris Johnson goes presidential”. Politico, 5 August 2020. Available at:

[13] Mohdin A (2020). “Legal threat over anti-capitalist guidance for schools in England”. Guardian, 1 October 2020. Available at

[14] Caiani M (2018). “Radical right cross-national links and international cooperation”, in Rydgren (ed), The Oxford Handbook of the Radical Right, p 566.

[15] Griffin R (2017). “Interregnum or endgame? The radical right in the ‘post-fascist’ era”, in Cas Mudde (ed), The Populist Radical Right, pp 17–18.

[16] See Pollard J (2016). “Skinhead culture: the ideologies, mythologies, religions and conspiracy theories of racist skinheads”. Patterns of Prejudice, vol 50, no 4–5, pp 398–419.

[17] Caiani M, op cit, pp 567–70.

[18] Maestre A (2019). “The worrying rise of Spain’s far right”. Jacobin, 28 April 2019. Available at:

[19] “Abascal prepara el Foro Madrid para hacer frente ‘al avance del comunismo y la extrema izquierda’”. vozpopuli, 26 October 2020. Available at: The São Paulo Forum is a collective of socialist political parties and other organisations from Latin America and the Caribbean, launched by the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) in 1990. Established in 2019, the Puebla Group is a progressive alliance of over 40 leaders from Latin America and Spain, including former presidents, current and former government ministers and legislators.

[20] Beirich H (2020). Generation Identity: international white nationalist movement spreading on Twitter and YouTube. Available at:; Anti-Defamation League (ADL) (n.d.) Hate Beyond Borders: the internationalization of white supremacy. Available at:

[21] Soufan Center (2020). Special Report: the Atomwaffen Division: the evolution of the white supremacy threat. Available at:

[22] Comerford M (2020). “Confronting the challenge of ‘post-organisational’ extremism”. Observer Research Foundation, 19 August 2020. Available at:

[23] Ramsay A (2019). “Is your prosecco funding the far right?”. openDemocracy, 22 May 2019. Available at:; Brough M, Snip I, Provost C and Ferreira L (2020). “Interactive: explore US Christian right ‘dark money’ spending globally”. openDemocracy, 28 October 2020. Available at:; Cariboni D and CotaI (2020). “US groups linked to COVID conspiracies pour millions of ‘dark money’ into Latin America”. openDemocracy, 29 October 2020. Available at:

[24] Purdue S (2020). “Foreign fighters and the global war for white supremacy”. Fair Observer, 18 February 2020. Available at:

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