An effigy of the leader of the Law & Justice Party (PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczynski holding Premier Beato Szydlo and Polish President Andrzej Duda as puppets Anna Ferensowicz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Populism With Socialist Characteristics

Those who care about democracy in Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere in Europe and beyond should acknowledge that many voters are buying into the nationalist right’s vision of a social state that advances national priorities, cares for the poor, and supports families. And they should adjust their own agendas accordingly.

PHILADELPHIA – Scholars and journalists have tirelessly covered the rise of populist nationalism in Europe, and especially the hardline governments in Hungary and Poland. With a few hours and a lot of googling, one can learn much about how both countries’ governments have commandeered public media, cracked down on privately owned TV stations and newspapers, weakened constitutional courts, attacked immigrants, promoted hate speech against Jews, Muslims, and other minority groups, and unleashed online trolls. But one would still be unable to answer the fundamental question: Why are these governments so popular?

The answer is one that most analysts have overlooked: these governments are not only nationalist; they are also socialist.

Consider Poland, where the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party won 38% of the vote in the October 2015 parliamentary election. In April 2018, despite mounting authoritarianism and official complaints from the European Union, opinion polls put support for the far-right PiS at 40%.

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