The dangers of electing populist leaders and governments were vividly illustrated by Professor Diego Sanchez-Ancochea guest speaker at the Banbury and Bicester Labour Party supper on Saturday 19 October. 

Through reference to his research into the politics of South American countries, he described how “them and us” attitudes had fed populism which caused instability, eroded democracy and led to military coups and authoritarian rule.  The democratically elected left-wing governments faced fierce resistance to economic and political reform from a small but wealthy elite which owned the large mining companies and invested abroad or used tax havens rather than supporting their home economy.  The most successful democratic left governments, such as Bolivia’s under Morales, had relied on a broad socialist movements with strong roots in the community.

Diego concluded that South America illustrated the danger of populism, which was also emerging in Europe. Here the ‘Them versus Us’ theme has migrants as its focus, but the result is the same: an erosion of democracy.

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