On November 17th, Trent students and faculty members gathered in the
Champlain Learning and Living Commons for yet another engaging panel discussion regarding recent major political developments around the globe.

Hosted by the Departments of Political Studies and International Development, the event featured presentations from Dr. Feyzi Baban, Dr. Antonio Cazoria-Sanches, and Dr. Hasmet Uluorta. A follow-up to last month’s panel discussion regarding the US election, this event’s main objective was to tie two seemingly unrelated yet highly noteworthy global events into a broader narrative of expanding right-wing political movements within Europe and North America.

Dr. Hasmet’s presentation focused mostly on the campaign and subsequent election of Donald Trump, as well as the political, economic, and social implications a Trump presidency will have on Canada’s relationship with the United States. Trump’s promise to back out of the Paris [Climate Change] Agreement was especially concerning to the professor, given Prime Minister Trudeau’s previously expressed commitment to the UN agreement. He noted that Trump’s withdrawal from the PA will likely increase corporate backlash in response to the Canadian PM’s proposed carbon tax.

He concluded by reminding those in attendance that Trump’s presidency ought to be taken seriously, especially since his economically populist trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and proposed family leave program may actually provide him enough political momentum to withstand a second term in the Oval Office.

Dr. Baban’s speech largely emphasized the rise of far-right leaning parties in Europe in recent years, such as the National Front in France, which he asserts have been further emboldened by Trump’s win, as well as the recent Brexit vote in the UK. Now more than ever, he argued, it is essential that those on the left of the political spectrum work towards mobilizing folks who consider themselves politically disenfranchised in the struggle against those who espouse the illiberal ideology of the far right.

Dr. Cazoria-Sanchez’s comments on the history of fascism were particularly compelling. He asserted that what makes this ideology uniquely dangerous is that while most people feel they have an ideal sense of what “fascism” is, there is no truly specific historical model we can to refer while trying to pinpoint it in the contemporary realm.

Although it has no set model, there are certainly key themes we can look for in spotting political institutions teetering towards fascism. One of these themes, Antonio noted, is the state-sanctioned narrative of “the other” transmitted to the population at large. He compared the perceived fear of Bolshevism espoused by the Italian fascist state during the Great Depression to the economic scapegoating of Muslim and Mexican immigrants in the United States since the stock market crash of 2008.

Afterwards, I spoke to Trent Matthew, a key organizer and promoter of the panel discussion. He told me that events like this one are instrumental in creating a counter-discourse that can serve to inform students and members of the public in a way that empowers them to resist political and social changes they may not feel comfortable with.
Given increasing turnout rates and overall positive feedback from students and faculty members in response to this event and others like it, it is unlikely this will be the last panel discussion of this nature hosted on campus.