The populist anti-government movement might be a uniquely American phenomenon, but it’s not too hard to find its influence elsewhere.
Zaitokukai Party, Issues: Immigration, nationalism
Far-right nationalist groups have been a fixture in Japanese politics for decades. But as the influence of organized right-wing parties has waned, a new breed of grassroots nationalists has sprung up on the Web. The most influential of these groups is Zaitokukai, an acronym for the awkwardly named, “Citizens Group That Will Not Forgive Special Privileges For Koreans In Japan.” Targets of the group’s protests have included a grammar school for North Korean children and the home of a 14-year-old Filipino girl whose parents were deported after overstaying their visa.
Group: The Party of Freedom, Issues: Islamic immigration, Euroskepticism
Freedom Party founder Geert Wilders not only wants to ban the Quran and all immigration from Islamic countries, he also believes that the Islamic religion as a whole — not merely radical Islam — is a violent one that must be stopped before Europe becomes fully “Islamicized.” On Sept. 11, Wilders joined with U.S. Tea Party activists for a rally at the site of the proposed Islamic Cultural Center near New York’s Ground Zero.
The formula seems to be working. Despite getting temporarily barred from entering countries and facing criminal charges for inciting hatred and discrimination, Wilders and his Party of Freedom became the third-largest party in the Dutch parliament in the June 2010 elections, effectively making them kingmakers for any coalition in the new government.
Group: The British Tea Party, Taxpayers Alliance, Issues: Taxes, European Union
Historical irony be damned! Several hundred British conservative activists gathered in Brighton in February to launch the British Tea Party. The event was the brainchild of Daniel Hannan (above right), a Conservative member of the European Parliament best known for his vociferous attacks on the EU’s bloated bureaucracy, who felt that like Barack Obama’s United States, Britain under Gordon Brown possessed “all the conditions necessary for a popular anti-tax movement.” There have been only a few meetings with attendance into the dozens so far, and Hannan seems to have gotten more attention from U.S. media outlets like Fox News than from the British press.
In 2002, President Jiang Zemin decided to allow entrepreneurs to join the Communist Party, a step that would have been completely unthinkable in the old days of monolithic party politics — and one that let in a Tea Party-like stream of anti-tax, pro-business communists. During a recent debate on whether China should institute a property tax, some of the leaders of the new coalition wielded rhetoric that would not seem out of place at a Sarah Palin rally. “If you really want to provide a boost to employment, don’t raise taxes, cut them,” said Wang Jianlan, one of China’s wealthiest real estate developers and one of the main opponents of the tax.
A handful of billionaires certainly doesn’t qualify as a mass movement — though the disgruntled mega-rich played a key role in the growth of the U.S. Tea Party. And the recent mass worker protests in response to unemployment have mostly demanded more government spending, not less. But as China’s new middle class continues to grow, these capitalist comrades may find a new audience for their free-market message.