On Thursday, March 10, USC (Undergraduate Student Council) member Eduard Avetisyan initiated a talk with the current Deputy in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia and founder of “Civil Contract” party Nikol Pashinyan. Although, at first USC wanted to make the event public, but the doors were eventually made open only for PSIA (Political Science and International Affairs Program) and students taking Politics related courses (“Development Policies” and “Intro to Political Science”).
Having gathered in a classroom full of students and staff, Mr. Pashinyan started off his talk about Political Ideologies in 21st century. However, in order for to understand the origin of political ideologies, he started back from 16-17th centuries and introduced the European revolutions. Bringing the example of the overthrowing and beheading of Charles I, the British monarch of 17th century, he stated that this event was the start of further revolutions that happened in England, making people question whether monarchy was the way to do it. “Although information didn’t travel as fast as it does now,” Mr. Pashinyan said, “It still did, and this wasn’t a reason but a consequence for new political ideologies to yet be revealed and created in Europe.” One of the great philosophers of The Enlightenment era, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his “The Social Contract” writing posed the following question: “Who does power belong to?” These were the times that the answer was supposed to be obvious – to the monarch. However, he gave a completely different turn and said that power belongs and must belong to the people. At this point in history, the realization that monarchy was soon to be overthrown and new political ideologies were about to rise was inevitable. Later, the French Revolution and beheading of Louis XVI in late 18th century only proved its success. The French revolution brought its three slogans – Liberté, égalité, fraternité – Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood. As Mr. Pashinyan noted, “All further political ideologies either fully originated or are included in these three words.” While showing an example map of social spectrum, Mr. Pashinyan said: “It is quite difficult to set exact borders between these political ideologies. Also, this social spectrum changes through time, and the question Rousseau posed changes through each spectrum as well.” For Liberals the prior ideology has always been freedom, be it social or economic (less taxes, with as less government interference with economy as possible). For Social Democrats the priority has always been the brotherhood and tolerance. The ideology is that there should be brotherhood – rich people paying more taxes for those who have small startups and tolerance – in social, economic, and political spheres. Socialists, on the other hand, put equality above all: firstly, social equality, then political and economic. Mr. Pashinyan later gave a point by point and deeper explanation of the social spectrum.
As a result of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, which was the start the Soviet Union’s creation, political ideologies were transferred from only ideological thought to geographical field. At that time, the world had two poles-one dedicated to socialist political ideology and based on communist ideology, and another one, based completely on capitalistic ideologies. This was not the start the fight between political ideologies, but countries. As October Socialist revolutionaries believed, permanent revolutions should persist until the whole world is turned into a communist state with no room for capitalism. Not long after the creation of the Soviet Union, we see the rise of fascist Germany, which Mr. Pashinyan considers to be the third pole in the division of the world between political ideologies, setting the start of WWII – Fascist Germany vs. Communist Soviet Union and Capitalist America. Although, fascist Germany lost and proved to be the weakest pole, the ideology of National Socialism left its huge impact on Europe. An example would be Germany’s rise from the ground in an immensely short amount of time-only a few years after being humiliated and having an economic clash. Only in a few years, Adolf Hitler managed to boost the country in a way that it had 0% of unemployment.
However, hesitation emerges at the times of absolute truth. During the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was in space with the United States, people were confused. If the Soviet Union managed to send a man to space, then maybe the political ideology that it was based on was not a failure after all? Similarly, if the United States manage to put a man on the moon, then maybe they are doing something right? These hesitations create conditions for new political ideologies to be born. Something in between socialism and capitalism emerged, later called Scandinavian Socialism in capitalistic countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. The socialistic touch can be seen when free education and workers’ unions come forward.
“These comparisons are made to show that political ideologies have come a long way and evolved through time. They stopped looking at each other as enemies and even considered to study each other’s advantages and disadvantages. The ideological dogmas started to shatter and became more flexible.”
After the clash of the Soviet Union, a political ideological vacuum happened, meaning there were no more political ideologies left to fight with each other. The political ideology battle was over, without anyone’s victory, but with a realization that political ideologies don’t matter as much as the challenges we face every day.
“Political ideologies have yielded their position to challenges.”
Mr. Pashinyan brings examples to support his statement. “When Americans started putting Japanese-Americans into camps after Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, they didn’t question whether or not it was something that supported their political ideologies. They looked at it as a problem that needed a solution. Similarly, nowadays, let’s take the example of Sweden. The country, being one of the most tolerant countries in the world, completely shut down its borders for Syrian refugees. In the 21st century, political ideologies don’t operate the way they use to. They are like living organisms: they are born, they live, and eventually die.”
In the 21st century, there are many new ideologies, many new words for problems that arise as time passes. Mr. Pashinyan talked about feminism as well and noted that despite not being a part of any political ideology and on the social spectrum, LGBT rights, environmental rights, euro skeptics cause a lot of concerns in any country.
“The ideologies are not about how the country should be created anymore but about the challenges that the country faces.”
However, Mr. Pashinyan reminds us once again that it is not as simple as it sounds. Right now in our modern world, we have faced the problem of security. With the new Islamic country rising, depending on whether it will succeed or not, the whole social spectrum will take a new turn and will have to face the challenges this new spectrum will bring with it.
At the end of the lecture, during a Q&A session, Mr. Pashinyan answered as many questions as time could afford. In response to one of the questions he said that in his opinion, one of the greatest challenges the world faces today is the problem of refugees and of social inequality. In order to solve them, social organizations are created and come forwards to suggest solutions.