The neoliberal populism of Milei and Meloni

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05/22/2024

When far-right “outsider” Javier Milei was elected Argentina’s president in November, hard-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was the first European leader to congratulate him. In February, Milei returned the favour by making Italy the first country in Europe he visited as president. Since then, the two leaders had nothing but praise for each other. It is not surprising that Meloni and Milei support one another, given the many hard-right views and policy positions they share from opposition to abortion to hostility to the LGBT community. On paper, they are both socially conservative “populists” who capitalise on their people’s growing frustration with establishment politicians who they perceive as serving “globalist forces”. But the apparent bond between the two leaders – who both addressed a far-right convention in Madrid this past weekend – is not based solely on ideological affinity. In fact, Milei’s and Meloni’s politics are far from interchangeable: The Italian prime minister leads a statist, nationalist party with historic links to fascism while Argentina’s president self-identifies as a libertarian and an “anarcho-capitalist”. While Meloni views curbing immigration as a leading cause of her government, Milei is largely indifferent to the issue. The most important factor that brings the two leaders together appears not to be their shared ideological convictions but the hypocritical “neoliberal populism” they practice in the service of Western imperialism.

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