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Populist… November 21, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Reading this in the Guardian about the rise of populists I was struck by the slipperiness on the definition of populism. For example, in the article it suggests that nine EU states have populists in cabinet. But I think about our own fair island and the thought strikes me wouldn’t the Independent Alliance be considered a populist entity?

And the definitions are curious. Syriza is populist, SF as well, both firmly on the left of the spectrum according to the chart, though oddly less left-wing than the 5 Star Movement, which doesn’t strike me as plausible.

So is the definition of populism anything that strays outside a rather narrow centre left/centre right/right of centre band?


1. GW - November 21, 2018

I skimmed it and it seems to be standard liberal horseshoe theory – the left and right ‘populists’ join at the extremes.

Nonsense up with with which I am well and truly fed.

And anyone who thinks that 5* is somehow a left outfit…?

The Graun is truly clueless at times.


WorldbyStorm - November 21, 2018

Agreed I’d regard 5* as fairly hard right functionally. And you’re spot on – the liberal handwringing is strong in the linked piece. But no thought of say how the Tories pursues hard right economic approaches post – Heath or what that implies.


2. EWI - November 21, 2018

‘Populists’ are clearly evil.

All affairs should be run by and for People with a Stake in the Country, obv.

Liked by 1 person

3. CL - November 21, 2018

“Donald Trump is one of the most successful examples of how populism reformulates the old authoritarian premises of fascism in a democratic key….
saying one thing and doing another defines Trump’s populism….
Trump pretends to be the incarnation of the entire American people….
Trump’s habit of flipflopping on radically opposed positions has become a pattern among populist leaders:…
Looking at Trump and his inner circle as mere neoliberal ideologues misses a big point: among many of the traits they share with past examples of fascism and populism is the desire to create a direct link with the people to consolidate power. Trump is not simply a neoliberal populist but also an authoritarian….
Historically, populism is a democratic reformulation of fascism.”


EWI - November 21, 2018

Historically, populism is a democratic reformulation of fascism.

Tell that to FDR?


CL - November 21, 2018

The interactions of populism and fascism are not easy to disentangle.

“By his day’s standards, and perhaps also today’s, Roosevelt was an economic populist. But the New Deal reinvigorated the market economy and saved capitalism from itself. It may also have saved democracy, as it helped staved off the dangerous demagogues and chauvinist ideologues, of which there were plenty (such as Father Coughlin and Huey Long).”

If FDR was a populist his populism was different from that of Coughlin and Long who were his enemies.


4. GW - November 21, 2018

Can we please stop using ‘right-wing populism’ and call it what it is, i.e. nationalist authoritarianism within neoliberalism(NAWN)? For none of the exemplars of such ‘right-wing populisms’ genuinely challenge the economic and structural conditions of their birth – why would they?

Some of the so-called ‘left-wing populisms’, in contrast, do exactly that, although I wouldn’t expect the Graun liberals to grok this.

In a much better analysis of the causes and nature of NAWN is presented here by Alfredo Saad-Filho.

He outlines the causes for the political crumbling of neoliberal governance, for instance:

…neoliberal democracy tends to splinter the political sphere between a myriad of competing parties, movements and NGOs with intransigently narrow horizons and lacking the vision, means and ambition to transform society. Their conflicting agendas ensure a permanent political paralysis that can be handled only by painful negotiations that, ultimately, secure the hegemony of conservative interests. Neoliberal democracy has spawned political deadlock, the disintegration of established forms of representation, and a generalised sense of alienation.

And in this political blockage emerges NAWN – from Brexit to Orbán.

Nationalist authoritarianism has emerged in response to the economic contradictions of neoliberalism, the sclerosis of the political institutions regulating its metabolism and the corrosion of its ideological foundations.

Which appeals to the following block of ‘lumpenised’ losers and the increasingly insecure:

The “losers” include informal workers with no realistic prospect of stable employment, underemployed skilled workers, employees fearing the disappearance of their jobs, indebted small business owners, bankrupt small farmers, endangered middle managers, threatened small business owners, anxious civil servants, panicky pensioners, and the remnants of erstwhile privileged social strata bewailing their mounting debts and inability to bequeath better circumstances to their offspring.

These “losers” lack a common culture or a sense of collectivity drawing upon shared material circumstances; they also distrust political systems that seem to bypass them. Heterogeneous, divided and disorganised, they are unable to resist the continuing rollout of “reforms.” Worse: just as the lumpenproletariat is highly vulnerable to political capture by the elite, the losers in lumpenised neoliberal societies are prone to capture by the political right.


NAWN can’t deliver what it promises economically or indeed socially:

Nationalist authoritarianism has emerged in response to the economic contradictions of neoliberalism, the sclerosis of the political institutions regulating its metabolism and the corrosion of its ideological foundations. It is, however, limited, because the aggregation of individual demands does not support transformative programmes grounded upon material reality, which are necessary to address the structural problems of accumulation and social reproduction under late neoliberalism and the ecological crisis.

But it won’t stop them trying:

Even though authoritarian neoliberal leaders are unlikely to deliver their key promises, this does not prevent them from trying, or from achieving selected goals irrespective of cost or consequence.

See Italy’s and Hungary’s political programmes.

Systematic internal and external violence is intrinsic to these attempts:

nationalist authoritarianism is the expression of the impotent fury of a disorganised array of losers under neoliberalism, in conditions of social disorganisation, global crisis and accelerated economic restructuring. Their focus on attacking the weak – immigrants, refugees, the “undeserving poor,” the unjustifiably “privileged” by state action and judicial activism – feeds retrograde political programmes and poses the urgent need for sustainable and democratic left-wing alternatives.

which will feed upon itself:

The (unavoidable) failures of nationalist authoritarianism can lead social dissatisfaction under late-neoliberalism to remain unfocused, feeding unpredictable explosions followed by rapid evaporation. These cycles of revolt will be destabilising for the economic reproduction of neoliberalism and for constitutional politics. These grievances also tend to remain unresolved, fuelling further waves of instability.

So we’re at a ‘socialism or barbarism’ moment:

There is a race between the restoration of social and political collectivity and barbarism. The winner will take it all.


CL - November 21, 2018

“Nationalist authoritarianism has emerged in response to the economic contradictions of neoliberalism”-Alfredo Saad-Filho.

Nothing new here; market fundamentalism does evoke an authoritarian response to the economic insecurity engendered.
Polanyi’s great book was written 75 yrs ago.


5. GW - November 21, 2018

Well I screwed that link up, one more try: Saad-Filho’s article.

Liked by 1 person

6. Gerryboy - November 21, 2018

Populism and populist are words that get bandied about today and generally mean right-leaning crypto fascist chauvinist racist and other bad things. Until the 1980s academic political scientists used to describe Fianna Fail as an amazingly successful populist democratic party, by which they meant a catchall centrist party able to get votes from all classes. I worry about political terminology getting bent to suit the intellectual-emotional interests of commentators in the mass media.


7. CL - November 23, 2018

Hillary Clinton…llustrated how a certain brand of centrist politician has no rebuke or response to populists other than to mimic their tactics. On the issue of immigration in Europe, she called on the continent’s leaders to erect the barricades….
It is one of the enduring perplexities of centrist politics, one whose adherents attack the left for being unrealistic and unconcerned with electoral victory, that on immigration it has stuck to pandering to xenophobia despite the benefit of that never materialising at the ballot box.”

Hillary is oblivious of how the neoliberal policies of Bill Clinton, and those of Blair, manured the ground for the rise of populist nationalism.


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