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Speaking of populism December 6, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Been thinking about populism, and it struck me that the definitions offered by GW and others were spot on in regard to many of the current formations, that is national authoritarians. Indeed thinking about it the party that seemed to me to be most ‘populist’ was 5SM, because for me populism is not parties to the left of ‘mainstream’ social democracy or to the right of the centre right but parties that are incoherent in their political platform. 5SM seems to me to typify this perfectly, whereas the League is a different kettle of fish.

This is not to say that the League doesn’t have populist aspects but that’s not the major aspect of its identity, any more than Fidesz in Hungary or the PIS in Poland. Those are all parties that cleave closer or further away to versions of national authoritarianism. And I think that the Guardian’s pieces during the week do a real disservice by not engaging with this reality. Synaspsimos, Sinn Féin and so on are not populist in this reading, and I don’t do this to allow them to be above or beyond criticism, but to point to the fact they are qualitatively different sorts of parties to FIS, etc.

Indeed, as GW noted, there’s something deeply depressing about the idea that populism is all that which isn’t the centre of politics – a self-ascribed and rather right-wing centre. And given that why is British Labour under Corbyn not described as populist?


1. CL - December 6, 2018

‘ Sinn Féin’s entire political project, including our opposition to austerity, is populist, and unashamedly so.’-Eoin O Broin.


2. Liberius - December 6, 2018

because for me populism is not parties to the left of ‘mainstream’ social democracy or to the right of the centre right but parties that are incoherent in their political platform.

Likewise. I took the Guardian’s populist quiz last week and was promptly declared to be a stark raving populist (as have most who took the thing) in spite of having answered the questions with a Marxian perspective in mind (at times not exactly easy given the slippery nature of some of the questions*); it strikes me from the write-up on the quiz, specifically the decision to focus on gender, is an attempt to deflect away from having to ask if their definition of populism leaves little room for politics outside of a narrow technocratic ‘centrism’.

*Q. 7. “The power of a few special interests prevents our country from making progress” – That’s a loaded question leaving no room for classical capital v. labour analysis.


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WorldbyStorm - December 6, 2018

Yes, absolutely. It was a terrible terrible questionnaire.


3. CL - December 7, 2018

“The Guardian’s populism series…seeking not so much to shed light on populism as to define it as the enemy of decent, liberal politics. It is less a reflection on a phenomenon than a reflex against it….
Hillary Clinton, Matteo Renzi, and Tony Blair….are invited to discuss why they lost out to populists and how the political center can fight back….
Is it really credible to argue that a billionaire real estate mogul like Donald Trump is more defined by his opposition to “corrupt elites” than to immigrants and their rights? …
on social and economic policy, the so-called “populists” on the Left are closer to the social democrats than they are to their estranged relatives on the populist right. So why try to unite these poles?
The answer to this question is simple: to defend liberalism against its foes….
One of the most prominent texts in the field in recent years — Jan-Werner Müller’s What is Populism? — contains only five references to neoliberalism, while the word capitalism is entirely absent from its lexicon. Such a failure to take seriously the economic basis of populism’s rise has facilitated an escapism among the liberal political class.”


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