Reading Populism

Discussion in 'theory, philosophy & history' started by redsquirrel, Jul 26, 2019.

  1. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Not got much more to say about chapter 1 that I didn't already say above.

    Chapter 2 - There's a lot in this chapter, so much so that I had to read some sections a few times to get all the subtleties, but my first thoughts:

    The review of how the word populism is used, and thus how populisms are defined, is useful not only in helping to shed a light on populisms but also on the politics of those seeking to define it.

    I'm still chewing over the 'vertical' vs 'horizontal' distinction drawn between populisms and other political concepts, thinking about the concept in relation to different examples of populism and other ideologies.
    Likewise the differentiation of 'left' and 'right' populisms (need to follow this up by reading the Judis book butchersapron linked to, but which I've not yet had a chance to read).
    Have to admit my ignorance about 'left' wing populism here, do Syriza still fall into this structure?

    I've not read any of Arditi but his quoted commentary speaks volumes to me. The political space assigned to the people no longer being satisfactory to (some) of them and the intimate connection between populism and representative democracy populism as “the form that politics assumes today, at the end of the long cycle of ‘democratic normalisation”.

    The section on Italy had some real insights. The example of both the Five Star Movement and Renzi mirroring each other mirroring each other in attacking existing social bodies and strengthening the executive.

    I'll leave it there for the moment, and let others comment.
    danny la rouge likes this.
  2. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    double post
  3. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Seeing as though last weeks deadline didn't really work how do people think we should proceed?
    Should we just hold on and aim to have Chp 2 by this coming weekend or go for Chp 3?

    I would say that IMO Chp 2 is probably the hardest read, I read Chps 3-6 much more quickly.
  4. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    I'm cross-posting the above onto this thread as the last chapter of Revelli's book is very pertinent and provides an interesting view into what has happened and what might happen next.
    danny la rouge likes this.
  5. Flavour

    Flavour hang the bankers

    What does Revelli have to say about what might happen next?
  6. chilango

    chilango Neither Westminster nor Brussels....

    I've finished it.

    But as I read it last thing at night it's hard to then post.

    I'll try and summarize my key thoughts soon.
    redsquirrel likes this.
  7. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    It's not so much that Revelli makes predictions (though he does mention Lega eating into the M5S vote) rather that the analysis of populism he gives can help us analyse and understand the situation.

    I'm too tired to post anything more detailed tonight but I'll try to remember to come back to it as we go through the book, especially when we discuss chapter 6 which focusses on Italy.
  8. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Anyone got anything they want to say about Chp 2 or should we just move on to Chp 3?
  9. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Just going to stick this here as a placemarker for when (if?) ice get to Chp 5 and discuss Europe.

    I'll try to stick up my thoughts on Chp3 before/at the weekend.
  10. Smokeandsteam

    Smokeandsteam Well-Known Member

    Sorry for the tardy performance by me. I’ll get reading and post my thoughts. Hopefully others will do the same.
  11. chilango

    chilango Neither Westminster nor Brussels....

    40% off Verso's Populism reading list.


    Includes Revelli and the Traverso which I've just started.

    Apologies for no comments on the Revelli yet. I might better just responding to others thoughts tbh.
  12. chilango

    chilango Neither Westminster nor Brussels....

    Ch.1 of the Traverso is pretty good.

    Ch.2 on Identitarianism is not so good, so far. Too soft on idpol and Islamisht groups for me. Also reading some iffy stuff on "Jews".

    Revelli seems much more my kinda take.
  13. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    What's the take on ID politics?
  14. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    (Just about to go out so this post is going to be a bit incomplete but if we don't start posting some stuff the thread is going to die like past reading groups).

    US Populism

    Chapter 3 of Revelli looks at populism in the US. While I'd heard of the populist party I have to admit I did not have a lot of background knowledge of it so the introductory sections on it were helpful. It's also worth mentioning the Judis book butchersapron put up here as well, I'm only part way through it but the first two chapters of that book give not only background on the People's Party but also other US populisms - Long, Wallace, Perot, Buchanan, the Tea Party and Occupy. What both books make clear is the long history of populism within sections of the US populace
    Judis also emphasises that US populisms (whether "left" or "right") have tended to draw consistent support from the lower middle classes, who fell threaded by "loss". To what extent this is justified I need to take a closer look at the data but it closely corresponds to the thesis of Goodwin and Eastman in their book.
    danny la rouge likes this.
  15. chilango

    chilango Neither Westminster nor Brussels....


    Revelli traces the same pattern as part of the rise in populism in a range of places.

    The pushing of the formerly included to the periphery.

    Or at least a feeling of that.

    Look at the m/c anxiety thread.

    The geographical patterns Revelli observes are interesting too.
    danny la rouge likes this.
  16. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    One thing that Judis raises, very accurately IMO, is the importance of the aims of populists indicating the break from the consensus rather than being "realistic" goals.
    While those examples are for US populists I think they are true of all (or at least nearly all) populisms. I did not vote Labour at the last GE because I thought they might be able to implement the policies in their manifesto but because for the first time in my political life the LP had a leader that stood on a picket line and a manifesto that broke, even if in rather a mild way, from neo-liberalism.

    And the above is why all the centrists dismissal and "exposure" of the "unrealistic" demands of Trump, no-deal Brexit, Sanders medicare for all or whatever are so absolutely useless. These demands are popular precisely because they are "unrealistic"
  17. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    So moving onto Chp 4 and Brexit.

    The vote to leave the EU has been discussed so much that on first reading I found this chapter less interesting than others. Going back to it this week in preparation for this post I found more in it that on first reading. The University of Warwick study (posted on U75) is cited and I agree with Revelli that the vote the leave
    The finding that while both campaigns focus on immigration (present tense used on purpose here)
    contradicting the often-made claims that the referendum was all about immigration for the people. The section looking at the counterfactual of what might have happened if the cuts of the coalition government had not been so severe is interesting (and rather nicely partly lays the loss for Remain at the fee of the fuckwit LDs and pro-EU tories like Cameron/Osbourne), although I'd delete the 'probably' in the parentheses (my emphasis)
    Thinking about the dyadic/triadic nature of 'left' and 'right' populisms discussed in Chp 2, is interesting when applied to the the populisms within the vote to leave the EU (and I think it is important here to stress that their was not one populism but multiple populisms present). (NB for those that have not (yet) read the book Revelli does not do this explicitly I am taking the concepts he discusses in Chp 2 and applying them here)

    That said one criticism I would make is that I don't think Revelli (and even more so Judis) grasp (or at least discsuss) how long term (and left-wing) the opposition to the EU is in the UK. The connections made to the long-time scales in the USA re Trump are rather brushed over for the UK and Brexit. Though that does raise an interesting question, was anti-EU politics in the UK always populist or has it become (more) so over time?

    I'm not sure where I stand on that question. Thinking 'aloud' I suppose you could make an argument that as the left embraced the EU, that freed up space within anti-EU feeling that populisms entered? Don't know if anyone else has any thoughts on that, or anything else? And apologies for the brackets, there's far too many of them in this post.

    Final point, how shameful is it that it fell to fucking Farange to oppose the attacks on Greece
    Yes it was a cynical attempt to try to bolster his support but whatever the reasons and hypocrisy behind such a statement it cannot be denied that it is absolutely accurate.
  18. chilango

    chilango Neither Westminster nor Brussels....

    Finished the Traverso. Interesting read, but not really about populism.
  19. Proper Tidy

    Proper Tidy Arsed

    Haven't been keeping up with this thread, but bought winslow/hall's rise of the right ages ago and have finally got round to starting it, so far very good. As it happens 'met' (online) both hall and winslow who both came across as sound
    Smokeandsteam likes this.
  20. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Chp 4, pt 1 - France

    Obviously anyone interested in populism or the return of the hard right knows of the FN (RN) but what this chapter really drew home to me was how successful the FN have been. It's ability to draw support across the whole of France (taking first place in more communes than the Union of Left and Union of Right did together in the 2015 regional elections) is remarkable considering it is fighting under an electoral system that is stacked against them (arguably to as great an extent as FPTP would be).

    The analysis that the idea of the Fronts (one based in the South around classical hard-right ideas and one in the North that is more 'anti-capitalist) has broken down only strengthens the FN over the longer term
    Indeed going back to the long-timescales it is clear that the FN has now succeeded in expanding the 'historical' map of French populism in a way that Trump did not really do for US populism.

    It is impossible for anyone serious not to agree that the loss to Macron in the 2017 Presidential election (as said by a number of us at the time)
    (One minor off-topic criticism of the book is that it would be nice to have actual maps showing the below rather it being described in text)

    It is also worth thinking about how Marcon fits into the populism framework, like populists he sold himself on being outside the established parties and wanting 'renewal' (33% of those that intended to vote for him said they would do so for this reason). However, Macron is of course very much pro-establishment and his popularity has now skydived - he might have used some of the clothes of populism to help his election but he was very quickly exposed as yet another naked emperor.

    The 2019 European elections have only reinforced the existing trends, the LR and PS look totally moribund with the RN and En Marche dominating the political map (important to note that for all the talk about the drop in its % vote the RN took 500,000 more votes in 2019 than 2012). With the electoral system so against it it is hard to see a electoral breakthrough for the RN but its political breakthrough has already occurred.
    danny la rouge likes this.
  21. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    I'm cross posting some thoughts from the Brexit thread because I think they apply to most (all?) of the populisms we are seeing today. Plus I think it will get a better reception here.
    The below is not only based on my readings of Revelli but also the fact that I've begun to get into Tronti's Workers and Capital. Reading the two together has developed my thinking - for good to ill.


    There's been a repeated demand on this thread, and others, for strong workers organisations that are in favour of leaving. People suggesting that they could accept the arguments for leave if such organisations existed. But this insistence on the necessity of such organisations is both dishonest and goes to the key division between those arguing from a class perspective and those arguing from a progressive perspective.

    It is dishonest because where are strong left wing* organisations arguing for remaining in the UK? They no more exist than those that favour leave. So in fact the argument against leaving the EU because left wing organisations don't exist is implicitly an argument for some sections of capital/the state to protect the working class against other sections, the EU to defend the working class against the UK. And here we have the whole problem, that of making capital the prime mover and the working class a pawn of capitals and states.

    (*I don't believe this term is useful but it is the one that has been used most often on the thread so I will use it here)

    Instead Let's take up Tronti's advice.
    From this point of view we can see that the working class (recognising that the organisations it had once developed to advance it's cause are now utterly redundant in the fight with capital after the latest crisis) has engineered a series of political crises. The working class has seized the initiative, once again leaping ahead of its organisations, and used populisms to strike at capital.
    And it is that last sentence there that is key to understanding what actions socialists should take. Socialist have to take their lead from the working class, have to use the opportunities the working class has created by its actions to help develop new tools that the working class can use to attack capital. To argue that an anti-EU campaign should not be mounted until tools have been developed is to have workers organisations act as the brake on the working class.

    Whether one sees more opportunities for the working class with remaining in or leaving the EU no pro-working class politics can start from the point of a return to the status quo ante, to undo the intuitive that the working class have created.
    Those of favour remain and are pro-working class are every bit as much in search of India as those who voted/favour leave.
  22. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Thanks for the reply, as the Brexit thread has moved on so fast I thought I'd reply to this post here. I hope that's ok with you PM.
    I don't think we are really that far away on this point. I would not say that the working class is a pawn of capital/states but I would accept that capital will inevitably respond to moves of the working class and seek to re-frame the issue on its terms. To borrow from Tronti again
    I think we'll have to agree to disagree here. In my view the working class has caused the political crises via populism against the objectives of capital. Across Europe capital's tool of the EU is under attack, the

    Sorry I'm confused by your reply. I wasn't not arguing (or at least I didn't mean to argue) that the new tools socialists should be helping to develop have emerged yet (or at least we don't recognise then at this moment). :confused:

    I think this is the core part of our disagreement. I'm absolutely not making this analysis on the 'working class being right for the right reasons'. I agree that the move by the working class is partly on the basis of ideas that you and I would reject but I don't see that as a reason to organise against the move. Surely every time the working class has seized the initiative it has been on the basis of a medley of 'right' and 'wrong' ideas - puritan religious sensibilities in the English Civil Wars, nationalism in the Russian Revolution and colonial rebellions, etc. In fact I'd argue many ideas are 'right' and 'wrong' at the same time, take sovereignty for example, one of the key themes of the present day populisms. I don't think either of us have any time for the nationalistic side of sovereignty but I can certainly support the part of sovereignty that argues that people should have democratic control of their institutions. I see sovereignty as a contestable idea one that can work for the working class as well as against it.

    I'm in general agreement with the first part of this, and indeed use it as evidence to back up my contention that the working class has engineered a crisis. I don't agreement with you that the ruling class want to leave but to some extent that by-the-by. My point was not that a return to the status quo ante was possible but that no pro-working class politics could view it as desirable. However, such a desire has been mentioned more than a few times on these boards and has significant purchase amongst progressive politics, which goes to illustrate the gap between social and progressive politics that some (not you) like to pretend does not exist.
    seventh bullet likes this.
  23. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Back to the Revelli

    Chp 4, pt 2 - Germany and Visegard

    My prior knowledge on the AfD was much less than UK populisms or the FN/RN, so this section was both interesting and helpful. Clearly there are many similarities on the AfD vote with the UKIP/BP and FN votes - non-metropolitan, older, lower educational qualifications and lower income (the data on the how fast the AfD vote has focused is especially interesting).

    The section A populism for 'rich countries'? is excellent both in exposing this type of shit below for the dishonest nonsense it is.
    In fact
    and the stuff about the mini-jobs is illuminating and appalling.

    On the Visegrád populisms one thing that came through for me was that while there are differences between the populisms in the central European countries and those in the west, the similarities are both greater than I had previously thought and more important.
    To what extent these different populisms can ally together is obviously a key question. At the moment the populisms of Hungary, Poland. Slovakia and the Czech Republic while lambasting the traditional European centre-right are nevertheless willing to align with them much of the time (e.g. their membership of the EPP or ECR groupings in the EU parliament). I feel the competition between populisms, both within and between states, is going to be an important factor in politics in the coming years.
    yield likes this.
  24. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Thought I may as well finish the book off even if the thread did not really go as we might have wished.

    Chp 6 - Italy

    Revelli's description of the three populism - first Berlusconi, then M5S, then Renzi (and of course now we could add the League) - surprised me a little. I was aware of the populism and M5S and could see how Berlusconi fits in the populism framework (very easy to see Berlusonci as a fore runner to the populisms in the US and the Visegard group) but I had not thought of Renzi's government within that framework. But Revelli makes a strong case for understanding the Renzi government as such
    It would be interesting to compare Renzi's PD with En Marche, both defining themselves in opposition to national populisms but using, at least, some of the language and behaviours of populism - the executive pushing changes through the legislature, a populism from above
    I think the conclusions are pretty much bang on and even if people cannot be bothered to read the book in full they could do worse than read this final chapter.
    I think that the data given in the conclusions (above) lend support to the idea that populisms are being used by workers to attack capital (that's not to say that such populisms will necessarily lead to advance of workers interests).
    (my emphasis)
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  25. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Renzi leaving the PD to form his own party.
    So potentially another populism (again) at play.
  26. gawkrodger

    gawkrodger Well-Known Member

    just starting the Revelli book so will be reporting in
    redsquirrel and Smokeandsteam like this.
  27. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Cool. More the merrier.
  28. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Couple of recent regional election results from Germany and Italy show that populist parties are still eating into the votes of establishment parties (both results highlighted in other threads but I think they are worth cross-posting here).

    In Germany Die Linke topped the Thuringian state election (31.0, +2.8%) but the AfD finished 2nd with a 12.8 swing in it's favour to take 23.4 % of the vote. The CDU had an 11.7 % swing against it and the SPD is now taking a single figure vote share.
    And in Umbria (a traditional stronghold of the centre-left) the centre right list, now led by Lega, crushed the PD-M5S coalition by 20%, putting the nonsense idea that withdrawing from government with hurt the League into the rubbish bin. It is very hard to see anything other than the current government living on borrowed time.
    yield likes this.
  29. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Terrible piece by the dreadful Garton Ash in the Guardian, nicely encapsulating why liberals are losing out to populists
    No mention of the data Revelli quotes regarding the declining living standards, the huge expansion of mini-jobs - workers have never had it so good!
  30. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Another example of how populism is forcing fractures in the traditional party political landscape.

    Merkel's CDU could 'tear itself apart' after call for AfD coalition
    Smokeandsteam and danny la rouge like this.

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