Adolph Reed Jr. What color is anti-Semitism

Populism - Friend or Enemy of the Left?

(I'll open this here so we don't always have to spam the threads for the Y&N episodes with it :)

During her campaign as the first female Democratic candidate for the upcoming US presidential election, ex-first lady, former US Secretary of State and Senator for New York State, Hillary R. Clinton gave a campaign speech in Las Vegas on February 13, 2016 she said the following (quote Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2016 )


"Not everything is about an economic theory, right?" Clinton asked her audience of a few hundred activists, most of them wearing T-shirts from the unions that had promoted the rally. "If we broke up the big banks tomorrow - and I will, if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will - would that end racism?"
"No!" shouted her audience.
"Would that end sexism?"
"No!"
"Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community?"
"No!"
"Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?"
"No!"
"Would that solve our problem with voting rights, and Republicans who are trying to strip them away from people of color, the elderly, and the young?"
"No!"
"Would that give us a real shot at ensuring our political system works better because we get rid of gerrymandering and redistricting and all of these gimmicks Republicans use to give themselves safe seats, so they can undo the progress we have made?"
"No!"
The entire rally was crafted to push the "single issue" attack on Sanders, a sort of attempt to rewind the clock, and define the surging progressive candidate less as an idealist with bold solutions and more as a naif who isn't familiar enough with the causes of the rising left.

This speech was less intended to convince the audience of the importance of ending the structural and social inequality of people of color, migrants, women, or members of the LGBTQ community than Clinton's attempt to win over her main competitor for the candidacy, the Senator Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a (democratic) "socialist", is portrayed by young, left-liberal voters as an "old white man" who "only" deals with the economic problem of rampant material inequality in the USA, and for this target group I neglect such important issues of identity politics.

Clinton had also previously portrayed himself as the spearhead of the feminist movement, and campaign staff accused Sanders supporters in heated debates, especially on social media, of being "bernie bros" - as a male union, sexist-motivated hinderance of the first female president in the country's history.

Even in the black civil rights movement in the USA, which at the time of Martin Luther King still placed a strong emphasis on the economic aspects of racist discrimination, and in some cases also sought and found contact with underprivileged white classes, there is now a division in two camps, which led to the fact that the part that was more concerned with economic equality and class solidarity and critical of capitalism fell behind a movement that made racism itself the sole cause of disadvantage, which in turn was more accessible to the upper middle class, the urban upper class and is the capital that already stood behind the candidate Clinton and the democratic party leadership as major donors and contributors from the science and media industry.

Looking at the United States in terms of a thread about the possibility of left-wing populism in Germany may seem absurd at first, because its political system is almost 250 years old and constructed very differently from that of most European countries - especially that of the very young German ones Democracy - and because, on the other hand, there is a much greater distribution of injustice there, as well as an already beginning impoverishment of the former lower middle class, from which we have so far been half spared, and because the history of the United States of America is of course inseparable from slavery and the racial discrimination against the non-white population by the white upper class.

But I think this is a good (renewed) entry into the subject because the USA, as a capitalist empire and the highest stage of development of western capitalism, which has been developing since the 18th century, from a European perspective - viewed somewhat cynically - is to a certain extent the test laboratory for wherever with us the journey can still go. And because one can show something more neutral based on the conditions there than based on the local political situation, which affects us more directly, how populist currents prevail in neoliberal late capitalism - on the one hand, perhaps as an alternative to the complete takeover of the political system and the political class Capital interests, as on the other hand as their spearhead to subjugate democracy - can develop.

For the latter we have the examples right on the doorstep in Europe of the early twentieth century with the fascist "populisms" under Hitler, Mussolini, Franco et al. and their alliances with big business and its political interest groups. But is it really the only possible assignment of any form of populism to the right-wing, anti-democratic side of the political spectrum, or is our own past - especially the German one - getting in the way of the rational analysis and the conclusions to be drawn from it?

My thesis on this could perhaps be: Populism per se is not necessarily right-wing, but the right-wing side has a much easier time using it as a political weapon.

However, the question of how "right" should be defined in this context must also be answered. From a liberal, rather "positivist" point of view, Hillary Clinton was certainly not a "right-wing" candidate, but rather the left-wing alternative to the openly right-wing populist monster Trump. From a left-wing perspective, however, it represented an absolutely right-wing economic position by advocating an economic and social policy program that played into the hands of the neoliberal consensus between Democrats and Republicans, or between their large donors from the private sector and the military-industrial complex.

The democracy, which the opponents of populism - regardless of whether it comes from the left or from the right - see it as being endangered, is, however, also massively undermined by neoliberalism for good reason. His masterminds had explicit doubts that the free market system of competition, the "free" exchange of goods and services, and above all the competition for the "best" ideas on the market marketplace of ideasThe preservation of which they saw as the highest task of the state could actually be implemented with the "terror" of democratic majority decisions against the defeated minority. And of course - from the point of view of capitalism criticism - capitalism itself is deeply undemocratic, in that it exploits man and nature and gathers the profits of exploitation among the small minority of the owners of the means of production.

During her election campaign, Clinton herself preferred to use "populist" methods to raise a mood against the "single issue" candidate Sanders in her own target group from the - predominantly white - upper middle class and their young students, as well as among older non-white citizens and to focus on the question of economic distribution, in that, in the case of parts of the extra-parliamentary left, it is itself positive as a left populist was set - assumed that he was not interested in the discrimination of disadvantaged minorities and was acting against the interests of the feminist emancipation movement, which was only recently re-fueled by the #metoo debate.

The success initially seemed to prove her and her campaign strategy right. She finally won the Democratic primary election for the presidential candidate and forced Bernie Sanders and his supporters to fight them and the Democratic party establishment in the final battle against the ex-victim who had meanwhile emerged from the Republican primary and was even more unscrupulous, amoral and - above all - populist -Game show host and multi-billionaire support Donald Trump. The rest is history.

A few further texts (without claim to completeness):

Fabio de Masi (Member of the German Parliament, Die Linke): I will not run again

Wikipedia - populism

Federal Agency for Political Education - Populism

Association of Democratic Scientists - Understanding Populism

Süddeutsche Zeitung: Intellectuals misunderstand the new populism

The Guardian - Why copying the populist right isn't going to save the left

Chantal Mouffe - The controversy over left wing populism (Le Monde Diplomatique)

C. Mouffe has also written a much-noticed book about it: "For a left populism"which I have not read.

Counter-speech to your idea of ​​left populism:

IPG - Tobias Dürr: Against a ethnic left!