I’d say this article is hysterical leftist paranoia. Neoliberalism and cultural leftism are friends, not enemies. The inequality of wealth that we see rising is similar to what happened during the industrial revolution when the rise of the liberal bourgeoisie paralleled the growth the proletarian class. It’s amazing how many of today’s leftists miss elementary observations that are compatible with basic Marxist theory.
It’s the supposed illiberal forces that are actually the ones that are taking some kind of stand, however modest, against neoliberalism. The National Front, for example, is the most leftwing party in France in terms of defending secular republicanism against reactionary Islam, the social safety net against global capitalism, and national self-determination against EU and US imperialism. The “right wing reactionary” parties of Europe are not trying to restore the ancient regime or the classical bourgeoisie, much less historic fascism. They’re trying to restore the middle class of the pre-neoliberal era.
Here’s a good way to look at it. The former middle class people in the West who have sunk into a reproletarianized labor force in the era of globalization are like the once largely independent peasants that began to make up the ranks of the urban industrial proletariat following being run of their land by enclosure and forced to move to the cities to find work in the factories.
Similarly, the once somewhat prosperous modern Western middle classes are now being reproletarianized thanks to globalization, and are no longer working in high wage manufacturing jobs with job security but are instead being forced into working in superstores, fast food joints, and call centers.
What the Left is unable to grasp is that what the populist-nationalist movements in the West at present represent is a working to middle class that is resisting being reproletarianized. Yes, they tend to be more socially conservative than the neoliberal elites because working classes have always been more conservative socially than the liberal bourgeoisie. “But Donald Trump is a racist!” Yeah? Even if true, so was Karl Marx. “But the populists nationalists are against gay marriage!” Yeah? That would have really flown in the old Communist Parties. “But they’re against feminism!” Yeah, Marine and Marion Le Pen really want to put women back in the kitchen and, besides, feminism has its roots in the thought of liberals like Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill, not historic socialism.
Here’s an article by a commentator that actually gets it.
“In his “Flight 93” essay, Decius called Trump “the most liberal Republican nominee since Thomas Dewey,” and he didn’t mean it as an insult. Trump argues that the government should do more to insure that workers have good jobs, speaks very little about religious imperatives, and excoriates the war in Iraq and wars of occupation in general. Decius says that he isn’t concerned about Trump’s seeming fondness for Russia; in his view, thoughtless provocations would be much more dangerous. In his telling, Trump is a political centrist who is misconstrued as an extremist.”
The reason the Left doesn’t get what this new populism is about is that they can’t conceive of the idea of a Left that is not merely about anti-racism, feminism, and gayism, but that version of the Left has only existed for half a century. For 130 year before that the Left was about class struggle. My nemesis Goofy Gillis is a good case in point:
“Preston loves to make a big show of brushing off the neonazi cobwebs that so clearly cover him from every angle by protesting that despite his endless horror show of associations (and reactionary outbursts), he’s actually a leftist. But what on earth could constitute his “leftism” once you slice away all the feminism, queer liberation, and anti-racism he despises?”
Another important consideration is that not all of the populist movements in Europe are on the right, even by conventional standards. Podemos and Syriza are on the left, Five Star is more or less radical center, and the Pirates are libertarian-left. The common thread among all these is opposition to the neoliberal establishment.
Podemos and Syriza are just moderate reformist tendencies, not revolutionaries by any means, just like most of the more rightward leaning populist parties seem to favor a kind of “business nationalism.” I don’t find any of these groups particularly impressive myself. It’s more the wider social currents they represent that matter.
By Achille Mbembe
The Mail Guardian
There is no sign that 2017 will be much different from 2016.
Under Israeli occupation for decades, Gaza will still be the biggest open prison on Earth.
In the United States, the killing of black people at the hands of the police will proceed unabated and hundreds of thousands more will join those already housed in the prison-industrial complex that came on the heels of plantation slavery and Jim Crow laws.
Europe will continue its slow descent into liberal authoritarianism or what cultural theorist Stuart Hall called authoritarian populism. Despite complex agreements reached at international forums, the ecological destruction of the Earth will continue and the war on terror will increasingly morph into a war of extermination between various forms of nihilism.
Inequalities will keep growing worldwide. But far from fuelling a renewed cycle of class struggles, social conflicts will increasingly take the form of racism, ultra nationalism, sexism, ethnic and religious rivalries, xenophobia, homophobia and other deadly passions.
The denigration of virtues such as care, compassion and kindness will go hand in hand with the belief, especially among the poor, that winning is all that matters and who wins — by whatever means necessary — is ultimately right.