Culture Wars/Current Controversies

A Marxist View of the Capitalist Co-option of the Populist Left

A writer named Don Hamerquist, who appears to be a Marxist-Leninist with left-communist or autonomous Marxist leanings, has a new three part essay on the “antifascist” blog Three Way Fight that is considerably more insightful that what I usually find coming from that milieu. The essay is available here, here, and here.

The essay makes the following arguments.

1) The difficulties that global capitalism has experienced over the past decade have generated a backlash against neoliberalism in the forms of populist movements from both the left and right.

2) The “capitalist class” in the Western nations has attempted to co-opt left-wing populism by pitting it against right-wing populism in a supposed battle for “democracy” and “liberalism” against “authoritarianism” or “fascism.” Hamerquist also recognizes that Russia is a player within the framework of global capitalism, not a genuine opposition nation, but one that is being used as a scapegoat or whipping boy by Western liberals.

3) A likely effect of this will be the successful co-option of left-populism in a way that stabilizes global capitalism, and which pushes the populist right in an even more extreme direction, and possibility toward fascism (which Hamerquist correctly defines as revolutionary anti-capitalism from the right).

4) A preferable alternative would be a revolutionary anti-capitalism from the left (i.e. Marxism).

My thoughts.

1) is obvious enough, and I was predicting as much as far back as the anti-globalization era in the late 1990s, a decade before the 2000 recession.

2) is precisely what I have been saying for years as well, although the capitalist class co-option of the left has escalated in the era of Trump. Hence, the liberal sectors of the media are now aligned with elements of the intelligence services and military that are only interested in budgets and job security, and both of these have an interest in presenting Russia as the new headquarters of world fascism. Interestingly, some supposed “far left” or “antifascists” such as Alexander Reid Ross’ “anarcho-MSNBC” school of politics are now taking this line as well.

3) is true in the sense that the left will likely continue to join the establishment and become co-opted in the future (hence, the ongoing incorporation of “political correctness” into the elites’ ideological superstructure), while the “radical right” may become more extreme and violent as the right-wing continues to lose ground due to cultural, generational, demographic, and economic trends.

4) is a joke when it is considered that the Western Left is hardly a “left” at all. I don’t think a Marxist revolution would be a desirable thing, but even if it were there is hardly anything even remotely resembling a revolutionary left in the West today. There are some individual thinkers like Caleb Maupin and Jason Unruhe that bring a serious Communist analysis to the current world situation, but these kinds of perspectives seem to be the smallest sectors of the Western Left at present, and are generally unpopular.  The absurdity of present day “Resistance” types, Social Justice Warriors and Antifa storming the equivalent of the Winter Palace ought to be obvious enough.


3 replies »

  1. Some more thoughts on the Hamerquist piece:

    It is necessary to understand the right-wing populist insurgency that is presently developing in the Western countries (and some other places) in its historical context. The conditions that have generated the right-wing populist insurgency are more comparable to the conditions of the 19th century that led to the reactionary efforts of that time, rather than the conditions that generated 20th century fascism and National Socialism.

    The globalization of capital, combined with the technological revolution, is having the same effect as the Industrial Revolution in the sense of breaking down many traditional barriers, and creating a more interconnected world through the market economy (for those who are interested in the actual Marxist take on the historical influence of capitalism as a force for “progress,” look no further than the Communist Manifesto). The Industrial Revolution was a giant leap forward in terms of both material and social progress, as this information clearly indicates: However, it came at the cost of the loss or diminishing of many traditional ways of life, the centralization of wealth into the hands of a new ruling class, and the creation of massive class divisions.

    This is exactly what is happening 150-200 years later with globalization and the tech revolution. The “populist right” of today represents a (very mild) rebellion by the traditional working to middle classes (the “middle class” in the modern West is actually a working class that managed to achieve a middle class standard of living due to economic growth, technological development and a range of political, social, economic and legal reforms that happened in the 20th century).

    The working to middle classes in the developed countries see their class position as under attack by globalization, the emergence of the global super class, and the reproletariazation of labor that is taking place (this situation is particularly serious in the US which now has the widest class divisions since the pre-Great Depression era).

    Additionally, the globalization of capital has brought with it the globalization of labor. Hence, an increase in mass migration to the developed countries from the lower to middle income countries (a process that has been accelerated by the impact of imperialist wars and economic policies that have been imposed on developing or underdeveloped countries). The very rapid demographic change that developed countries are experiencing, combined with the wider cultural changes and generational changes that have happened in recent decades, is also motivating the native working to middle classes to see their traditional way of life and general culture as being under attack, or as being eradicated (which is in fact happening).

    Today’s right-wing populists are more comparable to the peasant and petite bourgeois royalists of the 19th century who thought the monarchs and aristocrats were going save them from the industrialists. Many of the “right-wing populist” figures of today are more comparable to Louis Napoleon than Hitler or Mussolini (again, see Marx himself: )

    The conditions of the 19th century that gave rise to reactionary figures of that time are very similar to the conditions that are giving rise to the “populist right” of today. However, the present day conditions are very different from those which gave rise to 20th century fascism, i.e. a global economic collapse, the total ruin of major nations by a world war, a leftist revolution in a major country, and a massive labor movement that presents a credible threat to capital in many nations.

    In the context of American politics specifically, Trumpism represents (at most) a reenactment of Nixon’s co-option of the Wallace movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and while governing in the manner of a Rockefeller Republican (although a difference between Trump and Nixon was that Nixon was still operating within the Keynesian liberal framework that emerged in the New Deal period, and Trump is continuing to work within the neoliberal framework that started to emerge in late 1970s). On foreign policy, Trump seems to represent a kind of neo-Nixonian, neo-Kissingerian effort by the traditional elites to restore the Hamiltonian model of traditional imperialism rather than the Wilsonian model that has dominate both major parties for the past few decades.

    None of this has anything to do with “fascism.”

    • Napoleon III is a very interesting figure, and in some ways he *is* a proto-fascist (though fascism integrates many radical theories Napoleon III would no doubt have been uncomfortable with). With regard to the right being pushed in that direction it is even paralleled in the lack of coherence and agreement in the AltRight – everything from Christians who hate Cuckstianity to actual National Socialists and libertarians who don’t like Guatamalans. There is a quote by Louis Bonaparte which shows that his family (and himself) were just as divided on these issues as the contemporary reactionary right:
      “The Empress is Legitimist, my cousin is Republican, Morny is Orleanist, I am a socialist; the only Bonapartist is Persigny, and he is mad.”

  2. Here because I enjoyed hearing your conversation with KMO today on WOOL radio, and the podcast you posted from “The Brilliant”.

    I’m kind of an old mizo head, so Marx is not my cup of tea, though he was right about military intelligence being a contradiction in terms.

    check you latter

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