The problem with “populist nationalism” is that these “national populist” parties almost always represent the traditional right-wing of the ruling class rooted in industrial capitalism that is losing out to the rising digital capitalist sectors that are eclipsing them. The “industrial national bourgeoisie” are now in the same position as the traditional agrarian aristocracy that was displayed by the industrial revolution. They exploit populist anti-globalist sentiments in order to build a constituency for themselves, the same way counterrevolutionary aristocrats would appeal to traditional peasants and craftsmen whose livelihoods and culture were being eradicated by industrialization and urbanization.

Meanwhile, the rising digital capitalist class presents itself as the champion of the whole laundry list of do-gooder movements that are supposedly about liberating the historically oppressed. That’s why the culture wars are as intense as they are. As Thomas Piketty recently noted, the basis of all this is an intra-ruling class conflict between the older industrial capitalist class and the newer digital capitalist class (the “Brahmins vs merchants” as Piketty describes it). “National populism” is a revanchist effort by the national bourgeoisie to reclaim its former position, while using the populist peasants as shock troops they intended to purge as soon as they are no longer useful. “Progressive liberalism” serves the same purpose for the digital capitalist class and professional-managerial class. What we really need is worldwide bottom-up anti-imperialist struggle.

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