populism

Alex Trotter uburoi at panix.com
Wed Feb 1 22:24:31 MST 1995


Yes, I agree that this is a very interesting topic, with many facets.
	"Populism" seems to be more of a general political outlook or attitude
than a specific ideology. And as such it can be either "left" or "right"
(which raises the question of how useful the great Left\Right paradigm
still is!) In U.S. history there was a movement at the end of the 19th
century called Populism that came to be embodied in the Populist Party
(also called the People's Party) that, as a movement of workers and
farmers in the South and Midwest, could certainly be considered left-wing.
	Jon Beasley-Murray mentions Peronism and cites it as an instance
of ideological confusionism. How true. Peron's worker-based dictatorship
could be compared to Prussian socialism or fascist syndicalism.
	The view of fascism coming in two stages, the first of which is
"populist" (a kind of Jacobinism or caricature thereof) and the second
"statist" (in the service of big capital) is familiar from the analyses
of Leon Trotsky and Daniel Guerin.
	Concerning  Doug Henwood's comment about the similarities between
American right-wing populism and European fascism: did he mean classical
fascism\nazism or more contemporary Euro-right movements? I think the
Rush Limbaughs and Pat Buchanans, as defenders of Christianity, have more
in common with Le Pen's Front Nationale than they do with the French New
Right (la Nouvelle Droite), a "pagan" post-national movement led by Alain
de Benoist. BTW-did anyone on this list read last year's special issue of
*Telos* about this current?
	Then there's another important historical movement bearing the
name of populism, although I'm not sure it has much to do with the recent
discussions of "petty bourgeois populism" on marxism-l. I'm referring to
the Russian populists, the Narodniki, and the currents that emerged from
it to rival Bolshevism in the Russian Revolution--the Socialist
Revolutionaries and Maximalists. This movement rejected marxism's
emphasis on class, industrialism, and Western-oriented progress. They
upheld the communitarian phenomenon, the *mir* or *obshchina* of the
vast peasant majority. Interestingly, this is the very institution that
Marx had held so many hopes for as the basis for communism in Russia
without having to even pass through a capitalist stage at all. I've
brought this topic up in the past re: the *Ethnological Notebooks*,
correspondence with Vera Zasulitch, etc. Even Lenin had to come to grips
with the question of the peasantry, as witness his continually reworked
formulations concerning the "Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat
and Peasantry," subsequently altered to "Democratic Dictatorship of the
Proletariat *supported* by the Pesantry." Here it wasn't a question of
fascism, which corresponds to a different (i.e., Western, fully
industrialized) kind of society.

--Alex Trotter

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