Christopher A Fons
anton at csd.uwm.edu
Fri Feb 17 10:12:16 MST 1995
At 7:05 PM 2/16/95, TimW333521 at aol.com wrote:
>>I think you take a one-sided view of populism historically and this may
>>influence your view of populism today.
>>It is true that populism arose in the farms and small towns of the middle
>>west and south. However, it also had support within cities. At heart it was
>>not so much a defense of small business against big business as it was of the
>>self-employed farmers against big business and finance which strangled them.
>> This is why populism was largely absorbed into the early Socialist Party in
>>many areas, especially Oklahoma, the journal Appeal to Reason was essentially
>>populist and future Communists like Cannon, Browder, and Foster were heavily
>>influenced by populism.
On 2/17/95 Doug Henwood wrote:
>Do we Marxish types side with small biz and the self-employed, then,
>against big? That's not really in the spirit of Marx. Railroads and banks
>were crucial to technical progress and the socialization of production,
>which Marx, I think, would have applauded - and correctly so.
>I'm reminded of A.R. Ammons line that the quickest way to become a leader
>is to get in front of a moving crowd and start waving your arms. American
>Marxists have been too eager to do that with populists.
I think Doug has got to the crux of the populist debate here. In
the political realm do Marxists tail every "progressive" or populist
struggle that is in motion, ex. the Iranian revolution, Castroism, Jesse
Jackson, just because they have supporters from oppressed groups?
Newt supporters, Reagan Democrats, and Thatcherites seemed to be
saying that we are being squeezed by big labor and big buisness who have a
an ally in big government and the little guy does'nt have a chance. This to
me is the essence of a populist appeal. It does'nt point to capitalism as
being a system that is inherently rigged, it says that these guys are'nt
playing by the Smithian/Jeffersonian rules.
On Doug's other point about socialization of production and the
technological advances that capitalism has brought about and that we should
applaud, Bill Warren would be proud. If we do take this position (which I
am very sympathetic with) does it not lead to politically difficult
positions. For example could not the reasoning follow that because the
Zapatistas are fighting primarily for land for petty producers should we
support agra-buisnesses that revolutionize production and eliminate the
reactionary peasantry or because NAFTA is going to crush the fuedal like
corpratist Mexican state should we support it?
A counter-point to my argument: onward WalMart! to the death of Main
Street! Malls are a more democratic space by far than speakers corner!
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