“Eat the rich”, populism, and lessons of political defeat – 2008 to now

James Bulter, dans “A Circular Motion” (LRB 8th Feb 2024), sur “the mass protest decade, or the decade of populism” – et en analyse, le double sens de la révolution : renversement, et cycle, ou “the missing revolution” (sous-titre de Vincent Bevins, If We Burn. The Mass Protest Decade and the, 2023). Aussi, The Populist Moment: The Left after the Great Recession, Anton Jäger & Arthur Borriello (2023, Verso).

Il s’agit des séquences avant tout des Printemps Arabes, mais réalignés avec 2008 et donc 2009, OWS et l’essaimage des Occupy, les Places, etc. Anti-austérité. 2011, “the protester” Time person of the year. Thème des nouvelles révolutions numériques (Twitter revolutions) une mondialisation de. Turquie, Sao Paulo, Columbia & UCL students, … Post-2008 disarray : exhaustion of the globalization model.

Cas du Brésil, bon en ce que hors du Global North. The political sublimity of the crowd. Puis, tous mouvements : outflanked, récupérés, retournés, par chaînes télé de droite, think tanks néolibéraux… Same pattern : “having planned only for their protest to succeed, “we had absolutely no plan for what came after”. Recognition “of the need for political skill and tenacity – ‘the long and slow drilling of hard boards’, Weber ; pining for Gramsci’s strategist-party, the “modern prince“.

Recognition of politics, and the deep dynamics of power : Hobbesian tradition, “deeply hostile to the multitude, but stresses that there is always another force eyeing the top spot. Typically, it sees mass politics as fraudulent theatre; the circle of real political agents always remains small.” (Ex : the Gulf monarchies “covertly funded the astroturf groups that rolled behind the military coup in Egypt. ‘We were played‘, says ont activist from Tahrir.

In the history of the left, revolutions have been more often missing than not, or have arrived in forms alien or repulsive to those who most desired them. As P Anderson once remarked, the “hidden hallmark” of Western Marxism is that “it is a product of defeat. (5) Revolutionary failures : 1914, 1919, 1926, 1956, 1968, 1991.
questions rather than clear lessons: “how to produce systemic change in developed democracies; why people appear to vote against their best interests; how to respond to state violence and repression committed in your name; what to do when the basic parameters of class appear to change, or new identities acquire political significance; how to continue when you seem utterly defeated. – sometimes rather than answers, we get self-consolatory defensive formations: fundamentalism and heresy-hunting, a redoubling of voluntarist commitment’ apocalypticism, or a melancholic attachment to a lost past.” 5.

=> “It us certainly true that ideas conducive to the overthrow of social domination are unlikely to emerge organically from the dominant culture, even in its ‘woke’ guise.” – always an astringent reminder this. “Revolutionary history also offers, pace Lenin, a sens of how few real laws of historical motion there are, how limited agency is often, how contingent, opportunistic and unpredictable change can be.” – ex Brazil: “Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of the defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name“.

Populism, now: issue of turning from protest to formal politics. “Pop” conveniently vague, bears the “taint the ‘democracy’ had for much of its conceptual history, threatening popular unreason, government by passion and paranoia, majoritarian tyranny and the triumph of the demagogue.” Cold War Liberals harped on this, R Hofstadter en tête ; jusqu’à pop propensity towards fascism and totalitarianism.

Issue of The Populist Movement: left-populist responses to the post-2008 world. “Potted narratives”, Butler says, miserable, on Corbynism, Sanders, Syriza, Podemos. Mélenchon.
Most have failed. Consistent failure of harder left populism might raise questions about whether the repertoire of the right (Trump, Farage) is equally available to the left.”

Modern politics : atrophy of parties as mass org, totemic individuals & hyperleaderism, new ad how org forms. Social media both a symptom and an accelerant of these trends. Hyperleaderism is a pb: if the leader is flawed or compromised, replacement is difficult. Hollowed-out parties can accommodate surprise campaigns, but are also easily controlled by internal oligarchies. Volatile electorates swell and insurgency but just as rapidly lose internet. Social media, mad, incapable of compromising or choosing priorities. Nostalgia for the life-encompassing institutions of the postwar parties is increasingly common on the left – but remember they were often conformist, authoritarians & indulgent of mediocrity.

“The factors that generate populism” remain: “a stubborn democratic deficit and an oligarchy that behaves with impunity”.

=> lessons from Bevin’s interviewee protesters : “plan for the day after; progress isn’t inevitable, and a better world doesn’t automatically emerge from protest; hierarchy isn’t an enemy; if you reject representation, someone else will represent you; cultural vision by and political power are separate things; power rushes to fill a void. 6

“Attempts to synthesize the best of both worlds – “networked Leninism”, in Rodrigo Nunes’s half-joking phrase – might be a better way.”

2008 presented opportunities for left-wing politics: “discredited elite wisdom, prompted a huge legitimacy crisis, led to the obviously unjust suffering inflicted by austerity”. But even so “yielded a bitter crop”. Podemos pbs with Catalan independence and questions of sovereignty, pbs of the climate emergency which require state-level solutions, but also initiate spirals of volatility, and lends the politics of emergency a new allure.
Now: wages in Britain, war in Europe, West’s credibility over Palestine in shreds…

Citer ce billet
Claire Joubert (2024, 22 février). “Eat the rich”, populism, and lessons of political defeat – 2008 to now. Ce que fait un angliciste. Consulté le 12 avril 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/vvs6

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