Populism (as shown in *The Progressive Populist*

John Halle john.halle at yale.edu
Sun Jan 2 11:14:27 PST 2000

> Date: Sun, 2 Jan 2000 13:32:30 +0000
> From: Jim heartfield <jim at heartfield.demon.co.uk>
> Subject: Re: Populism (as shown in *The Progressive Populist*
> I can't claim to any great insight into the US far right, but certain
> parallels with the experience of Europe do keep ringing through.
> First, the left is prone to talking up the threat from the right. It is
> a way of dramatising our own claims, and lending them the imperative of
> avoiding pending disaster. The European left has been exaggerating the
> Fascist menace for the last ten years now, with a decisive 'no-show'
> from the neo-Nazis the only striking consequence.

Over here at least, its not the "left" which talks it up, but rather the Clintonite center that routinely, and successively uses the threat to pre-empt the development of a progressive constituency capable of challenging its agenda. The usual technique is to discover some far-right group with ties to the campaign of the centrist Repug challenging the centrist Dem. Liberals will be certain to drop whatever flirtation they may have been having with a third party alternative. Incidentally, this is what keeps Berlet's group in the corporate media's golden rolodex.

> Second, a great mass of middle and working class people who identified
> with the Thatcher-Reagan programme of military-industrial growth, have
> been left high and dry. But the truth is that as a social group, these
> people are pretty much fucked. There is no future for them. And the
> likelihood that they will organise some kind of successful backlash is
> scaremongering. Worse still, a lot of anti-working class prejudice is
> dressed up as denunciations of these backward people who just refuse to
> get with the programme.

Its interesting how there has been a shift from Orwell's "the working classes smell," to "the working class is scary" over there. Here the best known charaterization of the working class that of Archie Bunker created by the great Hollywood leftist Norman Lear. If the working class has friends like these, they sure don't need class enemies.

> Third, and most importantly, this section of society has lost its
> relationship with the elite. They were a stage army of reaction in the
> eighties. But today the elite does not want to know them. For that
> reason, whatever there numbers, they are unlikely to attain any social
> weight. Of course there are modulations in all this, and occasionally
> you get what looks like a step backwards, but look closely and you will
> see the new authoritarianism is more relevant than the old.

I don't quite get this. Here George Bush (the elder), can establish his proletarian bona fides by pretending to be a stock car racing fan but this will not work any more that Clinton has used the same sort of trick. Any gestures to of sympathy towards "high" elite culture are completely ruled out. So rather than not wanting to know them, elites, in their enthusiasm for wrestling, country music, and big, menacing vehicles, seem to grow more like them every day.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list