Only a pan-European left can defeat ‘populism’

Only a pan-European left can defeat ‘populism’

There were some spectacular details, such as the crushing defeat of both main parties in the United Kingdom. However, these should not blind us to the basic fact that nothing really big and surprising happened. Yes, the populist new right did make progress, but it remains far from a prevailing trend.

We hear the phrase, repeated like a mantra, that people demanded change. But perhaps it’s deeply deceptive – because it doesn’t specify what kind of change?

Instead, it was basically a variation of the old motto “some things have to change so that all remains the same.”

The self-perception of Europeans in toto is that they have too much to lose to risk a revolution (a radical upheaval), and this is why the majority tend to vote for parties which promise them peace and a calm life (against financial elites, against the “immigrant threat”…).

Thus, one of the losers of the 2019 European elections was the populist left, especially in France and Germany. Because the majority don’t want political mobilization. Rightist populists understand this message much better. So, what they really offer is not active democracy but a strong authoritarian power which would work for (what they present as) the people’s interests.

Nothing as it seems

Therein resides also the fatal limitation of Yanis Varoufakis’s Greek DIEM: the core of its ideology is the hope to mobilize the bulk of ordinary people, to give them a voice by way of breaking the hegemony of the ruling elites.

Even the success of green parties in the 2019 European elections fits this formula: it is not to be taken as the sign of an authentic ecological awakening; it was more an ersatz vote, the preferred franchise of all those who clearly perceive the insufficiency of the hegemonic politics of the European establishment and reject the nationalist-populist reaction to it, but are not ready to vote for the more radical left.

[Extract. Appeared in RT on June 2nd 2019.]