Polemic: the weaknesses of the ICP on the question of populism (Part II)

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jk1921
Polemic: the weaknesses of the ICP on the question of populism (Part II)
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Polemic: the weaknesses of the ICP on the question of populism (Part II). The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
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jk1921
While the ICC's analysis of

While the ICC's analysis of populism is certainly superior to the ICP's rather pedestrian and sclerotic (and boring frankly) idea that it is a "nothing new under the sun" expression of the petty-bourgeoisie, I think it still has fundamental weaknesses.

Situating the development of populism in the context of decomposition is certainly right and suggesting that there is more to an historic period of populism than just the populists themselves is certainly in keeping with a Marxist instinct to analyze structural changes in capitalist society, but there is neverthless still a frustrating tendency here to identify populism only with with a substantive right-wing programme, based on racism, xenophobia and other "bad manners," associated with a dark anti-modern rejection of liberal-democratic values. In this repsect, the ICC's analysis of populism hardly differs from the neo-liberal establishment's. It is purely pejorative and fails to see any possibility of a distorted class response to the deprivations of neo-liberal captialism imbedded in the ongoing discrediting of governing elites and their ideological self-justifications.

It appears here that the theory of decomposition is driving a highly pessimistic over-identification of populism itself with a simulataneous revival of right-wing scapegoating, failing to distinguish between two different logics that might coincide in certain political expressions in this era, but which remain seperate and distinct nevertheless. Moreover, the identification of populism with anti-politics is questionable as many see populism as precisely an attempt to repoliticize society against the technocratic consensus of neoliberal elites who have said for going on three decades now that there is no alternative to neo-liberal capitalism (TINA), subsequently calling democratic ideology into question. In this sense, neo-liberalism is the threat to liberal democratic values not populism!

In fact, the abscence of the very phrase "neo-liberal" in this article is telling of a certain blindness to contemporary politcal debates over the nature of capitalism today. It may very well be the case that there is no prospect of humanizing captialism in some sense of the longue duree of historical time, but does that mean that the bourgeoise are out of any state capitalist political options at all at this juncture--in the midst of what is a very real legitimation crisis of neo-liberalism--whether this be some kind of revived/revised form of social democratic demand mangement or a more Trumpian nationalist protectionism? Does the ICC agree with the neo-liberal establishment that there really is no alternative under capitalism to neo-liberalism as it appears to agree that there is nothing but a regressive right-wing populism?

But I think this approach simply cannot account for phenomona like Sanders, Corbyn, Melenchon, etc. except by dismissing these as "not really populist," because the definition of populism being used already excludes them from the start, something however, which seems to raise the "No True Scotsman" problem. In this, the ICC's analysis may run into problems with informal fallacies, but it is different from a certain neo-liberal establishment response to these "left populist" expressions, which suggests that they really are not very different from right-wing populism in that they both are grounded in an instinct to preserve of a kind of white (male?) privilege descending from the social structures of Keynsiano-Fordism. In any event, I think our understanding of populism still needs some considerable work.