Report on the impact of the decomposition on the political life of the bourgeoisie (23rd ICC Congress)

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In the context of the impact of decomposition on the life of the bourgeoisie, this report focuses more particularly on the difficulties faced by the bourgeoisie with the rise of populist currents and on the way in which it tries to react to this. It will therefore not deal directly and centrally with the history of populism or with more general issues such as the relationship between populism and violence.

Decomposition and populism

The ICC has not discussed a report on the life of the bourgeoisie since its 17th congress in 2007.

However, the "Report on decomposition" from the 22nd ICC congress, which updates and completes the main axes of the theses on the decomposition and places the phenomenon of populism in this context, provides the framework of reference for analysing and interpreting the upheavals characterising the political life of the bourgeoisie today. The main ideas are as follows:

- Decadent capitalism has entered "into a specific phase - the final phase - of its history, the one in which decomposition becomes a factor, if not the decisive factor, in the evolution of society" (Report on Decomposition). Along with the refugee crisis and the development of terrorism, populism is one of its most striking expressions. This process of decomposition of society is irreversible.

 - The rise of populism "is not the desired political choice of the dominant sectors of the bourgeoisie". On the contrary, it is a confirmation of the tendency towards "an increasing loss of control by the ruling class over its political apparatus" (Ibid.).

 - Its real cause is "the inability of the proletariat to put forward its own response, its own alternative to the crisis of capitalism. Into this vacuum comes the loss of trust in the official institutions of society, that are no longer able to protect it, and it grows stronger and stronger, giving rise to a loss of confidence in the future and the tendency to look to the past and to look for scapegoats to blame for the catastrophe" (Ibid.).

 - There is "a common element present in most advanced countries: the profound loss of confidence in the ‘elites’ (...) due to their inability to restore health to the economy and to stem the steady rise in unemployment and poverty". This revolt against the political leaders "(…) can in no way lead to an alternative perspective to capitalism" (Ibid.).

 - The populist reaction is to want to replace the existing hypocritical pseudo-equality with an ‘honest’ and open system of legal discrimination. (…) The logic of this argumentation is that, in the absence of a longer-term perspective of growth for the national economy, the living conditions of the natives can only be more or less stabilised by discriminating against everybody else. " (Resolution on the International Class Struggle., 22nd ICC Congress)

The increasing loss of control by the bourgeoisie of its political apparatus

Since 2017 and the 22nd International Congress, following the vote in support of Brexit in the UK and the election of Trump as President of the United States, the impact of populism on all aspects of the international situation has become increasingly clear: it has been shown clearly with regard both to the imperialist tensions and the struggle of the proletariat. It is also becoming more and more prominent in the economy. It is finally revealing itself in a spectacular way on the level of the bourgeoisie's political apparatus: the events of the last two years therefore confirm in a spectacular way "this aspect that we identified 25 years ago: the tendency towards a growing loss of control by the ruling class of its political apparatus" (Report on Decomposition).

There has been a spectacular expansion of this loss of control in recent years, accentuating a real populist groundswell. According to a study by The Guardian newspaper, covering the last twenty years, the populist parties have seen the number of votes for them in Europe triple (from 7% to 25%). In about ten countries, these parties participate in the government or the parliamentary majority: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Italy. The study points to two moments that affected these growth figures: the 2008 financial crisis and the refugee wave in 2015. The exacerbation of other phenomena characteristic of decomposition, such as terrorism, every man for himself, has fuelled the flames and stimulated the populist encroachment into all aspects of capitalist society. Finally, the rise to power within the leading imperialist power of a populist president has further intensified the power of the tidal wave, as recent data illustrate: the formation of a government composed solely of populist groups in Italy, a political apparatus that is sinking into confusion in Great Britain, strong pressure from populist forces on Merkel's politics in Germany, the victory of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the "Yellow Vests" movement in France, the emergence of a nationalist populist party ("Vox") in Spain, and so on...

The expressions of populism are causing more and more uncontrollable convulsions within the political apparatus of the various bourgeoisies. The following sections of the report will show that they are a major factor in all industrialised countries and that they also have a significant impact in similar forms in a number of 'emerging' countries.

Trump's presidency and the exacerbation of opposition within the US bourgeoisie

The US bourgeoisie's crisis did not come about as a result of Trump's election. In 2007, the report already noted the crisis of the American bourgeoisie by explaining: "It is first and foremost this objective situation - a situation that excludes any long-term strategy on the part of the remaining dominant power - that made it possible to elect and re-elect such a corrupt regime, with a pious and stupid President at its head [Bush junior]. (...), the Bush Administration is nothing more than a reflection of the dead-end situation of US imperialism" (“The Impact of Decomposition on the Life of the Bourgeoisie”, a report to the 17th ICC Congress). However, the victory of a populist president (Trump) known for making unpredictable decisions not only brought to light the crisis of the US bourgeoisie, but also highlighted the growing instability of the political apparatus of the US bourgeoisie and the exacerbation of internal tensions.

Incapable of preventing his election, the most responsible fractions did everything in their power to try to limit the damage (a) by manoeuvring to remove him, but the "impeachment" procedures seem to be very long term; (b) by placing trusted men on the presidential staff (From McMaster to Kelly and Tillerson along the way) but they have gradually been removed (the last one, Mad Dog' Mattis has just quit); (c) by trying to impose political control through its Republican deputies although, in the end, it was Trump who played vampire to the Republican Party; (d) by aiming to develop an alternative to Trump within the Democratic Party - but this has been a failure so far. In the end, Trump's re-election for a second term seems increasingly probable.

Moreover, Trump's confusing and capricious policy highlights the perplexity and divisions within the US bourgeoisie about the economic and imperialist policies needed to maintain its global supremacy. Beyond Trump's versatile and commercial approach, the shift from multilateralism to bilateralism reveals a real tension within the bourgeoisie: the domination of US imperialism has always presented itself behind a moral screen: the defence of democracy and the free world, the defence of human rights (Clinton, Obama), the fight against evil (Bush), and this at the head of a broad coalition of states. Faced with the difficulties of maintaining this role as a global policeman, Trump openly broke with the hypocrisy of multilateralism to impose the cynical reality of the bilateral power struggle, even with his friends (Britain) and allies (Germany). In its logic, the US can only maintain its global supremacy if it improves its economic situation and this can be done by blackmailing its competitors through its overwhelming military supremacy. His former national security adviser, General McMaster, explained it well in the Wall Street Journal: he has "the farsighted vision that the world is not a ‘global community’, but an arena where nations, non-governmental and economic actors are engaged in competition. (…). Rather than denying this elementary nature of international relations, we embrace it" (30.05.2017). In this sense, Trump's irrationality does not reflect a lack of orientation of his policy but resides in the orientation itself, which positions the leader of world capitalism at the forefront of “every man for himself” and chaos.

Trump's unpredictability towards Russia reveals how much these tensions crystallise around the attitude towards the former leader of the opposing bloc; for large parts of the US bourgeoisie, it is the enemy of the "free world", but nevertheless a potential ally against China (and against Germany). While the majority of bourgeois factions seem to remain opposed to a rapprochement with Putin, Trump constantly blows hot and cold on this subject: there were friendly talks with Putin in Helsinki last July, with Trump, openly breaking NATO's blockade against Russia following the aggression against Ukraine, declaring his desire they do "great things in the world" together; then we have Trump's decision in October to abandon the agreement on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, claiming that Russia does not stand by it.

Results and consequences of the various strategies of the European bourgeoisies

The “Contribution on Populism” (June 2016, see International Review 157) envisaged as a hypothesis three types of strategies that the bourgeoisie could adopt in the face of the populist wave: first, direct opposition, playing the anti-populism card; second, having the traditional parties take over aspects of the populist politics and thirdly, re-invigorating, or even reviving the opposition of right vs left. To what degree have we seen these strategies implemented and what have been the consequences?

 Confrontation with an anti-populist policy: the French and German examples

In France, the bourgeoisie's anti-populist policy initially succeeded in countering Marine Le Pen by pulling the "new" Macron and his "La France en Marche" movement out of the hat – a movement which, according to the media campaign, was not linked to the traditional parties. However, Macron was quickly confronted with the problem of having to implement a policy oriented towards globalisation, at a time when Trump's protectionism was changing the rules, and especially when, at this time, he was forced to launch massive attacks against the working class.

The consequences were quick to appear: Macron was now confronted with a dizzying drop in popularity and the slingshots from the "Yellow Vests", which would undoubtedly benefit the populist currents most, especially since Macron still doesn’t really have the support of a solid and reliable political structure (a strong party machine) and this after the bourgeoisie had scuttled its traditional parties - weakened and plagued by internal disputes - in the 2017 elections. Nevertheless , despite its fragility, it remains the only political force in France capable of limiting the weight of the populist Rassemblement National.

In Germany, Merkel immediately established herself as the champion of anti-populism ("We can do this"), but this boosted the populist wave so that the German bourgeoisie was now confronted with AfD, which has become the country's second largest political party. As a result, the Grand Coalition had to be reconstituted after the last elections, having been largely forsaken in the general elections, and the election results in the regions of Bavaria and Saxony confirmed the electoral defeat for the CDU/CSU and the collapse of the SPD. The situation is complex and Merkel's relinquishing of the presidency of her party, CDU, (and therefore in the future the position of Chancellor) heralds a phase of uncertainty and instability for the dominant bourgeoisie in Europe.

The political apparatus of the German bourgeoisie is therefore in turmoil just as Germany is under pressure within the EU, on the one hand from the Central European countries that reject its policy towards refugees but also the rôle as subordinate subcontracting economies which they feel Germany imposes on them; and on the other hand from the countries of Southern Europe (Greece, Italy) which reject its economic policy; and all this while also finding itself in the sights of the Trump administration, which wants to impose import taxes on its cars and machines.

 The adoption of populist ideas by traditional parties: the British example

The British bourgeoisie tried to channel the disastrous consequences of the referendum to exit the EU by having one of its major traditional parties, the Conservative Party, take on the responsibility for implementing the Brexit plan. Far from stabilising the situation, conflicts within the British political system have intensified, giving rise to further instability and unpredictability as to what will be the final outcome:

- the May government's continued hesitation and delay (a) in putting forward a coherent policy to implement Brexit and (b) in reaching a clear agreement with the EU, is pushing the EU to take measures to safeguard its own interests against what the European officials are already calling "a failed state";

- negotiations within the British government, far from tending towards resolving conflicts, have exacerbated them (giving rise to a series of resignations of ministers opposed to what was the current policy at the time) and this especially within the Conservative Party itself, which is in danger of splitting apart, so that even May's vague and general agreement reached with the EU is unlikely to get approval from the British Parliament. The divisions are just as real within the Labour Party with the Brexiteers, including party leader Corbyn, opposed by a large number of MPs who are 'pro' the EU

- In the words of one European diplomat, there is deep instability and British politicians are more and more looking like a "political Taliban". In recent months, the most radical populist views have won renewed prominence, the dream of "Albion reborn", and not just those outside the traditional parties (like Farage) but hard-line Conservative Party politicians too (Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mog and Steve Baker).

 The constitution of a populist government: the Italian example

One scenario not envisaged by the text on populism is the constitution of a government composed solely of populist parties. For several years, populist parties have been part of government coalitions in various countries and, in several countries of the former Eastern bloc such as Hungary or Poland, populist parties have even taken over at the head of the state. Today, however, it is the EU's fourth largest economy, Italy, which, against the backdrop of a very difficult economic and social situation (Gross Domestic Product falling by 10% at constant prices between 2008 and 2017), has seen the emergence of a government made up exclusively of populist parties (the League and the Five Star Movement). This government combines a nationalist and xenophobic policy with a social welfare policy for Italians, namely: (a) a citizenship income, costing €9 billion (b) pension reform reducing the retirement age from 67 to 62 years (additional budget costs of €7 billion) (c) the adoption of the "dignity decree" which reduces the renewal period for fixed-term contracts from 3 to 2 years (d) the reduction in taxes for self-employed workers and SMEs (e) an obligation for companies that have received public aid to repay it if, within five years of obtaining it, they transfer their activities to another country.

The impact of this Italian populist policy on the stability of the EU is incalculable in the long term: in terms of its refugee policy, its hard line (attacking NGOs in particular) clashes with other European countries, especially France and Spain. On the budgetary side, the Italian government refuses the constraints imposed by the European Commission (budget deficit of 2.4% of GDP instead of the 0.8% planned for by the previous government, in total contradiction with European budgetary rules); instead it wants a social welfare policy for the "Italian people", which rejects the budgetary rigour advocated by Germany. However, any new monetary crisis involving Italy would call into question the existence of monetary union and the eurozone. Italy knows this, which allows it to use it as a form of blackmail. Also, the budget deficit will increase Italian debt, which would downgrade its rating with the international rating agencies and would lead institutional investors to abandon Italian funds.

We should closely follow the social policy impact of the populist coalition. The social measures announced so far remain far below what the populists promised, in particular by Five Star (9 billion announced for citizenship income instead of the 17 planned) and moreover, the Italian government has agreed, under pressure from the EU, to postpone a series of these measures to limit their budgetary impact. Moreover, the populist government did not repeal the Job Act, concocted by the Renzi government to liberalise the Italian labour market and make it largely precarious. As a result, many of the measures announced will have an effect contrary to that announced. Thus, the "dignity decree" theoretically reduces the possibilities of using limited-term contracts in the event of renewal but, under the Job Act, the trend will be towards non-renewal of contracts and thus an increase in precariousness. In addition, citizenship income will also increase pressure on the unemployed (it will be withdrawn if they refuse three job offers) and spending will be controlled (payments will be credited to a controlled-use card). Finally, retirement at age 62 will only be available to those who have contributed to the system for 38 years.

 The re-establishment of the right/left opposition

The third strategy envisaged, re-establishing the right/left opposition to cut the ground from under the feet of populism, does not seem to have been really put in place by the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, the past few years have been characterised by an irreversible trend towards the decline of the Socialist parties.

The question of the crisis of the social democratic parties refers to the question of the role of the left-wing parties, already addressed in the report on the life of the bourgeoisie of the 17th Congress (2007). After having played an essential role in halting the wave of workers' struggles of the 1970s and 1980s (left in government, left in opposition), these parties have been available for other tasks because, as the report points out, since the early 1990s, the social question was no longer the decisive factor in the formation of governments: "... there is another factor that is becoming increasingly important, which is becoming a truly decisive factor in the political life of the bourgeoisie in general and in the formation of government teams in particular: the decomposition of bourgeois society, which in recent years has made indisputable progress" (‘The impact of decomposition on the life of the bourgeoisie’). Indeed, in the second decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st, Socialist or social democratic parties were deployed in the front line to counter the first effects of decomposition on the bourgeoisie's political apparatus (cf. Blair, Schröder, Zapatero, Hollande).

As a consequence, they suffered not only from the disillusionment in the major democratic parties after the "post war boom", such as the Christian Democracy (in Italy, Holland, Belgium and even Germany) but they are also particularly identified with the failed political system. Thus the tendency towards decline seems irreversible: the Socialist Party has disappeared in Italy, is threatened with extinction in France, Holland and Greece and is in deep crisis in Germany, Spain or Belgium. Only the Labour Party in Britain seems to be escaping this trend at the present time, although this does not seem linked right now to the bourgeoisie's revitalisation of the right/left opposition. It is possible that the Labour Party could profit from the Conservative Party's difficulties in managing the populist groundswell around Brexit, when, should the Tory Party implode, the bourgeoisie will have to turn to it for help.

New radical popular left-wing formations of various types have emerged in some countries: Syriza, Podemos, "La France Insoumise", the Democratic Socialist current within the Democratic Party in the USA, with the support of a significant number of young people in the wake of Bernie Sanders' candidature in the past primaries, etc. The various alternatives to the bankruptcy of social democracy, which the bourgeoisie is putting in place, provide clues to the impact of decomposition and populism on the working class, in relation to the scale of the defeats suffered and the level of consciousness in the various industrialised countries today. In Italy, one of the countries where the working class was in the vanguard during the struggles from 1968 to the 1980s, the "left-wing alternative" proposed is the Five Star Movement, a populist movement that declares itself, furthermore, neither right nor left, and this underlines the importance of the political difficulties experienced by the Italian proletariat. In Germany, the alternative is not really the former Stalinists of Die Linke but rather the Greens, which also reflects the state of mind of the working class and the weakening of the sense of class identity. In France and Spain, on the other hand, the alternatives called for are explicitly located on the left, and develop instead a "workers’" discourse and claim to be located on a proletarian terrain, even if they appear to be concerned with the proper functioning of the bourgeois political apparatus (Syriza in Greece implemented the fierce austerity imposed by the EU; Podemos in Spain provided the support necessary to ensure a shaky stability to the central government). In this sense, they cannot be considered as left-wing populist parties.

The emergence of "strong leaders" in Eastern European countries and in countries outside the capitalist heartlands

The populist wave is not limited to the industrialised countries of the West but also affects a number of countries in Eastern Europe and some "emerging" countries, where it is manifested through specific phenomena, such as the rise of "strong leaders". The economic destabilisation under the pressure of the 2008 crisis on the one hand, and the huge corruption scandals affecting the political parties on the other hand, have caused resentment and exasperation among the population in a whole series of these countries, such as Poland, Hungary, and Turkey , which has been recuperated by populist forces through reactionary movements leading to the advent of "strong men", charismatic leaders like Orban, Kaczyński, Erdogan or Bolsonaro and, for quite a while already, Putin.

While the 1990s and even the early 21st century had been characterised by "democratic opening" in many of these countries (as well as in Russia and China), these "strong" leaders displayed their contempt for the "liberal" elites, the traditional "democratic" political game and an "independent" press, clearly preferring instead a nationalist authoritarian regime, rejecting immigrants or minorities that could alter national cohesion. "On July 26, 2014, in Romania, Mr. Orban clearly showed his colours in a resounding speech: (...) We consider, he said, that a democracy does not necessarily have to be liberal and that it is not because a state ceases to be liberal that it ceases to be a democracy (...). Societies with a liberal democracy as their foundation are unlikely to be able to maintain their competitiveness in the coming decades. (…). He also announced an economic project, that of ‘building a competitive nation for the great global competition of the coming decades’". (Le Monde Diplomatique, 23 September 2018). This is the idea that there are different models of democracy, an idea that is also found in some ways in Putin's Russian model or in China's application of the Singaporean model.

The hunt for corrupt elites (from Polish judges to Russian oligarchs, European bureaucrats, supporters of the Turkish Gülen movement or those of the Brazilian 'Workers Party') goes hand in hand with xenophobic nationalism that focuses on the rejection of foreigners (refugees from the Middle East or Africa, Venezuelans) or minorities (Erdogan accentuating his anti-Kurdish discourse, Orban targeting the Roma or Putin targeting the Chechens).


On the surface, the country shows an apparent serenity, but political tensions do not spare China, despite its dazzling economic and military development. Since the late 1970s, it has abandoned its essentially autarkic economy to develop, on the Japanese and Singaporean models, an economy gradually integrated into regional and then global markets. This political line, advocated by Deng Xiaoping, has not been maintained without political upheavals and struggles, as illustrated by the events in Tiananmen and again around 2003, but it was accentuated between 2003 and 2013 by President Hu Jintao. This orientation required the establishment of peaceful relations with the United States: in 1992 a memorandum of understanding was signed, which granted American requests concerning customs tariffs and intellectual property rights. It was also accompanied by a wave of democratisation in the 1980s and 1990s, but with limitations after Tiananmen. 

Xi Jinping's rise to power has showed a certain reorientation of Chinese politics, which is expressed on a political level, as in other countries, by a shift towards power into the hands of a strong leader. Xi is presented as Mao's equal. This reorientation is the result of a number of factors: (a) China's rapid economic development, which goes hand in hand with a further affirmation of international expansion (the "New Silk Road"); (b) it also leads to more explicit manifestations of nationalism and an impressive development of its military strength, while the USA develops an increasingly aggressive attitude towards China; (c) The supersonic transformation of the Chinese economy "has led to deep spatial and social divisions and significant ecological damage. (…). The Gini coefficient, a fine measure of income dispersion and thus of the degree of inequality in societies, has fallen from 0.16 at the beginning of the post-Maoist transition to 0.4 on average since the late 1990s (0.27 in Sweden, to 0.32 in France, 0.34 in the United Kingdom and 0.4 in the United States)" (Le Monde Diplomatique, 5 December 2017); and the prospects for restructuring linked to a shift towards a more skilled economy are proving perilous.

In this context, there are two trends within the party today: an economic trend and a nationalist trend. With Xi the latter seems predominant ("No one should expect China to swallow snakes at the expense of its interests" (XIX CCP Congress, 18.10.17)) but there seems to be some discussion within the party between a faction that tends to want to make concessions to the USA (according to Deng Xiaoping's conception of "hiding your talents and biding your time") and a faction with a hard line of confrontation with the USA; Xi seems rather to be in favour of the latter "asserting itself on the international scene as number one in a ‘great country’ - to use his expression - treating America as an equal partner" (Le Monde Diplomatique, 4 October 2018)

Populism, an essential factor in the political life of the bourgeoisie today

As the 22nd ICC International Congress "Report on Decomposition" recalled, decomposition, of which populism is one of the most striking expressions, is a decisive factor in the evolution of society and is an irreversible process. While populism is not the result of a deliberate political will on the part of the dominant sectors of the bourgeoisie, they have been unable to prevent its impact on their political apparatus from reaching such a level that they are confronted with a tendency towards a growing loss of control over it, and with unpredictable shocks that will more than ever characterise the political life of the bourgeoisie in the coming period.

1.. This loss of control by the bourgeoisie over its political apparatus is clearly distinct from the various political crises that the bourgeoisie may have experienced in the 1960s to 1980s. Their context is radically different: before the 1990s, the bourgeoisie's political crises were linked either to the inability to cope with the working class or to the consequences of imperialist confrontations (the Suez crisis in Britain and France, the Algerian crisis in France, the Maastricht Treaty in France and Holland, etc.) and were managed within the political apparatus. The current crisis concerns a growing tendency towards the loss of control by the bourgeoisie of its own political apparatus. This was already highlighted in the last report on the life of the bourgeoisie (17th ICC congress, 2007): "The bourgeoisie of the most developed countries of Europe, Japan and the United States, once masters in the subtle art of electoral manipulation, is now facing increasing difficulties in obtaining the least undesirable result" (“The impact of decomposition on the life of the bourgeoisie”). The unlikely political upheavals affecting the English, American and German bourgeoisies, the three most experienced bourgeoisies in mastering the political game in the past, perfectly illustrate the gravity of the problem.

Populist movements are formed around recurring themes such as refugees, security, the resentment of those left behind by the crisis, but they also feed on specific tensions within the national bourgeoisies: the US bourgeoisie's dismay at the decline of its world leadership, the British bourgeoisie's ambiguity towards Europe, divisions between regionalist and nationalist factions within the Spanish or Belgian bourgeoisie, etc.

2. While the increasing pressure of populism is plunging the traditional political apparatus of the bourgeoisie into chaos, these movements tend to benefit today in various countries - and not only in Eastern European countries but also in the USA and Great Britain for example - from the support of factions of the big bourgeoisie. Thus, in the USA, not only the steel or automotive sectors can support Trump's protectionist policy, but even the IT sector against the rise of Chinese companies, such as Huawei or Alibaba, which threaten their global domination. And other areas of Silicon Valley may be in favour of a rapprochement with Russia.

3. Populism is street politics. In fact, if populist parties and movements generate a kind of militant energy, unlike traditional parties, it is because these formations no longer respect taboos and therefore allow all prejudices to be expressed.

As a result, populist campaigns, marked by anger and resentment, denigrate the traditional political world and elites, and point fingers at those who are guilty for what is not working. They naturally lead to the stigmatisation of groups and individuals, to a tendency towards their demonisation, which is already happening and will happen more and more frequently and explicitly in various forms in the political news: attacks on refugee reception centres in Germany; letters with suspicious powder addressed to Trump and other members of his administration during the campaign for the mid-term elections in the USA, while trapped packages were sent to Democratic parliamentarians, the media (CNN) or elite figures (Soros); the anti-Jewish attack by a white supremacist in Pittsburgh; assassination attempt against presidential candidate Bolsonaro in Brazil and on his return the threats of the same Bolsonaro and his supporters against the WP and other left-wing movements; polarisation of the "Yellow Vests" against the figure of Macron, etc.

4. Unlike the first expressions of populism (Haider, Berlusconi,...) which defended an ultraliberal economic policy, the current populist parties advocate a policy aimed at protecting the indigenous population (“Italians first”, ”real Finns”, ”Eigen volk eerst” (“our own people first”, the slogan of  the Flemish populists),...) by openly discriminating against others. This may involve economic protectionism or the promotion of a form of chauvinist neo-Keynesian policy: Trump claims to protect American workers and their work against the "invasion" of Mexican and Central American immigrants as well as foreign products; Polish or Hungarian governments take protective measures for their employees and pensioners while opposing any refugee quota in the name of defending the nation's cultural integrity; the Lega/Five Star government in Italy is implementing an uncompromising and tough policy against the reception of refugees while planning a "citizenship income" for every Italian citizen and lowering the retirement age from 67 to 62 years. This kind of policy appears to be more "realistic" than that of the left, insofar as in safeguarding the benefits of the oppressed natives at the expense of other oppressed people.

Recent events in Russia and Hungary highlight the fact that the importance of such a chauvinistic “social” policy for the credibility of populist movements and “strong leaders” should not be underestimated. For example, in Russia, the draconian pension reform, which Putin and his government pushed through by taking advantage of the media hype around the Football World Cup (the retirement age rising from 55 to 63 for women, and from 60 to 65 for men), provoked strong protests and a decline in Putin's popularity rate from 80 to 63%. The latter immediately had to relax the measures and announce a big increase in the value of pensions, without however being totally convincing, insofar as his popularity is based more on the fact that by restoring state control over the oligarchs, he had succeeded in guaranteeing regular payment of wages and pensions. In Hungary, major demonstrations have taken place to protest against the Orban government's "slavery" law, which almost completely eliminates all wage compensation for overtime.

5. In response to the rise of populism, the bourgeoisie has set up anti-populist campaigns, particularly in France during the 2017 election campaign or in the USA where the populist/anti-populist opposition (anti-Trump) has been at the centre of political life since the Trump election, as the mid-term elections have further demonstrated. Often, while opposing populism, they are largely inspired and take up populist approaches or ideas:

(a) In France, the campaign around Macron used the same strategies as populism: rejection of traditional parties, "new" man (Macron) and political "movement" (LREM) presented as breaking with the past;

(b) By focusing priorities on the need to eliminate terrorism and on the public safety of citizens (increased controls, increased number of cameras, etc.), they also instilled the idea that it is inevitable to agree to sacrifice a little freedom for greater security.

(c) Lafontaine in Germany and Podemos in Spain fight populism by translating its anti-immigration language to the point of view of the "left": by creating an opposition between a left advocating "open borders" and another left advocating "closed borders and local help", they integrate populist arguments into the very anti-populist discourse.


January 2019