The return of right-wing populism

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many people in Europe and North America turned to populist radical and left-wing parties, while many others turned to populist nationalist and racist parties.

The first group blamed their troubles on the wealthy elite and a failed capitalist system.  The second group blamed their troubles on foreigners, minorities and a failed democratic system.

There were exceptions and overlaps, but I think these broad distinctions apply.  Nationalism and racism are a way of diverting public discontent away from bankers and landlords.

We have the same two kinds of populism today.  In Europe, we see Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain, Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, and, on the other hand, the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France and Viktor Orban in Hungary.

Here in the USA, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are left-wing populists and Donald Trump is a right-wing populist.

Many liberals think the way to stop Trump is to cling to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment rather than risking a vote  for Sanders.

Many conservatives also fear Trump and may vote for Clinton if the Republican establishment fails to produce a plausible candidate.

But in fact, the only way to stop a right-wing populist such as Donald Trump is to do something about the economic crisis, which makes large numbers of people turn to someone like him.

He at least has answers—maybe bad answers, but more appealing than the argument that it’s unrealistic to hope for change for the better.   The same is true of his counterparts in other countries.


Playing with fear from The Economist.

Tags: , , , , ,

3 Responses to “The return of right-wing populism”

  1. peteybee Says:

    Hi Phil,

    I’m theorizing that right-wing populists get fuel when inequalities get formed into social divisions.

    The eastern-euro populists can play on the reasonably real “second-class-citizen-of-the-EU” feeling of eastern and southern europe. As in why should a jobless person from the middle east get a place in line ahead of a jobless person in France or Spain or Poland?

    That goes back to working-class resentment for the offshoring of wage labor, which again, is unfortunately quite real. Cheap stuff at Target and Walmart is great, but my job was never the production of the stuff on those shelves. If Clinton beats Bernie, she can look forward to explaining to Trump why her husband supported NAFTA.

    The crisis, as far as it meant banks potentially failing, or people losing their 401k’s is close, but is not exactly it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. philebersole Says:

    The message that working people in Europe and America are getting from centrist journalists and politicians is:
    (1) There is no alternative to austerity.
    (2) You’re racists.

    Another way to define the difference between left-wing and right-wing populists is which message they react most strongly against.


  3. John Pennington Says:

    It would be kind of nice if people would think a bit harder about where their money actually goes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: