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Chantal Mouffe Calls for Labour to Revive Failed ‘Left Populism’ as ‘Green New Deal’.

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Image result for chantal mouffe jean luc melenchon

Mouffe Advising M. 6,31%.

In the  1990s Chantal Mouffe was an avid reader of Carl Schmitt. In her take on the German theorist of the fundamental political antagonism between Friend and Enemy, had to become a democratic clash of opinions. (The Return of the Political. 1993.) In the Democratic Paradox (2000) she argued that the “agonistic practice of valuing and sustaining dissent in the democratic process as a more important goal than  consensus.”

Many writers before her, such as Bernard Crick (In Defence of Politics (1962, and five subsequent editions, the last in 2002) and Claude Lefort  (L’Invention démocratique. Les Limites de la domination totalitaire. 1981) expressed (often without needing words like ‘agonistic) through reading Machiavelli, and the history of the left’s relationship to democracy, have argued for the importance of free debate, disagreement, and rows. The French writer, Jacques Rancière has made something of a career out of arguing for the importance of “disagreement” and dissensus (Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy 1998. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. 2010).

Mouffe’s writing was by contrast aimed at a highly abstract set of liberal writers, such as John Rawls, and Jürgen Habermas, who argued for a liberalism based on an “overlapping consensus” (Rawls, Political Liberalism, 1993), or rational consensus “discourse ethics” bases on an ideal agreements (Habermas). It was an academic intervention in a series of related debates.

Since those days Mouffe has, it is said,  begun to engage in real politics.

The book, “In conversation with Íñigo Errejón Podemos: In the Name of the People (trans. Sirio Canos),  2017 had a wider readership than her books, or those of her late partner, Ernesto Laclau, on the way populism could be seen both as a way of “constructing the people” and upsetting the (alleged) political consensus of Western societies.

Since those days left populist parties have tried to put into practice the principle of ‘post class politics’ that ‘federate the people’ against the elite, the casta, the oligarchy – the permanently floating signifier of that the populist ‘revolt’ is said to be against.

In their best known form, in Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI), and Podemos, they have reached an impasse.

In France, after getting only 6,3% of the vote in this year’s European elections, LFI faced a major crisis. Some talked of the death of left-wing populism (Le « populisme de gauche » est mort ! June 2019).

The vote of Podemos has declined. They no longer appear an unstoppable force that would replace the Spanish Socialists, the PSOE. Podemos has also split with Mouffe’s friend, Errejón, forming a new party Más País, that is predicted to win seats in the coming elections, and split the left vote further.

Más País, is betting heavily on a version of the Green New Deal. This worth remembering in looking at the Mouffe article that appeared yesterday.

Centrist politics will not defeat Boris Johnson’s rightwing populism

Mouffe repeats her old support for ‘agonistic’ politics.

….fear of populism reveals something troubling about how we currently understand democratic politics. What most people seem to find shocking about Johnson’s strategy is that it involves an “us v them” confrontation – as if democratic politics could avoid conflict between irreconcilable political projects.

But,

Since Thucydides and Machiavelli, we have known that politics involves conflict and antagonism and that it has, by definition, a partisan character. In politics, therefore, we are always dealing with an opposition between “us” and “them” – which means it will always be necessary to draw a political frontier between the two sides.

The post-Marxist theorist repeats the well-worn description of a world in which politics apparently had frozen for decades, from the protests against globalisation, to countless elections, rivalries, changes of government,  to the Arab Spring interspersed.

After decades of “post-politics”, during which citizens were deprived of a voice in the way they were governed – under the pretence there was no alternative – we are now living through a populist moment. Political frontiers that were said to have vanished are now being reinstated, in the name of recovering democracy and popular sovereignty.

She claims that the vote for Brexit was a protest against “post-politics”, although few can recall anything particularly beyond politics’ about the rule of the Conservative-Liberal Coalition dominated by political manoeuvering on a grand scale.

Perhaps people protested against those government’s austerity because of the effects this has on their lives.

But the answer seems to like in the idea that a vote for Brexit was tied up with demands for “Popular sovereignty and democracy”. But was the the anti-EU vote about a real loss of sovereignty and democracy  or the result of a campaign that articulated frustrations on a range of issues (not least immigration) into an “imaginary construction of a nation” under threat from the EU?

Mouffe does not say. Nor does she offer the slightest idea of what “real” popular sovereignty is, putting somebones on the ghostly concept that has floated around politics for over two centuries.

She notes that  “by articulating anti-austerity and anti-establishment sentiments with a nationalistic flavour” they gained support.

By blaming the EU for the deterioration of social and political conditions in the UK, Brexit became a hegemonic signifier – one around which a new “people”, identified as leavers, has coalesced. These are the “people” Johnson pretends to represent and whose will he accuses parliament of disregarding.

Yet many people, given the closeness of the Referendum vote, did not agree.

Why should they have to “understand” people. Why should they listen to Mouffe lecturing them that they should “not demonise all Brexiters as deplorables, or dismiss them for being unable to recognise the intellectual and moral superiority of the European project.”

Either it’s right to argue for Remain – in a strategy of transforming the EU – or it is not.

That is dissensus.

The article offers no answer, or rather one that avoids the issue.

In Britain, as in the rest of Europe, the way to answer the rightwing populist offensive is the construction of another “people” – through the articulation of a project that can link together various demands against the status quo. A project in which both leavers and remainers could feel that they have a voice and that their concerns are taken into account. One signifier for such a project could be a Green New Deal – which articulates multiple environmental and economic struggles around a demand for equality and social justice.

To be sure, such an “us” will never include everybody. It does, of course, require a “them” and the drawing of a political frontier. But we can have a frontier that makes democracy more radical – one that pits the people against the oligarchy, and the many against the few.

That is to plunge into a rusty tool box.

Left wing populist parties have failed to ‘construct’ the people. Targeting the shifting signifiers of the elite has not worked.

As Cédric Durand et Razmig Keucheyan argued, after the defeat of LFI in France, at its best,

L’opposition entre les 1% et les 99% permet peut-être de déclencher un mouvement politique et de l’incarner dans un leader, mais l’empêche de s’inscrire dans la durée.

The opposition between the 1% and the 99%  allows perhaps a political movement to get off the ground and to incarnate it in a leader, but it prevents its long term estbalishment.

There are, they note, fundamental conflicts of interests inside the “people”.

One stands us,  the ‘deplorables’ who back brexit include many, many, people who backed it out of xenophobia.

Understanding them is not just a pleasant sounding word, a wink to the wise, as Mouffe suggests.

It can become part of a left populist strategy.

In Germany, many consider, left populism, with its belief in the “people” “elite” conflict has opened the space to the red-brown politics of national populism.

Pop-Up Populism: The Failure of Left-Wing Nationalism in Germany

Aufstehen’s leaders insisted that their movement was not defined by its opposition to migrants. But they consistently cast migrants as either pawns in the game of finance capital or as the phony poster children of misguided urban idealists.

Theorists of left populism like to argue that “the people” needs an adversary against which it can define itself. Who was “the adversary” for Aufstehen? It was an eclectic group. At its head was Merkel’s government, followed by the forces of what they called “Goldman Sachs capitalism.” Arrayed behind them were a less typical crew for the left: an alliance of migrants (some of whom were suspect followers of “hate preachers of radicalized Islam”) and the naïve leftists who loved them. Together, they played the role of useful idiots for a ruling class intent on driving down wages by swamping the remains of the welfare state.

Against this union of elites and outsiders, Aufstehen offered “the realistic left” a middle approach that distinguished between “forced” and “economic” migration—lest all “competitors for scarce resources at the bottom of society” be given access to the German labor market and social welfare benefits. “If the core concern of leftist politics is to represent the disadvantaged,” Wagenknecht explained, “then the no-borders position is the opposite of being on the left.”

One see how populist rhetoric develops further in this recent interview on the red-brown site Spiked.

Nationalism is the search for a new solidarity’

Red Tory Phillip Blond on Boris, Brexit and the ‘post-liberal’ future.

 I think that what is happening is that nationalism has become a new principle of solidarity. Nationalism is the unifying principle between the vision of ‘Global Britain’ and those people who are demanding solidarity because they’re experiencing insecurity in terms of the care of their parents, the care of the children, and their own situation. There is fundamental realignment going on.

The Green New Deal is not the magic potion to make everybody forget about Brexit and ignore this realignment.

The fight against this nationalist “solidarity”, the rich man at his Brexit castle the poor man at his gate, and for the internationalist anti-Brexit cause, continues.

We need less understanding and more argument, till we have won our case through democratic means.

**********

More reading: 

There are two articles in the latest Historical Materialism which point to further theoretical and practical problems about Left Populism.

Editorial Perspective: Is a ‘Left Populism’ Possible? Panagiotis Sotiris

In contrast to the proposals to think radical and emancipatory politics in terms of a left-populist strategy, we have attempted to present an alternative theorisation based on the dialectical contradictions and dynamics of the contemporary conditions of the subaltern in relation to the possibility to rethink the people, in an anticapitalist, post-national and decolonial way as the people-to-come, the people of the emergence of a new historical bloc. This requires not discursive constructions and rhetorical inventions but a new practice of politics, a new collective elaboration and experimentation for a potential hegemony of the subaltern, in a process that aims to fully unleash the potential of the subaltern for self-government.

Research Article: From the Demise of Social Democracy to the ‘End of Capitalism’  The Intellectual Trajectory of Wolfgang Streeck Jerome Roos

Streeck’s account ends up stripping foreign workers of their status as fellow workers, treating class in narrowly national terms and throwing up a stark divide between the interests of ‘indigenous’ workers on the one hand, and the interests of migrants and refugees on the other. Taken together, these two moves do not only end up obscuring the common interests shared by these groups (in higher wages and increased public spending on education, healthcare and social housing, for instance); they also reinforce a narrative that considers migrants and refugees as mere extensions of the class interests of international capital – and, as such, an existential threat to the integrity of the European welfare state. In the process, Streeck ends up lending legitimacy to the ‘national-populist’ view that immigration, by exerting downward pressure on wages and placing unbearable strains on national welfare systems, constitutes a direct threat to the interests of ‘indigenous’ workers.111 This is a potentially dangerous claim for which there is no convincing evidence. Indeed, research on Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States has demonstrated that in all of these countries immigrants actually bring in more in taxes than they take out in benefits, meaning immigrants, on the whole, far from undermining the integrity of the Western welfare state, actively fund its redistributive policies.112 Moreover, as Tansel and Turner point out with respect to Streeck’s unsubstantiated claims about immigration lowering wages:

… comprehensive reviews on the subject suggest that ‘there is still little evidence of an overall negative impact on jobs or wages’ in the UK. Coupled with the findings of a state-of-the-art research project on asylum seekers which concluded that ‘no clear correlation [exists] between access to the labour market and the number of asylum applications a country received’, it is clear that ‘economic’ arguments against immigration and accepting refugees should be examined under extreme scrutiny.113

And yet, ever since the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015 and the Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump in 2016, immigration policy has increasingly become the stick with which Streeck continues to flog the dead horse of the cosmopolitan centre-left. In a 2017 essay for the Danish Centre for Welfare Studies, he even goes so far as to hold immigrant children – as opposed to government cutbacks on education spending – responsible for crowding public schools (so that ‘“white” parents … will find ways to send their children to schools where they learn the national language properly’), just as he construes immigration as a leading cause of urban segregation, contributing to ‘“white flight” from areas where immigrants cluster’, instead of seeing immigrant neighbourhoods as ethnically diverse working-class communities in their own right, which are often on the front-line of the financialisation-driven process of gentrification and among the first to suffer from austerity.114 Elsewhere, in a recent contribution to the social-democratic journal Juncture, he takes the argument even further, directly reproducing the Islamophobic trope that ‘mass migration’ leads to terrorism:

..

 

Again, as with the notion that immigration lowers wages and welfare provisions, there is little empirical evidence for the claim that it leads to greater terrorist violence. Indeed, notwithstanding a number of high-profile, high-mortality attacks in recent years (most notably those in France in 2015 and 2016), the moving average of victims from terrorist violence in Western Europe decreased sharply during the supposed era of ‘open borders’ since the 1990s compared to the bloody autumn days of Streeck’s idealised welfare state in the 1970s.116 Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist attacks in Europe continue to be committed not by immigrants or refugees with religious-fundamentalist motives, but by European citizens with ethno-nationalist or separatist motives.117

Beyond the liberty he takes with the facts, however, the real irony is that Streeck’s own analysis as laid out in How Will Capitalism End? is characterised precisely by such a ‘lack of any vision of a practically possible progressive future’ that he attributes here to immigrant ‘primitive rebels’. Moreover, it seems to be his own incapacity to imagine a feasible egalitarian alternative beyond the current ‘post-capitalist’ interregnum that is now driving Streeck to join a growing chorus of disillusioned social democrats in responding to the neoliberal pressures on what remains of the European welfare state by jealously guarding its last-remaining crumbs from the claims made upon it by migrant workers and their families. It is a development that has, on occasion, seen Streeck’s views on immigration and refugee policy veer dangerously close to the welfare chauvinism of the nationalist right.118

 

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New Crisis for Left Populism: Íñigo Errejón mounts Electoral Rival, Más País, to Podemos in Spain.

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Encuesta realizada por 'La Voz de Galicia'

Latest Opinion Poll Gives Más País 19 seats.

The Guardian carried a short article on this a few days ago,

Podemos co-founder Íñigo Errejón says he hopes to attract disillusioned leftwing voters.

Íñigo Errejón, a co-founder of Podemos, which he left in January after disagreements with its leader, Pablo Iglesias, said he was launching the party, Más País (More Country), because he wanted to help form a government and encourage disillusioned leftwing voters to turn up at the polling stations.

“I understand the widespread anger of the Spanish people with the current leaders and with the political stalemate,” he said in front of a crowd cheering “president”.

Errejón’s party could further fragment the vote and either help the right get a majority or make it harder for any bloc to do so. There was already no guarantee the new election would make it any easier to strike a deal to form a government, and there will now be three main parties on the left and the right, after the far-right Vox made a breakthrough in the April election.

Íñigo Errejón split from Podemos at the beginning of the year and stood, under the label Mas Madrid  with a list led by Mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena.

The reasons are said to be both personal, differences with Pablo Iglesias of long date, and political. Errejón is the advocate of a “broad” populist line that rises above traditional left-right divisions.

They got 14,68% of the vote regionally (coming fourth) and 30,9% on the City council (first). They lost the Mayoralty to the right-wing  José Luis Martínez-Almeida.

Más País is the name of the new bloc, which brings together Errejón and his immediate allies with the green party-alliance, Equo. This is a bloc of very diverse green currents, regional parties,  and pressure groups, which refused to ally with the old Izquierda Unida and finally reached agreements with Podemos in 2015 and 2016. The agreement with Errejón resulted in a number of resignations from the party of key activists who had worked with Podemos. The new party has other allies in the regionalist and centre-left green, Valencian Coalició Compromís, and Arrognese green-pacifist Chunta Aragonesista.

There is an outline of the new party in Wikipedia (English): Más País.

If readers will excuse the use of Wikipedia the French entry has a useful summary of the ideologies of this new alliance (most the words are too similar to the English version to need translating);:

Más Madrid Gauche (left) 
ProgressismeécosocialismeCoalition Compromís Gauche
Écosocialismeféminismenationalisme valencienEquo Gauche
Écologie politiqueécosocialismeChunta Aragonesista Gauche
Écosocialismesocialisme démocratiquenationalisme aragonais

Podemos (electorally known as Unidos Podemos)  continues to receive the backing of the left wing Izquierda Unida.

La Asamblea Político y Social de IU ratifica la coalición de Unidas Podemos y constata que aún hay tiempo para sumar a más actores políticos de la izquierda

There is a vast amount of material on Más País in the Spanish media.

In an interview today in El País Errejón claims to be the “el pegamento,” the glue, of the Spanish left, sticking it together…..

Asked if he would enter a government led by the Spanish Socialists, the PSOE, Errejón replied,

Quiere entrar en un Gobierno socialista?

R. No es el objetivo. Es lo de menos. Lo primero, los intereses de nuestro país. Y después, los cálculos de nuestras siglas.

That is not the aim, it’s the least of them. Our first aim is the interests of our country, and after that, the objectives of those in our alliance (i.e. the list of acronyms that made it up).

Asked if he wished to surpass Podemos the leader of  Más País responded,

P. ¿Aspira a un sorpasso a Unidas Podemos?

R. No compito contra Podemos ni contra el PSOE. Uno no viene a política para derrotar a un partido, sino a derrotar la precariedad o la violencia machista.

I’m not competing against Podemos nor the PSOE. One has not come into politics to destroy a party, but to eliminate social insecurity and macho violence.

Íñigo Errejón: “Nuestros escaños no serán gratis, pero servirán a un objetivo político

Errejón has been described as a ‘post-Marxist’ and “anti-essentialist”, a reference to views he holds in common with ‘left populist theorist Chantal Mouffe. The book, Podemos: In the Name of the People (Íñigo Errejón  Chantal Mouffe and the Introduction by Owen Jones, 2016)  which imagines a unifying left-populism emerging in Spain, has never looked more outdated. 

Fashions die young. 

Errejón defended a degree of federalism within Podemos, and the view that the new politics should be “neither right nor left”. With an emphasis on patriotism and the nation, against the elites, “la casta”. All that looks clear at the moment is that the politics of Más País have a green inflection,  taking up the Climate Strike.

 

Here

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 29, 2019 at 12:26 pm

Podemos Splits between the Errejón Camp and Iglesias’ as ‘Left Populism’ Fractures.

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Image result for podemos

Podemos in Major Split.

Left wing populism’ in Europe is fracturing.

The strategy of unity the ‘people’ against the ‘elite’ the ‘caste’ is has not succeeded in unifying the left in the European countries where it has had the greatest impact.

In France we have this:

Now in Spain Podemos, which unlike La France insoumise has a real democratic internal life and national political leaders of some independent statue, has split.

(From Mike P)

Íñigo Errejón, best known to English language readers as the subject of an interview-book with Chantal Mouffe (In the Name of the People.  2016) stopped belonging to the Unidos Podemos parliamentary group on Monday afternoon. (El País. 22.1.19)

The division was announced a few days ago,

Íñigo Errejón, a top official at the group that he helped transform from an anti-austerity movement into a national force with parliamentary and institutional presence, on Thursday announced his decision to run for the Madrid regional premiership at the May election in alliance with Más Madrid, the party created by the mayor of the Spanish capital, Manuela Carmena.

El País, which few would suspect of sympathy for Podemos, also publishes a  column which announces that

La ventana de oportunidad que alumbró el nacimiento de Podemos se ha cerrado definitivamente

The window of Opportunity opened at the birth of Podemos has closed definitely.

Del 15-M al 26-M 

The above article, which refers to game theory and the Prisoner’s dilemma, point out that in these conditions the lack of co-operation may mean that neither will win.

Here are some extracts from an overview of this dispute:  (El País, 18.1.19)

Podemos founders go their separate ways ahead of Madrid elections

Pablo Iglesias confirms party split and says he is saddened by the surprise news that his colleague Iñigo Errejón will run with the Madrid mayor in May

On January 17, the fifth anniversary of the creation of Podemos, two of its leading founders publicly confirmed the fracture of the left-wing party.

Íñigo Errejón, a top official at the group that he helped transform from an anti-austerity movement into a national force with parliamentary and institutional presence, on Thursday announced his decision to run for the Madrid regional premiership at the May election in alliance with Más Madrid, the party created by the mayor of the Spanish capital, Manuela Carmena.

Podemos Secretary General Pablo Iglesias said he was “saddened” by the surprise news, and wished Errejón “good luck building his new party.” He also confirmed that Podemos will be running with a candidate of its own at the May election, in direct competition with his former colleague.

A Marcos notes that their disagreements go back some time.

The differences between Iglesias and Errejón go back to 2016, when the former decided to join forces with the United Left (IU) in the general election. A few months later, in February 2017, Podemos held a congress to renew the party leadership and Errejón headed a current defending different political goals from those championed by Iglesias, whose views ultimately won out.

Then, in May of last year, Errejón ran in party primaries to find a candidate to the Madrid regional premiership. He won the nomination, but new problems arose when his first choice as a running mate was overlooked and a different person named without his prior knowledge or approval.

With four months to go before Spain holds local and regional elections, Madrid is not the only place where Podemos is running into trouble. In the northwestern region of Galicia, its En Marea coalition is breaking up. In Cantabria, the party is currently headed by an interim management committee. And in Barcelona, primaries will determine whether Podemos runs in the municipal elections with Mayor Ada Colau once again.

In May of last year, Iglesias survived a confidence vote when he put his leadership to the test after being heavily criticized for purchasing a €600,000 country house in Galapagar, a town northwest of Madrid, with his partner Irene Montero.

English version by Susana Urra.

There is more on this here:

From best pals to rivals: Merciless duel rages over the future of Podemos

(2017)

And here:

In the meantime today Podemos has seen fit to cause trouble for the Socialist led government by refusing to vote for legislation on housing and rents.

Podemos complica la vida al Gobierno en el Congreso

This development casts doubt on the ideas put forward by the best known theorist of Left Populism, Chantal Mouffe,

..this is the political strategy that I call “left populism”. Its purpose is the construction of a collective will, a “people” whose adversary is the “oligarchy”, the force that sustains the neoliberal order.

It cannot be formulated through the left/right cleavage, as traditionally configured. Unlike the struggles characteristic of the era of Fordist capitalism, when there was a working class that defended its specific interests, resistances have developed beyond the industrial  sector. Their demands no longer correspond to defined social groups. Many touch on questions related to quality of life and intersect with issues such as sexism, racism and other forms of domination. With such diversity, the traditional left/right frontier can no longer articulate a collective will.

To bring these diverse struggles together requires establishing a bond between social movements and a new type of party to create a “people” fighting for equality and social justice.

We find such a political strategy in movements such as Podemos in Spain, La France Insoumise of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, or Bernie Sanders in the US. This also informs the politics of Jeremy Corbyn, whose endeavour to transform the Labour party into a great popular movement, working “for the many, not the few”, has already succeeded in making it the greatest left party in Europe.

 

Populists are on the rise but this can be a moment for progressives too 

Many would say that the first basis of constructing a “collective will” is to have some unity on the left.

To construct a left.

This is obviously not the result of the politics of either La France insoumise or, now, Podemos. Podemos, naturally, as the Spanish press points out, has its own concerns, and difficulties, in recent electoral contests, such as in Andalusia.

More broadly Éric Fassin has summed up the central problems of ‘left wing’ populism during this debate (extracts).

Left-wing populism A legacy of defeat: Interview with Éric Fassin

 Is it a good strategy? Does it work?

……

The problem with the populist strategy, for the left, is that it’s neither left nor a winning strategy. It was even less so during the latest presidential campaign in France: everyone played that same card at the same time, including Macron, with a rhetoric of ‘centre’ populism! Of course, my argument is not just about France. The same considerations apply to the United States. But another dimension becomes apparent there, thanks to the availability of racial data. Trump’s success is not so much among working-class voters in general, but more specifically among the white working class. In a left-wing populist strategy, the racial dimension of the Trump vote is underestimated, and the class dimension is overestimated – whereas it now seems clear that his critique of the establishment was always just an illusion.

….

Beyond differences, left-wing populisms share the same premise: replace the opposition between right and left by the one between ‘us’ and ‘them’, people from below and elites from above. Obviously, the caste is less numerous than the people: ‘we are the 99% and they are the 1%.’ Indeed. But then, how come it’s so difficult for left-wing populists to reach a majority in elections? This is why we need to differentiate sociology and politics – and not conflate them as populism tends to do. If the working class voted according to their common interest, clearly the left would be flourishing today. That is not the case.

….

Politics is not just about elections. But I think that populism itself is defined by an electoral project. Mélenchon is first and foremost a former and probably future candidate running for presidential elections. So, indeed, there is more to politics than elections; but my little book was written in a context of elections, as an attempt to reclaim the opposition between right and left at a time when the populist illusion seeks to define the terms of debate far beyond elections.

 

The discussion, which is much longer, has to be read as a whole.

I highly recommend Éric Fassin’s clear and short, Populisme: le grand ressentiment (2017) which Radical Philosophy says is being translated into English (the point above about constructing a left “construire une gauche” is taken from the conclusion).

Image result for Populisme: le grand ressentiment

For a broader international starting point the Wikipedia entry  Left-wing populism is good.

 

Left Loses Majority in Andalucia as far-right Vox Enters Regional Parliament in Force.

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La izquierda ha perdido la mayoría en el Parlamento andaluz y Vox ha entrado con fuerza.

Socialists lose ground in Andalusia, extreme right party takes 12 seats

Vox becomes the first such group to win a major success since Spain returned to democracy, and holds the key to forming a government with Ciudadanos, Popular Party

The southern Spanish region of Andalusia, which has been dominated by the Socialist Party (PSOE) for the last 36 years, saw a historic shift in its political map on Sunday at regional elections. The country’s most-populated region took a step toward the right with never-before-seen support for the extreme party Vox.

While the PSOE technically won the election, their loss of 14 seats compared to the 2015 polls means a bitter victory for the party’s regional chief, Susana Díaz, who is almost certain to be unable to return to power. Her 33 seats, combined with the 17 of Adelanta Andalucía (an alliance of left-wing parties Podemos and United Left (IU)), or the 21 seats of center-right group Ciudadanos, are all far from the absolute majority of 55 seats.

In what was probably the saddest night of her political career, last night Díaz recognized the waning support for the left and for her party, but called on the opposition parties to not pact with the far right. “I’m calling on the pro-Constitution parties: let’s show that we are such by stopping the far right in Andalusia. I, at least, am going to try it,” she said.

But the plans of the PP and Ciudadanos appear to be headed in the other direction, and their respective candidates were already positioning themselves last night to govern the Junta, as the regional government is known. The PP took their second-worst result in their history in terms of percentage of vote, and have fallen in four years from 33 to 26 seats.

Juan Marín, the Ciudadanos candidate, who went from nine to 21 seats, let slip last night that he would seek to join forces with the PP and the far right. “Change has arrived in Andalusia,” he said. “There are enough deputies to force a change.” These words were echoed later by the party’s national leader, Albert Rivera: “We are going to throw the PSOE out of the Junta.”

Vox: Wikipedia.

Vox: the new face of the far right in the Spanish State FERNANDEZ Brais

Vox: The Return of the Spanish Far Right. Tendance Coatesy. October the 27th 2018 .

Vox has a hatred of ‘gender theory’ that extends to opposition to laws against sexual harassment and violence.

They propose to create a Ministry of the Family to protect the “natural family” and a ban on feminist organisations spreading false accusations.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2018 at 12:14 pm

Vox: The Return of the Spanish Far Right.

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Mitin de Vox en el Palacio de Vistalegre.rn rn rn

Spanish Immunity to the Populist Far-Right has Ended.

A couple of days ago The Times stated,

Far right set to win first Spanish seat for decades

A far-right party is on course to win a seat in the Spanish parliament for the first time since the fascist dictatorship of General Franco more than 40 years ago.

Vox, which was founded in 2014, says that its support has risen tenfold since it took a hard line against illegal immigration and the independence drive in Catalonia. Ten thousand people took part in its most recent rally in Madrid and a poll by Metroscopia puts the party on 5.1 per cent, enough to gain a seat.

The European Council on Foreign Relations announced this week that,

Bannon sets his eyes on Spain

Spain’s far-right party Vox draws the country into the continent’s growing anti-European league

Steve Bannon, the controversial former adviser to US President Donald Trump, has set his eyes on the site of his next battle against what he deems the “globalist ideology” and its principal embodiment, the European Union. Making use of his contacts with Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom, Marine Le Pen in France, and Matteo Salvini in Italy, Bannon is setting up The Movement, a Brussels-based group that aims to unify far-right anti-European forces.

Spain, a rare exception on the continent in its relative lack of far-right or anti-EU movements, has largely been spared Bannon’s and the alt-right’s attention so far. Not for much longer, it seems. On 10 April 2018, Bannon declared: “it is very important that in Spain there is a party based on the sovereignty and identity of the Spanish people, and that is ready to defend its borders”. His statement came after a meeting with Rafael Bardají, an erstwhile adviser to former Spanish president José María Aznar who now works as a strategist for far-right party Vox. After Bannon publicly announced his support for the party, Vox asked him for advice on what he is best at: political communication through alternative media and social networks – that is, electoral engineering based both on big data and micro-targeting.

Santiago Abascal, a former member of a conservative party based in the Basque Country, created Vox in 2013. Despite receiving only 46,638 votes (0.2 percent) in the 2016 general election, Vox is now polling at 5 percent (around 1 million votes, which would mean a significant increase in support). Following a very active social media campaign and a series of rallies across Spain, the party achieved a great success a few weeks ago when it gathered 9,000 people for a meeting at Madrid’s Vistalegre arena. If it remains as popular as the polls indicate, Vox will eventually enter the Spanish parliament and, most importantly, may make it to the European Parliament next May.

Vox’s main message is that there is a need to defend the Spanish nation, which it sees as threatened by Catalan and Basque nationalists, immigrants, and the EU. On 7 October 2018, the party released its “100 measures to keep Spain alive”. Its proposals and message fall within the orbit of Le Pen and Salvini, especially on migration and the EU.

Earlier this month there was a spate of articles in the Spanish and European Press on Voz and the above rally.

La nueva extrema derecha irrumpe en escena El País  4th of October.

The New Far Right has burst onto the scene.

Far-right political party Vox attracts 9,000 people to Madrid rally

El País  (English).

Created in 2014, the group drew its largest crowd ever at the weekend as polls suggest it could win a seat in Congress.

Vox speakers take turns listing the party’s 100 proposals for Spain: creating a Family Ministry, revoking the gender violence law and “any other legislation that discriminates against one of the sexes,” lowering income and corporate tax, developing a new water-management plan… But what really rouses the crowd is the proposal to deport “those illegal immigrants who come to Spain not to make it greater, but to receive handouts.”

To support this larger goal, Vox also wants tougher criminal punishment for illegal-immigration mafias “and those who cooperate with them, be they non-profits, businesses or individuals.”

Another major objective, says another speaker on stage, is “taking back our national sovereignty on the application of our courts’ decisions. Terrorists, rapists and serial killers would no longer benefit from the protection of European organizations, as they have to date.”

The secretary general of Vox, Ortega Smith, takes the microphone to insist that “Spaniards come first” and paraphrases Donald Trump: “Together we will make Spain great again.”

“Welcome to the resistance!” he cries. “We have come here to send out a message: we are not ready to let our dignity be trampled!”

The closing speaker is party president Santiago Abascal, who makes a rousing speech about Spaniards rising up against injustice.

“The living Spain has awoken, thank God. Spain does not rise up randomly. A nation reacts when it has historical inertia, when there is blood coursing through its veins, and when it is aggravated, as Spain is being aggravated now.”

L’émergence d’un parti d’extrême droite surprend l’Espagne.

Sandrine Morel. Le Monde.

La formation Vox, créée en 2013 par d’anciens militants du Parti populaire et jusqu’ici très confidentielle, a réuni 10 000 personnes à Madrid.

Background: Wikipedia (English, very incomplete) on Vox.

Vox (often stylized as VOX) is a political party in Spain founded on 17 December 2013, by former members of the People’s Party (PP). It is often considered to be far-rightalthough some media considered it as right-wing or right-wing populist

Explained: Who is VOX? Spain’s latest far-right party gaining popularity.

Fears of a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment and hardline nationalism have awakened in Spain after thousands participated in a Sunday rally at Madrid’s Vistalegre Palace by the far-right VOX party. But who is VOX and should Europe prepare for the rise of populism in Spain?

“Spaniards’ first”

Set up at the end of 2013, VOX aimed to capitalise on what it saw as a void in the Spanish political system, Dr Andrew Dowling of Cardiff University told Euronews.

VOX gained momentum last year as part of a broader rise of far-right populist parties in Europe, said Dowling. At the Sunday rally, Javier Ortega, the party’s general secretary, outlined the party’s first objective: “Spaniard’s first”. He listed a hundred proposals, which included revoking the gender violence law, deporting illegal immigrants and outlawing independence movements that could break up Spain.

However, the fact there was already two conservative parties Partido Popular (PP) and Ciudadanos meant that VOX will find it difficult to create a place for itself in the Spanish political spectrum, added Dowling.

The leader of Vox has declared that they will go it alone in elections, able to take advantage of the social discontent which Podemos, now in Coalition with the Spanish Socialists (PSOE), is unable to reflect.

“Abascal afirma que la vocación de VOX es ir en solitario a elecciones: Podemos aportar muchísimo más que en coalición”  Europa Press. 24 October.

One thing is certain, the issue of “El fascismo” has returned to the Spanish political scene.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 27, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Nicaragua: After Police Kill Protesters, Giant Demonstration for Peace and against Daniel Ortega

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Manifestation au Nicaragua pour réclamer la fin des violences, le 28 avril.

Nicaragua se vuelca en una gigantesca marcha contra Ortega.

Tens of thousands march for peace and justice in Nicaragua

The protests have expanded beyond the original opposition to the social security changes to include broader anti-government grievances.

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have joined a march for “Peace and Justice” called by the Catholic Church, the second massive demonstration in less than a week following a wave of deadly protests against social security reforms.

The two marches in Managua came after protests and looting last week that Nicaragua’s Permanent Commission on Human Rights said left at least 63 people dead, 15 missing and more than 160 wounded by gunfire.

The government of President Daniel Ortega has not confirmed or denied the casualty figures.

Mr Ortega, who began his third five-year term in office last year, withdrew the social security overhaul that sparked the social convulsion last Sunday and agreed to meet with different sectors of society.

The rescinded changes would have imposed higher contributions by workers and employers and required retirees with pensions to give up 5% of their checks for medical care.

But the protests, which have been largely led by university students, had expanded beyond the original opposition to the social security changes to include broader anti-government grievances. Protesters at times were met with violent with police repression and attacks from Sandinista youth and motorcycle-riding thugs

Guardian: A correspondent in Managua and  in Mexico City

Tens of thousands have joined student-led protests, which started as an outbreak of fury over social security reforms and morphed into a broader revolt against the authorities’ violent response – and Ortega’s 11-year rule. At least forty-two people have died in the unrest, including a journalist shot dead while broadcasting on Facebook Live.

“We came in memory of the university students who fell fighting a dictatorship,” said Cinthia Madrigal, 30, who joined a march in Managua. “We took to the streets peacefully … and Daniel ordered us to be killed.”

During the 1980s, Ortega became a poster boy for the global left: a mustachioed Marxist feted for overthrowing the despised dictator Anastasio Somoza and for his David versus Goliath cold war struggle with Washington.

Ortega, now 72, suffered a chastening setback in 1990 after losing a presidential election he had expected to walk.

In 1998, his step-daughter – Murillo’s daughter, Zoilamérica Narvaez – publicly accused Ortega of having sexually abused her for a number of years from the age of 12. Murillo chose her husband over her daughter, and gradually moved to the centre of power; both parents deny the allegations.

After two failed attempts to reclaim the presidency, Ortega staged a dramatic comeback in 2006 – a victory in Murillo is thought to have played a key role.

In his victory speech, Ortega pledged to rule for the poor and for the people and “create a new political culture”. Yet he returned a changed and to many a tarnished man.

Former Sandinista comrades began turning away from the Nicaraguan president amid accusations of cronyism and corruption and anger over his support for a highly controversial Catholic church-backed ban on abortion.

Background:

Nicaragua on the Brink, Once Again.  

New Yorker.

The present convulsion began earlier this month, after President Daniel Ortega proposed a change to the country’s social-security provisions that would have forced taxpayers to pay more for the program while simultaneously cutting payouts to beneficiaries. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries of Latin America, and public reaction to this change was furious and swift, with demonstrators taking to the streets to protest. The government’s ensuing response was as ill-considered as it was cruel. Police around the country fired live ammunition to break up the protests; as many as sixty people are believed to have died in the chaos that followed, including Ángel Gahona, a young reporter who was shot in the head while conducting a Facebook Live report in the streets of the Caribbean coastal town of Bluefields.

As the civilian deaths mounted, Rosario Murillo—Ortega’s wife, Vice-President, and spokesperson—issued a stream of belittling comments, calling the protesters “bloodsuckers,” “criminals,” and “vampires.” This only raised the ire of many thousands of ordinary Nicaraguans, and, just as happened in the late nineteen-seventies, when the dictator Somoza tried to stamp out dissent with harsh measures, the sentiments on the street have only hardened.

It’s clear now that, for all their pragmatic backpedalling on the social-security bill, Ortega and Murillo’s long time in power, and their near-total control of Nicaragua’s public institutions, have left them out of touch with the feelings of many of their countrymen. Ortega initially rose to power after the 1979 Sandinista revolution, when he was known as a Marxist firebrand, and he served as the country’s strongman President until 1990, when he ceded power after losing elections. He returned to the Presidency, in 2006, after dropping his Marxist tag, allying himself with former politicos and enemies that included Nicaragua’s corporate class and its archconservative Catholic archbishop, and declaring himself a belated follower of Jesus Christ. In the years since, Ortega and his wife have steadily consolidated their power, eliminating their opponents through a canny combination of economic co-option and, when necessary, outright repression.

In addition to the executive branch of government, Ortega and Murillo dominate Nicaragua’s Congress and judiciary. The couple’s children, in turn, run the family’s business empire via a web of public-relations firms and media companies that functions as the government’s communications department. The Ortega-Murillo regime, in other words, exists in an echo chamber.

More background: (2016)  Nicaragua’s compromised revolution

Memories of the 1979 Sandinista revolution remain strong in Nicaragua, but today’s FSLN is a very different organization, reports Jonah Walters from Managua.

The FSLN of today is not like the Sandinistas who led the left-wing government for a decade after the revolution, with Ortega at its head then, too.

After enduring a decade of economic strangulation and counterrevolutionary military attacks by the contra armies, the Sandinistas lost power to the U.S.-backed right-wing opposition in 1990.

Since then, the FSLN leadership has restricted internal democracy, colluded with the corrupt conservative governments that succeeded them and sought power again through cynical backroom deals. Its political stances became more and more moderate, if not downright conservative–in 2006, on the eve of Ortega winning the presidency again, the Sandinistas endorsed a law that banned all abortions in Nicaragua.

The Sandinistas once represented a vital revolutionary force–an inspiration to leftist movements all over Latin America and the world. But how should we make sense of the FSLN in the current moment, after decades of degeneration and behind-the-scenes maneuvering have compromised the organization?

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 29, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Catalonia: Revolution Postponed as Puigdemont backers say he will be President on the 31st of January……

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Image result for puigdemont caricature

Puigdemont with Adviser in Brussels.

Los diputados de Junts per Catalunya en Bruselas: “El 31 de enero Puigdemont será el presidente”

MPs of Junts per Catalunya in Brussels, “On the 3st of January Puigdemont will be President. 

Once upon a time, a long time back, a few weeks before Christmas….. Catalonia was on the threshold of a revolution.

Socialist Appeal echoed many a sage  left-wing commentator in stating, “the Catalan revolution: the struggle for the Socialist Republic of Catalonia, to serve as the spark for the Iberian Socialist Revolution, and the prelude to the European Socialist Revolution.”

As recruiting posters for a new Durutti column began to appear in Hoxton Quinoa bars, the left press was awash with stories from the front line.

Grizzled journalists made their way across snow swept Pyrenean trails to send back reports from Catalunya.

The Socialist set the tone, ” Spain/Catalonia: “Like a massive football match, with a revolutionary atmosphere!” Supporters lined up to cheer.  Socialist Worker advised, “Workers’ mobilisation” was the key to success.  Counterfire began an appeal “To support in any way possible the emergence of a broad based solidarity movement in the UK.” In an exercise of considerable imagination Red Pepper published a piece stating, “Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism”. Some Anarchists, no doubt excited at the prospect of visiting Hemp Milk Cooperatives off the Ramblas, saw a resurrection of the CNT as this tiny union backed independence. (1)

Spain’s PM, Rajoy seemed to act out of his way to reinforce the hostility of Catalans.There were justified protests in Catalonia against the repression unleashed against the ‘referendum’ and gaoling of Catalan MPs.  There were some strikes, many backed by employers, public functionaries and business, that failed to take off in the factories and the majority of the working class. Theyw ere more effective in snarling up road traffic than anything else.

But internationally the event the only demonstrations of support for Catalan nationalism, led by a large section of the Catalan bourgeoisie, and its main party, JuntsxCat were organised by the Scottish Nationalist Party, and, in Brussels, a curious event which saw Trotskyists march with the extreme-right Vlams Belang.

In the event the regional elections on the 21st of December saw a marginal victory for the assembled Catalan nationalists and a crushing defeat for the pro-independence radical left.

CataloniaParliamentDiagram2017.svg
Parties and coalitions Popular vote Seats
Votes  % ±pp Total +/−
Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (Cs) 1,109,732 25.35 +7.44 36 +11
Together for Catalonia (JuntsxCat)1 948,233 21.66 n/a 34 +3
Republican Left–Catalonia Yes (ERC–CatSí)1 935,861 21.38 n/a 32 +6
Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC–PSOE) 606,659 13.86 +1.14 17 +1
Catalonia in Common–We Can (CatComú–Podem)2 326,360 7.46 –1.48 8 –3
Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) 195,246 4.46 –3.75 4 –6
People’s Party (PP) 185,670 4.24 –4.25 4 –7

The loudest voice braying for Catalan nationalism, Socialist Appeal, was exultant, “The victory of the pro-independence bloc is a blow to the Rajoy government and the Spanish regime as a whole.” They explained away the defeat of their own favoured force, the CUP, as follows,

The anti-capitalist, pro-independence CUP had a bad result: 4.45 percent of the votes and only 4 seats. For comparison, it had 8.21 percent and 10 seats after the 2015 elections. It ran a very good and militant campaign, in which it insisted on the defence of the Catalan Republic and the mandate of the 1st October referendum, linking these to the question of winning and defending social rights, and talking openly about socialism and internationalism.

But these strengths in the CUP’s campaign were offset by a number of factors. Firstly, the memory of its past mistakes in supporting JxSí and its budget of cuts. Secondly, the fact that many of its votes in 2015 were on loan from ERC supporters who did not want to support JxSí and who have now gone back to ERC. Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, the fact that during the crucial events of the Catalan October, the CUP was not seen clearly enough as offering an alternative leadership.

 On odd left group that backed austerity……

I think we can guess who, in the eyes of Socialist Appeal,  is ready to offer such a “leadership”.

About the only force to emerge from these events with any credibility is Catalunya en Comú–Podem (aligned to Podemos) who also lost support (less drastically, from 8.9% to 7,5%).

Some of those who had previously criticised Podemos for the way its ‘populism’, the identification of the ‘people’ against the ‘casta’ as the main political conflict, suddenly  found in the Catalan ‘people’ led by the nationalist bourgeoisie a new progressive vehicle.

Podemos, by contrast stood for a ‘multi-people ‘ or plurinational Spain and defended the Catalans’ democratic right for decide their future for themselves.

In terms of real politics the biggest historic left nationalist party, the Republican left (ERC), is back to its previous position of propping up the right-wing Puigdemont led bloc.

Which leads us back to the present dilemma:

Catalan separatists agreed on Wednesday to try to re-elect Puigdemont as regional leader, raising the scenario of the fugitive former leader governing by video link from Belgium. He faces arrest in Spain for sedition and rebellion.

“Parliamentary rules are very clear,” said Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo at a weekly press conference. “They do not contemplate the possibility of a (parliamentary) presence that is not in person.”

“This aspiration is a fallacy, it’s totally unrealistic and it goes against the rule books and common sense,” he added.

(1) I note however that some retained, to their honour, their senses: Against all states, old and new! Down with patriotism! Down with borders! Long live the international class struggle!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 13, 2018 at 12:18 pm