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(en) Canada, Collectif Emma Goldman - [To port no. 82] Left-wing populism (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 21 Mar 2020 09:54:18 +0200

By the way (before the paranoia linked to COVID-19) in a newsstand on Racine Street (yes there are still a few left), I had the double surprise of finding one, the magazine A port side! in a kiosk in Chicoutimi, and two, to get hold of a recent issue. In issue 82, released in January 2020, we can read an excellent article signed by Isabel Brochu entitled The brakes of a resistance. She presents the various obstacles that stand in front of the citizen resistance movement in Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean which is fighting against the current of a regional elite which " clings to an old model that has no more future[...]while foreign companies take advantage of the last upheavals of an obsolete model ". (Brochu, p.23)
But what first caught my attention was the subject covered in the last edition of this social and political review. No. 82 presents a file entitled Left populism, rightly or wrongly.

" Everything can now be potentially accused of populism " - Tarragoni, (p.31)

One thing is certain, if there is a vague concept, it is that of populism. Sometimes used as an insult to discredit an adversary or a movement, sometimes claimed by politicians like the former deputy and minister, Maxime Bernier. Federico Tarragoni, one of the contributors to this dossier, identifies two models for analyzing populism. One who " considers populism as a disease of democracy " and the other who " judges it as the coming salvation of our sick democracies " (Tarragoni, p.31).

Whether left or right, populism is above all a mobilization technique mainly directed towards a readership, an audience or an electorate. This technique generally puts forward a " providential savior " or "the voice of the voiceless", who becomes the or the only representative of the people oppressed by the elites. Garbage radios are one example of this phenomenon in Quebec. In the Quebec region, these radio stations have for several years been influencing the opinions, actions and even the voting intentions of their audience. Dominique Payette in his article entitled, Opinion radios in Quebec City Le ready to think is not left , lists the techniques used by the animators as:the repeated appeal to common sense, the exploitation of prejudices and stereotypes, resentment, the use of scapegoats, attacks against the elites and against the state, primary anti-intellectualism. "(Payette, p.39)

While it is true that a leftist version of radio opinion clearly proves insufficient to counter the phenomenon of trash radio, it seems to me rather simplistic to think like Dominique Payette " he n 'there is only one legitimate way to counter the effect of radio stations Force the application of the law ... ' (p.40) Direct and collective actions which exert real pressure and strike where it makes evil (advertisers' money) remains effective in reducing the spread of fear, intolerance and hate on the air. (see the text: Reading suggestion for fans of garbage radios ... Brutes and the pushpin )

Populist moment

What do Brexit, the 5-Star Movement in Italy, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the National Front (now the National Rally) in France, Trump in the United States and, to some extent, have in common? the CAQ election in Quebec? These vast movements removing or " clearing " the sauce " let them all go " are the result of the crisis of liberal democracy, of this disconnection from society and representatives.

For Chantal Mouffe, the author of the essay For a left-wing populism , the right and far-right parties should not be allowed to monopolize passions and political affects. Certainly, but should left populism rely on a charismatic tribune or a providential savior such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France or Bernie Sanders in the United States? Or should it succumb to demagoguery and be reduced to electoral rhetoric? As a perspective for emancipation, even left-wing populism can be quite counterproductive. As Jean-Pierre Couture points out in his text Difficult Populism on the Left: "Populism pits the people against the elites. In this fight, he proposes to build a popular will to take power from the dominant. Populism, however, breaks with democracy when this construction operates from above, materializes by the voice of a strong leader and contributes to the exercise of a sovereign power in the name of the people and not by him.»(P.46). In addition, Chantal Mouffe's populism does not call for going beyond capitalism, representative democracy and the state. Yet it is these systems and institutions that generate and maintain social, economic and political inequality for the benefit of the privileged few.


The definition of left populism proposed by Laclau and Mouffe deserves a closer look. For the authors: " it is a political approach, first of all linguistic and symbolic, which consists in articulating different demands according to an equivalent logic and then placing them in opposition to the current framework of power according to an antagonistic logic.This appeal to the end of the consensualist posture remains, in this period of indifferentiation between the parties of government, whether left or right, very interesting. However, the electoral defeats or setbacks of political parties like Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and Insubordinate France show us that directing our energy to serve the sole electoral ambitions of a party remains a mistake. Because what we really need is to multiply the counter powers which promote autonomy, collective action, the resumption of individual and collective power and not of a party which diverts legitimate anger in ballot boxes.


[1]12% of Bernie Sanders voters preferred to vote for Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton, a figurehead of the establishment. (p.43)
Listed 20 hours ago by Collectif Emma Goldman

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