26 September, 2018

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Populism (Alt-Right, Alt-Left) & The Global Struggle For Hegemony

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Populism (Alt-Right, Alt-Left) and the global struggle for hegemony: Earthquakes stuns US Democrats and Mexico

A tussle for the future of the US Democratic Party (DP) has begun. The surge to populism whose highest point so far was the election of Donald Trump and a more recent event was the return of autocrat Erdogan to the Turkish Presidency on a ticket to breach democracy, reverted to the US last week. It is an event that most of the world will take little note of but will shake up the US Democratic Party and change the complexion of the challenge to Trump’s presidency. It came as a victorious challenge by unknown till the results were known Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (28) who ousted a 10-term incumbent DP Congressman for the right to contest the November House of Representatives (‘lower’ house of Congress) as candidate for New York’s 14-th District. This is a sure bet Democrat seat so she will soon be in Congress.

This piece is about my pet topic of the last two years that is getting under the skin of IQ80 readers and the LSSP leader who want soda-bottle analyses; it’s about sweep of neo-populism, mostly Alt-Right but sometimes Alt-Left. I won’t offer you learned definitions of the distinction but cough up examples which will serve us better. Alt-Right is Victor Oban of Hungary in the extreme corner, Trump’s base which feels betrayed and disillusioned with the “swamp”, and at home the corrupt populist Rajapaksas. The Five-Star part of the Italian ruling populist menagerie, New Zealand’s Labour Party of Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Amlo) elected Prime Minister of Mexico on 1 July are Alt-Left. Britain’s Labour Party and the Bernie Sanders movement in the US have substantial programmes and I do not write them off as populists. Modi is something of a taxonomist’s enigma.

US Democratic Party primary

Before getting my teeth into the global sweep of neo-populism and Lanka’s Buddhist-fascist-chauvinist and retired military officer inspired Gota version, I need to say a few words about the AO-C (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) phenomenon. The Democratic Party (DP), as now established, has nothing to offer the 30+% of less privileged American’s who steadfastly support Trump. This DP is a bastion of elitism led by educationally and intellectually privileged East and West Coast snobs who in programme, attitude and lifestyle have nothing to offer the less well-off. In these times of erosion of social structures (immigration, opiate crisis) and rout by foreign economic competition (I desist from my favourite cliché “collapse of capitalism”) this dead-as-a-door-nail DP is getting nowhere. Democrats revel in repeating Kim Jong Un’s description of Trump as a “mentally deranged dotard”, and true as this may be they have made no headway in breaking Trump’s base vote. If at all his rating has risen marginally from 39% to 41% in recent months. Nor do the Democrats have a rural agenda to nullify the Trump swing.

This is what a US Social Democratic programme reads like

After she won, people and the media were asking “Who is this woman; were in the woodwork did she come from?”She delivered what the media is calling an earthquake. Ocasio-Cortez’s own story begins in the Bronx; as briefly as possible, she is the daughter of working class Puerto Rican parents, studied economics at Boston University, worked as a community organizer and then took a low-paid, long-hours job at a restaurant.  During the 2016 primary she was an organizer for Bernie Sanders. Her campaign for nomination was door-to-door in working class areas and among coloureds and blacks. Her programme is much the same as Sanders’ programme. (Democrats and Republicans hold selection-elections called a Primary among their loyalists in the relevant electorate to choose the party’s candidate. Candidates are not chosen by a party committee or party leaders). 

Let me make my point and move on. What can beat Trump is not calling him a moron, boor, rake and liar; all true but water on a duck’s back for his faithful and for underprivileged and unemployed white workers, depressed rural communities and now blacks who see no reason to support the establishment DP. The three wealthiest Americans own more than the lowest 50% of America, so unsurprisingly Alexandria proved that it was an issues based campaign that mattered to ordinary Democratic primary voters and may eventually penetrate the lower ranks of the GOP. What issues: Medicare for all, universal job guarantees, housing, funding for education, justice in immigration and reform of a vicious law and order and court system. This is what a US Social Democratic Programme reads like. In the UK, mutatis mutandis, this is the Labour Party’s outlook. The hot-topic now is how far the process in the DP will escalate and ‘beyond-liberal’ candidates gain ground. We will have to wait and see.

Mexico

The 1 July Mexican election was a referendum on the country’s political elite, economic direction and a questioning of the underlying policies of post-cold war Mexico. Left-populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Amlo) who won the presidency by a large majority at his third attempt, vowed to topple a political establishment he likens to “mafia power”. He promised to divert the money that greases the wheels of political graft to social programs. His opponents say he will plunge the country into debt and economic turmoil, like cynical Lankans who may add that have seen it all before. Right now however football crazed Mexicans are weeping over their World Cup defeat by Brazil on 2 July.

Mexico is the second largest country after Brazil in population and economy in the Americas south of the US. Corruption and crime are major issues; the country had 25,000 homicides last year, the highest number since data tracking commenced two decades ago. Previous presidents got tough on drugs and locked up kingpins but when a second wave of dealers surfaced a few years later the authorities could not respond adequately. Corruption is a huge issue and goes to the very top. The outgoing government hampered prosecution of corrupt politicos; the larger, more numerous and more highly placed the corrupt, the more easily cases get buried – carbon copy of yahapalana.

Amlo has promised to tone down market-friendly economic policies, cut extravagant mega projects, reduce the pay of the President and high officials, introduce scholarships for poor students and start a pension scheme for the elderly and the disabled. He has not spelled out how he will find the money but he is unlikely to backtrack on these pledges making him an Alt-Left populist. He wants to hold a mid-term referendum on his own performance after two years – he must avoid inauspicious 10 Feb! He was Mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005 and quit with high approval ratings. He is a shrewd pragmatist unlike Ranil. The Presidency is an immensely bigger challenge and the world is watching. Morena, Amlo’s electoral front of the Labour Party and the Social Encounter Party of religious conservatives, is different from Ranil’s UNP(F) on both social and economic policy. Moreno won 210 of the 300 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Both Presidency and Chamber were landslides.

The global fate of Alt-Left Populism may be riding on the back of this Mexican maverick and New Zealand’s immensely popular new Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. Arden’s popularity flows from her charm and style and the perception that she is transparent and honest; it has little to do with any economic achievements to date, however that is what will count. Arden is a social democrat and an environmentalist but in the long run it is the ability to discipline and manage the economy while delivering welfare goodies that matters. Left populism is free of racism and hatred and Arden has proved her worth in this respect. 

The British Labour Party is more solidly social democratic, as opposed to Alt-Left populist, but dour faced Jeremy Corbyn can pick up a lot in the style and smile from the charming Miss Arden. A Labour victory in the next election is important for Britain but its significance stretches far beyond the British Isles. It will resonate all over Europe and in the Americas and the ensuing effects on political psychology can stem the tide of rising Alt-Right and neo-fascist tendencies in European continent. The most important is Germany; a Labour Party defeat in the UK will grist to the mill of AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) a far-right party which made substantial gains in the 2017 Federal Elections to become the country’s ‘third party’. The fight for Labour in the UK has global ramifications that will affect us all.

It’s not good to sign off on an essay like this one without a brief homily about the deplorable domestic scene. It would not be erroneous to draw a parallel between the global Alt-Right and Mahinda-Gota racial religio-fascist populism and the electoral swing evidenced in February. While a Gota presidency, arguably, is unlikely it is my estimation that pro-Mahinda jackals will do well in Sinhalese electorates in parliamentary elections. To stem this trend we cannot depend one iota on Ranil and his UNP morons; Sirisena is an insidious Gota collaborator; the Dead Left explicit traitors. The Better-Left (JVP, ULF, Bahu’s NSSP etc.) and the remnant rump of liberalism must pull together. Without illusions but out of necessity they must collaborate with the UNP, dissident-SLFPers and with Tamil and Muslim organisations. The challenge calls for flexibility and intelligence, both in short supply.

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Latest comments

  • 8
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    Prof:
    The irony is today only the UNP and what you call the Better-Left (JVP, ULF & Bahu’s NSSP) can protect at least the basic democratic rights of the people, whereas the “common man’s” SLFP is headed towards establishing a theocratic-militarist dictatorship. It is not very surprising as the ambiguous personality of the founder himself reflected this contradiction. S.W.R.D’s Western Enlightenment philosophy of liberty, equality and fraternity was in an uneasy, (schizoid?) relationship with the Sinhala-Buddhist Pancha Maha Balavegaya brand of populism.
    .
    So in a sense the 1956 chickens are coming home to roost.

    • 1
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      World hedegemonies became stronger once families or clans were that close.Hitler hedemonies were connected with people#s blindness. What they just heard was established in that society sharpening the leadership of Hitler. The very same is being heard from North korea today. The kind of dynasties could outreach masses in those developing folks. Peoples have been made prey for the various kind of predators. Fooling around has been made thorugh their media men. Hitler did it through Gobel s theory. THe smilar theories and even finer ones have been instrumental in SL today.
      Just imagine, what headlines you get to hear and read in lanken press EVEN today ? after all from pvt senders that have been the men of brutal poltiicians ?
      Not facts but anything about them would go viral to the nation. Innocient people believe in … People are easy targets for them and their popularisms. Even today, these three buggers ont he picture to gain media attraction should be highly criticised. People know very well how much funds the 3 siblings have taken away – from which the poor could achive a lot.
      The emerge of dictatorships such as Gadafi and Sadam were all had the same background.

  • 3
    6

    Gosh man, you call JVP the better left? Did you hit your head somewhere that you cannot remember the Bheeshanya, the years of terror, the late eighties. The dead left died off naturally, because the time was up chronologically for the founding leaders and sociologically for the movement, what I cannot understand is in a democracy what is wrong with populism, polpulism is defined as taking care of the ordinary people, and ordinary people makes the majority, isn’t that what democracy is about?

    • 0
      1

      He’s a toiya. they don’t understand any of this all they see is MaRa HoRa. Also, another definitive charachteristics of the said group is the failture to undertand how the common man doesn’t care about human rights or any of this bs.

    • 2
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      wannihami

      If you want to sustain another of your myth lets have a compulsory ““National Day of Patriotic Devotion” and insist people sat on the street especially on a hot day, naked and worship the benevolent dictator perhaps the reincarnated Hitler whom we admire as populist hence hang his cutout on every lamp posts, trees, roof top, ……………… tattooed on every cheek, …………… change every street name …. airport, seaport, ….

  • 0
    2

    If there could be a Better Left and Better JVP why not a better LTTE? Is that what you are getting at Sir?
    .
    Over to Vijayakala.

  • 3
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    Your comments on Alexandria Cortez reminds me of the promises made by Mrs. B in 1970! “We will give two measures of rice, said her relative the late Felix R D B, and if necessary will bring the rice from the moon. The people believed. That is the plain and simple truth. They all want an easy life.

    Cortez like all others talk of taxing Wall Street. This is mere B——T! They can never do it as it will lead to such an earthquake as never imagined. She talks of “universal health care for all” So did Barak Obama, Hilary Clinton and now Donald Trump. Universal jobs for all: At this time, unemployment is positive in many States, and they are importing labour and white collar applicants from other States and even abroad. Affordable housing: someone must pay!! Rob Peter to pay Paul?! Cortez promises to end the war on drugs, maening let there be uncontrolled drug usage, remove ICE, meaning open borders for every destitute person to walk in, “demilitarize the police” meaning remove the side arms so that these cops are left vulnerable to attacks, etc etc. She does not speak about the economy, defense and foreign relations,. Come on, Kumar dont write for the sake of writing. IF a person like Cortez were ever elected to really high office, it will be like what the Bible says about the last days, “Children shall rule over them…. “

  • 1
    1

    Every one can createe concepts on their own, produce terminology to suit that. but the reality is far different. This is how information in this universe becomes infinite. Just garbage creates garbage.

  • 3
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    Dr.KD,

    The characterization of Trump as populist is not really accurate. He tapped into white voters’ fears of permanent decline, and gave them the fantasy of a return to a ‘golden’ past in which white Christians had it ‘good.’ Plenty of rich whites supported him. The Republican party and white evangelicals had become irrevocably damaged; having insisted all along that personal ‘character’ was critical to a leader, they were willing to change that insistence for Trump saying that he would restore them to their mythical past ‘greatness.’ Such complex factors at play could hardly be called ‘populist’ though the media insists on calling it right-wing populism.

    White Christian’s decline is rooted in two things: in an age of science, their faiths cannot stay anchored to reality, so young whites are no longer staying wedded to their parents’ values; secondly, in the face of the rise of the rest, there are structural problems that affect their traditional manufacturing jobs. Neither factor is going to change, white evangelical decline is irreversible, no matter how intensely they vote at the polls for Trump. Those who think Trump can easily duplicate his fluke election in 2020 are ignoring these realities.

    Secondly, Ocasio-Cortez’s success was rooted in her electoral district’s highly immigrant and working class makeup. It is a bit like a Tamil becoming an MP in parts of Scarborough or Markham, Canada. This won’t be replicated in every district, though it is true that the left is highly energized.

    Trump’s election and his push to reduce taxes on the rich while destroying affordable care.for the poor, and his policies of separating children at the border and rolling back environmental regulations, his rapprochement with dictators in Russia and North Korea while picking fights with Canada and NATO, have all energized the left. Many prominent life-long Republicans are leaving their party and asking people to elect Democrats to Congress; it seems that the DP will continue to remain a big tent covering the spectrum from the center to the ultra-left.

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