Sunday, July 16, 2006


Blogger k-punk gave a very good response in a recent debate on populism including Bat at Lenin's Tomb, Jon at Posthegemonic Musings, Le Colonel Chabert and Kenneth Rufo at Ghost in the Wire:


Defences of populism typically trade on an equivocation between populism and the popular. But as I argued in the last post, an unpopular populism is not only conceivable, it is the form which Capitalist post-politics takes in both Britain and the US at the moment. Conversely, and this is crucial, popular movements are not necessarily populist. Populism is, rather, the entrapment of popular movements within an already-existing representation. The masses are invited to rally under an ready-made image of themselves arising from lowest-common-denominator thinking. So my problem with populism is not, as Kenneth Rufo suggests, that it is not 'popusist enough' but that it has too little faith in the ways in which popular movements can exceed the circumscribed horizons of the populist.

It is not the demand itself which is characteristic of populism. It is stopping with the demand (and/or its satisfaction). All of which is why I don't have any problems with Bat's rather elegant overturning of situationist wisdom in the following passage:

'Here I'd suggest that the answer lies in the direct converse to the famous (and eminently hysterical) situationist graffito "Be realistic, demand the impossible!". Rather than formulate realistic but impossible demands, our "demands" must be unrealistic but nevertheless possible. And moreover they should be addressed diagonally, ie to both the ruling elite and the popular movement simultaneously, or more precisely, they should formally pose a demand addressed to the elite, but actually raise a slogan that engages and resonates with the movement – mobilising it and thereby subjectivating it from within.'

k-punk: Left hyperstition 2- Be Unrealistic, Change What's Possible
The main dialectic of the debate revolved around whether populism is pro-fascist or proto-communist. I would argue that it is neither and both. populism is an expression of grassroots political power. It can evolve in many directions. Both fascism and communism are possible outcomes, as history shows us. Is populism on the measure a force of progress or reaction? It is the project of the revolutionary vanguard to ensure that it is the former.

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