There are awkward, and in some instances troubling, parallelisms, resemblances and interconnections between right-wing populism and the populism of agrarian movements, past and present. These are not random accidents. The political economy upon which such populisms emerged partly shapes the kind of broader politics that get constructed. The boundaries between right-wing populist currents and their social base in the countryside on the one hand, and the populism of agrarian movements on the other hand are constantly porous, blurring and malleable. This means partly that there is a slippery slope down which the populism of progressive agrarian movements may slide to reinforce rather than undermine right-wing populism. There are two urgent tasks and challenges: to avoid such a slippery slope, and to transform such parallelism, resemblances and interconnections into an extraordinary political opportunity and emancipatory force that can contribute to strategically eroding right-wing populism and to building a positive future. Accomplishing such twin tasks requires (re)claiming populism but without its authoritarian trappings, being class conscious, and eschewing romantic restorative tendencies among agrarian movements some of which are utopian, conservative or reactionary. Finally, in their political struggles within and/or against capitalism, agrarian movements are more effective if they take a socialist perspective that is broadly cast in terms of what it might mean and who could be its prime movers. Such a perspective can be grounded in simultaneous and interlinked political struggles for redistribution, recognition, restitution, and regeneration in a framework of a revolution against the entrenched centrist strategy of ‘anti-subversive petty reform incrementalism’ that has been promoted alongside neoliberalism. These tasks could be made to lead to, and could be pursued within, the construction of a class-conscious left-wing populism as countercurrent to right-wing populism.
ERPI 2018 International Conference : Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)