“Right-Wing Populism” and Other Cynical Plots to Use Leftist Rhetoric in Service of Right-Wing Goals.
APP EDITORS’ NOTE:
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“Populism” is historically and by nature a left-wing ideology.
This makes perfect sense, given the definitions of both “populism” and “leftism”—populism seeks to break down artificial hierarchical structures, to unite the people, and to return power to the demos, while leftism seeks to extend democratic control to all socioeconomic domains.
This thing that some people call “right-wing populism” is a ruse and a sham, a trick played on the people, a bait-and-switch—it is the using of populist rhetoric in order to achieve right-wing goals, specifically and historically the increasing of class stratification, the heightening of segregation of and tensions between identity groups, and the installation of top-down authoritarian control of the demos by a hyper-minority.
Thus, “right-wing populism” is no more a form of populism than slave-owners using abolitionist rhetoric to promote slavery would be a form of abolitionism.
Historical examples abound of cynical plots to use leftist rhetoric in the service of right-wing goals.
Consider the case of the most infamous right-wing regime in modern history, the Nazis.
Even the name itself, “Nazi”—short for Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or National Socialist German Workers Party—is a trick: The Nazis were fascists, not socialists, and they imprisoned or killed the actual German socialists, members of the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party of Germany.
Weird to imprison and kill socialists while calling yourself “socialist,” unless, as German historian Joachim Fest notes, the “socialist” label is a deliberate act of linguistic “prestidigitation.”
This ideology took a leftist label chiefly for tactical reasons. It demanded, within the party and within the state, a powerful system of rule that would exercise unchallenged leadership over the ‘great mass of the anonymous.’ And whatever premises the party may have started with, by 1930 Hitler’s party was ‘socialist’ only to take advantage of the emotional value of the word, and a ‘workers’ party’ in order to lure the most energetic social force. As with Hitler’s protestations of belief in tradition, in conservative values, or in Christianity, the socialist slogans were merely movable ideological props to serve as camouflage and confuse the enemy.
Thus, the only thing “populist” about “right-wing populism” is the rhetoric, but what’s so insidious is that the populist rhetoric is deployed as a weapon against actual populism.
Even using the term “right-wing populism” is dangerous, since, unless your audience is very educated on political and historical matters, they will think that what you’re describing is actual populism.
If someone uses the term “right-wing populism” when addressing you or when speaking to a largely popular audience, it is highly likely that that person either has no idea what they’re talking about or that they are attempting to trick listeners into thinking, as Hitler successfully did, that ultra-rightist subjugation of the majority at the hands of the hyper-minority is actually a version of populism.