On the right’s perverse hijacking of the left’s “populism”

The attempted coup in Washington D.C. could have been expected

The brewing public restlessness finally reached a symbolic boiling point. The mob, with cries of “StopTheSteal”, snaked, climbed and stormed their way into the halls of power on Capitol Hill. With world leaders swiftly condemning this latest manifestation of hate, the deep schisms that generate the animosity however are largely left out of the debate.

While rightfully condemning violence, shouldn’t our elected leaders begin to name the real offender, global capitalism? The continued generation of greater inequality, job, health and housing insecurities, coupled with loss of livelihoods due to climate change and pollution, is fertile ground for populism.

The statistics in the United States are telling: The top 1% increased their wealth from $4.81 trillion in 1989 to $36.8 trillion in 2020, while the bottom 50% saw a 46% decrease in share of wealth over the same period! Some of the largest ‘jumps’ in wealth for the wealthiest occurred in the midst of the 2008-2010 financial crisis and the current pandemic. The rapid concentration of wealth — naturally gives rise to increasing control over government priorities.

Witness the almost 8 months of wrangling over $2000 survival cheques to millions of Americans while the $700 billion corporate bailout was completed in less than 4 weeks. This is while 78% of the American workforce — prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic — are living paycheque to paycheque. Access to vaccines amidst the pandemic will be equally problematic. Nearly all of the vaccines manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer have already been secured by wealthy countries.

The Trump protesters — seemingly swayed by Trump that their enemy is the “other” — respond automaton like to the calls of their leaders, believing in a renewed manifest destiny for 21st century America. Having being fractured, securitised and collateralised, the divided only saw resonant unity in the emotive messaging that were dispensed from the altar of power. The election loss of Trump became a mortal wound to the last remaining symbol of hope for the millions who are left-behind. Without a new vision, this soon to be tsunami of populism in the United States will emerge with an authoritarian at its helm come 20 January 2025.

A missed opportunity for the EU

Almost 100 years ago, Mussolini began his march to Rome and thus ascended to the heights of power on the back of fascist ideology. With history providing sufficient hindsight, the leadership of the European Union missed an opportunity to reflect on the events in the United States and the possibility for the same in the EU.

While condemnations and calls for peaceful transfer of power were matter of course, the root causes remain unsaid. European Commission President von der Leyen’s statement, calling on Biden to address the “big issues of the future” are concerns that would also need resolving in Europe. Most importantly, her call to “strengthen democracy” is imminently vital to all nations and regions beholden to predatory capitalism.

Existing democratic deficiencies in the EU, coupled with systematic dysfunctions laid bare by COVID-19 — never mind the exploitation of the pandemic for more profit — are severe signals that change is needed. After all, the administration of Donald Trump only required four years to reach its current hiatus — further forestalling is therefore not an option if Europe wishes to see a revival of democracy on the continent.

This disparate transformation through populism — having taken shape from Brazil to the Philippines and Hungary to Egypt — “established the ground for alternative movements that have the potential to transform the daily lives of people”. By adopting a united stance to this, the combined dynamisms of progressives worldwide must be channelled to changing humanity’s course away from dystopia.

Activism — from on the ground community organising to advancing transformative policy agendas — needs to be coordinated and harmonised to tackle the oligopolists of our time. From co-founding Progressive International to challenging Amazon through the #MakeAmazonPay campaign, DiEM25 is building momentum towards an alternative future.

Join us to realise our collective vision!

Photo Source: Blink O’faneye.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect DiEM25’s official policies or positions.

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