This is one of those posts where by the time you get to the end you feel more ignorant than when you began.
Looking for a definition of when extremism becomes populism I came across this definition of right wing populism at progressive USA think tank Political Research Associates:
Producerism —the idea that the real Americans are hard–working people who create goods and wealth while fighting against parasites at the top and bottom of society who pick our pocket…sometimes promoting scapegoating and the blurring of issues of class and economic justice, and with a history of assuming proper citizenship is defined by White males;
Anti–elitism —a suspicion of politicians, powerful people, the wealthy, and high culture…sometimes leading to conspiracist allegations about control of the world by secret elites, especially the scapegoating of Jews as sinister and powerful manipulators of the economy or media;
Anti–intellectualism —a distrust of those pointy headed professors in their Ivory Towers…sometimes undercutting rational debate by discarding logic and factual evidence in favor of following the emotional appeals of demagogues;
Majoritarianism —the notion that the will of the majority of people has absolute primacy in matters of governance… sacrificing rights for minorities, especially people of color;
Moralism —evangelical–style campaigns rooted in Protestant revivalism…sometimes leading to authoritarian and theocratic attempts to impose orthodoxy, especially relating to gender.
Americanism —a form of patriotic nationalism…often promoting ethnocentric, nativist, or xenophobic fears that immigrants bring alien ideas and customs that are toxic to our culture.
It appears to be quoted but isn’t well-referenced – probably the work of Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin.
I suppose three attributes – anti-elitism, anti-intellectualism, and simple majoritarianism – are necessary to populism of any persuasion, and the moralism and patriotic nationalism are distinctly right-wing.
The outstanding attribute is producerism. In its right wing expression, it views immigrants and bankers alike unfavourably as a leach on societal wealth from below and above. But can you have a popular movement other than a right wing one without some kind of producer ethic?
The Wikipedia definition says that producerism credits the middle class as adding surplus value, and therefore wealth. However, Kazin’s book The Populist Persuasion (p13 – see Google Books) calls it,
“…indeed an ethic, a moral conviction. It held that only those who created wealth in tangible, material ways (on and under the land, in workshops, and on the sea) could be trust to guard the nation’s piety and liberties.”
From elsewhere in the PRA collection this visualisation sheds some light. It shows right wing populism directing anger above and below and exchanging supporters with the racist right as well as democratic reformers. Interestingly, EDL supporters as a group have been observed to spend more energy berating the government (‘above’) than they spend openly attacking Muslims (‘below’), both of which groups are typified as unproductive. (Though having observed fairly unremitting antisemitism from certain quarters for the past 6 years, I’d adopt a subtler and sharper definition of racist language than that author did – one which included innuendo and stance relative to less veiled racism.)
The visualisation linked above doesn’t work for the British left since most of the organised anger (and they can only dream of it being popular) is directed upwards to perceived ‘elite parasites’ e.g. bankers, multi-national businesses, politicians, etc – and none that I can see is directed downwards at the unproductive – on the contrary, the left is defending – to name a few – immigrants and those who risk their benefits being withdrawn. Right wing producerism thinks that domestic capital is good capital, but financial capital – the international kind – is bad. The left rejects is sceptical of the first and hostile to the second.
Can’t see much sign of producerism on the left, then, which only directs anger upwards (I’d call New Labour centrist), though if there were it might look like Stalinism’s authoritarian ‘socialism in one country’, or the kind of trade unionism which was prepared to hold its fellow citizens to ransom – or perhaps a technophobic sort of Neo-Luddism (which might be a green-tinged variety).
But what can it mean when the the British TUC votes to ostracise fellow workers because they are Israeli?