June 17, 2009

Left Vs Right Populism

This is just a teaser post.

Libhom left the following comment recently:

I listened to your podcast on the populist right a week or two ago [April 24], and I want to blog about the subject of left populism[...] haven't gotten around to it yet.

Left populism is a point of view that deserves a lot more consideration and support, yet I've read a lot of prose on the left against it.

A historian friend passed the following to me:

Ben Tillman, governor of South Carolina and later US Senator, is considered by some to be a right wing "populist" during the populist movement in the late 18o0s. He was part of the agrarian revolt that attempted to change economic policy to help farmers who lost their farms and were forced into share cropping, and unending debt. He never became part of the Populist Party and others think his adoption of Populist Party platform elements, while remaining a member of the racist Democratic Party, took support away from the Populist Party.

At the same time, Tom Watson, of Georgia, was a populist leader who allied with black people, which was taboo at the time. He could be considered "left wing" in some regards. It is said elsewhere that he supported a KKK organization. He served in the US House of Representatives and Senate in the 1890s and was supposedly considered as a running mate by William Jennings Bryan.

Suffice it to say, regardless of the specifics of these two individuals, the populist movement of the 1890s were composed of both "right" and "left" wing elements that shared common economic concerns. The same coalition could have a role in current politics, and in Baltimore, MD, a US Senate candidate (2006), Kevin Zeese, ran as a "fusion" candidate, drawing from both the Green Party (left) and Libertarian Party (right).

Much more could be said on this subject, hence the "teaser" aspect of this post.


Lawrence Goodwyn, The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America, is a good source.



libhom said...

When I think of models of left populism, I don't think of Southern politicians from the 19th century, I think of Michael Moore and Barbara Ehrenreich in the US, and Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales in South America.

GDAEman said...

Good point. tho, I always find historical context to be helpful.

So, who are the right wing populists with whom the left can be in coalition to overcome the power of the establishment?

libhom said...

I don't think the rightwing populists are good coalition partners. I think it is more productive to try to find ways of reaching their audiences.

GDAEman said...

The 1800s populists invested massively in education campaigns on alternative economic systems.

On the down-side, they had to do a lot of face-to-face outreach, not having other forms of communications (except print).

On the up-side, they didn't have so many other modes of communications with which to compete.