© Susanne Schleyer

The populist temptation

» The reason for this rediscovery of nationalism is obvious: the rise of rightist nationalist populism in Western Europe, which is now the strongest political force advocating the protection of working-class interests, and simultaneously the strongest political force able to give rise to proper political passions. «
Slavoj Žižek

The populist left accepts all too quickly the basic premise of its enemy: universalism is out, dismissed as the lifeless political and cultural counterpart of »rootless« global capital and its technocratic financial experts, or at best as the ideology of Habermasian social democrats advocating global capitalism with a human face.

The reason for this rediscovery of nationalism is obvious: the rise of rightist nationalist populism in Western Europe, which is now the strongest political force advocating the protection of working-class interests, and simultaneously the strongest political force able to give rise to proper political passions. Why then should the left leave this field of nationalist passions to the radical right, why should it not »reclaim la patrie from the Front National«? Could the radical left not mobilize these same nationalist passions as a mighty weapon against the dominant force in today’s global society, the increasingly unfettered reign of rootless financial capital?

Once we accept this horizon, the very fact that the critique of the Brussels technocracy from the standpoint of national sovereignty curtailed by anonymous bureaucrats is the main feature of today’s radical right becomes a reason for leftist patriotism. In Greece, this is the opposition between Yanis Varoufakis, the country’s former Minister of Finance, and the economist Costas Lapavitsas, who mocks the former’s DiEM25 initiative (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025) for its lifeless pan-Europeanism which accepts in advance the enemy’s terrain.