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What's the difference between a populist and a socialist?

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yoda's walking stick
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Dec 29 2011 04:54
What's the difference between a populist and a socialist?

Is is just that a populist has an ideology which pits the "average janes and joes" against the "elite," while not necessarily defining these categories based on economic class?

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GBF23
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Dec 29 2011 06:01

One is popular, the other is a socialist.

bzfgt
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Dec 29 2011 06:28

One is social, the other is a populist.

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Birthday Pony
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Dec 29 2011 08:13

Populist doesn't imply any ideology. Obama was called a populist.

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Railyon
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Dec 29 2011 08:53
yoda's walking stick wrote:
Is is just that a populist has an ideology which pits the "average janes and joes" against the "elite," while not necessarily defining these categories based on economic class?

I think you're on to something there, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Populists, to me, are advocating political positions that are seemingly of interest to "your average jane and joe", however most of them don't go beyond the framework of our current society as to not alienate them (meaning they're mostly liberals at best).

Populists usually don't have a coherent analysis of bourgeois society.

Which is something you would expect from a socialist; that does not preclude them from compromising their positions for political gains (meaning the socialist bits get the short end of the stick for the sake of popularity)

I think the Labour Party is a good case in point; while at one point in time ostensibly socialist (or social democrats or whatever), they have now made the transition beyond that to a full-on populist position. Same with the SPD.

I think populists are the most dangerous bunch of politicians because they lie their way into office. Not that there's any difference though, but they represent a dangerous element in the machinery of repressive tolerance embodied in the state.

LBird
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Dec 29 2011 09:20
Birthday Pony wrote:
Populist doesn't imply any ideology.

Everyone has an ideology. The ones who deny it are usually conservatives of some stripe.

Railyon wrote:
Populists usually don't have a coherent analysis of bourgeois society.

Yeah, 'Populism' is an incoherent ideology, which is a mishmash of several ideologies. It central aim to to take 'power' with the help of the unwary masses. Any bullshit will do - but it is ideological.

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Serge Forward
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Dec 29 2011 10:42

A socialist would base their politics on their conception of socialism. A populist would base their politics on what they think 'the people' want to hear, which can often be the lowest common denominator.

As we live under capitalism, and as the mainstream ideology is consequently capitalistic, then it's no surprise that more often than not, this populism entails reactionary ideas, e.g. blanket bans on immigration, more powers to the police, clamp down on the unions in favour of 'right to manage', workfare programmes, tougher prison regimes, etc.

However, occasionally, populism can appear progressive on the surface; so, when there is general discontent with the banking system, or disgruntlement over a war, then a populist will echo popular calls to penalise bankers or 'bring our boys home'.

Any meaningful and principled notion of socialism is poles apart from any kind of populism; although their ideas may very occasionally appear similar on the surface.

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welshboy
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Dec 29 2011 11:29

Larry Gambone wrote a critique of populism. I've not read it and nor can I find a free version online but AK Press stock it.

http://akuk.com/national-liberation/what-is-populism-/prod_3384.html

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Dec 29 2011 12:41

I think it's not exactly true to say that populism is about lying to get into office. It's quite possible, though I admit unusual, to have a principled belief in populism as the idea that politicians are there to do the bidding of the people and consequently should advocate whatever is supported by a majority of the population (or a majority of some subsection you choose to poll/focus group etc.).

Of course what that does under a capitalist society is to simply cede power to those corporate and media interests that are willing and intent on directing public opinion. And without forcing people to confront their own politics and to come up with an overarching analysis it's liable to be self-contradictory; that is people will normally want decent public services and low taxes etc.

As Serge says populism will coincide with socialism occasionally but it's really just a coincidence. In a society where people hold socialist ideas populists will also support those positions, where people hold conservative opinions that's what populists will back.

And populists usually won't have any structural critique of power within a society that goes beyond current elites being corrupt and the need to replace them with better people for 'good governance'. Whereas you would expect a self described socialist to at least pay lip service to the need to put power more directly in the hands of workers.

CornetJoyce
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Dec 30 2011 23:43

Socialists are populists with higher degrees.

zenkka
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Jan 1 2012 17:16

a socialist puts forward a definitive class analysis whereas a populist puts forward a vague analysis of some sort of change, about "the people". populists can be left wing or right wing or anything in between, it's not a very specific ideology other than it's rhetoric.

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Croy
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Jan 1 2012 20:34
Alasdair wrote:
and consequently should advocate whatever is supported by a majority of the population (or a majority of some subsection you choose to poll/focus group etc.).

Surely this is also the fate that democracy has. Not that this is a bad thing. Mandated, instantly re callable delegates would be replaced if they did not do whatever the people gave them the mandate to do.

Anyway, if populism can be called an ideology, which is a bit of a stretch for me, it is at the very least an in coherent one. It will not stick to any principles or have a consistent view on society, it will go with whatever the general consensus is and tell people what they want to hear in order to get votes. Most parties are guilty of this. I don;t think theres much more to say on the matter.

As for the OP, the only time in which a socialist would have the same views as a populist would be when the majority are socialist. The answer will depend what is popular at the time. At the moment the question might as well be whats the difference between a socialist and a moderate liberal

CornetJoyce
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Jan 2 2012 05:11
zenkka wrote:
a socialist puts forward a definitive class analysis whereas a populist puts forward a vague analysis of some sort of change, about "the people". populists can be left wing or right wing or anything in between, it's not a very specific ideology other than it's rhetoric.

"Socialism,is the science of dealing with the common weal. ...
"Socialism is an ancient Aryan, Germanic institution. Our German ancestors held certain lands in common. They cultivated the idea of the common weal."
- Hitler

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Railyon
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Jan 2 2012 11:30
CornetJoyce wrote:
"Socialism,is the science of dealing with the common weal. ...
"Socialism is an ancient Aryan, Germanic institution. Our German ancestors held certain lands in common. They cultivated the idea of the common weal."
- Hitler

Hitler was only into "socialism" because it was the in-thing to do and twisted it to fit his völkisch viewpoint. And then went on to support big industry.

What a hipster.

Possibly the populist role model in the bourgeois sense. Does that make him a socialist?

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Croy
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Jan 2 2012 12:48

I never understood in what way could Hitler be described as a socialist of any kind, national or otherwise. I will make a thread for this question as to not de rail.

zenkka
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Jan 2 2012 23:50
CornetJoyce wrote:
zenkka wrote:
a socialist puts forward a definitive class analysis whereas a populist puts forward a vague analysis of some sort of change, about "the people". populists can be left wing or right wing or anything in between, it's not a very specific ideology other than it's rhetoric.

"Socialism,is the science of dealing with the common weal. ...
"Socialism is an ancient Aryan, Germanic institution. Our German ancestors held certain lands in common. They cultivated the idea of the common weal."
- Hitler

uhhhh

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Jan 3 2012 00:16
LBird wrote:
Birthday Pony wrote:
Populist doesn't imply any ideology.

Everyone has an ideology. The ones who deny it are usually conservatives of some stripe.

Right. But a communist and a capitalist can both be called "populist," which would seem to mean that populism doesn't connote any particular ideology...

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Jan 3 2012 00:44
Birthday Pony wrote:
Right. But a communist and a capitalist can both be called "populist," which would seem to mean that populism doesn't connote any particular ideology...

I don't know, you can call someone names all you want but it won't really cut to the chase.

Makes me think of Von Mises and how he called some of his fellow capitalist apologetics socialists for advocating income taxes.

Jordan
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Jan 3 2012 06:24
Railyon wrote:
Birthday Pony wrote:
Right. But a communist and a capitalist can both be called "populist," which would seem to mean that populism doesn't connote any particular ideology...

I don't know, you can call someone names all you want but it won't really cut to the chase.

Makes me think of Von Mises and how he called some of his fellow capitalist apologetics socialists for advocating income taxes.

The best one is the "Road socialism" issue.

http://marketurbanism.com/2008/08/20/block-on-road-socialism/

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Birthday Pony
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Jan 3 2012 06:45
Railyon wrote:
Birthday Pony wrote:
Right. But a communist and a capitalist can both be called "populist," which would seem to mean that populism doesn't connote any particular ideology...

I don't know, you can call someone names all you want but it won't really cut to the chase.

Makes me think of Von Mises and how he called some of his fellow capitalist apologetics socialists for advocating income taxes.

I've just never heard populism mean anything other than something like "a dude I'd get a drink with."

Kambing
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Jan 4 2012 10:22

Populism often gets used as little more than a political slur, referring to demagogic appeals to anti-elitism, and it may well be accurate to define it as a form of political discourse or rhetoric rather than a coherent ideology as such.

However, in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries there was a distinct and very significant Populist political movement, an alliance of small-scale agricultural interests with some support from labour, mostly targeting the major banking and railway interests and the political institutions that they dominated. This movement was generally seen as left-wing, and overlapped with sections of the socialist and labour movements. This tradition of Populism has a lot of parallels with later Stalinist 'Popular Front' politics, and the CPUSA certainly drew a fair amount from Populism in their attempt to build an 'American Road to Socialism'.

More generally, Populism frames political conflict in terms of 'the people' (often conceived of in romantic nationalist terms) versus a parasitic/corrupt elite, rather than framing things in terms of class struggle, and may also valorise 'productive' industry as against parasitic finance capital. It is thus not surprising that many elements of Populist political rhetoric are now identified with the far-right (of the 'Jewish bankers taking our land' sort). The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party has certrainly drawn on populist-style rhetoric. But while the American Populist movement had major political flaws, I think it would be unfair to see this kind of reactionary politics as its sole political legacy; both the Socialist Party of America and the old-school IWW drew on Populism, especially in terms of their rhetorical style. Occupy Wall Street also draws on Populist tropes (99% vs 1%).

Similar movements have existed in other places and other times, and may or may not be usefully labelled as 'populist'. There are certain similarities with the political discourse associated with anti-colonial nationalist movements (and some 'post-colonial' regimes); for example, Sukarnoism in Indonesia valorises a romantic image of 'Marhaen', a toiling but independent (and anachronistically patriotic) small-scale peasant.

So, depending on how you define 'socialist' and 'populist', they may overlap but are not identical. Class struggle socialists who involve themselves in wider movements often find themselves working with 'populists' while also trying to fight against populist ideas (nationalism, supporting 'good' capitalists against 'bad' capitalists, etc).

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Chilli Sauce
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Jan 4 2012 11:07

Great post Kambing.

Alexander Roxwell
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Jan 6 2012 00:16

What ever happened to yoda's walking stick?

Was he or she run off?