On the Nature of Populism
There is no person, no party, and no ideology that will ever be able to get into power unless it is capable of wielding the popular will. From the monarchs of the old to the dictators and plutocrats of the new, all power has always rested on the ability for an elite to use its ideals to control the masses for better or worse…
There is no denying that power certainly comes from the top-down, but this is only because it works its way to the top from the bottom-up. The medium in between the top and the bottom is the same. It is the medium of the state in society, that is synonymous with the recognition of its authority by citizens in a given territory.
On one hand, this recognition comes from laws enforced from the top-down, but on the other hand, this recognition comes from the fact that the population of a given territory has come to accept and affirm the rule of one power over another.
The vitality and virtue of one power proves itself over another, and from there it can implement its ideal and vision for a new utopia. Where one future fails, a bolder vision and a stronger utopia will emerge from the ashes.
While some visions have proved more virtuous for the world, they have also lacked the necessary vitality to keep them afloat. Where some visions have the necessary vitality to keep them afloat in the present, they lack the vision required to make that vitality even stronger for the future. Where Fascism was physically overpowered in WW2, Liberalism is being psychologically subverted by the spectres of that war. Liberalism is ever-haunted by the ghost of Fascism, that seems to possess all of its enemies from within.
There is an ideal synthesis to be found where a virtuous vision can achieve peak vitality, but this is the constant challenge of the history of human morality. As Liberalism subverts itself more and more, we draw closer and closer to the possibility of that ideal. Perhaps the day will come where the American Republic becomes an American Empire: where one, predominant faction ceases to care whether it is “Fascist” or not; or, perhaps said faction will embrace said label on some level or another…
Key to a vision’s vitality is that it is able to stimulate and supercharge the population of a given territory. It must be able to inspire them to move forward, but it must also be able to bring them together. One must be able to unify: the sexes & genders with marriage, cultural & generational trends with Tradition, and the classes under the STATE.
Bourgeois liberal-democracy fails precisely because all of these things break down and factionalize in a divide and conquer-type dynamic. Whoever can bring the factions together in a “unite and lead” strategy, plays the trump card.
On the History of Populism
Historically, there are many examples of populist leaders that we can look to, who have played the populist card in so many of the right ways, and at least enough to win the hearts of the people.
I. Ancient History
When it comes to the origins of the populist leader archetype, we can look to Pericles of Athens on one hand, or the Gracchi Brothers of the Roman Republic on the other.
Pericles was one of the first “Patriotic Populists, who unified Athens and consolidated power under/within a liberal-democratic model by making a popular appeal to patriotism. The irony of this model is that, despite Pericles’ success as a “Patriotic Populist”, Athens was no match for the militaristic-authoritarianism of Sparta in the end.
Unlike Pericles, the Gracchi brothers represented the respective proletariat class of their times: the plebeians. The Gracchi appealed to the plebeians against the patrician class, and eventually, this divide became referred to as the distinction between the Populares and the Optimates. This divide would give rise to despots like Gaius Marius, dictators like Julius Caesar, and eventually, this divide gave rise to the Empire itself.
The irony of this dynamic is that, at the end of the day, it took an elite like Julius Caesar appealing to populism (or, in other words, using an ethical vision to inspire peak vitality) to unify the state and give birth to the empire.
II. Recent History
In recent history, there have been a number of populist figures who have inspired the population with an ethical vision as well. Aside from the obvious examples from Europe in the 1930s, there have been many examples of this phenomenon outside of countries like Italy and Germany.
In many ways, the history of France (with its transition into the French Republic, and eventually, the French Empire) is itself a microcosm of the history of Rome, which also transitioned from kingdom to republic to empire.
In both cases, what you have is a succession of classes taking power, from upper to middle, until eventually an elite faction and vanguard wields the will of the lower-class majority in order to install an imperial dictatorship (like that of Napoleon Bonaparte).
In the United States of America, many attempts at populist coups have been snuffed out in their infancy. From the death of Alexander Hamilton, killed in an illegal duel against Aaron Burr; to the assassinations of William McKinley or Huey Long, one an advocate of Protectionism the other an advocate of wealth distribution––a certain trend can be noticed. With that being said, if one looks south of the border to the United Mexican States, one can see slightly-more successful examples of populist elites who rose to power, from Benito Juarez to Lazaro Cardenas. In Latin America as a whole, we can find many examples of Populist revolutionaries: like Che Guevara in Cuba, who was himself influenced by, the Argentinian populist dictator, Juan Perón.
The recent history of populism in Africa is a tragic one. One one hand, you have leaders like Thomas Sankara, who was, perhaps, one of the most virtuous populists of all time; and on the other hand, you have Muammar al-Gaddafi, who was much less-principled but slightly-more successful than Sankara. One had virtue, the other had vitality. The tragedy of the matter is that both were snuffed out because they began to pose a threat to the status-quo (similar to what happened to populism in the US). Even Nasser’s regime ended with the assassination of Sadat. With that being said, the failing of many instances of populism in the Southern part of the African continent (like that of Mandela in South Africa or Mugabe in Zimbabwe) has been, in part, due to a hostility towards a white, elite-minority who could’ve contributed to and played major roles in a Socialist-Populist state.
Perhaps no nation represents the way the proletariat dictatorship can overthrow the Bourgeois Dictatorship (also known as Liberal-democracy) like the Soviet Union does. With that being said, in the end, the virus of American Neoliberalism was as hard for the USSR to purge as the Menshevism of Trotsky was for American Neoconservatives to purge. In the end, democracy “prevailed” in both countries, at least until Putin succeeded Yeltsin in Russia and, God-knows-who, turns America into an empire.
There are many examples of successful populist despots and demagogues in China. From the transition of power from Sun Yet-San to Yuan Shikai to Chiang Kai-Shek, we see the same process of power dynamics transitioning from kingdom to democracy to imperial dictatorship. From the transition of power from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping, we see, yet again, the transition from the more democratic revolutionary ideals of Mao to the more authoritarian and reactionary ideals of Deng and Xi.
Outside of China, we have all the Eastern Asian tigers and tiger cub nations, who themselves thrived on their own respective dictatorships and despotisms. Even if we look to the Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, or Kyrgyztan––we see a relatively similar result. And many of these countries are continuing to develop whilst unifying the population and consolidating power within the state.
Final Notes on Populism
What is to be noted throughout history is that whoever offers the most can take the most, and whoever takes the most can give the people the most. Furthermore, whoever takes from the rich can give to the poor. This is where the role of an imperial dictatorship can both take and provide. No ethical or aesthetic vision for the future will ever be achieved unless the basic game of dictatorship is properly understood.
Even if our personal aesthetic or moral preferences may differ, we have to understand the game we are playing. That way, when one vision or another is achieved, it won’t be subverted or speculated against.
The necessity of the state and the means to achieve it must not be neglected. The differences and divisions within the status quo must be played off of insofar as they must be reconciled. A new centre is necessary to create a new status quo, and from that new status quo, a new vision can be achieved.
Herein lies the key to the Third Position and the creation of the New Man therein.
Transhumanism, Post-Humanism, Fully-Automated Luxury Communism, Galactic Imperialism, or any other vision for the future will not be achieved unless one can be realistic about the need for a populist elite. Similarly, humanity and its traditions will never survive unless they can adapt to a rapidly advancing techno-militarist dynamic predicated on political realism.
This is where we need a STATE to implement the required TRADITION necessary for HUMANITY to unify itself and move forward as much and as quickly as possible.