Combating the nationalism of right-wingers like Giorgia Meloni shouldn’t mean defending the neoliberal consensus.
Paolo Gerbaudo is a sociologist at King's College London and the author of The Great Recoil: Politics after Populism and Pandemic (Verso 2021).
The world is on fire all around us. The free market can’t put that fire out — only massive state intervention in the economy can.
Today, Italian lawmakers begin electing a new president. The president is often seen as a neutral referee standing above politics — but calls for ex–central banker Mario Draghi to take the job show how pro-market dogmas have been hardwired into public life.
Economic crises, climate change, and a pandemic have given people much to fear. While the Right promises security for a few at the expense of the many, socialists need a compelling vision of how protection from the market’s depravities can be extended to all.
Even as massive protests confronted the Genoa G8 summit in July 2001, many saw some form of capitalist globalization as inevitable. But today, national capitalisms are regaining strength — and the Left has to adapt its strategy accordingly.
Coming almost exactly ten years since Spain’s Indignados protests, Pablo Iglesias’s retirement as Podemos leader marks the end of a political era. In its early years, Podemos appealed to Spaniards outside traditional left-wing circles — yet it failed to build a party working people could consider their own.
The Italian president has appointed former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to form a “nonpolitical” government. In fact, this is the latest in a string of technocratic administrations designed to impose unpopular austerity measures — a deeply ideological program that Italians have never voted for.
With Trump’s defeat and other setbacks for the Right around the world, some commentators have proclaimed the death of right-populism. But the structural factors that gave rise to it remain in place, and only a recharged left-wing movement can address them.
The term “post-democracy” refers to the recent process where democratic institutions have been hollowed out and citizens increasingly excluded from decision-making. But a serious response to this problem can’t just denounce its “populist” symptoms — rather, we need to examine the deeper social ills stemming from economic liberalism itself.
Since Labour’s election defeat, pundits have accused the party of being out of step with working people’s social conservatism. But the “Blue Labour” obsession with Christian morality and national pride offers a caricature of the working class — and ignores the ability of socialist politics to unite people across cultural divides.
Why are mass parties back? Because they’re still the best way to organize the powerless to take on the powerful.