The Populist Radical Left in Europe 1138744808, 9781138744806

Building on a comprehensive theoretical framework that draws on discursive and ideational approaches to populism, this v

863 106 2MB

English Pages 228 [229] Year 2019

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

The Populist Radical Left in Europe
 1138744808,  9781138744806

Citation preview

The Populist Radical Left in Europe

Building on a comprehensive theoretical framework that draws on discursive and ideational approaches to populism, this volume offers a comparative mapping of the Populist Radical Left in contemporary Europe. It explores the novel discursive, political and organisational features of several political actors, as well as the conditions of their emergence and success, while being alert to the role of relevant social movements. Chapters feature case studies of the Greek party Syriza, the Spanish Podemos, the German Die Linke, Jean-­Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise, the Dutch Socialist Party and the Slovenian Levica. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour in the UK and ‘Momentum’, the movement that supports him is also examined. A separate chapter is devoted to recent grassroots social movements that can be seen as instances of progressive populism, such as the ‘squares movement’ in Spain and Greece. This book fills a crucial gap in the literature on radical left politics and populism in Europe, contributing to the rapidly burgeoning field of populism studies. Giorgos Katsambekis is a Lecturer in European and International Politics at Loughborough University. Alexandros Kioupkiolis is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Political Theory at Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Routledge Advances in European Politics

Dynamics of Political Change in Ireland Making and Breaking a Divided Island Edited by Niall Ó Dochartaigh, Katy Hayward and Elizabeth Meehan European Enlargement across Rounds and Beyond Borders Edited by Haakon A. Ikonomou, Aurélie Andry, and Rebekka Byberg Uncovering the Territorial Dimension of European Union Cohesion Policy Cohesion, Development, Impact Assessment, and Cooperation Edited by Eduardo Medeiros The Crisis of the European Union Challenges, Analyses, Solutions Edited by Andreas Grimmel Promoting National Priorities in EU Foreign Policy Czech Republic and the EU Tomáš Weiss Italy from Crisis to Crisis Political Economy, Security, and Society in the 21st Century Matthew Evangelista Lobbying Success in the European Union The Role of Information and Frames Daniel Rasch Muslim Attitudes Towards the European Union Bernd Schlipphak and Mujtaba Isani The Populist Radical Left in Europe Edited by Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis For more information about this series, please visit: Routledge-­Advances-in-­European-Politics/book-­series/AEP

The Populist Radical Left in Europe

Edited by Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis

First published 2019 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2019 selection and editorial matter, Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis to be identified as the authors of the editorial matter, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-­in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-­in-Publication Data A catalog record has been requested for this book ISBN: 978-1-138-74480-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-18082-3 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Wearset Ltd, Boldon, Tyne and Wear


List of illustrations Notes on contributors Preface Introduction: the Populist Radical Left in Europe

vii viii xi 1

G iorgos K atsambekis and A lexandros K ioupkiolis


The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza in opposition and in power


G iorgos K atsambekis


Late modern adventures of leftist populism in Spain: the case of Podemos, 2014–2018


A lexandros K ioupkiolis


Between populism and socialism: Slovenia’s Left party


A len T opli š ek


Jean-­Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise: the manufacturing of populism


P h ilippe M arli è re


The Dutch Socialist Party: from Maoist sect to Social Democratic mass party with a populist style


P aul L ucardie and G errit V oerman


The German Left Party: a case of pragmatic populism D an Houg h and D an  K eit h


vi   Contents 7

Corbynism, populism and the re-­shaping of left politics in contemporary Britain


B ice M aiguas h ca and J onat h an  D ean


Populism 2.0: new movements towards progressive populism


A lexandros K ioupkiolis


Postscript: populism, the (radical) left and the challenges for future research


Y annis S tavrakakis




Figures 3.1 2011 elections (share of parliamentary seats for the Slovenian Left in per cent) 3.2 2014 elections (share of parliamentary seats for the Slovenian Left in per cent)

79 80

Tables 3.1 The Slovenian Left’s key manifesto positions (United Left 2014) 5.1 Membership of Dutch Socialist Party 1973–2018 5.2 Dutch Socialist Party election results 1977–2017 6.1 The German PDS/Left Party’s performances in national elections in Germany

83 117 125 131


The editors Giorgos Katsambekis is a lecturer in European and International Politics at Loughborough University. He has co-­edited the volume Radical Democracy and Collective Movements Today (Ashgate, 2014). His recent work has appeared in The Political Quarterly, Constellations, European Political Science, Javnost–The Public, Contemporary Political Theory, Critical Discourse Studies and The Journal of Political Ideologies. Alexandros Kioupkiolis is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Political Theory at Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece. His research interests are focused on radical democracy, the commons, social movements and the philosophy of freedom. He is directing an ERC COG project on these topics (Heteropolitics, 2017–2020) and has published numerous relevant books and papers, including the monograph Freedom after the critique of foundations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), and the collective volume Radical Democracy and Collective Movements Today (Ashgate, 2014). His new monograph is entitled Τhe Common and Counter-­hegemonic Politics (forthcoming, Edinburgh University Press, 2019).

The contributors Jonathan Dean is Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds. His specialisms include gender, political theory and left-­wing politics. He has recently published articles in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Social Movement Studies, Contemporary Political Theory, Contemporary British History and Capital and Class (the latter co-­authored with Dan Keith and Bice Maiguashca). Dan Hough is a Professor of Politics at the University of Sussex. He studied at the universities of Newcastle upon Tyne and Leipzig before getting his PhD from the University of Birmingham (2000). He has published widely on German politics and political corruption and he’s a co-­author (with Simon Green and Alister Miskimmon) of The Politics of the New Germany (Routledge, 2018).

Contributors   ix Dan Keith is a Lecturer in Politics at the University of York. He completed his PhD at the Sussex European Institute at the University of Sussex (2011). He recently co-­edited (with Luke March) Europe’s Radical Left: From Marginality to the Mainstream? (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016). Paul Lucardie (1946) obtained his PhD at Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada). Since 1979, he has been affiliated with the Documentation Centre on Dutch Political Parties (DNPP) at the University of Groningen. In 2011 he published together with Gerrit Voerman Populisten in de polder (Amsterdam: Boom), a history of populism in the Netherlands. In 2013 he published All Power to the People! Democratic Extremism in Theory and Practice (Routledge). Bice Maiguashca is a Senior Lecturer of Politics at Exeter University whose current research interests include radical political theory, feminist activism, left-­wing politics and populism. Her most recent journal publications include: ‘Pulling Together in a Crisis? Anarchism, Feminism and the Limits of Left-­ wing Convergence in Austerity Britain’, (co-­authored with Jonathan Dean and Dan Keith), Capital and Class; ‘They’re Talkin’ Bout Revolution’, Feminism, Anarchism and the Politics of Social Change in the Global Justice Movement, Feminist Review and ‘Reclaiming Feminist Futures: Co-­opted and Progressive Politics in a Neoliberal Age’ (with Catherine Eschle), Political Studies. Philippe Marlière is a Professor of French and European Politics at University College London. He holds a PhD in Social and Political Studies from the European University Institute (Florence), and he was awarded the Marcel Liebman Chair in Political Science by the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in 2007. He was a Research Fellow at the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, 1989–1993). He researches mainly on social democratic parties, the French left and the French republican ideology. Yannis Stavrakakis studied political science in Athens and discourse analysis at Essex and is currently Professor of Political Discourse Analysis at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He is the author of Lacan and the Political (Routledge, 1999) and The Lacanian Left (SUNY Press, 2007) and co-­editor of Discourse Theory and Political Analysis (Manchester University Press, 2000). He has been Principal Investigator of the international project POPULISMUS, researching populist discourse and democracy: Alen Toplišek is an early career researcher at Queen Mary University of London. His current research analyses the crisis of liberal democracy and the various responses to it, both institutional and extra-­institutional. A robust interdisciplinary approach weaves through his work, combining critical insights from political theory, sociology and political economy. Gerrit Voerman (1957) studied history at the University of Groningen. He is Director of the Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties (DNPP) and

x   Contributors Professor of Development and Functioning of the Dutch and European Party System at the University of Groningen. He published widely on Dutch political parties (party history, organisation, identity, membership, candidate selection, relations with Europarties, etc.). He is currently working on a book on the Dutch Socialist Party.


This volume is a product of friendship and several years of close collaboration. In a way, it is a ‘sequel’ to the first volume we edited together some years ago, entitled Radical Democracy and Collective Movements Today (Ashgate 2014/Routledge 2016). Then, we were trying to put our theoretical tools and notions to the test, in a bid to understand the novel character of a series of social movements that shook the world. From the Spanish indignados to Occupy Wall Street in the United States, it was indeed a time that it was ‘kicking off everywhere’, as the journalist Paul Mason put it. As usually happens, in historically dense and unpredictable times, history is moving so fast that reality might go beyond what you consider an innovative and thought-­provoking hypothesis. In our first volume, we tried to draw bridges between the theoretical and political traditions of hegemony and autonomy, verticality and horizontality. By the time that the book was out, we could clearly see the multiple links of horizontal movements with vertical political organisations, political parties but also political leaders. Podemos grew in the wake of the Spanish indignados, Syriza was radically transformed by the Greek aganaktismenoi, the Slovenian protests of 2012–2013 gave rise to a new left party, and, a bit later on, Occupy Wall Street left its imprint on the campaign of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic primaries in 2016. The idea for a volume on Europe’s Populist Radical Left came in the aftermath of Syriza’s victory in Greece in 2015, at a time that Podemos was also set to do really well in the Spanish election. It was a time that a new populist left seemed able to trigger radical change in Europe, or at least in part of it. As we started to gauge the prospects of Podemos and Syriza, we realised that even though populist left parties have been around in Europe for quite a while, the relevant literature was severely underdeveloped. We discussed the idea of a book that would include a series of parties, movements and political figures which are often labelled as populist left with colleagues, and we soon ended up with a book plan. In Routledge, we were welcomed by a familiar face, the same Editor we had worked with for our previous book, Rob Sorsby. Rob and his Editorial Assistant, Claire Maloney, were extremely helpful and supportive throughout the production process. In November 2016, we met with most of the contributors to this volume for a much broader discussion on ‘Europe’s new radical Left in times of crisis’ that

xii   Preface was generously funded by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung’s office in Greece. We are grateful to Eftychia Kotini and Electra Alexandropoulou, in particular, for their kindness and support in organising this Workshop as well as to the School of Political Sciences of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for hosting us. We also want to thank our colleagues in the POPULISMUS project (www.populismus. gr/), which has been a crucial platform for developing our thinking around the populist phenomenon from 2014 onwards. Giorgos would like to thank the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at Loughborough University, which he joined in November 2017, for providing a stimulating environment and giving him the necessary research time that was needed to work on this volume. Alexandros is grateful to ERC and the Fulbright Foundation in Greece for their funding, which facilitated work on his two chapters contained in the present volume. Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis Loughborough and Thessaloniki

Introduction The Populist Radical Left in Europe Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis

Populism and the recent crisis The economic crisis in Europe in recent years has brought renewed intensity to the debate over the crisis of democracy and the capacity of representative institutions to effectively empower citizens, upholding the democratic promise for ‘popular sovereignty’ (Crouch 2016; Mouffe 2013; Tormey 2015). A significant part of this debate revolves around what has been described as a ‘populist challenge’ to democratic and liberal Europe (Kriesi 2014; Kriesi and Pappas 2015; Martinelli 2016; Mueller 2016). Indeed, during the recent years of crisis and austerity, there has been an unprecedented rise of populist politics throughout the continent, mainly through political parties, but also through social movements as well as prominent leaders and media personas. Populists of various kinds and orientations have risen to prominence by claiming to better represent the marginalised and frustrated people, against political elites that have become self-­serving and unresponsive, alienating themselves from the popular classes and their anxieties. However, if the debate over European populism was, until recently, mostly targeted at the right end of the political spectrum, the picture has now significantly changed with the emergence of prominent populist actors that belong to the left or the radical left. In particular, after the European elections of 2014, political parties such as Syriza (Coalition of Radical Left) in Greece and Podemos (We Can) in Spain have attracted unprecedented attention in both the international press and in academic discussion. These parties rapidly expanded their electoral appeal and brought about major realignments in their countries, thereby challenging the hegemony of established centre-­left parties (see Kioupkiolis and Katsambekis 2018). Syriza’s success was more impressive, as the party was catapulted to power in early 2015 and has managed to stay in office, despite severe setbacks and impasses, backed up by a smaller right-­wing populist party, the Independent Greeks (ANEL) (Aslanidis and Kaltwasser 2016; Katsambekis 2017). Podemos, on the other hand, flirted with the possibility of entering government after the general election of December 2015. It has since established itself as a major player in the Spanish political system (Agustín and Briziarelli 2018). Interestingly, the breakthrough of these radical leftist parties

2   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis would be hard to imagine without their close, indeed organic, links to grassroots social movements such as the Indignados in Spain and the Aganaktismenoi in Greece. The latter movements have also been depicted by commentators and researchers as populist (Gerbaudo 2017; Aslanidis 2016; Della Porta 2015; Prentoulis and Thomassen 2014). Before Syriza and Podemos, it was Jean-­Luc Mélenchon’s candidacy for the French presidential election of 2012 and the Left Front (Front de Gauche), the electoral alliance built to support him, that had acted as a point of reference for the European Populist Radical Left and its ability to take on both its radical right counterpart and the established forces of the centre (Marlière 2013). In other words, populist actors of the left have been increasingly successful in recent years not only in Europe’s periphery, but also at its very core. This is what the case of Mélenchon and his new electoral alliance, France Insoumise (Unbowed France), further illustrates (Marlière 2017; also Marlière, Chapter 4, this volume). Indeed, the picture seems to confirm Luke March, who concluded his analysis back in 2007 with the assertion that ‘[l]eft populism is here to stay’ (March 2007: 75). However, a decade later, it seems that we have entered a wholly new phase. Then, the success of Populist Radical Left parties consisted mostly of establishing themselves as viable opposition ‘players’ with parliamentary representation, as institutional expressions of anti-­globalisation and anti-­neoliberal sentiments. Today, such parties seem able to channel broader popular frustrations over the management of the economic crisis by mainstream political forces and they are effectively contending for or even seizing power.1 Undoubtedly, then, the conditions of emergence and the novel characteristics of these new populist parties and social movements of the left, their differences with their counterparts on the right and their relation to political power constitute a timely focus for political research and, indeed, for any scholar interested in the puzzling issue of populism and its relation to democratic institutions. In this endeavour, we need to keep in mind that left and radical left populism did not suddenly burst forth in Europe’s political scene with parties such as Syriza and Podemos or politicians such as Mélenchon. March, in his seminal study of the radical left, which covers the period between 1990 and 2011, had listed over twenty parties which qualify as either ‘populist socialist’ or ‘social populist’ (March 2011: 140, 146). Most of these parties fell short of the prominence achieved by their right-­wing contenders at the beginning of the twenty-­ first century. The Front National (FN) in France, the archetype of radical right populism, had its breakthrough in the 1980s. The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) under Jörg Haider came second in the 1999 legislative election and made it into government. And Pim Fortuyn’s personalist party (List Pim Fortuyn/LPF ) shook the Dutch political scene in 2002 and also made it into a short-­lived coalition government after the assassination of its leader. Although the Populist Radical Right seemed like a somewhat coherent political block on the rise, the Populist Radical Left had only scarce successes, which did not seem to relate to each other.

Introduction   3 The recent economic crisis and the ensuing Great Recession impacted heavily on party politics throughout Europe, especially so in the countries of the European periphery which were most severely hit by unemployment and austerity (Kriesi and Pappas 2015). It is within this context that certain populist actors of the left gained unprecedented momentum. Quite interestingly, some of the already established parties of the Populist Radical Left, most notably the Left (Die Linke) in Germany, and the Socialist Party (Socialistische Partij/SP) in the Netherlands (see March 2011), did not manage to capitalise on the crisis and growing social discontent. This means that we are not dealing with a general success story for the populist left in Europe during the years of crisis (see also March and Keith 2016). However, there is definitely a renewed interest in the particular character and the prospects of a distinct populist group within the radical left party family (March 2011), or at least in key populist elements of their discourse and strategy (March and Keith 2016: 2–3). That said, we are not treating the Populist Radical Left as a party family in itself. Rather, given the recent developments and the lack of research into specific characteristics of this perceived subgroup, we pursue a comparative mapping and portrayal of the parties, leaders and movements that have been perceived as populist. Our aspiration is to furnish a point of reference for scholars interested in left-­wing populism, or populism in general, and to spur further empirical and comparative studies in this field. To put it in other words, we start out from the assumption that there are certain significant affinities among those actors, in terms of discourse, ideology and strategy. Hence, we delve into the specific attributes of each of them with a view to better understanding the importance of populism for their politics and dynamic. We hold, indeed, that some of the parties, movements and political figures studied here will fit better into most definitions of populism, whereas others might only manifest some of the relevant criteria. Some might exhibit populist characteristics more consistently, whereas others might be closer to mainstream social democracy, only strategically and occasionally making populist appeals.

Rationale, scope and themes In this context, this volume stages a comprehensive yet flexible theoretical framework for elucidating populism, and offers a thorough empirical assessment of key actors of the Populist Radical Left in contemporary Europe, both as a movement and as parties, filling a gap in the relevant literature. We zoom in on contemporary developments. Our main objective is to flesh out the novel discursive, political, strategic and organisational features, as well as the conditions of emergence and success of several political forces that have been subsumed under the ‘populist-­ radical left’ rubric. We also seek to account for their impact on democratic and representative institutions. The chapters of the volume feature case studies of the Greek Syriza, the Spanish Podemos, the German Left, Jean-­Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise, the Dutch SP and the Slovenian Left (Levica). We have also included a chapter on what we hold to be a borderline case: Jeremy Corbyn’s

4   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis leadership of the Labour Party in the UK and ‘Momentum’, the movement that has supported his campaign, in one word: corbynism.2 The rationale behind the selection of these cases is spelt out towards the end of this introduction. The volume also devotes a separate chapter to recent grassroots social movements that can be seen as instances of progressive or left-­wing populism, such as the ‘squares movement’ in Spain and Greece. Our intent is to shed light on a rarely investigated aspect of populist politics: populist social movements, protests and different configurations of the collective subject of populist politics (see Aslanidis 2016). We considered this inclusion quite apt and pertinent, not only in analytical but also in political terms. A close interaction or even organic relationship with such movements seems to be one of the key characteristics that singles out newer parties of the populist left. Equally crucially, populist movements seem to stretch the practical and theoretical imagination of populist politics. They bring out possibilities of empowering democratic populism, which may challenge and remedy the standard flaws of populism in both its left-­wing and its right-­wing versions, that is authoritarianism, centralisation, homogenisation and the adulation of the Leader. Indeed, a ‘people’s populism’ seems to resurrect inaugural forms of progressive populism in the nineteenth century, such as the Russian Narodniki and the US ‘People’s Party’. At any rate, such a ‘return to the origins’ could only be mythical and could not help being a betrayal. What matters for us is that such movements seem to enact a popular politics that fosters a radical egalitarian empowerment for our times (Gerbaudo 2017; Grattan 2016). And contemporary ‘people’s populism’, with its embrace of horizontality, participation, equality and diversity, embodies the search for such an empowerment in inspiring ways. However, the present volume explores mainly how a variety of parties related to the populist left or radical left have managed to capitalise on the crisis and popular mobilisations to consolidate their power, whereas others have not performed equally well. Τhe varying trajectories and degrees of ‘radicalisation’ or ‘moderation’ of these parties, their relation to representative institutions, their programmatic positions on socio-­economic and cultural issues, as well as their stances towards the European Union and international or transnational collaboration are explored in detail, taking into account the peculiarities of the political systems in which they are situated. The public discourse of keynote political actors receives particular attention in all these case studies. Moreover, the contributors to this volume engage with the relationship of populism to government (see Kaltwasser and Taggart 2016; Albertazzi and McDonnell 2015), and enquire into the electoral dynamics of those parties and their varying strategies against mainstream political forces. The authors also probe the transformations that populist parties undergo when they are confronted with the possibility or the reality of government participation. Another issue that we tackle, in cases where such parties have exercised power or entered negotiations with a view to participating in a coalition government, is the way in which their populist message is, or is not, translated into government practice and concrete policies as well as whether this results in further moderation of their populism.

Introduction   5 Gaining power or even simply entering power games in the formal political system raises sharp challenges for populist formations, straining them occasionally to breaking point. These challenges lie at the heart of our research questions in the present volume. First, (tendentially) empty signifiers, such as ‘hope’, ‘change’, ‘real democracy’ and ‘justice’, are a catalyst of populist mobilisation and unity, welding together heterogeneous social sectors and actors by appealing to all of them through their generality and their amenability to different interpretations by different people. However, once in power, a populist leadership must implement somewhat more specific policies, which will impute particular meanings to the ‘empty signifiers’ of the populist discourse. This reduces the generality and the vagueness of populist signifiers, and, thus, threatens to diminish their appeal to certain sectors of the population. To avoid this loss of popularity, populist leaders and policy-­makers need, among other things, to come up with a diverse array of policies addressed to a variety of constituencies at the same time. Second, incorporation in the political system entails most often the institutionalisation or bureaucratisation of populist actors. Such institutionalisation seems to aggravate tendencies towards top-­down direction, centralisation or even authoritarianism, and severs the links with social movements and grassroots participation. The consequences can be adverse for those populist politics that evince an aspiration to radical democratisation, to promoting egalitarianism, emancipation and popular participation. As Ernesto Laclau (2014: 9) argued, populist hegemony not accompanied by mass action at the level of civil society leads to a bureaucratism that will be easily colonized by the corporative power of the forces of the status quo. To advance both in the directions of autonomy and hegemony is the real challenge to those who aim for a democratic future […]. Overall, our ambition is to fill a gap in the literature on radical left politics in Europe, and to contribute thus to the rapidly burgeoning field of populism studies. Although there is much excellent research in the role of right-­wing populism in Europe, existing publications scarcely scrutinise the particular character, the role, the importance and the prospects of its radical left counterpart. The present inquiry sets out, thus, to study leftist populism in present-­day Europe, and it does so from the angle of discursive practices and ideas. Two dimensions of left-­leaning populism stand out in the different studies of the volume: the internal organisation of left-­wing populist parties and movements, and the often fatal tensions which beset progressive populism, notably the conflict between its egalitarian, horizontalist discourses, aspirations and mobilisations, on the one hand, and its vertical leadership and representation, on the other. Heightened attention to these dimensions and intense engagement with them make distinct our critical take on populist politics from the broader paradigm of

6   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis discourse theory in which we are schooled. It is not that Laclau and Mouffe were unaware of the clashes between ‘hegemony’ and ‘autonomy’, which should be combined in radical democratic politics, or that they did not call for different forms of party organisation and democratic practice (see, e.g. Laclau and Mouffe 1985: 149–193). It is rather that they tend to underestimate the force and the depth of these conflicts, which stem from contending (horizontal vs. vertical) logics of political association and praxis. Hence, Laclau and Mouffe cherish progressive figures of individual leadership on the grounds that leaders can provide a glue that ties together heterogeneous people and can yield a surface of collective investment that mobilises the multitude. The well-­attested ways in which such leadership impedes the ‘self-­emancipation’ of the masses and erodes the soul of democratic egalitarianism, that is decision-­making by each citizen on a footing of equality, are often eclipsed from view (see, e.g. Mouffe 2018: 70; Laclau 2005a: 100). Before getting into the case studies of the volume, we first need to outline our common ground and to spell out some key notions. The reminder of this introduction is devoted to briefly unpacking the notion of populism. We locate the radical left in contemporary European politics. We explain where populism and the radical left meet, and, finally, we lay out the structure of the volume and the pivot of every chapter.

Defining populism It has become a near compulsion of scholarly works on populism to acknowledge the essential contestability of the term as well as the potential contradictions and impasses in defining it (Mudde 2017: 27; Moffitt 2016: 11; Panizza 2005: 1). Rather than sharing the pessimism of many of our colleagues, we think that the time has come to display a more optimistic attitude vis-­à-vis the definitional status of populism. Indeed, we submit that there is an emerging consensus on a common understanding of populism, especially if we consider approaches that prioritise the discursive, performative or ideational levels of analysis (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017; Stavrakakis 2017; Moffitt 2016; de la Torre 2015; Panizza 2005). Setting aside their technical differences, which derive from distinctive conceptual toolkits, at their core lies an idea of populism as a distinct form of politics, in terms of discourse, thin-­centred ideology or communicative style, which calls on ‘the people’ and pits them against an unresponsive and alienated ‘elite’ or ‘establishment’. This emerging consensus was captured in a now classic article by Margaret Canovan, written around twenty years ago. She suggested that ‘[p]opulism in modern democratic societies is best seen as an appeal to “the people” against both the established structure of power and the dominant ideas and values of the society’ (Canovan 1999: 3). In the same article, Canovan further noted that ‘[populist movements] involve some kind of revolt against the established structure of power in the name of the people’ (ibid.). To date, this has been the gist of most definitions of populism that have been advanced in both theoretically oriented and empirical studies of the phenomenon.

Introduction   7 Contributors to this volume share Canovan’s key intuition. They take their bearings mostly from the definitions of Cas Mudde and Ernesto Laclau (or variations of them, i.e. Albertazzi and McDonnell 2008) to broach their cases, grasping populism as a predominantly discursive or ideological phenomenon. It is not the aim of this introduction to offer a detailed exegesis of either definition or to venture into a critique of the respective analytical frameworks. Rather, we will highlight their core elements and point to some possible ‘blind spots’ to help the reader better understand the underlying conceptual foundations of each analysis, but also to decide for themselves which framework reflects better their sense of populism. After all, we are confident that the rigorous analyses in each chapter furnish adequate information and detail, allowing thus for alternative readings which follow different theoretical-­methodological tacks. Indeed, we intentionally gave our contributors the freedom to adopt whichever framework they preferred and even to put forth their criticisms (see, e.g. Maiguashca and Dean’s chapter), in a bid to embrace theoretical and methodological pluralism and to keep the door open for future discussions. Ernesto Laclau and the discursive approach to populism One of the most consistent endeavours to theoretically define and empirically assess populism comes from the Argentinian political theorist Ernesto Laclau. Along with Canovan, they are arguably the two ‘heavy-­weights’ of populism theory. More than forty years ago, in the last chapter of his book, Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory, Laclau set forth his critique of sociological theories of modernisation, which were hegemonic at the time. These narratives construed populism as a result of the transition of Latin American societies from a traditional model to an industrial one. Following a different path, he held populism to be a discursive political phenomenon that is not bound to a specific sociological structure, particular social classes, a concrete ideology or a given programmatic agenda. What Laclau emphasised was that populism was a specific logic of the political, one way of doing politics among other possibilities. Indeed, he stressed that ‘reference to “the people” occupies a central place in populism’ (Laclau 1977: 165), and that such reference is always informed by an antagonistic view of society. This is his first stab at a definition of populism: ‘Populism starts at the point where popular democratic elements are presented as an antagonistic option against the ideology of the dominant bloc’ (Laclau 1977: 173). This early work was still heavy with Marxist jargon and debatable normative assumptions, such as the claim that the ‘highest forms of populism can only be socialist’ (Laclau 1977: 196–197). But its theoretical innovations have proved remarkably lasting in time. Laclau further refined his theorisation around thirty years later, in his book On populist reason. Advancing a formal-­structural conception of populism, he stressed that ‘[…] a movement is not populist because in its politics or ideology it presents actual contents identifiable as populistic, but because it shows a particular logic of articulation of those contents – whatever

8   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis those contents are’ (Laclau 2005a: 33). This logic can be summarised in the following steps: (1) ‘the formation of an internal antagonistic frontier separating “the people” from power’ (Laclau 2005a: 74); (2) the creation of a chain of equivalence among popular demands that are left unsatisfied by those in power (an unresponsive ‘elite’ or ‘establishment’); and (3) the representation of ‘the people’ of populism as excluded and underprivileged plebs, which claim to be the legitimate community of the people and the democratic sovereign (Laclau 2005a: 81, 94, 98). The merits of operationalising Laclau’s theory for empirical and comparative research in populist parties and movements have already been appreciated in depth, particularly by members of the POPULISMUS project (Stavrakakis et al. 2017; Stavrakakis 2017; Katsambekis 2016; Kioupkiolis 2016; Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014). Scholars inspired by Laclau’s frame have construed populism on the basis of two ‘minimal discursive criteria’: (1) people-­centrism, and (2) anti-­elitism (Stavrakakis 2017). This rendition of populism helps to make Laclau’s often abstract and complex theory more applicable to empirical analysis, but it also enables us to amend some of Laclau’s problematic normative choices, namely the effective elision of populism with politics, which we find in his late work. People-­centrism refers to the primacy given to ‘the people’, who are constructed by way of linking a series of different subjects, groups and demands (‘chains of equivalence’ in the Laclauian jargon). The signifier ‘the people’ is most often deployed as the nodal point of populist discourse. But a popular sense of unity and collectivity can be also nurtured through use of equivalent signifiers, such as the ‘99 per cent’, ‘the many’, etc. In this sense, people-­centrism implies privileging a collective subject that is perceived as the democratic sovereign, and foregrounding the name of this subject. Anti-­elitism implies the construction of a fundamental division within society between an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, which generates the conditions for antagonistic identification of ‘the people’ through their opposition to the named opponents. These are depicted as the ‘elite’, the ‘establishment’ or the ‘oligarchy’, which act against the people’s interests and well-­being. One of the merits of the ‘formal’ discursive reading of populism is that it helps us avoid a priori assumptions about the specific contents and the ideological or programmatic features of populist actors. The way in which ‘the people’ of populism is construed, as well as the meaning that is imputed to the antagonistic divide between peoples and elites are central questions to investigate in our research in populist politics. Our answers to those questions will disclose the specific character of a populist project, its orientation and its possible effects on democratic and representative institutions. For example, if ‘the people’ are represented as an exclusive collective subject, united through references to a common ethnic origin, language, heritage and religion, and they are opposed not only to an ‘establishment’ but also to alien ‘others’ (such as immigrants, ethnic or religious minorities), then this is most probably a case of exclusivist, radical right populism, which will tend to undermine minority rights, nourish nativism

Introduction   9 and promote intolerant attitudes (see Stavrakakis et al. 2017; Mudde 2007). On the contrary, if ‘the people’ are cast in terms of an open, inclusive and pluralist subject, confronting an unresponsive and repressive elite, then we are probably dealing with a progressive brand of populism. This may embody a force of democratic inclusion and participation, effectively enhancing democracy (see Mouffe 2018). Populism and ‘crisis’ The formal take on populism laid out above dwells primarily on discursive practices, which comprise the performative dimension highlighted by Benjamin Moffitt (2016) and Pierre Ostiguy (2017). But the formal approach also accentuates the socio-­political preconditions for successful populist projects: the moment of ‘crisis’ or ‘dislocation’, in the Laclauian jargon, which facilitates the formation of horizontal links between different groups and individuals (Stavrakakis et al. 2018). ‘[T]he emergence of populism’, Laclau noted back in the 1970s, ‘is historically linked to a crisis of the dominant ideological discourse which is in turn part of a more general social crisis’ (Laclau 1977: 175). Scholars have shown that the notion of crisis bears two distinct dimensions: an objective one, which refers to an external ‘shock’ or some sort of systemic failure that destabilises a given system; and a subjective one, which elevates such failures to ‘crisis’ through the discursive practices of specific political actors (Hay 1999; Stavrakakis et al. 2018). Hence, as Moffitt argues, crisis can be an integral element of populism. Populist actors produce their own narrative versions of the crisis, which serve to justify the diagnosis that mobilisation and immediate action are needed to ‘save the people’, and also lay the blame at the door of their opponents (Moffitt 2016: Chapter 7). Again, the construction of the crisis is what may put apart right-­wing from left-­wing, or exclusionary from inclusionary variants of populism. The former usually portray it as a migration or security crisis, in which the cultural identity and security of natives is threatened by invading ‘others’ (e.g. ‘Islam’, refugees, etc.). Left-­wing populisms most often locate the crisis in the socio-­economic order (e.g. ‘neoliberalism’, globalised capitalism) and attribute it to the excessive power of intertwined political and economic elite groups, which profit at the expense of the majority of society. Kenneth Roberts’ work on ‘political crises of representation’ affords useful insights. Among the three scenarios that he describes, the one that bears on contemporary democracies mobilises the ‘cartel party’ hypothesis (Katz and Mair 2009) to suggest that populism – left and right – rises in response to a situation in which citizens do not feel adequately represented. In such circumstances, established mainstream parties have become too domineering and self-­serving, too closely attached to the workings of the state and less sensitive to the people’s needs and aspirations (Roberts 2015). This fuels popular frustration and discontent, motivating social subjects to seek representation elsewhere.

10   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis Cas Mudde and the ideational approach to populism Cas Mudde’s ‘ideational’ approach was first introduced around fifteen years ago (Mudde 2004) and has been further elaborated through his collaboration with Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017). It has also been enriched through an ongoing dialogue with scholars who operate within the same paradigm but add different theoretical and methodological nuances (see Hawkins 2009; Hawkins and Kaltwasser 2017). This frame of thought bears commonalities but also important differences from Laclau-­inspired discursive frames. To be sure, his rendition of populism as a ‘thin-­centred ideology’ has now become the most popular and widely used among comparativists. It has been combined with both qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis, and it has gained increased visibility among media pundits, journalists and think tanks. The broadly used definition reads as follows: I define populism as an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people. (Mudde 2004: 543; italics in the original)  Mudde has introduced Giovanni Sartori’s logic of the ‘minimal definition’ in the study of populism (Mudde 2007: 15–20), thus making a major contribution that has widely resonated in the field. This has facilitated, moreover, the proliferation of empirical and comparative studies that have moved beyond mere cases, paving the way for cross-­regional comparative research (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2012). The key task of minimal definitions lies in finding the lowest common denominator between all manifestations of a given phenomenon (Rooduijn 2014). In our case, this means identifying the common core of every empirical manifestation of populism throughout history and across different regions. Hence, the aim is not to capture every possible characteristic that a populist actor exhibits, but to grasp the ones that are always there and can help to pin down the phenomenon in all possible contexts. Indeed, discursive scholars have embraced this logic of the minimal definition, acknowledging the importance of such an orientation (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014). Researchers who follow Mudde’s lead and work within the ideational paradigm agree on the centrality of three elements in the articulation of any populist movement or party: the people, the elite and the invocation of a common will. In this sense, what sets the ideational school apart from the discursive, but also the ‘strategic’ approach (Weyland 2017) is: (1) the construal of populism as an ideology (and thus as a belief system); (2) the thesis that what defines this ideology is a predominantly moral view of socio-­political divisions; and (3) the argument that ‘the people’ and the ‘elite’ are constructed by populists as essentially homo­ geneous collective subjects.

Introduction   11 To readers unfamiliar with populism literature, these divergences might seem minor or ‘technical’. But they do carry several implications in both theoretical enquiries and empirical analysis, which also have a bearing on the identification of political actors as populist or not. Let’s start with the suggestion that populism is a ‘thin-­centred ideology’. The term was first coined by Michael Freeden, to reference ideologies that display an identifiable yet restricted morphology (Freeden 2003: 98). ‘Full’ ideologies are bodies of normative ideas (beliefs, values, etc.) that concern how the world is and how it should be, how society is and how it should be organised (Freeden 2003). They encompass not only abstract worldviews, but also specific principles, beliefs, values, even detailed programmatic agendas. Liberalism and socialism are two cases in point. In contrast, when we turn to populism, we see either that it does not have much to offer, or that there are too many variations of what there is to offer, depending on the case we study. To put it in a nutshell, there is no specific way of transforming and organising society that we can call ‘populist’ without further qualification. Hence the logical conclusion that populism is a ‘thin-­centred’ ideology that necessarily attaches itself to ‘full’ or ‘thick’ ideologies, generating a variety of possible combinations, which Mudde and Kaltwasser call ‘subtypes’ of populism (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017: 7, 19). In this respect, however, ideational analyses seem to attribute a more fundamental role to the aforementioned set of ideas and beliefs in identifying the distinctive character of populist actors. Put simply, a given actor either manifests those ideological elements or not (see Mudde 2017: 34). According to the ideational approach, then, populism suffices by itself to determine – at least to a significant extent – the actions of a given political actor. As a result, a dividing line can be traced here between ideational, on the one hand, and discursive and performative accounts, on the other. Scholars working with the discursive/ performative paradigm see populism as a logic that can be employed in a more or less consistent way by political actors, advancing a gradational view on the phenomenon. Τhis means that a given actor can be more or less populist, following a more or less consistent populist strategy (Laclau 2005b: 47; Moffitt 2016: 46). However, it is crucial to acknowledge that scholars deploying Mudde’s definition have worked out a series of methods for ‘measuring’ populism, combining quantitative and qualitative techniques. Thus, they effectively lean towards a gradational interpretation of the phenomenon, which is certainly not strictly binary (March 2017; Rooduijn et al. 2014). In other words, some of the perceived theor­etical differences between the ideational and the discursive approaches to populism seem to blur in applied research. Another crucial point made by Mudde and his colleagues is that political actors are populist because they divide society in terms of a moral struggle between the virtuous people and the corrupt elites, the good and the evil. Indeed, for Mudde, moralism is ‘the essence of the populist division’ (Mudde 2017: 29). To put it simply, if the dimension of morality is not salient, then a party or movement that organises its strategy around appeals to ‘the people’ versus the ‘elite’ (on the basis of, e.g. competing interests) is considered to be merely anti-­ establishment or perhaps socialist.

12   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis Lastly, for advocates of the ‘ideational’ approach, populism is a fundamen­ tally anti-­pluralist brand of politics. Mudde and Kaltwasser designate pluralism as one of the enemies of populism (the other being elitism) (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017: 7–8). Pluralism is held to be populism’s opposite because, rather than conceiving society in terms of a homogeneous people, it recognises minorities, individuals and fragmented groups, and finds it impossible to achieve a unified ‘general will’. In this sense, populists necessarily construct a people that is not just morally superior and ‘pure’, but also essentially homogeneous, acting and thinking in unison. Elitism is also contrasted to populism, as it splits society into people and elites, but instead of embracing the people, it sides with the elites, considering the people to be ignorant, unpredictable and easily deceived (Mudde 2017: 34–35). Both ideational and discursive schemes of analysis can shed light on different variations and ‘hybrids’ of the populist phenomenon. In discursive accounts, ‘the people’ is mostly conceived as an empty signifier. Hence, it is the task of the researcher to clarify how each actor is filling it out with specific contents and, in doing so, to illuminate the specificity, the orientation and the possible impact of a given case study. In ideational views, ‘the people’ already have some predetermined characteristics, namely moral purity and homogeneity. Similarly, the discursive take is more flexible and open to various and diverging significations of the populist divide between people and elite, whereas scholars in the ideational paradigm suggest that in populist politics social division will always resemble a moral struggle between good and evil, pure and corrupt. It is up to the reader to decide which tools and interpretations can help them best make sense of the political actors who appear in this volume.

Locating the populist (radical) left In the previous section we fleshed out the basic components of two prominent idioms of populism analysis, the discursive and the ideational. But where does populism and the left meet and what sets this strand of populism apart from other variants and ‘hybrids’? To begin, we draw on Norberto Bobbio’s work to locate the political left and to separate it from its counterpart, the political right. The two camps are primarily differentiated in terms of their position on equality (Bobbio 1996). According to Bobbio, whereas the left champions a more equal society, the right deems inequalities not only inevitable, but also legitimate. ‘The analytic criterion of “equality” suggests that, in every possible case and context, the left tends to be more egalitarian, and the right less so, but the distinction is a matter of degree rather than absolute or essentialist’ (Cardoso Rosas and Ferreira 2013: 7). This dividing line is reflected, of course, in the ideological/programmatic agendas of left-­wing and right-­wing political actors. Thus, on the left, we usually encounter policies that favour the promotion of equality through redistribution and advance socially inclusive programmes, which expand access to education, healthcare and guaranteed pensions. From the right, we most often expect policies that prioritise

Introduction   13 individual initiative and competition, while legitimising and institutionalising hierarchies on various fields and levels of society. Hence the corresponding ideologies: socialism, conservatism, liberalism (Bobbio 1996: 49). Another axis along which one might differentiate the left from the right has been the distinction inclusion versus exclusion. Quite interestingly, this was the focus of a debate that took place between Bobbio and Alessandro Pizzorno in the mid-­1990s (Cameron 1996: xi). Even though Bobbio refuted Pizzorno’s critique, suggesting that the criterion inclusion/exclusion was already integrated in the axis equality/inequality, he agreed that historically ‘[t]he left tends towards inclusion, and the right towards exclusion’ (Bobbio 1996: 117). Indeed, populism scholars have emphasised the importance of this axis, which pits inclusion against exclusion from a collective community, for separating out two distinct genres of populism: inclusionary and exclusionary (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2013). To situate the radical left on the level of party politics, we also follow Luke March in acknowledging that we are dealing with parties that ‘regard themselves as to the left of social democracy and are part of international associations (for example, the Party of the European Left, PEL) that also have a (radical) left self-­ definition’ (March 2011: 15).3 Indeed, ‘this radical Left is left by its commitments to equality and internationalism and radical in its aspirations to fundamental transformation of capitalism’ (Keith and March 2016: 5). To the extent that such a profile is interwoven with a discourse which sunders society into ‘the people’ and the ‘establishment’, we claim that we are faced with a more or less populist radical left actor. We may now return to our earlier theoretical remarks to reflect on the specificity of (radical) left populism. As has been suggested, left-­wing populism ‘emphasizes egalitarianism and inclusivity rather than the openly exclusivist anti-­immigrant or anti-­foreigner concerns of right-­populism (i.e. its concern is the demos not the ethnos)’ (March 2011: 122). This implies that populist actors of the left tend to envisage ‘the people’ in a distinct way, asserting inclusion rather than exclusion, advocating an egalitarian vision of society, fighting inequalities and opposing strict hierarchies. Indeed, a similar argument is advanced in Chantal Mouffe’s latest work, where she contends that ‘the people’ of left populism ‘is a discursive construction resulting from a “chain of equivalence” between heterogeneous demands whose unity is secured by the identification with a radical democratic conception of citizenship and a common opposition to the oligarchy’ (Mouffe, 2018: 80). In this context, she further notes that left populism should be better grasped as a specific discursive ‘strategy of construction of the political frontier’ between a ‘people’ and an ‘elite’, ‘not a fully-­fledged political programme. Parties or movements adopting a left populist strategy can follow a diversity of trajectories’ (ibid.). Such a position is indeed compatible with both discursive and ideational readings of populism. Moving beyond the particularities of the Populist Radical Left, it is worth stressing that exactly because actors within this subgroup mostly rely on different interpretations or hybrids of socialism, their rise is very likely to be

14   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis facilitated by certain socio-­economic conditions. Not surprisingly, the first wave of Populist Radical Left parties gained prominence at a time when social-­ democracy had shifted to the centre, endorsing a liberal or even neoliberal economic agenda. It was under such conditions that parties such as the SP in the Netherlands and Die Linke in Germany managed to veer away from narrow class-­based interpellations and reach out to broader social strata against the parties of ‘the establishment’. The latter had converged over a nearly identical agenda (Mouffe 2005), frustrating significant swathes of their traditional constituencies. The underlying ‘crisis of representation’, brought forth by the lack of political alternatives (Mair 2013; Mouffe 2005), was pushed to the extreme in many European countries after the outbreak of the global financial crisis and Europe’s dive into recession. Within this conjuncture, we have witnessed a second ‘wave’ of Populist Radical Left parties, particularly ascendant in the countries which were most affected by economic hardship. In this context, Mouffe suggests that we are currently living in a ‘populist moment’, a condition of severe crisis afflicting the neoliberal order which had been consolidated in the past three decades. This opens up the possibility for new hegemonic projects, not only of the left but also of the right (Mouffe 2018). Indeed, the Populist Radical Right in today’s Europe seems stronger than ever, whereas the most prominent actors of the populist left and radical left seem to be stagnating if not retreating. However, they still play a crucial role in the political systems of several countries, while there are signs of convergence and possible collaboration with mainstream Social Democrats and the Greens on the European level (in their common opposition against the anti-­immigrant Right), which might trigger interesting political developments in the near future.

The cases and the structure of this volume The point of departure of our volume is that elements of a Populist Radical Left politics have been articulated by a series of progressive actors within the past decade, more or less consistently, especially in the circumstances of the economic crisis. In this context, we have chosen to focus on a host of selected cases which are either typically populist (radical) left or ‘borderline’. We know, thus, that some of them might not ‘pass muster’ in the end, but we have still decided to take them on board as it is important to explore affinities and put to the test the relevant labelling practices in public discourse, but also scholarly research. Indeed, by establishing what makes particular actors also ‘populist’, rather than just left-­wing, socialist or social-­democratic, we can illuminate debates around both contemporary populism and the state of the radical left in crisis-­ridden, or post-­crisis, Europe. Our case studies kick off with an analysis of Syriza in Greece, one of the most hotly contested Populist Radical Left parties in Europe, which has been the epicentre of both aspiration and frustration for leftists around the world. Giorgos Katsambekis, in his chapter, outlines the trajectory of the radical left coalition

Introduction   15 which evolved into a unified party, from its very inception in 2004 up to its record in government. He shows that by looking into the party from a discursive perspective, one will very quickly come across populist elements which have been part and parcel of its strategy all along. But it is within the crisis and after the adoption of draconian austerity programmes by the Greek governments from 2009 onwards that Syriza managed to become the key channel for expression of popular frustrations and anti-­establishment sentiments, engineering an outright populist discursive strategy. Katsambekis draws out, then, the peculiarities of Syriza’s egalitarian and inclusionary populism, which sought to bring together in a broad social alliance a series of heterogeneous demands and social groups against austerity and the ‘old party establishment’. His chapter also lingers over the implications of Syriza’s choice to assent to a new bailout package in 2015 and to implement yet another austerity programme, while upholding many of its populist characteristics. Alexandros Kioupkiolis delves into Podemos in Spain, foregrounding the distinctive features of the party at its incipient stage. Podemos stands out by dint of its original roots in ‘horizontalist’ social movements, its ‘technopolitics’, and a reflexive application of populist theory which is a historical novum. Kioupkiolis makes the case that a dualist politics, which combines horizontalism and verticalism, or autonomy and hegemony, could stage an effective strategy for reclaiming democracy in the present critical context. But an egalitarian populist formation will live up to its democratic promises as long as it negotiates a constructive balance between these two, partly antithetical, political logics, avoiding the reassertion of centralised leadership and the demobilisation or the manipulation of its grassroots. The chapter traces out also the latest vicissitudes of Podemos’ party politics towards ‘normalisation’ and institutionalisation, and it outlines the construction of the people-­nation in the later discourse of the party’s leadership. Alen Toplišek’s chapter is devoted to the Slovenian Left, a new party that arose in a context akin to that of Podemos and Syriza, after mass social protests in 2012–2013. According to Toplišek, the Slovenian Left’s discourse performs a delicate balancing act between populist and Marxist demands. Neither of these tendencies has become hegemonic yet. This differentiates the party from its Greek and Spanish counterparts, where populism has become indeed a core defining attribute. Drawing on Luke March’s work, Toplišek situates the Slovenian Left between democratic socialist and populist socialist parties and argues that ‘a shift towards a stronger left-­wing populism in its strategy could clear the way for a better electoral performance of the party and could enable it to enter government’. Jean-­Luc Mélenchon and his electoral alliance, France Insoumise (FI), are scrutinised in Philippe Marlière’s chapter. The author shows how the full embrace of populism by Mélenchon has led him to give up on the notion of the left altogether, something that resonates with Podemos’ reluctance to identify itself as left. For FI’s populism the role of the leader is absolutely crucial, with Mélenchon claiming to have a quasi-­unmediated relationship with the party’s

16   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis Internet followers, who seem to have replaced the traditional type of party members. This has generated tensions within the left and brought him closer to his Latin American counterparts, such as Hugo Chávez. Moreover, Marlière clearly distinguishes Mélenchon’s left-­wing populism from the populism of the right in France. The former attempts ‘to politically unify the people (in the sense of an active and conscious political community)’, whereas the latter purports to homogenise ‘the French community along ethno-­cultural lines’. At the same time, he points out the dangers of Mélenchon’s choice to set aside the left-­right divide and the depoliticising effects that this might entail on society. In their contribution, Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman enquire into the Dutch Socialist Party (SP), starting from what sets it apart from its sister parties in Europe, a difference which derives from the party’s age and origin. Founded in the early 1970s as a Maoists sect, the party gradually moderated its position, distancing itself from Marxism, to morph into a social democratic party with a leftist populist style and discourse. The party grew rapidly during the 1990s and early 2000s, appealing mostly to voters who were frustrated by the centre-­left’s turn to the right and its endorsement of austerity. But the SP has been stagnating for the last decade or so, failing to make the most of the crisis or to benefit from the electoral implosion of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA). Lucardie and Voerman conclude that this is probably because voters in the Netherlands ‘appreciated clarity: either governmentalism or populism, but not a bit of both’. Dan Hough and Dan Keith turn their gaze to the German Left Party (LP) and its strategic use of populist appeals, which seem to yield a unifying glue in a party torn apart by various fractions and internal divisions. Interestingly, the LP has also moved closer to social democracy, with many analysts even questioning whether it can still be called populist. But what Hough and Keith show is that although there are times when populism ‘is barely prominent in the LP’s political activity, there are still sets of occasions when it comes very much to the fore’. This brings the discussion back to whether one should grasp populism in an either/or, black/white manner, or in a more gradational (‘shades of grey’) and strategic sense. Another key point made by the authors is similar to Lucardie and Voerman’s analysis of the SP, as they note that, in the German context, participation in government on the federal level would have called for further moderation by the LP, and a toning down of their populist appeals. Interestingly, the party now faces the challenge of populist competition from the radical right, after the strong emergence of the Alternative for Germany (AfD). In the next chapter, Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean present what is probably the first thorough study that places corbynism and its relation to populism at the centre of inquiry. Their account has both theoretical and empirical implications. First, they outline the core features and characteristics of corbynism, while adducing new material based on a series of interviews with Momentum activists. They then assess corbynism by tapping into Laclau-­ inspired discursive approaches. Their conclusion is that corbynism evinces only

Introduction   17 superficial affinities with left-­wing populist movements and parties in the European South, such as Podemos and Syriza, and that it could be understood as populist only if the term was stretched ‘so far as to render it meaningless’. As they argue, Corbynism constitutes a resurgence of an established tradition of left politics in the UK, one that combines an economic left Keynesianism with the active promotion of an anti-­war stance internationally, and a commitment to greater democratisation within the Labour Party. They conclude by advancing a thought-­provoking critique of both discursive and ideational ‘minimal’ approaches. They suggest, thus, that we need to turn to a ‘thicker’, sociologically informed, conceptualisation of populism to avoid ‘conceptual overstretching’. In the last chapter, Kioupkiolis addresses populist social movements and their re-­emergence in recent years, after the inaugural Narodniki in nineteenth-­century Russia and the US ‘People’s Party’. Research in recent ‘bottom-­up’ populism, most notably the ‘Arab Spring’, the Spanish 15M, the Greek ‘squares movement’ and the North American Occupy in 2011–2012, has been growing over the last years. But the difference that the new populist mobilisations have made to conventional populism remains underexplored. The chapter deploys the rubric ‘populism 2.0’ to capture this difference and to elucidate its democratic promises by digging into egalitarian, progressive mobilisations which could be associated with the left and have been endorsed, indeed, by leftist populist actors, including Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece. ‘Populism 2.0’ is not meant to imply mainly that these movements were Internet-­based or suffused with social media. Rather, the argument is that a certain ethos attributed to ‘network society’ or the Web 2.0 – openness, user-­generated content, diversity, rejection of hierarchies, transparency, pragmatism, fluidity, reflexivity – is what truly demarcates them not only from the typical, top-­down populisms, but also from populist movements of the past. It is this distinct ethos that bears egalitarian, emancipatory and innovative potentials. The volume ends on a series of critical reflections by Yannis Stavrakakis, who takes stock of the findings, offers an overview of the populist left in today’s Europe, and puts forth a series of challenges for a future research agenda.

Notes 1 To be sure, European parties belonging to the populist left have had notable breakthroughs in the past. For example, PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) founded in 1974, managed to rise to power in 1981 with a staggering 48.07 per cent of the vote and was consolidated as the hegemonic political party of Greece until the crisis hit in 2009 (Lyrintzis 1987; Mouzelis 1978). However, PASOK was a rather ‘unfit’ party in the 1970s and 1980s when compared to other forces of the left in Europe, with Greece returning to democratic normality after a seven-­year military Junta. What is more, PASOK soon moderated, actually turning outright anti-­populist after the early 1990s, joining ‘third way’ social democrats (Katsambekis 2014; Lyrintzis 2005).

18   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis 2 Indeed, Corbyn has been often understood more as part of a new ‘wave of radicalism’, with reference to parties of the European radical left or Bernie Sanders in the United States, and less as part of mainstream social democracy (Mouffe 2018: 21; Gerbaudo 2017: 17; Keith and March 2016: 1–2). 3 In this sense, Corbyn and Labour are clearly not categorised as radical left. However, it is crucial to stress that Corbyn and Momentum represent a more radical and leftist orientation within the party, something which has been noted both by critics and internal opponents and analysis.

References Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) (2018) Podemos and the New Political Cycle: Left-­wing Populism and Anti-­establishment Politics, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Albertazzi, D. and McDonnell, D. (eds) (2008) Twenty-­first Century Populism: The Spectre of Western European Democracy, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Albertazzi, D. and McDonnell, D. (2015) Populists in Power, London: Routledge. Aslanidis, P. (2016) ‘Populist Social Movements of the Great Recession’, Mobilization: An International Quarterly 21(3): 301–321. Aslanidis, P. and Kaltwasser, C. (2016) ‘Dealing with Populists in Government: The SYRIZA-­ANEL Coalition in Greece’, Democratization 23(6): 1077–1091. Bobbio, N. (1996) Left And Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction, Cambridge: Polity Press. Cameron, A. (1996) ‘Introduction’, in Bobbio, N. (ed.) Left and Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction, Cambridge: Polity Press. Canovan, M. (1999) ‘Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy’, Political Studies 47(1): 2–16. Cardoso Rosas, J. and Ferreira, A. R. (2013) ‘Left and Right: Critical Junctures’, in Cardoso Rosas, J. and Ferreira, A. R. (eds) Left and Right: The Great Dichotomy Revisited, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2–20. Crouch, C. (2016) ‘The March Towards Post-­Democracy, Ten Years On’, Political Quarterly 87(1): 71–75. de la Torre, C. (2015) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. Della Porta, D. (2015) Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back into Protest Analysis, Cambridge: Polity Press. Freeden, M. (2003) Ideology: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gerbaudo, P. (2017) The Mask and the Flag: Populism, Citizenism and Global Protest, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Grattan, L. (2016) Populism’s Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy in America, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hawkins, K. A. (2009) ‘Is Chávez Populist?: Measuring Populist Discourse in Comparative Perspective’, Comparative Political Studies 42(8): 1040–1067. Hawkins, K. A. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2017) ‘The Ideational Approach to Populism’, Latin American Research Review 52(4): 513–528. Hay, C. (1999) ‘Crisis and the Structural Transformation of the State: Interrogating the Process of Change’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 1(3): 317–344. Kaltwasser, C. R. and Taggart, P. (2016) ‘Dealing with Populists in Government: A Framework for Analysis’, Democratization 23(2): 201–220.

Introduction   19 Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘The Place Of The People In Post-­Democracy: Researching “Antipopulism” and Post-­Democracy in Crisis-­Ridden Greece’, Postdata 19(2): 555–582. Katsambekis, G. (2016) ‘Radical Left Populism in Contemporary Greece: Syriza’s Trajectory from Minoritarian Opposition to Power’, Constellations 23(3): 391–403. Katsambekis, G. (2017) ‘The Ambiguities of Syriza’s Populism in Power’, KultuRRevolution 72: 22–26. Katz, R. S. and Mair, P. (2009) ‘The Cartel Party Thesis: A Restatement’, Perspectives on Politics 7(4): 753–766. Keith, D. and March, L. (2016) ‘Introduction’, in March, L. and Keith, D. (eds) Europe’s Radical Left: From Marginality to the Mainstream?, London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 1–23. Kioupkiolis, A. (2016) ‘Podemos: The Ambiguous Promises of Left-­wing Populism in Contemporary Spain’, Journal of Political Ideologies 21(2): 99–120. Kioupkiolis, A. and Katsambekis, G. (2018) ‘Radical Left Populism from the Margins to the Mainstream: A Comparison of Syriza and Podemos’, in Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) Podemos and the New Political Cycle: Left-­wing Populism and Anti-­establishment Politics, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 201–226. Kriesi, H. (2014) ‘The Populist Challenge’, West European Politics 37(2): 361–378. Kriesi, H. and Pappas, T. (eds) (2015) European Populism in the Shadow of the Great Recession, Colchester: ECPR Press. Laclau, E. (1977) Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory, London: NLB. Laclau, E. (2005a) On Populist Reason, London: Verso. Laclau, E. (2005b) ‘Populism: What’s in a Name?’ in Panizza, F. (ed.) Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, London: Verso, 32–49. Laclau, E. (2014) The Rhetorical Foundations of Society, London: Verso. Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, London: Verso. Lyrintzis, C. (1987) ‘The Power of Populism: The Greek Case’, European Journal of Political Research 15(6): 667–686. Lyrintzis, C. (2005) ‘The Changing Party System: Stable Democracy, Contested “Modernisation” ’, West European Politics 28(2): 242–259. Mair, P. (2013) Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy, London: Verso. March, L. (2007) ‘From Vanguard of the Proletariat to Vox Populi: Left-­Populism as a “Shadow” of Contemporary Socialism’, SAIS Review 27(1): 63–77. March, L. (2011) Radical Left Parties in Europe, London: Routledge. March, L. (2017) ‘Left and Right Populism Compared: The British Case’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19(2): 282–303. March, L. and Keith, D. (eds) (2016) Europe’s Radical Left: From Marginality to the Mainstream?, London: Rowman and Littlefield International. Marlière, P. (2013) ‘France’s Front National and Front de Gauche Are Both Labelled as Populist. But They Are Far from Two Sides of the Same Coin’, EUROPP LSE blog, 5 June. Available at:­populism/ (accessed 1 May 2018). Marlière, P. (2017) ‘Jean-­Luc Mélenchon’s Populist Gamble’, openDemocracy, 27 October. Available at:­europe-make-­it/philippe-­marli-re/ jean-­luc-m-­lenchon-s-­populist-gamble (accessed 1 May 2018). Martinelli, A. (ed.) (2016) Populism on the Rise: Democracies Under Challenge?, Milano: ISPI. Available at:­rise-democracies-­underchallenge-­15772 (accessed 1 May 2018).

20   Giorgos Katsambekis and Alexandros Kioupkiolis Moffitt, B. (2016) The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Mouffe, C. (2005) On the Political, London: Routledge. Mouffe, C. (2013) Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically, London: Verso. Mouffe, C. (2018) For a Left Populism, London: Verso. Mouzelis, N. (1978) ‘The Greek Elections and the Rise of PASOK’, New Left Review I(108): 59–74. Mudde, C. (2004) ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition 39(4): 542–563. Mudde, C. (2007) Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mudde, C. (2017) ‘Populism: An Ideational Approach’, in Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, P., Espejo, P. O. and Ostiguy, P. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 27–47. Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (eds) (2012) Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or Corrective for Democracy?, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2013) ‘Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary Populism: Comparing Contemporary Europe and Latin America’, Government and Opposition 48(2): 147–174. Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2017) Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mueller, J. W. (2016) What is Populism?, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Ostiguy, P. (2017) ‘Populism: A Socio-­Cultural Approach’, in Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, P., Espejo, P. O. and Ostiguy, P. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 73–97. Panizza, F. (ed.) (2005) Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, London: Verso. Prentoulis, M. and Thomassen, L. (2014) ‘Autonomy and Hegemony in the Squares: The 2011 Protests in Greece and Spain’, in Kioupkiolis, A. and Katsambekis, G. (eds) Radical Democracy and Collective Movements Today: The Biopolitics of the Multitude versus the Hegemony of the People, Farnham: Ashgate, 213–234. Roberts, K. M. (2015) ‘Populism, Political Mobilizations, and Crises of Political Representation’, in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 140–158. Rooduijn, M. (2014) ‘The Nucleus of Populism: In Search of the Lowest Common Denominator’, Government and Opposition 49(4): 572–598. Rooduijn, M., de Lange, S. L. and van der Brug, W. (2014) ‘A Populist Zeitgeist? Programmatic Contagion by Populist Parties in Western Europe’, Party Politics 20(4): 563–575. Stavrakakis, Y. (2017) ‘Discourse Theory in Populism Research’, Journal of Language and Politics 16(4): 523–534. Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘Left-­wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2): 119–142. Stavrakakis, Y., Katsambekis, G., Nikisianis, N., Kioupkiolis, A. and Siomos, T. (2017) ‘Extreme Right-wing Populism in Europe: Revisiting a Reified Association’, Critical Discourse Studies 14(4): 420–439. Stavrakakis, Y., Katsambekis, G., Kioupkiolis, A., Nikisianis, N. and Siomos, T. (2018) ‘Populism, Anti-­populism and Crisis’, Contemporary Political Theory 17(1): 4–27. Tormey, S. (2015) End of Representative Politics, Cambridge: Polity Press. Weyland, K. (2017) ‘Populism: A Political-­Strategic Approach’, in Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, P., Espejo, P. O. and Ostiguy, P. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

1 The Populist Radical Left in Greece Syriza in opposition and in power1 Giorgos Katsambekis

Introduction Syriza’s rise in Greece during the years of crisis and austerity not only triggered a major realignment of the Greek political system, leading the old party establishment to collapse, but also acted as a symbol of defiance in a Europe dominated by neoliberal policies and a proof that the radical left was no longer just a ‘fighting opposition’, but could be regarded as a viable contender for power. This seemed to be reaffirmed by the dynamic of Podemos in the Spanish elections of 2015 and 2016, as well as that of Jean-­Luc Mélenchon in the French presidential election of 2017. The euphoria of the Greek radical left’s victory in January 2015 lasted roughly six months, however, as Syriza had to retreat and accept a new bailout programme in July 2015, right after a divisive referendum, unprecedented in Greece’s post-­authoritarian history. But this major setback did not bring about the collapse of the Greek radical left, as it had done with the centre-­left PASOK some years earlier. So, even after Syriza’s major retreat, and with the old party establishment of Greece unable to bounce back, the party managed to win another election in September 2015, staying in power, to implement a very different programme from that which initially brought it to power: one that continued austerity (the so-­called ‘third memorandum’). Despite the immense attention from global media and international scholars, we still lack a comprehensive account of Syriza’s trajectory from the margins of the political system to power. Responding to the need for such an assessment, this chapter aims at an in-­depth exploration of Syriza’s discourse and strategy over time, covering the period from its emergence as an electoral coalition in 2004 up until the recent developments after its ascendance to power. The contribution of this study to the relevant literature is threefold. First, it offers an original and extensive survey of Syriza’s discourse while in opposition, and critically assesses it in terms of its populist character and particular ideologico-­ political contents. Second, it delves into the peculiarities of Syriza’s populism to highlight specific shortcomings in mainstream approaches to populism, while advocating a minimal discursive approach inspired by the work of Ernesto Laclau and following the recent work of the POPULISMUS research team (see Stavrakakis et al. 2017; 2018). Third, it offers a critical assessment of Syriza’s

22   Giorgos Katsambekis development after taking power, linking the empirical findings of this particular case study with broader theoretical questions regarding populism’s transition from opposition to power.

Defining populism Ongoing debates around the definition of populism, as well as the need for formulation of minimal discursive criteria for analysis of the phenomenon, based on the ‘Essex School’ tradition, have already been dealt with at length (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014; de Cleen et al. 2018). They are also discussed extensively in this volume’s introduction, so I won’t be dealing with definitional issues in detail here. Moving beyond the scope of the ‘Essex School’, and taking into account a consensus that seems to emerge around discursive, performative and ‘ideational’ approaches to populism (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017; Moffitt 2016; Panizza 2005; de la Torre 2015), two operational criteria are used in this chapter for empirical analysis of populism. For a particular actor to be qualified as populist, they should (1) articulate their discourse around the nodal point ‘the people’ or other equivalent nodal points, and (2) they should represent society as ultimately divided between two antagonistic camps: the ‘elite’ (the establishment, the oligarchy, etc.), on the one side, and ‘the people’ (the underdog, the non-­privileged, etc.), on the other. Yannis Stavrakakis refers to these two discursive criteria as people-­centrism and anti-­elitism (Stavrakakis 2017: 528). When those two criteria are both in place at the same time, it is rather safe to categorise a party, a leader or a movement as populist (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014: 123). The minimal discursive approach follows the ground-­breaking work of scholars that have stressed the merits of Sartorian minimal definitions for conducting comparative research (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017; van Kessel 2015; Rooduijn 2014). But it disagrees with studies operating within the ‘ideational’ paradigm on the assumption that populism is a predominantly moralistic politics, which has a necessarily homogenising effect on the subjects it calls upon (‘people’ and ‘elite’). For scholars such as Cas Mudde and Kirk Hawkins, the terms along which the ‘people’ and its opponents are constructed seem to be determined a priori: the people of populism is conceived as ‘pure’, ‘good’ and ‘homogenous’, whereas the ‘establishment’ is necessarily ‘corrupt’ and ‘evil’ (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017: 12; Hawkins 2010: 5). I maintain that such claims, even if they seem to cover many historical instances of populism, do not stand empirical or theoretical scrutiny and can be proven problematic when analysing recent instances of left-­wing or more generally progressive populism, such as the one studied here. Moreover, this transpires forcefully when we turn our gaze to populist social movements that have risen within the context of the Great Recession (see Gerbaudo 2017; Grattan 2016; Kioupkiolis, Chapter 8, this volume). Indeed, binding populism to moralism and anti-­pluralism creates a series of questions that have not been adequately answered so far. Why can’t we conceive of a populist discourse that is not moralistic, but primarily political, centred on

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   23 competing social and economic interests? Why should ‘the people’ be necessarily homogenous and not rather unified and/or connected, linked, despite an acknowledged heterogeneity and plurality? Dealing with such questions, Pierre Ostiguy has shown that the very impurity of ‘the people’ has actually been a key element of classic populist discourses in Latin America: ‘the subordinate strata, the plebs, while certainly “deserving,” “suffering,” and “being treated unfairly,” are most certainly not viewed as morally pure and virtuous’ (Ostiguy 2017: 91). The same applies to Syriza leader, Alexis Tsipras, who at times has clearly implied that ‘the people’ have their own vices and flaws, which should, however, be understood with reference to their subordinate and marginalised position, as responses to a political power that has become suppressive and alienated.2 In other words, it is this subordination of ‘the people’, the fact that they are ‘below’, reduced to an inferior position vis-­à-vis the ‘establishment’, which gives meaning to the ‘us versus them’ populist dichotomy (see also de Cleen and Stavrakakis 2017). Not a moral signification of this divide as a struggle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’. What’s more, the task of representing the popular strata in populist terms does not mean that ‘the people’ necessarily become homogeneous. As shown by Paolo Gerbaudo (2017: 17–18), one of the most distinct characteristics of the recent ‘squares movement’ in Spain and Greece was that they constructed a sense of popular unity while stressing the primacy of the individual, the citizen; hence the term ‘citizenism’, which he suggests to grasp this movement-­based subtype of populism. In this context, I suggest that to be more alert and sensitive to the plurality of populist hybrids, we need to avoid attributing specific ideologico-­political, moral, or other contents to populism a priori. As it is now common ground that populism can be either on the left or on the right, in the streets or in government, leader-­centric or leaderless, statist or neoliberal, we should be able to acknowledge that populism can also be more or less moralistic and indeed more or less pluralist in its conception of ‘the people’. With these brief theoretical observations in mind, I will now proceed to examine the particular logics that have governed Syriza’s discourse, the core signifiers around which this discourse is enunciated, as well as the socio-­political preconditions of the party’s success.

Syriza and the Greek politics of consensus The rise to power of Syriza, once a fringe political force, can be seen as one of the main by-­products of the severe socio-­economic crisis that hit Greece in 2009. Formed in 2004 as an electoral coalition of leftist parties, organisations and political groups, ranging from the so-­called ‘renewal left’, the radical left and minority rights activists, to Trotskyists and Maoists, Syriza gained momentum within a few years, with its vote rising from a mere 4.6 per cent in 2009 to 36.4 per cent in 2015. To understand this impressive dynamic and the role that populism played in it, one should take into account the recent developments within the Greek political system and society.

24   Giorgos Katsambekis Since 1974, Greece had been governed by parties of the centre-­right and centre-­left, which rotated in power and formed stable one-­party governments until 2011, and then governed in coalitions until the early 2015. New Democracy (ND), on the centre-­right, and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), on the centre-­left, competed in a polarised political system throughout the 1970s and 1980s. After the early 1990s, they steadily converged towards the centre, reaching consensus on various policy areas, especially regarding the economy, Europeanisation and public administration (Lyrintzis 2005; Spanou 2008; Katsambekis 2014a). PASOK gave up on its left-­wing populist and egalitarian agenda for a ‘third-­way’ Blairite orientation, whereas ND abandoned most references to its right-­wing conservative identity to occupy what it understood as the political ‘middle ground’. Structural reforms, competitiveness, privatisations, the ‘rationalisation’ of fiscal policies, the advocacy for a society of dynamic individuals and a hostility towards collective forms of organisation, along with a vocal anti-­populist stance became central themes of their common language. By the time the global financial crisis hit Greece, they had converged to such an extent that they could now govern in coalition for more than three years. In October 2009, PASOK, under the leadership of George Papandreou (son of the founder of PASOK, Andreas Papandreou), won the elections by promising – among other things – redistribution of wealth through a fairer taxation system in favour of the lower and middle social strata. He also campaigned on the promise of a more participatory democracy, ‘green growth’ and electronic governance. However, once in government, and with the Greek economy crumbling, PASOK performed a U-­turn, signing an emergency bailout agreement (the so-­called ‘memorandum’) with European institutions and the International Monetary Fund (IMF ). This agreement imposed a series of harsh austerity measures to the Greek society in an outright neoliberal fashion. This meant a severe hit to the social groups that had traditionally supported PASOK, but also a circumvention of the popular mandate, which immediately triggered frustration and anger within Greek society. As social unrest was mounting and the PASOK government stood on the verge of collapse, George Papandreou resigned to make room for the formation of a coalition government with ND and a smaller radical right populist party, LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally), in November 2011. Lucas Papademos, a non-­parliamentarian technocrat, was appointed as Prime Minister. Papandreou was pushed to this decision under the pressure of a massive grassroots anti-­ austerity movement that had swept the country, notably the so-­called ‘movement of the squares’ (the aganaktismenoi), and its aftermath.

The birth of the Greek ‘squares movement’ and the crisis of representation The Greek aganaktismenoi surged forth just a few days after their namesake indignados had occupied several squares in Spain’s largest cities in May 2011. This was a massive grassroots movement that emerged spontaneously, following calls in the social media that urged the people to voice their indignation against

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   25 austerity (Katsambekis 2014b: 180–184; Gerbaudo 2017: 37–38). The key claim of the movement was of a populist nature: ‘the people’ had been betrayed by the political elites, which were held responsible for the socio-­economic collapse of the country and could no longer represent them. Thus, immediate and radical change was needed for the people to regain power and democracy to be restored. As in the Spanish case, the movement’s main demand was ‘real democracy’, which was soon re-­phrased into ‘direct democracy’, emphasising direct-­ democratic participation and popular accountability (Prentoulis and Thomassen 2013: 175). The movement was an expression of the frustration that broad segments of Greek society felt with the administration of the crisis by traditional political parties. But it was also a sign of generalised social fatigue with the long established two-­party system of Greece. It is no surprise, in this context, that protesters often turned against the whole political system, rejecting parliamentary politics and other established institutional forms of representation altogether (e.g. trade unions). In this sense, what this movement revealed was a deep crisis of representation or even a crisis of legitimation within the Greek political system. Crucially, Syriza was the only parliamentary political force to openly support the movement and its demands from the very beginning. Here, one can trace a major difference between Syriza and Podemos. Whereas the latter almost organically emerged out of the squares (Kioupkiolis 2016), Syriza was already an established political actor that managed to effectively address the movement and capitalise on its dynamic. Before discussing the relationship that Syriza built with the ‘squares’ and the broader anti-­austerity movement, I will take a step back and examine the social linkage strategy (see Tsakatika and Lisi 2013) that the coalition had followed since 2004, as this was reflected in its official discourse.

Syriza pre-­crisis: a case of minoritarian populism? Syriza was born in 2004 as a coalition of parties and groups of the parliamentary and extra-­parliamentary left. The initiative belonged to the party Coalition of Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN), which was the dominant constituent within the alliance, representing more than 80 per cent of its cadres, and the only one with parliamentary representation. Through this coalition, SYN aimed at broadening its appeal towards the youth and social/political activists, and thus at reshaping its profile. This transformation was also highlighted by SYN’s choice to abandon its self-­characterisation as ‘renewal left’ and to loosen the party’s links to the eurocommunist tradition, adopting instead the self-­characterisation ‘radical left’ and aspiring to express the newest social movements against neoliberalism. The main reason behind this orientation was the growing influence that the counter-­globalisation movement and the legacy of the so-­called ‘Social Forums’ exerted on SYN. This development had already influenced the party’s internal balances, leading to the empowerment of its left faction and the pursuit of a more

26   Giorgos Katsambekis active role by younger members. Squeezed for several years between centre-­left PASOK’s progressive cultural agenda, and the KKE’s old-­school sectarian vanguardism, SYN now adopted a vocal anti-­neoliberal agenda, articulating socio-­economic as well as post-­materialist demands, and directly targeting as its main political opponent the established bipartisanship of PASOK and ND, in the pursuit of a clearer and more distinct position within the political system. The fourth congress of SYN in 2004 is a landmark in this radical transformation and it represents what is commonly described as a ‘left turn’ (Eleftheriou 2009). In its political resolution, the party’s main objective was described as the ‘joint action with all workers, regardless of differences, in order to face the common big and small problems, through [action in] trade unions, local and regional institutions, autonomous initiatives, social struggles and movements’, aiming at forging ‘a broader anti-­neoliberal front against bipartisanship’ (Synaspismos 2004). This new strategy emphasised cross-­class alliances and solidarity with social movements, while the then leader of SYN (and predecessor of Tsipras), Alekos Alavanos, actively pushed for a stronger connection of the party with the youth, which was described as ‘an autonomous social category with inter-­class character’ (Synaspismos 2005). Hence, from the very beginning, Syriza’s strategy was marked by a close interaction with various movements related to younger people. The most important among them were: (1) the counter-­globalisation movement, which in Greece was expressed through the ‘Social Forums’; (2) the student protests of 2006–2007 against the constitutional amendment that would allow for establishment of private universities in Greece; (3), the youth anti-­authoritarian uprising in December 2008, after the killing of a fifteen-­year-old boy by a police officer in the centre of Athens. These movements became leitmotivs in Syriza’s discourse, and acted as symbols of a broad anti-­neoliberal struggle that the party considered necessary for the emancipation and progressive transformation of society. Syriza called on its members to actively participate in these movements not from a vanguardist position, but as individuals that would respect the movements’ autonomous dynamic and, at the same time, would try to learn from them. They were then expected to return to their party with experience and knowledge that would assist in transforming its identity, bringing it closer to society and rendering it more alert to concerns among the popular strata. This rationale was encapsulated in the calls by Syriza’s leadership to ‘let the movements destabilise us’, to ‘learn from the movements’, to act ‘within and beside’ them (Alavanos 2004). This strategy aimed at and, indeed, generated a process of learning for Syriza, the importance of which the party has explicitly acknowledged recently (SYRIZA 2016: 4). Therefore, if the first step of this strategy implied the active individual participation of Syriza’s cadres and members in various social movements (identification), the second step was to represent them in the central political scene, in the parliament as well as in media venues (representation). Importantly, this strategy would be consistently followed during the years of crisis, playing an important role in the party’s breakthrough and electoral success.

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   27 One of the declared aims of Syriza during its early years was the establishment of polarisations whenever the opportunity arose, in a bid to force social subjects that were involved in various kinds of struggles to take sides and become actively politicised. Having diagnosed a prevailing centrist neoliberal consensus across the political landscape, the core constituent of Syriza declared that it would actively try to disturb the ‘prevailing homogeneity’ of the socio-­ political space, so the ‘true dividing lines might come to surface’ (Synaspismos 2005). Syriza thus actively took up the role of representing certain social struggles and demands by way of establishing ‘us versus them’ polarities, in which the us camp was portrayed as the losers and the victims of neoliberal globalisation and deregulation (‘productive forces’, ‘youth’, ‘precarious’, ‘unemployed’, etc.), and the them camp as the few winners and power holders (political-­ economic-media ‘establishment’, elites, the two-­partyism of PASOK-­ND, the banks, the ‘oligarchs’, etc.). In this context, we can highlight traces of Syriza’s populist discourse throughout the 2000s, in the sense that the ‘youth’ and the ‘movements’ seemed to function as ‘empty signifiers’ (Laclau 2005: 41–43) – as general equivalents to the whole of society and especially the precarious sectors – structuring around them various demands in an ‘equivalential chain’ (ibid.: 37). This ‘equivalential chain’ included students’ struggles, the labour movement, environmental initiatives, movements for LGBT rights and gender equality, as well as immigrants’ rights. Represented as a front, these groups and demands were discursively linked and collectively pitted against the neoliberal ‘establishment’. The goal of this strategy was the construction of ‘a new social unity. A kind of unity that would represent the working people, the vulnerable social strata, the youth, the social groups that are marginalized’ (Tsipras 2008a). It is in this sense that, on the organisational level, Syriza has been described as a ‘mass connective party’, as it aspires to connect in a flexible way the diverse actions, initiatives and movements that embody these [political, social, ideological and cultural anti-­capitalist] expressions into a stable federation, and to concern itself with developing popular political capacities as much as with changing state policy. (Spourdalakis 2013: 103) Until the outbreak of the crisis in Greece, and while having consistently followed the above strategy, Syriza had managed to establish a strong presence within social movements and activist initiatives, yet remained a marginal force, polling around 5 per cent at the national level. Its appeal towards the youth, the precarious and the social movements was consistent, but failed to lead to an electoral breakthrough. This can be explained by the various struggles to which Syriza appealed being fragmented. Τhey were not communicating with each other, nor were they oriented towards a common goal. At the same time, the middle classes were still relevantly well off, maintaining their commitment to PASOK and ND. Put simply, until the outbreak of the crisis, Syriza’s populism was articulated

28   Giorgos Katsambekis from a minoritarian position, failing to set up an effective dialectic of representation between particularity and universality (between the ‘youth’ and ‘the people’, between the movements and the whole of society). It is no coincidence that until 2011 Syriza had never mentioned the possibility of exercising power, which means that the coalition did not actively pursue a counter-­hegemonic project. However, as the Greek crisis deepened and austerity hit the majority of the population (especially the middle and lower social strata), causing a broader destabilisation of the system, the preconditions for a unified anti-­austerity and anti-­establishment movement began to take shape.

Peculiarities of Syriza’s early populism Syriza’s early populism exhibited some distinctive traits worth reflecting upon. First, it seems to contradict approaches that define populism as an ideology that constructs a homogenous ‘people’ against an also homogenous ‘establishment’. What we have shown, rather, is that Syriza made an appeal to a ‘plural people’ and expressed an effort to empower the marginalised and excluded groups within society (particularities), which were then identified with the whole community (universality). This type of populist interpellation corresponds to what Carlos de la Torre – drawing on Jacques Rancière – describes as a ‘politics of cultural and symbolic recognition’. This ‘consists in making what is unseen visible, in making what was audible as mere noise heard as speech’ (de la Torre 2015: 8). Interestingly, Tsipras has repeatedly stressed that Syriza’s main aspiration is to give voice to ‘those without a voice’ (Tsipras 2008b; 2008c). Second, we do not just encounter a politics of recognition based on a pluralist worldview, but also a politics of inclusion, as through their symbolic representation as ‘subjects-­that-matter’, various groups that are pushed at the margins of society (the youth, precarious workers, unemployed people, immigrants, LGBT people) were symbolically restored to their status of equal citizen or even of quasi-­universal subject representing broader struggles. In this sense, Syriza’s early discourse, especially when compared to discourses of the Populist Radical Right (see Stavrakakis et al. 2017), confirms the division between inclusionary and exclusionary manifestations of populism within Europe (for a comparison between Europe and Latin America, see Mudde and Kaltwasser 2013). It also confirms Luke March’s point that European left-­wing populism is distinctive in the sense that it ‘emphasizes egalitarianism and inclusivity rather than the openly exclusivist anti-­immigrant or anti-­foreigner concerns of right-­populism’ (March 2011: 122). Finally, Syriza’s discourse during its early years challenges mainstream theories of populism on one more level: that of the meaning of socio-­political divisions, which is supposed to be a primarily moralistic one, dividing society between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ (Mudde 2017; Hawkins 2010). Society is divided between two camps, those ‘without a voice’ and the ‘neoliberal establishment’, but this division is understood in predominantly political, ideological and socio-­ economic terms. It is only on a secondary and peripheral level that this division

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   29 is combined with moral elements assailing the establishment’s corruption, clientelist culture and cronyism. Such findings highlight the need to rethink the validity of the widespread, but rarely tested, assumption that populism is all about moral divisions. This is not to say that moralist framing is not an element of populism at all, as it does indeed manifest. But this happens with different intensity, consistency and significance in the discourse of various populist actors across the world. In this sense, what I want to challenge here is the argument that moralism constitutes a necessary defining trait of populism. Moreover, challenging the ‘moralist thesis’ in populism studies, brings forth a series of questions: how can we establish that the moralist criterion is primary over other criteria in the making of populist polarities? Shouldn’t this be evident in the operation of specific signifiers within a given discursive articulation? And shouldn’t this be somehow measured? It is high time that contemporary research, and especially scholars working within the ideational paradigm, deal with such methodological issues. At the same time, it is crucial to keep in mind that the moralisation of political discourse, ‘the displacement of politics by morality’, has been, according to some scholars, a defining characteristic of non-­populist consensual politics all along (Mouffe 2000; 2005; also Stavrakakis et al. 2017: 424). Indeed, Jan Zielonka (2016) notes that ‘[m]oralistic rhetoric is used by the ruling elite itself on a daily basis: remember the “axis of evil” on the eve of the 2003 Iraq invasion?’. Against the overreliance on moral categories (corrupt/evil vs. pure/virtuous), a truly minimal definition of populism, based on discursive criteria is probably the most apposite framework through which we can understand, analyse and categorise specific populist appeals. First, this does not ascribe to a given populist discourse a specific content (moralist or other) in advance. Second, it provides the tools for a proper discursive analysis of nodal signifiers that give the predominant tenor to each discourse and determine its contingent content (which may indeed be a moralist one, as in the case of Podemos in Spain or Chavismo in Venezuela, but could also be one primarily based on stressing different social interests, as in the case of Syriza or that of Bernie Sanders).

The Greek crisis: dislocation and Syriza’s new equivalential chains Within the context of the severe crisis that hit Greece in 2009–2010, marked by the re-­emergence of a new cycle of social unrest, Syriza advanced a strategy aiming at construction of a new political majority, which was expressed in a campaign for the formation of a ‘government of the Left’. By developing a project to form a government that would include political actors beyond Syriza, the coalition presented for the first time a hegemonic strategy and managed to attract voters from other left parties and organisations. The coalition also changed its name prior to the May 2012 elections to Syriza-­EKM, with EKM standing for Unitary Social Front, as the coalition included new groups and politicians that had defected from PASOK.

30   Giorgos Katsambekis In this context, and as social unrest was mounting, Syriza gradually abandoned its abstract calls to the ‘youth’ and the ‘movements’, replacing them with a more inclusive call to ‘the people’. By late 2011, the crisis had initiated a twofold process that transformed both Syriza’s discourse and its virtual constituency. On the one hand, growing impoverishment, frustration and anger led large sections of voters across the political spectrum to abandon their previous party preferences and enter a more fluid stage. On the other hand, as Syriza realised that it could take a leap towards representing a potential new social majority, it started to address broader audiences, speaking in the name of ‘the people’, in the name of the vast majority of citizens. This ‘people’ was constructed as a diverse set of anti-­austerity struggles and demands as well as ‘ordinary people’, forming a chain of equivalence that was pitted against the policies dictated by the ‘memoranda’ of austerity as well as against the bipartisanship of PASOK and ND. In the place of youth’s struggles, new social movements were now brought to the fore as central points of reference. The most significant among these struggles, with which Syriza interacted and tried to actively represent, were: (1) the environmental struggle of villagers in Skouries (Northern Greece) against mining activity that had serious environmental impact for their region; (2) the anti-­landfill protests on the outskirts of Athens in Keratea, which had been met with police brutality; (3) the civil disobedience movement ‘I Am Not Paying’, which focused on the dramatic rise of road tolls at Greece’s national roads that were operating under private companies – this movement then developed into a broader movement against all sorts of private debt that was considered socially unfair; (4) the struggle of employees from the Public Broadcaster (ERT) after it was suddenly shut down by Antonis Samaras’ government in June 2013, resulting in loss of approximately 2,700 jobs (BBC 2013); (5) the struggle of the ‘cleaning ladies’ that were placed in a state of mobility in September 2013 and then fired from the Ministry of Finance (Marti 2014). These cleaning ladies, as was the case with the working people in ERT, represented in Syriza’s discourse the struggle of thousands of public sector employees that were laid off to fulfil Greece’s terms for the bailout programme (Syriza 2014b; 2014d). In this sense, Syriza followed the same strategy it had deployed with the youth’s movements in the past, trying to link a series of struggles into a broader social front against austerity and the political ‘establishment’. But the most crucial point in this strategy was Syriza’s interaction with the ‘squares movement’, the so-­called aganaktismenoi. This movement helped in unifying and symbolically representing several different struggles as one broader social/ popular front. Syriza chose to first interact ‘horizontally’ with the protests, motivating its members and supporters to participate as individuals (Eleftheriou 2016: 297). Thus, the political organisation pursued identification with the mobilisations, by becoming part of them in a discreet and often spontaneous way. The second step was to represent the movement within parliamentary politics (see Tsipras 2011b), taking a crucial step from identification to representation. It is worth taking a closer look at how this strategy worked in practice.

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   31 When the movement emerged in May 2011, Syriza called its members to participate in the demonstrations and square occupations individually, as citizens, without trying to actively propagate their party’s positions. At the same time, Syriza celebrated the aganaktismenoi as ‘an autonomous and promising movement, a manifestation of popular indignation that can render society and the common people the leading actors in the upcoming developments’ (Synaspismos 2011). For Tsipras, the aganaktismenoi prefigured a new social majority that was starting to take shape, and mainly consisted of frustrated voters of PASOK, but also of ND. The declared aim of Syriza was to express this social majority and to work towards transforming it into a political majority, building a new alliance among progressive actors that had been consistently opposing austerity (Tsipras 2011a). As such, this new political project reflected the heterogeneity and subversive character of the squares themselves: ‘The squares are the space and the bond that articulates various heterogeneities, many particular movements that seek a new way to mobilise and politicise, and constitute a significant force of dispute, resistance and subversion’ (Syriza 2011). The period during the mobilisations of the aganaktismenoi and its immediate aftermath was a turning point and a precondition for Syriza’s breakthrough for two main reasons. First, it led to a significant transformation in its public discourse. From this point onwards, Syriza adopted as its core discursive cleavage one that divided society between the ‘pro-­memorandum’ and the ‘anti-­ memorandum’ forces. This cleavage supplemented or at times reinforced the divide between Left and Right, identifying the anti-­memorandum political camp with the popular masses, and the pro-­memorandum political camp with the elites. The aim for Syriza was to establish itself as the most viable voice of the anti-­memorandum forces within the party system, as the political representative of anti-­austerity, anti-­neoliberal and anti-­establishment sentiments within Greek society. It thus broadened its calls to various social groups, mainly defectors from PASOK, in a bid to occupy the space increasingly left empty after the latter had implemented an agenda of restrictive fiscal policies and severe budget cuts. Second, this moment, as a major point of rupture, was the catalyst that unlocked Syriza’s prospect of becoming a viable challenger party and a contender for power. To put it in Laclau’s terms, the emergence, persistence and massiveness of the movement of the aganaktismenoi, fuelled by a plurality of frustrated demands, revealed an already present structural crisis, a dislocation of the Greek political system (Laclau 2005: 46). This dislocation triggered an uncontrolled dynamic of de-­identification and defection of voters, creating a new pool of ‘floating’ subjects. Syriza was placed in a favourable position from where it could effectively address broad social strata that were frustrated and searched for channels to express their anger and opposition to austerity. The other political forces on the anti-­establishment camp were already dismantled for different reasons. The Greek Communist Party (KKE), on the Left, was hostile to the movement, as the Party couldn’t control it and chose to regard it as utterly harmless

32   Giorgos Katsambekis to the ‘capitalist establishment’. Hence, instead of opening up to the anti-­ austerity protests, it chose to organise its own separate demonstrations with its unions and members, tightly controlled and organised by the party hierarchy (see Tsakatika and Eleftheriou 2013). The Populist Radical Right party LAOS, on the other side, was unable to address the protests because it had chosen to support austerity policies. And with ND unable to communicate with the movement, Syriza posed as the most probable political formation to capitalise on the anti-­austerity wave. When, in November 2011, ND officially declared that it would support the ‘memoranda’ and austerity, the political space to represent anti-­austerity sentiments was left wide open to Syriza, while social anger would now be directly expressed against both pillars of Greece’s bipartisan system.3

Prefiguring an alternative, capturing power Calling upon ‘the people’ and advocating ousting of the ‘austerity governments’ was only one component of Syriza’s populist strategy. The party at the same time tried to put forth a radical alternative. In this effort, Syriza embraced most of the demands of the anti-­austerity movements and local struggles. Its new programme was based on an alternative mixture of economic and social policies, mainly of neo-­Keynesian and social-­democratic orientation, involving a decisive break with the politics of austerity and a renegotiation of the Greek sovereign debt. In May–June 2012, Syriza called for a broad coalition among parties and organisations left to PASOK that would lead to a ‘government of the left’, which would fight to annul the ‘memoranda’, while securing Greece’s place within the Eurozone. This government would raise taxation on big business and the rich, put the banking sector under social control, call a moratorium on debt repayment until the Greek economy restarted to grow, provide universal access to welfare, and scrap salary cuts and emergency taxes (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014: 126). Renewed democracy, popular sovereignty, as well as social and human rights formed significant pillars of Syriza’s programme too (Syriza-­EKM 2012: 4). In its electoral Declaration, the party set out to stage the core division within the Greek society, pitting ‘the people’ against the ‘two-­party establishment’. They decided without us, we move on without them. The upcoming critical elections will determine the present and the future of the country. NOW is the time for the struggles of our people to be vindicated, for two-­partyism to be punished and defeated, for the memoranda and the troika to be condemned. A new social and political majority, with the radical Left in its core, can overthrow the rotten two-­party political system and create alternative government structures, where the people will be a protagonist. […]

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   33 Now, the people are voting! Now the people are taking power! In these elections [the people] can and should close a sad parenthesis with their vote; [the people can] end the regime of the memoranda and the troika and open a new page of hope and optimism for the future. (Syriza-­EKM 2012: 1, 6; emphasis added) The terms of this antagonism are spelt out within the text. The enemy of the people is ‘this particular economic and social system’, which is aligned with ‘globalised capitalism’ and understands speculation and profit as guiding principles in organising society (ibid. 6, 2). The ones who profit from the system are also identified: private banks and bankers, big businessmen, international speculators, big industrialists, etc. Thus the terms of society’s division between two antagonistic camps – between the few, that are the winners, and the many, that are the losers – is primarily cast along ideologico-­political and socio-­economic terms. It is the logic of profit and individualism, which lies in the heart of contemporary globalised capitalism, that is recognised as the main problem.4 Not the corrupt or evil nature of the elites that are supressing the pure people. In other words, the main division here is one of interests, not morality. It is also important to stress that during the 2012 campaign, Syriza for the first time put forth a straightforward claim to power (Tsipras 2012a; 2012b). Until then, the aim was rather that of a strong, militant opposition which could act as a disruptive force within the parliament, trying to block certain policies. From that point on, however, the party started to aim at the overthrowing of the then-­ hegemonic political forces of the centre-­left and centre-­right, envisioning a radical break with the previous order and declaring that it was now ready and able to assume government responsibility (Tsakatika 2016). Syriza lost the 2012 elections, but maintained its upward dynamic. Two years later, and after having become a unified party, it managed to overtake the then incumbent ND in the European elections of May 2014 (26.56 per cent to 22.72 per cent). The central slogan for its campaign for the European election of 2014 was typically divisive: ‘Our patience is over. On 25 May we vote, they leave’ (Syriza 2014a). On the one side, ‘the people’ (‘workers, farmers, the youth, the unemployed, pensioners, craftsmen, intellectuals’) were called upon to unite, claiming a protagonist position in a new political era. On the other side, Syriza attacked the ‘triangle of corruption […] the political establishment – bankers and real estate moguls – systemic media’, which ‘should be left in the past’ (ibid.). The people’s protagonist position was constructed around a programme which emphasised a series of key objectives: (1) the immediate recession of the humanitarian crisis; (2) the satisfaction of social needs; (3) the reconstruction of the productive sectors; (4) the reinvigoration of democracy; (5) the redistribution of wealth; and (6) the expansion of social and collective rights. The European elections were seen as the ‘chance for the Greek people to highlight the incompatibility of the government’s politics with the popular will’, but also a chance to show people throughout Europe that there can be an alternative to austerity, triggering a wave of pan-­European change (Syriza 2014a). The concluding

34   Giorgos Katsambekis statement of Syriza’s campaign leaflet for this election highlighted the polarity that the party wanted to establish, and also illustrated the way in which its discourse was affectively invested, with a strong emotional language that purported to generate both negative passions of rejection (against pro-­austerity forces) and positive ones, of hope (projected on Syriza): This May belongs to the people. We can and we must win. […] Let’s end those that supported or tolerated the memoranda, the troikas, austerity, racism and fascism. Citizens of Greece, people of Europe, unite! So that we can put an end to the degradation of our life. So that we can regain democracy. (SYRIZA 2014a) After winning the European elections, and as Greece entered an undeclared pre-­ electoral period, Syriza focused on communicating its programme to the public. The key signifier in the party’s new optimist and forward-­looking campaign was ‘hope’, an empty signifier par excellence: ‘Hope is coming: Greece moves on. Europe changes’ read the main slogan for the new campaign. The passionate rejection of bipartisanship and austerity, the strong emphasis on what the Greek people had lost during the years of the crisis (emphasised in previous campaigns of 2012 and 2014), was replaced with the prefiguration of a possible alternative that would benefit the majority of the ‘have-­nots’ and force the few ‘haves’ to pay their fair share. The most emblematic moment of this campaign was probably the so-­called ‘Programme of Thessaloniki’ (SYRIZA 2014c), which – after amendments – provided the platform for Syriza’s first term in office. During the run up to the election of January 2015, Syriza further emphasised its calls to restore the sovereignty of the people, while attacking the established ‘oligarchy’: […] you are SYRIZA. And you are the only ones we are counting on. We are not counting on big enterprises, on bankers, or media owners. We are counting on you. Not on the oligarchy […] On [you] the sovereign people. (Tsipras in SYRIZA 2015a) Referring to Greece’s anti-­austerity movement and linking it to similar social movements in Europe, Tsipras pledged to protect the interests of the ‘99 per cent’ against the ‘1 per cent’ of a privileged elite (Tsipras 2015), echoing the well-­known slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement that had erupted some years earlier in the US. After five years of social devastation and fear for a looming bankruptcy, Greek voters chose ‘hope’ over ‘fear’ in the election of January 2015, giving Syriza an overwhelming victory over its main opponent, ND (36.34 per cent to 27.81 per cent). Syriza then immediately formed a coalition government with the Independent Greeks (ANEL), a small anti-­austerity nationalist-­ populist party, formed after a split from ND in 2012. The new government

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   35 was soon faced with a series of difficulties and impasses that eventually led Syriza to drop most of its pre-­electoral promises and pledge to continue austerity in July 2015, signing yet another new bailout deal with the European institutions. However, the party did not shed its populist profile. Syriza’s populism actually transformed, in a way that seems reminiscent of Ostiguy’s concept of ‘dirty institutionality’ (Ostiguy 2014).

Syriza in power So, how did Syriza manage to cope with the paradox of populism in power? That is, how did the party try to stay consistent with its populist and anti-­establishment appeals once it assumed office? We can discern two different phases that correspond to Syriza’s first term (January 2015–August 2015) and second term in office (September 2015–today). Syriza’s official discourse during the first term remained defiant against Greece’s foreign lenders and the domestic ‘establishment’, but operated mostly on the symbolic level, with little impact on tangible policies. Things changed after Syriza’s leadership decided to accept a new bailout agreement, a new memorandum, right after the referendum of July 2015. During the second term in office, Syriza’s discourse started to become more managerial and attached to the workings of the state apparatus, in an effort by the government to justify the new austerity measures and the need for the party to remain in power. The argument was that they would implement austerity with social sensitivity (in a ‘defensive’ manner), while managing public administration in a more efficient and transparent way. At the same time, during this second term in office Syriza managed to pass a series of significant reforms in accordance with its programme, which had a more tangible effect. Such reforms focused on enhancing minority rights, making the electoral system more proportional, restoring some of the labour rights that had been abolished in previous years and ensuring universal access to the health system. At the same time, the party passed a series of structural reforms that one would expect from mainstream centre-­right or centre-­left parties, which were linked to the bailout. Let’s try to focus on those two phases in a bit more detail. Syriza’s first term in office was characterised by what one could call defiant voluntarism. During the first month in power, the Syriza-­led administration tried to swiftly reverse a series of unpopular neoliberal policies, articulating at the same time a defiant discourse against the monitoring institutions of Greece’s bailout programme. Even though those first moves (be it at the negotiation tables at Brussels or within parliament procedure) were mostly symbolic and had little impact on the lives of the citizens (the public statements of ministers claiming to annul several ‘memorandum’ laws eventually did not change anything in practice), the image of a Greek government that was voicing the people’s rejection of austerity, making it heard to Brussels and beyond, seemed to symbolically restore the hurt dignity and pride of the Greek people, who up until then were used to their governments accepting rather

36   Giorgos Katsambekis passively the dictates of the ‘troika’ (see Stavrakakis 2015: 277–278). This did not just restore the dignity of the people, performing a politics of symbolic recognition of the frustrated and impoverished popular sectors. It did something more: it revived, in a performative way, the notion of democratic representation and popular sovereignty, as Syriza officials could publicly claim that they were fighting to implement a programme that was supported by the popular mandate, breaking with a tradition of unresponsive and unreliable political elites. These efforts created a sense of proximity between citizens and the government, as significant segments of the population were feeling that their desires and aspirations were represented at the highest level and expressed through the initiatives and actions of the Syriza-­ANEL government. This seems to be in line with Pierre Ostiguy’s (2014) interesting argument that populism in office occupies two seemingly incompatible positions at the same time: that of the expression of a unified chain of popular demands (the popular pole) and that of the expression of institutional power (the institutional pole). Syriza could thus claim that as a governing party they still fought for the people’s demand to end austerity. But being in office did not mean that they were also in power: the ones in power, according to Syriza, were still the representatives of the political, economic and media ‘establishment’ and the dominant forces within the EU itself. This is something that is often stressed or implied by Syriza officials even today (see also Douzinas 2017). In the words of a former prominent Syriza minister, ‘we might be in government, but that does not mean that we are in power’ (Filis in Breyanni 2015). In this sense, the populist frontier during these first months in office was only modified and re-­articulated. The approval ratings for Syriza at this phase were impressively high. This was not only demonstrated in the relevant opinion polls,5 but was also evident in the pro-­government rallies in mid-­February 2015 at Syntagma square outside the Greek parliament, where thousands of protesters demonstrated under the slogan ‘Breath of Dignity’. These demonstrations were a quasi-­continuation of the ‘squares movement’ and a link to the demonstrations that supported the ‘NO’ vote in the referendum of July 2015 that was soon to follow. However, Syriza was soon forced to accept a four-­month extension to the bailout programme signed by the previous administration, marking a first defeat of the party in its effort to annul the ‘memoranda’. The government managed to present this transitory agreement to the public as a temporary strategic retreat that would buy some much-­needed time for the intense negotiations to bear fruit. What followed was a period of intense negotiations and economic uncertainty as rumours of looming bankruptcy appeared in the Greek and international media. As the extension expired and things were moving towards a deadlock, Tsipras made a rather unexpected move. After he was handed an ultimatum on yet another bailout programme in the summer of 2015, he decided to call for a referendum, letting the people decide whether or not his government should accept the harsh measures contained in this proposal (Tsatsanis and Teperoglou 2016). This was an emblematic moment for Syriza’s populist strategy, as the referendum crystallised a deep division within the Greek political system and society:

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   37 that between the populist and anti-­populist camp, between the anti-­austerity and pro-­austerity forces. The two opposing camps were expressed through demonstrations in the streets, with supporters of the YES campaign rallying outside the parliament under the banner ‘We stay in Europe’. These demonstrations were soon followed by those of the NO campaign that were equally massive. Syriza’s pamphlet for the referendum read ‘NO: for democracy and dignity’, calling for the people to take on a ‘historic responsibility’ to safeguard democracy against those that undermine it (Syriza 2015b), while attacking both the ‘conservative circles’ within the EU and the Greek political ‘establishment’. The case of the Greek referendum highlights what ‘dirty institutionality’ might look like in practice. It also gave the chance for Syriza to appear as the champion of popular demands against a neoliberal European establishment that wanted to keep Greece and the European periphery under draconian austerity. For Syriza, this European establishment (the ‘extreme neoliberal circles’ or ‘team Schäuble’, as Syriza depicted them) was in alliance with political and economic elites within Greece, which formed an ‘oligarchy’ that was used to profiting at the expense of the many (Syriza 2016). The NO camp gathered the support of more than 61 per cent of the voters, marking another major electoral victory for Syriza. Even with the banks closed, under capital controls, and with the mainstream media openly championing the YES campaign (confirming Syriza’s populist narrative that their government was fighting against a multifaceted ‘establishment’), the majority of voters chose to reject the bailout proposal, which had been presented to them as an ‘ultimatum’. However, Greece’s EU partners hardened their stance against the Syriza-­led government, threatening Greece with a violent exit from the Eurozone and even doubting the country’s place within the EU. This resulted in the acceptance of a new bailout agreement by Tsipras, which for many among his party’s members and voters meant that the NO vote in the referendum was effectively turned into a YES (Kouvelakis 2015). The acceptance of a new ‘memorandum’ led to serious internal strife in Syriza, with 43 MPs of the party not supporting the deal in parliament in August 2015. Under the circumstances, Tsipras soon called for a snap election, held in September 2015. The rationale for the new election was that his government had exhausted its popular mandate and citizens had to decide anew which party was going to implement the new programme. Syriza’s campaign leading to the election was significantly different from the one that had brought it to power several months previously. In January 2015, Syriza rallied the people around the promise for a radical break with austerity, the reinvigoration of welfare, the restarting of the economy and the boosting of employment. In September 2015, the party had to campaign after having just signed a new bailout agreement which furthered austerity, going against the popular sentiment. Declaring that the new bailout agreement was signed under immense pressure and to ward off bankruptcy and a disastrous ‘Grexit’, Syriza’s campaign placed at the forefront a division between the ‘old’ (represented by ND) and the ‘new’

38   Giorgos Katsambekis (represented by Syriza). A campaign in which the figure of Tsipras himself played a central role. The main slogan for the campaign read: ‘We are getting rid of the old. We are winning tomorrow’. At stake in the election was mainly preventing the ‘old establishment’ from coming back to power: [Will you side] With ND and their allies, that devastated the country? Or with SYRIZA and their allies, that bled to get Greece out of the impasse? […] We decide with our hand on our heart and our minds on tomorrow. Not on who is going to sit on the chair. But on whom has stood, whom is standing and will keep standing straight, next to the people, with the people and for the people. (Tsipras in Efsyn 2015) After winning the snap election, Syriza stressed that despite the limitations of the new memorandum the government would move on to implement a ‘parallel programme’. This comprised a series of measures that aimed to protect the most vulnerable segments of the Greek society, while pursuing the expansion of social rights. But implementation of the parallel programme was again met with hostility by Greece’s European partners, leading the Greek government to yet another retreat. After that, Syriza chose to focus more on issues such as tackling corruption and fighting tax-­evasion (Katsourides 2016: 126), something that was reflected in increasing moralisation of the party’s discourse that now stressed the government’s ‘war on corruption’. Having seriously retreated on the policy agenda, especially concerning economic and social issues, Syriza needed to stress a field on which it could better pick its battles with its main rival, ND. ‘Corruption’ provided that field, soon leading to the exchange of allegations for various scandals between government and opposition (Katsambekis 2018). But this was not the only field where Syriza chose to pick their fights while in office, as the party’s ministers moved swiftly to push forward a robust rights agenda that could set it apart from its conservative opponents. To be more specific, Syriza managed to pass a series of relevant reforms through the parliament, the most significant among which were: (1) a law granting citizenship to second generation immigrants; (2) recognition of civil partnership for same-­sex couples; (3) recognition of the right to change sex identity to citizens over the age of 15; and (4) allowing same-­sex couples to foster children. These laws were not supported by Syriza’s partner in government, ANEL, with MPs of the latter often adopting anti-­immigrant and homophobic rhetoric. However, they were voted by MPs of the centre and centre-­left (PASOK and Potami), something which further highlights the importance of the ‘host ideology’ in populist parties’ parliamentary behaviour and policy impact (March 2017; Otjes and Lowerse 2015). In the same context, the Syriza-­led government made significant steps in terms of foreign policy, reaching a deal with its neighbouring country, Macedonia, and ending a decades-­old dispute over the latter’s official name (from now on Northern Macedonia); a dispute that had fuelled bitter nationalism at both sides of the border (Paun 2018). Not surprisingly, the deal was vehemently opposed both by Syriza’s partner, ANEL, and by the conservative opposition, ND.

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   39 Overall, Syriza’s discourse retains significant populist characteristics, even though it has become less populist and more pragmatic/managerial than before. References to ‘the people’, popular sovereignty and equality are still very often employed, especially when debating major policy issues. The same is true regarding the attacks on the elites, which are nowadays mostly targeted against the main opposition party, ND, but also the ‘media oligarchs’. What seems to differentiate Syriza’s late populism is first, that the key divisions put forth in the party’s discourse have become more moralistic, on the one hand, and all the more targeted specifically against the right-­wing opposition on the other. Indeed, the party now focuses more on the ‘corruption’ of the old party establishment, of the mainstream media and of a nexus of interrelated vested interests (in sectors such as banking, oil, shipping and construction), which are allegedly profiting at the expense of the Greek society. Second, even though in the past Syriza had fashioned an organisational model that embraced different orientations within it and harboured organs that held the leadership accountable, after 2012, and even more vividly after 2015, it has gradually become more leader-­centric. It is indicative that the September 2015 campaign of the party was built almost solely around Tsipras himself, with one of the key slogans reading ‘On 20 September we vote for a Prime Minister’, using Tsipras’ face in almost every TV spot.6 On the other hand, Syriza has emphasised a series of value-­based divides, positioning itself as the defender of civil and political rights, the defender of the Enlightenment’s legacy, against ND and the conservative camp that are portrayed as backward and wanting to keep significant segments of the population marginalised and silenced. What is more, and especially as Greece was getting closer to the conclusion of the third bailout programme, Syriza brought again to the fore a series of reforms aiming at reinforcing the welfare state, restoring basic labour rights that were abolished in previous years and raising salaries and pensions. In this sense, and despite the increasing significance of moral divisions, a crucial element of continuity in Syriza’s discourse is the party’s effort to defend a pluralistic version of ‘the people’, one that transcends the boundaries of ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation, but also an effort to highlight the party’s left-­wing identity and commitment to what is indeed a social-­democratic agenda. It is within this context that some of Syriza’s key officials (including the government’s vice-­President) now openly champion the formation of a broad progressive alliance against the right and far-­right. This strategic approach with the centre-­left has been very clear on the European level too. It is no coincidence that Tsipras has participated in the Party of European Socialists (PES) summits on several occasions. This trajectory, in terms of ideological and programmatic moderation, is quite similar to the German Left (Die Linke) as well as the Dutch Socialist Party (SP) (see Lucardie and Voerman, Chapter 5, this volume; Hough and Keith, Chapter 6, this volume), something that raises the question of the proximity between today’s (populist) radical left and social-­democratic forces in Europe.

40   Giorgos Katsambekis

Concluding remarks To conclude, Syriza’s short march to power presents a unique case of electorally successful radical left populism in contemporary Europe. Indeed, Syriza is the only Populist Radical Left party that has entered government as the main coalition partner in more than three decades.7 The party’s populism both in opposition and in power has remained inclusionary and egalitarian, whereas its programme and ideological profile have significantly moderated after assuming office, moving all the more closer to social democracy. At the same time, the party has reluctantly implemented a set of restrictive fiscal policies that are far from the left’s toolkit, while trying to push for measures that would protect the most vulnerable sections of society. In my analysis, I have shown how Syriza’s populism was first articulated from a minoritarian position, calling on various social movements to pose a challenge to the neoliberal agenda of the two traditional parties of the centre-­left and centre-­right that had dominated Greece’s political system since the mid-­ 1970s. As the crisis deepened, Syriza claimed that its warnings against the excesses of neoliberalism had come true. At the same time, the party embraced the anti-­austerity movement against the governments of PASOK and ND that were implementing the first two bailout programmes. Syriza managed to formulate and communicate its own version of the crisis, as a ‘humanitarian crisis’, for which the two traditional political forces of Greece as well as Europe’s ‘neoliberal elites’ were blamed. But this crisis was also signified in terms of a radical incompatibility between ‘the people’ and the political system, between popular demands and desires and the policies that were put forth by PASOK and ND, that were depicted as alienated from society, unresponsive and corrupt. This crisis of political representation (Roberts 2015: 147–150) was expressed through the multifaceted anti-­austerity movement and nationwide protests (especially the ‘squares movement’), as well as the mass defection of voters from the two parties that had been altering in power for almost four decades, which fuelled Syriza’s breakthrough and ‘unlocked’ its office-­seeking strategy. To draw on Laclau’s work, the choreography of events that led to Syriza’s march to power correspond to ‘a situation in which a plurality of unsatisfied demands and an increasing inability of the institutional system to absorb them differentially coexist’, resulting in a populist rupture (Laclau 2005: 38). A significant part of the recent literature is pointing at this very condition for the emergence and success of populist actors, namely the unresponsiveness of the established political forces, a ‘gap’ in representation which creates the room – and the conditions – for a populist actor to claim that they represent ‘the people’s’ grievances and aspirations (apart from Roberts 2015, see also Kaltwasser 2015; van Kessel 2015). In this context, the study of Syriza and of its populist character can contribute to a better understanding of the particularities of the new radical left in crisis-­hit Europe, but also to the empirical and theoretical analysis of populism in general. Indeed, Syriza’s populism seems to present a challenge to mainstream theories

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   41 of populism that understand it as an ideology or worldview that operates primarily on a moralist level and creates a necessarily homogeneous ‘people’. Contrary to such assumptions, the divisions playing out in Syriza’s discourse were, until recently, first and foremost signified in political and socio-­economic terms, stressing competing social interests and presenting the various stakes in relation to specific ideologico-­political traditions and programmatic agendas (i.e. neoliberalism vs. socialism of the twenty-­first century, deregulation vs. social protection, exclusion vs. inclusion, austerity vs. expansionary fiscal policies). Second, ‘the people’ are portrayed as a plural and heterogeneous collective subject unified against an ‘establishment’ that is threatening its well-­being. Indeed, whereas references to ‘unity’ are constant, it is almost impossible to find a description of ‘the people’ as homogeneous in Syriza’s discourse. Syriza’s populism after assuming office has both transformed and moderated. However, it remains a defining feature of the party, as it is consistently employed, especially in times when decisive political issues are on the agenda. After a first term of high symbolisms and impasses that were largely the result of a lack of personnel with experience in government (see on this Albertazzi and McDonnell 2015: 9, 171–172), as well as a serious misjudgement of the room that the Greek government had for manoeuvre within the EU, the party moderated its discourse and programme during its second term in office. Interestingly, Syriza quickly adapted to government constraints imposed on Greece by its EU partners and lenders, and managed to successfully conclude an extremely demanding structural adjustment programme, that often brought it into collision with its supporters (with many of them, according to opinion polls, withdrawing their support from the party) as well as some of its political allies in Europe (most notably, Jean-­Luc Mélenchon, who has recently called for Syriza’s dismissal from the Party of the European Left). It was during this process of programmatic moderation that moral divisions started to gain prominence in Syriza’s discourse, especially when the party targeted its main opponent, and according to opinion polls ‘government-­inwaiting’, ND, as well as specific media groups that were considered hostile to the government. My hypothesis is that the recent (and indeed increasing) moralisation of Syriza’s discourse has been rather strategic, as it manifested exactly at the moment that the party had to compromise and implement a series of reforms that went against its campaign promises and its ideological core. To put it into other words, the division ‘corrupt’ versus ‘pure’ seemed to come to the fore whenever the distinction between left and right was blurred by policy practice. Of course, this is something that will need further research to be substantiated. It would be very interesting to see relevant qualitative and quantitative studies comparatively assess the fluctuations and significance of moral framings in the discourse of Syriza, as well as other populist actors in the future. Through such studies, we can take a step from uncritically identifying moralism with populism, to problematising and understanding the role and significance of moral framings in the politics of populist (and non-­populist) actors across different regions and contexts.

42   Giorgos Katsambekis As these last lines are written, Syriza is celebrating Greece’s exit from the bailout programmes and the severe austerity as well as policy restrictions that they had imposed (Kathimerini 2018). The Syriza-­ANEL coalition has proven remarkably resilient in government, despite rising social discontent, and even looks likely to conclude its four-­year term in office. It remains to be seen whether Syriza will implement some of the promises that brought it to power and which had been put on hold after the party’s ‘pragmatic shift’ in 2015. We will then be in a better position to assess whether Syriza’s ‘populist promise’ has been a ‘failure’ or not (see Mudde 2017). In any case, the Greek political systems remains one of the most complex and interesting ‘laboratories’ of populist politics in today’s turbulent world.

Notes 1 Sections of this chapter draw heavily on my article ‘Radical Left Populism in Contemporary Greece: Syriza’s Trajectory from Minoritarian Opposition to Power’, Constellations 23(3), 2016, 391–403. 2 In 2012, Tsipras was asked what he thought about school teachers who were illegally delivering private lessons to generate extra income, without declaring this to the tax authorities. He admitted that such practices were common among school teachers. But he added that this was only happening because they do not receive a proper salary from the state, so they are doing whatever is necessary to support themselves and their families (Doxiadis 2012). In this sense, their petty corruption, their ‘impurity’ was indeed acknowledged, but nevertheless considered justified with reference to their socio-­ economic marginalisation by the establishment. 3 Sofia Vasilopoulou, Daphne Halikiopoulou and Theofanis Exadaktylos’ study of party discourses in Greece from December 2009 to December 2011, shows that during that period ‘SYRIZA blamed PASOK overwhelmingly and significantly more than the other fringe parties’, while it also ‘focused on PASOK and ND combined, blaming the political system that had been dominated by these two parties for over three decades’ (Vasilopoulou et al. 2014: 397). 4 Even though this is not within the scope of the chapter, it is worth taking into account here the Marxist background of several of Syriza’s top officials, for example, the Minister of Finance, Euclid Tsakalotos (see Laskos and Tsakalotos 2013). Despite the party’s significant moderation and approach with the centre-­left, key themes from the Marxist arsenal still seem to inform the ways that groups and individuals within Syriza understand and frame social divisions. 5 In February 2015, around 69 per cent of the electorate regarded the Syriza-­ANEL government as the ‘best government’ for the country compared to a ND government that had the approval of a mere 10 per cent (Public Issue 2015). This, of course, has dramatically changed today, with only 19 per cent of the electorate considering a Syriza-­ ANEL government best suited to deal with Greece’s problems, against a 35 per cent that prefers Syriza’s main opponent, ND (Public Issue 2018). 6 [in Greek]. 7 The last time that a populist left party had risen to power was the PASOK of Andreas Papandreou in Greece in 1981 (see Lyrintzis 1987).

References Alavanos, A. (2004) ‘With Synaspismos, for the Revolutionary Humanist Socialist Values’,, 7 November. Available at: (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek].

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   43 Albertazzi, D. and McDonnell, D. (2015) Populists in Power, Abingdon: Routledge. BBC (2013) ‘ERT Closure: Greek Parties Urge Change of Course’,, 12 June. Available at:­europe-22871734 (accessed 1 March 2015). Breyanni, K. (2015) ‘N. Filis: We Took the Government, Not Power – An. Kavvadia: Participation, Not Delegation’, Avgi, 7 April. Available at: n-­philes-perame-­ten-kybernese-­ochi-ten-­exousia-an-­kabbadia-symmetoche-­kai-och (accessed 1 May 2018) [in Greek]. de Cleen, B., Mondon, A. and Glynos, J. (2018) ‘Critical Research on Populism: Nine Rules of Engagement’, Organization, DOI: 10.1177/1350508418768053. de Cleen, B. and Stavrakakis, Y. (2017) ‘Distinctions and Articulations: A Discourse Theoretical Framework for the Study of Populism and Nationalism’, Javnost – The Public 24(4): 301‑319. de la Torre, C. (2015) ‘Introduction: Power to the People? Populism, Insurrections, Democratization’, in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1–28. Douzinas, C. (2017) Syriza in Power, Cambridge: Polity Press. Doxiadis, A. (2012) ‘A Truth From Mr Tsipras About the Market’, Protagon, 12 September. Available at:­alitheia-gia-­tin-agora-­apoton-­k-tsipra-­18257000000 (accessed 1 May 2018) [in Greek]. Efsyn (2015) ‘By Ourselves, Against All of Them, and We Shall Defeat Them’, Efsyn, 3 September. Available at:­mas-kai-­oloi-toys-­kai-tha-­toysnikisoyme (accessed 1 May 2018) [in Greek]. Eleftheriou, C. (2009) ‘The Uneasy “Symbiosis.” Factionalism and Radical Politics in Synaspismos’, paper prepared for presentation at the 4th Hellenic Observatory PhD Symposium, London School of Economics. Eleftheriou, C. (2016) ‘Greek Radical Left Responses to the Crisis’, in March, L. and Keith, D. (eds) Europe’s Radical Left: From Marginality to the Mainstream?, London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 289–309. Gerbaudo, P. (2017) The Mask and the Flag: Populism, Citizenism and Global Protest, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Grattan, L. (2016) Populism’s Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy in America, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hawkins, K. (2010) Venezuela’s Chavismo and Populism in Comparative Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kaltwasser, C. R. (2015) ‘Explaining the Emergence of Populism in Europe and the Americas’, in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 189‑230. Kathimerini (2018) ‘Tsipras Marks Bailout Exit with Swipes at Predecessors’, ekathimerini. com, 21 August. Available at: tsipras-­marks-bailout-­exit-with-­swipes-at-­predecessors (accessed 8 September 2018). Katsambekis, G. (2014a) ‘The Place Of The People In Post-­Democracy: Researching “Antipopulism” and Post-­Democracy In Crisis-­Ridden Greece’, Postdata, 19(2): 555–582. Katsambekis, G. (2014b) ‘The Multitudinous Moment(s) of the People: Democratic Agency Disrupting Established Binarisms’, in Kioupkiolis, A. and Katsambekis, G. (eds) Radical Democracy and Collective Movements Today: The Biopolitics of the Multitude versus the Hegemony of the People, Farnham: Ashgate, 169–190. Katsambekis, G. (2018) ‘Re-­igniting Political Polarisation in Greece: The “Liberal” Opposition’s Turn to the Right and the Challenges for Democracy’, openDemocracy, 11 March. Available at:­europe-make-­it/giorgios-­katsambekis/re-­ igniting-political-­polarisation-in-­greece-liberal-­opposit (accessed 1 May 2018).

44   Giorgos Katsambekis Katsourides, Y. (2016) Radical Left Parties in Government, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Kioupkiolis, A. (2016) ‘Podemos: The Ambiguous Promises of Left-­wing Populism in Contemporary Spain’, Journal of Political Ideologies 21(2): 99–120. Kouvelakis, S. (2015) ‘Turning “No” Into a Political Front’, Jacobin, 3 August. Available at:­debt-germany-­greece-euro (accessed 1 January 2019). Laclau, E. (2005) ‘Populism: What’s in a Name?’ in Panizza, F. (ed.) Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, London: Verso, 32–49. Laskos, C. and Tsakalotos, E. (2013) Crucible of Resistance Greece, the Eurozone and the World Economic Crisis, London: Pluto Press. Lyrintzis, C. (1987) ‘The Power of Populism: The Greek Case’, European Journal of Political Research 15(6): 667–686. Lyrintzis, C. (2005) ‘The Changing Party System: Stable Democracy, Contested “Modernisation” ’, West European Politics 28(2): 242–259. March, L. (2011) Radical Left Parties in Europe, London: Routledge. March, L. (2017) ‘Left and Right Populism Compared: The British Case’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19(2): 282–303. Marti, B. (2014) ‘In Athens, Women Cleaners Reject Austerity’s Mess’, Women In and Beyond the Global, 6 April. Available at: (accessed 1 March 2015). Moffitt, B. (2016) The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Mouffe, C. (2000) The Democratic Paradox, London: Verso. Mouffe, C. (2005) On the Political, London: Routledge. Mudde, C. (2017) SYRIZA: The Failure of the Populist Promise, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2013) ‘Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary Populism: Comparing Contemporary Europe and Latin America’, Government and Opposition 48(2): 147–174. Ostiguy, P. (2014) ‘Exceso, representación y fronteras cruzables: “institucionalidad sucia,” o la aporía del populismo en el poder’, POSTData 19(2): 345–375. Ostiguy, P. (2017) ‘Populism: A Socio-­Cultural Approach’, in Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, P., Espejo, P. O. and Ostiguy, P. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 73–97. Otjes, S. and Lowerse, T. (2015) ‘Populists in Parliament: Comparing Left-­Wing and Right-­Wing Populism in the Netherlands’, Political Studies 63(1): 60–79. Panizza, F. (ed.) (2005) Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, London: Verso. Paun, C. (2018) ‘Greece, Macedonia Sign Deal to End Decades-­old Name Dispute’, Politico, 17 June. Available at:­macedonia-sign-­dealto-­end-decades-­old-name-­dispute/ (accessed 1 July 2018). Prentoulis, M. and Thomassen, L. (2013) ‘Political Theory in the Square: Protest, Representation and Subjectification’, Contemporary Political Theory 12(3): 166–184. Public Issue (2015) ‘Political Barometer’, 141. Available at:­ content/uploads/2015/02/var-­141-feb-­2015.pdf (accessed 1 March 2016) [in Greek]. Public Issue (2018) ‘Political Barometer’, 167. Available at:­ content/uploads/2018/07/var-­jul-2018-5.pdf (accessed 1 August 2018) [in Greek]. Roberts, K. M. (2015) ‘Populism, Political Mobilizations, and Crises of Political Representation’, in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 140–158. Rooduijn, M. (2014) ‘The Nucleus of Populism: In Search of the Lowest Common Denominator’, Government and Opposition 49(4): 572–598.

The Populist Radical Left in Greece: Syriza   45 Spanou, K. (2008) ‘State Reform in Greece: Responding to Old and New Challenges’, International Journal of Public Sector Management 21(2): 150–173. Spourdalakis, M. (2013) ‘Left Strategy in the Greek Cauldron: Explaining Syriza’s success’, Socialist Register 49: 98–119. Stavrakakis, Y. (2015) ‘Populism in Power: Syriza’s Challenge to Europe’, Juncture 21(4): 273‑280. Stavrakakis, Y. (2017) ‘Discourse Theory in Populism Research’, Journal of Language and Politics 16(4): 523–534. Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘Left-­wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2): 119–142. Stavrakakis, Y., Katsambekis, G., Nikisianis, N., Kioupkiolis, A. and Siomos, T. (2017) ‘Extreme Right-­wing Populism in Europe: Revisiting a Reified Association’, Critical Discourse Studies 14(4): 420–439. Stavrakakis, Y., Katsambekis, G., Kioupkiolis, A., Nikisianis, N. and Siomos, T. (2018) ‘Populism, Anti-­populism and Crisis’, Contemporary Political Theory 17(1): 4‑27. Synaspismos (2004) ‘Political Resolution of the 4th Congress’, 9–12 December. Available at: (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Synaspismos (2005) ‘Decision of the Central Committee. The Left and the Youth: A Dynamic Relationship, a Relationship of Subversion’, 17–18 September. Available at: (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Synaspismos (2011) ‘Decision of the Central Committee’, 29 May. Available at: www. (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Syriza (2011) ‘Political Resolution of the 4th PanHellenic Conference’, 17 July. Available at:­A POFASH-4hs-PANELLADIKHS-­ SYNDIASKEPSHS-TOY-­SYRIZA.html#.VRG39_msWAU (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Syriza-­EKM (2012) ‘Electoral Declaration’, April–May. Available at: ekl2012/eklogikidiak2012.pdf (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Syriza (2014a) ‘We Vote for Greece. We Vote for Another Europe’, May. Available at: (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Syriza (2014b) ‘Statement of Support to the Cleaners of the Ministry of Finance’, 23 June. Available at:­symparastashs-stis-­katharistries-toy-­ Yp.-Oikonomikwn-.html#.VR_rbfmsWAV (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Syriza (2014c) ‘The Thessaloniki Programme’, September. Available at: article/SYRIZA--THE-­T HESSALONIKI-PROGRAMME.html#.VSGIRfmsWAU (accessed 1 March 2015). Syriza (2014d) ‘Huge International Solidarity Movement in the Heroic Struggle of Cleaners!’, 18 September. Available at:­todiethnes-­kinhma-symparastashs-­ston-hrwiko-­agwna-twn-­katharistriwn!-Oloi-­kai-oles-­ 23-Septembrh-­ston-Areio-­Pago-stis-­9:30-to-­prwi!.html#.VR_vf_msWAU (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Syriza (2015a) ‘Framework of Government Programme’, January. Available at: www. (accessed 1 May 2015) [in Greek]. Syriza (2015b) Pamphlet for the referendum of 5 July 2015. Available at: upload/61868_1.pdf (accessed 1 August 2015) [in Greek]. Syriza (2016) Positions of the Central Committee of SYRIZA for the 2nd Congress, Athens. Tsakatika, M. (2016) ‘Syriza’s Electoral Rise in Greece: Protest, Trust and the Art of Political Manipulation’, South European Society and Politics 21(4): 519‑540.

46   Giorgos Katsambekis Tsakatika, M. and Eleftheriou, C. (2013) ‘The Radical Left’s Turn towards Civil Society in Greece’, South European Society and Politics 18(1): 81–100. Tsakatika, M. and Lisi, M. (2013) ‘ “Zippin’ up My Boots, Goin’ Back to My Roots”: Radical Left Parties in Southern Europe’, South European Society and Politics 18(1): 1–19. Tsatsanis, E. and Teperoglou, E. (2016) ‘Realignment under Stress: The July 2015 Referendum and the September Parliamentary Election in Greece’, South European Society and Politics 21(4): 427–450. Tsipras, A. (2008a) ‘Speech at the 5th Congress of SYN’, 9 February. Available at: www. (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Tsipras, A. (2008b) ‘Speech at the Central Political Event of SYN at the Sports Centre “Ivanofeio” ’, 6 April. Available at: (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Tsipras, A. (2008c) ‘Speech at Peristeri/Athens’, 12 November. Available at: www.syn. gr/gr/keimeno.php?id=12293 (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Tsipras, A. (2011a) ‘Statement after the Meeting Between Political Leaders under the President of Democracy’, 27 May. Available at: (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Tsipras, A. (2011b) ‘Topical Question Addressed to the Prime Minister with the Subject “Real Democracy” ’, 7 June. Available at:­Proedros-ths­Koinoboyleytikhs-Omadas-­toy-Synaspismoy-­Rizospastikhs-Aristeras-­Alekshs-Tsipras­katethese-Epikairh-­Erwthsh-ston-­Prwthypoyrgo-me-­thema:-%C2%ABPragmatikh-­Dhmo kratia%C2%BB..html#.VS67w_msWAU (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Tsipras, A. (2012a) ‘Press Conference at Zappeio’, 29 April. Available at: gr/keimeno.php?id=26958 (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Tsipras, A. (2012b) ‘Speech at the Central Campaign Rally of SYRIZA in Athens’, 14 June. Available at: (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. Tsipras, A. (2015) ‘Interview to Maria Choukli, ANT1 channel’, 19 January. Available at:[Binteo]-Synenteyksh-­toy-Proedroy-­toy-SYRIZA-­ Aleksh-Tsipra-­ston-ANT1-sth-­dhmosiografo-Maria-­CHoyklh-.html#.VSJ94PmsWAU (accessed 1 March 2015) [in Greek]. van Kessel, S. (2015) Populist Parties in Europe: Agents of Discontent?, Basingstoke: Palgrave. Vasilopoulou, S., Halikiopoulou, D. and Exadaktylos, T. (2014) ‘Greece in Crisis: Austerity, Populism and the Politics of Blame’, Journal of Common Market Studies 52(2): 397. Zielonka, J. (2016) ‘Populism and Democracy: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?’, The Conversation, 2 November. Available at:­and-democracy-­ dr-jekyll-­and-mr-­hyde-67421 (accessed 1 March 2018).

2 Late modern adventures of leftist populism in Spain The case of Podemos, 2014–20181 Alexandros Kioupkiolis

Introduction The young Spanish party Podemos falls within a new wave of left-­wing populism which has surged forth in Europe, mainly in the crisis-­hit South, over the last years. After its eruption in early 2014 and its astonishing performance in the May 2014 European Elections, Podemos experienced a meteoric rise in popularity till the end of 2014. In 2015–2016, in the Spanish local and general elections, Podemos contended with three other parties (PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos) for the lead in the polls. Unidos Podemos, its electoral coalition with the left-­wing Izquierda Unida (United Left), came third in the repeat parliamentary elections on 26 June 2016, taking 21.1 per cent of the vote. This chapter engages with Podemos as a version of left-­wing populism in contemporary European politics. Podemos gives the lie to the conventional wisdom of European political science on the topic of contemporary European populism, which is stereotypically cast as reactionary, illiberal, nationalist, xenophobic, exclusionary and anti-­European (see, e.g. Berezin 2009; Goodwin 2011; Painter 2013; Müller 2016). Podemos subscribes to the project of a politically integrated and solidary Europe. Ιt speaks in defence of immigrants and socially marginalised sectors. Ιt presses a strong social rights agenda. It targets not only political but also economic and social elites. Αnd, finally, Podemos claims to fight for social justice and democratisation (see Iglesias 2015, 2017; Ivaldi et al. 2017; Podemos 2014a, 2014b, 2014c; Zabala 2014; Stobart 2014b). At the same time, Podemos has deliberately enunciated a populist discourse and it has pursued a populist political strategy construed in Ernesto Laclau’s terms. While it has shared the anti-­elitist discourse of other populisms and it is likewise a response to the ‘crisis of representation’ in liberal democracies and the more recent economic crisis, Podemos has been also marked off by a set of distinctive features: its original roots in ‘horizontalist’ social movements, its ‘technopolitics’, and a reflexive application of populist theory which breaks new ground in populism. The analysis dwells on the incipient stage of Podemos’ political life, during which these distinctive marks were particularly pronounced, to lay out and to evaluate a novel brand of leftist populism which approximates what can be called ‘populism 2.0’ (see Chapter 8, this volume).

48   Alexandros Kioupkiolis Podemos was started as an endeavour to ally in a hybrid mix two divergent approaches to democratic politics: the horizontal, open, diverse, networked and assembly-­based mobilisations of the multitude on the streets and the web, on the one hand, and the vertical, hierarchical, unified, formal and representative structures of party formations, on the other (on the notions of horizontality and verticality, as well as autonomy and hegemony, see Kioupkiolis and Katsambekis 2014). Such an amalgam could serve to combine the virtues of different models of democracy, boosting grassroots participation while simultaneously achieving strategic coherence, efficiency, majoritarian support and inroads into electoral politics and institutions. Second, Podemos’ populism exemplified a creative version of the ‘politics of the common’, whereby political representation opens up to the ‘common people’ and political discourse resonates with the ‘common sense’ of social majorities beyond the left-­right divide. But the terms of this ‘common sense’ are inflected towards social inclusion and egalitarian democratic change. Since the autumn of 2014, however, Podemos has seen the preponderance of a vertical, ‘hegemonic’ logic over its horizontal and multitudinous dynamics, reflecting a particular reading of Laclau’s populist theory which is prevalent among the party’s intellectual leadership and places a decisive emphasis on the leader. The present chapter will make the case, then, that another take on the theory of hegemony is tenable and, perhaps, more constructive. This one sustains a productive tension between the logics of hegemony and autonomy rather than subsume autonomy under hegemony in a way that alienates grassroots activists and risks re-­enacting the kind of elitist politics which has eroded liberal democracy in Spain and many other countries. The broader thesis advanced here is that a dualist politics, which welds together horizontalism and verticalism, or autonomy and hegemony, in a conflictual bind, is a prima facie plausible strategy for renewing democracy in the present critical context. But an egalitarian populist organisation will be able to redeem its democratic promises – enhanced social control, transparency and participation in democratic governance – as long as it maintains a constructive balance between these two political logics, avoiding the reassertion of centralised leadership and the suppression of pluralism which are so typical of the populist tradition and signal its authoritarian trends. The final section considers the latest shifts of Podemos’ populism towards increased personalism and traditional leftism, and it outlines the current, complex construction of the people-­nation in the discourse of Podemos’ leadership. In the June 2016 general elections, a whole political cycle came to a close, solidifying the tendencies of the party towards ‘normalisation’ and institutionalisation. Podemos has veered away from its origins in social movements, while its populist discourse and strategy have been subject to contest and reconsideration (Ríos 2016; Fort Apache 2016; Alba Rico 2018; Franzé 2018).

Post-­democracy and new left-­wing populism In recent years, the trajectory of democratic politics in Spain has displayed clear affinities with socio-­political developments in other European as well as Latin

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   49 American contexts (notably, Venezuela since the late 1980s and Greece since 2010, among other examples). Since 2009–2010, Spanish society has been hit by a severe crisis of the liberal-­democratic consensus that had prevailed in the previous two decades. The regime that was put in place after the fall of Franco’s dictatorship in 1978 has undergone a further ‘post-­democratic’ unravelling, which reinforced the two-­party system and already dominant trends of civic demobilisation.2 ‘Post-­democracy’ consists of programmatic convergence of the centre-­left and the centre-­right parties on neoliberalism, the growing power of political and financial elites, the increasing irresponsiveness of elites and institutions to social demands, widespread corruption, and the mounting discontent of citizens with representative democracy. These phenomena have been exacerbating in recent years as a consequence of the way ruling elites have managed the economic crisis since 2008 (Sampedro and Lobera 2014; Podemos 2014a; Monedero et al. 2014; Errejón 2014). The ‘15M’ movement which swept Spain in May 2011 voiced the popular outrage at material impoverishment and the hollowing-­out of democracy. It set up encampments in central squares across the country, it convened citizens’ assemblies, and it debated participatory democratic alternatives to neoliberalism and the 1978 regime. 15M, or the Indignados, movement transfigured the political ‘common sense’, pitting the majority of the citizens against the political and financial elites, holding the political oligarchy to account for the crisis and dismissing political representation, either totally or in its present guises. It demanded, instead, effective popular control over democratic government with a view to establishing a ‘real democracy’ (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014; Castells 2012; Razquin 2017). This collective mobilisation, which was later dispersed and channelled into local assemblies and new massive protests in defence of public goods, has enjoyed majoritarian cross-­sectional support among Spanish citizens. 15M has left a strong imprint on political culture. It diffused a sharp critique of the status quo and it aggravated the crisis of legitimation, projecting laypeople as the sovereign agent in democratic politics and disseminating aspirations to popular participation. The movement failed, however, to effectively reshuffle the decks of power and to transform the main economic and political institutions, which have remained largely impervious to the demands for ‘real democracy’, economic fairness and the protection of social rights. As a result, since 2011, several activists have revised their initial rejection of institutional politics, and various social actors started looking for new vectors of political representation that would overcome the fragmentation and the political impotence of the social movements. Podemos emerged from this search (Podemos 2014a; Rendueles and Sola 2018: 33; Sampedro and Lobera 2014; Monedero et al. 2014; Delclos 2014). By ‘occupying representation’ new political agencies could facilitate social mobilisations, making the state apparatus amenable to their influence and halting repressive policies. The opportunity could open up then to renew democracy in ways that address the institutional grounds of the elitist deviations, promoting

50   Alexandros Kioupkiolis rule by citizens and crafting improved forms of political representation. Thus, agitation and protest might give way to a new institutional phase, that could meet some of the demands of social movements and could consolidate part of their political achievements. This was precisely the diagnosis and the agenda endorsed by a sector of social actors who were engaged in several citizens’ initiatives in 2014, such as PAH (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca/Platform for People Affected by Mortgages), the citizens’ platforms which were formed in 2015 to contest elections on the level of the city, and Podemos. They all opted for hybrid schemes of action and structure to both uphold grassroots mobilisation and to pursue centralised coordination, electoral politics and institutional intervention (Aguiló 2014; Monedero et al. 2014; Stobart 2014b; Sánchez 2014). Podemos, more specifically, drew its demands and its initial participatory methodology from 15M and later social protests. But Podemos intended from the outset to construct a wider ‘popular unity’ by reaching out to social majorities which agree with the narrative and the demands of the movements but are not interested in their direct democratic practice and are happy to delegate political responsibility (Errejón 2014; Delclos 2014). Consequently, as happens frequently with populist politics (Roberts 2015: 149, 155), Podemos was a response to a crisis of political representation. Podemos’ politics was populist from its beginnings, if we construe populism in Ernesto Laclau’s formal-­structural terms. According to Laclau, populism consists of (1) ‘the formation of an internal antagonistic frontier separating the “people” from power’ (Laclau 2005: 74); (2) the creation of a chain of equivalence among popular demands that are left unsatisfied by those in power, this equivalence being produced through common ‘empty signifiers’ that unify and represent the chain of demands; and (3) the representation of the people of populism as excluded and underprivileged plebs, which claim to be the only legitimate community of the people and the democratic sovereign (Laclau 2005: 74, 81, 94, 98; see also Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014). Hence, Podemos’ discourse has been populist from its inception in 2014, insofar as it placed at its centre the antagonistic divide between the social majority and a privileged minority. This displaced and replaced the divide between left and right. The social majority, designated variously as ‘el pueblo’, ‘la gente’, ‘la mayoria social’, ‘la ciudadania’, ‘la patria’ was portrayed as suffering from impoverishment and exclusion from a democracy that is ‘hijacked’ by elites, and it is opposed to the ‘casta’ that rules the regime (Podemos 2014a: 10–12; Fort Apache 2014). In effect, by late 2015, ‘la casta’ was gradually abandoned and replaced eventually by ‘la trama’ (‘the plot’), which conveys the idea of an entire social arrangement sustaining power inequalities and corruption (Briziarelli 2018: 102–103). A plurality of social demands arising from the economic crisis and the neoliberal policies of the state – the defence of social welfare and social rights, the end of austerity policies, popular sovereignty – were brought together in a single chain of equivalence around the ‘empty signifier’ of ‘democracy’ (‘construir la democracia’) and the charismatic figure of Pablo Iglesias (Podemos 2014b; Forte Apache 2014; Briziarelli 2018: 110).

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   51 The third moment of populism à la Laclau was also present. Podemos has striven to manufacture a ‘popular unity’ and to ‘recuperate politics’ for the disaffected majority, the ‘plebs’, to put public institutions in the service of the common good (Podemos 2014b: 10–12; Forte Apache 2014). Moreover, Podemos’ discourse sought to connect with popular sentiments and common notions. It has articulated a diagnosis for the present crisis and has put forward policy alternatives by uttering a plain, ‘ordinary’ language to which people can easily relate, in terms which are not those of the conventional left but are shared across large social strata. It represents party activists as ‘ordinary people’ (Flesher Fominaya 2014: 4). In all these respects, Podemos is ‘populist in the purest sense of the term’ (Flesher Fominaya 2014: 6). Moreover, to break into a wider audience, the spokespersons of Podemos have made intensive use of popular media outlets, including traditional TV channels. The party is also deeply steeped in new digital networks through which it echoes and reconfigures public opinion (Flesher Fominaya 2014: 6; Sánchez 2014: 3; Iglesias 2014). This populist strategy turned out to be very successful for at least one year after the May 2014 European elections, resonating powerfully with the youngest voters, the students, the unemployed, urban and educated citizens. These social sectors are affected by the crisis, but they see themselves as middle class, they bear loose party and ideological identifications, they are immersed in digital social media and they are concerned with specific issues (Sanz 2015; CIS 2015a; CIS 2015b). However, Podemos’ populism has been effectively left-­leaning. Its original programme incorporated most contemporary demands of the social-­democratic left. Moreover, in contrast to right-­wing populism, the feelings of anger and fear fuelled by precarity are projected onto domestic elites rather than on immigrants. Furthermore, the anti-­establishment sentiment is directed not only against corrupt political oligarchies, but also against economic elites, and it is wedded to a project of social justice. Finally, throughout its trajectory, Podemos has advocated an inclusionary idea of social solidarity that defends the social rights of immigrants, socially marginalised groups and everybody in a res publica which ‘stands for public schools, public education, state pensions’ (Iglesias 2017; see also Iglesias 2015; Ivaldi et al. 2017; Podemos 2014b).

Podemos’ dualism, technopopulism and reflexivity The ‘democratic promise’ contained in various instances of left-­wing populism today lies primarily in their intent to provide an institutional representation to a widespread popular disaffection with representative regimes in deep crisis, and to do so in ways that purportedly further social inclusion, justice and collective empowerment. To assess this promise in the case of Podemos, it is necessary to address the aspects that set Podemos apart as an example of arguably progressive democratic populism. To grasp these distinctive traits, one should highlight from the outset certain formative influences which lie at the origins of Podemos. Íñigo

52   Alexandros Kioupkiolis Errejón, the director of its electoral campaign in the 2014 European elections, has identified three pillars: the effect of the 15M movement on Spanish political culture; the intensive use of media outlets by Podemos’ leadership, crucially of their own TV programmes such as ‘La Tuerka’ and ‘Fort Apache’, through which they shaped a popular discourse that could reach out to a wider public; their extended study and direct experience of political developments in Latin American countries, such as Venezuela and Bolivia. In these societies, new national-­popular majorities were formed in the previous fifteen years, catapulting left-­wing leaders and parties into power and initiating processes of rupture and constitutional change. To these influences one should add the past involvement of Pablo Iglesias and other Podemos leaders in communist organisations, including Izquierda Unida, the mainstream leftist party in contemporary Spain. Iglesias and Errejón also took part in activist movements up to and including Juventud sin Futur (Youth Without a Future), one of the incubators of the 15M protests (Errejón 2014; Stobart 2014b; Pavía et al. 2015). (1) So, what singled out Podemos’ populism at its beginnings was, first, its intimate relation with social movements and direct collective participation. If contemporary debates around the meaning of the ‘populism’ ‘center precisely on this question of “power to the people” […] – in particular, whether these subjects can be self-­constituted and mobilized “from below,” or whether populism refers more narrowly to the top-­down mobilization, by dominant personalities’ (Roberts 2015), Podemos’ original response is: both at the same time. No doubt, the fusion between ‘participatory’ and ‘plebiscitary’ linkages that connect mass constituencies and political agencies claiming to empower them is not unique to this Spanish party formation. Among others, President Chávez instituted diverse channels for grassroots communal participation and decision-­making, and SYRIZA had closely engaged with social mobilisations in its recent history before its ascent to power (Roberts 2015; Ciccariello-­Maher 2013; de Sousa Santos 2015; Katsambekis 2016). However, Podemos’ inaugural relation with radical movements and direct, collective participation was more organic and intimate than anything found in the foregoing. The rise of Podemos has been facilitated and influenced by the 15M movement and the mutations in political culture that it brought about: the critique against the elites, the protagonism of the people, the displacement of the left/ right divide with an antagonism between citizens and the establishment, the promotion of an open and plural participation of citizens. These critical elements account for the form and the language of Podemos’ politics as well as for its appeal to the people (Sampedro and Lobera 2014; Flesher Fominaya 2014; Podemos 2014a; Stobart 2014a). The 15M movement had been seen by Podemos’ main theoretical brain, Íñigo Errejón, as a ‘populist moment’ that opened up a window of opportunity in which a politicised minority could represent and create a new popular majority. The 15M movement bore populist features insofar as it was cross-­class and horizontal (for a fuller account of 15M as ‘populism 2.0’ see Chapter 8, this volume).

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   53 Moreover, Podemos also partly imitated the direct democratic practice of 15M by promoting the participation of ‘laypeople’ in its grassroots at the time of its foundation in early 2014. The new party set up local and sectorial ‘circles’ of members and sympathisers, who debated politics and formulated policy proposals. Podemos facilitated, also, ‘on-­line’ forms of involvement accessible to all and it undertook a collective construction of its programme and its electoral lists for the European Elections in May 2014. Moreover, the party committed itself programmatically to promote civic participation and control over the institutions of the state (Podemos 2014a; Podemos 2014c; Espinoza 2014; Tenhunen and Rodriguez 2014). On the other hand, there are limits to Podemos’ identification with horizontal social movements (Rendueles and Sola 2018: 36–37; del Barrio 2014). To begin with, Podemos was launched from the top, at the initiative of a ‘leading figure’ – Pablo Iglesias – and an affiliated group of intellectuals and activists, who have always maintained their grip over the politics of the new formation. Second, opposing the anti-­electoral animus of 15M, the leadership of Podemos has highlighted the importance of the electoral route and it set out to ‘conquer the state’ (Espinoza 2014; Delclos 2014; Podemos 2014a; Errejón 2014). The persistence of hierarchy, hegemonic representation, state politics and ‘traditional’ mass media communication attests to the survival of ‘old-­style’ representative politics and a strong ‘vertical’ dimension in the midst of Podemos. This clashed from the outset with the ‘horizontal’ layer of egalitarian participation and the 15M spirit, leading social activists to denounce Podemos as old politics in a new garb (Flesher Fominaya 2014; Taibo 2015). In effect, the ambiguities and complexities of Podemos’ populism reflect the complexity, ambiguity, fluidity and heterogeneity of the social and political context in contemporary Spain. Whereas recurrent democratic mobilisations since 2011 have fashioned a new ‘common sense’ which challenges conventional representative politics, state institutions remain in place, relatively unaffected by social protest and repressing political contestation. Moreover, social diversity and fragmentation, along with minoritarian participation in popular assemblies have prevented the development of an alternative democratic process that would displace established institutions (Monedero et al. 2014; Podemos 2014a; Errejón 2014). Such weaknesses and failures sparked the search for new, hybrid forms of civic activism and self-­organisation after the 15M movement left the squares and gradually dispersed in 2011–2012. However, the imprint of the 15M political culture is still evident in various post-­2011 mobilisations: the ‘Mareas’ (‘tides’), massive labour and civic protests to protect the welfare state; the anti-­eviction organisation PAH, whose leader Ada Colau won the 2015 municipal elections in Barcelona by leading Barcelona en Comú (Barcelona in Common), a participatory citizens’ platform that now governs the city; the citizens’ political front Ahora Madrid (Madrid Now), which likewise elected its candidate Manuela Carmena as the new mayor of Madrid in 2015. The Marea Blanca (White Tide), for instance, brought together health workers and citizens who fought a wave of

54   Alexandros Kioupkiolis privatisation in health services. Workers organised outside the traditional trade unions, involving thousands of ordinary citizens and occupying hospitals, in which they held workers’ assemblies. PAH has united anti-­eviction activists, lawyers, unemployed citizens, immigrants and others, combining direct action against evictions with institutional routes and more traditional means of pressure. In PAH, a more coherent organising core ties up with a loose group of diverse agents who participate in different degrees, making up a plural and open ‘network system’ which resists strong centralisation and fixed hierarchies (Stobart 2014a; Flesher Fominaya 2014; Aguiló 2014; Nunes 2014). Podemos’ dualism, then, has not been an idiosyncratic phenomenon in post-­ 15M Spanish politics. In effect, Podemos should be situated in the broader current of hybrid political constellations after 2011. Apart from PAH, this wider tendency encompasses also the Catalan party CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular/Popular Unity Candidacy), the Partido X and the citizens’ platforms, such as Barcelona en Comú, which are active in municipal politics. All these blend horizontal civic participation with ‘vertical’ logics of centralisation, bureaucracy, hierarchy and engagement with institutions (Aguiló 2014). The need to accede to institutional levers of power to meet popular demands, the search for a coherent alternative discourse that will win over electoral majorities and the endurance of a social habitus of political delegation and minimal participation explain why ‘vertical’ organisation can still be pertinent today to attain the wished-­for political results. As long as it is effectively sustained, the conjunction of vertical coordination and representation with open, egalitarian participation may help to promote the project of a horizontal democracy of ‘multitudes’ under transitional conditions of impurity and variety, where the ‘old’ has not passed away and the new is struggling to find its way. Hybrid forms might work thus as ‘instruments’ of massive political coordination and institutional intervention. These would not only exact pressure on the state in favour of popular demands, but they would also ‘open up’ institutions from within to enable their reconstruction and to vest the people with political power on a new, institutionalised basis. As we shall see, the failure of Podemos to operate as such a vehicle on the state level can be put down to its failure to maintain a balance between its two souls, to the detriment of grassroots involvement. On the other hand, Podemos participated in the citizens’ platforms in the 2015 regional and municipal elections as a component of broader coalitions. Municipal processes have followed a different course, which diverges from city to city and it is story that is being still written. (2) ‘Common’ politics. The discourse and the practice of the early Podemos gestured towards a ‘commoning’ of representative politics, a process whereby representative government becomes an affair of laypeople, in two related ways. First, the absence of professional politicians from the ranks of Podemos at the time when it came on stage, the formation of ‘circles’ in which any citizen could draft policies and engage directly in a common political project, the organic links with social movements and the open primary elections for the selection of party

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   55 candidates in the 2014 European elections transfigured political representation. This became a business of any interested citizen rather than an affair of professional politicians (Espinoza Pino 2014; Sánchez 2014). Such innovations can pave the way for a democracy of the many in which the exercise of political power is a common resource actually available to any citizen, and there are no entrenched divisions between rulers and ruled in democratic governance. Second, Podemos’ leadership in 2014 elaborated a political discourse which tapped into the ‘common sense’ of Spanish political culture, both older and new. Echoing the 15M movement and its distinctive discursivity, Podemos articulated a diagnosis for the present crisis and put forward policy alternatives uttering a plain language to which people could easily relate. It used terms which are not those of conventional leftist terminology, but are shared across large social strata and speak to electoral majorities hit by austerity policies. Thus, Podemos deployed a strategy of ‘transversality’ that reaches out to groups and individuals which bear diverse ideological and class identities but can converge over some common ideas, such as defence of democracy (Agustín and Briziarelli 2018: 19; Prentoulis and Thomassen 2017: 119). In line with contemporary social movements, Podemos refused to define itself on the basis of a particular ideology, and its activists cast themselves as ‘ordinary people like you’, ‘who understand the needs of ordinary citizens and are open to taking their lead from them through the participatory process’ (Flesher Fominaya 2014). Moreover, to break into a wider audience and to communicate broadly a critical ‘common’ mindset, which is usually excluded from mainstream media, the spokespersons of Podemos appear daily in popular media outlets, including traditional TV channels. As we will discuss below, the party is also deeply steeped in new digital networks through which it sought to echo and to refigure public opinion. Accordingly, the original Podemos was an attempt to achieve hegemony in society not by championing dogmatic truths in an authoritative fashion, but by proceeding in a deliberative and collaborative manner, by working in and through the actually existing community of feelings and ideas held by ordinary people who are disenchanted with the establishment and cherish democratic values (Flesher Fominaya 2014; Sánchez 2014; Iglesias 2014; Errejón 2014). The organic connection with popular sentiments and common notions, the use of ‘ordinary’ language and the self-­representation of party activists as ‘ordinary people’ accounted for the popularity that Podemos had gained in the few months since its foundation, and they were arguably hallmarks of populist politics (Flesher Fominaya 2014). This populist strategy broke new ground in contemporary Spanish politics by breaking away from traditional ideological discourses and by foregrounding popular subjectivities and key social concerns. This strategy was very effective for at least one year after the May 2014 European elections. It appealed powerfully to the youngest voters – in whom Podemos ranked first in the polls in 2014–2015 – the students, the unemployed, and urban and educated citizens, who see themselves as middle class but are impoverished and frustrated by the crisis. These voters are disaffected with the status quo, but they evince loose party and ideological identifications and they

56   Alexandros Kioupkiolis are immersed in digital social networks (Pavía et al. 2015; Sanz 2015; CIS 2015a; CIS 2015b). It looks as if the ‘non-­ideological’, ‘common sense’ and ‘anti-­establishment’ language of Podemos, which diffused itself through new social media and more traditional channels, was the near-­perfect mix for these sectors of the electorate. Of course, populist discourse can be just as reactionary and exclusionary as ‘common sense’ in various social contexts. In the Spanish case, however, ‘common sense’ also contains the new understandings generated by the 15M movements. In pitting ‘la gente’ against ‘la casta’, in standing for public goods, in arguing for accountability and people’s power in democratic governance, in blaming political and financial elites for the crisis, austerity and corruption, the endeavour of Podemos’ original discourse was to echo the recent shifts in political culture and to re-­articulate common conscience in ways that both engage majorities and advance democratic change, navigating a course beyond reactionary conservatism and unattractive radicalism (Flesher Fominaya 2014; Errejón 2014). As Pablo Iglesias (2014) put it, ‘[t]he key is to succeed in making “common sense” go in a direction of change’. In this regard, the ‘populist’ lexicon of Podemos, which features ‘plain terms’ beyond the divisions between left and right, not only communicates with an existing political community, but also seeks to bring into being a new majoritarian community, a new political front under its hegemony, building bridges between the former two communities and another democracy to come. Hence, Podemos sought to combine ‘common sense’, a practical consciousness that defended the welfare state, demanded social justice and called for a more democratic system, with ‘dream’, an aspiration to transcend neoliberal hegemony (Agustín and Briziarelli 2018: 6). The displacement of the left/right cleavage in favour of the antagonism between ‘common people’ and the elites is a hallmark of Podemos’ populism which has set it apart from SYRIZA. The latter never renounced its leftist identity, until at least the September 2015 general elections, in which the opposition old/new took precedence over the antagonism left/right in the party’s electoral campaign (Kioupkiolis and Katsambekis 2018: 220). Podemos’ lexicon has been thus closer to Chavismo in its first years (1998–2005), when Chávez opposed the people to the corrupt Punto Fijo regime, before finally proclaiming the ‘21st century socialism’ in 2006 (see Buxton 2009). (3) The ‘technopolitical’ aspect has been another innovation of Podemos’ participatory democracy and its construction as an instrument of open collective intelligence. Social media and new digital technologies are highly popular in contemporary Spain and they were massively deployed by 15M activists. Digital networks catalysed the expansion of mobilisations by facilitating sharing of information and coordination of action. Podemos’ organisers did not simply endorse this technopolitics of ordinary citizens. They made a qualitative leap: they amplified digital participation with new tools, and they placed it at the heart of Podemos’ development as a network-­movement to an extent that remains without precedent in any traditional or new party in Spain (Rubiño 2015; Pizarro and Labuske 2015).

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   57 Podemos immersed itself in popular social media such as Facebook and Twitter, but it also built its own platforms and technologies. Most notably, Plaza Podemos made innovative use of the Reddit software. Through this, thousands of members can ‘do politics’ in their everyday life, from home or at work, by posting notices, texts and videos, by submitting public proposals, by debating and by voting on party policies (Pizarro and Labuske 2015: 98–99). This set up a permanent online ‘agora’, in which all party members could think and collaborate on common policies and ideas. The various digital technologies, which include Loomio for the organisation of the ‘circles’ and Appgree and Agora Voting for online votes, can contribute to an extensive political participation and collective production of party policies and campaigns. They expand already existing procedures, such as elections, to reach thousands of citizens who do not participate physically in the life of the party, but they also enable previously impossible levels of debate and interaction (Clavell 2015: 115; Τοret 2015: 131). Indeed, this technological breakthrough allowed thousands of people to take part in Podemos’ primaries for the May 2014 European elections and in the Citizens’ Assembly in November 2014, which decided the party’s structure, exceeding by far the limits of ‘presentist’ militancy (Pizarro and Labuske 2015: 101–102). Podemos’ technopolitics knitted fluid networks of interaction, not only between ordinary citizens and a core of party organisers but also among the grassroots themselves, as the political life of the party ‘circles’ in 2014–2015 was highly digitised. An open multitude of citizens could get involved, thus, in political action on different scales and in various ways which do not require a constant physical presence and dedication. Online political agency can reshape the culture of political participation and belonging. The lines between the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’ of the party get blurred. Party politics is reshaped as an ‘open-­source program’, which is being made and remade by a community of volunteers with variable degrees of commitment (Rubiño 2015: 91). Thus, Podemos engineered a ‘machine of political communication’, which ‘hacked’ public opinion and reconstructed it, multiplying its social impact through diffuse networks and thousands of connections. Via its technopolitical avenues, the organisation of Podemos claimed to express ‘a new political subjectivity which calls for the construction of the people as radical politics’ (Toret 2015: 134). This gestures towards a new brand of ‘technopopulism’, whereby the people constructs itself in and through new social media and more conventional modes of participatory party politics (for an earlier, critical account of ‘techno­ populism’ in contemporary parties, see Lipow and Seyd 1995: 295–308). Moreover, the combination of new and older media (TV broadcasts etc.) has made Podemos a ‘transmedia’ party. While Podemos’ active use of Twitter connected with the youth, the frequent appearances on TV talk shows made their leaders known across the Spanish geography in record time. The so-­called ‘La Tuerka hypothesis’ (named after Iglesias’ own talk show) hinged on the intuition that Spanish political discourse is developed in audio-­visual media. Hence, TV programmes such as ‘La Tuerka’ and ‘Forte Apache’ could help Podemos to build a broad-­based popular constituency (Agustín and Briziarelli 2018: 14).

58   Alexandros Kioupkiolis (4) Finally, Podemos’ populism is inflected by a singular reflexivity in populist politics. Ernesto Laclau’s hegemonic theory of populism is not merely an apt framework for analysing Podemos’ politics. Along with the 15M political culture and the Latin American experiences of left-­wing populism in the last fifteen years, it has been one of the key intellectual influences on the political project of Podemos. Laclau’s thought informed the political strategy of the intellectual leadership which founded the new party, the academics based in the Department of Politics at the Complutense University of Madrid, who had studied and cited Laclau’s work. Moreover, Podemos leaders are true believers in the performative power of language, in the ability of new linguistic framings to effect social change. Podemos can be seen to this extent as an implementation of Laclau’s theory of populism (Alemán 2015; Martínez 2014; Stobart 2014b; Errejón 2011, 2014; Fort Apache 2014). Laclau’s impact speaks for itself in Errejón’s own account of the party’s strategy in the 2014 European elections. Errejón directed Podemos’ electoral campaign, which was driven, as he states, by a ‘constructivist vision of political discourse’ (Errejón 2014). Key Laclauian terms, such as ‘articulation’ (of popular discontent), ‘construction of political identities’, ‘populist discourse of the left’, ‘resignification of floating signifiers’, the articulation of discourse around ‘dichotomies’ which confront the ‘people’ with the ‘elites’, punctuate and organise Errejón’s exegesis of the conceptual grid which guided Podemos’ electoral strategy (Errejón 2014). Such a reflexive application of populism is apparently without known precedent in the history of populist politics, including the more recent cases of SYRIZA and Chavismo. Podemos’ theoretically informed populism illustrates the kind of social reflexivity that Giddens, among others, has attributed to modernity. Scientific knowledge of social practices is inserted into the practices themselves, as it is used to reflect on social practices and to transform them. This feedback loop between scientific discourse and social activities contributes to the inherent instability and mutability of the modern world. In turn, social theories become subject to contest and revision insofar as their own intervention in social realities alters unpredictably the very object of their study (Giddens 1991: 36–45). At this stage, we can advance four claims regarding the effects of Laclau’s theory on Podemos’ populism. The first point is that Laclau’s influence is bound indeed to assign a primary place to ‘the people’ over class or other collective subjects (Laclau 2005: 232–250; Agustín and Briziarelli 2018: 13). In this regard, the initial success of Podemos’ populism seemed to confirm the pertinence of such a strategic choice under conditions of social fragmentation, in which the only social identities which are broadly shared and stable are the ‘people’ and the ‘nation’. Furthermore, the Gramscian conception of hegemony and Laclau’s recasting of it in terms of ‘discourse theory’ confer a decisive role on political communication, rhetoric and the construction of meanings. More specifically, Laclau’s politics of discourse seeks to mobilise people through powerful images, symbols

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   59 and ‘empty signifiers’. Hegemony can be gained by elaborating a popular discourse which articulates elements of ‘common sense’ and propagates dichotomic narratives, bringing the people into conflict with the elites or the establishment (see, e.g. Laclau 2014; Agustín and Briziarelli 2018: 13–15). This take on hegemony can account for the strategic priority that Podemos’ leaders have accorded to discourse, mass media communication and the interaction with ‘common sense’: We have managed to place a discourse that serves to explain reality in a different way […] We have been able to place some words in the public discourse, with a definition of reality that is now assumed by all political actors. (Iglesias in Domínguez 2014: 161–162) Podemos’ discursive-­communicative strategy has led critics to object that it has worked to the detriment of specific and well-­grounded programmatic proposals. Programmatic vagueness and volatility can be associated with Laclau’s emphasis on rhetoric and ‘empty signifiers’, that is words and symbols which facilitate convergences and the making of collective identities (Agustín and Briziarelli 2018: 13; Rendueles and Sola 2018: 43; Casero-­Ripollés et al. 2016: 6; Antentas 2016). Empty signifiers (e.g. ‘democracy’, ‘justice’, ‘change’) are relatively divested of specific content. This ‘emptiness’ enables various constituencies with different demands and perspectives to identify with the same signifiers beyond their discrepancies. On the other hand, the contention that Laclau’s populist hegemony ‘moderates’ political radicalism is rather ill-­founded. The politics of ‘hegemony’ is all about the constitution of social orders themselves, installing new orders or defending established regimes (Laclau and Mouffe 1985). Laclau, moreover, does not dismiss ‘revolution’ in the sense of the institution of new social orders around new principles. What he forsakes is the idea of a definitely emancipated society, which is fully reconciled with itself (see Laclau 1996; Laclau and Mouffe 1985: 177). The most interesting implication seems to be, rather, that a certain reading of Laclau’s thought is likely to have reinforced vertical and centralising tendencies in Podemos.3 A reception of Laclau’s hegemony that highlights the catalytic role of individual leadership is likely to have been affirmed by the experience of Latin American left-­wing populism, which also weighs heavily on the political directors of Podemos (Delclos 2014; Machado 2014). One could argue, thus, that the high degree of centralisation and personalism in the politics of the party represents another reflexive application of the theory of hegemony, this time inwards, within the organisation of Podemos, rather than outwards, in Spanish society and the electorate. After the launch of Podemos by Pablo Iglesias and an affiliated group in early 2014, followed by growth of the horizontal grassroots involvement, the Citizens’ Assembly in November 2014 marked, according to critics, a vertical turn in the

60   Alexandros Kioupkiolis actual workings and the constitution of Podemos, which was laid down in this convention and has only exacerbated since then (García 2015; Jurado Gilabert 2014). The leadership of Pablo Iglesias and his nucleus sought to consolidate its command over the party. In contrast to the open primaries and the participatory framing of the programme for the European elections, the tactic of voting for pre-­drafted lists and programmes in the 2014 constituent assembly of Podemos seemed to enact a plebiscitary relationship between the leader and his followers, who were invited to simply ratify his decisions (Espinoza Pino 2014). Accordingly, the notion of ‘the people’ at play within Podemos’ politics shifted in practice from an open and participative multitude of active citizenry to a passive and homogeneous mass led by an elite (Espinoza Pino 2014). The plebiscitary relation between the leader and his mass constituency, reviving a signal form of populist politics (Roberts 2015: 142–146), has been facilitated in effect by the looseness and the immaturity of Podemos’ political organisation. The early Podemos lacked party cadres and any other solid political structures between the leaders, the rank and file and the broader electorate, which could mediate relationships and hold the leaders in check. Since 2015, verticalism and bureaucratisation have, arguably, taken their toll on Podemos’ popularity. No doubt the increased centralisation significantly demobilised party supporters and the Circulos (Casero-­Ripollés et al. 2016: 12). Horizontalism, pluralism, civic participation and close interaction with social mobilisation had adorned Podemos with an aura of novelty, which set this organisation apart from the ‘old’ political system, its corruption and its decay, vesting Podemos with the profile of the ‘outsider’ and thereby amplifying its appeal (Rubiño 2015: 90). Hence, when the novelty and the attendant distinctiveness wore off, Podemos came to be identified with a system from which citizens are alienated, and the party lost its competitive edge (Lamant 2015). This is an intuition shared by Podemos’ members (Rodríguez 2016), although it stands in need of further empirical corroboration. Opinion polls available in 2015 indicated, indeed, that the highest fall of Podemos’ appeal – by 40 per cent – had taken place among the youngest voters (18–24 years old), lending some plausibility to this hypothesis (Solís 2015; CIS 2015c). Despite appearances to the contrary, however, personalism and centralism are not a necessary implication of Laclau’s theory. Laclau argued, indeed, that ‘the symbolic unification of the group around an individuality […] is inherent to the formation of a “people” ’ (Laclau 2005: 100). But he clarified that ‘symbolic unification’ does not amount necessarily to sovereign rule by an individual, as Thomas Hobbes would have it. The difference between that situation and the one we are discussing is that Hobbes is talking about actual ruling, while we are talking about constituting a signifying totality, and the latter does not lead automatically to the former. Nelson Mandela’s role as the symbol of the nation was compatible with a great deal of pluralism within his movement. (Laclau 2005: 100)

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   61 In effect, the conception of hegemony in the radical democratic project which Laclau and Mouffe put forth in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy advocates a conflictual pluralism that contests the prevalence of any single political logic, including that of hegemony and unification. Laclau and Mouffe plead for a constructive synthesis among multiple, conflicting logics, especially between autonomy and hegemony, or horizontalism and verticalism. Addressing the ‘apparent dichotomy autonomy/hegemony’, Laclau and Mouffe (1985: 185) pose the question ‘is there not an incompatibility between the proliferation of political spaces proper to a radical democracy and the construction of collective identities on the basis of the logic of equivalence?’. Their answer is that the ‘forms of democracy should […] be plural […] The conception of a plurality of political spaces is incompatible with the logic of equivalence only on the assumption of a closed system’. In their view, a radical democracy affirms that ‘the coexistence of two different and contradictory social logics, existing in the form of a mutual limitation of their effects, is perfectly possible’ (Laclau and Mouffe 1985: 185). But, much more than a mere concession, ‘This moment of tension, of openness, which gives the social its essentially incomplete and precarious character, is what every project of radical democracy should set out to institutionalize’ (Laclau and Mouffe 1985: 190).

Retreat from populism? From 2015 onwards, Podemos’ populism has gone through various trials and tribulations. The upshot is the consolidation of personalism and plebiscitarianism, an increasing fusion with traditional leftism, which eroded Podemos’ novelty and popularity, and an interesting, complex twist on its construction of the people-­nation. In the May 2015 local and regional elections, Podemos did not run its own candidates. It participated in broad-­based, heterogeneous coalitions with other leftist parties and citizens’ platforms. These alliances emerged victorious in various major cities, including Barcelona and Madrid (Rodon and Hierro 2016: 7–9). In the December 2015 general elections, Podemos ranked third, after the ruling PP and the social-­democratic PSOE, with 20.7 per cent of the vote (Medina and Correa, 2016: 9). In the repeat general elections in June 2016, Podemos’ electoral coalition with Izquierda Unida gained again the third position, falling right behind PSOE. The results reinstated PP in power. But they also confirmed a new, fragmented, fluid and unpredictable political landscape in Spain. Instead of a two party-­system, where the centre-­left is represented by a social democratic party alternating with a right-­wing party in power, there are now three or four major political forces in parliament and the political system at large. Podemos has ‘integrated’ the traditional left of Izquierda Unida and, at the same time, it seeks to challenge PSOE’s grip on the centre-­left (Rodon and Hierro 2016: 1–2, 15). However, Unidos Podemos not only failed to achieve its stated objective of ‘surpassing’ PSOE, but also lost 1.1 million votes from the combined votes of

62   Alexandros Kioupkiolis the two parties in December 2015. Several critics have attributed this miscarriage to the gradual bureaucratisation of Podemos in its various respects: the absence of civic participation and mobilisation; the lack of an organised territorial base of the party; its highly hierarchical, centralised and conventional party structure; the moderation of Podemos’ anti-­establishment and anti-­casta discourse; its ideological ambiguity and political opportunism; the absence of a convincing and specific political program; the embrace of ‘social democracy’ in late 2015; the electoral coalition with the traditional left, and the gradual shift away from a radical progressive populism. In effect, since 2015, Podemos’ leadership has increasingly rehearsed the old antithesis left versus right, giving up on the populist antagonism of the people versus the ‘casta’ (Franzé 2015; Antentas 2016; Rodríguez 2016; Rodon and Hierro 2016: 7; Monedero 2016; Pastor 2016). This was a marked diversion from the transversal and cross-­ideological approach which had been advocated by the movement’s main theoretician and campaign strategist, Íñigo Errejón, who was not in favour of joining the post-­communist left of Izquierda Unida in an electoral coalition. In 2018, the party ranked fourth in the polls, and it has been on a steady decline since its peak in 2015 (CIS 2018). Podemos seems to have lost its ‘transversal’ outreach. It tends to become yet another traditional leftist party, all-­too vertical, centralised and personality-­driven, bent on protest rather than on programmatic proposals and creative interventions (Alba Rico 2018; Franzé 2018). These setbacks and developments can be traced back to Podemos’ institutionalisation. Over time, Podemos has become even more absorbed in parliamentary politics. It has been largely incorporated into established institutions and it has flirted with forces of the ‘establishment’, such as the PSOE, to accede to power. This growing institutionalisation has stripped Podemos of the halo of novelty and the appeal of the ‘outsider’ in a corrupt and unresponsive political system (Rubiño 2015: 90; Lamant 2015: 85). On the other hand, the party leadership has attributed the disappointing results to a ‘campaign of fear’ on the part of the establishment and to Podemos’ failure to convince moderate voters that it deserves more than a protest vote, as a responsible party that is also capable of governing. Thus, in the summer of 2016, the leaders drew the conclusion that the first, radical populist cycle of Podemos had come to an end. In the new and possibly long parliamentary phase, they would need to strengthen its profile as a credible and reasonable, social-­ democratic force (Iglesias in Fort Apache 2016; Ríos 2016; Antentas 2016). Podemos seemed to be entering a new, post-­populist era. However, the future held in store some surprises for Podemos’ ‘populist hypothesis’. The new party strategy and action were laid down in ‘Vistalegre II’, the second general congress of the party that took place in Madrid on 11–12 February 2017. The general assembly of the party would resolve the public infighting that had broken out between the two party leaders, Iglesias and Errejón. This quarrel was intensely personalised, but it embodied two different strategic choices. Errejón championed his ‘big-­tent’ idea of Podemos. This is

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   63 the vision of a party that transcends the left-­right dichotomies, it becomes more normalised and versed in parliamentary politics, it appeals even to right-­ wing voters and puts an end to the collaboration with the traditional left. Iglesias upheld his version of Podemos. This would form a ‘historical bloc of change’ that remains radical, confrontational, away from today’s PSOE and allied instead with the left, grassroots militants and protests, keeping one foot firmly on the streets and another in the institutions. Reacting to the conflict which divided the party leadership, the party crowds who attended Vistalegre II called regularly for ‘Unidad’, along with the anti-­capitalist faction which rose again to prominence as a force of unity (Seguín and Faber 2017; Fernández and López 2017; Nichols 2017). The outbreak of this personalised antagonism has been triggered, among other factors, by the breakdown of the hypothesis of the ‘electoral war machine’. The idea that Podemos could rapidly win electoral majorities and wrest power from the establishment has been refuted several times since Vistalegre I. It was this ‘hypothesis’ that allegedly accounted for the centralising tendencies in late 2014 and the deactivation of the participatory Circulos, which came to be reduced to supporters and propagators of the leadership’s line. The collapse of this hypothesis brought into the open the differences that had remained suppressed until then. The dilemma was posed in stark terms: should we reassure centrist sceptic voters or should we rebuild social mobilisation to catapult Podemos into power (Nichols 2017)? The conflict between the two frontmen of Podemos was carried out openly in the last months before Vistalegre II, producing a grotesque spectacle which damaged Podemos’ public image in the same media that Iglesias and Errejón had masterfully used to propel the rise of the party. In the end, Iglesias and his line triumphed in the party congress. He won an absolute majority in the vote on the four main party documents about organisation, politics, ethics and gender equality, and his candidates gained most seats in the State Citizen Council. According to critics, the ‘caesarist’ or ‘Bonapartist’ tendencies of the party that appeared in Vistalegre I were reinforced. The ‘militant masses’ of the party that gathered in the congress gave their enthusiastic backing to the leader. This plebiscitarian populism had been re-­enacted several times in the recent past when Iglesias, as the general secretary of the party, resorted to popular consultations with party members to resolve strategic dilemmas. And, of course, plebiscitarianism could thrive on the lack of real political debate in Vistalegre II and on the frailties of political analysis and strategic thought in Podemos. The hegemony of ‘Pablismo’ in the party was further boosted by a voting system thanks to which the majority is overrepresented in the party organs (Rodríguez 2017; Fernández and López 2017). Almost nothing has remained from the meaningful participation of the grassroots in the Circulos of the early days of Podemos. Activism in the party has been largely reduced to taking one’s pick among the political lines proposed by the party leadership. Iglesias is far more popular with the activist basis of the party, whereas Errejón appeals more to mainstream media and the higher

64   Alexandros Kioupkiolis echelons of the party apparatus (Alabao 2017; Rodríguez 2017; Briziarelli 2018: 114–115). In the aftermath of his defeat, Errejón was removed from his position of main party spokesperson in the national parliament. But he sealed a pact with Iglesias, who promised to endorse Errejón’s candidacy in the regional elections in Madrid in 2019. Although Iglesias powerfully reasserted his leadership, it seems that both have lost political capital in the eyes of a population that still suffers from high unemployment, precarity and ongoing cuts in public expenditure (Seguín and Faber 2017). However, far from dealing a death blow to Podemos’ populist brand, Vistalegre II staged a battle between two versions of populism, in which one carried the day. Errejón stood for a middle-­class populism, which speaks broadly to the people ‘beyond left and right’ and is more moderate, pragmatic and institutionalised. Iglesias, by contrast, championed a more left-­leaning, confrontational and pro-­movement variant, with a patina of radical rhetoric and street activism. His populism is effectively plebiscitarian in terms of the direct relation it establishes between the leader and the militant grassroots. The rank and file affirm the leader’s politics by vote and on the streets, bypassing the party apparatus on which the leader maintains a weaker hold. Iglesias’ current take on populism can be described thus as ‘neochavismo’, because it mirrors the leftist, radical and plebiscitarian populism of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela (Fernández and López 2017; Nichols 2017). ‘Technopopulism’, of the more spectacular, personalist and plebiscitarian variant, has also remained in full swing since Vistalegre I. Technopopulism has been crucial in this respect from the very birth of Podemos. Party membership though digital networks attracts a mass of ‘virtual’ members and ‘clickactivists’ who are separated from party militants and organised grassroots. Digital followers tend to be minimally involved in party politics and debates. But they still participate through online voting, ratifying the choices of the leaders and conferring on them a semblance of plebiscitary democratic legitimacy. Moreover, reliance on digital technologies for decision-­making increases the risks of manipulation from the top, especially when the software is run by a ‘technical’ group wedded to the leadership. In Vistalegre II, public competition for positions of power in the party was still waged in front of a rather passive mass of party ‘inscritos’ – the 450,000 people who had registered effortlessly as party members without having any pre-­existing connections or any active participation afterwards. As a result, appearing in the media and accumulating followers in social networks is a strategic priority for any aspirant to higher party positions and influence (Camargo 2017). A final significant development, which complicates Podemos’ populism and may have taken its toll on Podemos’ popularity, is the gradual crystallisation of a clearer position on the national question in Spain and Podemos’ ensuing stance on the conflict over Catalan independence in 2017. To begin with, in a typical populist move, Podemos has re-­appropriated in its discourse the notion of the ‘nation’ and ‘la patria’ so as to engage in a counter-­hegemonic struggle

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   65 with the right and to contest its monopolisation of the nation. But Podemos has tried increasingly to re-­articulate the Spanish ‘patria’ in terms of ‘plurinationality’ and ‘the fatherland of the people’, the collective resistance of people’s ‘patriots’ against a state that has abandoned its people and has inflicted austerity (Alba Rico 2018; Iglesias 2017; Ivaldi et al. 2017: 15; Agustín and Briziarelli 2018: 18–19; Agustín 2018: 164–165). ‘The homeland is the community that ensures that all citizens are protected, that respects national diversity […]’ (Iglesias 2015). Podemos’ political project, in this respect, is to stand up for public services, but also to re-­found the Spanish state to further democratise it by recognising its plurinational complexity. A new democratic constitution and new institutions would establish the autonomy of the plural regions and nations on a new, more solid basis, whereby different nations would share the same republic and the ‘peoples’ of the country would gain sovereignty (Alba Rico 2018; Iglesias 2017; Ivaldi et al. 2017: 15; Agustín 2018: 164–165). In line with this position, the party’s leadership took a complex and ambivalent stand on the ‘Catalan issue’ in 2017. Ιt called for a legally negotiated referendum on the question of Catalan independence from the Spanish state and, at the same time, it supported a vote against independence in the event of such a referendum. This was a nuanced and, arguably, progressive and democratic position that took into account diverse sectors of Catalan society who do not fully identify with either side in the conflict. It was also a singular instance in which Podemos’ leaders favoured complexity over and against clear antagonistic divides. However, they failed as a result to please the two main opponents in a heavily polarised conflict, the Catalan ‘independentistas’, who strive for unilateral ‘disconnection’, and the centralist, right-­wing government along with the entire pro-­monarchy and Spanish nationalist bloc. Podemos’ leaders came under heavy fire from both sides as ‘undercover advocates’ of the other side (see Iglesias 2017; Franzé 2018; Lotito 2017).

Walking on a tightrope: the challenges of radical democratic populism The party formation of Podemos, launched in 2014, is located in a broader current of ‘inclusionary’, left-­leaning populisms which have arisen over the past fifteen years in Europe and Latin America (see Mudde and Kaltwasser 2013; Gerbaudo 2016; Prentoulis and Thomassen 2017). This brand of populism marks a departure from the stereotypes of nationalist extremism and xenophobia which plague much populist politics in contemporary Europe. From 2010 onwards in Southern Europe, following Latin America at the turn of the millennium, a major crisis of political representation, the post-­democratic, oligarchic closure of liberal democracy and a severe socio-­economic crisis under neoliberal hegemony provided the structural conditions in which a leftist populism could win over broad sectors of the population that had become impoverished and alienated. Crucially, popular disaffection and massive social movements preceded the

66   Alexandros Kioupkiolis breakthrough of the populist parties and leaders, who acted as outlets for a plurality of demands and grievances against the ‘establishment’. Podemos shares the anti-­elitist discourse of other leftist populists. It is likewise a political response to ‘post-­democracy’, promising to reclaim popular sovereignty and to foster social justice. However, Podemos stood out by virtue of a set of singular features: its initial intimate ties with ‘horizontalist’ social movements and participatory democracy, its ‘technopolitics’, an original process of ‘commoning’ political discourse and representation beyond the left/right cleavage, and a reflexive application of populist theory unique in the history of modern populism. Yet, Podemos has gradually converged again with many other instances of left- and right-­wing populism insofar as it has reinforced in its midst tendencies towards centralisation, personalist leadership and top-­down direction, which clash with the culture of non-­hierarchical, direct and multitudinous participation. In Southern Europe, both SYRIZA and Podemos veered away from grassroots politics and massive social movements (horizontality) towards centralised political parties and strong leaders (verticality). In the process, Iglesias has managed to maintain a firm grip over his party, effectively neutralising any challenges to his leadership and the strategy he advances. Yet, the current poor performance in the polls and future failures may spawn further internal strife, sparking new shifts in the political course of the party or spelling the end of Podemos as a promising leftist-­populist project of change. Under the present, critical state of democracy, it is arguable that the ambiguous, conflicting mix of verticalism and horizontalism embodied by Podemos at its inception is able to open up ways forward. An uneasy blend between cohesion, representation, institutional and majoritarian politics, on the one hand, and direct collective participation, grassroots initiatives, plurality, contestation of hierarchies, on the other, has the potential to successfully negotiate ambivalent conditions in which the old – the delegation of responsibility, hierarchies and state institutions closed to collective participation – has not yet died, and the new struggles to assert and to constitute itself. But the challenge would be to sustain the blend by keeping alive and vibrant both dynamics in a nearly balanced composition, mutual limitation and enhancement. The recent historical lessons from ‘the cycle of progressivism’ in Latin America are illuminating in this respect: mass mobilizations against neoliberalism in the early part of this century, and the subsequent occupation of state apparatuses by progressive governments of different shades, are insufficient on their own to structurally transform society, the state, and the economy in the current context of global capitalism. Indeed, the occupation of the state can often domesticate social movements and tame their desires through partial incorporation of their demands within an underlying framework of continuity. (Schavelzon and Webber 2018: 180) Insofar as Podemos no longer lives up to the challenge of dualist politics, it is the new city ‘governments of change’ in several municipalities across Spain,

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   67 including Barcelona en Comú, which have now taken the lead on this political frontline of radical leftist populism. The final predominance of centralism, top-­down direction, personal leadership and institutionalisation, along with a return to a more traditional leftism in discourse, protest and party structure, simply destroy the mix. By the same token, they eliminate the patina of novelty and the image of an ‘outsider’, which can act as a massive attractor of disaffected citizens. Most crucially, they deprive any populist formation of the broad popular engagement, which could back it up in its struggles against established elites and structures, both within the institutions and against them. When a leftist populist party lacks any other source of ‘negotiation’ power in the system, it is only active popular participation and ongoing mobilisation that can supply the missing political weapon for struggle and transformation. And, of course, when the political project of a populist agency is egalitarian and emancipatory, it is only a massive, meaningful and equal participation of the people in political decision­making and action that can lead the way to a ‘real democracy’ of the people, by the people, for the people. As the contemporary thinker of populism, Ernesto Laclau, argued in his last work, when he addressed the latest democratic mobilisations in Northern Africa, Europe and the US in 2011, the horizontal dimension of autonomy will be incapable, left to itself, of bringing about long-­term historical change if it is not complemented by the vertical dimension of ‘hegemony’ – that is, a radical transformation of the state. Autonomy left to itself leads, sooner or later, to the exhaustion and the dispersion of the movements of protest. But hegemony not accompanied by mass action at the level of civil society leads to a bureaucratism that will be easily colonized by the corporative power of the forces of the status quo. To advance both in the directions of autonomy and hegemony is the real challenge to those who aim for a democratic future […]. (Laclau 2014: 9)

Notes 1 This chapter is an updated and enlarged version of a paper originally published in the Journal of Political Ideologies under the title Kioupkiolis, A. (2016) ‘Podemos: The ambiguous promises of left-­wing populism in contemporary Spain’, Journal of Political Ideologies 21(2): 99–120. The last revisions were realised at Madison, Wisconsin, with the aid of a Fulbright Scholarship (Greek Program, 2017–2018), for which the author expresses his gratitude. 2 On the notion of ‘post-­democracy’ and ‘post-­politics’, which captures features of the Spanish ‘1978 regime’, see Crouch 2004; Mouffe 2005. 3 For this reading of Laclau and populist theory more broadly, by Podemos’ leaders, see Errejón 2014; Fort Apache 2014. For the role of the leader – Pablo Iglesias – in Podemos, see Flesher Fominaya 2014; Lloriente 2014. For the claim that ‘verticalism’ or authoritarianism are an effect of the populist logic as fleshed out by Laclau, see Stobart 2014b.

68   Alexandros Kioupkiolis

References Aguiló, A. (2014) ‘El poder popular ante el nuevo ciclo electoral’,, 18 April. Available at: (accessed 8 November 2014). Agustín, Ó. G. (2018) ‘We the People or We the Republic? The Need for Republican Populism’, in Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) Podemos and the New Political Cycle: Left-­wing Populism and Anti-­establishment Politics, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (2018) ‘Introduction: Wind of Change: Podemos, Its Dreams and Its Politics’, in Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) Podemos and the New Political Cycle: Left-­wing Populism and Anti-­establishment Politics, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Alabao, N. (2017) ‘Historia de dos Vistalegres’, ctxt, n.103. Available at: V15zqB (accessed 3 May 2017). Alba Rico, S. (2018) ‘Interview: I Wouldn’t Talk about Nationalism, but Communitarianism’, with Pedro-­Carañana, Joan, opendemocracy, 24 March. Available at: AyHjKD (accessed 19 April 2018). Alemán, J. (2015) ‘El factor Laclau en la nueva izquierda española’,, 20 January. Available at: (accessed 10 June 2015). Antentas, J. M. (2016) ‘El desconcierto de una noche de verano’, Viento Sur, 29 June. Available at: (accessed 21 June 2017). Berezin, M. (2009) Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Briziarelli, M. (2018) ‘Podemos’ Twofold Assault on Hegemony: The Possibilities of the Post-­Modern Prince and the Perils of Passive Revolution’, in Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) Podemos and the New Political Cycle: Left-­wing Populism and Anti-­establishment Politics, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Buxton, J. (2009) ‘Venezuela: The Political Evolution of Bolivarianism’, in Lievesley, G. and Ludlam, S. (eds) Latin America: Experiments in Radical Social Democracy, London: Zed Books. Camargo, R. (2017) ‘Vista Alegre II: Se acaba el espectáculo, ¿comienza la política?’, 14 February. Available at: (accessed 9 May 2017). Casero-­Ripollés, A., Feenstra, R. A., and Tormey, S. (2016) ‘Old and New Media Logics in an Electoral Campaign: The Case of Podemos and the Two-­Way Street Mediatization of Politics’, The International Journal of Press/Politics 21(3): 378–397. Castells, M. (2012) Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age, Cambridge: Polity Press. Centro de investigaciones sociológicas (CIS) Ministerio de la Presidencia (2015a) Barómetro de enero 2015, Estudio no. 3050. Available at: (accessed 10 June 2015). Centro de investigaciones sociológicas (CIS) Ministerio de la Presidencia (2015b) Barómetro de abril 2015, Estudio no. 3080. Available at: (accessed 10 June 2015). Centro de investigaciones sociológicas (CIS) Ministerio de la Presidencia (2015c) Barómetro de julio 2015, Estudio no. 3104. Available at: (accessed 15 November 2015). Centro de investigaciones sociológicas (CIS) Ministerio de la Presidencia (2018) Barómetros, Indicadores, Intención de voto, enero 2018. Available at: opencms/ES/11_barometros/Indicadores_PI/documentos/B606050010a.html (accessed 24 April 2018).

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   69 Ciccariello-­Maher, G. (2013) We Created Chávez. A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution, Durham, London: Duke University Press. Clavell, G. G. (2015) ‘Podemos y la política de la tecnología’, Teknokultura 12(1): 111–119. Crouch, C. (2004) Post-­Democracy, Cambridge: Polity Press. del Barrio, A. (2014) ‘Los claves del éxito de Podemos: “No somos herederos del 15-M” ’, El mundo, 26 May. Available at: (accessed 8 November 2014). Delclos, C. (2014) ‘Podemos: The Political Upstart Taking Spain by Force’, RΟΑR Magazine, 9 December. Available at: (accessed 5 January 2015). de Sousa Santos, B. (2015) ‘The Podemos Wave’, openDemocracy, 16 March. Available at: (accessed 15 June 2017). Domínguez, A. (2014) ‘Nos encontramos en un momento de transición hacia otro régimen político: Entrevista a Pablo Iglesias’, in Domínguez, A. and Giménez, L. (eds) Claro que podemos: De La Tuerka a la esperanza del cambio en España. Barcelona: Los Libros del Lince. Errejón Galván, Í. (2011) ‘La construcción discursiva de identidades populares’, Viento Sur 114: 75–84. Errejón Galván, Í. (2014) ‘¿Qué es “Podemos”?’, Le Monde diplomatique en español 225. Available at: (accessed 8 November 2014). Espinoza Pino, M. (2014) ‘Podemos: ¿Es la hora de la gente?’,, 18 November. Available at: 3p2/ (accessed 5 January 2015). Fernández, B. and López, I. (2017) ‘Diez ideas a contracorriente sobre Vistalegre II’, ctxt, n.113, 19 April. Available at: (accessed 4 May 2017). Flesher Fominaya, C. (2014) ‘Spain is Different: Podemos and 15 M’, openDemocracy, 29 May. Available at: (accessed 8 November 2014). Fort Apache (2014) ‘Podemos y el populismο’, 21 November. Available at: https://goo. gl/dIk1LC (accessed 5 January 2015). Fort Apache (2016) ‘Elecciones sin Sorpasso’, 2 July. Available at: (accessed 7 July 2016). Franzé, J. (2015) ‘Podemos: ¿regeneración democrática o impugnación del orden? Transición, frontera política y democracia’, Cahiers de civilisation espagnole contemporaine. De 1808 au temps présent 15. Available at: (accessed 21 July 2016). Franzé, J. (2018) ‘El declive de Podemos’, ctxt 134, 31 January. Available at: http://ctxt. es/es/20180131/Firmas/17557/Podemos-­transicion-hegemonia-­discurso-catalunya-­ investidura.htm (accessed 19 April 2018). García, A. (2015) ‘El proceso constituyente de Podemos, camino hacia la verticalidad’, enlucha, 4 January. Available at: (accessed 10 June 2015). Gerbaudo, P. (2016) ‘Leftwing Populism: A Primer’, Medium, 30 November. Available at:­populism-a-­primer-12d92e90c952 (accessed 10 June 2018). Giddens, A. (1991) The Consequences of Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press. Goodwin, M. J. (2011) Right Response: Understanding and Countering Populist Extremism in Europe, London: Chatham House. Jurado Gilabert, F. (2014) ‘Podemos: núcleo, entorno y afuera’,, 17 November. Available at: (accessed 5 January 2015). Iglesias, P. (2014) ‘The Left can Win’, Jacobin, 12 September. Available at: https://goo. gl/r4lDmG (accessed 8 November 2014). Iglesias, P. (2015) ‘Discurso íntegro de Pablo Iglesias en la Puerta del Sol’,, 4 February. Available at:­integro-de-­pabloiglesias-­en-la-­puerta-del-­sol/ (accessed 19 April 2018).

70   Alexandros Kioupkiolis Iglesias, P. (2017) ‘Interview: Pablo Iglesias Thinks There is an Alternative’, with Gilmartin, E. and Greene, T., Jacobin, 20 December. Available at: N5Hwe5 (accessed 19 April 2018). Katsambekis, G. (2016) ‘Radical Left Populism in Contemporary Greece: Syriza’s Trajectory from Minoritarian Opposition to Power’, Constellations 23(3): 391–403. Kioupkiolis, A. and Katsambekis, G. (eds) (2014) Radical Democracy and Collective Movements Today: The Biopolitics of the Multitude versus the Hegemony of the People, Farnham: Ashgate. Kioupkiolis, A. and Katsambekis, G. (2018) ‘Radical Left Populism from the Margins to the Mainstream: A Comparison of Syriza and Podemos’, in Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) (2017) Podemos and the New Political Cycle: Left-­wing Populism and Anti-­establishment Politics, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 201–226. Ivaldi, G., Lanzone, M. E. and Woods, D. (2017) ‘Varieties of Populism across a Left– Right Spectrum: The Case of the Front National, the Northern League, Podemos and Five Star Movement’, Swiss Political Science Review 23(4): 354–376. Laclau, E. (1996) Emancipation(s), London: Verso. Laclau, E. (2005) On Populist Reason, London: Verso. Laclau, E. (2014) The Rhetorical Foundations of Society, London: Verso. Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, London: Verso. Lamant, L. (2015) ‘En Espagne, Podemos se déchire sur sa stratégie’, Mediapart, 2 May. Available at: (accessed 10 June 2015). Lipow, A. and Seyd, P. (1995) ‘Political Parties and the Challenge to Democracy: From Steam-­engines to Techno-­populism’, New Political Science 17(1–2): 295–308. Lloriente, D. (2014) ‘Podemos: A Monolothic, Vertical, and Hierarchical Party?’, 22 November. Available at: (accessed 5 January 2015). Lotito, D. (2017) ‘Unidos Podemos y Catalunya: una “equidistancia” que sólo favorece al régimen monárquico’, La Izquierda Diario, 25 October. Available at: www.­Podemos-y-­Catalunya-una-­equidistancia-que-­solo-favorece-­ al-regimen-­monarquico (accessed 24 April 2018). Machado, D. (2014) ‘Podemos y la experiencia latinoamericana’,, 5 December. Available at: (accessed 5 January 2015). Martínez Alier, J. (2014) ‘Podemos, el Euro-­Peronismo’, Rebelión, 27 December. Available at: (accessed 10 October 2015). Medina, I. and Correa, P. (2016) ‘The 2015 Spanish Election: The Times They Are a’Changing’, Regional and Federal Studies 26(3): 407–417. Monedero, J. C. (2016) ‘A la primera no va la vencida’, Comiendo Terra, 27 June. Available at: (accessed 21 June 2016). Monedero, J. C., et al. (2014) ‘Mover ficha: convertir la indignación en cambio politico’. Available at: (accessed 27 April 2018). Mouffe, C. (2005) On the Political, London: Routledge. Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2013) ‘Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary Populism: Comparing Contemporary Europe and Latin America’, Government and Opposition 48(2): 147–174. Müller, J.-W. (2016) What Is Populism?, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Nichols, D. (2017) ‘Spanish State: Big Issues for Podemos Left Unresolved by Congress’, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, 11 March. Available at: AkHlGQ (accessed 9 May 2017).

Leftist populism in Spain: Podemos, 2014–2018   71 Nunes, R. (2014) Organisation of the Organisationless: Collective Action after Networks, Leuphana: Mute/Post-­Media Lab. Painter, A. (2013) Democratic Stress, the Populist Signal and the Extremist Threat, London: Policy Network. Pastor, J. (2016) ‘El régimen resiste frente a la apuesta por el “cambio” ’, Viento Sur, 27 June. Available at: (accessed 21 July 2016). Pavía, J. M., Bodoque, A. and Martín, J. (2016) ‘The Birth of a New Party: Podemos, a Hurricane in the Spanish Crisis of Trust’, Open Journal of Social Sciences 4(09): 67. Pizarro, M. A. and Labuske, E. (2015) ‘El músculo deliberativo del algoritmo democrático: Podemos y la participación ciudadana’, Teknokultura 12(1): 93–109. Prentoulis, M. and Thomassen, L. (2017) ‘Left Populism: The Challenges from Grassroots to Electoral Politics’, Transform – A Journal of the Radical Left 1(1): 109–128. Podemos (2014a) ‘Principios Políticos’. Available at: (accessed 8 November 2014). Podemos (2014b) ‘Programa para las elecciones europeas’. Available at: LjUBBE (accessed 8 November 2014). Podemos (2014c) ‘Código Ético’. Available at: (accessed 8 November 2014). Razquin Mangado, A. (2017) Didáctica ciudadana: la vida política en las plazas. Etnografía del movimiento 15M, Granada: Editorial Universidad de Granada. Rendueles, C. and Sola, J. (2018) ‘The Rise of Podemos: Promises, Constraints, and Dilemmas’, in Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) Podemos and the New Political Cycle: Left-­wing Populism and Anti-­establishment Politics, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Ríos, D. (2016) ‘Iglesias anuncia el fin del “asalto” y el intento de convertir Podemos en una fuerza política “normalizada” ’,, 4 July. Available at: http://goo. gl/2cKt3K (accessed 7 July 2016). Roberts, K. M. (2015) ‘Populism, Political Mobilizations, and Crises of Political Representation’, in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 140–158. Rodon, T. and Hierro, M. J. (2016) ‘Podemos and Ciudadanos Shake Up the Spanish Party System: The 2015 Local and Regional Elections’, South European Society and Politics 21(3): 339–357. Rodríguez, E. (2016) ‘Por qué ha fracasado Podemos’,, 22 June. Available at: (accessed 21 July 2016). Rodríguez, E. (2017) ‘Pablo Bonaparte: la confirmación’,, 19 April. Available at: (accessed 3 May 2017). Rubiño, E. F. (2015) ‘Nuevas formas de cultura política: Podemos, un giro anómalo de las redes sociales’, Teknokultura 12(1): 77–91. Sampedro, V. and Lobera, J. (2014) ‘The Spanish 15-M Movement: A Consensual Dissent?’ Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 15(1–2): 61–80. Sánchez, J. D. (2014) ‘Occupy Representation: Podemos and the Politics of Truth’, Iohannes Maurus Blogspot, 31 May. Available at: (accessed 8 November 2014). Sanz, S. (2015) ‘¿Quién vota a Pablo Iglesias?’,, 5 February. Available at: (accessed 10 June 2015). Schavelzon, S. and Webber, J. R. (2018) ‘Podemos and Latin America’, in Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) Podemos and the New Political Cycle: Left-­wing Populism and Anti-­establishment Politics, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Seguín, B. and Faber, S. (2017) ‘Has Spain’s Podemos Party Squandered its Prospects?’ The Nation, 1 March. Available at: (accessed 2 May 2017).

72   Alexandros Kioupkiolis Sitrin, M. and Azzellini, D. (2014) They Can’t Represent Us: Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy, London: Verso. Solís, J. (2015) ‘Podemos se desangra por el voto joven’,, 6 August. Available at: (accessed 20 February 2016). Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘Left-­wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2): 119–142. Stobart, L. (2014a) ‘Understanding Pοdemos (1/3): 15 M and Counter-­politics’, Left Flank, 5 November. Available at: (accessed 5 January 2015). Stobart, L. (2014b) ‘Understanding Pοdemos (2/3): Radical Populism’, Left Flank, 14 November. Available at: (accessed 5 January 2015). Taibo, C. (ed.) (2015) Hasta luego, Pablo. Once ensayos críticos sobre Podemos, Madrid: La Catarata. Tenhunen, L. and Rodriguez, A. (2014) ‘Podemos: The Machine is Still Under Construction’, openDemocracy, 6 June. Available at: (accessed 8 November 2014). Toret, J. (2015) ‘Una mirada tecnopolítica al primer año de Podemos. Seis hipótesis’, Teknokultura 12(1): 121–135. Zabala, S. (2014) ‘In Europe, Not All Populist Parties Are the Same’, Aljazeera America, 2 December. Available at: (accessed 5 January 2015).

3 Between populism and socialism Slovenia’s Left party Alen Toplišek

Introduction The Left (Levica) is a relative newcomer in the Slovenian party system and the European Populist Radical Left (PRL) party family more widely. Formally established in March 2014 as a coalition party under the name of the United Left, it managed to surpass the 4 per cent electoral threshold in the July 2014 parliamentary elections with 5.97 per cent of the popular vote. The electoral result translated into six seats in a ninety-­member National Assembly, putting the new party on a par with the traditional party on the Slovenian Left, the Social Democrats, who had their worst electoral result since Slovenia’s independence in 1991. The novelty of the United Left was notable not only in terms of its electoral breakthrough in July 2014, but also regarding its founding organisational structure and its organic ties with new left social movements. The United Left was a coalition of three smaller parties and the ‘fourth bloc’, which represented social movements and individuals: (1) Initiative for Democratic Socialism (IDS); (2) Democratic Labour Party (DSD); (3) the Party for the Sustainable Development of Slovenia (TRS); and (4) civil society movements and individuals. Without taking account of its beginnings in the 2012–2013 anti-­establishment protests in Slovenia, we cannot fully understand the key drivers behind the emergence of this new left-­wing party. Yet, the party’s ideological and activist roots precede the protests, and they are closely tied with the fragmented, yet vibrant new left social movements that have animated the urban spaces of Slovenian civil society in the 2000s and early 2010s. The aim of this chapter is to explain the emergence of the Left and its electoral breakthrough in 2014. The first part will focus on the movement-­party phase of its trajectory and will inquire into how the United Left managed to capitalise on the public’s growing anti-­establishment sentiments by providing further insights into the political opportunity structure behind United Left’s first electoral success. It will do so through a multi-­level analysis of the intersection between the 2012–2013 protests, wider structural conditions, the peculiarities of the political system and the dynamics of party competition. The second part will attempt to define the Left’s ideological profile by analysing its discourse to

74   Alen Toplišek determine whether it is a democratic socialist or a populist socialist party. It will then outline an overview of the Left’s programmatic positions on socio-­ economic and cultural issues, as well its evolving stance towards the EU, with a special focus on its tactics which differentiate it from other party competitors. The third and final part will contrast the current, ideologically more pronounced, trajectory of the Left with an alternative populist, and ideologically lighter one, which could increase its chances of electoral success in the future.

The political opportunity structure behind United Left’s success The 2012–2013 Slovenian protests as the populist rupture in Slovenian politics The short-­lived movement that emerged during the 2012–2013 Slovenian protests marked the beginning of the trajectory that led to establishment of the Left’s predecessor, the United Left. Mass protests in the winter of 2012, which were triggered by corruption allegations against the mayor of Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest town, swiftly spread to other parts of the country, widening the scope of protesters’ scorn to the whole of the political class. These protests were the largest in Slovenia’s short history of independence since 1991 and were widely seen as spontaneous and not organised by any of the trade unions or established political parties. With ‘the people’ as their discursive nodal point and an antagonistic opposition against the whole political class, the ‘All-­Slovenian People’s Uprisings’, as they came to be known, represented a pivotal populist rupture in the Slovenian political landscape. According to the minimal definition of populism (see Mudde 2004; Laclau 2005; Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014; Katsambekis 2016), the centrality of a homogenous ‘people’ and anti-­elitism provide the key criteria of what constitutes populism in discursive and ideological terms. As the protests in Maribor and the capital of Ljubljana grew in numbers between December 2012 and April 2013, a discursive chain of equivalence was formed by uniting ideologically heterogeneous protest groups through a populist discourse which effectively differentiated the purity of popular sovereignty from the corruption of the existing political parties and politicians. Protest slogans, such as ‘It is over with him/them!’ and ‘They are all crooks!’ (Kirn 2014), represented a powerful rallying cry for different protest groups with at times contradictory political demands. While protest groups managed to agree on a set of mutually agreed demands by February 2013, including an end to austerity, the reform of the judiciary and the introduction of recall elections, they diverged on their analyses of the situation and the ways forward. The key short-­term goal of the movement was for Prime Minister Janez Janša to step down, but views diverged over whether they should put efforts into demanding the same from the parliament, as well. More generally, the rejection of the political establishment as illegitimate led most of

Between populism and socialism: Slovenia   75 the protest groups to demand new, morally pure faces in politics, who they believed would be able to rise above the old left–right political divide and to find non-­divisive solutions to the identified problems.1 This liberal technocratic narrative was influential in the movement, and it side-­lined a more systemic critique of the relationship between the political class and the economic system. The latter narrative was driven most strongly by the Initiative for Democratic Socialism (IDS), which was one of the protest groups that formed during the popular uprisings. When the protest movement succeeded in toppling the corruption-­ ridden Prime Minister Janez Janša and his government, the fragile populist front of the movement eventually disintegrated. IDS was the main driving force behind the emergence of the Left’s predecessor, the United Left, and it was the only protest group to survive the 2014 election period. The question that needs to be addressed here is what IDS did right that other protest groups failed to do. In contrast to other protest groups, IDS effectively brought together ideologically similar individuals and groups – some that emerged directly from the protests and some that had been active before – around a common set of ideas under the banner of ‘democratic socialism’. Composed of members who were mostly young Marxist students and academics with previous activist experience in social movements, IDS possessed clear advantages, both intellectually and in terms of ideological cohesiveness over other protest groups. Intellectually, it developed its Marxist analysis through educational and research projects, such as the Workers and Punkers’ University and the Institute for Labour Studies, which is partly supported also by the Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung. Their activist experience in social movements (e.g. the anti-­globalisation movement, minority rights movement, anti-­NATO protests, precarious workers movement and Occupy Slovenia) helped the members to test and develop their philosophical ideas in practice. Yet, it was also their past activist experience which made IDS members realise, during the 2012–2013 protests, that entering the electoral arena was the only way to cut the cord with the past impotence of the radical left in Slovenia.2 While the radical left was vibrant and rich in its activist experience, it failed to effect any substantive change to the neoliberal course that Slovenia had taken under past centre-­right and centre-­left governments. This important shift in the political organisation and the strategy of the Slovenian radical left was fundamentally influenced by the cotemporaneous experience of the indignados and Podemos in Spain and the Aganaktismenoi and Syriza in Greece. Both examples showed that for radical left politics to have any effect on key political decisions it needs to be ready to march through the institutions and to compete with established political forces in the electoral arena. By placing the Slovenian protests within the wider context of political developments in other parts of the European periphery, IDS realised that it needed to take a more organised form if it were to transform the political centres of power (IDS 2017). Two founding members explain that ‘[p]rotests as such have definitely caused history to speed-­up and processes that would otherwise demand much more time have unravelled rather quickly’ (Korsika and Mesec 2014: 85–86).

76   Alen Toplišek The 2012–2013 protests, therefore, opened up an opportunity for a strategic shift of the Slovenian radical left towards direct engagement with electoral politics. As it was undergoing a process of formalisation into a registered political party, IDS sought to ally with other ideologically similar political groups to surpass the fragmentation of the radical left and to form a coalition, leading to the establishment of the United Left in March 2014. Going back to the question raised above, it can be said that past activist experience and the ideological coherence of IDS and its sister parties gave to the Left an organisational and motivational advantage over other protest groups and enabled it to capitalise on the anti-­establishment feeling. The latter groups either disintegrated or they formed pre-­electoral coalitions with established political parties. In the next section, I focus on the structural and meso-­institutional factors that can help explain the electoral breakthrough of the Left in the 2014 parliamentary elections. Wider structural conditions, party system rules and party competition To understand why the pivotal 2012–2013 protests erupted in the first place and what contributed to the electoral success of the Left in the 2014 parliamentary elections, we need to introduce into our analysis more explanatory variables. Following Paolo Chiocchetti (2017), I identify three interrelated variables: (1) wider structural conditions; (2) party system rules and (3) party competition.3 (1) After the declaration of independence in 1991, successive Slovenian governments followed a strategic middle path between ‘the shock doctrine’ of rapid liberalisation and privatisation of state assets, which was implemented in many other post-­socialist states in Eastern Europe, and the Yugoslav model of state-­ managed economy. This gradualist approach to the transition to a capitalist free market economy lasted until 2004, when Janez Janša’s first coalition government accelerated privatisation and market-­friendly reforms. When Slovenia entered the Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II) in 2004, the inflow of foreign credit increased greatly. This offered Slovenian banks cheap access to capital, and it triggered a pronounced shift in the predominantly state-­owned bank financing from deposits to foreign capital markets (Furlan 2014). When the financial crisis hit the global economy in 2008–2009, the Slovenian export-­oriented economy ‘witnessed a sharp fall in export performance (the exports decreased by 16.1 per cent in 2009) and a devastating decline in economic growth (GDP dropped by 7.9 per cent in 2009)’ (Furlan 2014). This caused the construction and real estate bubbles to burst. Many enterprises went bankrupt and highly indebted companies accumulated losses on banks’ balance sheets. A sovereign debt crisis ensued as governments took on the debt by increasing the state’s deposits (‘state recapitalisation’) in the banking system (Furlan 2014). The economic downturn provoked a swift rise in unemployment (from 4.4 per cent in 2008 to 10.6 per cent in 2013). This had a knock-­on effect on the deteriorating living standards for ordinary Slovenians. Lacking the power to facilitate exports by means of external devaluation after adoption of the Euro in

Between populism and socialism: Slovenia   77 2007 and accumulating public debt, both centre-­right and centre-­left governments introduced austerity measures (cuts to public spending) and market-­ friendly structural reforms. Welfare reform restricted the criteria for obtaining social security benefits, and some transfer payments were reduced or eliminated. Together with labour market and pensions system reforms, these factors increased the risk of poverty and social exclusion for vulnerable groups, especially lone parents, the elderly and the unemployed (Filipovič Hrast and Ignjatović 2014). The public in Slovenia has traditionally been highly pro-­egalitarian and supportive of the redistributive role of the state, with positive attitudes towards redistribution being quite constant over time at around 80 per cent (Rus and Toš 2005; Toš 2016). Although Slovenia maintained one of the lowest levels of income inequality in the OECD (a Gini coefficient of around 0.24), the economic crisis had a notable effect on the public’s perception of their livelihoods. There has been a clear rise in those who think that the cause of poverty is structural (too much injustice in society) rather than individual (people are lazy and lack willpower): from 42 per cent in 2007 to 61 per cent in 2010 (Filipovič Hrast and Ignjatović 2014: 610). The rise in perceptions of injustice has been accompanied by a growing dissatisfaction with the way democracy functions in the country, with less than a third expressing their satisfaction with the functioning of democracy between 2004–2016 (Rus and Toš 2005; Filipović Hrast and Ignjatović 2014; Toš 2007; Toš 2016). Trust in the parliament and political parties also declined further during this period. This decline accounts for heightened critical attitudes towards established political elites, a key driver behind the 2012–2013 protests. In his study, Niko Toš noted that aggravation of living conditions for many ordinary Slovenians also contributed to a more negative public attitude towards capitalism and a more positive attitude towards socialism (Toš 2016: 527). In fact, between 1995 and 2013, public support for capitalism fell steadily and was constantly lower than support for socialism. This trend became even more pronounced with aggravation of the economic crisis in Slovenia after 2011. Considering these structural trends altogether, we can see more clearly how economic and political performance affects the public’s perception of political elites and institutions, and how people’s willingness to switch party allegiance (or not to vote altogether) might increase as a result (see Kustec Lipicer and Henjak 2015). It also helps us explain how the Left, with an ideologically coherent message, managed to pull off an electoral success when political forces on the radical left in other post-­socialist countries were not able to do so. (2) Before I turn to analysing the success of the Left in relation to its party competitors, I first need to outline another explanatory variable, which eased the process of establishing a new party in the Slovenian electoral system and provided support for party competition: party system rules and dynamics. The Slovenian electoral system is proportional, with a relatively low parliamentary threshold of 4 per cent which makes the system considerably more open to new political parties than first-­past-the-­post electoral systems. As a result, the

78   Alen Toplišek Slovenian electoral system makes room for the existence and participation of many, including small size, political parties (Kržan 2007). According to the Political Parties Act, a political party can be established with the support of at least 200 adult citizens. Political parties rely mostly on public funds. The amount of public money they receive is determined by their electoral performance in previous parliamentary elections. Both parliamentary and non-­parliamentary groups are eligible, as long as they gain at least 1 per cent of the vote in the previous elections. Alongside public funds, political parties in Slovenia are financed also from membership fees and donations. However, this represents only a moderate amount, compared to the substantial funding they get from the public budget (Kustec Lipicer and Henjak 2015). Newly established political parties have the right to claim funds from the public budget, as long as they receive at least 1 per cent of the vote (or 1.2 per cent if running on a joint-­list with another party and 1.5 per cent if running together with two or more parties). Alongside the relatively open and publicly supported system of political parties, media access and exposure also play an important role. As Katja Agrež (2016) outlines, mass media exposure is particularly important for new political parties. While mass media raises their public visibility and awareness through reporting, opinion polling and prominence in media coverage can also affect voter preferences and prompt ‘band-­wagon effects’ (Rothschild and Malhotra 2014). The personal qualities of a leader have also become increasingly prominent in light of the mass mediatisation of politics. This is reflected in instances where political leaders score higher ratings than their own parties (Kropivnik and Zatler 2002) or when the charisma or integrity of a leader increases the publicity and voter preference for new party challengers (Sikk 2011; Lucardie 2000). Indeed, three days before the election day in 2014, the commercial television channel with the highest ratings in Slovenia, POP TV, hosted the last TV debate between the leaders of political parties which enjoyed the highest support in opinion polls (around 2–3 per cent). Luka Mesec, the young leader of the Left,4 was the biggest surprise of the evening, coming second in the public perception of trustworthiness among nine party leaders who participated. His popularity started to grow as the debate moved to the topic of privatisation in the second part of the show (24UR 2014). Many commentators have attributed the electoral breakthrough of the party to his good performance in the television debate, which was also demonstrated by a 1 per cent jump for the Left in the last opinion poll before election silence (see Mladina 2014). (3) Party competition is the third element that needs to be taken into account. As Allan Sikk aptly notes, new political parties ‘have been particularly numerous and successful in the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe’ (Sikk 2011: 467), and Slovenia is no exception. Despite the relative openness of the party system and the resulting fragmentation of the parliamentary arena, Simona Kustec Lipicer and Andrija Henjak note there has been ‘a high degree of party stability, with parties creating stable organisations, membership bases and political identities’ (Kustec Lipicer and Henjak 2015). While the stability of the party system was traditionally maintained by the dominance of the left-­liberal bloc,

Between populism and socialism: Slovenia   79 with the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) at the helm up until 2004, from then onwards the political system has been increasingly polarised between the conservative Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and a splintering of the LDS into new parties (Kustec Lipicer and Henjak 2015). The party system has become more unstable with the worsening of the economic crisis. Instability reached its peak with the 2011 and 2014 elections, which disrupted the bipolarity between established centre-­right and centre-­left elites (see Figures 3.1 and 3.2). The once dominant LDS was left out of parliament in 2011, its voters shifting to the newly established centre-­left party Positive Slovenia (PS), led by the popular Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković. The corruption charges against Zoran Janković (PS) and Janez Janša (SDS) in February 2013 and the 2012–2013 protests shook up the political landscape once again. The PS splintered and a new personalistic party won the centre-­left vote, the Modern Centre Party (SMC), led by Miro Cerar. Kustec Lipicer and Henjak (2015) describe the period following the 2008 parliamentary elections as characterised by a phenomenon of ‘single-­ term parties, emerging and disappearing from one election to the next’. Given this instability of parliamentary politics, we can see how the (centre-) left political space was in a constant shift during this period. Traditionally, it was dominated by LDS, then by the Social Democrats (SD) between 2008 and 2011, and then by new personalistic parties (PS and SMC). A key factor for the electoral success of the Left in 2014 was the cotemporaneous decline of the Social





/*9 QHZSDUW\ 6' 6'6 36 QHZSDUW\


Figure 3.1 2011 elections (share of parliamentary seats for the Slovenian Left in per cent). Note DeSUS, Demokratična stranka upokojencev Slovenije (Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia); LGV, Državljanska lista Gregorja Viranta (Gregor Virant’s Civc List); NSI, Nova Slovenija – Krščanski demokrati (New Slovenia – Christian Democrats); PS, Pozitivna Slovenija (Positive Slovenia); SD, Socialni demokrati (Social Democrats); SDS, Slovenska demokratska stranka (Slovenian Democratic Party); SLS, Slovenska ljudska stranka (Slovenian People’s Party).

80   Alen Toplišek





'H686 6'6 60& QHZSDUW\


Figure 3.2 2014 elections (share of parliamentary seats for the Slovenian Left in per cent). Note DeSUS, Demokratična stranka upokojencev Slovenije (Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia); NSI, Nova Slovenija – Krščanski demokrati (New Slovenia – Christian Democrats); SD, Socialni demokrati (Social Democrats); SDS, Slovenska demokratska stranka (Slovenian Democratic Party); SMC, Stranka modernega centra (Modern Centre Party); ZaAB, Zavezništvo Alenke Bratušek (Alliance of Alenka Bratušek).

Democrats and the demobilisation of their voter base. When they were in government between 2008 and 2012, SD adopted a number of neoliberal structural reforms in its key policy areas (welfare, labour market and the pensions system), which were very unpopular with the electorate. As a result, many of its voters felt abandoned. This created a political opportunity for a new party to fill the vacuum. Although SMC was perceived as the new party which would take over the centre-­left ground in 2014, its centrism was strongly predicated on an ideologically vague moralism, which was also aimed at disenchanted right-­wing voters. Its ideological-­programmatic ambivalence entailed that during the election campaign the party did not crystallise its position on many issues important to left-­wing voters, making again room for a more ideologically coherent left-­ wing force. It is in this context of party competition that the Left as a new left-­ wing challenger, which represents the interests of the working class and marginalised groups, was able to enter the parliamentary arena. If we consider all three explanatory variables together, it is difficult to determine precisely which was the more influential behind the Left’s success. Sikk (2011), for instance, argues that the simple appeal of ‘newness’ may be enough to account for the success of new parties, and that a party’s ideological clarity and social cleavages may not matter so much. He adds that this might be the

Between populism and socialism: Slovenia   81 case especially in the context of the de-­ideologised political competition that characterises contemporary democracies (Sikk 2011: 467). Contra Sikk, I argue that while the appeal of newness arguably did play a role in the 2014 parliamentary election, especially with regard to the victory of SMC, this argument does not suffice to explain the success of the Left. Miro Cerar, the leader of SMC, was a highly respectable and recognisable figure in Slovenian civil society, while Luka Mesec, the leader of the United Left, had been unknown to the general public. The Left, and its leader, only gained higher visibility thanks to a persuasive and ideologically coherent political manifesto. For this persuasiveness to be registered among the general public, both the relative openness of the media space to new parties and policy proposals that resonated with the zeitgeist of the period were crucial. Therefore, the three explanatory variables should be considered in a complementary and interrelated manner.

Between populism and socialism: ideological profile, programmatic positions and strategy In this section, I analyse the ideological and programmatic profile of the Left and its strategies of cooperation and competition with other political parties. The ideological profile will be analysed in terms of the ideological relationship between socialism and populism, with a special focus on the discursive construction of ‘the people’ in the Left’s discourse. (1) The Left presents itself as a democratic eco-­socialist party. This is evidenced by their membership in the Party of the European Left, which brings together democratic socialist and communist parties around Europe. Yet, from its very inception, the Left has been perceived by its party competitors and the commercial media also as a left-­populist party. The populist label has been almost exclusively used in a pejorative way, especially when employed by its competitors on the centre-­left to discredit the Left as a bunch of idealists and ‘random street people’, a reference to their roots in the 2012–2013 protests (Vičič 2015). The negative connotations around the term explain in part why the Left has not readily appropriated the populist description in the way that Jean-­ Luc Mélenchon did, for example, in France. The semantics surrounding the populist signifier ‘the people’ in Slovenian point towards an explanation as to why the Left finds it hard to brand itself as populist, even though its discourse does carry populist elements. In Slovenian, the term ‘the people’ (ljudstvo) carries strong ethno-­nationalist undertones, which are reflected in the more common usage of the word ‘nation’ (narod) when referring to the people. This perhaps explains why the Left’s discourse refers more often to ‘the ordinary people’, which in Slovenian is plural (navadni ljudje). The signifier ‘ordinary’ people in the Left’s discourse is heterogeneous. It is pluralist in the sense that it is inclusive of people regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, (dis)ability and sexuality. And it carries strong class undertones, appealing to all those humiliated, degraded and marginalised by the current political economic system.

82   Alen Toplišek At a more philosophical level, the reticence to embrace the populist label might also have to do with the Marxist analysis that heavily informs the Left’s programme and the discourse of many key figures in the party. Marxism has historically entertained a difficult relationship with populism. While they both share a strong anti-­elitism, Marxist philosophy often presented itself as a refined version of conflict theory, whereas populism (of the peasants, for example) was treated only as a rudimentary form of (evolving) class/socialist consciousness. This is because the populist construction of the radical subject (‘the people’) lacked a systemic analysis and failed to bring into play an account of the economic relations of power underpinning elite rule. However, as the limitations of the Narodnik movement in the 1870s demonstrated, for example in the Russian Empire, revolutionary socialist ideals are often at odds with non-­proletarianised dominated groups, and this makes it difficult to establish a more hegemonic role for socialist ideas without education and proselytising from the intelligentsia. As many scholars of populism have noted, populism is often opposed to the role of intellectuals in society, as they are seen as far removed and out of touch with the common sense of the people.5 As I will show in the last section, this might present a problem for the future strategy of the Left in broadening the popular support for its message. With regard to the strong class-­based analysis that characterises the Left’s discourse, the party at first sight easily falls into the democratic socialist parties category according to Luke March’s typology of far-­left parties (March 2008). Yet, its use of anti-­elite and anti-­establishment discourse, its beginnings in the 2012–2013 anti-­establishment protests, and the perception of the party espoused among its competitors place it closer to the populist socialist parties category. The Left’s support for democracy, the inclusion of marginalised and excluded groups (refugees, immigrants, LGBT and the unemployed), the rejection of both totalitarian communism and neoliberal social democracy, and a strong anti-­elite and anti-­establishment position can be said to position the party somewhere in between democratic socialist parties and populist socialist parties. Because its socialist ideological core is stronger than its populist appeal, it cannot be simply situated in the latter group. Its discourse and ideological profile convey, therefore, both the hard socialist ideological core and the ideologically lighter populist appeal. (2) The next section will analyse how this heterogeneous ideological profile translates into the party’s programmatic positions on socio-­economic and cultural issues, as well as into its stance towards the EU and other international/ transnational collaboration. The Left’s 2014 political manifesto reads more as a collection of policy guidelines and justifications, divided into 16 different points, rather than as a set of precise policy proposals, with a few exceptions. Most of the points in the manifesto (11 out of 16) have a clear socio-­economic dimension (Table 3.1). Some more concrete policy proposals that can be found in the political manifesto gained wide media attention during the 2014 election campaign, especially the 1:5 ratio for limiting income disparities in the public sector and state-­owned

Between populism and socialism: Slovenia   83 Table 3.1 The Slovenian Left’s key manifesto positions (United Left 2014) Socio-economic positions

Cultural (and other) positions

Immediate halt to austerity measures State assistance for enterprises, halt to privatisation Workers’ management in enterprises Public oversight of banks A coordinated economy towards full employment Solution to the problem of debt through the establishment of an independent debt audit Fair tax reform through capital income taxation Fight against tax havens Protection of the welfare state Democratic and participatory public finance Sustainable food production

Direct democracy and transformation of the state The extension of personal freedoms and rights Towards an ecological shift Commitment to peace and demilitarisation Demand German reparations for the Second World War

enterprises. Between 2014 and 2016, the Left’s biggest achievement as a small political party with only six MPs in a ninety-­member parliament was its ability to push new issues onto the political agenda and up for parliamentary debate. By introducing motions to reverse austerity measures, to ensure state provision of free lunch meals for all school children, to legalise marijuana, to enact same-­sex marriage equality, to stop the adoption of new free trade agreements and to guarantee the rights of refugees under international conventions, the Left was able to exert considerable pressure on the centre-­left coalition government of PM Miro Cerar and to change the terms of the political debate. Despite being in opposition, the Left has managed to put into practice some of its political goals by building partnerships with civil society groups (issue-­specific interest groups, trade unions, individual activists, artists, etc.), by organising press conferences and by tabling bills and amendments of bills. While the party’s call to exit NATO has been clear from the very start, its position on the EU/Eurozone has been evolving together with the developments in the wider regional context. Learning from the experience of Syriza in 2015 and its failure to present a decisive alternative to the Troika’s austerity and structural reforms programme, the Left has joined other political parties at the European level to work towards ‘A Plan B in Europe’. The plan consists of a double strategy: one that aims towards a complete renegotiation of the European Treaties and the democratisation of the EU structures (Plan A); and another focused on building an alternative international infrastructure for monetary and economic governance outside the Eurozone (Plan B). To fend off blackmail from opposing political and economic forces, Plan B’s objective is to strengthen the

84   Alen Toplišek negotiating position of participating members. Alongside this transnational initiative, the Left’s internationalist perspective goes even further. By sending its delegates to regional and international conferences, it seeks to share its experiences with other left-­wing political groups, while building and developing new international collaborations. (3) The following section will analyse how the Left as a small opposition party attempts to translate its programmatic positions into practice. To assess the success or failure of specific policy initiatives, it is important to take into account the dynamics of party competition/cooperation and how this shapes the Left’s strategy in the parliament. Using Sikk’s extended typology of party competition and new political parties (Sikk 2011), originally put together by Paul Lucardie (2000), I lay out the Left’s parliamentary strategy in conjunction with two analytical markers: (1) ideological motivation, and (2) whether a policy niche is shared by an established party. In the first part of this section, I have already claimed that the party’s ideological motivation is strong, rather than weak. This means that the party advocates an ideologically cohesive and comprehensive set of policies (Sikk 2011: 466). With regard to the second marker, the Left occupies mainly the position of a challenger, attempting to purify and claim a niche from an established party (SD and other parties on the left of centre). On some issues, it also takes the position of a prolocutor, by representing a particular issue or an interest in society, but only when such an issue is compatible with the party’s ideological profile. Data analysis of the Left’s voting record at the aggregate level over the course of the 2014 parliament6 shows that the party has voted mostly together with other opposition political parties, irrespective of their ideological profile, and against the coalition parties. Yet, when the analysis proceeds on an issue-­byissue basis, four types of parliamentary dynamics can be identified. Each type will be outlined by giving a concrete policy example. a


Cooperation with opposition parties on a shared matter of public concern. When amendments to the proposed reform bill on social assistance were separately tabled by SDS (the main centre-­right opposition party) and the Left at the 25th ordinary parliamentary session, both opposition parties voted together to support each other’s amendments, despite their ideological divergence. Although with the proposed reform bill the government was already relaxing the stringent eligibility criteria for social assistance, the Left and SDS attempted to achieve further relaxation. In the end, their amendments were voted down by the government coalition parties, and the reform bill was adopted without the support of the Left, while SDS voted in favour of the government bill. Competition with government parties on a (non-)shared matter of public concern. Responding to MP Marjan Dolinšek’s (SMC) proposal to establish a new public holiday, which would mark the day the last Yugoslav People’s Army troops left Slovenia, the Left tabled an alternative amendment to bring back 2 January as a public holiday. As part of Janez Janša government’s

Between populism and socialism: Slovenia   85



austerity programme in 2012, the public holiday of 2 January was abolished. When the Left tabled their amendment in February 2015 to bring the public holiday back into force, it was defeated in the parliamentary committee. In December 2016, SMC reconsidered the proposal and proposed its own amendment to restore 2 January as a public holiday. Many critics viewed the tactic as a populist gesture in view of the upcoming 2017 presidential elections and 2018 parliamentary elections. Cooperation with government parties on a shared matter of public concern. In December 2014, the Left introduced an amendment to the Marriage and Family Relations Act, which would legalise same-­sex marriage. Despite declaring his support for LGBT rights, PM Miro Cerar hesitated at first to offer the government’s support for the proposed amendment as the government was planning to introduce its own version of the reform. With a simple amendment, however, the Left overtook the government. Pressure from progressive civil society groups and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), led the government to support the amendment introduced by the Left. With the backing of other centre-­left parties, the amendment was passed through the parliament. Competition with opposition parties on (non-)shared matter of public concern. In December 2015, the government approved the draft of the reformed International Protection Act and referred it to the parliament. While the new act largely preserved the regulations on international protection that were already in place, it introduced some controversial restrictions to tighten the eligibility criteria to claim asylum. Whereas the Left endeavoured to mitigate the proposed restrictions with its amendments, SDS aimed to tighten them further. While SDS was successful in its more restrictive amendment to the law at the committee stage, the final draft was amended by the government parties and restored to its original form, after the outcry of the Amnesty International Slovenia and other human rights NGOs, and it passed with opposition from the Left and boycott from SDS and NSi.

Hence, the terms in which the Left opposes mainstream political forces are ideologically motivated and in line with its manifesto commitments. It is interesting to note that whenever the Left challenges the government coalition parties on socio-­economic grounds and it questions the economic liberal status quo, it is denounced as ‘populist’. Yet, when the party acts to uphold political liberal principles (protection of minorities and constitutional liberties) and takes on its prolocutor role, the populist label is absent. The marriage equality and the refugee rights examples demonstrate that on cultural issues the Left puts pressure on other liberal and centre-­left parties to be coherent and consistent with their declared liberal principles. The Left’s effectiveness can be also observed in the pressure it exerted on SD towards adopting a more liberal position on cultural issues (e.g. legalisation of marijuana) and a democratic socialist stance on economic issues (e.g. workers’ representation on Slovenia’s public holding group that runs privatisation processes). These party competition dynamics point

86   Alen Toplišek towards formation of an anti-­populist front in Slovenian politics, a phenomenon that has also been witnessed in other European countries, especially in the aftermath of the European sovereign debt crisis (see Katsambekis 2014; Medarov 2015). The anti-­populism of the centrist SMC and centre-­left parties is activated whenever any political force moves away from the prescribed (neo)liberal policy repertoire, supported by the EU institutions and the IMF. Political polarisation therefore takes place along two antagonistic frontiers. The first is the traditional right-­left divide. In contrast to some other Central and Eastern European countries, the right-­left axis persists in Slovenian politics and is well established (Fink-­Hafner and Deželan 2016: 474). The second is the nascent anti-­populism of centrist parties, which has not yet consolidated around a clear set of signifiers. For now, it is activated opportunistically to delegitimise the demands raised by the Left. Yet, this may very well change on the way to the 2018 parliamentary elections, as the anti-­populist front closes ranks to stave off any further electoral gains by the Left. Overall, the Left’s parliamentary strategy and tactics are influenced by its ideological motivation and by whether a policy niche is shared by competitor parties. With regard to other opposition parties, which are mostly right-­wing in the current parliament, the Left’s strategy is to cooperate on the issues that are ideologically aligned with its own programmatic positions, most commonly on socio-­economic issues. With regard to other centre-­left parties, which are in government positions in the current parliament, it tends to compete on issues of socio-­economic nature and to cooperate on cultural issues, depending on whether the governing parties are ideologically consistent with their declared liberal position.

The changing organisational and ideological trajectory The final section of the chapter examines the degrees of radicalisation and moderation of the Left after its presence in parliament for more than two years. I also consider the party’s changing trajectory in ideological and organisational terms, the ensuing difficulties, and whether the party’s discourse will move from the hard socialist ideological core to an ideologically lighter populist discourse. The growing learning experience and aptitude in manoeuvring through the parliamentary arena have activated a tendency towards higher centralisation and systematisation of internal party decision-­making. While the Left’s MPs have acted uniformly and without much friction in the parliament, the situation was more tense in the internal structures of the Left’s coalitional formation. There were frequent organisational, and sometimes ideological, disagreements between the four constituent parts that composed the United Left: DSD and civil society groups on the one hand, and TRS and IDS on the other. IDS itself was beleaguered with internal infighting along ideological lines. At IDS’ annual congress in April 2015, a faction of the party accused the leadership of not being socialist and radical enough, warning that the party was headed towards the same fate as other established political parties. DSD changed its name to ‘United

Between populism and socialism: Slovenia   87 Left-­Democratic Labour Party’, while accusing IDS and TRS of usurping the control of the United Left brand. The tensions within the coalition became only more critical once the leaderships of TRS and IDS moved ahead with their plans to transform the United Left into a single political party. The two parties justified the unification plans on the grounds of enhanced organisational and decision-­making efficiency, better management of available resources, and streamlining of engagement activities with supporters at the local level. For example, in the older organisational structure, if a supporter wished to become a member of the Left, they were unable to do so. They could only become members of one of the three coalition parties. This organisational structure, although it has its merits (i.e. a hybrid link with social movements and more open structures), proved to be inefficient electorally and confusing among (potential) supporters. The key concern among those opposing unification was that the United Left would no longer be any different from other established political parties and it would become more moderate/conservative as a result. This would have also meant a betrayal of the original aims of the party, which presented itself as an alternative model to ‘politics as usual’ by espousing democratic, consensual and open internal structures. By March 2017, TRS members voted in favour of the plans to unify the United Left. Between the April 2015 annual congress and March 2017, many of the rebellious members opposed to the unification of the United Left’s coalition left IDS. In May 2017, the IDS leadership submitted the unification plans to an online vote, which confirmed them by around 80 per cent. Because of the disruption and the lack of cooperation from DSD and the fourth block of civil society members, they were bypassed in the process. DSD and the fourth block of the United Left subsequently organised a press conference, where they publicly expressed their frustration and indignation over the procedures. On the day of the inaugural congress of the new Left in June 2017, ninety-­four more members left IDS by releasing a public letter of protest over what they perceived as an undemocratic breakdown of progressive forces through the party’s centralisation. With the formal establishment of the Left, the United Left exists in name only, leaving DSD and the fourth bloc outside the Left’s structures. The media coverage of the split within the party did not considerably affect the party’s poll rankings. Moreover, all of the Left’s MPs come from IDS and TRS or they are no longer members of any of the four constituent groups. This means that the split did not destabilise the Left’s parliamentary group. Luka Mesec was re-­ elected as the Left’s coordinator and Violeta Tomić (previously TRS’s leader) was elected as deputy coordinator. It is debatable whether the unification of IDS and TRS signals a break in the relationship with social movements. At the level of internal party structures, there is a clear change in that there is no symbolic status conferred on affiliated members in the Left, because of the way this affiliation was institutionalised within the United Left coalition. If we pause to consider how this hybridity between the United Left as a political party and social movements worked in practice, however, the fourth bloc was mostly coordinated through, and

88   Alen Toplišek dominated by, a network of a few political groups and activists. Political actions were still organised separately by the constituent groups of the United Left, most often by IDS and TRS members. There were frequent fights between the different constituent parts of the internal party structure. The experience around this hybrid institutional channel was therefore one of frustration on both sides. In its new single party form, the Left continues its work both in the parliament and out on the streets by championing progressive causes. This is demonstrated by the party’s continuing cooperation with trade unions and its engagement in various political actions, such as its participation in public sector strikes and in the 2016 strike in support of the Port of Koper’s workers. With the organisational move towards further centralisation and uniformisation, it remains to be seen whether this change will be followed by moderation in the ideological profile of the party. From interviews with the Left’s leader Luka Mesec, it transpires that these changes in such a relatively short time-­span were largely driven by an accelerated sense of perceived urgency to turn the tide in Slovenia away from a neoliberal path, which continues to exacerbate inequality and disintegrate social cohesion (see Trampuš 2016). Two possible future trajectories can be envisaged. While the first one would continue along the same trajectory with an ideologically hard-­core democratic socialism and a light populist appeal, the second would take the party away from its pronounced ideological hardness towards a populist socialist party. The first trajectory would uphold the party’s ideological clarity and would keep it close to its original principles. Yet, at the same time, it would risk alienating a large swath of voters and citizens, who do not self-­identify as socialist or left-­wing. This could confine the party to a relatively small parliamentary force, depriving it of the prospect of governing and enacting its political programme. The second trajectory would necessitate the watering down of class discourse and a continuation of its anti-­elite, anti-­establishment appeal. As the analysis in the previous section has shown, the Left’s programme tilts more towards reformist pragmatism than revolutionary idealism, despite the strong Marxist analysis and discourse that are maintained by those previously affiliated with IDS. Moreover, the second trajectory would require (re-)inventing and articulating a new set of signifiers and discourse that would be able to transverse the different struggles and cleavages in society. This is what Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau (Laclau and Mouffe 1985; Laclau 2005) mean by the idea of building a chain of equivalence, and what can also be called a ‘populist transversality’. As Juan Antonio Gil de los Santos, a representative of Podemos, explains, transversality is ‘the act of building majorities’, ‘building a broad consensus among diverse groups of people for things like the defence of free, public and universal healthcare, the social right to housing, and regaining lost labour rights’ (Gil de los Santos 2016). Although we can identify attempts at constructing transversality in the Left’s current political strategy, this transversality is often couched in Marxist terms. However, the recent move towards the centralisation of the party shows that in the leadership of the party there is a recognition of the need to build majorities

Between populism and socialism: Slovenia   89 and to take state power. This might as well signal a shift in the Left’s discursive strategy and a move towards a populist socialist party as the 2018 parliamentary elections are fast approaching. While the second trajectory could potentially enable the party to double or, even, triple the number of its seats in the parliament and would empower it to take its programme to governmental corridors, there are noteworthy caveats involved. A resolute shift towards a populist socialist party would clearly involve some ideological stretching and loosening of ideological coherence. The danger here is that the party becomes just another catch-­all party, focused solely on increasing electoral support while neglecting its original aim of extending democracy and socialising its member base. Considering the coalitional nature of government politics in Slovenia, it would also mean that the Left would have to compromise on its key programmatic positions, faced with the centrist anti-­populist front, if it entered a governing coalition as a minor junior party.

Conclusion In this chapter, I sought to explain the reasons behind the emergence and relative success of the Left in Slovenia. I did so using a multi-­level analysis of the interaction between structural factors and agential strategies. Overall, the chapter traced the party’s path from its populist inception in the 2012–2013 protest movement to the formation of a hybrid party-­movement, to the creation of a uniform party. As in Greece and in Spain, the mass mobilisations that preceded the rise of the United Left were its essential precondition. Yet, to understand why the protests erupted in the first place, wider structural conditions must be taken into consideration. In the context of an economic downturn, the restricted monetary and fiscal independence because of the Eurozone rules led governments to implement austerity measures and structural reforms, which resulted in degradation of living conditions for people on low incomes. At the time of the protests, the Janez Janša’s right-­wing government was quickly losing support. This helped to mobilise progressive groups and led trade unions to join the movement. The overall low trust in all established political parties and the move of Social Democrats towards the centre meant that the conditions were ripe for a new left-­wing party. Furthermore, the ‘newness’ factor, the relative openness of the political system to new political parties, and good media exposure helped the Left to enter the parliament only three months after its formation. Using Luke March’s typology of radical left parties, I placed the Left in between democratic socialist and populist socialist parties. The party combines a strong ideological core of democratic socialism with a light populist appeal, which is sustained by its outsider status and its anti-­establishment discourse. Its parliamentary tactics vary depending on the ideological motivation and on whether a policy area is shared by its competitors. The analysis of a selection of concrete examples demonstrated that the party collaborates with other opposition parties when their positions are programmatically aligned, and it competes with

90   Alen Toplišek them when their ideological interests diverge. Accordingly, the party is ready to cooperate with the parties in power when issues along the cultural dimension need to be defended against right-­wing parties. Here the party can also be said to be acting as a prolocutor, while challenging other centre-­left parties to remain consistent with their declared culturally liberal values. The last part of the chapter explored two possible future trajectories for the Left. I argued that a shift towards a stronger left-­wing populism in its strategy could clear the way for a better electoral performance of the party and could enable it to enter government. Regardless of which of the two trajectories the party follows, it will need to continue building its local network of supporters by increasing its membership and non-­partisan engagement activities. Moreover, as the experience of Syriza forcefully demonstrated, the party will need to come up with concrete policy proposals to resolve some critical issues beleaguering the European continent. Without a strategy to ensure equitable economic development, which would be based on a new model of state’s role in the economy, the Slovenian Left will hardly be any more equipped to govern than its centre-­left competitors.

Notes 1 During the post-­Yugoslavian transition to free-­market capitalism and liberal democracy, all established political parties had their turn in coalition governments at one point. With continuing gradual destruction of the Slovenian industrial base and the retrenchment of the welfare state after the 2008 financial crisis, the angry protesters therefore viewed the whole political establishment as bearing responsibility for the failed transition. 2 I elaborate on the organisational shortcomings of the Slovenian radical left in another work (see Toplišek and Thomassen 2017). 3 Alongside the three explanatory variables outlined here, Chiocchetti also mentions the role of mass mobilisation as the fourth. I have already covered the role of mass mobilisation in the earlier section by singling out the 2012–2013 protests as the catalyst behind the emergence of the United Left, so this is not included here. 4 At the Left’s inaugural congress, the delegates voted to use ‘coordinator’, instead of ‘president’, as the leader’s title. This was a practice adopted from IDS. 5 See Chapter 6 on ‘Intellectuals’ in Steve Jones’ Antoni Gramsci (2006). 6 The data are recorded and compiled by the Information Sector of the National Assembly, which is then aggregated and visually presented by an independent project as part of the institute Danes je nov dan (see Parlameter 2017).

References 24UR (2014) VIDEO: Luka Mesec največje presenečenje zadnjega soočenja, 10 July. Available at:­luka-mesec-­najvecje-presenecenje-­ zadnjega-soocenja.html (accessed 2 March 2017). Agrež, K. (2016) Dejavniki uspeha novih političnih strank. Undergraduate dissertation. Ljubljana: Fakulteta za družbene vede. A Plan B in Europe (2017) A Plan B in Europe. Available at: www.euro-­ id=96andlang=en (accessed 7 March 2017). Chiocchetti, P. (2017) The Radical Left Party Family in Western Europe, 1989–2015, London: Routledge.

Between populism and socialism: Slovenia   91 Filipovič Hrast, M. and Ignjatović, M. (2014) ‘Slovenia: An Equal Society Despite the Transition’, in Nolan, B., Salverda, W., Checchi, D., Marx, I. McKnight, A., György Tóth, I. and van de Werfhorst, H. G. (eds) Changing Inequalities and Societal Impacts in Rich Countries: Thirty Countries’ Experiences, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 594–614. Fink-­Hafner, D. and Deželan, T. (2016) ‘Slovenia’, in Donatella, M. V. (ed.) Routledge Handbook of European Elections, Abingdon: Routledge, 471–490. Furlan, S. (2014) ‘The Slovenian Banking and Debt Crisis’, TroikaWatch, 8 April. Available at:­slovenian-banking-­and-debt-­crisis/ (accessed 1 March 2017). Gil de los Santos, J. A. (2016) ‘Understanding Transversality’, openDemocracy, 11 August. Available at:­europe-make-­it/juan-­antonio-gil-­ de-los-­santos/understanding-­transversality (accessed 8 March 2017). IDS (2017) ‘O nas’. Available at: www.demokraticni-­­nas/ (accessed 1 July 2017). Jones, S. (2006) Antonio Gramsci, London: Routledge. Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘The Place Of The People In Post-­Democracy: Researching “Antipopulism” and Post-­Democracy In Crisis-­Ridden Greece’, Postdata 19(2): 555–582. Katsambekis, G. (2016) ‘Radical Left Populism in Contemporary Greece: Syriza’s Trajectory from Minoritarian Opposition to Power’, Constellations 23(3): 391–403. Kirn, G. (2014) ‘Slovenia’s Social Uprising in the European Crisis: Maribor Periphery from 1988 to 2012’, Stasis 2(1): 106–129. Korsika, A. and Mesec, L. (2014) ‘Slovenia: From Spontaneous Protest to the Renewal of the Socialist Left’, Kurswechsel 1: 80–88. Kropivnik, S. and Zatler, R. (2002) ‘Naklonjenost volivcev strankam in/ali voditeljem strank’, Teorija in praksa 39(2): 254–267. Kržan, N. (2007) Vrste in oblikovanje vlade v parlamentarnem sistemu. Undergraduate dissertation, Ljubljana: Fakulteta za družbene vede. Kustec Lipicer, S. and Henjak, A. (2015) ‘Changing Dynamics of Democratic Parliamentary Arena in Slovenia: Voters, Parties, Elections’, Contributions to Contemporary History 55(3): 1–21. Laclau, E. (2005) On Populist Reason, London: Verso. Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, London: Verso. March, L. (2008) Contemporary Far Left Parties in Europe: From Marxism to the Mainstream? International Policy Analysis. Available at:­files/id/ ipa/05818.pdf (accessed 4 March 2017). Medarov, G. (2015) ‘The Transformations of Liberal Anti-­populism in Post-­1989 Bulgaria’, POPULISMUS Working Papers 2. Available at:­ content/uploads/2016/01/WPs2-medarov1.pdf (accessed 4 July 2017). Mladina (2014) ‘Zadnji »tracking poll« Mladinine predvolilne ankete: zmaga Mira Cerarja in preboj malih strank’, 11 July. Available at:­ sesti-tracking-­poll-mladinine-­predvolilne-ankete/ (accessed 2 March 2017). Mudde, C. (2004) ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition 39(4): 542–563. Lucardie, P. (2000) ‘Prophets, Purifiers and Prolocutors: Towards a Theory on the Emergence of New Parties’, Party Politics 6(2): 175–185. Parlameter (2017) Parlameter. Available at: (accessed 7 March 2017). Rothschild, D. and Malhotra, N. (2014) ‘Are Public Opinion Polls Self-­fulfilling Prophecies?’ Research and Politics (July–September): 1–10.

92   Alen Toplišek Rus, V. and Toš, N. (2005) Vrednote Slovencev in Evropejcev: Analiza vrednotnih orientacij Slovencev ob koncu stoletja, Ljubljana: Fakulteta za družbene vede. Sikk, A. (2011) ‘Newness as a Winning Formula for New Political Parties’, Party Politics 18(4): 465–486. Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘Left-­wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2): 119–142. Toplišek, A. and Thomassen, L. (2017) ‘From Protest to Party: Horizontality and Verticality on the Slovenian Left’, Europe-­Asia Studies 69(9): 1383–1400. Toš, N. (2007) ‘(Ne)zaupanje v institucije: potek demokratične institucionalizacije v Sloveniji (1991–2006)’, Teorija in praksa 44(3–4): 367–395. Toš, N. (ed.) (2016) Vrednote v prehodu X. Slovensko javno mnenje 2010–2016, Ljubljana: Fakulteta za družbene vede. Trampuš, J. (2016) ‘Luka Mesec – Intervju’, Mladina, 22 April. Available at: www.­mesec/ (accessed 27 October 2016). United Left (2014) Pot v demokratični ekološki socializem: Strategija Združene levice. Available at: www.zdruzena-­ (accessed 6 March 2017). Vičič, D. (2015) ‘Socialni demokrati z vsemi topovi nad Združeno levico’, Mladina, 10 January. Available at:­demokrati-z-­vsemi-topovi-­ nad-zdruzeno-­levico/ (accessed 3 March 2017).

4 Jean-­Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise The manufacturing of populism Philippe Marlière

Introduction Populism and the French left Populism does not sit well with the French left. Historically, the left-­wing forces in France have rejected populist movements, ideas and leaders. In the original version of the Internationale, the anthem of the socialist movement worldwide, Eugène Pottier wrote: ‘There are no supreme saviours, neither God, nor Caesar, nor eloquent speakers, producers, let’s save ourselves’.1 Those verses are a clear refutation of leader-­centric populism. From Napoleon III (Marx 2008) to Charles de Gaulle (Mitterrand 1984), in recent times, populism has characterised right-­wing or extreme-­right regimes or leaderships. It has helped label demagogic policies and the art of exploiting people’s fears and frustration. Given the near-­exclusive association of populism with the far-­right, the diagnosis of populism often extends to ‘demonisation’ (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014: 120). Conversely, the left in France has always supported collegial forms of leadership and put the emphasis on collective endeavours. For communists and socialists, populism neglects class struggles because it focuses on an undefined ‘people’ (Blin 2017). Consequently, ‘populism’ and ‘left’ are arguably incompatible notions because a proper populist strategy can only appeal to far-­right voters (Fassin 2017: 81). It was therefore unexpected to hear Jean-­Luc Mélenchon, a leader of the radical left, declare in a 2010 interview: I don’t want to defend myself anymore against the accusation of populism. People are disgusted by the elites. Do they deserve anything better? They should all quit! I’m calling upon the energy of the many against the arrogance of the privileged classes. Am I a populist? Yes I am! (Mélenchon 2010b) Thus, as early as 2010, Mélenchon could be described as a ‘populist’, and he was indeed among the very few politicians in Europe to willingly embrace the characterisation (Marlière 2010).

94   Philippe Marlière Presidential candidate for the Left Front (Front de gauche/FDG) in 2012, Mélenchon ran again in 2017 as an independent candidate supported by a ‘citizen’s movement’ called France Insoumise (Unbowed France/FI). He has been called a ‘populist politician’ by many on the left and right, not least by some of Mélenchon’s close political allies (Clavel 2017; Stangler 2017). What is Mélenchon’s brand of populist ideas and policies? How original is his ‘populist stand’ compared to other left-­wing forces which also embrace ‘left-­wing populism’, such as Podemos in Spain? What is his strategy to conquer power? Populism in theory Populism is a frequently used yet problematic concept; the term is often ill-­ defined and randomly applied. The concept is problematic because of its unsystematic (notably pejorative) use in public discourse. The notion of ‘populism’ is regularly used to denote anti-­incumbent/elite rhetoric or to describe politicians who pander to public opinion. Other authors define populism as a political strategy, and they consider populism to be a tool for a leader to seek and exercise power. Some argue that populism is a political strategy, a rhetoric designed to tap feelings of resentment and exploit them politically (Betz 1993). There are normally four core values at the heart of populism (Stanley 2008: 102): (a) the existence of two broad units of analysis: ‘the people’ and ‘the elite’; (b) the antagonistic relationship between the people and the elite; (c) the positive valorisation of ‘the people’ and the denigration of ‘the elite’; (d) the idea of popular sovereignty. Scholars suggest that populism is more than a rhetoric. They describe it as an ideology, albeit a ‘thin’ or ‘thin-­centred’ one (Mudde 2004). A thin-­centred ideology is an ideology that does not provide a comprehensive programme about how a particular society should function. Parts of existing, more wide-­ranging, ideologies can and should be added to the populist core (Marlière 2014). Thus, populism lacks core values and it is ‘chameleonic’, because the ideological colour it adopts depends on the context and the values of the constituency to which it appeals (Taggart 2000). The lack of a programmatic centre of gravity actually makes it difficult to speak of a populist ideology (Canovan 1999). In the end, one should reject the idea that populism is an ideology – however ‘thin-­centred it might be – and should conceive it as a ‘discursive frame’ (Aslanidis 2016). One might note that mainstream parties have used populist methods and strategies themselves as a response to the challenge of populist actors, leading to the dawn of a populist Zeitgeist (Mudde 2004). Thus, Emmanuel Macron led a very personalised presidential campaign in 2017. He shunned traditional political parties and refused to take part in the centre-­left primary election. What is more, he argued that traditional left-­right politics is now obsolete. Although Macron did not explicitly pit the people versus the elites, his rhetoric and positioning bore all the marks of populism (Marlière 2017a). Most political scientists insist on the ‘plurality of populist hybrids’: ‘[…] [O]ne should try to strip definitions of any bias and thus effectively de-­hypostasise

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise   95 populism’ (Katsambekis 2016: 391). By so doing, one comes to embrace Ernesto Laclau’s definition (Laclau 1977: 172–173), who construes the notion as a political and discursive distinction between ‘the people’ and ‘the oligarchy’ (or in certain circumstances ‘the cast’ or ‘the establishment’). Giovanni Sartori defines populism as a ‘cat-­dog’ concept. The term is used to describe political actors that cannot be placed in a single category (Sartori 1991: 243–257). The lack of a clear definition means that populism is used rather randomly. This leads to erroneous inclusion of many actors and movements under the header of populism (Marlière 2013). Therefore, if populism is not an ideology per se, but essentially a strategy which divides the political field into two antagonistic sides (the people versus the oligarchy) while using a particular brand of rhetoric, then the case for populism of FI can be made. In the first instance, I shall identify the personal and organisational backdrop of FI, a movement which was officially born in February 2016. The organisation was launched by Jean-­Luc Mélenchon, a self-­appointed leader and candidate in the 2017 presidential election. The personality of FI’s leader is key for understanding what particular type of populism the movement embodies. Mélenchon’s and FI’s brand of populism will then be closely examined: what kind of ‘populist hybrid’ does it incarnate? Large constituencies of the French left have always avoided being associated with populism. Thus, how did FI manage to become the main party on the left in such a short period of time? Is it a left-­wing movement? What are the main ideas and aspects which make FI a ‘populist movement’? Finally, I will try to clarify the extent to which FI’s populism did facilitate the movement’s electoral breakthrough at the 2017 presidential election and, to a lesser extent, at the subsequent legislative election.

From Mitterrandism to populism A mainstream professional politician Between 1972 and 1976, Jean-­Luc Mélenchon was a member of Organisation Communiste Internationale (International Communist Organisation/OCI), one of the Trotskyist parties in France. OCI has always maintained close links with the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party/PS), Force Ouvrière (Workers’ Strength/FO), a reformist union – and freemasonry. Mélenchon joined the PS in 1976. He moved up to the Senate (1986–2000 and 2004–2010), and was appointed to cabinet in the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin as Minister of Vocational Education (2000–2002). From the early 1990s onward, Mélenchon was one of the leaders of the Socialist Left (Gauche Socialiste), a militant left-­wing faction within PS. Having diagnosed that social democracy was a spent force as a progressive organisation (Mélenchon 2009), Mélenchon left the PS in 2008 and launched the Left Party (Parti de Gauche/PG). He was twice elected a member of the

96   Philippe Marlière European parliament (2009–2017), and elected FI deputy (member of the National Assembly) in June 2017. Jean-­Luc Mélenchon was the candidate representing FDG in the 2012 presidential election. He won fourth place and achieved 11.10 per cent of the share of the national vote. Since founding PG and being seen as the de facto leader of FDG, Mélenchon was the staunchest opponent to François Hollande and the relations between the two men were always fraught and tense (Berdah 2017). That being said, Jean-­Luc Mélenchon is no standard left-­winger. He has consistently argued that he does not belong to the far-­left or the radical left (AFP 2017). Mélenchon can be seen as a seasoned career politician who comes from mainstream politics, although he was always on the left-­wing of the PS (he was nonetheless a faithful supporter of President Mitterrand). This is a major difference from other left-­wing leaders in Europe, who tend to be younger and come from the radical left (Pablo Iglesias in Spain, Alexis Tsipras in Greece, Catarina Martins in Portugal). Only Oskar Lafontaine in Germany has followed a similar political trajectory (from SPD to Die Linke). A break with the left’s traditions This is how Jean-­Luc Mélenchon describes himself: ‘I am a republican, I believe in representative democracy and in elections. That is why I call for a citizen’s revolution through the ballot box’ (Mélenchon 2010a). He is inspired primarily by Jean Jaurès’s democratic brand of socialism, which relies heavily on French republican values and a ‘humanist’ version of Marxism (Mélenchon 2016a: 45–91). Contrary to most constituencies of the French left, Mélenchon has to-­date always defended François Mitterrand’s entire political legacy (Alemagna and Alliès 2012). While the late Mitterrand was still in power, Mélenchon, then a young senator, was a vocal and indefatigable supporter of the socialist president (Mélenchon 2016a: 91–140). In February 2016, one year and three months before the presidential election, Jean-­Luc Mélenchon ‘proposed his candidacy’ to the nation on TF1, the main private channel in France. By making the decision to run, without consulting his FDG allies, Mélenchon followed a true ‘populist’ strategy. First, this officialised the death of the moribund FDG. His decision to go it alone was motivated by his contempt for the PCF ’s electoral strategy throughout Hollande’s presidency: although the communists opposed the socialist government’s policies in parliament and in the country, they were still willing to make local alliances with the PS to safeguard its electoral positions. Mélenchon is on record as saying that this ambivalence eventually discredited FDG because Hollande had lost all credibility before his electorate and was in turn rejected by the majority of the population.2 Hence Mélenchon’s reluctance to use now the notion of ‘left’ as he considers that it has become an empty and confusing label for the public.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise   97 Jean-­Luc Mélenchon was deeply hostile to the left primary election, which was in theory open to all components of the left (from FDG to PS, as well as Europe Ecologie Les Verts/EELV). In late 2016, Mélenchon believed that Hollande would run again and would win the primary contest. Had he competed and lost in this left primary, the FI leader did not want to put himself in the awkward position of having to support a candidate he had fiercely opposed for the past five years (Mélenchon 2016b). Left-­wing critics argued that the FI leader should have run that risk: if his ideas were so strong and popular on the left, he would have no doubt won the primary election (Filoche 2016). Mélenchon’s ambition was to run a campaign ‘above political parties’. In 2012, he received the support of several left-­wing parties and was clearly identified as a leftist candidate (Marlière 2012). In 2017, he ostensibly turned his back on the history, culture and unity of the left (Marlière 2016). In a typical populist fashion, he sought the support of ‘ordinary people’. ‘Unbowed France’ is not a party, but a ‘mass of citizens’. Since then, he has aggressively pursued this tack. His goal is no longer a matter of rallying left-­wing forces together (behind him) but rather of replacing them, and reshaping the partisan and political landscape. France Insoumise eventually received the support of PG, Nouvelle Gauche Socialiste (New Socialist Left/NGS, a splinter group from the PS), PCF and Ensemble!, another component of FDG. None of those parties played a part in setting up Mélenchon’s agenda. The PCF and Ensemble! were profoundly divided over the issue. Some argued that Mélenchon was the only credible candidate the radical left could support. Others were of the view that Mélenchon’s candidacy was deeply divisive and dangerous because of its ‘populist turn’. Mélenchon speaks of a ‘citizen insurrection’, an expression that refers to a revolution through the ballot box. In the 2012 presidential election, he targeted Marine Le Pen as his main opponent, and he took on the FN leader in the northern constituency of HéninBeaumont in the following legislative elections. He lost each time. In 2012, the campaign’s rallying cry was: ‘Qu’ils s’en aillent tous!’ (‘They must all go!’). The ‘they’ referred to the ‘corrupt elite’ (Mélenchon 2010c: 13). This is the like-­for-like translation of ¡Que se vayan todos!, a slogan borrowed from the Piquetero movement in Argentina in 2005 (Philip and Panizza 2011). In 2017, Mélenchon referred to ‘dégagisme’ (the act of clearing off ), an expression coined during the revolutions in North Africa, notably in Tunisia (Andureau 2017). It is worth noting that he had started tapping in the rhetoric and imaginary of various populist movements across the world several years before the 2017 presidential election. In the 2017 legislative elections, Mélenchon ran in Marseilles. He did not choose a constituency where the FN is strong but one where he had fared very well in the first round of the presidential election, the constituency of Patrick Mennucci, a PS deputy and former comrade in PS’s left-­wing. It is worth stressing that as early as 2010, Mélenchon’s discursive practice used a populist pattern: (a) its discourse is articulated around the nodal point of ‘the people’; (b) his representation of society primarily divides the socio-­political field in two antagonistic camps (‘the people’ and ‘the oligarchy’) (Katsambekis 2016).

98   Philippe Marlière What is most remarkable is Mélenchon’s change of vocabulary and register since the 2012 campaign. The FI leader wants to stop using the traditional language and discursive imaginary of the left. This is of course much in line with Podemos’s attempt to ‘spread the ideas of the left in a language geared toward the common sense of the social majority’ (Rendueles and Sola 2015). In a true populist fashion, the idea is to rally ‘people’ from different political and ideological backgrounds against the ‘oligarchy’. Thus, Mélenchon banned red flags from his rallies, and he stopped singing the Internationale at the end of public meetings. Those traditional left-­wing symbols were replaced by tricolour flags and La Marseillaise. Those changes raised a few eyebrows on the left as the French national flag and the national anthem have been the emblem of the right and far-­right for a long time. Left-­wing symbols which are deeply ingrained in the culture of the French left were deemed too divisive or simply meaningless to the mass of the people FI wished to connect with. Another important ‘signifier’, in the sense given by Ernesto Laclau, is the promotion of a 6th Republic in the place of the 5th Republic.3 Mélenchon and his followers have been promoting a new Republic which would break with the pomp of the current institutions. The 5th Republic does indeed confer on the president tremendous power. The aim is first and foremost to address the democratic deficit at the heart of current institutions.4 In 2014, Mélenchon conceived and launched the Mouvement pour la 6e République (Movement For a 6th Republic/M6R), a loose structure to promote a 6th Republic. This was the first political initiative outside of PG, his party. At that time, Mélenchon published L’Ère du Peuple (The Time of the People), an early attempt to spell out, if not to theorise, the new major cleavage between ‘the people’ and the oligarchy (Mélenchon 2014a). This essay is an ideological turning point. Mélenchon bids farewell to an interpretation of society and conflicts based on class. He stops referring to the notion of class struggles altogether. This is obviously a major break with Marxist theory and with left-­wing politics. Instead of addressing a politically and culturally fragmented proletariat, he argues that progressive politics should seek to gather together ‘the people’ beyond their class, race and gender differences. Mélenchon points out that unifying ‘the people’ is a three-­stage process. First, the people, which he calls homo urbanus as they essentially live in urban areas, is the multitude of depoliticised individuals who go about their daily routine. Second, there are the politically conscious individuals who start taking action and make political claims. Third, a network constitutes itself through collective action. In this scheme, political parties do not get a mention. The future belongs to movements with a horizontal type of organisation. Long before the 2017 presidential election, Mélenchon’s populist narrative had been formed. It is interesting here to distinguish between Mélenchon’s attempt to politically unify the people (in the sense of an active and conscious political community) and Marine Le Pen’s homogenising of the French community along ethno-­cultural lines (Geisser 2015). Mélenchon does not give a convincing explanation on how the people as multitude can overcome its divisions and conflicts (class, gender, ethnic). The

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise   99 conclusion that can be drawn from this is that Mélenchon has adopted a resolutely ‘interclassist’ approach to building a majoritarian bloc. Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain have attempted to follow a similar path earlier on with mixed results, but with steady electoral progress. Jean-­Luc Mélenchon also believes that the era of ‘the party’, as coordinator and aggregator of popular demands and expectations and as vanguard, has passed. The ‘movement’ has replaced the party. The organisation should be horizontal and not vertical (as in traditional socialist/communist parties). The question of horizontality refers to democracy: who draws up the programme? Who decides the main policy proposals? There are, of course, open procedures (notably on the Internet) for FI supporters to make such proposals. It remains to be seen whether they are genuinely democratic and transparent. Critics have argued that despite promoting the creation of a 6th Republic, Mélenchon has fully embraced the very personalised traditions of the 5th Republic, notably by dispensing with political parties and by seeking to create a personal relationship with the French people. Emmanuel Macron and, to a lesser extent, Marine Le Pen have done the same. This bears all the characteristics of a populist stand. In late February 2017, facing a threat on the left from the socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, Mélenchon’s populist campaign intensified after the Bastille rally on 18 March (Lago 2017). Jorge Lago, a Podemos cadre who has lived in France, approved of this tactical change. In his view, Mélenchon convinced many doubters by combining a statesman discourse, wise and strong, with a populist rhetoric that can appeal to the more disenfranchised (the young and the working class): In short, the idea of obliterating the language of the traditional left and radical left shibboleths, and of banishing red flags and certain references from campaign rallies, was executed really well in my view, albeit perhaps a little late in the day. (Lago 2017) Coming eventually fourth in the presidential election with a significant 19.6 per cent score, Mélenchon called on voters to elect an FI majority in the legislative elections of June 2017. He insisted that unlike the extreme/radical left, which allegedly has no intention of winning an election whatsoever, FI wants to accede to power as soon as possible. This is reminiscent of the claim made by Syriza in Greece (Katsambekis 2016: 398) and Podemos leaders in Spain (Tremlett 2015). In the end, FI fell largely short of an overall majority in the lower house with seventeen deputies elected in total, but enough to form a parliamentary group (fifteen deputies are required). This was a better result than what the polls forecast after the first round. In the second round, all opposition parties (including Les Républicains) gained from a relative demobilisation of the Macron electorate. The PCF won in eleven constituencies and the FN in eight. The PCF also formed its own parliamentary group, separate from FI, thanks to the addition of

100   Philippe Marlière five overseas deputies. Since the 2017 elections, the relationship between FI’s and PCF ’s leaders has been very tense. The two parliamentary groups lead separate lives and activists on both sides rarely mingle. Further evidence of the tension between the two parties: for the first time over the past twelve years, Mélenchon did not attend the ‘Fête de l’Humanité’ in September 2017. This is a political and festive gathering organised annually by L’Humanité newspaper, which is close to the PCF. As soon as the parliamentary session started, FI deputies positioned themselves on the left, claiming to be the main, if not the only, opposition to Macron and his government. For FI voters and for the public at large, there is no doubt that FI is a left-­wing movement. Like the PCF, FI concentrated on defending the Labour Code5 under threat.

Which populism? Where does Mélenchon’s populism come from? Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau have undoubtedly influenced him. Mélenchon met Laclau and Mouffe in Argentina in 2013. The three of them spoke at a conference on populism (Proust 2017). Since Laclau’s death in April 2014 (Mélenchon 2015a), Mélenchon has maintained close ties with Mouffe, who can be spotted alongside him at most important rallies or demonstrations. Both have debated further since their first encounter in Argentina. The FI leader has also established contacts with Podemos’s leaders Pablo Iglesias and Íñigo Errejón (Chazel 2016). He was also close to Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. In the years preceding his ascent to power, Alexis Tsipras was also one of Mélenchon’s political friends. The FI leader welcomed him in Paris in June 2014, months before the Syriza leader became Prime Minister. Relations between the two men started to cool down in the Summer 2015 once Greece signed a third memorandum with the European Union. Mélenchon was publicly critical of Tsipras, who was presented as a man ‘caving in’ under pressure. This prompted Mélenchon to start reflecting on a ‘Plan B’. Should he win power in France in the future, he has pledged to ask for a radical revision of the European treaties. If this is not conceded, Mélenchon said that France under his leadership would exit the Eurozone, if not the EU altogether (Besse Desmoulières 2017). Personal and ideological changes Chantal Mouffe believes that Mélenchon is no ‘communist revolutionary’ and describes him as a ‘radical reformist’ against a ‘mounting oligarchy’. She thinks that Mélenchon and FI embody the ‘populist moment’ that Spain experienced with Podemos a few years earlier: people reject ‘post-­democracy’ and ‘demand a real participation in political decisions’. FI aims to federate ‘the people’ (i.e. the working classes and the middle classes). The Belgian political theorist argues that Mélenchon has recognised the ‘crucial role of emotions in constructing political identities’. The FI leader aims to ‘bring together the people, to create a collective will around a

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise   101 project of citizen’s revolution, in order to write a new constitution that opens up more debate and facilitates the expression of popular sovereignty’ (Mouffe 2017). Chantal Mouffe endorses Mélenchon’s populism quite emphatically. She points to Mélenchon’s efforts to make up ‘chains of equivalence’ between various groups of dominated or marginalised groups in society (whatever social class they belong to). Mouffe makes a distinction between the Latin American context (societies with powerful, entrenched oligarchies) and Europe (where the left-­right divide remains key). Given that our European societies are allegedly being ‘Latin-­Americanised’, she advocates an end to the domination of an oligarchic system, by way of a democratic reconstruction. Mélenchon may have come across to some as ‘too radical’ or ‘too subversive’ in 2012. But in 2017, his objective was certainly to be perceived as ‘wise’ and ‘statesmanlike’. The word ‘humanist’, unqualified, was widely used. In a note published on his blog, Mélenchon claimed that ‘Disobedience is a new humanism’ (Mélenchon 2017). This new disobedience has its roots in the history of human emancipation from oppressive institutions (political powers and churches). Mélenchon insists on the question of freedom of thought. But true to his French republican credentials, this means for him emancipation from religions. At no point does he contemplate that individuals may emancipate themselves by worshipping a god or by following religious principles. This manifesto reads very much like traditional French republican ideology. The Greek letter Phi (φ) has become the movement’s logo, used everywhere including on ballot papers. The word Phi allows some wordplay: it sounds like FI, the France Insoumise acronym. Phi also evokes philosophy, harmony and love and is unburdened by a political past. It is a symbol of neither right nor left, a neutral marker. Over the months, language, symbols and communication techniques did indeed change. For instance, as a familiar and ‘inclusive’ form of address, Mélenchon uses the expression les gens (people), which was popularised in Spain by Podemos leaders (la gente) (Grijelmo 2017). He has studied what worked in other countries, such as Barack Obama’s and Bernie Sanders’ use of social media in the United States, or the Podemos experience in Spain. Mélenchon has taken stock of the traditional media’s declining influence. He has worked on his image down to the smallest details (such as the clothes he wears on different occasions, less formal and closer to what ordinary citizens wear). He likes PR stunts, such as using holograms to address two rallies simultaneously. He works very closely with PR consultants. He is a professional politician, more than at any time in the past. His economic programme has not much changed qualitatively since 2012 (Mélenchon 2016c). It is not anti-­capitalist or radically leftist. It essentially promotes a radical Keynesian approach (Dusseaulx 2016) with a far greater emphasis on ecological questions than in the past. He wants to abolish the reform of the Labour Code which was carried out by the socialist government, and he opposes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.

102   Philippe Marlière Labour issues were indeed at the heart of the Mélenchon campaign, but not social classes as such. Mélenchon referred to the ‘99 per cent’, pitting an undefined and far too large population against the richest oligarchs. In truth, the ‘1 per cent’ receives support from lower segments who also benefit from the social and economic status quo. The problem is that the ‘99 per cent vs. 1 per cent’ opposition is not class-­based. It is therefore simplistic and misleading. The more important, and widening, gap in western societies is that between the upper middle class and everyone else. It would be more accurate, thus, to say that the real wealth distinction is between the ‘80 per cent’ and ‘20 per cent’. Those ‘20 per cent’ have a clear incentive to keep the system as it is although they are not part of the infamous ‘1 per cent’. The growing separation between the upper middle class and everyone else can be seen in access to education and lifestyle. The ‘20 per cent’ are more effective at passing on their status to their children, reducing overall social mobility and corroding prospects for more progressive approaches to policy (Reeves 2017). France Insoumise and the ‘old world’ Jean-­Luc Mélenchon’s relationship with left-­wing parties and the trade unions has been tense. The FI leader has no time for political parties which, as he puts it, belong to the ‘old world’. Mélenchon sent an angry text message to Pierre Laurent, the PCF leader, after his party had called for a Macron vote in the second round of the presidential election: ‘It took you ten months to decide to support me, but only 10 minutes to decide to decide to vote for Macron. You, communists, are death and nothingness!’ (Dodet 2017). The FI leader’s objective is to replace those ‘old’ parties: all stand accused of ganging up to block FI’s progress (Le Monde 2017). Hence his sticking to a strict policy of non-­alliance with other forces on the left locally. For Mélenchon does not simply take note of their decline; he actively wants to marginalise them. In this respect, FI’s and Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) anti-­party stances are two sides of the same coin. This uncompromising stand is the source of extreme tensions on the left. It raises the issue of a coalition formation to oppose Emmanuel Macron’s policies in the National Assembly and outside of it. With about 12–14 per cent of the share of the national vote, FI is far from being in a position to challenge LREM on its own. Yet Mélenchon refuses to consider any type of alliance with other political forces of the left. He pejoratively describes those negotiations between parties as tambouille (grub) (Tronche 2017). Mélenchon is often accused of portraying himself and his parliamentary caucus as the natural parliamentary expression of the struggles that the trade-­ union movement will undertake.6 Critics argue that such strategy is the antithesis of unity, and they stress the need to unite all resistance forces at the risk of being defeated by Macron’s offensive against workers’ social protection. FI comes across as the archetypal post-­modern organisation: there is no fee-­ paying membership, so it is not possible to formally join in. Mélenchon claims

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise   103 that FI is now the biggest organisation in French politics on the grounds that over 500,000 Internet users have registered on his campaign website by simply clicking on the page as a sign of support for his presidential candidacy.7 Since the announcement of Mélenchon’s candidacy in the presidential election back in February 2016, there has been no leadership contest to elect the FI leader or to elect the party representatives. One cannot join in FI as a party of organisation but as an individual. This is a major difference with FDG which regrouped several parties. In other words, other parties of the left cannot join in FI. Their members have to integrate individually. The party therefore loses its name, identity and political orientation. Thus, there would be no room within FI for a French equivalent of anti-­capitalistas, a far-­left faction in Podemos and one of the founding groups of the new Spanish party. The organisation has highly unusual rules: support groups cannot have more than fifteen members, and should not coordinate their work between each other within larger geographic zones. There should be no local FI conventions or general assemblies. These rules, which have not always been discussed nor abided by locally, clearly strengthen the authority of the national leadership. FI has a horizontal and informal type of organisation at the local level and a tight vertical control by the leadership at the national level. The core leadership group is drawn from PG, which is composed of Mélenchon’s first circle of allies in FI. Most were previously, like Mélenchon, members of the PS. A staunch patriotism Patriotism is, for left-­wing populists, a very positive notion. Pablo Iglesias and Íñigo Errejón have embraced it. They have sought to reclaim patriotism for ‘progressive ends’. This is a novelty in a country where Franco implemented a fascist regime in the name of the ‘patria’, its defence and values. Patriotism works here as an empty signifier to stir up a ‘new national spirit’. For Iglesias, the notion of patriotism is a question that goes beyond left and right. This is about behaving in a ‘decent’ manner (Bassets 2015). Jean-­Luc Mélenchon’s traditional brand of republicanism has for long been patriotic. Most of his speeches are peppered with vibrant references to la patrie. The FI leader likes to quote in particular this famous Jean Jaurès sentence: ‘It may almost be said that, while a little dose of internationalism separates a man from his country, a large dose brings him back. A little patriotism separates from the Internationale; the higher patriotism brings back to it’. Based on strong revolutionary and republican principles, patriotism is largely perceived on the French left as an acceptable point of reference, although not everyone would agree with it (Philippe 2012). Mélenchon sees the unity of the Republic (France’s ‘one and indivisible’ according to the first article of the Constitution of the 5th Republic) as untouchable, if not sacrosanct. For instance, he inveighs against the European Regional Languages Charter on the grounds that it grants ‘specific rights’ to people according to their linguistic practice. The then European Member of Parliament

104   Philippe Marlière argued that this would be contrary to the principle of equality of all citizens before the French law (Mélenchon 2014b). The FI leader is also a patriot of a more conservative type. The FI leader sings the praises of France as global power, spanning all the world’s seas and oceans. He wants France to quit NATO, for instance, but, like Charles de Gaulle, in order to better defend its interests and prestige around the world. Mélenchon regards all French overseas territories not as colonised countries, but as fully part of France (Branchi and Philippe 2012). FI does not fight against French imperialism because such a fight is unwarranted. Its approach to foreign policy is not based on an internationalist outlook but on a geostrategic one. Its view of the situation in the Middle East relies on an assessment of the relationship between global powers – hence the calls to cooperate with Russia even if this means negotiating terms with Bashar al-­ Assad. The same approach of rival global powers can be applied to Europe – so the target becomes Angela Merkel’s Germany (Mélenchon 2015b), if not the ‘German people’ with borderline Germanophobic rhetoric.8 Running for the presidency, Mélenchon enjoyed speaking as the country’s (future) commander in chief of the French military, whose capacities he wants to strengthen. Although his ‘ecosocialism’ strongly opposes the use of civil nuclear power, Mélenchon supports keeping and even enhancing nuclear weapons (Rousset 2012). As a result, Mélenchon has widely been criticised on the left for his ‘patriotic’ and ‘jacobin’9 stand. Although the FI leader does not embrace Marine Le Pen’s ethnocentric conception of nationality, he is keen to stress that French nationality has nothing to do with questions of culture, race or gender, but is related to the individuals’ emancipation from those ‘particularisms’. A French person, according to Mélenchon, is someone who adheres to the ‘national narrative’, made up of French history and its ‘great’ republican values, those which stem from the 1789 Revolution. He is, in this respect, a true believer in the republicanist ideology of the 3rd Republic (Renan 1997). Critics argue that this approach ignores the multicultural and multi-­ethnic fabric of the French nation today, and may even have chauvinistic if not neo-­imperialistic overtones when Mélenchon claims that those republican values are not French but ‘universal’ (Martelli 2016).

Was France Insoumise’s populist strategy successful? Interpreting the electoral sequence On the night of the first round of the presidential election, Jean-­Luc Mélenchon lamented that he narrowly missed the qualification for the second round: about 600,000 separated him from Marine Le Pen who came second. In the subsequent legislative election, seventeen deputies were elected (compared to LREM 309 deputies and 112 Républicains deputies). But how good are these electoral results overall? It is undeniable that Mélenchon’s performance in the first round of the presidential election is good compared to the results of the radical Left of the

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise   105 past thirty years. This being said, the top three candidates (Macron, centre, Le Pen, extreme right, and Fillon, right) received a total of over 60 per cent of the share of the vote. The left was therefore largely defeated in this election. One could also argue that Mélenchon’s combative campaign (which attracted a significant number of young and working-­class voters who normally abstain) managed to regroup traditional left-­wing voters and socialist voters who had deserted the PS. Yet Mélenchon overtook Benoît Hamon (the socialist candidate) in the polls only in mid-­March, after lagging behind for several weeks. This happened when it became clear that part of the PS leadership was defecting to support Macron. When the betrayal materialised, the more centrist sections of PS voters also switched to Macron. Their change of allegiance was dictated by two factors: first, they did not relate to Hamon, who some found ‘too left-­wing’. Second, their vote for Macron was tactical in the sense that they wanted to prevent the qualification of Fillon and Le Pen for the second round. When it was clear to everyone that Hamon would not recover from this act of betrayal from members of his own party, he started collapsing in the polls. PS voters with firmer left-­wing sympathies turned to Mélenchon whose economic programme and ideas were largely compatible with Hamon’s (Marlière 2017b). This was tactical voting rather than adhesion for Mélenchon’s persona. Benefiting from the support of disgruntled voters in the PS and good performances during the two television debates, Mélenchon indeed came close to qualifying for the second round. In short, Macron and Mélenchon were adept at seizing the opportunity that the crisis of the two main parties opened up for them: for the PS, Hollande’s late decision not to run, and for the Républicains, the corruption allegations against Fillon. The collapse of the two government parties had been long coming: the working-­ classes have long deserted the left, and independent workers and artisans have turned their back on the right. Macron’s victory could be interpreted as the emergence of a new dominant bloc, a ‘bourgeois bloc’ which gathers together the middle classes of the centre-­left and of the centre-­right (Amable and Palombarini 2017). It is too early to say whether this new bloc could indeed become the hegemonic bloc, but Macron’s deep slump in the opinion polls, as well as the rising opposition to his labour law reforms, augur rather badly in this respect. Populism and the left Commentators concur that Mélenchon’s dynamic campaign galvanised large constituencies of the electorate which had stopped supporting the left (the young and the popular classes). Well-­organised and active on social media, FI was built around Mélenchon’s charismatic presence and oratory skills, and it really made a difference. As the FI leader put it in the conclusion of a televised debate: ‘I want people to find the taste for happiness again’. This may sound to some a grandiloquent statement and an unrealistic target. However, this positive discourse mobilised the left altogether. It gave people a new hope after so many defeats over the past decades (Benbara 2017).

106   Philippe Marlière The ‘hidden transcript’ in Mélenchon’s campaign (Stavrakakis et al. 2016: 58) was the popular anger at what was largely regarded as the ‘betrayal’ of socialist principles by François Hollande as well as his broken promises. FI carried out a clever ‘war of movement’ in the Gramscian sense of the term.10 As a result, FI made important electoral gains in all social categories and in all age groups with the exception of the retired and elderly people. Mélenchon received 30 per cent of those aged eighteen to twenty-­four years, but only 15 per cent of those aged sixty to sixty-­nine years and 9 per cent of those aged over seventy years (Teinturier 2017). For FI supporters, the difficulty of the task ahead was to federate voters across social groups and generations. Each of them has demands and expectations of a particular type. Some have suggested that the ‘national community’ or la patrie (motherland) could prove handy ‘empty signifiers’ which name collectively, unify and represent the chain of equivalence among popular demands that are left unsatisfied by the government (Kioupkiolis 2016: 102). Mélenchon toyed with those notions during his presidential campaign. The narrative was, roughly speaking, as follows: France is a national community based on the principle of solidarity; motherland protects the poor through the actions of the State. The aim is to produce an alternative type of patriotism, one that is progressive and opposes the xenophobic narrative of the far-­right (Benbara 2017). FI, like Podemos in Spain, exemplifies a creative version of the ‘politics of the common’, that opens up to ‘ordinary people’, and resonates with ‘the common sense of social majorities beyond the left-­right divide’ (Kioupkiolis 2016: 100).

Conclusion Mélenchon’s populist strategy in launching France Insoumise is blatant. This is an attempt to organise the masses along the lines of an agonistic cleavage between ‘the people’ and ‘the elite’ (Mouffe 2018). What is quite remarkable in this unique left-­wing type of populism in France is that it was not motivated by external factors, such as social movements, but was manufactured by one person to run a presidential campaign. This is somewhat different from the situations in Spain. Podemos was formed in the aftermath of decisive social movements. In France, the correlation with social movements cannot be made easily except for the strong discredit of Hollande’s presidency among left-­wing voters. This certainly made Mélenchon an attractive electoral proposition for both radical and moderate left-­wing voters. Can left-­wing populism work in France? Can a movement launched by one man to bolster an electoral campaign become a major progressive force? Contrary to Podemos which originated from various social movements, France Insoumise was engineered by one man for a specific political purpose. The FI leader wants to federate the people, beyond the constituencies of the traditional left. He has ceased to refer to and to use the notion of the left altogether. One may ask what ‘people’ is there to federate in the end. Electoral polls

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise   107 show that FI’s electorate matches the traditional pattern of left-­wing voters: urban, youngish, public sector workers, educated, lower middle class. Mélenchon did not attract a significant number of voters from the right or the far-­right. He appealed to the young and the working-­class voters who normally do not vote (Doubre 2017). The irony is that, despite dismissing the notions of left and class, the sociology of Mélenchon’s electorate is clearly left-­wing and their vote is a class vote against the right and the extreme right. In other words, the FI’s electorate was attracted in the first place by Mélenchon’s left-­wing social democratic programme. One may wonder whether populism is the best strategy to broaden the left’s electorate. Sociologist Éric Fassin thinks that left-­wing and right-­wing populisms do not tap into the same culture and do not express the same feelings. On the left, the anger is directed at free market economics. On the far-­ right, the hatred of foreigners and immigrants is the main motivation. Fassin argues that both feelings and mindsets are incompatible: the former has a positive mindset whereas the latter is based on resentment. Therefore, setting aside the left-­right cleavage is dangerous as it may have a confusing and depoliticising effect on voters who are less politicised. Fassin also points to the nature of Donald Trump’s electorate in 2016: the majority came from the middle/upper classes. In short, the common hatred of an elusive ‘1 per cent’ and even the profound dislike of neoliberal policies does not suffice to fill the gap between left-­wing and right-­wing populism. There is indeed evidence that an insignificant fraction of Mélenchon’s electorate (less than 4 per cent) voted for le Pen in the second round of the presidential election. Fassin concludes by saying that it would be more beneficial from an electoral and political point of view to appeal to left-­ wing voters who abstain rather than try to lure right-­wing voters who do not share the social justice agenda of the left (Fassin 2017). What defines FI’s populism is the role and the centrality of the leader. At the end of FI’s summer conference in August 2017, Mélenchon declared that the ‘question of the leadership, programme and strategy was settled’ (Mestre 2017). In other words, following his self-­appointment as leader of FI, there will not be any debate or vote on the leadership. Laclau argues that the ‘symbolic unification of the group around an individuality’ – be it symbolic or even notional – ‘is inherent to the formation of a “people” ’ (Laclau 2005: 100). Mélenchon identifies with the people, has a fiery character and is seen as a charismatic orator and performer, qualities normally associated with a populist leader. Mélenchon’s model of leadership is closer to Chávez’s than Iglesias’s. In Spain, Iglesias has never been a lonely leader. Podemos’s remains fairly collegial: Íñigo Errejón, Carlos Monedero, Carolina Bescansa, Luis Alegre or Pablo Echenique somewhat play a rather prominent role in Podemos’s leadership (Kioupkiolis 2016: 113). In Greece and Germany, Alexis Tsipras and Oscar Lafontaine never played the role of the ‘strong’ and ‘charismatic’ leader to such extent. In France, no major figure has to date appeared on the front stage. Mélenchon incarnates FI for the public and he is, for the time being, its undisputed leader.

108   Philippe Marlière

Notes   1 Il n’est pas de sauveurs suprêmes Ni Dieu, ni César, ni Tribun, Producteurs, sauvons-­nous nous-­mêmes Décrétons le salut commun.   2 Ironically, the PG – Mélenchon’s party – made similar alliances with the socialists in the 2015 regional elections. Such tactical agreements enabled the PG to win several seats.   3 The constitution of the 5th Republic was adopted by referendum in 1958. The new text was voted shortly after Charles de Gaulle’s return to power. It strengthens the power of the executive, notably the president. www.conseil-­­ constitutionnel/francais/la-­constitution/la-­constitution-du-­4-octobre-­1958/texte-­integralde-­la-constitution-­du-4-octobre-­1958-en-­vigueur.5074.html.   4 The current institutions are often labelled ‘republican monarchy’ by critics on the left.   5 The Labour Code incorporates all legislation regarding work relations between employers and employees. Following a controversial law passed by the last socialist government, Emmanuel Macron’s new comprehensive reforms of the legislation make it easier to hire and fire, and reduce the power of the trade unions while negotiating with employers.   6 FI organised a demonstration against the Labour Code reform on 23 September 2017, just a week after a similar event had been organised by the trade unions. Mélenchon was singled out and criticised for mingling with unions’ traditional business and trying to highjack for his own political gains a collective struggle and endeavour.   7 When in February 2016 Mélenchon declared his candidacy at the presidential election on television, he invited the people who wished to support his campaign to click on a page on his campaign site. Since then, Mélenchon argues that those online supporters are de facto fully fledged members.   8 In his Hareng de Bismarck essay (whose subtitle is ‘le poison allemand’ – German poison), Mélenchon writes: ‘Arrogant as never before, Germany uses brutality, blackmail and punishment for those who do not obey immediately the new order which it has managed to impose’ (p. 7).   9 In France, the Jacobin Society was the most influential political club during the French revolution. Jacobinism, today, in the French context, generally indicates a supporter of a centralised republican state and strong central government powers and/or supporters of extensive government intervention to transform society. 10 A war of movement is, for Gramsci, the phase of open conflict between classes, where the outcome is decided by direct clashes between revolutionaries and the State. A war of position, on the other hand, is the slow, hidden conflict, where forces seek to gain influence and power.

References AFP (2017) ‘Je Ne Suis Pas d’Extrême Gauche’, Le Parisien. 16 April. Available at:­a ctualite-politique/melenchon-­j e-ne-­s uis-pas-­d -extreme-­ gauche-16-04-2017-6858561.php (accessed 31 August 2017). Alemagna, L. and Alliès, S. (2012) Mélenchon le Plébéien, Paris: Robert Laffont. Amable, B. and Palombarini, Stefano (2017) L’Illusion du Bloc Bourgeois. Alliances et Avenir du Modèle Français, Paris: Seuil (Raisons d’Agir). Andureau, W. (2017) ‘Qu’Est-Ce Que le “Dégagisme” de Jean-­Luc Mélenchon?’ Le Monde, 14 January. Available at:­decodeurs/article/2017/01/30/ qu-­est-ce-­que-le-­degagisme-de-­jean-luc-­melenchon_5071725_4355770.html (accessed 14 September 2017).

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise   109 Aslanidis, P. (2016) ‘Is Populism an Ideology: A Refutation and a New Perspective’, Political Studies 64(1): 88–104. Bassets, M. (2015) ‘Spain’s New Patriots’, Dissent, Summer. Available at: www.dissent­bassets-podemos-­patriotism-spain (accessed 6 September 2017). Benbara, L. (2017) ‘La France Insoumise Face à son Destin’, Le Vent Se Lève, 3 August. Available at:­france-insoumise-­face-a-­son-destin (accessed 7 September 2017). Berdah, A. (2017) ‘Mélenchon Étrille Hollande: “Un Pauvre Type” ’, Le Figaro, 8 June. Available at:­etrille-hollande-­un-pauvre-­type.php (accessed 31 August 2017). Besse Desmoulières, R. (2017) ‘À Rome, Mélenchon Creuse le Sillon du “Plan B” Européen Avec les Gauches Radicales’, Le Monde, 11 March. Available at: http://abonnes.lemonde. fr/election-­presidentielle-2017/article/2017/03/11/jean-­luc-melenchon-­va-defendre-­sesprojets-­europeens-au-­sommet-du-­plan-b-­a-rome_5092939_4854003.html (accessed 19 September 2017). Betz, H.-G. (1993) ‘The New Politics of Resentment Radical Right-­Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe’, Comparative Politics 25(4): 413–427. Blin, S. (2017) ‘L’Introuvable Populisme de Gauche’, Libération, 15 March. Available at:­p opulisme-de-­g auche_1555958 (accessed 31 August 2017). Branchi, M. and Philippe, P.-C. (2012) ‘Mélenchon, le PCF et les Colonies’, Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, 1 May. Available at: www.europe-­ php?article25841 (accessed 6 September). Canovan, M. (1999) ‘Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy’, Political Studies 47(1): 2–16. Chazel, L. (2016) ‘L’Hypothèse Populiste. Du Front de Gauche à la France Insoumise: Quelles Influences de Podemos?’ Le Vent Se Lève, 10 May. Available at: du-­front-de-­gauche-a-­la-france-­insoumise-quelles-­influences-de-­podemos-entretien-­ avec-jorge-­lago (accessed 1 September 2017). Clavel, G. (2017) ‘Pour Sa Porte-­Parole Danielle Simonnet, Jean-­Luc Mélenchon “Assume le Populisme de Gauche” ’, Huffington Post, 6 April. Available at: www.­s a-porte-­p arole-danielle-­s imonnet-jean-­l ucmelenchon-­assu_a_22028456/ (accessed 31 August 2017). Dodet, R. (2017) ‘Le SMS de Mélenchon au PCF: “C’est une Insulte, une Claque” ’, L’Obs, 18 May. Available at:­2017/20170518.OBS9604/le-­sms-de-­melenchon-au-­pcf-c-­est-une-­insulte-une-­claque. html (accessed 4 September 2017). Doubre, O. (2017) ‘Éric Fassin: Le Populisme de Gauche Est une Illusion Politique’, Politis, 27 March. Available at:­fassin-le-­ populisme-de-­gauche-est-­une-illusion-­politique-36587/ (accessed: 7 September 2017). Dusseaulx, A.-C. (2016) ‘Les 10 Premières Mesures du Programme de Mélenchon’, Le Journal du Dimanche, 16 October. Available at:­10premieres-­mesures-du-­programme-de-­Melenchon-817699 (accessed 7 September 2017). Fassin, E. (2017) Populisme: le Grand Ressentiment, Paris: Textuel. Filoche, G. (2016) ‘Le Piège, Ce N’Est Pas la Primaire de Toute la Gauche!’, 26 September. Available at:­piege (accessed 1 September 2017). Geisser, V. (2015) ‘Exit “Français de Souche”? De la Prudence Rhétorique à la Prégnance Idéologique’, Migrations Sociétés 2(158). Available at:­ migrations-societe-­2015-2-page-­3.htm (accessed 15 September 2017).

110   Philippe Marlière Grijelmo, Á. (2017) ‘Cómo Es la ‘Gente’?’ El País, 26 February. Available at: https://elpais. com/elpais/2017/02/24/opinion/1487932250_793206.html (accessed 6 September 2017). Katsambekis, G. (2016) ‘Radical Left Populism in Contemporary Greece: Syriza’s Trajectory from Minoritarian Opposition to Power’, Constellations 23(3): 391–403. Kioupkiolis, A. (2016) ‘Podemos: The Ambiguous Promises of Left-­Wing Populism in Contemporary Spain’, Journal of Political Ideologies 21(2): 99–120. Laclau, E. (1977) Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism, London: New Left Books. Laclau, E. (2005) On Populist Reason, London: Verso. Lago, J. (2017) ‘Du Front de Gauche à la France Insoumise: Quelles Influences Pour Podemos?’ Le Vent Se Lève, 10 May. Available at:­front-de-­gauche-a-­ la-france-­i nsoumise-quelles-­i nfluences-de-­p odemos-entretien-­a vec-jorge-­l ago (accessed 2 September 2017). Le Monde (2017) ‘Jean-­Luc Mélenchon Accuse la Gauche de Bloquer la Percée de la France Insoumise’, Le Monde, 2 July. Available at:­france-insoumise/ article/2017/07/02/jean-­luc-melenchon-­accuse-la-­gauche-de-­bloquer-la-­percee-de-­lafrance-­insoumise_5154404_5126047.html (accessed 4 September 2017). Marlière, P. (2010) ‘L’Effet Mélenchon, un Risque pour l’Avenir de la Gauche’, Le Monde, 19 November. Available at: l-­effet-melenchon-­un-risque-­pour-l-­avenir-de-­la-gauche_1442076_3232.html (accessed 3 September 2017). Marlière, P. (2012) ‘Jean-­Luc Mélenchon’s Policies Are No Far-­Left Fantasies’, Guardian, 15 April. Available at: jean-­luc-melenchon-­france-presidential-­candidate (accessed 31 August 2017). Marlière, P. (2013) ‘The Demophobes and the Great Fear of Populism’, openDemocracy, 4 June. Available at:­europe-make-­it/philippe-­marli%C3%A 8re/demophobes-­and-great-­fear-of-­populism (accessed 28 August 2017). Marlière, P. (2014) ‘L’Esprit des Populismes’, Mediapart, 7 April. Available at: https://­marliere/blog/070414/lesprit-­des-populismes (accessed 14 September 2017). Marlière, P. (2016) ‘Mélenchon Candidat à la Présidentielle. Il Tourne le Dos à l’Histoire de la Gauche’, L’Obs, 14 February. Available at: contribution/1481855-melenchon-­candidat-a-­la-presidentielle-­il-tourne-­le-dos-­a-l-­ histoire-de-­la-gauche.html (accessed 1 September 2017). Marlière, P. (2017a) ‘French Presidential Candidate Emmanuel Macron’s “Anti-­System” is a Sham’, Guardian, 18 January. Available at: jan/18/emmanuel-­macron-anti-­system-french-­presidency (accessed 29 August 2017). Marlière, P. (2017b) ‘Benoît Hamon: un Vote Trompe-­la-Mort’, Contretemps, 21 February. Available at:­vote-hamon-­ps-gauche/ (accessed 6 September 2017). Martelli, R. (2016) ‘Mélenchon et le “Récit National” ’, Regards, 29 September. Available at:­veut-la-­peau-de-­roger-martelli/article/melenchon-­et-le-­ recit-national (accessed 19 September 2017). Marx, K. (2008) The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Lahore: Serenity Publishers (first published in 1852). Mélenchon, J.-L. (2009) L’Autre Gauche, Paris: Editions Bruno Leprince. Mélenchon, J.-L. (2010a) ‘J’Appelle à Une Révolution Citoyenne’, Sud-­Ouest, 10 October. Available at:­appelle-a-­une-revolution-­citoyenne-2077694585.php (accessed 1 September 2017).

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and France Insoumise   111 Mélenchon, J.-L. (2010b) ‘Populiste Moi? J’assume!’ L’Express, 16 September. Available at:­populiste-moi-­j-assume_919603.html (accessed 28 August 2017). Mélenchon, J.-L. (2010c) Qu’Ils S’En Aillent Tous! Vite, la Révolution Citoyenne, Paris: Flammarion. Mélenchon, J.-L. (2014a) L’Ère du Peuple, Paris: Fayard. Mélenchon, J.-L. (2014b) ‘Lettre aux Députés’, Humanité, 21 January. Available at: (accessed 10 September 2017). Mélenchon, J.-L. (2015a) ‘Populisme et Hégémonies Culturelles: Débat Laclau-­MouffeMélenchon’, L’Ère du Peuple, 29 September. Available at: 2015/09/29/populisme-­et-hegemonies-­culturelles-debat-­laclau-mouffe-­melenchon/ (accessed 3 September 2017). Mélenchon, J.-L. (2015b) Le Hareng de Bismarck, Le Poison Allemand, Paris: Éditions Plon. Mélenchon, J.-L. (2016a) Le Choix de l’Insoumission, Paris: Éditions du Seuil. Mélenchon, J.-L. (2016b) ‘Pendant les Vacances Scolaires de Novembre’, L’Ère du Peuple, 2 November. Available at:­vacancesscolaires-­de-novembre/ (accessed 1 September 2017). Mélenchon, J.-L. (2016c) Un Avenir En Commun. Le Programme de la France Insoumise et Son Candidat, Paris: Éditions du Seuil. Mélenchon, J.-L. (2017) ‘L’Insoumission Est Un Nouvel Humanisme’, L’Ère du Peuple, 26 August. Available at:­nouvelhumanisme/ (accessed 4 September 2017). Mestre, A. (2017) ‘À Marseille, Jean-­Luc Mélenchon Promet du Combat Pas du Blabla’, Le Monde, 27 August. Available at: melenchon-­a ppelle-le-­p euple-a-­d eferler-a-­p aris-contre-­l e-coup-­d -etat-­s ocial-de-­ macron_5177148_823448.html (accessed 7 September 2017). Mitterrand, F. (1984) Le Coup d’État Permanent, Paris: Éditions du Seuil (first published in 1964). Mouffe, C. (2017) ‘French Presidential Candidate Mélenchon is a Radical Reformist Against Mounting Oligarchy’, Verso, 19 April. Available at: blogs/3171-melenchon-­a-radical-­reformist-against-­mounting-oligarchy (accessed 3 September 2017). Mouffe, C. (2018) For a Left Populism, London: Verso. Mudde, C. (2004) ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition 39(4): 542–563. Philip, G. and Panizza, F. (2011) The Triumph of Politics. The Return of the Left in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, Cambridge: Polity Press. Philippe, P.-C. (2012) ‘La Question Oubliée: la République, la Gauche et les Colonies’, Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, June. Available at: www.europe-­ php?article25835 (accessed 6 September 2017). Proust, R. (2017) ‘Les Secrets de la Conquista Mélenchon’, L’Opinion, 7 April. Available at:­conquista-melenchon-­123798 (accessed 3 September 2017). Reeves, R. V. (2017) Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It, Washington, DC: Brooking Institution Press. Renan, E. (1997) Qu’Est-Ce Qu’Une Nation? Paris: Les Milles et Une Nuits (first published in 1882).

112   Philippe Marlière Rendueles, C. and Sola, J. (2015) ‘Podemos and Paradigm Shift’, Jacobin, 13 April. Available at:­spain-pablo-­iglesias-european-­ left (accessed 2 September 2017). Rousset, P. (2012) ‘Jean-­Luc Mélenchon, l’Habit Présidentiel, l’Arme Nucléaire et la Gauche Française’, Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, 9 May. Available at: www. europe-­ (accessed 6 September 2017). Sartori, G. (1991) ‘Comparing and Miscomparing’, Journal of Theoretical Politics 3(3): 243–257. Stangler, C. (2017) ‘France Rebels’, Jacobin, 4 December. Available at:­insoumise-melenchon-­elections-sixth-­republic-national-­ front/ (accessed 31 August 2017). Stanley, B. (2008) ‘The Thin Ideology of Populism’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 13(1): 95–110. Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘Left-­wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2): 119–142. Stavrakakis, Y., Kioupkiolis, A., Katsambekis, G., Nikisianis, N. and Siomos, T. (2016) ‘Contemporary Left-­wing Populism in Latin America: Leadership, Horizontalism, and Postdemocracy in Chavez’s Venezuela’, Latin American Politics and Society 58(3): 51–76. Taggart, P. (2000) Populism, Buckingham: Oxford University Press. Tremlett, G. (2015) ‘The Podemos Revolution: How a Small Group of Radical Academics Changed European Politics’, Guardian, 31 March. Available at: world/2015/mar/31/podemos-­revolution-radical-­academics-changed-­european-politics (accessed 15 September 2017). Teinturier, B. (2017) ‘Premier Tour Présidentielle 2017: Sociologie de l’Électorat. IPSOS’. Available at:­fr/1er-tour-­presidentielle-2017-sociologie-­delelectorat (accessed 19 September 2017). Tronche, S. (2017) ‘Jean-­Luc Mélenchon “Condamne” une Alliance Insoumis/PCF pour les Élections Territoriales en Corse’, Le Lab Politique Europe 1, 4 September. Available at:­luc-melenchon-­condamne-une-­alliance-insoumispcf-­pour-les-­ elections-territoriales-­en-corse-­3426401 (accessed 4 September 2017).

5 The Dutch Socialist Party From Maoist sect to Social Democratic mass party with a populist style1 Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman

Introduction: the Dutch context The Netherlands does not have a strong populist tradition – whether populism is defined as a communication style, a discourse or a (thin) ideology (see Lucardie and Voerman 2012). Its political culture has always been fragmented. When political parties emerged, in the late nineteenth century, they were often linked to religious and ideological institutions – called ‘pillars’ (zuilen) in the Netherlands because they divided society into vertical blocs rather than horizontal classes. The pillars were dominated by elites which negotiated with each other – the politics of accommodation, or consociationalism, as described by Arend Lijphart (1968). Occasionally, a new movement tried to mobilise lower classes – industrial and rural workers, shopkeepers, farmers – against the established elites, using a populist style and discourse. Some of them failed and disappeared within a few years, others succeeded – and became part of the pillarised system, trading in the populist rhetoric for a pluralist or elitist discourse. This happened with the Socialist movement, which applied a populist style in its early days, in the late nineteenth century, but ended up building a solid ‘red pillar’ in the twentieth century: a fully fledged network of trade unions, women’s groups, educational institutes, newspapers, youth and sport clubs, a broadcasting association and, of course, a political party (Te Velde 2010: 250, 255; Lucardie and Voerman 2012: 23–25). The Communist party, which emerged from a split in the Social-­Democratic party in 1909, also set up its own network, but proved too small and too radical to become a real pillar in the consociational system of the Netherlands (Voerman, 2005). Each pillar cherished its own ideology: Socialism, Catholicism, Calvinism and Liberalism – although the Liberals were most reluctant and rather late to build a pillar. None of them could claim to represent the whole Dutch people. In the second half of the twentieth century the pillars gradually began to crumble and disintegrate, because of secularisation, individualisation, the rise of new media and other modernising factors (Andeweg 1999). Yet accommodation and cooperation between elites continued. This process created political space, one could argue, for new populist movements and parties, both on the left and on the right side of the spectrum. One of them was, arguably, the Socialist Party (Socialistische Partij/SP).

114   Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman

Is the SP a populist party? Whether or not the SP should be regarded as populist depends on one’s definition of populism, and the period under consideration. Populism can be regarded as a type of political movement, a style of communication, a discourse or an ideology, albeit a thin or thin-­centred one (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012: 3–10; see also Jagers and Walgrave 2007). In our opinion, the different definitions are not necessarily incompatible, but may reflect different aspects of the same phenomenon. We distinguish a weak form of populism, which is mainly a popular style of communication, from a strong form which is more ideological and pits ‘the good people’ against a ‘corrupt political elite’. It is a relative and dynamic distinction: parties or movements may become stronger or weaker populists over time. In our view, this somewhat eclectic definition of populism is also compatible with the discursive approach advocated by the editors of this volume. As Giorgos Katsambekis has argued in a piece written together with Yannis Stavrakakis, the discourse theory developed by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe seems to provide the kernel of most ‘minimal’ definitions of populism, including the rather popular one offered by Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014: 122; see also Kioupkiolis 2016: 102). Mudde and Kaltwasser define populism as: a thin-­centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite,’ and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people. (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012: 8) They consider Laclau’s theory too abstract and vague and prefer the term ‘thin-­ centred ideology’ to ‘discourse’ (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012: 6–7). However, the term ‘thin-­centred’ may be problematic with respect to populism, as the theorist who coined the term, Michael Freeden, has argued. In his eyes, populism is too fragmented and inchoate to be called a thin-­centered ideology; at best, it is a phantom ideology (Freeden 2017: 2–7, 10). Yet, he also rejects the discourse theory of Laclau and others, mainly because of its epistemological assumptions; in his eyes, ideologies do not merely construct but also represent reality (Freeden 2003: 105–106). We follow Freeden, but not all the way: we continue to use the term ‘thin’ or ‘thin-­centered ideology’ which we used in earlier work (e.g. Lucardie and Voerman 2012), as well as ‘discourse’, yet with Freeden’s reservations in mind. As we will try to show below, the SP had assumed a populist style during its Maoist stage and it has retained this until the present, throughout its transformation into a social democratic party. The ideology of the SP was Marxist-­Leninist rather than populist until the 1980s, although the two were also blended to some extent. The SP defined itself as ‘the party of ordinary people’, and it tried to unify

The Dutch Socialist Party   115 ‘workers, housewives, old age pensioners, victims of pollution and of housing shortage’, striving for ‘the rule of the people led by the working class’ (SP 1974a: 4–5; 1987: 19). During the late 1980s and 1990s it could be considered populist in a stronger, more ideological sense, pitting the people against the elite and implying that both are homogeneous entities (Lucardie and Voerman 2012: 50–52). In this period, the SP might meet the criteria of Mudde and Kaltwasser (2012: 8) as well as Stavrakakis and Katsambekis (2014: 121–124). However, when the SP moved towards social democracy during the late 1990s, it diluted its populist discourse. Since 2000, it has criticised the ‘elite’ and ‘the managers’ or ‘administrators’ (bestuurders) but it refers to ‘people’ (de mensen) or ‘citizens’ (burgers) rather than to ‘the people’ (het volk) in its programmes and other documents. Emile Roemer, political leader from 2010 till 2017, wrote that ‘if we don’t leave all decisions to small elites, who are usually far removed from reality, our decisions will become a lot better’ (Roemer 2010: 103). In its 2012 election platform, the SP complained about ‘the old-­boys network of officials who share the positions and rewards among themselves, linking up with influential lobbies like multinational corporations’ (SP 2012: 11). In 2017 it asked the question ‘Who is in charge of our country, the administrators or the citizens?’ (SP 2017: 9). The party discourse has remained antagonistic, but ‘the people’ is plural rather than singular. It no longer seems to be a clear homogeneous entity. The party still articulates popular demands and claims more power for workers in companies, for teachers and students in schools, for tenants renting apartments from housing corporations (SP 2017: 9, 19, 23). It also advocates a binding referendum as well as a popular initiative (SP 2017: 9). Yet the demands are not unified explicitly. To shed light on the populism of the SP and to explain its transformation, we will describe its history in some detail, focusing on its ideological, organisational and electoral evolution. In the concluding section of this chapter we will deal with its position in the party system at present – and its future.

Maoist origins The SP originated from the Maoist opposition that developed within the Dutch Communist Party (Communistische Partij van Nederland/CPN) in the early 1960s, when a political and ideological conflict arose between the Soviet Union and China. The CPN, which had always kowtowed to the Soviet Union, did not take sides in the end and declared itself to be ‘autonomous’. The Peking-­ oriented party members, however, believed the CPN had also strayed from established orthodoxy and had lapsed into revisionism. The CPN responded by wielding the axe of expulsion. The dissidents formed, then, their own party but they were soon at loggerheads with each other. In January 1970, this process of rifting and branching led to establishment of the Communist United Movement in the Netherlands-marxist-leninist (Kommunistische Eenheidsbeweging Nederland-­marxistisch-leninistisch/KENml), but this party too was soon to crumble. A ‘proletarian’ wing had resisted the intellectualist character of the

116   Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman KENml and decided to found their own party, the Communist Party of the Netherlands (Marxist-­Leninist) which, in October 1972, was renamed the Socialist Party (Voerman 1987: 124–132). In its struggle for socialism, the SP based itself on Marxism-­Leninism, ‘enriched with Maoist thought’. The party championed the abolition of private ownership of the means of production: the people were to become the ‘rightful owners’ of houses and land, public health care, banks, insurance companies, pension funds, major corporations, etc. The SP was convinced that socialism could be realised only by a violent revolution and did not think much of the parliamentary system: parliamentary democracy was no more than a façade for the dictatorship of capital (SP 1974a; see also Voerman 1987: 132–133). The SP’s party line in its struggle against capitalism was the strategy of the ‘mass line’ as developed by Mao Zedong: to move among the masses ‘like a fish in water’ and to: take the ideas of the masses […], concentrate them (change them through study into concentrated and coherent concepts), return them to the masses and propagate and declare them […] and put the correctness of these concepts to the test in campaigns carried on by the masses. (Mao Zedong 1967: 74) In the early 1970s, the SP used this idea of the mass line to establish ‘mass organisations’: a league of tenants, a health care association and an environmental movement (Voerman 1987: 133–135). By focusing its campaigns on concrete problems such as pollution or housing shortages, the SP was hoping to mobilise the greatest number of people, irrespective of their political convictions. The ultimate goal of the SP – the overthrow of capitalism – was to stay in the background so as to prevent sympathisers from being scared off. The party did, however, aim to unify the popular demands and to integrate them into the class struggle. The mass organisations, therefore, were not so much ends in themselves as political instruments for the party, and a recruiting pool for new party members.

Ideological development: from Maoism to social democracy After 1975, the SP started a transformation process both on the ideological and on the organisational level (the latter will be discussed in the following section). The Maoist principles gradually faded into the background, while the SP more or less adjusted to its Dutch environment: it adapted to the views of what it would call ‘the ordinary people’ (de gewone mensen) and attempted to rid itself of its sectarian image. There were several reasons for this de-­Maoisation process. Party membership growth stagnated in the mid-­1970s (see Table 5.1). The 1977 Lower House election results were also disappointing. Possibly just as important, however, were developments in China. After Mao’s death in 1976, his name was to vanish from

The Dutch Socialist Party   117 Table 5.1 Membership of Dutch Socialist Party 1973–2018 Year


1973 1974 1975 1977 1986 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

600 1,200 1,400 12,000 10,000 15,122 15,517 15,978 16,899 17,056 19,926 21,975 25,052 26,198 26,553 27,291 36,406 43,389 44,299 44,853 50,740 50,238 50,444 46,507 46,308 44,186 45,815 44,240 42,679 41,710 39,550 36,465

Source: Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties, (accessed 12 September 2018).

the pages of the party magazine De Tribune. Moreover, the magazine’s subtitle, which had been derived from the Little Red Book: ‘Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win’, was deleted. Several Maoist dogmas were also up for revision. First of all, the doctrine of violent revolution was pushed into the background as it was assumed that it would scare people off. Although the SP retained the concept of the class struggle and the ultimate goal, a socialist society, it adopted a slightly more positive view of parliamentary democracy as the most democratic system that was feasible under capitalism, even if it could not be expected to accomplish any genuine social changes. Another, perhaps more important, driving force behind all the ideological and organisational adaptations was the SP’s populist orientation, which was

118   Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman embedded in its Maoist outlooks and outlasted all reforms. In the 1970s and 1980s, the party viewed itself as the ‘voice of the people’ that was supposedly in a better position than anyone else to know the mind of the populace – better, in any case than the despised political establishment (see also Voerman 2009). The notion of ‘the people’ or ‘the ordinary people’ or ‘the common man’ was not defined or clarified. Although presumably broader than ‘working class’ or ‘proletariat’, possibly including shopkeepers, farmers and small businessmen as well as (lower) civil servants, it was still close to the class terms used earlier on. The starting-­point for any party activity consisted of sounding out the views of the common man in his neighbourhood or workplace – or at least the SP’s perception of these views. These opinions were then transformed or ‘elevated’ into the guideline or norm for subsequent action. Right from the start, the SP was very reluctant to adopt positions that might isolate it from the people. In 1974, the future chairman of the party, Jan Marijnissen, said that the SP only carried out what the people demanded, as ‘it doesn’t matter what we think but what the people want us to do’ (Zander 1974). In the early 1980s, the SP’s disposition to identify itself with the people caused it to embrace views on issues such as immigrant labour that were controversial at that time (SP 1983). Manifesting itself as no more than the ‘spokesperson’ of what was on people’s minds, the party argued in favour of offering immigrant workers – with the passage of time – a choice of remigration to their country of origin or assimilation to Dutch society. If nothing was done, the SP felt, the issue of immigrant labour would cause the rise of a group of ‘second-­ class citizens’. The SP would later drop the option of remigration and stress the necessity of integration instead. The party felt that integration programmes were too often ‘too noncommittal’ (SP 2002: 49). It rejected the idea of the ‘multi­ cultural society’, as this would bring about segregation and concentration of immigrants in neighbourhoods and schools. The dispersion of migrants over different neighbourhoods and schools is still an important requirement in SP programmes (e.g. SP 2017: 25). A novel feature of the SP’s kind of populism, which surfaced in the early 1980s, was the dread of anything that might spread discord among the ‘common’ people so cherished by the party. This fear stemmed from the conviction that it was only capitalism that would benefit from a divided working class. However, there were also considerations of a more nostalgic kind involved here. The SP felt that the ‘common’ people’s sense of community was being threatened and eroded by the individualisation process, a loss of community spirit, and rising unemployment. This would only end in a bleak and unpleasant society (SP 1986: 9). In this early period the SP wanted to replace representative, ‘bourgeois’ democracy with a ‘common democracy that would give people in companies and neighbourhoods the power to determine their own lives’ (SP 1974b: 50). Rather than political parties, social units such as neighbourhoods or companies should appoint parliamentary candidates. The established parties were simply ‘election machines’, concerned with seats and jobs. The SP was a different kind of party; it saw itself as an ‘extra-­parliamentary party’, even when it contested elections (SP 1974a: 36; SP 1974b: 50).

The Dutch Socialist Party   119 Whereas de-­Maoisation had taken some time, the break with Leninism occurred rather suddenly. At the party conference of November 1987, the SP emphatically grounded itself in Marxism-­Leninism. After the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union around 1990, however, the party tried to learn its lessons from the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’, which it had always regarded with a great deal of sympathy. Its ideological change was also induced by the highly disappointing 1989 parliamentary elections: the national results had lagged far behind results at municipal elections in 1986 and did not bring the expected seat in the Lower House (Van der Steen 1995: 174–175). In the process of reform that was set in motion, the SP’s worldview – just like its party structure (see below) – was ‘de-­Leninised’. In October 1991, the party conference decided that the SP’s political orientation was only to be designated by the term ‘socialist’ (SP 1999a: 15). The SP was striving for a socialist society, but only major corporations and banks were to be socialised. The term ‘Marxism-­Leninism’ was struck from the party statutes: the label had now become a millstone round the party’s neck. Neoliberalism rather than capitalism per se was seen as the main enemy. The party strongly opposed the prevailing neoliberal policy of pushing back the role of the government, drastically cutting back social services and promoting the free play of market forces. Marxist terms such as ‘working class’ or ‘bourgeoisie’ were avoided in this period. Instead, the SP began to appeal to the common man and woman against the ‘establishment’, a notion that was now allocated a central place in its discourse. Communications advisor Niko Koffeman proposed the provocative slogan ‘vote against, vote SP’, with a red tomato as a symbol of protest, expressing the anger of ‘the people’ against the government’s neoliberal socio-­economic policy. The campaign for the 1994 general elections was carefully engineered within a populist framework. ‘The reason for voting for us’, said Koffeman, ‘is to […] kick the backside of that lot in The Hague who are constantly swindling us’ (quoted in Kagie 2006: 84). The SP election programmes during this period clearly reveal its suspicions about the political classes. The SP saw itself as ‘a party that has its roots among the people and that knows what matters to them’ and was opposed to ‘high-­handed’ politicians who were unwilling to leave the decisions to ‘the people themselves’ (SP 1994: 16). The party advocated referendums and direct election of mayors and the head of state by voters, as well as the introduction of the popular initiative. However, the direct representation in parliament of companies, neighbourhoods and other social organisations no longer appeared in the party’s election programme. This implied a revaluation of the place of political parties. Having taken leave of Mao and Lenin, the SP decided in 1999 to draft a new manifesto, which ushered in a third ideological metamorphosis. Now Marx vanished to the background: socialism as the beckoning perspective and a future ideal for society came under discussion. In the SP election programme of 1998, the term ‘socialism’ was dropped altogether. The SP still considered itself as being en route to a ‘better world’, but it appeared to have abandoned the belief that socialism was the final destination of history. Socialism was now only referred to in highly

120   Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman abstract, moral terms: ‘human dignity, equality between people, and solidarity between people’ (SP 1999b: 7). Simultaneously, the SP also jettisoned the central tenet of socialist ideology: public ownership of the means of production. As said above, the party had believed for a very long time that this was the only possible way to realise socialism. At the end of the 1990s, however, this sacred cow was relinquished. Socialisation was no longer mentioned, the SP would not venture beyond saying that democratic control has to replace ‘the kind of control that is tied to economic power and private property’ (SP 1999b: 10). Not all SP members were happy with this: when discussing the new manifesto at the party conference, several branches tried in vain to salvage the doctrine. Instead of socialisation, democratisation became the major ideological purpose of the SP. In its early days, it felt that the Netherlands was not democratic: it was not parliament but the capitalists that ruled the roost. In the 1999 manifesto, however, the SP considered parliamentary democracy ‘the most important means to express and implement the will of the people’ (SP 1999b: 11). This is not to say that the SP considered the status quo to be ideal. The party felt that the democratically legitimised government should protect its authority in the face of the aggressive European Union and should exercise greater control over the market sector. Democratisation turned into a magic potion to cure most social ills. Wherever the party would have formerly used the term ‘socialist’, it replaced that now with the new term: ‘a democratized society offers the best scope for doing justice to essential issues such as the protection of social progress and justice, health, nature and the environment’ (SP 1999b: 11). Strictly speaking, since 1999 the SP is socialist only in name. The abandonment of the socialisation of the means of production and the embrace of parliamentary democracy imply that the party has converted to a social democratic ideology. This is acknowledged by the party itself, although with a comment: Tiny Kox, since 2003 chairman of the SP-­group in the Upper House, characterised his party in 2007 as ‘social democratic plus’: this means that the party drew ideas from social democracy, but also from the radical socialism of the nineteenth century, from Christian social thought and from the alter-­globalism of the twenty-­first century (quoted in Voerman and Lucardie 2007: 140). All these changes were carried out by the same leaders and did not result from factional strife, as one might have imagined. Kox was editor (in chief ) of the party journal from 1981 to 1994 when he became party secretary. Jan Marijnissen was party chairman from 1988 to 2015 and leader of the parliamentary party from 1994 to 2008. With his charisma, eloquence and strong personality, he dominated the party for twenty-­seven years. Even though his authoritarian style triggered occasional conflicts, he remained very popular inside and outside the party and he played a pivotal role in transformation and growth of the SP.

Organisational development Membership of the SP was certainly no sinecure at its early stages: the party leadership insisted that students among the members forsake their ‘privileged’

The Dutch Socialist Party   121 positions and enter factories to learn from the workers. In addition, members were to take an active part in the life of the party, meaning that they were to dedicate themselves to the mass organisations, canvas for the party journal (De Tribune), participate in members’ meetings, and devote themselves to Marxist-­ Leninist training. At the same time, their political influence was marginal. The SP party organisation was based on the principle of democratic centralism, granting substantial authority to the party leadership. The SP considered itself a revolutionary party that would only be able to act with any kind of decisiveness if it was based on this Leninist principle. The de-­Maoisation process, which was partly intended to tone down the SP’s sectarian image, also led to adjustments in the party organisation. In 1977, the party allowed so-­called associate or supporting members to join. These were only expected to make a financial contribution and were not required to take an active part in the work of the party. Apparently fearing that this new growth in membership would turn out to be a Trojan horse, the SP decided to shift the core of the grassroots decision-­making process from branch meetings to ‘political working meetings’, which were only open to party cadres. These organisational reforms appear to have been fruitful. Although the SP in those days was little inclined to divulge membership figures, it is known to have had some 200 members immediately after the schism in the early 1970s and an estimated 1,400 members in the mid-­1970s (see Table 5.1). In 1986, according to its own membership specifications, the party had about 10,000 full members and associate members. Virtually all mass organisations were disbanded in the years after 1977. In that year’s Lower House elections, they had failed to mobilise the hoped-­for electoral support for the SP. It was suspected that these organisations were actually obscuring the party itself, which needed to become more visible (Voerman 1987: 137–138). In the second period of ideological changes – the de-­Leninisation of the SP in the early 1990s – the organisational structure was revised once more. The statutes were amended in 1991 to upgrade the associate members into fully fledged party members, which also granted them a formal voice in the SP. The rank and file was also given more opportunities for participation. In 1990, for instance, a party council (partijraad) was set up, consisting of local branch presidents and the national executive committee. The party conference (consisting of delegates from local branches) was to convene much more frequently in the 1990s than it had done in the 1970s and 1980s. The party conference nominates candidates for the Lower House and elects the national executive committee. Candidates for the Upper House and the European Parliament are selected by the party council (SP s.a.: 7). These organisational changes helped to clear the way for substantial SP membership growth in the 1990s. By upgrading the associate members into full members, the party had well over 15,000 members in early 1992 (see Table 5.1). After the SP’s debut in the Lower House in May 1994, membership rose to approximately 17,000 in January 1995, and to nearly 22,000 three years later. In the early 2000s, growth figures truly began to soar: in 2002, the SP welcomed

122   Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman about 9,000 new members, an increase of one-­third. By January 2007, the party had more than 50,000 registered members. However, after 2009 growth stagnated and decline set in. By 2018, membership had dropped to 36,465. Since 2000 the SP has hardly changed its organisational structure. Whereas most other Dutch parties tried to improve internal democracy by allowing rank-­ and-file members to vote at party conferences or even at home, electing party leaders and nominating parliamentary candidates, the SP has maintained its hierarchical structure (Lucardie and Voerman 2011: 191–192). However, since 2008 the functions of party leadership and party presidency are no longer combined. Marijnissen had held both functions – very unusual in the Dutch context – since 1994, but he resigned from the leadership of the parliamentary party in 2008 and from the party presidency in 2015. His successors in parliament, Agnes Kant (2008–2010) and Emile Roemer (2010–2017), did not command the same popularity and could not dominate the party in the same way. Roemer had been a school teacher and alderman, and since 2006 a not very conspicuous member of parliament. His amiable and easy-­going personality made him popular within the party, but he was not very sharp in electoral debates and not very effective in mobilising new voters. In December 2017, after very disappointing national elections earlier that year, Roemer resigned as leader and was succeeded by Lilian Marijnissen, the daughter of the former party leader and, like present party chairman Ron Meyer, a militant former trade union activist. In March 2017, she had been elected an MP, after having been assigned the third position on the list of candidates.

Electoral development Despite the aversion to parliamentary activity that was a hallmark of its Maoist body of thought, the SP took part in local elections for the first time in 1974, arguing that socialist propaganda would reach wider audiences in these representative bodies and that it would serve to prop up the party’s extra-­ parliamentary campaigns. In addition, it was high time indeed for ‘the voice of the common man’ to be heard in parliament. In 1974, the party introduced its own list of candidates in twelve municipalities, headed by local party activists from the mass organisations. This resulted in three seats in Oss and two seats in Nijmegen. The same strategy was employed in the next local elections. In the years 1978–1998, the SP scooped up 9, 22, 41, 71, 126 and finally 190 seats, in a growing number of municipalities, first mainly in the South, later also in other areas. The steady rise seemed to stop in 2002, when the SP obtained only 176 seats, yet it continued in 2006 (333 seats), dipped in 2010 (276 seats) and picked up again in 2014 (460 seats). In March 2018, in the first elections after Lilian Marijnissen had become party leader, the SP lost about a third of its local seats. At first, the party remained in opposition at every level of government, but since 1996 it has been participating in local governments, and since 2011 also in provincial governments. To do so, and to attract new groups of voters, it had moderated its anti-­establishment stance to some extent.

The Dutch Socialist Party   123 At the provincial level – not very important in the Netherlands – the SP achieved its first success in 1987, in its ‘home province’ Brabant. At the national level, it took much longer. Research has shown that, for a long time, many SP voters let their voting behaviour in local elections be swayed by local issues (Depla and Schalken 1994: 23). There would appear to be a clear correlation, therefore, between the extra-­parliamentary activities undertaken by the party in a particular town and its electoral following. This strength of the SP at the local level – the relation between activism and electoral support – proved to be its Achilles heel at the national level for a long time. The SP participated in Lower House elections for the first time in 1977. It decided to employ the same strategy that had proved successful in local elections: activists who had won their spurs in the mass organisations and might bank on some national renown came top of the list. This method, however, ended in a fiasco: the party gained no more than some tens of thousands of votes, 0.3 per cent of the popular vote. In the 1980s, the electoral success of the SP remained to some extent a feature of the town or region where it had gained public attention with its campaigns. However, at the national level the SP remained a relatively obscure and (in the perception of many voters) extremist party, partly because of its lack of success in acquiring any television time. Moreover, it had to compete for the working-­class vote with the Communist Party as well as with the Labour Party (Partij van de Arbeid/PvdA), which was considered to be the only regierungsfähige, that is potential government party, on the Left. At last, the SP managed to enter the Lower House in 1994. The SP took advantage of the fact that deteriorating economic conditions had forced the government coalition of Christian Democrats and Labour to introduce vigorous austerity policies. The SP’s shafts were especially aimed at the government’s proposals for reforming the Disablement Benefits Act, which were also highly controversial within Labour. As a result, Labour failed to activate its traditional charm to lure voters away from the smaller left-­wing parties in national elections, losing no fewer than twelve seats, and clearing the way for the SP to make its parliamentary debut at long last (Voerman and Van Schuur 1995: 91; see also Van der Steen 1995). No doubt, the professional campaign designed by Koffeman contributed to its success. With two seats, the SP made its debut into the Lower House. Since then, the party has rapidly expanded its electorate at the national elections, culminating in twenty-­five seats in the 2006 elections. In these elections, Labour was again a major supplier of voters to the SP: a quarter of the ‘socialist’ voters that year had voted for Labour in 2003 (Voerman and Lucardie 2007: 145). The SP might have benefited from its growing presence in the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging/FNV), the largest labour organisation, which had traditionally supported the PvdA. In the 1970s and 1980s, the SP had kept aloof from the trade unions – considered too reformist – and tried to build its own organisation, first, Workers Power (Arbeidersmacht) and, later, Solidary (Solidair). However, since the 1990s, it has encouraged its members to become active within the FNV and it has turned Solidary into a network of activists that operate as a liaison between the party and

124   Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman the trade unions. Within the FNV, its members tried – successfully – to organise workers in home care and in the cleaning business and to promote a more militant strategy at the grassroots. Since 2007, FNV members seemed inclined to vote SP more than PvdA (Otjes 2016: 181–188). However, the SP did not seem visibly present in other social movements, such as the environmentalists. In 1999, the SP entered the European Parliament with one representative, and in 2004 it won another seat, which it held onto in 2009 and 2014.2 The party was affiliated with the Confederal Group of the United European Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE-­NGL), but it did not join the Party of the European Left, established in May 2004. The SP did maintain contacts, however, with radical left parties such as Die Linke, Syriza and the Swedish Vänsterpartiet. Although generally supportive of Syriza and the Tsipras government in Greece, it did not campaign actively for his bid to become President of the European Commission in 2014. In 2006, after its impressive electoral victory, the SP was involved in the first round of negotiations to form a new government. However, the SP had strongly criticised the ‘neoliberal’ policies of the Christian Democrats and was only willing to join a coalition with them if they promised to reverse those policies. Not surprisingly, the Christian Democrats proved rather reluctant to govern with the SP, and they preferred a coalition with Labour and the small Christian Union. Many supporters (members and voters alike) of the SP were very disappointed. This might help to explain why the party slowly began sinking in the polls after the general elections of November 2006. It lost heavily in the 2010 municipal elections and its membership has been on the decline since 2007. This decline had already started when Jan Marijnissen, its popular leader, still headed the parliamentary party. In the summer of 2008, he relinquished his position for health reasons to Agnes Kant, an MP since 1998. The decline continued under Kant. After losing in the local elections of March 2010, she resigned of her own volition and was succeeded by Roemer. He too proved unable to halt the decline: in the parliamentary elections of 2010 the SP lost ten seats, in 2012 it remained stable, in 2017 it lost one seat (see Table 5.2) – despite the fact that the PvdA lost twenty-­nine seats, the largest electoral loss of a party in Dutch political history. His successor Lilian Marijnissen has so far not proved able to reverse the downward trend, at least not at the municipal elections in March 2018. Surprisingly, the economic recession which started in 2007 did not seem to benefit the party, although it could claim that it had warned for the crisis as a result of neoliberal policies and ‘casino-­capitalism’ since the 1990s. The SP promised to deal with the crisis by taxing and regulating the banks, reducing the incomes of managers and administrators, investing in the public sector, restricting high mortgages and shifting power from shareholders to stakeholders, that is workers or employees (SP 2010: 5–8; SP 2012: 6, 9). In the elections of 2012 and 2017 it repeated those demands, but it placed more emphasis on health care. In 2017, it campaigned very actively for a National Health Service (Nationaal Zorgfonds) and it tried to build a broad alliance in favour of this proposal (SP 2017: 13–14). Participation in a coalition government was made conditional on support for the plan. However, only the small Party for the Animals and the senior citizens’ party

The Dutch Socialist Party   125 Table 5.2 Dutch Socialist Party election results 1977–2017 Year

1977 1978 1979 1981 1982 1984 1986 1987 1989 1991 1994 1995 1998 1999 2002 2003 2004 2006 2007 2009 2010 2011 2012 2014 2015 2016 2017

Lower House

Provincial Councils

Upper House

European Parliament



















0.3 0.5

– –








5.9 6.3

9 9































Source: Kiesraad, and consulted 12 April 2017.

50Plus agreed with it. Roemer argued for a broad anti-­liberal coalition of Christian Democrats, Labour, Democrats 66, Green Left and the Christian Union, but failed to be taken seriously: Sybrand Buma, the leader of the Christian Democrats, obviously preferred to govern with the Liberals and he ridiculed Roemer’s proposal. The resignation of Roemer could be conceived as a step back from the goal of government participation. The election of Lilian Marijnissen as party leader (and that of Meyer as party chairman) could be interpreted as a move towards a more activist and less governmentalist strategy.

Concluding remarks The electoral stagnation (and the loss of members) may be caused, to a substantial degree, by the party’s ambiguous strategy, mobilising populist protest and trying to prove its governmental competence (Regierungsfähigkeit) at the same time. Such a

126   Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman strategy might work in polarised party systems, but not in the centripetal and still rather consociational Dutch system, in which left parties have never managed to win a majority in parliament – in 2012, the left-­wing parties Labour, SP and Green Left had held fifty-­seven out of 150 seats in the Lower House, by 2017, merely thirty-­seven. For centrist or centre-­right parties (such as Democrats 66 or the Christian Democratic party), the SP may still be too radical and too populist. The SP has failed so far to benefit electorally from the electoral implosion of the Labour Party. In fact, it even lost one seat in the 2017 elections, while the PvdA lost twenty-­nine (out of thirty-­eight seats). Moreover, the SP did not benefit from the economic recession – unlike the national-­populist Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid/PVV), which also received fifteen seats in 2012 but gained another five seats in 2017. And unlike SP, the Green Left and Democrats 66, the opposition parties which more often supported the austerity policies of the government, were rewarded with ten and seven additional seats, respectively. In other words, it looks like the voters appreciated clarity: either governmentalism or populism, but not a bit of both. Moreover, the SP concentrated on socio-­economic problems, whereas the key issues in the recent elections concerned national identity, immigration and European integration (see also Lucardie 2017). No doubt, there are several reasons for the failure of the SP to win more voters or to take part in government, as Daniel Keith has pointed out: leadership problems since the resignation of Marijnissen, and the (moderate) left-­wing shift of the Labour Party in 2012 (Keith 2016: 165–167). However, Keith’s emphasis on situational factors may lead to overly optimistic conclusions about the party’s future (Keith 2016; Keith 2010: 172). The ambivalent position between social-­democratic governmentalism and a populist opposition strategy might continue to prevent further growth, apart from other structural problems afflicting the Left in the Netherlands. The Netherlands does not appear to have experienced a crisis of representation as in Greece, Spain or France: Dutch politics is still ‘business as usual’, and as far as there is a crisis, it benefits nationalist-­populist parties such as the new Forum for Democracy (Forum voor Democratie/FvD), which entered parliament in 2017 with two seats, and the PVV with twenty seats, more than any left-­wing party.

Notes 1 This chapter is based (in parts) on Voerman (2012). 2 In 2010 a personal conflict between the two members led to a split: Kartika Liotard left the SP but remained an independent member in the Group of the United European Left/ Nordic Green Left until 2014.

References Andeweg, R. B. (1999) ‘Parties, Pillars and the Politics of Accommodation: Weak or Weakening Linkages? The Case of Dutch Consociationalism’, in Luther, K. and Deschouwer, K. (eds) Party Elites in Divided Societies: Political Parties in Conso­ ciational Democracy, London/New York: Routledge, 108–133.

The Dutch Socialist Party   127 Depla, P. and Schalken, K. (1994) ‘De PvdA-­kiezer bekeken’, Lokaal Bestuur 5: 21–25. Freeden, M. (2003) Ideology: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Freeden, M. (2017) ‘After the Brexit Referendum: Revisiting Populism as an Ideology’, Journal of Political Ideologies 22(1): 1–11. Jagers, J. and Walgrave, S. (2007) ‘Populism as Communication Style: An Empirical Study of Political Parties’ Discourse in Belgium’, European Journal of Political Research 46(3): 319–345. Kagie, R. (2006) De socialisten. Achter de schermen van de SP, Amsterdam: Mets and Schilt. Keith, D. (2010) ‘Ready to Get Their Hands Dirty: The Socialist Party and GroenLinks in the Netherlands’, in Olsen, J., Koß, M. and Hough, D. (eds) Left Parties in National Governments, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 155–172. Keith, D. (2016) ‘Failing to Capitalise on the Crisis: The Dutch Socialist Party’, in March, L. and Keith, D. (eds) Europe’s Radical Left. From Marginality to the Mainstream?, London/New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 155–172. Kioupkiolis, A. (2016) ‘Podemos: The Ambiguous Promises of Left-­wing Populism in Contemporary Spain’, Journal of Political Ideologies 21(2): 99–120. Lijphart, A. (1968) The Politics of Accommodation. Pluralism and Democracy in the Netherlands, Berkeley: University of California Press. Lucardie, P. (2017) ‘Hans Brinker and the Dutch election’, Inroads 41: 78–82. Lucardie, P. and Voerman, G. (2011) ‘Democratie binnen partijen’, in Andeweg, R. and Thomassen, J. (eds) Democratie doorgelicht. Het functioneren van de Nederlandse democratie, Leiden: Leiden University Press, 185–201. Lucardie, P. and Voerman, G. (2012) Populisten in de polder, Amsterdam: Boom. Mao Zedong (1967) Het Rode Boekje. Citaten uit het werk van Mao Tse-­toeng, Utrecht: Het Spectrum (Dutch translation). Mudde, C. and Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (2012) ‘Populism and (Liberal) Democracy: A Framework for Analysis’, in Mudde, C. and Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (eds) Populism in Europe and the Americas, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1–26. Otjes, S. (2016) ‘Wat is er over van de rode familie? De bijzondere relatie tussen PvdA en NVV/FNV’, in Becker, F. and Voerman, G. (eds) Zeventig jaar Partij van de Arbeid, Amsterdam: Boom, 161–190. Roemer, E. (2010) Tot hier – en nu verder, Soesterberg: Aspekt. SP (s.a.) Statuten van de SP, Rotterdam: Socialistische Partij. SP (1974a) Op naar het socialisme. I. Een maatschappij voor mensen, Rotterdam: Socialistiese Partij. SP (1974b) Op naar het socialisme. II Onze partij, Rotterdam: Socialistiese Partij. SP (1983) Gastarbeid en kapitaal, Rotterdam: Socialistiese Partij. SP (1986) De SP maakt er werk van. Verkiezingsprogramma Tweede Kamer 1986, Rotterdam: Socialistiese Partij. SP (1987) Beginselen van de Socialistiese Partij, Rotterdam: Socialistiese Partij. SP (1994) Stem tegen, stem SP. Verkiezingsprogramma Socialistische Partij, Rotterdam: Socialistische Partij. SP (1999a) SP in vogelvlucht, Rotterdam: Socialistische Partij. SP (1999b) Heel de mens, Rotterdam: Socialistische Partij. SP (2002) Eerste weg links: stem voor sociale wederopbouw. Actieprogramma SP 2003–2007, Rotterdam: Socialistische Partij. SP (2010) Een beter Nederland, voor minder geld. Verkiezingsprogramma SP 2011–2015, Rotterdam: Socialistische Partij.

128   Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman SP (2012) Nieuw vertrouwen. Verkiezingsprogramma SP 2013–2017, Rotterdam: Socialistische Partij. SP (2017) Pak de macht. Programma voor een sociaal Nederland voor de verkiezingen van 15 maart 2017, Amersfoort: Socialistische Partij. Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘Left-­wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2): 119–142. Te Velde, H. (2010) Van regentenmentaliteit tot populisme. Politieke tradities in Nederland, Amsterdam: Bert Bakker. Van der Steen, P. (1995) ‘De doorbraak van de “gewone mensen”-partij. De SP en de Tweede-­Kamerverkiezingen van 1994’, in Jaarboek 1994 DNPP, Groningen: Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties, 172–189. Voerman, G. (1987) ‘De “Rode Jehova’s”. Een Geschiedenis van de Socialistiese Partij’, in Jaarboek 1986 DNPP, Groningen: Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties, 124–150. Voerman, G. (2005) ‘The Formative Years of the Communist “Moral Community” in the Netherlands 1917–1930’, in Morgan, K., Cohen, G. and Flinn, A. (eds) Agents of the Revolution. New Biographical Approaches to the History of International Communism in the Age of Lenin and Stalin, Bern: Peter Lang, 221–224. Voerman, G. (2009) ‘Tussen Mao en marketing: over het populisme van de SP’, Socialisme and Democratie 66(9): 26–32. Voerman, G. (2012) ‘Du maoisme à la social-­démocratie’, in De Waele, J. M. and Seiler, D. L. (eds) Les partis de la gauche anticapitaliste en Europe, Paris: Economica, 108–124. Voerman, G. and Lucardie, P. (2007) ‘De sociaal-­democratisering van de SP’, in Becker, F. and Cuperus, R. (eds) Verloren slag. De PvdA en de verkiezingen van 2006, Amsterdam: Mets and Schilt/WBS, 139–164. Voerman, G. and Van Schuur, W. (1995) ‘David en Goliath? Over de SP en de PvdA’, Socialisme and Democratie 52(2): 86–92. Zander, J. (1974) ‘Socialistiese Partij met drie man in de raad van Oss’, De Groene Amsterdammer, 12 June.

6 The German Left Party A case of pragmatic populism Dan Hough and Dan Keith

Introduction There has been a considerable amount of debate as to how we should understand the German Left Party (Die Linke/LP), and particularly its predecessor, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). Through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, analysis of what the PDS stood for, what it really wanted and how it should be dealt with varied so widely that, at times, it was not at all clear that commentators were actually analysing the same party (Koch-­Baumgarten 1997). For some, the PDS was a relic of a bygone age. It represented those who had worked for and/or had sympathy with the GDR state (Bastian 1995). It represented eastern Germans who had had a stake in the now defunct GDR. With the GDR now gone, they were without a political home – something that the PDS, with its hotchpotch of policies defending the GDR as its defenders liked to see it, offered them. For a second group of analysts, the PDS’s willingness to defend some aspects of GDR life and to continue to criticise much of the way western democracy worked was enough to characterise it as extremist (Moreau 1998; Neu 2004). It was seen as a serious threat to German democracy (Gerner 1994; Moreau and Lang 1994). A steady stream of analysis from commentators close to the right-­ leaning Konrad Adenauer and Hanns Seidel Foundations regularly stressed how parts of the party’s profile contravened Germany’s Basic Law; the calls to abolish NATO and the willingness to defend many of the practices evident in the GDR were enough for these people to call for the party to be treated as a pariah (Moreau and Lang 1994; Neu and Lang 2002; Peters 2006). Others argued that this approach ultimately said more about the commentators than it did about the party. The PDS was an (at times) impossibly broad church, embracing people who were effectively social democrats as well as those who saw themselves as Communists. In this telling, the PDS had a role to play in integrating the far-­left into democratic politics (Neugebauer and Stöss 1996). This was largely because the PDS as a party worked within the constitutional boundaries of the German state (Hough 2000). What the PDS also did was take on two new and interlinked roles; it started to articulate many of the dissatis­ factions of eastern Germans with the unification process. It also started to act as

130   Dan Hough and Dan Keith a quasi-­regional party, cleverly and skilfully talking to eastern Germans about ‘eastern German interests’, explaining how it was best-­placed to look after these interests in contemporary Germany. That it largely succeeded in doing this explains how the party managed to survive; it is, after all, no mean feat to go from being the successor to a dictatorial party (the Socialist Unity Party/SED), running a moribund economy that had just been effectively overthrown, to being a party that has a clear, distinct and largely stable position in the German Party System (for more on this transition, see Barker 1998). In the early 2000s the PDS nonetheless hit hard electoral times. It left the federal parliament in 2002 after only polling 4 per cent of the vote. It was not immediately clear how it was going to bounce back. Indeed, had the then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder not brought in a raft of welfare and labour market reforms, it’s not clear that the PDS would have survived at all. Schröder’s attempt to modernise the German welfare state led to a raft of protest movements emerging in western Germany. They eventually came together under the umbrella of the ‘Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice’ (WASG). When it became clear that the WASG and PDS were trying to occupy the same ideological space, they moved to merge. This awkward merger was completed in 2007 and the LP as we see it today was born (Hough et al. 2007). The extent to which the LP could be considered ‘populist’ quickly became a subject of some debate. On one hand, the prominent German political scientist, Klaus von Beyme (2011: 60), argued that the LP’s ‘behaviour in parliament and in regional governments did not justify the label “populist” ’. Luke March, in a seminal discussion of European left-­wing parties, was also doubtful as to whether the label populist was really appropriate (March 2011). Others preferred to stress that only former party leaders Gregor Gysi and Oskar Lafontaine could really be given these labels (see Lucardie 2007; Heckel 2007). On the other hand, Dan Hough and Michael Koß (2009) found that although the LP was not as ‘purely’ populist as many other parties of that genre, it did nonetheless promote populist appeals in three distinct (but often overlapping) areas: a disdain for process that masqueraded as a call to reinvigorate democratic institutions, the identification of sets of elites that act as the enemies of the people, and the need to overcome Germany’s current economic system (‘Systemfrage’). In this chapter, we subsequently seek to re-­examine the LP’s use of populist appeals to assess the extent to which these have been retained, how they may have developed through the economically challenging times of the late 2000s and early 2010s and how this is likely to continue beyond the 2017 election. In recent times the LP has done well in German elections, and we consider the extent to which populist appeals have contributed to that. Our analysis supports the view that the LP’s populism has mutated, but at its core the same types of claim are still made. We therefore argue that although there are times when this is barely prominent in the LP’s political activity, there are still sets of occasions when it comes very much to the fore.

The German Left Party   131

From PDS to Left Party The LP was formed with the aim of making socialist politics more marketable across the whole of Germany. A look at recent national election results illustrates that one can at least make a case that the party has successfully done that (see Table 6.1). The LP has consolidated a position to the left of Germany’s traditional social democratic party (the SPD). It has developed a policy profile centring on issues of social justice, pacifism and a malleable form of protest against the way German politics works. Whereas the LP has moved away from expressly articulating largely self-­defined eastern German interests, its territorial embeddedness in the six eastern states nonetheless remains important. In 2017, it polled between 16.1 per cent (Saxony) and 18.8 per cent (Berlin) across the six eastern states.1 However, the merger with the WASG undoubtedly helped it to leverage some distance from the dreaded 5 per cent barrier that all Germany’s parties need to hurdle if they want to gain full parliamentary status. Over the last three elections more people in western Germany have voted for the LP than have done so in eastern Germany. In the most recent election (2017), 2.6 million voters in the western states voted for the LP, whereas 1.6 million of those living in the six eastern Länder did so. This translates to 62.5 per cent of all LP voters being resident in the western part of the country. The picture was not dissimilar in 2013 and 2009; 53 per cent of all those who voted for the LP across the whole country in 2013 were resident in western Germany, whereas in 2009 that figure was 58 per cent (Hildebrandt 2015). These votes are important in pushing the party nearer (and in 2009 beyond) 10 per cent nationwide. The LP’s path to relative normality has seen it perform a variety of roles. It has become adept at talking different languages to different people. When in regional government, the LP has often focused on problem-­solving and detailed policy prescriptions. Given that the LP has now been in power in four of the six eastern German states, this is an important part of the party’s profile (Koß and Hough 2006). In Mecklenburg-­Vorpommern (MV), for example, the party spent eight years in government (1998–2006). Helmut Holter, one of the architects of what was Germany’s first SPD-­PDS coalition at the regional level (and latterly a Table 6.1 The German PDS/Left Party’s performances in national elections in Germany Year


West Germany

East Germany

1990 1994 1998 2002 2005 2009 2013 2017

2.4 4.4 5.1 4.0 8.7 11.9 8.6 9.2

0.3 1.0 1.2 1.1 4.9 8.3 5.6 7.4

11.1 19.8 21.6 16.9 25.3 28.5 22.7 17.8

132   Dan Hough and Dan Keith minister in the regional government in Thüringen), argued that the aim was simply to ‘find solutions for the people here in this Land’ (Holter 2000; see also Fehst 2003). This involved concentrating on issues such as how to reinvigorate ailing Baltic Sea shipyards and how to re-­organise local administrative structures (Heinrich and Schoon 2007). What might be understood as populist rhetoric was certainly not at the forefront of the party’s thinking there. But in other political arenas across Germany such a focus has traditionally been lacking. Internal disagreements, both of a personal and a programmatic nature, have forced the PDS and, after it, the LP into stressing what it opposed much more than what it supported. Detailed policy prescriptions were much less forthcoming. Or, the detailed policies that were put forward were clearly never going to be acceptable to prospective coalition partners and were more tools to help the party maximise its vote share (Koß and Hough 2006: 87–88). It was in this context that the LP’s populism becomes evident. One of the key drivers of this use of populist language was undoubtedly the increased diversity that the PDS/WASG merger brought with it. Although there was programmatic and strategic diversity across the eastern branches of the LP, there was still generally a focus on day-­to-day politics and, if possible, on participating in regional government. Some regional organisations remained keener on that than others, but pragmatic reformers shared beliefs with what were described elsewhere as ‘modern socialists’ about the general direction of travel (Hough et al. 2007). Pragmatic reformers were predominant in MV and are generally regarded as problem solvers. Modern socialists, meanwhile, were often to be found in Berlin (where the party governed the Land of Berlin from 2002 to 2011, and again from 2016). They believed in proving their political seriousness by taking over the reins of power and governing well. A similar logic underpinned the motives of the LP-­led government that came to power in Thüringen in 2014. Different motives therefore drove the actions of the LP’s eastern Landesverbände, but they largely led to the same outcomes. The more ideological members of the LP in the East were confined to the fringes of internal party life, discussing theoretical issues within the confines of the Communist Platform or Marxist Forum, or latterly the Anti-­Capitalist Left. All have had sway within the party, but they were never the driving force. Where the merger made life more complicated was that a number of ‘new’ western members broadened out and intensified some of the underlying ideological and, with that, programmatic conflicts that were (and always had been) simmering under the surface. A small but vociferous ‘alternative’ wing became more prominent, aligning the LP with anti-­globalisation protestors and with left-­ wing libertarians. More pressingly, the WASG was founded by political activists who had spent many years closely aligned with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). They joined the LP when it merged with the WASG, and they remained implacably opposed to working with an SPD that they often now despised. Whereas eastern LP groups would generally look to find common ground with the Social Democrats, for many westerners the SPD had sold out and needed to be treated as a party to be opposed.

The German Left Party   133 Over and above this group of activists, the new party also found itself dealing with an ideologically diverse group of new members who had always been on the left-­wing fringes of political life in West Germany. These new members often had experience in communist party groupings before they joined the Left Party, although many of them had little or no experience of working within larger political entities. They were often passionate about their politics, but were unwilling and frequently unable to make the compromises that larger parties often find themselves under pressure to make. In short, even the most cursory of glances at lists of demands, claims, wants and needs that groups within the LP make on the party illustrates the ideological and programmatic diversity with which the party leadership has often been confronted.

Populism as a problem-­solver? None of the diversity evident within the Left Party need necessarily be understood under the rubric of populism. Parties are, by definition, broad churches of opinion, and different factions will believe in different aims, push a variety of programmatic positions and advocate a number of strategies that they believe are best suited to realising them. This is the normal fare of internal political party life. It is, however, within this context of diversity that the LP has at times reverted to what might be understood as populist politics. It has helped paper over the cracks that such programmatic and ideological diversity brings with it. Yet, of course, it is not at all clear what populism is. As has already been discussed in this volume (see Introduction), there are a multiplicity of ways of understanding the notion and even the most cursory look at the literature reveals how contemporary analysis has seen the term be used in both conflicting and at times downright contradictory ways. Indeed, trying to nail down what precisely is meant by populism remains much akin to trying to nail the proverbial blancmange to a wall; it sticks for a short period of time before ultimately slipping down and ending in a mess on the floor. Populism is subsequently discussed not just as an ideology, but also as a strategy, a pathology, a doctrine, a style, an instinct, a discourse and even a ‘zeitgeist’ (for a good discussion of this see Bale et al. 2011; Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014; Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017). In the Introduction to this volume it has already been mentioned that populism is increasingly seen as a form of discourse that permeates through political life. As Danielle Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell (2015: 3–7) note, there are nonetheless three core parts to any understanding of populism. There is a stress on the role of ‘the people’, a focus on the role that ‘the elites’ play in distorting popular will, and there is always an analysis of how democratic processes have been abused and subsequently need reforming. These features of populism can help us to understand a little more about how populism works in parties of the radical left (Keith and March 2016: 12). These three starting points appear, nevertheless, in a variety of forms. Arguments about who constitutes both the people and the elite are manifold. The

134   Dan Hough and Dan Keith scope, nature and therefore remedies for the democratic crisis that they describe also vary considerably. Populists do nonetheless stress a divide between an allegedly virtuous people and a set of elites who are deliberately subverting politics to suit their interests. As Margaret Canovan noted many years ago (1981: 294) ‘all forms of populism without exception involve some kind of exaltation of and appeal to “the people” and all are in one sense or another anti-­elitist’. Modern day titans of populist analysis, such as Cas Mudde, have built on this to talk of how populists see elites as corrupting the political process, leading to the development of two clear and distinct groups; the (by definition) pure people, and the (also by definition) self-­serving elite class that rules over them (Mudde 2004: 544). This core trait does, however, need further unpacking. As Albertazzi and McDonnell (2015: 4) neatly note, right-­wing populists will undoubtedly view ‘the people’ differently to left-­wing populists, often pointing the finger at ‘others’ who they see as not being part of ‘their’ group. Those on the right may take identitarian, nativist politics as their cue, understanding the people in ethnic, racial or cultural terms. Those on the left are much more likely to take class interests as the starting point. Recently, the case has been made that newer movements such as Podemos in Spain or Syriza in Greece are populist even though their understandings of ‘the people’ are more pluralist (see Kioupkiolis and Katsambekis 2018 for more on this). The people are regarded as a pluralist collective that can nonetheless be unified in the pursuit of common goals. The stress is on unity in diversity. There is nonetheless a tension running through radical left parties on this point. On the one hand, some radical left parties focus on unifying a variety of marginalised groups that they see as possessing genuinely different interests with the aim of promoting solidarity with one another. On the other hand, there are parties that look to unify different groups around the interests of the working class. The extent to which left parties promote the first category is generally shaped by the extent to which they have tried to think in intersectional terms (by, for example, not seeing capitalism as the only genuine form of oppression). These debates are important, and analysts of the radical left are clearly making interesting attempts to move forward the analysis of populism in practice. However, taking an expansive definition of ‘the people’ presents new problems to the study of populism. Any party that is politically successful is unified in its diversity and politicians of all political colours will talk of rallying – in some shape or form – the people to their cause. To avoid concept stretching or losing sight of the wood for the trees, we subsequently follow the likes of Albertazzi and McDonnell (2015) in arguing that populists are still characterised by a willingness to talk of one group of relatively homogenous actors as ‘the people’. For us, that remains a constant. Populists are also vague in terms of who they identify as the ‘elites’ that exercise power and occupy positions of power. This often includes elected politicians, and civil servants, but also potentially those appointed to public roles. Judges are one set of public servants who have periodically come in for criticism

The German Left Party   135 from populists, as are central bankers. The actual composition of the elite is therefore flexible, but its existence is for the populist beyond doubt, and it is also clear that it (the elite) works to the deliberate detriment of a virtuous people. Finally, populists also have what can at times appear to be a disdain for the institutions of representative democracy, as well as for the political process more broadly. For populists, the people themselves are the democratic sovereign. This, of course, is not per se anti-­democratic, but it can lead to dismissive attitudes to contemporary democratic institutions, rules and norms. As McDonnell notes, populists invoke ‘a sense of crisis’ before then ‘presenting themselves as the “real” democrats’. As McDonnell goes on to argue, populists claim that ‘democracy has been occupied, distorted and exploited by elites’ (McDonnell 2013). The notion that politics is about compromise, about finding solutions to difficult problems and about generally allocating resources, of which there are never enough to go round, can be problematic from this perspective. This subsequently translates not just into disdain for the way modern representative democracies are organised, but also into calls for their (at times radical) re-­organisation. Most often, this involves the introduction of forms of direct democracy to offer the virtuous people a fast-­track way into practical policy-­ making. That way, decision-­making is directly linked to the people at large. Indeed, one of the key tenets of populist thinking is the need to regain control of the political process from the self-­serving elite that has successfully wrestled it away from ‘normal’ citizens. It is this understanding of populism that we will take further here.

The Left Party’s populism One nonetheless needs to be careful before claiming that the Left Party is the left-­wing epitome of populist politics. Indeed, if one looks at the way LP politicians behave in parliaments, then the evidential base is thin. LP politicians can be fiercely critical of much of what they see in Germany, but one should not confuse criticism with populism. In parliamentary debates there is rarely a single view of ‘the German people’ or indeed ‘the working man’, and the LP is every bit as keen to criticise policies on the basis of substance as it is of using what we would understand as authentic populist language. That has led commentators such as Luke March, in a wide-­ranging study of the radical left, to describe the Left Party as the ‘least populist’ socialist populist party in Europe (March 2011: 132). The LP’s populism has mutated over time. During the 1990s, the PDS argued that German politics followed an agenda that was set by power-­hungry western German elites. It was eastern Germans who suffered as a result. The origins of populist discourse were clear to see. Eastern Germans as a unit were perceived to be disadvantaged in a system that worked to serve the interests of others – generally western German capitalists who looked to take advantage of the opportunities unification offered them. The PDS therefore could indeed (1) talk of eastern Germans as one clearly defined group, and (2) talk of western German

136   Dan Hough and Dan Keith industrialists, entrepreneurs and politicians as a self-­centred elite that (3) systematically abused Germany’s democratic system to look after their own interests. The PDS could act in ways that clearly fitted our understanding of what a territorially focused populism might mean in practice. The stress on eastern German interests is not as prominent within the LP as it was within the PDS. There are certainly fewer references to eastern Germany in LP party programmes, and there is less outright nostalgia for aspects of life in the GDR (Doerschler 2015). Party programmes are, by definition, vague documents. They act as a compass around which day-­to-day party activity takes place. This is true in all democracies, but it is particularly apparent in Germany as the Federal Republic’s system of governance brings with it so many elections. The 2017 election manifesto contains, nonetheless, one four-­page section (in a document of 127 pages) on what could be described as eastern German interests (Linke 2017: 60–63). The fact that unification was over twenty-­five years ago is one reason for this, but the LP also acknowledges that to maintain a national profile it has to talk rather more national and rather less regional. It does still reference eastern German experiences when talking about the injustices and unfairness that have befallen the working classes, but it does so rather less frequently and obviously less than the PDS did before it (Linke 2017). If eastern German interests are no longer as prominent as they once were, what does the LP choose to stress in their place? Finding ground on which the quite disparate parts of the new party could all feel at ease was not easy. LP’s programme remains the product of numerous rounds of internal compromise. Its programme is a reflection of internal divisions and is clearer on what the LP does not like, than on how the party is going to achieve the things that it does propose. The party donates twelve pages, for example, to a description of what the LP sees as the crisis of capitalism and, indeed, the crisis of modern civilisation (Linke 2011: 14–26). This section goes long on abstract reflection, but much shorter on what specifically the LP in a German government could realistically achieve. That is then followed by further abstract discussions on how to achieve social transformation and with that social justice, how to democratise modern society and how to achieve international peace. As the LP itself puts it, the party ‘stands for the realisation of social justice, the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the democratisation of society’ (Linke 2011: 34). Within the context of the three core traits of populism that were introduced earlier in this chapter, the LP has continued to use populist rhetoric in terms of presenting a struggle between the people and the elites. It ‘demands the implementation of economic, social and political reforms that centre on the needs and interests of the population and not the enrichment aspirations of the top echelons’ (Linke 2011: 34). If one looks at the LP’s most recent national election manifesto, published in the summer of 2017, then it quickly becomes clear that the party deliberately refrains from using the word ‘Volk’ (the German word for ‘people’). The classic populist tool of defending ‘the people’ against an elite therefore does not appear in that form. That is not surprising. The word ‘Volk’ has significant and obvious connotations with the terminology that politicians in

The German Left Party   137 the Third Reich used, and very few German politicians of any colour would be happy talking about ‘the German people’ in this way. The LP does not mention the word at all in its 2017 manifesto. That, nonetheless, does not render redundant the first of the three core attributes of populism. The LP is much happier talking about ‘Menschen’. Menschen is at times difficult to translate precisely, although it can certainly be understood as ‘the people’, but is often used in a more general context. It can have more of the feel of ‘humanity’ than anything as potentially narrow and nationalistic as ‘Volk’. For the LP, it includes anyone who stands in opposition to the prevailing elite consensus that is seen to dominate German politics. The notion of people as ‘Menschen’ does not in any way exclude other forms of collective identity, but the interests of people who are excluded from elite networks are nonetheless seen as the most politically relevant driver of the LP’s political behaviour. The word ‘Menschen’ comes up on no less than 101 of the 121 pages of the manifesto (not including the index). The LP is trying to use a language that focuses on the needs of everyday people, and it generally sees them as being a coherent unit (‘Menschen’) that is suffering at the hands of self-­indulgent, capitalist elites. The party subsequently lists a whole variety of areas in which everyone who is not in that elite will benefit if reform is undertaken. As the party notes: ‘It’s up to us all. We can change this country. We can make the future better for everyone’ (Linke 2017: 7). It’s nonetheless clear that in this context ‘everyone’ is the powerless and helpless men and women on the street who are suffering at the hands of capitalist elites. The LP also makes vague statements about its enemies. Sometimes these are ‘global ruling elites’ whose decisions undermine the interests of the majority of the world’s population, sometimes it is the ‘economically powerful’, big corporations, corporate bosses and the wealthy (Linke 2011: 5, 20). Furthermore, the LP calls for an expansion of ‘democratic control and co-­ determination in the economy, and in the state, in the mass media, education, science and other areas of society’ (Linke 2011: 45). The party is not shy from linking these alleged deficits to what it regards as a potentially existential threat. ‘Capitalism’, the LP notes, ‘has undermined the foundations of democracy as the rule of the people’. It adds that ‘elections become a farce if those elected allow their decisions to be dictated by big corporations and the wealthy and thus evade democratic scrutiny’. Moreover, further criticism of representative democracy is found in statements such as ‘many doubt that elections change anything’, and the LP carries on to argue that ‘democracy has to be more than just casting a vote once every four years’ (Linke 2017: 108). That leads to claims that ‘a vibrant democracy must create expanded opportunities of direct democratic decision-­making about and participation in popular initiatives and plebiscites as well as public petitions and referendums’ (Linke 2011: 46). This is certainly populist territory and helps to explain why LP members celebrated the Greek rejection of an EU bailout in a referendum on 5 July 2015. This was regarded very much as a victory for popular democracy (Bouma 2016).

138   Dan Hough and Dan Keith The LP provides some insights as to what its newly democratised world might look like. There are suggestions on how to empower not just each of Germany’s sixteen regional parliaments, but also the Bundestag and indeed the European Parliament (Keith 2018). The assumption is that power currently resides elsewhere, and that democratic institutions need to wake up and reclaim it for themselves. In terms of specific policy areas that could be democratised, the LP is also not short of ideas. There are multiple references to changing the way that democracy works; the party demands that ‘the financial sector must be subjected to democratic control’ and the LP ‘[is] fight[ing] for a democratic public health system’ (Linke 2011: 34, 44). In terms of a democratic public health system, for example, the LP would do away with the distinction between private and public health care, and ‘everyone would contribute to a solidarity-­based citizen insurance scheme’ (Linke 2011: 44). Over and beyond that, it remains unclear as to how what would be a health revolution in Germany would work, and how the LP would deal with the complexity of realising such an aim. The direction of travel is nevertheless clear; German citizens need to be handed back control. The point here is not that advocating direct democracy is populist per se. It is not. It is that the LP believes the current system of representative democracy is systematically skewed against both the LP and the millions of people who, as it believes, need to be given more of a voice in running Germany. The LP’s calls for a more plebiscitary type of democracy dovetail with broader systematic concerns. This certainly does fit into the canon of the populist. The LP does not want to get rid of representative politics, but it does want to fundamentally reform it. This disdain for the institutions of representative democracy subsequently brings it closer to the positions of the populist than it would perhaps care to acknowledge. Where the LP is most specific in using the tools of the populist is, nonetheless, when discussing systemic reform. The LP argues that other parties take decisions based on what suits prevailing market conditions, something that it then believes disenfranchises German people and ultimately plays into the hands of the far-­right (Linke 2017: 108). Capitalism, so it is argued, ends up destroying any form of democratic control. Internal divisions mean that sometimes it is the alleged neoliberal direction of capitalism that is criticised for eroding the powers of trade unions and the social market model (Linke 2011: 28). At other times, it is the capitalist system per se and class inequality that pose barriers to democracy (Linke 2011: 19). Much as in the 2011 party programme, the LP then lists a whole range of potentially very radical suggestions that it claims will mitigate against this: ‘binding public votes would have to be secured to allow large infrastructure projects at the federal, Land and local levels to take place’, while ‘the German economy will have to be democratized’ (Linke 2017: 108). Indeed, a whole chapter is given over to explaining what that would mean in practice.

The future In reality, of course, the LP is well aware that it is extremely unlikely to have to make good on any of these promises. Germany is a grand coalition state where

The German Left Party   139 the federal government is composed of a coalition of parties (Smith 1976). Furthermore, the upper house, the Bundesrat, exercises meaningful influence on many government initiatives. The institutional processes within which the LP would have to work will, therefore, always mean that its policies will be watered down. Although LP politicians in the eastern regions of Germany have slowly come to terms with this, many party members and indeed many national-­level politicians still remain happier on the opposition benches. Periodic calls for left-­ of-centre parties to come together and govern in opposition to the centre-­right do nonetheless arise, but there is little chance that this will become reality at the federal level any time soon. Indeed, in the summer of 2017, the SPD ruled the LP out as a coalition partner following that year’s election (Handelsblatt 2017). The SPD did this ostensibly on the basis of the LP’s foreign policy stances, but there were also strategic concerns. Potentially embracing the LP would have left the SPD open to criticisms of the right, and indeed far-­right, that it was moving too far away from Germany’s centre. The strategy clearly failed when the September 2017 election saw the SPD record its worst electoral result in post-­ war history, polling a mere 20.5 per cent of the vote. The SPD’s behaviour in 2017 will not stop talk of the LP participating in national governments from periodically re-­appearing. Indeed, the tradition of calling for left-­wing alliances goes all the way back to when the PDS supported a minority SPD-­led government in Saxony-­Anhalt in 1994, and the publication of the Erfurt Declaration in 1997 (Plöhn 1995; Erfurter Erklärung 1997). Contemporary politicians such as Stefan Liebich, an MdB (member of parliament) since 2009, have regularly argued that, in terms of going into coalition with the SPD, the Social Democrats are not now ‘making claims on us that are totally unreasonable’, further adding that both the LP and the SPD would want a coalition to have a ‘responsible foreign policy, a stable parliamentary majority and a well-­costed coalition agreement’ (quoted in Meisner 2013). For Liebich, if the parties ‘can agree to fight for more justice in society’, then where there is a will, there could certainly be a way (quoted in Neurer 2016). Even LP party leader Sahra Wagenknecht, someone who is not generally known as an advocate of entering government with the SPD, has described the idea as a ‘marvellous project’, even if she did then add the caveat that the SPD and Greens will have to move to make sure their substantive aims align with those of the LP (quoted in Gathmann et al. 2017). Government participation is not going to happen in the short term, but in the medium term the option remains on the radar. In the absence of tangible opportunities for a coalition at the federal level, there has been little pressure on the LP to compromise on its populist appeals. Any such moves towards national government would fundamentally challenge the party to move away from much of its populist core. The LP’s regional branches have avoided this conundrum by largely concentrating on everyday challenges. They have generally concentrated on problem-­solving, and their left-­ wing-ness has been a compass via which they seek to direct their actions. Talk of ‘the people’, ‘the elite’ and ‘systemic crisis’ has not been at the forefront of their thinking. Where they have been unable (or unwilling) to return to regional

140   Dan Hough and Dan Keith government, it is as they have not been able to convince electorates that their record in office renders them worthy of a further term. Over the last decade, LP politicians have tried to market themselves as local problem-­solvers, on the one hand, while simultaneously dipping into the populist toolbox when talking about national and international challenges. The growth of the AfD nevertheless presents the LP with a competitor that is also fishing, at least in part, for anti-­establishment protest votes (Olsen 2018). The LP has unsurprisingly been at pains to stress that it seeks to repel right-­wing populism. It has also (again unsurprisingly) rejected the idea of working with the AfD in parliament or at a municipal level, and seeks to isolate it (Linke 2017). The LP has also argued that there are clear gaps between the values, ideas and policy-­preferences of its left-­wing voters and the electorate of the AfD. It dismisses theories equating radical right and radical left ideology through a horseshow or a theory of extremes (Linke 2017). However, Olsen (2018) found that in the 2017 federal election the LP lost around 430,000 votes to the AfD. This was most obviously the case among blue collar workers and the unemployed. All of these groups have voted relatively strongly for the LP in eastern Germany in recent years (Olsen 2018). The rise of the AfD has also prompted LP politicians to question some of the fundamentals of the party’s populist appeals. Party co-­chair, Bernd Riexinger (2016, 2014) highlighted, for example, the dangers of ‘copying the rhetoric of the right and their populist appeals’ when the right makes criticisms of ‘established parties’, the ‘lying media’ and their promotion of popular referendums. As Riexinger (2016) puts it, ‘there can be no “sniffing” of the right by Die Linke’, and left-­wing responses to right-­wing populism cannot simply seek to use a similar rhetoric to draw voters from the right to the left. Riexinger argued that all experience shows that this strengthens the right, not the left. In keeping with the LP’s emphasis on protest and links to social movements, Riexinger and fellow co-­chair, Katja Kipping, have proposed developing links with the Refugees Welcome Campaign and they have called for an ‘offensive strategy’ to combat the growth of the far-­right through unifying solidarity movements. These involve trade unions, workers, churches, religious communities and migrant groups. In 2018, Left Party politician Sahra Wagenknecht triggered debate as she broke with this strategy and established a movement called Aufstehen (Get up). Aufstehen sought to emulate the success of movements such as La France Insoumise and Momentum. It attempted to mobilise left-­wing voters that are dissatisfied with political parties and soon claimed over 100,000 registered supporters. LP politicians subsequently criticised Aufstehen for promoting more restrictive positions on asylum and immigration in an attempt to appeal to left-­ wing voters that defected to AfD (Connolly 2018).

Conclusion Ten years after it formed, the LP remains an ideologically diverse party. Members range from hard-­left communists and Marxists to those who elsewhere

The German Left Party   141 might be regarded as social democrats. The range of platforms, working groups, ‘initiatives’ and streams, therefore, makes internal politics at times difficult. Although the 2011 LP programme and the election manifestos that have followed it have illustrated that the party is strong on what it does not like and what it would like to sweep away, the LP is much less clear in explaining how precisely it would action many of its aims. Populist appeals help to paper over these divisions. The LP does what many parties do; it outlines its ambition, tries to show a little bit of vision and attempts to capture a little of the popular Zeitgeist. At times it has done this well (2009 federal election), at times not so well (a variety of regional elections in western German Länder). The LP’s inherent ‘normalness’ should not deflect from the fact that it dabbles in what can be understood as a populist pond. Our findings help to build on recent content analysis of election manifestos which concluded that the LP still employs populist discourse (Rooduijn and Akkerman 2017). This is not only because it has promoted policies that look, at best, hard to implement or, indeed, because it has been led by charismatic figures such as Gregor Gysi and Oskar Lafontaine. These may, in other words, be traits that are often associated with populist parties, but they are not core attributes of populism itself. True, the party struggled to replace Gysi and Lafontaine and voters find it harder to identify LP leaders than before (Olsen 2018). However, the LP does still use the language and the tools of the populist in three particular areas: it articulates a disdain for the way that German democracy works, it clearly identifies a sets of elites that act as the enemies of the people, and it is not averse to talking in language that sees long-­suffering Germans as one more-­or-less coherent unit. In (eastern) regional politics, the LP has managed to avoid becoming beholden to this language and has often governed in remarkably low-­key fashion. Indeed, one of the criticisms of regional governments that the LP has been involved in is how boring they have been (Hough and Koß, 2006). Whether the LP can square that circle in the federal arena remains to be seen. It is there where its populist tendencies are strongest, and it is there where it will have to enter into significant compromises if it is ever to govern with the SPD (and arguably the Greens). On one hand, that appears unlikely. The LP’s strategy since 2011 has not done it any harm at the polls and it appears to have, at the very least, a medium-­term future in German politics. Furthermore, there are too many LP activists, members and supporters who support the LP’s analysis on who really governs Germany, who suffers, as a result, and that radical, process-­busting change is necessary to alter that. On the other hand, politics is, as another German once said, the art of the possible. A significant number of members of the party argue that if the LP wants to change the system it so vociferously claims to deplore, then sooner or later it will have to think about doing that from within positions of executive power. Such moves may well require diluting the populist message, but other populists elsewhere (albeit of different ideological ilk) have managed on occasion to pull that trick off (Albertazzi and McDonnell 2015). It would be a brave analyst who would write off the LP completely in this regard.

142   Dan Hough and Dan Keith

Note 1 Berlin is included here even though the Land includes some territory (in the west of the city) that was never in the GDR.

References Albertazzi, D. and McDonnell, D. (2015) Populists in Power, London: Routledge. Bale, T., van Kessel, S. and Taggart, P. (2011) ‘Thrown around with Abandon? Popular Understandings of Populism as Conveyed by the Print Media: A UK Case Study’, Acta Politica 46(2): 111–131. Barker, P. (ed.) (1998) German Monitor – The Party of Democratic Socialism. Modern PostCommunism or Nostalgic Populism?, Amsterdam: Rodopi BV, 42. Bastian, J. (1995) ‘The Enfant Terrible of German Politics: The PDS between GDR Nostalgia and Democratic Socialism’, German Politics 4(2): 95–110. Bouma, A. (2016) ‘Ideological Confirmation and Party Consolidation: Germany’s Die Linke and the Financial and Refugee Crisis’, in March, L. and Keith, D. (eds) Europe’s Radical Left: From Marginality to the Mainstream?, London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 155–172. Canovan, M. (1981) Populism, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Connolly, K. (2018) ‘German Politicians Launch Left-­wing “Get Up Movement” ’ Guardian, 4 September. Doerschler, P. (2015) ‘Die Linke: Still an Eastern Cultural Icon?’, German Politics 24(3): 377–401. Erfurter, E. (1997) SPW; Zeitschrift für Sozialistische Politik und Wirtschaft, volume 1. Available at (accessed 17 August 2017). Fehst, G. (2003) ‘Helmut Holter will Löungen für die Leute im Land’, PDS Disput, 4. Gathmann, F., Hagen, K. and Meiritz, A. (2017) ‘So realistisch ist Rot-­Rot-Grün’, Spiegel Online, 14 July. Gerner, M. (1994) Partei ohne Zukunft? Von der SED zur PDS, Munich: Tilsner Verlag. Handelsblatt (2017) ‘Schulz schließt Koalition mit Linkspartei nicht aus’, Handelsblatt, 11 May. Heckel, M. (2007) ‘Populismus pur von Oskar Lafontaine’, Die Welt, 7 July. Heinrich, G. and Schoon, S. (2007) ‘The 2006 Landtag Election in Mecklenburg-­Western Pomerania’, German Politics 16(4): 526–533. Hildebrandt, C. (2015) ‘The Left Party in Germany’, NewPolitics 15(2). Available at­party-germany (accessed 17 August 2017). Holter, H. (2000) ‘Mehrheiten gewinnen durch eine Politik für Mehrheiten. Rede auf dem Landesparteitag der PDS Mecklenburg-­Vorpommern am 25.11.2000 in Greifswald’, PDS Pressedienst, 48. Hough, D. (2000) ‘ “Made in Eastern Germany”: The PDS and the Articulation of Eastern German Interests’, German Politics 9(2): 125–148. Hough, D. and Koß, M. (2006) ‘Landesparteien in vergleichender Perspektive: Die Linkspartei. PDS zwischen Regierungsverantwortung und Opposition’, Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen 37(2): 312–333. Hough, D. and Koß, M. (2009) ‘Populism Personified or Reinvigorated Reformers? The German Left Party in 2009 and Beyond’, German Politics and Society 27(2): 76–91. Hough, D., Koß, M. and Olsen, J. (2007) The Left Party in Contemporary German Politics, London: Palgrave.

The German Left Party   143 Keith, D. (2018) ‘Opposing Europe, Opposing Austerity: Radical Left Parties and the Eurosceptic Debate’, in Leruth, B., Startin, N. and Usherwood, S. (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Euroscepticism, London: Routledge, 86–99. Kioupkiolis, A. and Katsambekis, G. (2018) ‘Radical Left Populism from the Margins to the Mainstream: A Comparison of Syriza and Podemos’, in Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) (2017) Podemos and the New Political Cycle: Left-­wing Populism and Anti-­establishment Politics, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 201–226. Koch-­Baumgarten, S. (1997) ‘Postkommunisten im Spagat. Zur Funktion der PDS im Parteiensystem’, Deutschland Archiv. Zeitschrift für das vereinigte Deutschland 30(6): 864–878. Koß, M. and Hough, D. (2006) ‘Between a Rock and Many Hard Places – The PDS and Government Participation in the Eastern German Länder’, German Politics 15(1): 73–98. Linke, Die (2011) Die Linke: Programme of the Die Linke Party, Berlin. Linke, Die (2017) Sozial. Gerecht. Frieden. Fuer Alle. Wahlprogram der Partei DIE LINKE zur Bundestagswahl 2017, Berlin. Lucardie, P. (2007) ‘Populism in the Party System in Germany and the Netherlands’, in euro/topics. Available at: magazin/politik-­verteilerseite/populismus_2007_10/lucardie_populismus_deutsch land_niederlande/3 (accessed 17 August 2017). March, L. (2011) Radical Left Parties in Europe, Abingdon: Routledge. McDonnell, D. (2013) ‘Abbott, Rudd and de Blasio: Many Things, but not Populists’, The Conversation, 20 September. Available at­ rudd-and-­de-blasio-­many-things-­but-not-­populists-18390 (accessed 25 August 2017). Meisner, M. (2013) ‘Linke Reformer: Die SPD erwartet von uns keine Demutsgesten mehr’, Der Tagesspiegel, 2 December. Moreau, P. (1998) PDS. Profil einer antidemokratischen Partei, Bonn-­Berlin: Bouvier. Moreau, P. and Lang, J. (1994) Was will die PDS? Berlin: Ullstein. Mudde, C. (2004) ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition 39(4): 542–563. Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2017) Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Neu, V. (2004) Das Janusgesicht der PDS: Wähler und Partei zwischen Demokratie und Extremismus, Baden-­Baden: Nomos. Neu, V. and Lang, P. J. (2002) ‘Die PDS und ihr Verhältnis zum Grundgesetz’, Die Politische Meinung 388: 51–56. Neurer, D. (2016) ‘Es fehlt ein klarer Lager-­Wahlkampf ’, Handelsblatt, 21 June. Neugebauer, G. and Stöss, R. (1996) Die PDS: Geschichte. Organisation. Wähler. Konkurrenten, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. Olsen, J. (2018) ‘Germany’, in Escalona, F., Keith, D. and March, L. (eds) Handbook of Radical Left Parties in Europe, London: Palgrave. Peters, T. (2006) Der Antifaschismus der PDS aus antiextremistischer Sicht, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. Plöhn, J. (1995) ‘Die Landtagswahl in Sachsen-­Anhalt vom 26. Juni 1994: Die Mehrheitsbildung bleibt dem Landtag überlassen’, Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen 26(2): 215–231. Riexinger, B. (2014) ‘Spectre on the Left’, in Europe has a Different Future, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung: Berlin, 25–28. Available at: uploads/pdfs/engl/rls-­online_europe-­has-a-­different-future_nd.pdf (accessed 25 August 2017).

144   Dan Hough and Dan Keith Riexinger, B. (2016) ‘What Die Linke Should do’, in The Bullet: Socialist Project E-­bulletin, no 1246, 14 April. Available at: (accessed 25 August 2017). Rooduijn, M. and Akkerman, T. (2017) ‘Flank Attacks: Populism and Left-­right Radicalism in Western Europe’, Party Politics 23(3): 193–204. Smith, G. (1976) ‘West Germany and the Politics of Centrality’, Government and Opposition 11(4): 387–407. Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘Left-­wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2): 119–142. von Beyme, K. (2011) Das politische System der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Eine Einführung, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

7 Corbynism, populism and the re-­shaping of left politics in contemporary Britain Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean

Introduction The ascension of veteran left-­winger Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party in 2015 constitutes one of the more improbable chapters in recent British political history. Following more than twenty years in which the Labour Party was widely perceived as complicit with the neoliberal turn in British politics, the election of an avowedly left-­wing and anti-­neoliberal leader caught many by surprise, leading to an outpouring of commentary and debate about the precise nature and character of Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader. One conspicuous feature of these extensive musings on Corbynism relates to the question of whether Corbyn is a ‘populist’, and/or whether or not Corbynism can meaningfully be described as a populist politics. This debate about the ‘populism question’ in relation to Corbyn was given added impetus in December 2016 by the revelation that Labour Party strategists were planning on re-­launching Corbyn as a ‘left-­wing populist’ in 2017 (Stewart and Elgot 2017). Against this backdrop, this chapter analyses the current trajectory of Corbyn and Corbynism in relation to current scholarly debates about the nature and scope of populism in general, and left-­wing populism in particular. In so doing, we also suggest that an engagement with Corbynism helps us raise a number of theoretical points about the strengths and limits of a ‘Laclauian’ approach to the analysis of populism. The chapter begins with a general mapping of the contours of Corbynism, outlining its core features and characteristics (incidentally, we use the term ‘Corbynism’ to pinpoint its status as a political project, over and above Jeremy Corbyn the individual). The middle section of the chapter then asks whether, from the point of view of a Laclau-­inspired discursive approach, Corbynism can meaningfully be described as populist. Here, we suggest that Corbynism can only accurately be described as ‘populist’ if one were to stretch the meaning of populism so far as to render it meaningless. Moreover, although there are some superficial similarities with the existing left-­wing populisms of Southern Europe, the context and character of Corbynism are, we argue, significantly different. In making this empirical argument, we also engage with a number of theoretical issues. In particular, we identify at least three different iterations of populism

146   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean within Laclau-­inspired discourse analysis: two, articulated by Laclau himself, in which he simultaneously equates populism with politics writ large, on the one hand, and more often than not with oppositional politics, on the other. A third approach, associated with a number of Laclau’s followers, and responding to the need to operationalise the term, frames populism more narrowly as a radical politics organised around the nodal point of ‘the people’. In light of these tensions as well as some methodological issues, in the final part of the chapter, we caution against the general trend towards ‘conceptual overstretching’ that one finds in the extant populism scholarship. Going somewhat against the current vogue in the populist literature which suggests conceptually that less is better, we suggest that a more fruitful line of enquiry would be to frame populism as a thick, substantive mode of politics, rather than as a ‘thin’ ideology (as per Cas Mudde) or a set of ‘minimal criteria’ embodied by discursive utterances (as per Yannis Stavrakakis and several other Laclau-­inspired authors). We conclude by offering some possible lines of theoretical enquiry that might enable cultivation of a thicker – and, in our view, more robust – conception of populism. Overall, the aim of the paper is to contribute to conceptual debates about populism by offering a sympathetic critique of the Laclauian framework, as well as providing some preliminary analysis of Corbynism as an empirical phenomenon. The latter is particularly crucial given that, at the time of writing, there is little published academic work on Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader.

The contours of Corbynism First elected to parliament in 1983, Jeremy Corbyn had long been seen as a maverick outsider within his party, and within UK politics more generally. Known for his principled anti-­neoliberal politics, opposition to the 2003 Iraq war, and support for a number of ‘unfashionable’ causes, Corbyn was, to put it mildly, an improbable candidate for the Labour Party leadership. Following his underwhelming performance at the 2015 General Election, previous leader Ed Miliband – widely associated with the party’s ‘soft left’ – stood down, opening up a leadership contest which ran over the summer of 2015 (Dorey and Denham 2016). The leadership election was notable in part for its use of a new system for electing the leader. In contrast to the earlier Electoral College system in which MPs yielded considerable sway, the new voting system introduced in 2014 consisted of a move to a ‘one member one vote’ approach. In this new system the role of MPs was reduced to gatekeepers, with prospective candidates requiring nominations from a minimum of 15 per cent of the parliamentary party (Russell 2016). Furthermore, in an innovation intended to democratise and open up participation in the election, ‘registered supporters’ as well as full members could vote, on condition of paying a nominal fee and declaring support for the ‘aims and values’ of the party (Gilbert 2016). Corbyn only secured his place on the ballot with minutes to spare, and was dependent on receiving a number of nominations from Labour MPs who did not support him politically, but lent him their name to ‘broaden the debate’ (BBC

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   147 News 2015). The other candidates included pro-­Blair Liz Kendall, centrist Yvette Cooper and early favourite Andy Burnham (who politically was in the same mould as Ed Miliband). As Corbyn’s initially rather muted campaign gained momentum during the summer, he rapidly transitioned from rank outsider to firm favourite, and as such few were surprised when he emerged victorious, winning 59.5 per cent of the first round vote (49.6 per cent among members, 84 per cent among registered supporters) (Rowena Mason 2015). His early months as Labour leader saw him struggling to maintain the energy of his leadership campaign while also managing a parliamentary party that was overwhelmingly hostile to his politics. These challenges came to a head when he faced a leadership challenge as early as summer 2016 from ‘soft-­left’ rival Owen Smith. Although Corbyn decisively saw off Smith’s bid for power, he remained burdened, at least until the June 2017 election where the Labour Party did unexpectedly well, with poor opinion poll ratings (for both Labour as a whole and Corbyn as an individual), a recalcitrant parliamentary party, a largely hostile mainstream media and a perception (including among some supporters) that he has been unwilling or unable to be as bold in his opposition to the Conservatives as many would like (in relation to, for example, the NHS crisis and the government’s handling of Brexit). Garnering 40 per cent of the vote on Election Day (higher than Ed Miliband in 2015 and indeed Tony Blair in 2005), however, and thereby eliminating Theresa May’s majority, seems to have settled the nerves of many previously hostile Labour MPs, and has certainly made his leadership of the Party unassailable for the foreseeable future. But this just begs the question: what conditions contributed to the emergence of Corbyn, an obvious outlier in the context of Labour Party politics? Space does not allow for an exhaustive account of Corbyn’s rise, but a few points are worth making. In the UK context, Corbyn’s politics are aligned with what is sometimes rather lazily and inappropriately called the ‘hard left’ (Jackson 2016; Gilbert 2016), a strand of thinking associated with the late Tony Benn. Three features define this political orientation. Economically, Corbyn and his allies support a left Keynesianism, which, although historically influential in British social democratic politics, became more marginal as the party drifted rightward from the 1980s onwards. Today this commitment translates into an anti-­austerity position which has steadily gained some traction in the UK from 2010 onwards. On foreign policy, Corbyn and his allies have consistently advocated an anti-­ imperialist agenda which includes a call for nuclear disarmament, and support for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, the Chavez regime in Venezuela and the Palestinian struggle, among others, (Seymour 2016a). Finally, a key feature of Corbyn’s politics is his emphasis on the need to democratise the Labour Party, viewing the party as insufficiently responsive to its members and grassroots activists. Given this worldview, it is not surprising that Corbyn has been able to galvanise support from a large swathe of hitherto alienated Labour members and supporters who have long felt that the Labour Party under Blair had abandoned them as well as any semblance of left politics understood as an egalitarian project (Seymour 2016a; Gilbert 2015).

148   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean The rise of Corbynism as a political project, however, must also be understood as a response to international forces. After all, it is hard to conceive of such a left project gaining traction in Britain in the absence of the global financial crisis that first erupted onto the scene in 2007. Not only did the worst global recession since the 1930s follow, but most governments in Europe, including the UK, decided to tackle it through a range of austerity measures including cutting public services, capping public sector pay and withdrawing public investment (Seymour 2014). These moves, in turn, generated hardship for millions and overt political resistance. It also laid the conditions for a reconfiguration of the left across Europe, as traditional left parties haemorrhaged support because of their inability or unwillingness to oppose austerity, on the one hand, and as new forms of anti-­austerity left politics bubbled forth, on the other. The ‘pasokification’. as this process is now dubbed (Harris 2016), of the social democratic left parties in Spain and Greece, for instance, ended the reign of the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party and Pasok and saw them replaced by Podemos and Syriza, respectively. Describing the downfall of Pasok, Aditya Chakrabortty states ‘it went from a mass movement to an arthritic bureaucracy in the pocket of a small, corrupt elite’ (Chakrabortty 2015). Alongside austerity, corruption, nepotism and a general disinterest in understanding the needs of the people they represent, have also played a part in discrediting the established left. As three national organisers of Corbyn’s campaign put it: ‘There is an increasing sense, even – or perhaps especially – among people who are not overtly political, that the entire establishment is corrupt, immoral or even criminal, and unaccountable’ (Klug et al. 2016: 38). Thus, while the UK hasn’t witnessed the mass anti-­austerity movements found in some other parts of Europe, it has experienced a mini resurgence of grassroots left politics in the wake of the economic crisis (Bailey 2014; Maiguashca et al. 2016), particularly in Scotland, where the 2014 independence referendum drew a significant percentage of the electorate into the orbit of grassroots left activism (Gilbert 2016). Despite the somewhat facile claims that activist support for Corbyn can be reduced to hard left ‘entryism’ (Seymour 2016b), particularly in relation to those who signed up as ‘registered supporters’ (Dorey and Denham 2016), it is true that the anti-­austerity left has assumed an unprecedented profile in British politics. Furthermore, although the precise extent of this is debated, Corbyn’s distance from mainstream politics, combined with his perceived accessibility and unshowy demeanour, meant he was able to pick up some support from the reservoir of disaffection with ‘establishment’ politics characteristic of contemporary Britain (Mair 2013). Since winning the leadership, Corbyn has been able to count on a substantial movement of loyal supporters. To some extent, this is a relatively fluid community of left activists with the time and commitment to support Corbyn through online discussion and/or involvement in meetings and demonstrations. However, the pro-­Corbyn movement takes a more formalised form via an ideologically heterogeneous network called Momentum, established by veteran Labour left campaigner Jon Lansman just after Corbyn’s first leadership victory. Momentum

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   149 is a national organisation aligned to Labour (but not, as yet, formally affiliated to it) that seeks to defend Corbyn and give voice to various shades of left politics in the UK. It has a National Coordinating Group which includes representatives from the different regions of the country as well as affiliated campaigns and organisations such as Labour CND and Welsh Labour Grassroots. Although, as indicated, the challenges facing Momentum (and the pro-­Corbyn movement more generally) are legion, two are especially significant (and have important implications for our reflection on whether Corbynism is a ‘populist’ politics). First, there remains a palpable uncertainty and even mistrust among Corbyn critics as to the aims and objectives of Momentum. Indeed, many continue to portray it not only as an extremist left-­wing cadre of militant activists, but also as a ‘fan club’ or even a ‘cult’ (McTernan 2016; Blakey 2016) that has become obsessed with Corbyn. This charge is given some semblance of credence to the extent that many within the left of Labour have quite deep feelings of loyalty towards him (Dean 2017). In addition to seeing Momentum as messianic in nature, it has also been derided as undemocratic, power hungry and authoritarian, seeking to stage a coup within the Labour Party. The recent media hysteria, spurred on by Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader, and others, around the alleged ‘Unite-­Momentum pact’ to take control over Labour is a case in point (Helm and Hacillo 2017). Notwithstanding these accusations, it is clear from the primary research we have undertaken that the campaign around Corbyn has a very different conception of what they are trying to do, which includes, on the one hand, offering support to Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, especially in the context of a sometimes recalcitrant PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) and, on the other, agitating for broader social change in the name of social justice. To this extent, Momentum sees itself as dual facing: internally, it strives to defend Corbyn’s agenda and, in so doing, democratise the Labour Party and externally, to build a liberal-­ left social movement that can reach out to and engage with the wider public. As one key national Momentum organiser put it: I think that Momentum is […] trying to build a sort of grassroots network of people, groups, who are seeking to make society better, and I think that […] part of the purpose […] is to help The Labour Party now that it has Jeremy as leader of The Labour Party. Trying to help The Labour Party to become a more open, more democratic, more participatory, more member-­led […] organisation with wider appeal, so that it can be [an] electoral force […]. (Interview with Momentum activist, London, 19/04/16) In sum, there are two dominant narratives surrounding the meaning and nature of Corbynism: one, upheld by Momentum activists and his wider supporters, which sees it as a broad democratic, social justice network, and the other, proffered by some within the PLP and the media, which denounces it as a fanatical cult of personality that will eventually destroy the Labour Party (Blakey 2016). Overturning this latter representation and convincing their opponents and the

150   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean media that they are committed to strengthening Labour as a political force has proved a substantial challenge for a besieged and under-­resourced network of activists. A second key challenge that faces Momentum – mirroring that described by Alexandros Kioupkiolis in his analysis of Podemos (Kioupkiolis 2016) – concerns an internal tension within the movement between what could be called ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ strands of political organising. Although claims of hard-­left entryism are clearly overblown (Seymour 2016b), a form of traditional left politics rooted in trade unionism and advocated by older, self-­identified Marxists certainly exists within the Corbyn movement. More hierarchical, and defined by formal organisational structures, roles and mechanisms of accountability, this politics is more comfortable with distinct lines of representation embodied by a delegate model of democracy. Explaining what trade union politics can bring to Momentum, one self-­identified Marxist trade unionist told us: I think what the trade union experience can bring is about democracy. I think we have […] very strong structures […] you know, accountability, the idea that people can’t just say ‘I’m now representing this.’ You […] have to be elected into positions and then you’re accountable to the people who elected you and so on. (Interview with Trade Union activist, London 18/06/16) A competing strand within the movement is more ‘horizontalist’ in orientation, younger in demographics and bears the influence of the 2010–2011 student movement, Occupy and the southern European anti-­austerity movements. Activists within this constituency tend to valorise social media as a means of communication and to eschew more formalised organisational structures. Intellectually, it looks more to Deleuze, Laclau, feminism or the theorists of automated ‘post-­ capitalism’ (Paul Mason 2015; Williams and Srnicek 2015) than traditional Marxism. Momentum HQ as well as its founder Jon Lansman align themselves more with the second strand (Elgot 2017). Indeed, the dispute between these two tendencies became so bitter that there were question-­marks over Momentum’s survival in late 2016, although the recent election ‘success’ of the Labour Party has tempered these tensions with some left commentators even hailing the horizontalist approach, and its savvy deployment on social media, as one of the reasons why Corbyn did so much better than expected in the recent election (Gilbert 2017). To conclude this section: there is no doubt that Corbyn’s ascension to the role of Labour leader was as unexpected as it was welcome for many on the British left who had found themselves marginal to UK politics for a long time. Corbyn’s two leadership victories mean that unapologetically anti-­austerity and anti-­ neoliberal politics has taken on a renewed visibility in mainstream UK politics. Having defied expectations at the ballot box, his position as leader is, for now, untouchable, and there is broad public support for reigning in austerity. Whether this momentum can be translated into a victory at the next general election

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   151 (whenever that is!) remains to be seen. What is not in doubt is that the radical left has more visibility and impact in British politics now than at any time in the past thirty years.

Is Corbynism a populist politics? With the rise of Jeremy Corbyn a mutant strain of populism has become an integral part of British politics. (Gray 2017) Having outlined the key features of Corbynism, in this section we turn to the question of whether Corbynism is a form of populism and, therefore, whether it makes sense to claim that left-­wing populism has a presence in British politics. If one turns to contemporary political pundits for an evaluation, one could be forgiven for thinking that Corbynism embodies a specifically British iteration of left-­wing populism. Indeed, a number of commentators have characterised Corbynism as ‘populist’, with Julian Baggini in the Guardian going so far as to suggest that Corbyn’s politics is ‘populism in its purest form’ (Baggini 2016). To be fair, both Labour strategists and Momentum activists have muddied the waters on this question as well with a Guardian piece stating that Corbyn was going to be relaunched as a ‘left-­wing populist’ (Stewart and Elgot 2017), and even Momentum founder Jon Lansman announcing in an interview with us that ‘Momentum and the Corbyn phenomenon is… evidentially populist’ on the grounds that it features ‘mass rallies, you know, ten thousand people in the streets of Liverpool [listening to] Jeremy. That is populism, it is, how can you not think of it as that?’ (Jon Lansman, interview, 24/11/16). These bold claims notwithstanding, it is our argument that Corybnism cannot in any meaningful way be characterised as an instance of populist politics. To defend this claim and explore the reasons for it, we take up the Laclau-­inspired discursive approach to populism. In the ensuing analysis we hope not only to explain why Corbynism cannot usefully be depicted as populist, but also to raise a number of critical questions about limits of a discursive approach to this phenomenon, and indeed of the populism scholarship more generally. In so doing, our first observation is that the ‘Essex School’ approach to populism (so named on account of Ernesto Laclau’s long-­term affiliation with the University of Essex) is not a tightly unified body of work. Indeed, we discern three slightly different iterations of populism within the Essex School – two put forward by Laclau himself and one developed by advocates of his approach – which in turn have rather different implications for our analysis of Corbynism. We will start with the work of Laclau, which includes his now classic 2005 book entitled On Populist Reason. For Laclau, ‘populism’ does not refer to any specific substantive attributes of a politics, such as the actors involved, the claims made, the ideology or the sociological conditions that give rise to it. Instead, Laclau defines populism as a political logic. In general terms, a ‘political logic’ refers to the ‘institution, de-­institution and/or contestation of the

152   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean social’ (Glynos and Howarth 2007: 142). Importantly, political logics are formal insofar as they have no necessary content: this claim is in turn a product of the Essex School’s rejection of essentialist accounts of political mobilisation such as, for instance, traditional Marxism, with its a priori privileging of class struggle (Laclau and Mouffe 1985). More specifically, populism comes into being when a series of hitherto unmet demands are articulated together into what Laclau refers to as a counter-­hegemonic ‘chain of equivalence’ (Laclau 2004), afforded a semblance of unity in two ways: first by the production of ‘empty signifiers’, privileged names, concepts or ideals that give a populist formation coherence (see Laclau 1996), and second, by the oppositional nature of the equivalential chain, that is, its being constructed around a common enemy. This populist logic of articulation, as outlined by Laclau, of necessity entails the construction of a ‘people’: this need not mean that political actors mobilise under the signifier ‘the people’, but it does mean populism entails the (always contingent and precarious) construction of a ‘people’ in the more general sense of a politicised collectivity with shared affective commitments (Laclau 2005; Howarth 2008). Furthermore, this construction of a ‘people’ via the equivalential articulation of demands, consists of heightening of antagonism and what Laclau calls the ‘dichotomisation of the social space’ into two opposed camps (Laclau 2004: 38). Populism, for Laclau, is therefore aligned with notions of rupture and antagonism. Indeed, he argues that ‘a crisis of representation is at the root of any populist, anti-­institutional outburst’ (Laclau 2005: 137). As such, populism, in the hands of the Essex School, is by definition a bottom-­up process, driven largely by diverse forms of grassroots mobilisation and held together and given voice by a charismatic leader. But here we come to an ambiguity in Laclau’s work, for in some instances, populism – as explained above – is projected as a specific mode of politics, that is as ‘one possibility of politics among others’ (Arditi 2010: 491). In this sense then, populism is cast as an oppositional politics, a politics of the ‘underdog’, that seeks to challenge the prevailing ‘logic of difference’ and the hegemonic institutionalised model of politics that it sustains. At other moments, however, Laclau offers us the image of ‘politics as populism’ (Arditi 2010: 491) in which populism is presented as ‘the royal road to understanding something about the ontological constitution of the political as such’ (Laclau 2005: 67). He goes on to say that ‘by “populism” we do not understand a type of movement […] but a political logic’ (Laclau 2005: 117) and that ‘populist reason […] amounts […] to political reason tout court’ (Laclau 2005: 225). From this angle, populism becomes equated with the political writ large. In other words, it could be argued that Laclau vacillates between an ontological and ontic conception of populism.1 So where does this (or these) Laclauian notion(s) of populism leave us when trying to think about the nature of Corbynism? Well, if we start with the ontological conception of populism, that is, it is a fundamental aspect of all politics, then it is applicable by definition, but arguably as it would also apply to all and every other manifestation of political contestation, it is not clear what we gain by characterising it as such. If we shift to his more substantive, ontic conception of

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   153 populism, that is, as specific mode of oppositional politics, then it also applies, but only at the most general level of analysis. So, for instance, it is true that Corbynism did emerge out of a crisis of representation within the Labour Party and that under Corbyn there is now a clear antagonistic, ideological divide between the Labour leadership and the Conservatives, with Corbyn’s oppositional stance captured in the controversial slogan used by Labour in the 2016 local elections: ‘Elections are about taking sides, Labour is on yours’. Furthermore, it could be claimed that the discourse of Corbynism is held together by a number of key nodal points including ‘for the many’ (as per the 2017 election manifesto), ‘equality’, ‘fairness’, ‘anti-­austerity’ and Corbyn’s emphasis on cultivating a ‘kinder politics’. But suggesting that radical or oppositional movements emerge from a crisis of representation and that they reflect an antagonism of some sort seems to be stating the obvious. In sum, the problem is that whatever notion of populism one applies, it seems to tell us very little about the specificity of either Corbynism as a movement or populism as a distinct mode of politics. For even if we prefer to mobilise the ontic conception of populism understood as a manifestation of counter-­ hegemony, we are still left with the challenge that all oppositional or radical politics must be conceived as populist in nature. As such, the ‘finding’ that Corbynism is indeed an instance of left populism from within the Laclauian schema says less about the features of Corbynism, and more about the difficulty of distinguishing ‘populism’ from ‘non-­populism’ within Laclau’s approach. This tension is implicitly acknowledged in a more recent strand of literature, composed by the work of several European scholars who are seeking to operationalise Laclau’s notion of populism to analyse ‘actually existing populisms’ in contemporary Southern Europe. More concretely, motivated in part by Laclau’s commitment to the potentiality of populism to revitalise a radical democratic (left) politics, Yannis Stavrakakis and his colleagues in the POPULISMUS project based at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, including Alexandros Kioupkiolis and Giorgos Katsambekis, have powerfully argued against the widespread tendency in European political science to present populism as a threat to democracy. This scholarly effort has been given further impetus by a number of left populist politicians explicitly drawing on and mobilising Laclauian concepts in their political thinking/discourses and campaigns (Howarth 2015). Although they draw their basic ontological reference points from Laclau, this team of authors argue that a politics is populist when it meets two ‘minimal’, ‘operational criteria’: first, that it is articulated around the nodal point of ‘the people’ (as opposed to, say, ‘the nation’) and second, that it entails the antagonistic divide of society into two camps (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014: 123; Stavrakakis et al. 2017: 4). In so doing, Stavrakakis and his colleagues significantly reduce the scope of populism, at least compared to Laclau’s conception, explicitly advocating the need for a parsimonious definition when doing empirical comparative research (Stavrakakis et al. 2017: 5). Rather than being inscribed in the ontological constitution of the political as such, for Stavrakakis et al. populism is confidently presented as one specific type of (counter-­hegemonic)

154   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean politics: any political formation that does not mobilise under the banner of ‘the people’ (or an equivalent unifying signifier such as the ‘non-­privileged’, ‘the many’ or ‘the marginalised’) and that does not rally against an ‘elite’ (the establishment, power bloc) falls outside the conceptual boundaries of populism. Dropping what they see as the ‘moralising’ and ‘homogenising’ elements built into the prevailing definition of populism (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2013), Stavrakakis et al. defend a discourse analysis approach that seeks to investigate whether the ‘people’, for instance, is actually mobilised as an empty signifier – rather than one laden down by references to race or nation, and therefore unable to integrate heterogeneous identities – and whether it really functions as a nodal point in the chain of signification or is just a peripheral reference. On the basis of this kind of investigation, they argue, it is possible to distinguish not only between populism and manifestations of nationalism and extreme right-­wing politics, including Le Pen in France and Wilders in Holland, but also between left and right-­wing populisms (Stavrakakis et al. 2017). Returning to Corbynism in light of this latest rendition of populism, however, leads us to conclude that it still cannot be framed as a populist politics for two reasons. The first concerns the rhetorical strategies deployed by Corbyn and his supporters, which, at least until now, have not mobilised signifiers such as ‘the people’ or the ‘non-­privileged’ in a systematic way to construct a unified subject of representation. Promises to ‘rule for the many, not the few’ (a direct lift from Tony Blair’s 1997 campaign slogan) notwithstanding, much of Corbynism as a project and a discourse has centred on the articulation of specific political positions and values – ‘anti-­austerity’, ‘equality’, ‘fairness’ and ‘hope’ – rather than on the merits or de-­merits of particular political agents. In this context, although the ‘British people’ are occasionally appealed to in his election campaign speeches, the main interlocutor for Corbyn has been the Labour Party, its members and its prospective supporters (Atkins and Turnbull 2016). Similarly, Momentum activists speak to and about ‘the movement’ or the ‘movement-­party’, the precise components of which remain ambiguous, but seem to encompass Labour Party members, trade unions, social justice activists and various other groups, individuals and campaigns located on the left (Bennister, Worth and Keith 2017: 14). In this sense then, neither Corbyn nor his supporters are particularly interested in mobilising the notion of the ‘people’ as the appropriate subject of representation, apart from when they are in campaigning mode and need to reach out to voters. In fact, rather than seeing their task as solely one of improving representation, we found that many of our interviewees talked instead in terms of fostering ‘empowerment’ and ‘participation’. As national Momentum organisers, Klug, Rees and Schneider state: ‘Corbyn’s “new politics” is about political representatives using the platform of the state to empower popular forces.’ As McDonnell has put it, Labour should ‘work alongside [social movements], give them a parliamentary voice, give them a voice in government but, more importantly, assist them in the work that they do within the wide community.’ Ultimately,

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   155 it’s about nurturing organisations that can help to democratise each strand of life – building social blocs into a majority that can support a Labour government to empower them. (Klug et al. 2016: 43, emphasis added) This interest in and commitment to encouraging active participation and the devolution of power can be explained in part by Corbyn’s occasional overtures towards what we might call epistemological populism – that is, a faith in the knowledge and ability of ordinary voters. At a speech in Tredegar he stated: All the great achievements that any of us have ever benefited from […] how we got the NHS, how we got council housing, how we got free education, how women got the right to vote, how we got the race relations act, all the great achievements did not come around from the smartness of my colleagues sitting around a table in the House of Commons, they came because of people on the ground everywhere […] marching, demanding. (Corbyn 2015) This emphasis on the knowledge and vital social value of ‘ordinary people’ is confirmed by Hilary Wainwright, who recently told an audience at Queen Mary University that Corbyn believes that ‘wisdom lies in the street’ (Wainwright 2017). Although this deference to the common sense of people could potentially provide a platform for a populist politics revolving around an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ logic, in Corbyn’s hands it is used as a reason to listen to and support local activists who know what their communities need. Corbynism thus seeks to create space for and enable a pluralised, deliberative, cooperative and context-­specific approach to community building and policy formation that fits uncomfortably with the idea of an equivalential chain constructed to demarcate, galvanise and hold together an undifferentiated camp of ‘underdogs’. In other words, there is little in the words and deeds of Corbyn, or his supporters, to suggest that they are seeking to unify or homogenise a core constituency and present them as a coherent social base for their politics. A second, more important reason as to why we must be doubtful of the claims that Corbynism can be equated with populism, concerns the fact that, as alluded to above, it does not consistently embody a politics of antagonism. Although, undoubtedly, some of Corbyn’s rhetoric is inflected with populist-­sounding allusions to ‘the elite’ and ‘the establishment’, we should be wary of seeing such utterances as reflective of Corbyn’s political project in toto. This is to say that, bar some exceptions, his discourse and that of his supporters as well as their practices do not serve to divide the social field into two irreconcilable camps, do not conjure up an irredeemable antagonist that must be vanquished and do not call upon the people as a collective actor to rally around them. This is evidenced by the fact that, rather surprisingly for a supposedly ‘hard left’ politics, Corbyn has so far refused to mobilise the rhetoric and images of class conflict as the basis of his politics (Gilbert 2016). Agreeing with Gilbert, Seymour states:

156   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean It is striking that, thus far, Corbyn has pointedly refused to identify a class opponent in this way, instead sticking to the conventional Labour modus operandi of attacking ‘The Tories.’ This reticence in articulating a class division may be motivated by a prudent desire not to alienate possible business allies, or it may flow ineluctably from his ‘politics of kindness’ which seems to foreswear such rousing populism. (Seymour 2016a: 204) Turning to the question of the enemy, as Seymour suggests, we have found that Corbynism, as a political project, is highly affirmative, utopian and proleptic in nature and cannot be characterised as a negative or anti-­politics, understood as one which depends on an individual or collective antagonist. Leaving aside references to the ‘1 per cent’, the ‘few’, or the ‘rich’ and ‘vested interests’ (Left Foot Forward 2017), Corbyn does not routinely invoke images of a monolithic, intractable enemy, and when he does identify what he is against, it tends to take the form of Tory governments and their specific policies (e.g. Trident or benefit cuts) or, more abstractly, the injustice of extreme structural inequalities and the disenfranchisement and deprivation that it causes and sustains. Corbyn’s triumphant flagship speech at the 2017 Labour Party conference, for instance, is structured around a division not between a ‘people’ and an ‘elite’ but between an out-­of-touch, beleaguered Conservative Party, and a competent and flourishing Labour Party as a ‘government in waiting’, which is, as he puts it: Ready to tackle inequality, ready to rebuild our NHS, ready to give opportunity to young people, dignity and security to older people, ready to invest in our economy and meet the challenges of climate change and automation, ready to put peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy. (Corbyn 2017) Our interviews with Momentum organisers bear this out, with activists saving their most trenchant criticisms not for an all-­encompassing ‘elite’ or ‘establishment’ but, often, for their own Labour Party and its centralised structures and its apparent disinterest in the people it is there to support and represent. As one activist put it, I think they’ve (Corbyn and McDonnell) brought a new kind of sense of morality to Westminster actually, and I think that’s really important and I think that the Labour supporters […] probably do actually appreciate that they are starting to see a party that is working on its own identity and it’s not trying to chase the median voter. (Interview with Momentum activist 19/04/16) Although Momentum activists also acknowledge and decry disparities in economic, social and political power, these sins are as likely to be attributed to the failure of social democracy, left politics and neoliberal capitalism as they are to

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   157 the intentional actions of a specific class of people. To this extent, fighting against elites and the establishment means challenging not only specific power holders in all political parties, but also system-­wide structures of power as well as taken for granted ways of doing politics. Talking to one leading Momentum activist, it was clear that ‘anti-­elitism’ for her meant democratising all levels of governance and adopting non-­hierarchical and participatory methods, rather than de-­selecting any MPs or opposing a specific class of people (interview with Momentum activist 19/04/16). Finally, as already suggested, Corbyn – particularly prior to the 2017 General Election campaign – has struggled to build any semblance of ‘political unity’ out of the heterogeneous social base that affords him some support. Certainly, in our view, it would be premature to characterise Momentum, at this stage in its development, as a coherent or unified social movement. After all, we must recognise that, despite many of the activists’ aspirations to build a wider social movement around a left vision of politics, Momentum has been under siege from its very inception and has had neither the time, nor political space nor resources to develop a common agenda, a shared identity and set of agreed strategies, defining features of a social movement. Rather, it can be seen as a national organisation which seeks to link together and coordinate, from the top down, a plethora of campaigns and local activisms. As one Momentum organiser put it, ‘we’re a sort of melting pot of different cultures and political priorities’, a ‘hybrid organisation that has many political constituents and each broad constituent brings with it its own political culture and style’ (interview with Momentum activist, London 19/04/16). In addition to being a broad church of diverse actors, it is important to recognise that Momentum, although fetishised in the media, does not exhaust the range of community campaigns and local organising that have emerged in support of Corbyn. These forms of activism include not only prominent national campaigns sponsored by the likes of UK Uncut, the People’s Assembly and left trade unions such as the Fire Brigades Union, all of which have links to Momentum, but also far less visible activism in black and working class communities across the country such as Unite Community in Ellesmere Port and the #Grime4Corbyn campaign set up in London and Brighton in the context of the recent election (Charles 2017). These local campaigns often see themselves as independent of Momentum and even at times in tension with it, given the dominance of middle class, white activists in Momentum HQ. In sum, with no specified enemy, understood as ‘the source of social nega­ tivity’ (Laclau 2005: 38), and with support for Corbyn taking the form of a poly­ cephalous, complex, internally riven set of social forces and, thereby, an as of yet disaggregated ‘underdog’, it is hard to squeeze Corbynism into the us/them binaries offered up by Laclauian conception of populism. But if Corbynism cannot be helpfully framed as populist, what do we think of the recent comparisons being made between Corbyn and other European left movements? Cat Overton, writing for Labour List, claimed in 2016 that it would be ‘instructive and accurate’ to ‘place Corbynism within the context of the wave

158   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean of leftist populist parties sweeping the European continent’ (Overton, 2016). Although we agree that there are some similarities between Corbynism and the recent rise of Podemos and Syriza, it would be analytically unsound to overstate them for several reasons. First, both Greece and Spain experienced much deeper and more sustained organic crises than the UK over the last decade, providing scope for the rise of much more radical antagonisms within and reconfigurations of the political terrain. In this context, the rhetoric deployed by both Podemos and Syriza has been far more polarised and Manichean than that of Corbynism which offers up no equivalent to Podemos’ indictment of la casta. Moreover, both Podemos and Syriza emerged out of and sought to speak to a broad social movement that gained considerable support within civil society (Roberts 2017). It was the May 2011 occupations of Aganaktismenoi in Greece that provided Syriza with a potential social base from which to start to build a counter-­narrative. These occupations ignited an incipient identification process by which particular demands of angry citizens began to coalesce and a sense of solidarity began to grow. As Stavrakakis and Katsambekis describe it: Indeed, Syriza was probably the only party to engage from the beginning with the protesters’ demands and meet them on the streets. It is there that a chain of equivalence started to be formed between different groups and demands through a shared opposition towards European and Greek political structures, later to be interpellated by Syriza as representing the ‘people’ against ‘them’. (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014: 126) Similarly, Podemos’ emergence was built on the fortunes of the Indignados/ 15-M movements. As Flesher Fominaya explains: ‘Without the existence of anti­austerity and pro-­democracy (radical, alternative or reformist) social movements there would be no 15-M, and without the crisis and 15-M, there would be no Podemos’ (Flesher Fominaya 2014). As we have seen, no equivalent national anti-­austerity movement on the scale of those in Greece or Spain flourished in the UK. Last but not least, both Podemos and Syriza have nurtured a form of charismatic leadership embodied by Iglesias and Tsipras that has not found any space in the context of Corbynism. Thus, although it is true that Corbyn has generated a degree of affection and adulation that has prompted some to call him a political ‘rock star’ (see Crace 2016), it is equally important to note that Corbyn’s conception of leadership is a process-­oriented, collective one in which his assigned role is to be an ‘enabler’ and ‘organiser’, that is, ‘someone who can make space for people to do things that he cannot’ (Seymour 2016: 206). In this way, Corbyn presents himself as a symbol of and a conduit for Labour’s ‘core values’ (Bennister et al. 2017), rather than as a heroic agent standing above his followers. Interestingly, when asked about the possible similarities between Corbynism, Podemos and Syriza, a number of our interviewees expressed some doubts about the significance of the overlaps, arguing that while all three social forces can be

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   159 seen as a response to the generalised breakdown in public trust in politicians – as one interviewee put it, Corbyn’s new politics is ‘of the same moment [but] not in the same tradition’ (interview with Momentum national organiser, 19/04/16) – Corbynism was different to the extent that it was building on an already established tradition of left politics in the UK and that, in their view, it tended to be more a ‘horizontal’, participatory and inclusive project than either its counterparts in Greece or Spain.

Populism reconsidered Zooming out, we want to end by offering some thoughts on the implications of the above analysis for the wider scholarship on populism. More concretely, we think that there are at least two broad lessons on which we want to reflect. The first concerns what we see as the limits of a so called ‘minimalist’ definition of populism. Indeed, despite their very different ontological and conceptual starting points, the two dominant approaches to populism in the literature – the Muddean perspective and the Laclauian one reviewed here – both pursue ‘thin’ or parsimonious definitions of populism because they help to guide case selection and they aid in comparative research (Rooduijn 2013). Indeed, as indicated earlier, scholars working within the Laclauian framework suggest that their two-­ part definition is less encumbered than that of Mudde’s, whose oft-­quoted definition reads as follows: populism is best defined as a thin-­centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite,’ and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté general (general will) of the people. (Mudde 2004: 543) As can be seen, Mudde mobilises three core concepts – the ‘pure people’, the ‘corrupt elite’, and the notion of ‘general will’ – and includes a normative dimension when capturing the antagonistic relationship between the people and the elite in terms of pure versus corrupt (Stanley 2008: 102). Shedding the notion of the general will (aka popular sovereignty) and what they see as a ‘moralistic view’, and shifting the genus from ideology to discourse, the Laclauians claim to be better able to identify and clarify the role of populist signifiers and logics in diverging empirical cases. What these two contrasting perspectives share, by reducing populism to its bare conceptual bones and locating it in discourse, is a tendency to mobilise populism as a ‘descriptor’ concept, that is, an episodic and generic feature potentially characteristic of all political actors and their lexicon (van Kessel 2014: 100). In this context, the task becomes one of identifying and measuring variations in the extent to which the language of elite politicians in different contexts can be described as populist (see, e.g. Jagers and Walgrave 2007; Rooduijn and Pauwels 2011). As Stavrakakis et al. explain ‘when examining various

160   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean discourses, we are mostly concerned with highlighting a specific pattern of articulation, in distinguishing on that basis what is populist from what is not, but also what is less from what is more populist’ (Stavrakakis et al. 2017: 14). In other words, for both Mudde and populist scholars working in the Laclauian tradition, populism is only one aspect of politics among many, and the question is to determine its relative weight compared to these other aspects. So, for instance, Laclauians attempting to distinguish right-­wing politics from left-­ wing populism, will need to explore to what extent exclusionary nationalism or xenophobia shapes and delimits genuinely populist discourses. Or for those working in a Muddean framework and trying to distinguish between fully fledged populism and a case of mere opportunistic dabbling, it becomes important to examine the sheer number of references to the people versus other discursive concepts or the nature of the political practices (democratic illiberalism) that support the populist rhetoric (see Pappas 2014; Mudde 2015). One of the challenges to this approach is that it lends itself to what van Kessel (2014: 105) has called – following Sartori – ‘degreeism’, that is seeing populism as (potentially) present everywhere, albeit to different degrees. This, in turn, gives rise to a number of questions that cannot be answered within the terms of either the Muddean or Laclauian framework: how do we know when we have moved from an incident of populist rhetoric to fully fledged populist politics? In other words, what is the tipping point and does it depend on how many times reference is made to key terminology (e.g. ‘the people’ or ‘elite’) or over how long a period a discourse is freighted with this language? This conceptual problem becomes particularly acute in a political context where appeals to ‘the people’ appear to have become ubiquitous in a variety of European countries (Roouduijn and Pauwels 2011). Moreover, populism has become so overused in media and political commentary that the UK left-­ liberal broadsheet the Guardian declared it their ‘word of the year’ (Poole 2016). Given this frenzied deployment of the term in both journalistic and academic commentary, as political analysts we are left with two choices: either we accept that populism is a resurgent phenomenon that now expresses itself, albeit in different ways and to varying extents, in almost all political contexts or we go the other way, resist this universalising impulse and insist on a thick conception of populism, one which posits populism as a distinctive, sui generis mode of oppositional politics, which goes far beyond rhetorical appeals to ‘the people’ and/or a hated elite, regardless of whether these are conceived as central nodal points (Laclau) or as key elements in an ideology (Mudde). More substantively, we want to argue that populism has to be treated as a ‘classifier’ concept to identify ‘a circumscribed universe of populist actors’ (van Kessel 2014: 100), whose interactions and relationships represent an exceptional as well as enduring rendition of politics. This, in turn, has to be described in substantive sociological terms. In so doing, we want to make good on the implicit promise offered up in the existing scholarship that there is something significant, distinct and unusual about populism and that it is, therefore, worth of study and debate.

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   161 We do not have the space here to develop a fully fledged conception of populism, but we want to suggest some potentially useful theoretical resources one could draw on to furnish a ‘thicker’ conception of populism. First, one possibility worth investigating is the claim that populism is a distinctive form of affective politics: that is, what makes populism distinctive is not so much its rhetorical appeals to ‘the people’, but, as Margaret Canovan points out, the fact that populism exhibits a very particular, characteristic ‘mood’ (1999: 6). Specifying with greater precision, the affective dynamics might therefore be a fruitful line of enquiry: recent work by Jenny Gunnarsson Payne (forthcoming) might be instructive here. Moreover, the work of Chantal Mouffe also pushes us in this direction (see Mouffe 2018). Second, an emergent theme in the populism literature concerns the role of knowledge. Several times in this chapter we have alluded to the role of what some have called ‘epistemological populism’ (Saurette and Gunster 2011), and we think there might be mileage in affording populism greater specificity by framing populism as a response to what Miranda Fricker (2007) calls ‘epistemic injustice’, that is the perception that certain forms of knowledge are overlooked or marginalised. A final fruitful avenue of analysis concerns the role of popular culture. Given that populism is precisely a ‘popular’ politics, it is perhaps surprising that more analytical attention has not been paid to the role that popular culture plays in creating and sustaining populist politics. Further reflection on the populism/pop culture nexus is, we would suggest, a key task for populism scholarship. We do not, at this stage, claim to have definitive answers as to how some of the conceptual difficulties in existing populism scholarship can be overcome, but we do think these three issues – affect, knowledge and popular culture – might help pave the way towards a conception of populism that rigorously guards against the current tendency towards ‘degreeism’ and conceptual over-­stretching. Moving from the debate over thin versus thick definitions of populism, a second lesson that in our view emerges from our discussion of Corbynism as a potential form of left-­wing populism concerns the tendency of political commentators, scholars and even populist politicians, such as Iglesias who claims that Podemos is beyond left-­right (Iglesias 2015), to downgrade the significance of the right-­left distinction when it comes to understanding how populism manifests itself and its potential consequences. So, for example, John Judis argues that left-­wing populism is only different from right-­wing populism to the extent that it does not attack ‘out groups’ (Judis 2016), and Matthijs Rooduijn and Tjitske Akkerman posit that radical left and right ‘do not differ significantly from each other when it comes to their populism’ (Rooduijn and Akkerman 2017: 196). This neglect of the left-­right distinction has been encouraged by media commentators and political pundits who overwhelmingly associate populism with a xenophobic, far-­right politics (Economist 2014) and, as such, with a pathological ‘politics of discontentment’ (Baggini 2013). This, according to many, can only be tackled through a reinvigoration of ‘moderate’ or ‘centre ground’ politics (Fieschi 2013). In this

162   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean context, although it may be acknowledged that left-­wing populisms can be more inclusionary and more often oriented to ‘hope’ rather than ‘fear’, left-­ wing populism is nonetheless seen as a deviation from and a challenge to liberal representative government and, therefore, like all populisms, as a potential threat to democracy (Pappas 2014; Mudde 2015). Reflecting this generalised sentiment against all forms of populism, Counterpoint, a London-­ based research consultancy, identified populism tout court as the ‘top global risk’ for 2014 (Counterpoint 2014). Agreeing with Étienne Balibar’s injunction that we should ‘henceforth and forever […] stop using the category “populism” in a manner that bridges the chasm between left and right’ (Balibar 2017), we want to defend the recent efforts made by a few pioneering scholars to disaggregate and examine the discrete features of left populism. More concretely, we find the work of Stavrakakis et al. (2017) as well as that of Luke March (2017) to be particularly enlightening. In both cases, the authors argue that the content of the host ideology (socialism for March and nationalism for Stavrakakis) trumps the populist elements in each case, opening up the idea that crucial differences do exist between different forms of right-­wing politics (e.g. fascism from parliamentary right-­wing parties) and also between right-­wing nationalism and inclusionary, egalitarian left-­wing populism. Moreover, they also, in different ways, disabuse us of the common assumption in the literature that mainstream centrist parties can in any way be considered populist, in the case of March, or that right-­wing movements can accurately be described as populist, in the case of Stavrakakis et al. In other words, the substantive conclusions of these two instructive texts explicitly challenge the picture that emerges from the ‘descriptor’ model of populism, that is, it is a feature of all types of politics and it is a matter of degree. Indeed, for Stavrakakis et al., mobilising a Laclauian definition, one is left with the impression that only left-­wing politics are amenable to populism, although not every form (e.g. the Greek Communist Party is offered up as a counter-­example). Interestingly, March, drawing on Mudde’s definition, comes to the exact opposite conclusion, at least in the UK context, arguing that ‘there is a greater elective affinity between populism and the right’ and that ‘the British populist left are socialists first and populists second’ (March 2017: 299). This difference in conclusion is, of course, partly because of the working definitions of populism they start with: whereas the former set of authors require the ‘people’ to be an empty signifier shorn of any references to national/ethnic identity and able to embody a diverse unity of constituent elements, the latter’s use of the ‘pure people’ understood as a homogenous nation does permit calls for the protection of national community to constitute a populist discourse. A second reason for this substantive difference in conclusions, in our view, however, takes us back to our earlier criticism of their shared methodological approach, which mobilises minimal criteria to dissect the language of prominent political actors. This, in turn, limits the search for populism to the

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   163 frequency of a few select words/phrases/themes detected through coding exercises. To this extent, then, it is hard to know what to conclude about left-­wing politics and its relationship to populism, other than that it seems to depend on the contingent and strategic use of specific speech acts made by particular left political actors in concrete situations. Certainly, no durable social phenomenon comes into view through this method: rather, left-­wing populism can only be characterised in terms of a series of attitudes (e.g. internationalism, people centrism or egalitarianism), words (‘the establishment’) and policy issues (socio-­economic). Although this is a helpful start, we would argue that we now need to go beyond minimal definitions in search of a more theoretically rich toolkit to make sense of the kind of differences noted by these authors, as well as the possible similarities that left-­wing populism may embody.

Concluding reflections This chapter has made two core arguments: one empirical, one theoretical. Empirically, we offered a preliminary mapping of the contours of Corbynism as a political project. We suggested that Corbynism constitutes a resurgence of an established tradition of left politics in the UK, one that combines an economic left Keynesianism with the active promotion of an anti-­war stance internationally, and a commitment to greater democratisation within the Labour Party. However, that is not to say that Corbynism constitutes a ‘throwback’ to a distinctively ‘1980s’ form of socialism, given the impact on Corbynism of the new, ‘networked’ movements associated with Occupy and the post-­2010 student movements. In addition, we argued against the view – repeated a number of times in media commentary on Corbyn – that Corbynism constitutes a specifically British iteration of left-­wing populism. Although there are a number of superficial similarities between Corbynism and the established left-­wing populisms in Southern Europe, Corbynism is, we would argue, a rather different beast. For one, Corbynite discourse contains only infrequent allusions to ‘the people’ as a political constituency, while a number of the arguments, practices and ideological influences on Corbynism put it at a distance from populism. Furthermore, the very different experiences of austerity in the UK and Greece/Spain also preclude glib comparisons across contexts. Consequently, to make absolutely sure that we do not run the risk of fatuously claiming that Corbynism is a form of populism, we would do well, first, to be explicit in framing populism as a classifier rather than a descriptor concept and, second, to insist on the need to develop a thick account of populism – mobilising a variety of sociological concepts. We realise that this pushes against the current vogue for ‘thin’ and/or ‘minimal’ definitions, but it is only once we have formulated a more robust, sociologically informed, theoretical conception of populism as an embodied and enacted mode of oppositional politics that, in our view, it can be transformed into an unambiguously fruitful, analytically instructive category for political analysis.

164   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean

Note 1 The ontic/ontological distinction was originally used by Heidegger, but is frequently deployed by Laclau and his followers. For Heidegger, the ontological refers to the general question of ‘being’, that is the formal/abstract characteristics of all social and political configurations. The ontic, by contrast, refers to specific entities, that is the localised and contextual aspects of a socio-­political configuration (Heidegger 1973: 28–35).

References Arditi, B. (2010) ‘Populism is Politics is Hegemony? On Ernesto Laclau’s On Populist Reason’, Constellations 17(3): 488–497. Atkins, J. and Turnbull, N. (2016) ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s Rhetorical Dilemma: Left-­wing Populism or Mainstream Convention?’ British Politics and Policy LSE blog, 26 April. Available at:­corbyn-rhetorical-­dilemma/ (accessed 4 July 2017). Baggini, J. (2013) A Very British Populism, London: Counterpoint. Baggini, J. (2016) ‘Jeremy Corbyn is a Great Populist. But that’s no Good for our Democracy’, Guardian, 25 July. Available at: jul/25/jeremy-­corbyn-populist-­democracy-mps (accessed 4 July 2017). Bailey, D. (2014) ‘Contending the Crisis? What Role for Extra-­Parliamentary British Politics?’ British Politics 9(1): 68–92. Balibar, E. (2017) ‘ “Populism” and “Counter-­Populism” in the Atlantic Mirror’, openDemocracy, 2 January. Available at:­europe-make-­it/ etienne-­balibar/populism-­and-counter-­populism-in-­atlantic-mirror (accessed 4 July 17). BBC News (2015) ‘Margaret Beckett: I was Moron to Nominate Jeremy Corbyn’,, 22 July. Available at:­politics-33625612 (accessed 4 July 17). Bennister, M., Worth, O. and Keith, D. (2017) ‘Jeremy Corbyn and the Limits of Authentic Rhetoric’, in Atkins, J. and Gafney, J. (eds) Voices of the UK Left: Rhetoric, Ideology and the Performance of Politics, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Blakey, H. (2016) ‘Corbynmania: Cult of Personality or Political Movement’, openDemocracy, 3 August. Available at:­blakey/corbyn-­ mania-cult-­of-personality-­or-political-­movement (accessed 4 July 2017). Canovan, M. (1999) ‘Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy’, Political Studies 47(1): 2–16. Chakrabortty, A. (2015) ‘What Greek Politics Teaches the Labour Party: There is an Alternative’, Guardian, 27 January. Available at: jan/27/uk-­austerity-greece-­parallels-labour-­toxic-eliteness (accessed 4 July 2017). Charles, M. (2017) ‘Generation Grime’, in Perryman, M. (ed.) The Corbyn Effect, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Corbyn, J. (2015) ‘Full Speech at Tredegar, August 2015’. Available at: com/watch?v=zo0IszzZ_Sc (accessed 4 July 2017). Corbyn, J. (2017) ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 Conference Speech in Full’. Available at:­corbyns-2017-conference-­ speech-full (accessed 4 July 2017). Counterpoint (2014) ‘Populism: A Top Global Risk for 2014’. Available at: http://­attheeuropean-parliament-­elections (accessed 17 November 2014). Crace, J. (2016) ‘Is this Rock Star Corbyn’s Comeback – or His Farewell Tour?’ Guardian, 21 July. Available at:­starjeremy-­corbyn-labour-­leadership-comeback-­gig-farewell-­tour (accessed 4 July 2017).

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   165 Dean, J. (2017) ‘Politicising Fandom’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19(2): 408–424. Dorey, P. and Denham, A. (2016) ‘ “The Longest Suicide Vote in History”: The Labour Party Leadership Election of 2015’, British Politics 11(3): 259–282. Economist (2014) ‘Europe’s Populist Insurgents: Turning Right’, The Economist, 2 January. Available at:­nationalist-right-­arechanging-­terms-europeanpolitical-­debate-does (accessed 4 July 2017). Elgot, J. (2017) ‘Momentum in Bitter War of Words Over any Move to Affiliate with Labour’, Guardian, 11 January. Available at: jan/11/momentum-­iwar-of-­words-labour-­affiliation (accessed 4 July 2017). Fieschi, C. (2013) ‘Who’s Afraid of the Populist Wolf?’ openDemocracy, 25 June. Available at:­europe-make-­it/catherine-­fieschi/who%E2%80%99safraid-­of-populist-­wolf (accessed 4 July 2017). Flesher Fominaya, C. (2014) ‘ “Spain is Different”: Podemos and 15-M’, openDemocracy, 29 May. Available at:­europe-make-­it/cristina-­flesherfominaya/“spain-­is-different”-podemos-­and-15m (accessed 4 July 2017). Fricker, M. (2007) Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gilbert, J. (2015) ‘Corbyn: What’s a Leader Really For?’ openDemocracy, 1 December. Available at:­gilbert/corbyn-­whats-leader-­reallyfor (accessed 4 July 2017). Gilbert, J. (2016) ‘Corbynism and Its Futures’, Near Futures Online, March. Available at:­and-its-­futures/ (accessed 4 July 2017). Gilbert, J. (2017) ‘Movement Parties Explorative Workshop’, Theory Lab, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University, London, 15 June 2017, funded by the Political Studies Association (PSA) Political Thought Specialist Group and the School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London. Glynos, J. and Howarth, D. (2007) Logics of Critical Explanation in Social and Political Theory, London: Routledge. Gray, J. (2017) ‘Labour’s Populism for the Middle Classes’, 18 June. Available at: www.­populism-middle-­classes (accessed 4 July 2017). Gunnarsson Payne, J. (forthcoming) ‘Affect, Communitas and Representation in Processes of Political Mobilization’ (manuscript version), in Devenney, M. (ed.) Thinking the Political: Ernesto Laclau and the Politics of Post-­Marxism, London: Routledge. Harris, J. (2016) ‘Does the Left Have a Future?’ Guardian, 6 September. Available at:­the-left-­have-a-­future (accessed 4 July 2017). Heidegger, M. (1973) Being and Time (John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, trans.), Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Helm, T. and Hacillo, A. (2017) ‘Secret Tape Reveals Momentum Plot to Seize Control of Labour’, Guardian, 18 March. Available at: mar/18/secret-­tape-reveals-­momentum-plot-­to-link-­with-unite-­seize-control-­of-labour (accessed 4 July 2017). Howarth, D. R. (2008) ‘Ethos, Agonism and Populism: William Connolly and the Case for Radical Democracy’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 10(2): 171–193. Howarth, D. R. (2015) ‘The Success of Syriza in Greece has been Driven by Marxism, Populism and Yes – Essex University’, Independent, 9 January. Available at: www.independent.

166   Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean­success-of-­syriza-in-­greece-has-­been-driven-­by-marxism-­ populism-and-­yes-essex-­university-10010806.html (accessed 4 July 2017). Iglesias, P. (2015) ‘Understanding Podemos’, New Left Review 93: 8–22. Kioupkiolis, A. (2016) ‘Podemos: The Ambiguous Promises of Left-­wing Populism in Contemporary Spain’, Journal of Political Ideologies 21(2): 99–120. Klug, A., Rees, E. and Scheider, J. (2016) ‘Momentum: A New Kind of Politics’, Renewal 24(2): 36–44. Jackson, B. (2016) ‘Hard Labour’, The Political Quarterly 87(1): 3–5. Jagers, J. and Walgrave, S. (2007) ‘Populism as Political Communication Style: An Empirical Study of Political Parties’ Discourse in Belgium’, European Journal of Political Research 46(3): 319–345. Judis, J. (2016) ‘Us vs. Them. The Birth of Populism’, Guardian, 13 October. Available at:­of-populism-­donald-trump (accessed 4 July 2017). Laclau, E. (1996) Emancipation(s), London: Verso. Laclau, E. (2004) ‘Populism: What’s in a Name?’ in Panizza, F. (ed.) Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, London: Verso, 32–49. Laclau, E. (2005) On Populist Reason, London: Verso. Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, London: Verso. Left Foot Forward (2017) ‘Corbyn Promises a Britain “For the Many, not the Few” at Manifesto Launch’, Left Foot Forward, 16 May. Available at: https://leftfootforward. org/2017/05/corbyn-­promises-a-­britain-for-­the-many-­not-the-­few-at-­manifesto-launch/ (accessed 4 July 2017). Maiguashca, B., Keith, D. and Dean, J. (2016) ‘Pulling Together in a Crisis? Anarchism, Feminism and the Limits of Left-­wing Convergence in Austerity Britain’, Capital and Class 40(1): 37–57. Mair, P. (2013) Ruling The Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy, London: Verso. March, L. (2017) ‘Left and Right Populism Compared: The British Case’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19(2): 282–303. Mason, P. (2015) Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, London: Allen Lane. Mason, R. (2015) ‘Labour Leadership: Jeremy Corbyn Elected with Huge Mandate’, Guardian, 12 September. Available at: jeremy-­corbyn-wins-­labour-party-­leadership-election (accessed 4 July 2017). McTernan, J. (2016) ‘The Cult of Jeremy Corbyn: The Making of a Modern Sect’, Evening Standard, 30 June. Available at:­cultof-­corbyn-the-­making-of-­a-modern-­sect-a3284936.html (accessed 4 July 2017). Mouffe, C. (2018) For a Left Populism, London: Verso. Mudde, C. (2004) ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition 39(4): 541–563. Mudde, C. (2015) ‘The Problem With Populism’, Guardian, 17 February. Available at:­p opulism-syriza-­ podemos-dark-­side-europe (accessed 4 July 2017). Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2013) ‘Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary Populism: Comparing Contemporary Europe and Latin America’, Government and Opposition 48(2): 147–174. Overton, C. (2016) ‘Left-­wing Populism will not Deliver a Labour Government Without Electoral Reform’, LabourList, 21 July. Available at: left-­wing-populism-­will-not-­deliver-a-­labour-government-­without-electoral-­reformand-­pr-is-­not-coming-­anytime-soon/ (accessed 4 July 2017).

The re-shaping of left politics in Britain   167 Pappas, T. S. (2014) Populism and Crisis Politics in Greece, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Poole, S. (2016) ‘The Word: Populism’, Guardian, 30 December. Available at: www.­that-defines-­2016-critics-­choose-art-­ literature (accessed 4 July 2017). Roberts, K. (2017) ‘Party Politics in Hard Times: Comparative Perspectives on the European and Latin American Economic Crises’, European Journal of Political Research 56(2): 218–233. Rooduijn, M. (2013) ‘The Nucleus of Populism: In Search of the Lowest Common Denominator’, Government and Opposition 49(4): 572–598. Rooduijn, M. and Akkerman, T. (2017) ‘Flank Attacks: Populism and Left-­Right Radicalism in Western Europe’, Party Politics 23(3): 193–204. Rooduijn, M. and Pauwels, T. (2011) ‘Measuring Populism: Comparing Two Methods of Content Analysis’, West European Politics 34(6): 1272–1283. Russell, M. (2016) ‘How a Leadership Rule Change has Led to a Fight for the Very Soul of the Labour Party’, Guardian, 17 July. Available at: commentisfree/2016/jul/17/labour-­leadership-battle-­jeremy-corbyn-­party-organisation (accessed 4 July 2017). Saurette, P. and Gunster, S. (2011) ‘Ears Wide Shut: Epistemological Populism, Argutainment and Canadian Conservative Talk Radio’, Canadian Journal of Political Science-­ Revue Canadienne De Science Politique 44(1): 195–218. Seymour, R. (2014) Against Austerity, London: Pluto Press. Seymour, R. (2016a) Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics, London: Verso. Seymour, R. (2016b) ‘How Marxist are the Corbynistas?’ The Times Literary Supplement, 23 September. Available at: www.the-­­marxist-are-­ the-corbynistas/ (accessed 4 July 2017). Stanley, B. (2008) ‘The Thin Ideology of Populism’, Journal of Political Ideologies 13(1): 95–100. Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘Left-­wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2): 119–142. Stavrakakis, Y., Katsambekis, G., Nikisianis, N., Kioupkiolis, A. and Siomos, T. (2017) ‘Extreme Right-­wing Populism in Europe: Revisiting a Reified Association’, Critical Discourse Studies, advance online publication. DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2017.1309325. Stewart, H. and Elgot, J. (2017) ‘Labour Plans Jeremy Corbyn Relaunch to Ride Anti-­ establishment Wave’, Guardian, 15 December. Available at: politics/2016/dec/15/labour-­p lans-jeremy-­c orbyn-relaunch-­a s-a-­l eftwing-populist (accessed 4 July 2017). van Kessel, S. (2014) ‘The Populist Cat-­Dog: Applying the Concept of Populism to Contemporary European Party Systems’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(1): 99–118. Wainwright, H. (2017) ‘Movement Parties Explorative Workshop’, Theory Lab, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University, London, 15 June 15, funded by the Political Studies Association (PSA) Political Thought Specialist Group and the School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London. Williams, A. and Srnicek, N. (2015) Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work, London: Verso.

8 Populism 2.0 New movements towards progressive populism1 Alexandros Kioupkiolis

Since the turn of the century, populism has become one of the most resonant buzzwords in politics, sparking a burgeoning and widely diverse, almost unwieldy, literature on the topic (see de la Torre 2015a; Kaltwasser et al. 2017; Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017; Stavrakakis and Jäger 2017). But, whereas ‘populism’ in the vernacular and in academic jargon calls to mind demagogic leaders who make popular promises to the ‘masses’, by an interesting twist of fate recent years have also witnessed the (re-)emergence of populist social movements. As Carlos de la Torre and Cas Mudde have noted, among others: ‘Recent insurrections from the Arab Spring to the different Occupy movements from Madrid to New York attest to the democratising dreams of those who invoke the ‘power of the people […]’ (de la Torre 2015b: 1–2); ‘[…] populism has come in many guises, from leaderless movements like the contemporary Tea Party to well-­ developed political parties […]’ (Mudde 2017: 40). Populist grassroots movements are no novelty. In effect, they are contem­ poraneous with the nascence of modern populism in the nineteenth century, through the Russian Narodniki and the US ‘People’s Party’ (see Morini 2013; Taggart 2000; Grattan 2016). Research in recent ‘bottom-­up’ populism, most notably the ‘Arab Spring’, the Spanish 15M, the Greek ‘squares movement’ and the North American Occupy in 2011–2012, has increased in recent years (Aslanidis 2017; Grattan 2016; Gerbaudo 2017; de la Torre 2015b; see also Ciccariello-­Maher 2013, for an account of ‘Chavismo’ from the grassroots). However, what remains barely scratched beyond the surface is the difference that the new populist mobilisations have made to the conventional notions and practices of populist politics; the innovations and transformative effects they have unleashed, opening up new prospects of radical democratisation. Under the rubric ‘populism 2.0’, the present chapter sets out to capture this difference and to shed light on its democratic promises by delving into egalitarian, progressive mobilisations that could be associated with the left and have been endorsed, indeed, by leftist populist actors, including Podemos in Spain and SYRIZA in Greece. This label is not intended to convey that the 2011 popular democratic insurrections were ‘Internet’ revolutions or that the use of social media, Twitter, YouTube uploads and cellphones was the main hallmark that set them apart from other modes of populist mobilisation. The nub of the argument is, rather, that a

New movements towards progressive populism   169 certain ethos broadly associated with ‘network society’, the ‘Millennials’ and Web 2.0 – openness, accessibility to laypeople, user-­generated content, diversity, rejection of hierarchies and fixed ideologies, transparency, pragmatism, fluidity, reflexivity – is what truly differentiates them not only from the typical, top-­down populisms under a strong personal leadership, but also from populist movements of the past. It is this distinct ethos that harbours egalitarian, emancipatory and innovative potentials. ‘Open-­source populism’ (Grattan 2016) or even ‘post-­populism’ could be employed interchangeably with ‘populism 2.0’ to express the same ideas. As most talk of populism, any argument that mounts a case for the metamorphosis of populist politics is bound to stumble on the notorious elusiveness and contestability of the concept (Stavrakakis and Jäger 2017: 2; Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017: 2; Laclau 2005a: 3–5). The chapter grapples with this difficulty by introducing three distinct definitions of populism that have gained wider currency in contemporary scholarship, in an attempt to cover a broad array of the faces and the nuances of populism: Cas Mudde’s ‘minimal’ and ‘ideational’ definition (Mudde 2004), Ernesto Laclau’s ‘discursive’ and ‘hegemonic’ take on populism (Laclau 2005a), and Kurt Weyland’s ‘political-­strategic’ approach (2001; 2017). The ‘minimal’ definition is broadly recognised and deployed today (see Kaltwasser et al. 2017; de la Torre 2015a). Crucially, it enables the populist category to ‘travel’ across different contexts and figures of popular mobilisation, from grassroots, bottom-­up movements to far-­right-wing parties and plebiscitary, Latin American leaders (Roberts 2015: 143–144). On the other hand, its very broad remit does not help to differentiate between distinct versions of populist politics (Roberts 2015: 144). Hence the value of the other two, divergent construals of populism, which are more substantive and ‘thicker’ in content. Laclau’s discursive theory overlaps, in effect, with Mudde’s. But it vests populism with a ‘hegemonic’ force, which allows for illuminating contrasts with the 2011 cycle of popular struggles. All in all, the objectives of this chapter are not foremost analytic. It does seek to outline an ‘ideal type’ of contemporary grassroots populism, which can yield insights and conceptual sensors to obtain innovative patterns of populist politics in our times. But the main intent is to sketch the rudiments of ‘another’ populism, which can be as popular, antagonistic and as powerful a force of change as populism can be, but it is also more democratic, free, egalitarian and pluralist than most known instances of populist agency.

Arresting the elusive people Mudde (2004) strives to grasp the ‘core’ of academic literature on populism, beyond the vernacular associations of populism with demagogy and opportunisms. He submits that most definitions of populism in the relevant scholarship pivot around the polarity ‘elite’ and ‘people’ and an antagonistic relation between the two. Thus, he construes populism as

170   Alexandros Kioupkiolis an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (the general will) of the people. Populism, so defined, has two opposites: elitism and pluralism. (Mudde 2004: 543) Elitism is the obverse of populism, whereas pluralism is a view that sees society as a heterogeneous collection of groups and individuals who often hold fundamentally different beliefs and values (Mudde 2004: 544). This definition is broad enough to encompass diverse recognised forms of populism, from bottom-­up populist movements to top-­down populist leadership, both left- and right-­leaning (Mudde 2004: 544–545; Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017: 3–6; Mudde 2017). But its almost catch-­all ambit is achieved at a cost of a ‘thinness’ of content (Mudde 2004: 544), which impedes us from identifying significant displacements and ruptures between older and present styles of populist agency. On the other hand, the few ‘thick’, specific features that it assigns to populism, namely moralism and opposition to pluralism, invite controversy. Regarding moralism, Stavrakakis and Jäger (2017: 13–15) rightly counter that moralistic discourse is not specific to populism. Moralism informs even anti-­ populist discourses, and thus cannot be considered a distinctive trait of populist politics. Regarding pluralism, the present chapter will argue that contemporary populist movements evince a distaste for homogeneity and a strong affirmation of diversity and openness. In this respect, the ‘thick’ moment of Mudde’s populism allows us to trace a shift towards ‘populism 2.0’ in recent instances of popular engagement. Ernesto Laclau’s formal-­structural theory of populism chimes with the crux of Mudde’s ‘ideational’ approach, the antagonism between ‘the people’ and ‘the elite’ and the emphasis on discourse. By ‘discourse’, Laclau (2005a: 68) intends ‘any complex of elements in which relations play the constitutive role’. The elements at stake are words and actions endowed with meaning as a result of their differences from other signifying elements (Laclau 2005a: 68). Laclau’s theorisation of populism goes beyond this minimal core to craft a richer framework of analysis, which highlights key affective, rhetoric and political aspects. The form of populist interventions turns on rhetoric operations: metaphor, metonymy and catachresis (figural terms that cannot be substituted by literal ones; see Laclau 2014: 53–125). The force of populist politics hinges on radical affective investments in a discursive and political formation, which promises to fill a social lack, thus becoming a source of jouissance. The libidinal identification with a political actor is crucial in cementing social ties (Laclau 2005a: 110–117). Most crucially, however, populism on Laclau’s interpretation revolves around four political and discursive axes, all of which are part and parcel of hegemony, the central category in Laclau’s idea of politics. Hegemony is the founding political process by which a new social structure is put in place through the antagonistic confrontation between a dominant regime and an oppositional front,

New movements towards progressive populism   171 or between rival political projects. In effect, in Laclau’s thought, hegemony, populism and ‘the political’, that is, ‘the moment of institution of the social’ (Laclau 2005a: 154), are equivalent, if not identical. Hegemony defines the essence of the political (Laclau 2005b: 258). And the political is synonymous with populism, because the construction of the people is ‘the political act par excellence’ (Laclau 2005a: 154; see also ibid. 69). Populism consists primarily in (1) ‘the formation of an internal antagonistic frontier separating the “people” from power’ (Laclau 2005a: 74); (2) the establishment of a chain of equivalence among popular demands left unsatisfied by those in power. This equivalence is produced by dint of common ‘empty signifiers’, that unify and represent the chain of demands; and (3) the representation of the people of populism as excluded and underprivileged plebs, which claim to be the only legitimate community of the people and the democratic sovereign (Laclau 2005a: 74, 81, 94, 98). These defining elements of populism are also the main constituents of the politics of hegemony. Hegemony, the practice which institutes social relations, sets in motion a dialectic between universality and particularity that necessarily involves (a) chains of equivalence, (b) empty signifiers, (c) uneven power and (d) representation (Laclau 2000: 207). Both hegemonic politics and populism rest on the ‘dichotomic division of society into two camps – one presenting itself as a part which claims to be the whole’ – and they presuppose ‘the construction of a global identity out of the equivalence of a plurality of social demands’ (Laclau 2005a: 83). Collective identity must be condensed around some common signifiers – words or images – which refer to the chain of equivalences as such. To achieve this feat, the name or the aims of a particular member of the equivalential chain must be partly emptied of their distinct content to become a wider symbol that represents and holds together the entire community of differences (Laclau 2005a: 93, 96; 2000: 210–211). This empty signifier (‘justice’, ‘change’, ‘Mandela’, ‘Peron’) stands for the whole series of differences and denotes the ‘absent fullness’ of community, that is, what is lacking to the various parties that press particular demands. In this fashion, a particularity assumes the function of a universality, turning into a force that acts and speaks for a broader collective of interests (Laclau 2005a: 96; 2000: 207–212; 1996: 43, 54–57). The politics of hegemony requires an uneven distribution of power. The antagonistic pole must be excluded and eventually overwhelmed if a new social order is to be established (Laclau 2000: 207–208). But unequal power is also in operation within the community of struggles against the status quo. Its chain of equivalence will coalesce into a ‘collective will/subject’ if a particular force within the chain rises up to become a ‘general representative’ of all equivalent conflicts and claims, acting as a nodal point of coordination and cohesion (2005a: 93). For Laclau (2005a: 154, 239) the name of the hegemonic subject par excellence is the ‘people’. He adds that ‘the symbolic unification of the group around an individuality – and here I agree with Freud – is inherent to the formation of a “people” ’ (Laclau 2005a: 100).

172   Alexandros Kioupkiolis Finally, hegemonic practices are also intrinsically processes of representation insofar as they mobilise a particularity that takes on universal tasks in the name of an entire community. In populist discourse, more specifically, a plebeian sector of the people claims to be the only true people and wants to function as the totality of the community (Laclau 2005a: 81). Laclau (1996: 98–100; 2005a: 158–159) has also asserted that political representation becomes all the more indispensable under conditions of increasing social fragmentation, where the representative plays a key part in forging a collective will out of disperse, divided and marginalised social identities. When society is not held together by internal mechanisms of combination and differentiation, heterogeneous differences depend increasingly on a general representative to attain a minimal convergence. The greater the heterogeneity, the more the ground of unity becomes a singularity. And the extreme form of a singularity is ‘the name of the leader’ (Laclau 2005a: 100). Interestingly enough, the focus on personal leadership singles out the ‘political-­strategic approach’, which poses as the main alternative to ideational and discursive accounts of populism (Weyland 2017: 48–72). For its main proponent, Kurt Weyland (2001; 2017), it is preferable to discursive and ideology-­ centred notions, which catch their net too broadly and cannot delimit adequately the concept of populism. Moreover, they ‘distort’ its meaning as they fail to grasp how populism delegates popular sovereignty to a personalistic leader who ends up disempowering the citizenry (Weyland 2017: 53–54). By contrast, the strategic notion elucidates the ‘central features and tendencies that scholars have long associated with populism and that characterise its contemporary manifestations as well’ (Weyland 2017: 60). On the strategic conception, populism consists in ‘a political strategy through which a personalistic leader seeks or exercises government power based on direct, unmediated, uninstitutionalised support from large numbers of mostly unorganised followers’ (Weyland 2001: 14). According to Weyland (2017: 54), the ‘people’ is a very broad, amorphous and heterogeneous aggregate, which is largely unorganised and inhibited by collective action dilemmas from exercising effective agency. The ‘essence of populism’ is, rather, a personal leader who claims to act on the behalf of the people. Thus, populism cannot be a bottom-­up mass movement, but only a top-­down strategy ‘through which a leader marshals plebiscitarian support for the goals that she determines on her own’ (Weyland 2017: 54). Weyland grants that powerful mass movements are possible, but these set up lasting organisations that can pursue a reform strategy in the long run. European Social Democracy is an example. By contrast, in populism, mass support is amorphous and unorganised, following a personal leader who seeks to concentrate power and to stay in office through opportunist politics (Weyland 2017: 54). This ‘organisational’ conception models populism after its historical paradigm in Latin American. It can be criticised, thus, as parochial, unduly narrow and unable to travel across contexts and to recognise the many guises in which populism comes. The political-­strategic view would not acknowledge, among

New movements towards progressive populism   173 others, the original US Populist movement that designated itself as such (Mudde 2017: 28, 38–40; Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017: 8, 67). On the organisational definition, mass popular movements, such as the 2011 ‘squares movement’ in Greece and the Spanish 15M, would not pass muster as populist. Thus, the strategic-­organisational approach seems, in principle, to be at odds with the argument put forward in this chapter. To get off the ground, the argument needs to reject a full reduction of populism to personal leadership. But it can admit the elective affinity of historical populism with top-­down leadership. In effect, it is this affinity that brings out the innovative difference of contemporary populist movements compared to more conventional schemes of populist mobilisation.

2.0 ‘Web 2.0’ describes, in a primary sense, an advanced stage of Internet development. It is a name for the liquid social dynamics that unfold on open web platforms, wikis, blogs and social networks, where people are free to share and reuse work. ‘Web 2.0 amounts to a worldview that celebrates open participation as a way to create valuable collective resources’ (Bollier 2008: 133; emphasis added). Web 2.0 connotes transparency, open participation, diverse collaboration, decentralised problem-­solving and open, collaborative leadership (Duval 2010: l 21). Signal technological trends attached to Web 2.0 include wikis, open-­source software, major collaborative projects such as Wikipedia, peer-­to-peer social networking sites, such as Facebook, and new tools such as YouTube and Twitter. All these developments have been enabled by the proliferation of personal computers, Internet and cellphones (Duval 2010: 116). Wikipedia is a flagship of Web 2.0. Wikipedia is composed on a shared, open technological platform, the ‘wiki’, which allows thousands of users to autonomously write, peer-­review and re-­edit its articles, sustaining an open dialogue among participants (Benkler and Nissenbaum 2006: 398–399). ‘Peer production’ and ‘digital commons’ are two further catchwords and phenomena intimately related to Web 2.0. The latest Internet technologies have built distributed digital networks in which individuals can collaborate directly without passing through obligatory nodes. These networks have facilitated the rise of an alternative mode of collaboration, interaction and self-­management among ‘strangers’, which takes place on a global scale (Benkler and Nissenbaum 2006: 394–396; Bollier 2008: 1–20; Bauwens 2005). Through peer production, Web 2.0 brings together a wider diversity of autonomous individuals who self-­identify with the tasks they want to take on in a collective enterprise, according to their individual capacities and desires. Thus, it makes for enhanced personal autonomy, and it mobilises human creativity more efficiently than market or state mechanisms (Benkler 2006: 111). Peer production has given birth to new ‘digital’ commons of information and culture, which embody other figures of community: more open, free, diverse and egalitarian (Bauwens 2005). No one owns the collective project and nobody can exclude others from its use or its co-­production. Several open-­source software

174   Alexandros Kioupkiolis projects, such as the GNU/Linux operating system and the Apache web server, are telling in this respect. Leaders may be present in the communities that design free software, but they possess no formal power of command. They cannot restrict discussion or assign tasks to others, nor can they prevent subgroups from branching off if they disagree with the direction of the project. The only role of hierarchy is to initiate and uphold autonomy-­in-cooperation in all spheres of human endeavour (Bauwens 2005). What is central to the ‘populism 2.0’ argument is that at this particular stage of Internet development, digital networks and production have cultivated a distinct mode of subjectivity – personal ways of thinking, acting, feeling and associating – and new patterns of sociality that extend beyond the Web itself. Various theorists and researchers have set out to capture and conceptualise this broader social transformation, which is reflected in new forms of subjectivity. To begin with, Duval (2010) has made the case that a new ‘Millennial’ generation has been born, with its singular value system. This is interwoven with the principles and the practices that underlie the ‘open-­source movement’, but it applies to social activity at large, beyond online environments. The bedrock of this value system lies in ‘opening up the opportunity to participate to all people – whether that be the opportunity to write code or simply the opportunity to live and love the way they wish’ (Duval 2010: 123). Duval’s full list of the characteristics vested in the Millennial subject and its sociality sets out most principles, values and practices that we will impute to ‘populism 2.0’. So, the Millennial generation: (1) desires open avenues for participation; (2) favours flatter hierarchies and decentralised networks; (3) demands transparency: process matters; (4) is inclined towards cooperative and collaborative approaches; (5) thinks in terms of systems; (6) has a global outlook and is open-­minded and tolerant of differences; (7) is familiar with digital communications mediums; (8) is culturally and racially diverse; (9) seeks common ground and does not contain many culture warriors; (10) prefers a more active and collaborative government; (11) is politically active, with high volunteerism rates; (12) is politically progressive; and (13) is bearing the brunt of the current recession and has accumulated high levels of debt (Duval 2010: 121). Inspired by the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ in North Africa and earlier actions since the turn of the century, Paul Mason (2013) has offered a journalistic account that explores how these social shifts translate into new types of popular protest. He claims that there is ‘something new in the air’ of these struggles, which has to do with technology, behaviour, popular culture and the enhanced power of the individual (Mason 2013: 65). At the centre of this novelty sits the new sociological type of the ‘networked individual’, who partakes in multiple networks and favours flat hierarchies and weak commitments. Individual autonomy in the Web motivates also an increased autonomy from social rules and institutions (Mason 2013: 130–131). This mode of subjectivity has fused with the ‘graduate with no future’, who cannot get a decent job and whose culture is young, mass and transnational. The primary site of the new

New movements towards progressive populism   175 collective actors is the global city (Mason 2013: 66–73). Although dominated by the networked individual and the ‘graduate with no future’, recent democratic movements actually bring together a complex demography, which includes workers and the urban poor. Such movements are inclined to occupy physical space for prolonged periods. They prefer to be non-­ideological, and, of course, they deploy social media to enhance their actions, information, debate and coordination (Mason 2013: 186, 265–269). The socio-­political effects of new networks cannot be overstated. Notably, they foster ‘weak ties’, loose coalitions, experimental communities, multiple identities, ironic attitudes, shifting commitments and ongoing negotiation. But they also foment collaboration and a desire for freedom. New digital technologies bolster our capacity to be simultaneously more individualistic and more collective in political activity (Mason 2013: 74–85, 280–281). In a more sociological key, Manuel Castells (2009, 2012) has likewise traced a cultural transformation in our societies, which is intimately intertwined with the rise of the Internet. The values of individuation, of individuals guiding their behaviour through self-­defined projects, and of social autonomy, the self-­ determination of social action, originated in the social movements of the 1970s, but they spread widely in the following decades. The transition from individuation to autonomy was made possible through the Internet, which was deliberately designed as a decentred network from the outset. However, it was only in the first decade of the twenty-­first century that improvements in broadband, new social software and distribution systems led to an autonomous formation of social networks by users themselves. Moreover, through social platforms, the Internet also induces a culture of sharing (Castells 2012: 230–232). The Web and wireless networks boost large-­scale communication and increased connectivity in our societies. Moreover, they enable leaderless movements to get off the ground, to coordinate and expand (Castells 2012: 229, 233). Finally, in political theory, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri tried to portray this new form of subjectivity that arises from digital networks and labour. The ‘multitude’ names a new mode of social production, a collective subject and a political logic that have sprung from post-­Fordist modes of ‘biopolitical production’ (Hardt and Negri 2001: 287–294; 2004: 66, 109, 114–115, 198, 219). Based on new digital technologies, expansive webs of communication, information and knowledge knit closer ties among all those who work under the rule of capital. In this ‘multitude’, there is no principal actor whο soars vertically above other differences, stands in for the whole and partly subsumes singularities under a particular identity. The swarm intelligence of the multitude can coordinate action by means of the autonomous input of its singularities. There is no centralised command structure but an irreducible plurality of collaborating nodes that connect with each other horizontally. Seattle and later militant actions in summit conferences, Social Forums and Internet communities have variously illustrated the horizontal workings of network mobilisation (Hardt and Negri 2004: 82–88, 208–211, 217–218, 336–340).

176   Alexandros Kioupkiolis

Populist hegemony in movement Hardt and Negri (2004: xiv–xv, 106–107) pit the multitude against ‘the people’ and Laclau’s politics of hegemony. the organisation of singularities required for political action and decision is not immediate or spontaneous, but that does not mean that hegemony and unification, the formation of a sovereign and unified power – whether it be a state, a party, or a people – is the necessary condition for politics. Spon­ taneity and hegemony are not the only alternatives. The multitude can develop the power to organise itself through the conflictual and cooperative interactions of singularities in the common. (Hardt and Negri 2009: 175) In their 2012 Declaration, they make the case that the 2011 movements, including the Spanish indignados and the Greek squares, ‘share their internal organisation as a multitude’ (Hardt and Negri 2012: 5), which is not a people (Hardt and Negri 2012: 1–8, 46). Manuel Castells concurs. He analyses the 15M insurgence in terms of an exemplary networked movement of the Internet era, which is not a populist action but a ‘rhizomatic revolution’ (Castells 2012: 110–155). By contrast, the burden of the present argument is that the 15M mobilisations (and the Greek squares in 2011) were not distinct from, or opposed to, the ‘people’ of populist politics. Rather, they stand out as a distinctive and novel figure of populism. This displays affinities with more standard versions of top-­down populisms and populist movements of the past, such as the US Populists and the Narodniki. But it also departs from them in significant ways, which hold out radical democratic promise. This thesis is not exactly a common doxa of contemporary political theory and research. It has gained, indeed, some currency in recent years, in the writings of political analysts such as Paolo Gerbaudo (2012, 2017), Paris Aslanidis (2016, 2017) and Laura Grattan (2016) on Occupy (see also Prentoulis and Thomassen 2013; Kioupkiolis and Katsambekis 2014, for cognate accounts). What differentiates the following argument is that it does not simply detect a populist frame in the 2011 cycle of popular contention, but it seeks to spell out how this wave of collective action transfigured and renovated populist politics in crucial respects. In some sense, this is also the case made by Grattan (2016) and Gerbaudo (2012, 2017). Grattan (2016: 163–164) quotes Lowndes and Warren’s terminology of ‘open-­source populism’ to depict aspects of the Occupy movement that sought to open its rhetoric and practices of peopling to emerging actors and groups. Occupy was infused with an ‘open-­source’ ethos that helped build horizontalist identification more broadly. But Grattan does not elaborate on this concept of open-­source populism, and she attaches it mainly to the Internet and slogans, such as the 99 per cent, which went viral. Gerbaudo, on the other hand, argues at length that the Greek and Spanish Indignant mixed neo-­anarchism with democratic populism in a hybrid political culture, which he calls ‘citizenism’ (Gerbaudo 2017: 7). Citizenism is

New movements towards progressive populism   177 an ‘anarcho-­populism’ which articulates the neo-­anarchist method of horizontality and the populist demand for sovereignty, the mass ambition of populist movements, with the high premium placed on individual partici­ pation and creativity by neo-­anarchism. Within this emerging ideology, ‘the citizen’ or ‘the citizenry’, as a sort of libertarian and individualist variation on the subject of populism’s ‘the People’, has become the new revolutionary subject. (Gerbaudo 2017: 8) Gerbaudo notes, furthermore, how this novel brand of populism diverges not only from top-­down populist mobilisation under personal leaders but also from earlier radical protests, such as the anti-­globalisation movement at the turn of the century. Citizenism is a majoritarian, counter-­hegemonic radical politics that aims at systemic transformation. It strives to generate power from below with the view to reclaiming all fields of society, including dominant institutions. So, citizenism signals a paradigm shift in both collective mobilisations and contemporary populism. It stages a more emancipatory and egalitarian version, which veers away from the xenophobia and the authoritarianism marring actual right-­wing populism (Gerbaudo 2017: 9–10). My take on ‘populism 2.0’ dovetails with Gerbaudo’s (and Aslanidis and Grattan, in the North American context), but it parts ways with Gerbaudo’s citizenism in a neo-­populist key and it sides with horizontalism. Rather than seek to illuminate how the populist strand affected and altered the ‘anarchist’ strand in the 2011 movements, the remainder of the chapter purports to elucidate how horizontalism inflected and refigured populism, giving rise to a new scheme of radical democratic grassroots populism or ‘post-­populism’ from the bottom-­up. This is what the label ‘populism 2.0’ primarily intends. Gerbaudo’s discussion of anarcho-­populism ends up criticising the ‘cult of participation’ (2017: 244). He then calls on ‘protest movements not to see formalisation and leadership’ through the Podemos party, the SYRIZA government or the Corbyn Labour leadership ‘as a betrayal […] but rather as an organic process of development, which is fundamental to the contribution protest movements make to society at large’ (Gerbaudo 2017: 245). Τaking the opposite side, the argument here will insist on how the preponderance of vertical leadership hollows out the democratic forces of ‘populism 2.0’. The challenge remains how to effectively construct power from below in ways that are participatory, egalitarian, massive, and reach out to society at large. The ‘verticalist’ shortcut has been tried time and again. And it has been more of a cut of emancipatory democracy than a timesaver or a necessary detour towards the same destination. It is time to invent new political forms building on the breakthroughs of libertarian-­egalitarian populism in our times. The populist face of the Spanish 15M is unmistakable. ‘Democracia Real Ya’ (Real Democracy Now) was the aggregation of groups and blocs, which, in March 2011, made the public call on people to take to the streets on the 15 May 2011, the birthday of the Indignados. Their summon makes the prototypical

178   Alexandros Kioupkiolis populist moves in Mudde’s and Laclau’s sense: (a) they identify with the people, the democratic sovereign. This is represented as excluded and repressed, and reclaims sovereign rights; (b) they draw an antagonistic frontier between this people and elites, claiming that the elites have usurped popular sovereignty; (c) they press a series of demands, which are made equivalent through their association with people and democracy (Laclau, 2005a: 74, 81, 94, 98; Mudde 2004: 543). a



We are ordinary people [personas normales y corrientes]. We are like you: people, who get up every morning to study, work or find a job, people who have family and friends. […] corruption among politicians, businessmen, bankers, leaving us helpless, without a voice. […] But if we join forces, we can change it […] Democracy belongs to the people […] However, in Spain most of the political class does not even listen to us. Politicians should not […] get rich and prosper at our expense, attending only to the dictatorship of major economic powers and holding them in power through a bipartidism headed by the immovable acronym PP and PSOE. […] Citizens [Los ciudadanos] are the gears of a machine designed to enrich a minority which does not regard our needs. The priorities of any advanced society must be equality, progress, solidarity, freedom of culture, sustainability and development, welfare and people’s happiness….the right to housing, employment, culture, health, education, political participation, free personal development, and consumer rights for a healthy and happy life. The current status of our government and economic system does not take care of these rights. […] Democracy belongs to the people [La democracia parte del pueblo] […] For all of the above, I am outraged. I think I can change it. I think I can help. I know that together we can. (Manifesto ‘Democracia Real Ya’ 2012)

On 20 May 2011, when the characteristic encampments had been set up in central squares in many cities in Spain, and the 15M movement was in full swing, the ‘asamblea de la Puerta del Sol’ in Madrid drafted a ‘texto programático’. This speaks again (a) in the name of a collective subject designated as ‘ciudadanía’. It targets likewise (b) financial elites and the political class for corruption, unacceptable privileges and violations of the constitution. And it advances (c) a series of demands that bear on the fulfilment of basic rights and the need for radical democratic reforms. The latter would culminate in the institution of a direct and participatory democracy in which the ‘ciudadanía’ will actively take part (Movimiento 15M 2011). The populist tone is shrill in the keywords and the mottos of the encampments, the assemblies and their protests. They come forward as the immense majority at the lower end of social hierarchy, asserting their common, popular character beyond any left/right divide by articulating a cross-­border 99 per cent

New movements towards progressive populism   179 rhetoric. ‘We are the 99 per cent’; ‘This is not a question of left against right, but a question of those below and those above’. Second, they rise up against political and financial elites, denouncing the depletion of democracy. ‘Τhey don’t represent us’; ‘PSOE and PP is the same shit’; ‘we are not merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers’; ‘they call it democracy and it is not’. Finally, they enunciate a set of equivalent aspirations to transform the social system, around the key idea of democracy. ‘System error. Restart, please’; ‘Iceland is the way’; ‘neither side A, nor side B, we want to change the disc’ (Movimiento 15M 2013). The populist benchmarks were salient not only in the ‘words’, but also in the very political activities of 15M over time. The fundamental populist intent to (re-)present laypeople in general animated the cardinal figure of collective action in the encampments, the popular assemblies convened in public squares across Spain. These sought to carve out participatory spaces of collective decision-­making, opening political power to all ordinary citizens and contesting the rule of money and professional political classes. Occupied squares were redesigned as ‘spaces to do politics without politicians […] spaces without money, leaders and merchants’ (Dhaliwal 2012: 263) available to citizens, poor, non-­experts and socially marginalised people. Inclusion of all people beyond differences was promoted, furthermore, by the dismissal of ideological closures, programmatic definitions, fixed identities and divides, such as the dichotomy left/right (Dhaliwal 2012: 265; Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 130, 134–135, 138–139; Tormey et al. 2017: 10, 17; Nez 2012: 132–134; Lorey 2014: 50–55; Castells 2012: 125–133). The assembly form in [Puerta del] Sol used a unanimous consensus form of decision-­making […] Here we are the people, a little bit of everything, and that’s the force it has had, and the joy of finding all kinds of people. (Amador, 15M, Madrid, quoted in Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 139–140) The other hallmark of populist politics, the clash with political and financial elites, permeated the discourse of 15M. But it was also performed through their organised efforts to implicate ‘normal and common people’ in political deliberation and decision-­making. It was actively manifested, too, in recurrent protests against political elites and the power of money (Castells 2012: 114–115; Dhaliwal 2012: 265, 267). Finally, the core lexicon of ‘democracia’ and a series of slogans that went viral – such as ‘Τhey don’t represent us’, ‘we are not merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers’ – furnished the ‘empty signifiers’, which configured a collective identity and unity amidst diversity. They became closely intertwined with the DNA of the 15M movement. And, precisely, their meaning was not fully defined, but tendentially empty in the manner of an ‘open question’ (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 140; Castells 2012: 120, 124; for the ambiguous meaning of democracy see also Movimiento 15M 2011). The encampments and the assemblies themselves, functioning in similar ways in many cities across the country (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 123; Castells 2012:

180   Alexandros Kioupkiolis 123, 132), also furnished an ‘empty signifier’, a common frame and symbol which drew an equivalence among the different collective protests and whose meaning was assigned by the variable decisions, practices and discourses worked out in each site. This populist mobilisation displays, thus, all traits of Laclau’s politics of hegemony whereby a particularity takes on the function of a universality: (a) chains of equivalence, (b) empty signifiers, (c) uneven power and (d) representation (Laclau 2000: 207). The vocabulary of ‘democracia’, the designation ‘15M’, and the distinctive practices bound up with it, yielded (a) a chain of equivalence among different demands. The equivalential chains coalesced around (b) partly empty signifiers – ‘democracia’, ‘15M’ – which came to embrace a plurality of demands, pursuits and significations, alluding to an ‘absent fullness’ of freedom, democracy, justice etc. Although encampments were loosely linked as nodes in an open network, a degree of (c) uneven power can be detected in their midst. Central hubs played a leading part in the direction of the movement – Puerta de Sol in Madrid and Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona. Moreover, various ‘working groups’ and committed activists were key players in the encampments and the general assemblies (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 123, 135–136; Prentoulis and Thomassen, 2013: 13; Castells 2012: 132; Razquin 2017: 132–133). Finally, in the 15M movement, a particularity, the thousands of activists who effectively participated in the encampments and the related protests, claimed to (d) represent a near universality – ‘los de abajo’, ‘99 per cent’ – not only in their discourse but through the very workings of their general assemblies, which sought to enact the rule of anyone and all.

Populism 2.0 For some (e.g. Mason 2013; Castells 2012), what sets the 2011 cycle of struggles apart from earlier collective action is the deployment of Web 2.0 tools of communication. This is the most obvious, almost banal, 2.0 feature of 15M populism. Indeed, Facebook served to form groups and knit together flexible connections. Twitter was enlisted for real-­time organisation and news dissemination. YouTube and the Twitter-­linked photographic sites provided instant evidence of the claims made. The ‘Democracia Real Ya’ campaign, which convoked the original 15M demonstration, was based on a conglomeration of blogs. Facebook helped them to meet in person, to organise the event, and to publicise the call through social networks. Once the encampments were in place, web pages and Wi-­Fi networks connected them to each other and the world, installing a decentralised network with autonomous nodes in different Spanish cities (Castells 2012: 11–113; Tormey et al. 2017: 2–3, 65–66; Mason 2013: 75). Digital media were appropriated for the causes of the movement, giving rise to a technopolitics that enables people to initiate and coordinate campaigns independently of formal organisations and leadership. Digital means facilitate the quick spread of mobilisations through the diffusion of calls, news and images.

New movements towards progressive populism   181 They disseminate critical information and slogans or ‘empty signifiers’. They allow anyone to participate in open debates on digital platforms. Overall, they enhance the communicative power of people to circumvent traditional media serving the elites, to speak for themselves and to provide good coverage of collective action (Castells 2012: 45, 120–121; Nez 2012: 128; Tormey et al. 2017: 65–67; Morell 2012). Technopolitics has effectively fostered a personalised engagement with political causes and collective action. In contrast to modern modes of political mobilisation, which were orchestrated by centralised organisations and pressed for ideological convergence, new digital means empower laypeople to self-­organise and take political initiatives, making more room for personal difference and autonomy. As a result, under late modern conditions of enhanced individuation and diversification, the new media environment contributes significantly to opening up political activity to a multitude of ordinary citizens in their singularity, beyond the confines of hierarchical organisations and professional politics (Castells 2012: 230; Bennet and Segerberg 2011: 771–775; Bimber et al. 2015: 21–26; Tormey et al. 2017: 66). However, the 15M mobilisation was not primarily digital and virtual. It was embodied in the physical presence of people in a multiplicity of encampments and assemblies. The ‘movement responded to the “Facebook revolution” myth with the slogan “digital indignation – analog resistance” ’ (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 122). And it was not the use of Web 2.0 tools as such that made it an instance of populism 2.0, but the distinct political logics and culture which vested it with a singular organisational form in its offline presence (see also Tormey et al. 2017: 9). ‘Typical’ populism, on the three definitions adduced at the beginning, is marked by the unity or homogeneity of the people; the concentration of force and vertical hierarchies, which are often incarnated in the person of a strong leader; and representative claims, the representation of the entire people by a segment of the population and, frequently, by their political representatives, a leader or a party. The 15M autonomous politics displayed these traits. But it radically refigured them through its actual diversity and its commitment to pluralism as a value; the aspiration to horizontalism and the dispersion of power; the rejection or debunking of political representation. The nub of the ‘populism 2.0’ argument is that contemporary populist movements, as exemplified by 15M, introduce the 2.0 or ‘millennial’ political culture into populist politics through these reconfigurations of unity, concentration and representation, which carry an emancipatory and egalitarian potential. These innovations generate all distinct features that single out the 2.0 culture:   1 they open the opportunity to participate to all people – the core of 2.0 practice;   2 they are an outcome of progressive political activism of ‘volunteers’ who have borne the brunt of the financial crises and neoliberal policies;   3 they favour flatter hierarchies and decentralised networks;

182   Alexandros Kioupkiolis   4   5   6   7   8

they emphasise transparency and a concern with process; they foster cooperation and collaboration; they seek common ground; they amplify diversity and they respect difference; they are informed by an open-­minded outlook which is not rigidly ideological;   9 they are empowered by digital communications media; 10 they attain a global reach, forming part of a global network, which in 2011 connected the Arab Spring with Occupy Wall Street, through the Spanish 15M and the Greek squares. (Grattan 2016: 163–165; Giovanopoulos and Mitropoulos 2011) Having already confirmed points 9 and 10, the focus will be on how the crucial shifts that 15M has brought about in the pursuit of unity, concentration of force/ hierarchy and representation infuse populist mobilisation with all other 2.0 features from 1 to 8. Beginning with representation, opposition to formal representation through political parties, leaders and spokespersons occupies the foreground of 15M (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 121–122, 128–131; Nez 2012: 128; Huguet 2012: 31; Fominaya 2015: 145–147, 152; Razquin 2017: 234–235). ‘Democracia Real Ya’ and ‘No nos representan’ convey the animus of the movement against ‘actually existing’ representative democracy. Significantly, this negation was not merely rhetorical. It was embodied in the open, participatory and egalitarian processes of collective representation, which sit at the heart of 2.0 culture and contrast sharply with institutional representation in liberal democracies. What marks off representative democracies is not merely the more extensive political role conferred on representatives. It is crucially the establishment of a ‘permanent and institutionalised power base’ (Alford 1985: 305). This underpins the separation of political representatives from the represented and releases the former from the immediate pressures of their constituencies by providing them with securely tenured office (Alford 1985; Manin 1997: 9). The institutional base, comprising the parliament and the entire governmental machine, gives rise to a ‘standing division’ between citizens and the government, which substantially enhances the sovereign power of representatives over the represented. The 15M democratic insurgencies expressed an outrage precisely at this enclosure of political power. Political parties, trade unions and other formal civil society actors were not welcome in them. What’s more, 15M politics deliberately strove to enact another democracy, in which political rule is truly collective rather than controlled by political representatives. Despite its antagonism with formal and sovereign representation, 15M politics did not actually eliminate political representation in its midst. 15M claimed to represent broader sectors of the population beyond those actually present at the plazas or on the streets. Moreover, it admitted some spokespersons and delegates of committees or smaller assemblies in its deliberative processes (Prentoulis and Thomassen 2013: 13; Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 137; Razquin 2017: 132–134).

New movements towards progressive populism   183 However, the practices of governance that 15M instituted in its assemblies and encampments actively sought to realise forms of equal representative governance accessible to all, enforcing the rule of ‘whoever, whenever s/he wishes’ against the hegemony of sovereign representatives, political leaders and elites. The very choice of public squares and streets to hold popular assemblies of political deliberation, in contrast to decision-­making behind closed doors, signals patently the will to make politics an open space for every ‘ordinary citizen’, rather a privatised space for professional politicians or activists (Nez 2012: 131; Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 65, 136; Fominaya 2015: 155; Dhaliwal 2012: 258–259; Razquin 2017: 164–165). Moreover, political rule was located in public platforms that give laypeople free access to political deliberation and decision-­making, re-­patterning governance into a shared pool resource. To effectively make political rule a ‘common good’ available to all, assemblies set strict time limits and used rotation and lot to allocate the opportunity to speak in them. They recognised only individuals, and no groups, as equal participants in the procedures of political deliberation. They implemented clearly regulated, transparent processes of decision-­making that were designed to enable equal participation, to maximise inclusion, to integrate minority positions and to attain consensus. They practiced a mode of common, collective thinking in progress, which sought to find or create common ground in the manner of 2.0 mentality. Moreover, in the representative political functions that the assemblies took in – the posts of spokespersons, discussion moderators and special working-­ groups – they enforced binding mandates and alternation so that the power concentrated in such functions be kept in check, accountable and resistant to long-­term appropriation by particular actors. In all these ways, the political representation of ‘the people’ enacted by assemblies and encampments became freely accessible to the power of any and all, rather than an affair of elites and representative rules (Dhaliwal 2012: 261–263; Nez 2012: 129–134; Lorey 2014: 50–55; Razquin 2017: 178–179, 270; Morell 2012). The institutional technologies that control, open up and equalise political representation apply simultaneously at the concentration of power and the vertical hierarchies, which are so typical of populist politics in their conventional guise. Activity and initiative, a type of collective leadership exercised by the 15M movement itself, were concentrated in the salient plazas of Puerta de Sol in Madrid and Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona. Informal individual leaders arose because of differences in knowledge, political know-­how, communicative skills, commitment to the cause and the division of labour among spokespersons, moderators etc. (see Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 135; Prentoulis and Thomassen 2013: 177; Razquin 2017: 132–134, 324; Castells 2012: 132). But organised political leadership and elected leaders, a standing separation of directors and directed, were ruled out as a matter of principle, and decisive power was with the general assemblies (Castells 2012: 113, 129; Nez 2012: 128–129). Even the proclamations against formal and personal leadership can make a sea of difference in comparison to affirming such leadership as a necessity, a

184   Alexandros Kioupkiolis value or a given fact. The principled opposition motivates the cultivation of attitudes and practices that inhibit the emergence of centralised leadership and top-­down direction. This was precisely the case with 15M. Moving beyond mere structurelessness, the politics of the assemblies consciously endeavoured to collectivise and decentralise leadership, bolstering collective, bottom-­up power against any personal leaders and top-­down direction. The institutional panoply of binding mandates, rotation and alternation in decisive functions, the enforcement of time limits and the use of lot to equalise the opportunity to speak, thus preventing its monopolisation by particular actors, are several effective measures through which people can prevent the rise of top-­down, exclusionary leadership. Crucially, power asymmetries and exclusions from equal participation and influence were a matter of common critical reflection and an object of ongoing struggle (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 135–136; Castells 2012: 144; Νez 2012: 129–130). As a result, horizontality, that is fully equal power in the absence of vertical hierarchies, was agonistic rather than a given state of affairs. Horizontality was a horizon towards which 15M tended through a constant fight and effort. This impure horizontalism, the flattening of hierarchies and the pursuit of decentralisation, is a salient 2.0 characteristic. It stands at the opposite end of hierarchical, centralised leadership enshrined as a necessity or a virtue. And it can generate significant political effects by promoting the equal distribution of power in practice, in ways which positive attitudes towards leadership and centralised force obviously cannot. Moreover, Puerta de Sol in Madrid and Plaça de Catalunya were not akin to the headquarters of a formal and vertical political structure, commanding from on high the lower ranks and the periphery. Relative autonomy was largely a network effect. Encampments in other cities upheld their autonomy, making up a web of independent, yet connected hubs. The movement decided to further decentralise at a later stage, to the neighbourhood level and local assemblies that enable the effective participation of all (Castells 2012: 132; Νez 2012: 130; Dhaliwal 2012: 259–260; Razquin 2017: 299, 306–307). Turning to unity-­homogeneity, the third pillar of conventional populism, 15M politics was again drastically subversive and transformative. The unity of the movement did not rest upon actual or desired uniformity, but rather on the affirmation of plurality, openness beyond fixed ideologies and inclusion of differences. These are, again, pronounced 2.0 traits, which distinguish ‘open-­source’ populism and give the lie to Mudde’s (2004: 544) a priori definition of populism in terms of homogeneity and anti-­pluralism. After the beginning, the very composition of 15M assemblies and encampments became very diverse, encompassing a multiplicity of young and old people without fixed ideological positions (Castells 2012: 115; Huguet 2012: 32). More significantly, radical inclusivity, the non-­partisan call-­out to all ordinary people to join, the openness of occupied spaces and assemblies to plurality beyond the left/right divide or militants/non militants, respect for differences, minorities and disagreements were core values of what 15M came to stand for. The encampments constituted spaces for everyone where differences were respected regardless of ideological positions,

New movements towards progressive populism   185 class origins or physical condition (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 135; Νez 2012: 125, 128; Dhaliwal 2012: 265; Tormey et al. 2017: 17, 22–23; Razquin 2017: 260, 270). Common slogans and characteristic practices configured a shared frame and a collective identity. But this was a practical, open and plural identity, under collective construction, leaving ‘the people’ an open call to be reframed by the diverse participatory assemblies. Slogans and processes were nearly empty signifiers. Their political contents were filled out by participants through an evolving collaborative practice in which differences interacted, clashed and sought to generate a collective outcome acceptable to all (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 135–136, 138–140). In horizontalist figures of collective action, practical identities facilitate forms of convergence and community that nurture diversity and openness. A heterogeneous assemblage of agents and practices can more easily cohere around strategic wagers, concrete objectives and revisable co-­construction rather than around group identities and definite political programmes or ideologies. Collective action can avoid thereby both the fragmentation of ‘identity politics’ and the conflicts that tend to erupt among dogmatic identities that assert themselves. Moreover, sustained interaction, which advances shared objectives can build a community of practice and, thus, a practical identification that does not rest on common dogma or a collective tradition. Acceptance of empirical ‘messiness’ and hybridity, a flexible approach oriented to concrete problem-­solving and a reluctance to take universal, dogmatic positions make up an open-­minded and pragmatic outlook, a typical 2.0 attitude that can ‘depolarise’ strategic choices, buttressing broad pluralist assemblages in the interests of the many (Hardt and Negri 2004: 86–87, 337–340; Nunes 2014: 42–44; Khasnabish and Haiven 2014: 239–240; de Sousa Santos 2008: 266–267). The three foregoing features – open participation and representation; agonistic horizontality; unity through diversity, common practice and pragmatism – take up the centre of 2.0 ‘millennial’ culture, resulting thus in a unique 2.0 populism. To these, we can add three further differences that are again specific to our late modern times: reflexivity, feminism and populism after the first wave of popular incorporation. The six traits, all together, compose the core of 2.0 populism. They identify it as a singular, late modern and queer species of populist politics in motion. As noted above, reflexivity, collective questioning and debate in open assemblies were a critical practice through which 15M sought to check the rise of informal leadership and unequal power relations. But reflexivity had a broader scope. It involved an activity of distancing oneself from collective action itself to ponder its meaning, its potentials, its directions, its virtues and its consequences. It implied a collective turn of 15M upon itself to take stock, to appreciate and to scrutinise its various manifestations and actions. ‘Reflection groups’ were formed in the encampments across Spain to raise questions about everything that was going on there and to think in concert. Thus, the movement created intentional spaces that aimed at improving the practices of the assemblies

186   Alexandros Kioupkiolis and the organisation of the movement, in ways that tapped into dissonance and difference as creative resources in a joint reflection (Sitrin and Azzellini 2014: 133, 135–136; Razquin 2017: 248–250). Reflexivity entailed attention to the collective process and implied an understanding of assemblies and the ‘tent cities’ as a catalyst of cultural transformation. The slowness and length of the assemblies made room for self-­reflection, the problematisation of conventional thought and practice, even of the habits of 15M itself. ‘We are slow because we go far’ became a popular slogan (Castells 2012: 144). Reflexivity feeds on the absence of dogmatic certainties about the best strategies or the ideal form of another society. The reflexive questioning of ‘universal truths’ motivated the practice of listening to others and the collective formation of opinion through the interaction of plural singularities. Seeing the future as contingent and open fuelled an ongoing rethink of strategies and alternatives (Tormey et al. 2017: 22–23). This kind of reflexivity is, arguably, a more widely diffused feature of late modernity. Now, the modern traditions of science, politics and social forms have turned into an object of contest, deliberation, change and variable choices in a contingent world that is full of risks and alternative possibilities (Beck 1992). ‘La revolución será feminista o no será’ (Comisión de feminismos de sol 2011: 15, 16). Τhis slogan epitomises the feminisation of 15M populism and bespeaks again its heightened reflexivity and agonism. It was circulated at the very beginning of the movement by feminist groups in the encampments, most famously in the ‘acampada de Sol’. And it ignited immediately debate, contention and diverse processes of self-­reflection on gender relations (Huguet 2012; Comisión de feminismos de sol 2011). The slogan was contested as divisive by some. It was vindicated, subsequently, as a distinctive, feminist angle on politics, which calls attention to social reproduction and domination across gender lines without seeking to monopolise the identity of the movement. The feminist dimension contributes crucially to the making of another politics that strives for comprehensive social transformation. Feminism was understood in the plural number of diverse feminisms and in the inclusionary sense of a socio-­political struggle that strains after greater equality, sexual diversity and the right to decide about our bodies (Huguet 2012: 32–33; Comisión de feminismos de sol 2011: 4–6). The feminist twist on 15M politics roused a general ‘indignation against machismo’ (Comisión de feminismos de sol 2011: 12). It instigated an increased concern with everyday ‘micromachismos’ in its midst: sexist violence, unequal political participation, and any language, attitudes and gestures that feed into a climate of discrimination against women. The feminist slant turned the focus of debate towards domestic labour, exploitation, precarity and the unequal distribution of reproductive tasks. It nourished an ethic of care for bodily needs and personal well-­being in encampments and assemblies. It cultivated a different style of political interaction that would co-­construct the common through mutual understanding, inclusionary discourse, patience, dialogue among differences and an ‘affective care’ for all, embodied in practices such as collective hugs and

New movements towards progressive populism   187 yoga exercises. This style intended to be less confrontational and less aggressive than the masculine habitus that usually prevail in both mainstream politics and social movements. 15M feminism highlighted, also, affection and care for everyday life as a central political predicament under neoliberal austerity, precarity and unemployment (Comisión de feminismos de sol 2011: 9–11, 14; Huguet 2012: 33–36; Razquin 2017: 233, 270). Feminist politics in the 15M movement sheltered, likewise, male groups who agitated against sexism. It featured, moreover, a queer involvement through specific commissions that were intent on challenging the exclusive, normative binary male/female (Huguet 2012: 35). Hence the close intertwining of feminism, reflexivity and agonism. Critical reflection on gender identities and inequalities stimulated endless contestation of sexist stereotypes, attitudes and exclusions. So, again, 15M feminism was not a pure condition of gender freedom and real equality, but a distinctive struggle, culture and horizon of aspirations (Comisión de feminismos de sol 2011: 13). Finally, populism 2.0 alludes to the populist mobilisations falling under its rubric as belonging to a ‘second wave’ of popular agitation for democratic inclusion. The initial phase took place at different junctures in the twentieth century in particular countries, when larger popular strata were politically enfranchised for the first time and empowered through welfare policies, labour and social and rights. The figure of Juan Domingo Perón in Argentina is an emblem of this inaugural phase of democratic populism. At the turn of the century, enfranchised middle classes and the poor faced new socio-­political exclusions under the impact of the neoliberal hegemony and the dismantling of the welfare state and labour rights. The neoliberal crisis triggered a second populist wave, which was first recognised in Latin American countries. There, a ‘Left turn’ or a ‘pink tide’ swamped the continent between 1998 and 2014, catapulting to power famous populist leaders of the twenty-­first century, such as Hugo Chávez. This was a second phase of populist backlash, which spoke to the socio-­political afflictions induced by neoliberalism and it was often a response to popular insurrections (Roberts 2015: 150–156). In Spain, after the civil war and Franco’s forty-­year dictatorship, the first popular enfranchisement and inclusion occurred in 1978 under the regime of the ‘Transition’. This was built around the new Spanish Constitution, liberal democracy, integration in the EU and a rising prosperity. But the system of the ‘Transition’ has now unravelled as a result, again, of the neoliberal rule and the crisis of the political system. The alternation of a centre-­left and a centre-­right party in power, the demobilisation of citizens, clientelism and revolving doors between administration and corporations stamped the 1978 regime. In the 1990s, the two mainstream parties converged also on neoliberalism. Institutions became ossified, elites were increasingly irresponsive to social demands and corruption was rampant. The resulting popular alienation from formal representative democracy and the entire 1978 settlement has been rising and exacerbating in recent years because of the way in which ruling elites have managed the economic crisis since 2008 (see Chapter 2 here; also Sampedro and Lobera 2014).

188   Alexandros Kioupkiolis Thus, 15M voiced the collective outrage at the depletion of democracy and material impoverishment, holding the oligarchs to account for the crisis and demanding a ‘real democracy’. So, this was again a populist, anti-­elite mobilisation that sought a renewed democratic empowerment after a first phase of democratic reinstatement and following new socio-­political exclusions. Populism 2.0 comes late, after an initial democratic moment. Hence its reflexivity, the reflection on the state and the meaning of democracy, its endeavour to extend the scope of political inclusion, and its potentially radicalised aspirations to a new, real democracy.

What difference does it make? Far from being an isolated case, the new, ‘open-­source’ populism of the Spanish popular insurrection pervades arguably the whole cycle of contentious politics in 2011, which was kicked into motion by the ‘Arab Spring’ and concluded with the Occupy movement, passing through the Greek squares in the summer. Despite several contextual differences, the same elements of populist identification, mobilisation and antagonism, transfigured in radical egalitarian and participatory ways, single out all these diverse popular interventions, as well as later ones such as the Gezi Park occupation in Istanbul (see, e.g. Farro and Demirhisar 2014; Grattan 2016: 163–165). Detailed analysis of different instances of populist mobilisation can demonstrate in effect that ‘populism 2.0’ belongs to the Zeitgeist of democratic collective action in our times. It indicates a paradigm shift in people’s political involvement, which is characterised by open participation and representation, agonistic horizontality, unity through diversity and common practice, along with reflexivity, feminism and populism after the first wave. The value of plurality, openness, reflexivity, feminism and its late modernity differentiate populism 2.0 both from the stereotypical populism of the masses led by a demagogue and from anti-­pluralist populisms, which Mudde (2004) holds to be the only possible ones. The same features separate populism 2.0 also from the earlier populist insurgencies in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the historical US Populists and the Russian Narodniki. Early American populism, an anti-­corporate revolt of ‘the people’ against ‘money power’ also attempted to enact horizontal popular power across lines of gender, class and race. But it was predominantly a white-­led movement, with exemplars of white supremacy, nativism, middle-­class identity, Christian bigotry and patriarchy, which stained US populism in the twentieth century (Grattan 2016: 54, 82–83, 87). The Russian Narodniki in the 1870s embarked mainly on a student and elitist ‘Journey to the people’, who were located in the rural communities and the peasants of Russia. It is a primordial case of populism that romanticises the people of the rural ‘heartland’ (Taggart 2000: 8, 46–58; Morini 2013). This could hardly be a paradigm of openness and diversity. The structural traits of populism 2.0 can figure in an ideal type that serves to bring out the distinctive novelty of various modalities of populist politics today,

New movements towards progressive populism   189 including more vertical and institutionalised cases such as Podemos. Insofar as civic participation through the ‘Cycles’, digital platforms of co-­decision, second wave incorporation and so on can be discerned in the first phase of Podemos in 2014, this can be considered to approximate populism 2.0 in varying degrees (see Chapter 2, this volume). The same holds true of the Italian M5S (Five Stars Movement) with its pretentions to Internet-­based direct democracy (see Ivaldi et al. 2017: 16). But the main thrust of this new style of popular action is political rather than analytic. Populism has proven time and again to be a formidable force of majoritarian outreach, rallying and mobilisation. This is also the case with populism 2.0. The 15 May 2011 saw one of the most spectacular and massive popular insurrections in the history of post-­Franco Spain. Eight million citizens took to the streets and occupied public squares and buildings thereafter, in more than 60 cities and towns across the country (Tormey et al. 2017: vii). The movement enjoyed immense popularity throughout 2011. At least three-­quarters of the Spanish people declared their agreement with the statements of the movement (Castells 2012: 116; Sampedro and Lobera 2014). This tremendous political impact was not attained by a hierarchical, centralised political organisation, but through the bottom-­up, horizontalist and egalitarian agency of ordinary citizens. Although 15M did not effect a radical transformation of the status quo, it disseminated a deeply democratic culture and it practically explored forms through which another democracy can be instituted. This is a legacy that should be taken up, reflected upon and enhanced by those who share the same yearnings for democratic renewal. Since 2015, two other leftist populist projects, SYRIZA and Podemos have confirmed a typical experience of the twentieth century (Kioupkiolis and Katsambekis 2018). Vertical organisations, directed by a central leadership in a top-­down way, may achieve electoral gains and even accede to state power. However, they will fail to overhaul the status quo and to initiate drastic democratic changes if they are not backed up by a broad and self-­motivated popular involvement in the making of key political decisions and their realisation. It is such a popular engagement that can empower populist governments to face and outweigh the international forces of neoliberal hegemony. In the Greek case, when SYRIZA yielded to the concerted pressures of the EU and IMF, an alternative ‘Plan B’ on the way to anti-­neoliberal policies could have been adopted and implemented only if it were collectively owned by broader sectors of Greek society. A popular majority could transform itself through the active transformation of its material circumstances, assuming responsibility for the alternative plan, taking part in shaping and realising it, and dealing with its consequences. More broadly, the radical democratic promises of egalitarian populism cannot be fulfilled without a predominantly bottom-­up popular power. The exercise of power from outside or from above is, in principle, at odds with the collective self-­government of the people on a footing of equal freedom, and it prevents societies from developing their own capacity for self-­direction. Accordingly, inherent tensions trouble the relations between ‘progressive’ leadership,

190   Alexandros Kioupkiolis top-­down direction and egalitarian social emancipation. The strains in question became glaringly apparent in a recent example of powerful populist rule with strong democratising pretences, Chavismo. The concentration of power in the person of the leader and Chávez’s authoritative direction of the bloc of forces assembled around him, inhibited the progress towards social self-­organisation and the self-­empowerment of the people. The clash between top-­down rule, personalism, centralism and autonomous grassroots mobilisation has been deemed, indeed, the constitutive contradiction of Chavista populism, which unravelled after the death of the leader (López Maya 2015: 386–397; Philip and Panizza 2011: 96–97; Azzellini 2015). Egalitarian populist movements in recent years have not yet developed the required structure and stamina to persist and carry out systemic transformation on their own initiative. But the ‘vertical’ solutions of the past – centralised parties, governments and leaders – could not redeem the potentials of progressive populism towards greater freedom and equality. The political breakthroughs of populism 2.0 may do, if movements build upon them, buttress them with proper institutional designs, and tackle their deficiencies. The 2.0 people’s politics is deeply egalitarian and libertarian, and still too novel and practically untried in a macro-­historical perspective.

Note 1 This chapter is part of a project that received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement 724692).

References Alford, C. Fred (1985) ‘The “Iron Law of Oligarchy” in the Athenian Polis … and Today’, Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique 18(2): 295–312. Aslanidis, P. (2016) ‘Populist Social Movements of the Great Recession’, Mobilization: An International Quarterly 21(3): 301–321. Aslanidis, P. (2017) ‘Populism and Social Movements’, in Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, A. P., Espejo, P. O. and Ostiguy, P. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Azzellini, D. (2015) La construcción de los dos lados: poder constituido y poder constituyente en Venezuela, Caracas: Biblioteca Roja. Bauwens, M. (2005) ‘The Political Economy of Peer Production’, CTheory, www. (accessed 20 March 2017). Beck, U. (1992) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, London: Sage. Benkler, Y. (2006) The Wealth of Networks. How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Benkler, Y. and Nissenbaum, H. (2006) ‘Commons-­based Peer Production and Virtue’, Journal of Political Philosophy 14(4): 394–419. Bennet, W. L. and Segerberg, A. (2011) ‘Digital Media and the Personalization of Collective Action’, Information, Communication and Society 14(6): 770–799.

New movements towards progressive populism   191 Bimber, B., Cunill, M. C., Copeland, L. and Gibson, R. (2015) ‘Digital Media and Political Participation the Moderating Role of Political Interest across Acts and Over Time’, Social Science Computer Review 33(1): 21–42. Bollier, D. (2008) Viral Spiral. How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of their Own, New York and London: New Press. Castells, M. (2009) The Rise of the Network Society, Chichester: Wiley-­Blackwell. Castells, M. (2012) Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age, Cambridge: Polity. Ciccariello-­Maher, G. (2013) We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution, Durham, London: Duke University Press. Comisión de feminismos de sol (2011) ‘Dossier de la comisión de feminismos’, https://­de-comision-­de-feminista/ (accessed 8 April 2018). de la Torre, C. (2015a) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. de la Torre, C. (2015b) ‘Introduction: Power to the People? Populism, Insurrections, Democratization’, in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1–28. de Sousa Santos, B. (2008) ‘Depolarised Polarities. A Left with a Future’, in Barrett, Patrick S., Chavez, Daniel and Garavito, César A. Rodríguez (eds) The New Latin American Left, London: Pluto Books. Dhaliwal, P. (2012) ‘Public Squares and Resistance: The Politics of Space in the Indignados Movement’, Interface: A Journal for and about Social Movements 4(1): 251–273. Duval, J. (2010) Next Generation Democracy: What the Open-­Source Revolution Means for Power, Politics, and Change, New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. Farro, A. L. and Demirhisar, D. G. (2014) ‘The Gezi Park Movement: A Turkish Experience of the Twenty-­first-century Collective Movements’, International Review of Sociology 24(1): 176–189. Fominaya, C. F. (2015) ‘Debunking Spontaneity: Spain’s 15-M/Indignados as Autonomous Movement’, Social Movement Studies 14: 142–163. Gerbaudo, P. (2012) Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism, London: Pluto Press. Gerbaudo, P. (2017) The Mask and the Flag. Populism, Citizenism and Global Protest, London: Hurst and Company. Giovanopoulos, C. and Mitropoulos, D. (eds) (2011) Δημοκρατία under construction, Athens: A/Synecheia Editions [in Greek]. Grattan, L. (2016) Populism’s Power. Radical Grassroots Democracy in America, New York: Oxford University Press. Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2001) Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2004) Multitude, War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, London: Penguin. Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2009) Commonwealth, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2012) Declaration, New York: Argos. Huguet, M. G. (2012) ‘Presencia de los feminismos en la Puerta del Sol madrileña’, (accessed 8 April 2018). Ivaldi, G., Lanzone, M. E. and Woods, D. (2017) ‘Varieties of Populism across a Left-­ Right Spectrum: The Case of the Front National, the Northern League, Podemos and Five Star Movement’, Swiss Political Science Review 23(4): 354–376.

192   Alexandros Kioupkiolis Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, A. P., Espejo, P. O. and Ostiguy, Pierre (eds) (2017) The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Khasnabish, D. A. and Haiven, M. (2014) The Radical Imagination, London: Zed Books. Kioupkiolis, A. and Katsambekis, G. (eds) (2014) Radical Democracy and Collective Movements Today. The Biopolitics of the Multitude versus the Hegemony of the People, Farnham: Ashgate. Kioupkiolis, A. and Katsambekis, G. (2018) ‘Radical Left Populism from the Margins to the Mainstream: A Comparison of Syriza and Podemos’, in Agustín, Ó. G. and Briziarelli, M. (eds) Podemos and the New Political Cycle, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 201–226. Laclau, E. (1996) Emancipation(s), London and New York: Verso. Laclau, E. (2000) ‘Structure, History and the Political’, in Butler, J., Laclau, E. and Žižek, S. (eds) Contingency, Hegemony, Universality, London and New York: Verso. Laclau, E. (2005a) On Populist Reason, London, New York: Verso. Laclau, E. (2005b) ‘The Future of Radical Democracy’, in Tonder, L. and Thomassen, L. (eds) Radical Democracy. Politics Between Abundance and Lack, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press. Laclau, E. (2014) The Rhetorical Foundations of Society, London and New York: Verso. López Maya, M. (2015) ‘Popular Power in the Discourse of Hugo Chávez’s Government’, in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and the Perils of Populism, Kentucky, Lexington: Kentucky University Press. Lorey, I. (2014) ‘The 2011 Occupy Movements: Rancière and the Crisis of Democracy’, Theory, Culture and Society 31(7/8): 43–65. Manifesto ‘Democracia Real Ya’ (2012) (accessed 5 March 2018). Manin, B. (1997) The Principles of Representative Government, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mason, P. (2013) Why it’s Still Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, London and New York: Verso Books. Movimiento 15M (2011) ‘Texto programático’, (accessed 5 March 2018). Movimiento 15M (2013) ‘Las frases y lemas del Movimiento 15M más utilizados’, http:// (accessed 5 March 2018). Morell, M. F. (2012) ‘The Free Culture and 15M Movements in Spain: Composition, Social Networks and Synergies’, Social Movement Studies 11(3–4): 386–392. Morini, M. (2013) ‘Old and New Populism’, in Gherghina, S., Mişcoiu, S. and Soare, S. (eds) Contemporary Populism: A Controversial Concept and Its Diverse Forms, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Mudde, C. (2004) ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, Government and Opposition 39(4): 542–563. Mudde, C. (2017) ‘Populism: An Ideational Approach’, in Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, P., Espejo, P. O. and Ostiguy, P. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 27–47. Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2017) Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nez, H. (2012) ‘Among Militants and Deliberative Laboratories: The Indignados’, in Tejerina, B. and Perugorria, I. (eds) From Social to Political, New Forms of Mobilization and Democratization, Conference Proceedings, Bilbao: University of the Basque Country. Nunes, R. (2014) Organisation of the Organisationless: Collective Action after Networks, Leuphana: Mute/Post-­Media Lab.

New movements towards progressive populism   193 Philip, G. and Panizza, F. (2011) The Triumph of Politics: The Return of the Left in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, Cambridge: Polity. Prentoulis, M. and Thomassen, L. (2013) ‘Political Theory in the Square: Protest, Representation and Subjectification’, Contemporary Political Theory 12(3): 166–184. Razquin Mangado, A. (2017) Didáctica ciudadana: la vida política en las plazas. Etnografía del movimiento 15M, Granada: Editorial Universidad de Granada. Roberts, K. M. (2015) ‘Populism, Political Mobilizations, and Crises of Political Representation’, in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 140–158. Sampedro, V. and Lobera, J. (2014) ‘The Spanish 15-M Movement: A Consensual Dissent?’ Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 15(1–2): 61–80. Sitrin, M. and Azzellini, D. (2014) They Can’t Represent Us. Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy, London and New York: Verso. Stavrakakis, Y. and Jäger, A. (2017) ‘Accomplishments and Limitations of the “New” Mainstream in Contemporary Populism Studies’, European Journal of Social Theory, DOI: 10.1177/1368431017723337. Taggart, P. (2000) Populism, Buckingham: Open University Press. Tormey, S., Keane, J., Feenstra, R. A. and Casero-­Ripollés, A. (2017) Refiguring Democracy: The Spanish Political Laboratory, London and New York: Routledge. Weyland, K. (2001) ‘Clarifying a Contested Concept: Populism in the Study of Latin American Politics’, Comparative Politics 34(1): 1–22. Weyland, K. (2017) ‘Populism: A Political-­Strategic Approach’, in Kaltwasser, C. R., Taggart, P., Espejo, P. O. and Ostiguy, P. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

9 Postscript Populism, the (radical) left and the challenges for future research Yannis Stavrakakis

This collective volume manages to cut across existing research on populism by combining two important priorities: sophisticated theoretical reflection and robust empirical analysis. There is hardly any better terrain in which one could try to combine these two priorities than left-­wing populism in Europe. This, however, did not even figure as a research topic a few years ago, when obsolete conceptual and theoretico-­political stereotypes had confined populism research to the European radical right, foreclosing the global variability of populist phenomena and the existence of more inclusionary types (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2013; 2017). In this sense, it is not an exaggeration to state that the present volume incarnates a slow paradigm shift affecting populism research. First of all, the volume manages to provide informative accounts of populist politics in a multitude of European countries, from Greece to Slovenia and from the Netherlands to Germany, France and the UK. These analyses alert us to cases that have not been adequately registered and discussed up to now, but they also highlight the particular characteristics of the different brands of left-­wing populism that we encounter. This is, for example, the case of Syriza in Greece, whose ‘short march to power presents a unique case of electorally successful radical left populism in contemporary Europe’, a kind of populism that has been both inclusionary and egalitarian (Katsambekis, Chapter 1, this volume; see also Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014; Katsambekis 2016). But Syriza is not the only example prominently showcased by recent media reports and academic discourse. As Alexandros Kioupkiolis argues, along with the Greek Syriza, ‘Podemos falls within a new wave of left-­wing populism which has surged forth in Europe, mainly in the crisis-­ hit South, over the last years’ (Kioupkiolis, Chapter 2, this volume; see also Kioupkiolis 2016). Based on a highly textured empirical analysis, both examples demonstrate the need to ‘de-­hypostasize populism’ conceptually and to use Laclau’s formal approach in cogently accounting for this complex phenomenon. Apart from these ‘celebrated’ cases, comprising what Kioupkiolis (Chapters 2 and 8, this volume) calls ‘populism 2.0’, the book also addresses lesser known or more recent phenomena that clearly merit our attention. For instance, ‘[t]he Left (Levica) is a relative newcomer in the Slovenian party system’ and the aim of the relevant chapter by Alen Toplišek, ‘is to explain the emergence of the Left and its electoral breakthrough in 2014’ (Toplišek, Chapter 3, this volume).

Postscript   195 Despite some differences with other cases – ‘Contrary to Podemos which originated from various social movements, France Insoumise was engineered by one man for a specific political purpose’ – the chapter by Philippe Marlière sheds light on the actions of Mélenchon’s populist strategy within the French historical context. In Marlière’s view, Mélenchon’s populist strategy was ‘blatant. This was an attempt to organise the masses along the lines of an agonistic cleavage between the people and “the elite” ’, and this was also a radical break with the collective forms of leadership and action on the French left. Mélenchon ‘was indeed among the very few politicians in Europe to willingly embrace the characterisation’ of ‘populist’, with all its mixed connotations, already in 2010 (Marlière, Chapter 4, this volume). The case of the Netherlands is also incredibly instructive. Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman’s take on the history and development of the Dutch Socialist Party (SP) brings out the importance of adequately defining populism to determine the status of each different manifestation of the phenomenon, linking conceptual groundwork with concrete analysis: ‘Whether or not the SP should be regarded as populist depends on one’s definition of populism, and the period under consideration’. Here, the two authors ‘distinguish a weak form of populism, which is mainly a popular style of communication, and a strong form which is more ideological and pits “the good people” against a corrupt political elite’ (Lucardie and Voerman, Chapter 5, this volume). They do argue, in this vein, that a mainstream ideational approach (see Mudde and Kaltwasser 2012; 2017) is perfectly compatible with a formal discursive approach (see also Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014: 121–124; although there are also important limits to such a fusion, see Stavrakakis and Jäger 2017). What is also foregrounded here is the relationship between a populist and a socialist, social-­democratic and more leftist profile. Is this incompatible with populism? Are we talking about an either-­or, zero-­sum game (that is to say, either socialist or populist?), or maybe one has to accept that multiple articulations between socialism and populism are possible and that such impurity – which is often stereotypically seen as contaminating or staining a pure leftist designation – is an inevitable feature of ideological fluidity and political struggle? Lucardie and Voerman seem to prioritise the second option, one closer to Laclau’s early work in the 1970s on the multiple class articulations of populism, Left and Right: ‘As we will try to show below, the SP had assumed a populist style during its Maoist stage and it has retained this until the present, throughout its transformation into a social democratic party’ (Lucardie and Voerman, Chapter 5, this volume). Marlière seems to be advancing the opposite view: ‘Populism does not sit well with the French left’. Perhaps because France has seen many times the triumph of leader-­centric politics – which has been mostly a legacy of the Right, from Napoleon III to De Gaulle. In this sense, Marlière argues that populist politics is largely seen as positioned beyond the parties and the traditions of the French Left: ‘In 2017, he [Mélenchon] ostensibly turned his back on the history, culture and unity of the left’. In typical populist fashion, he sought the support of ‘ordinary people’. Indeed,

196   Yannis Stavrakakis ‘Unbowed France’ is not a party, but a ‘mass of citizens’. Since then, he has aggressively pursued this tack. His goal is no longer a matter of rallying left-­wing forces together (behind him) but rather of replacing them, and reshaping the partisan and political landscape. (Marlière, Chapter 4, this volume) The case of Die Linke [The Left] in Germany is analysed mostly along similar lines by Dan Hough and Dan Keith, stressing its ‘periodic populism’: ‘That has led commentators such as Luke March, in a wide-­ranging study of the radical left, to describe the Left Party as the “least populist” socialist populist party in Europe’. One is wondering here whether this conclusion is based on an overtly strict differentiation between agonistic and policy profiles, as if these were incompatible with each other: ‘Internal disagreements, both of a personal and a programmatic nature, have forced the PDS and, after it, the LP into stressing what it opposed much more than what it supported. Detailed policy prescriptions were much less forthcoming’. At any rate, the a priori incompatibility between populism and a more clearly Left profile is also stressed by Bice Maiguashca and Jonathan Dean in their analysis of Corbynism in the UK Labour Party. Characterising the tectonic shifts in its recent development, they are obviously correct to argue that ‘Following more than twenty years in which the Labour Party was widely perceived as complicit with the neoliberal turn in British politics, the election of an avowedly left-­wing and anti-­ neoliberal leader caught many by surprise’. The crucial question here is whether Corbynism, a trend so clearly siding ‘with the many’ against ‘the few’ in a rather explicitly populist fashion, constitutes a populist politics proper or not. Both answers (Yes or No) have their pros and cons. The answer they offer is that ‘Corybnism cannot in any meaningful way be characterised as an instance of populist politics’ (Maiguashca and Dean, Chapter 7, this volume). This argument, once more, inevitably brings us to the criteria needed to designate something – a party, a leader, a discourse – as populist. Obviously, the aversion to accepting any ‘contamination’ of leftist purity does not always indicate an (unconscious) acceptance of the stereotypical liberal distrust of an ultimately impure and dangerous ‘populism’. It can also be based on an immanent and often justified critique of some aspects of Laclau’s theory, in particular of his occasional identification of populism with politics tout court (Stavrakakis 2004). In other words, the price to pay to designate Corbynism as populist may be conceptual over-­stretching (degreeism): Well, if we start with the ontological conception of populism, that is, it is a fundamental aspect of all politics, then it is applicable by definition, but arguably as it would also apply to all and every other manifestation of political contestation, it is not clear what we gain by characterising it as such. If we shift to his more substantive, ontic conception of populism, that is, as specific mode of oppositional politics, then it also applies, but only at the most general level of analysis. (Maiguashca and Dean, Chapter 7, this volume)

Postscript   197

Orientations in populism research It becomes clear that to facilitate rigorous research on populism – and especially on the relationship between populism and the European Left, which constitutes the focus of this volume – we need to recast some of the axial orientations of populism research to avoid obsolete stereotypes and to fully capitalise on the input of formal, discursive criteria. Let me briefly elaborate on this task and its most important facets.1 Critical reflexivity A multitude of heterogeneous and even antithetical phenomena are currently being debated under the rubric of populism: from the European far-­right in France, Austria and the Netherlands, among other countries, and illiberal governments in Hungary and Poland, on the one hand, to Bernie Sanders, the so-­ called Pink Tide of left-­wing populist governments in Latin America and inclusionary populisms in the European South and elsewhere triggered by the brutal ordoliberal management of the European crisis, on the other. Very often, the movements, parties, leaders and discourses under examination seem to have nothing or very little in common as they range from the radical left to the radical right end of the political spectrum and from egalitarian to authoritarian orientations. Yet, one thing is obviously certain. They seem to cause surprise. Mainstream media, established political forces and academics are quick to denounce their scandalous nature: all of a sudden, the unthinkable seems to be happening. Populism is seen as violating or transgressing an established order of how politics is properly, rationally and professionally done. It emerges where it should not, when it should not; it disrupts a supposed ‘normal’ course of events and can only be seen as a signal of failure. For example, in his reaction to Trump’s victory, after registering his own and his cohort’s failure to realise what had been happening – ‘people like me, and probably like most readers of the New York Times, truly didn’t understand the country we live in’, he writes – Paul Krugman moves on to project this failure onto American democracy and the US as a whole: ‘Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible’ (Krugman 2016). With all due respect, is this reaction not indicative of the mixture of ignorance and arrogance present in much commentary on populism? Yet, there is no cause for surprise here. It is already thirty years since the acclaimed American historian Comer Vann Woodward summarised the lessons from the long and bloody debate on American populism between the 1950s and the 1970s: ‘The study of populism is instructive about the consequences of condescension, arrogance, and ignorance on the part of elites and intellectuals’ (Vann Woodward 1981: 32, emphasis added). Indeed, our understanding of ‘populism’ as an incarnation of whatever violates the (naturalised) established order of things has been shared by political and academic elites and popularised through mainstream media since the 1950s. During this period, commencing with the publication of the true diachronic matrix of academic anti-­populism,

198   Yannis Stavrakakis namely Richard Hofstadter’s revisionist attack on the US ‘People’s Party’ (Hofstadter, 1955), normality was generally embodied by a unidirectional, universal modernisation process. Populism, by contrast, was often seen as an indication of ‘asynchronism’, of its local exceptions/failures. In particular, it was denounced as an abnormal political formation articulated by abnormal leaders – ‘agitators with paranoid tendencies’ (Hofstadter, 1955: 71) – and addressed to abnormal constituencies, ‘to the disgruntled and the psychologically homeless, to the personal failures, the socially isolated, the economically insecure, the uneducated, unsophisticated, and authoritarian persons at every level of the society’ (Lipset 1960: 175). Notwithstanding the demolition of Hofstadter’s impressionistic account by an avalanche of critical literature (for a start, see Pollack 1962 and Nugent [1963] 2013), the self-­confessed bias of his approach (Collins 1989: 155–157) and the overall collapse of normative modernisation theories by the early 1970s (Latham 2000; Gilman 2003), these bizarre ideas – equating all radical movements with irrational tendencies, abnormal subjects and political formations and naturalising the myth of the populist monster, to put it in Barthean terms (Barthes 1979) – have, since then, re-­emerged with a vengeance. In fact, they continue to influence, if not dominate, public debate in a variety of contexts. In their more or less original form, they have shaped and, to a certain extent, they still dominate semi-­peripheral countries such as Argentina and Greece, to give just two examples. In the former, populism has been juxtaposed to predictable ‘normality’ (Germani 1978: 19) and has been characterised, thus, as ‘defective’ and ‘anomic’ (Germani 1978: 21). In the latter, it has long been associated with a backward-­looking ‘underdog culture’ resisting modernisation (Diamandouros 1994) and obstructing the country’s ascent to an idealised European ‘normality’. In the rest of the world, the disciplinary, normalising function of modernisation has been largely taken over by narratives about the ‘end of history’ and ‘globalisation’. In this sense, modernisation can be seen as the matrix of what later came to be known as the TINA dogma (‘There Is No Alternative’). By unreflexively adopting an exclusively pejorative definition of populism, a large part of populism research has also adopted the normative, if not axiomatic and stereotypical fallacies of Hofstadter. Hence, by default, this research has placed itself in the service of a normalising, disciplinary technology of domination, defending at all cost the post-­democratic mutations of the established order (Crouch 2004; Habermas 2013; Stavrakakis 2017) against all challengers, irrespective of their ideological belonging, democratic credentials, discursive genealogies and political agendas. In a bid to justify these choices, arrogance and ignorance have become, once more, defining characteristics of euro-­centric approaches to populism. Comparative research has been extremely rare (for some notable exceptions see Mudde and Kaltwasser 2012; de la Torre 2014), reflexive inquiries into the diachronic conceptualisation of populism are lacking, and an unconditional association of populism with the extreme right has often been reified and naturalised. These are all

Postscript   199 aspects that the volume at hand seeks to remedy. Sometimes, the picture painted is of something so irrational, unthinkable, abnormal, even monstrous, that it could not possibly be appealing to real people. The result of holding such a pre-­scientific set of convictions is well-­known, especially after ‘Brexit’ and the Trump victory: Indeed, our incapacity to foresee has been the main lesson of this cataclysm: how could we have been so wrong? All the polls, all the newspapers, all the commentators, the entire intelligentsia. It is as if we had completely lacked any means of encountering those whom we struggled even to name: the ‘uneducated white men,’ the ones that ‘globalization left behind’; some even tried calling them ‘deplorables.’ There’s no question that those people are out there, but we have utterly failed to hear their voices, let alone represent them […] We, the ‘intellectuals,’ live in a bubble […] (Latour 2016) In this sense, the first fundamental challenge that populism research is facing today is a self-­critical one: the need to seriously reflect on the language games developed around the ideological uses of ‘populism’ within academic and media discourse from Richard Hofstadter, from the 1950s, to the present day. When we study populism, we talk about populism, we articulate meanings in language and discourse, and language is never innocent. In the long run, it naturalises significations that were initially partisan, even arbitrary, and it reifies into supposedly neutral objectivity crystallisations of historically-­ dependent power relations. Lacking such critical (self-)reflexivity, much of the debate underway suffers from a stereotypical bias that forestalls an adequate understanding of this complex phenomenon and its ambivalent implications for democracy. In order thus to reflexively account for the ‘populist scandal’, we may first have to question dominant euro-­centric approaches and to reconsider our understanding of democratic political subjectivity in times of crisis. If this does not happen, on top of being seen as (a) unable to understand and to provide warning signs and solutions for the current crisis and for the causes triggering ‘Brexit’, Trump, and whatever might follow, academic discourse will also (b) increasingly be seen as part of a disconnected and insensitive establishment. It will be relegated, thus, to a position of insignificance, having lost both its critical edge and its democratic sensibility. By avoiding active ignorance and an arrogant (elitist) euro-­centrism, by restoring a critical distance from normalising arguments so as to facilitate rigorous reflection, by producing nuanced accounts of complex phenomena both on the right and on the left – a necessary movement, a shift of perspective, duly performed by this volume – formal discursive approaches can operate as an invaluable intellectual and conceptual resource which generates trust in academic work and societal impact. To see how exactly they can perform this role we need to briefly discuss the crucial issue of definition.

200   Yannis Stavrakakis Minimal criteria and definition Already from the 1970s and 1980s, the Holy Grail of populism research has been constant: is there something in common in all populist phenomena? Looking for such a deep essence, Margaret Canovan was bound to conclude that it is ultimately impossible ‘to find a single essence behind all established uses of the term’ (Canovan 1981: 7). This is where the passage from normative to formal, discursive approaches becomes crucial. What if it is not necessary to dig deep? What if we can start from a symptomatic reading of discursive structure (by registering, for example, the status of ‘the people’ as a signifier) and then proceed to explore the modalities of discourse with which populism could be associated (Stavrakakis 2004: 254)? This has been the project that Ernesto Laclau’s and Chantal Mouffe’s discourse theory and the so-­called ‘Essex School’ have been developing during the last few decades (Laclau 1977, 2005; Panizza 2005), and it has arguably influenced the mainstream in populism research (for a full account, see Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014: 122). At the same time, other critical discursive currents have been elaborating equally reflexive accounts of extreme right discourse and right-­wing populism (Wodak 2015). It is difficult, indeed, to find any other research area in which the mark of critical discourse studies has been felt so strongly in leading the way for theoretical, methodological and analytical innovation. It is from a formal, discursive perspective, which stresses the identity/ difference nexus in the manner of Saussure, that one can arrive at the development of rigorous criteria which enable the differential identification of populist discourses by taking into account the symbolic reality of political antagonism(s). In the first instance, such an orientation requires that we register the pervasive divide – maybe even cleavage – between populist and anti-­populist discourses and political projects. This is especially important given the fact that, at least within Europe, the ascription of the pejorative label ‘populist’ to a political adversary is very often a construction of anti-­populist discourse utilised to dignify, through differentiation, its own purity. In an inversely analogous way, populist forces often denounce the tyrannical powers of their enemies who allegedly ignore or even repress the popular will in order to highlight, through difference, their own commitment to truly represent it (see Stavrakakis 2014; 2017). Within the broader context of this struggle between populist and anti-­populist orientations, we can understand populism primarily as a specific type of discourse that claims to express popular interests and to represent associated identities and demands (the ‘will of the people’) against an ‘establishment’ or elite, which is seen as undermining them and forestalling their satisfaction. Accordingly, populist discursive representations typically articulate a polarised, antagonistic framing of the socio-­political field in a bid to inspire and mobilise frustrated/excluded social groups. The latter are called to establish links of unity, which will enable them to effectively challenge the established power structure and to influence decision-­making. In this sense, the main criteria highlighted by a discursive approach in order to facilitate a minimal definition comprise:

Postscript   201 (a) People-­centrism: The signifier ‘the people’ operates here as a nodal point, a point of reference around which other peripheral and often antithetical signifiers and ideas can become articulated; and (b) Anti-­elitism: A dichotomic representation of the socio-­political field between Us (the marginalised, the underdog, ‘the people’) and Them (the establishment, the 1 per cent, the elite). From a discourse-­theoretical perspective, the first criterion follows from a Lacan-­inspired understanding of discursive articulation. Here, the consistency of every discourse is explained through the contingent elevation of a particular signifier to a structuring position, what Lacan called the point de capiton (Laclau and Mouffe 2001). Whereas in a nationalist discourse it is arguably the ‘nation’ that is invested with this role, in a Green discourse, ‘nature’, and so on and so forth, populism cannot emerge without privileging ‘the people’, raising it to a signifier which over-­determines a whole chain of signification. Likewise, the second criterion follows from a particular take on discursive architectonics, inspired by the Saussurean distinction between the syntagmatic and the paradigmatic axes. Drawing on this distinction, Laclau and Mouffe have elaborated the logics of difference and equivalence as two distinct logics through which the representation of social and political space is performed: ‘We, thus, see that the logic of equivalence is a logic of the simplification of political space, while the logic of difference is a logic of its expansion and increasing complexity’ (Laclau and Mouffe 2001: 130). Obviously, in real life both logics continuously overlap. When social and political demands can be (seen to be) addressed one by one within an existing institutional structure, then they cannot escape their differential status. When, however, some dislocatory event intervenes – for example, a crisis destabilising the reproduction of an existing economic, social and political order – then these demands are often frustrated. Α new representation emerges, which splits the social field by paratactically grouping differences and temporarily reducing their multiplicity to a single polarity: ‘Vis-­a-vis oppressive forces, for instance, a set of particularities establish relations of equivalence between themselves’ (Laclau and Mouffe 2001: xiii). In this sense, apart from claiming to represent the popular will, apart from ascribing a privileged position to ‘the people’, the position of the nodal point, populism also ascribes priority to the antagonistic logic of equivalence over that of difference. This perspective discloses the emancipatory potential of certain populist discourses in representing excluded groups and facilitating social incorporation and democratic representation against oppressive and unaccountable power structures. At the same time, this perspective remains alert to the fact that, due to the irreducible impurity of every relation of representation, due to the sliding capacity of signification, even genuine popular grievances and demands can end-­up being represented by illiberal and anti-­democratic forces or becoming hostages of authoritarian institutional dynamics. Its main aim is, thus, to introduce a more reflexive and sober investigation of the multitude of language games which are articulated around ‘the people’, politics and populism, both synchronically and diachronically. Populism research stands to benefit from

202   Yannis Stavrakakis registering the different representations which claim to be an expression of popular interests, identities and demands and, in addition, the complex and polarised language games which play out around the symbolic expression and the affective investment of these demands. Such language games may involve the recognition or the idealisation, the rejection or the demonisation of the phenomenon in question (leading thus to the development of distinct populist and anti-­populist camps). Here, of course, recognition may emanate from an emancipatory desire for equal rights, while idealisation may arise from a reduction of the ‘popular’ to the ethnic core of the nation. Similarly, rejection may involve a suspicion towards the specific ways through which popular demands are formulated and towards the political actors (parties, leaders, etc.) that promote them. But it may also signal an elitist foreclosure of popular sovereignty as the foundation of a democratic polity. Hence, both populist and anti-­populist discourses can acquire ‘progressive’ or ‘reactionary’, democratic or anti-­ democratic forms, as cogently underscored in this volume. This, of course, brings us to the question of typology. Rigorous typology: populisms of the right and populisms of the left Apart from offering a set of operational criteria which enable the differential identification of populist discourses, this formal approach, this architectonics of political discourse, can also dynamically illuminate the crucial issue of capturing different types or degrees of populist profiles, something duly achieved in many chapters of the volume at hand. Already from the 1970s, Laclau had insisted on the variability of populism, on the antithetical ideological articulations of populist discourse (Laclau 1977). This nuanced orientation has been registered lately even within mainstream approaches. For example, Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser (2013) have elaborated a distinction between ‘exclusionary’ and ‘inclusionary’ populism(s), with Latin America being recognised as the locus of left-­wing inclusionary populism, while Europe is presented as the locus of right-­wing exclusionary populism. Yet, the important question is how is it possible, from a discursive perspective, to arrive at a differential identification of inclusionary versus exclusionary types of populism? There are, indeed, two crucial differences between the two, which become visible when they are examined through the formal lens of discursive architectonics. (a) In inclusionary populism, ‘the people’ operates as a fluid ‘empty signifier’ without a fixed signified, while, in exclusionary populism, ‘the people’ usually refers back to a fantasmatic transcendental signified (the nation, race, etc.). In addition (b), in inclusionary populism, the dichotomisation of the political space is arranged in a mostly vertical manner (up/down, high/low), while exclusionary populism involves a horizontal (inside/outside) dichotomic arrangement. The important analytical consequence of this theorisation is that what is often debated as extreme right-­wing or exclusionary populism is, in effect, a nationalist, xenophobic ideology with only peripheral and/or secondary populist elements.

Postscript   203 Hence, in populist discourses proper ‘the people’ is not only located at the core of the discursive articulation. It also operates as an empty signifier, as a signifier without signified, so to speak (Laclau 2005: 69–72, 161–163). In contradistinction, when nationalist discourses employ the signifier the ‘people’, this is either located at the periphery of their chain of signification or, even when it is given a more central place, its populist emptiness is moderated significantly, referring it back to ‘race’ or ‘nation’. These discursive units often function in extreme right discourses as naturalised, original (mythical) points of reference, as Derridean ‘transcendental signifieds’ which attempt to fix signification once and for all. In this sense, whereas predominantly inclusionary populist discourses potentially expand the chain of significations associated with ‘the people’ – even including immigrants – predominantly exclusionary nationalist uses of ‘the people’ seek to arrest and limit this fluidity (see Stavrakakis et al. 2017). At the same time, in spatial terms, populism proper is structured around a vertical, down/up or high/low axis, which refers to power, status and hierarchical socio-­cultural positioning (Dyrberg 2003; Laclau 1977; Ostiguy 2009). By contrast, nationalist or national-­populist discourses prioritise a horizontal arrangement fashioned along the lines of nationalist out-­grouping (de Cleen and Stavrakakis 2017). It is also high time to recognise that the distinction between inclusionary and exclusionary types of populism is not a distinction between a Latin American (left-­wing) and a European (extreme right-­wing) model. As many chapters of this book demonstrate, in the context of the crisis, certain left-­wing populist forces have acquired significant electoral appeal in a variety of European countries (namely Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain), while similar political actors are also present elsewhere (Mélenchon’s project in France, the SP in the Netherlands; see the relevant chapters in this volume). Discursive research has recently confirmed the inclusionary character of such types of populism. In the Greek case, for example, a clear division seems to exist within the ‘populist’ camp which comprises the two parties of the current government coalition: the right-­wing national-­populism of ANEL (Independent Greeks) is exclusionary, while the left-­wing populism of Syriza is inclusive and pluralist (Katsambekis, Chapter 1, this volume; Stavrakakis et al. 2016). And if one compares Syriza with the neo-­Nazi Golden Dawn, the distance becomes even more pronounced (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014: 135). In addition, discursive research into the extreme right in France (Front National) and the Netherlands (PVV) has also revealed that characteristics such as xenophobia and exclusionary (ethnic) nationalism are those which clearly differentiate their respective discourses (Stavrakakis et al. 2017). This needs to be taken seriously into account and to inform contemporary comparative approaches in a bid to build meaningful typologies: ‘Left-­wing and right-­wing populist parties differ in important aspects, namely in that the latter are inwards looking, thus primarily nationalist/chauvinist, referring to a nativist body politics, while left-­wing populist parties are traditionally oriented towards internationalism or post-­nationalism’ (Wodak 2015: 8).

204   Yannis Stavrakakis

Future research agenda The above-­mentioned orientations can help us avoid debilitating stereotypes and arrive at a more nuanced approach to the analysis of populist politics in the twenty-­first century. For example, they can further illuminate the articulatory nature of left-­wing populism and its ‘inclusionary’ character, which is well captured in this book’s relevant case studies. Populism and the left This is bound to have important repercussions on the thorny issue of the relationship between populist and leftist designations. In his chapter on Slovenia, for example, Toplišek is correct to argue that Marxism has historically entertained a difficult relationship with populism. While they both share a strong anti-­elitism, Marxist philosophy often presented itself as a refined version of conflict theory, whereas populism (of the peasants, for example) was treated only as a rudimentary form of (evolving) class/ socialist consciousness. This is because the populist construction of the radical subject (‘the people’) lacked a systemic analysis and failed to bring into play an account of the economic relations of power underpinning elite rule. (Toplišek, Chapter 3, this volume) In this sense, populist mobilisations have often figured as a more or less immature class struggle of the ignorant. If, however, we avoid the logocentric assumption (wishful thinking) that political actors are necessarily social theorists in the making or left-­wing rational choice automata, then why not see ‘populist struggle’ as a genus concept subsuming the species ‘class struggle’? The specific ways in which a particular historical situation will be overdetermined and shaped will, of course, depend on the particular balance of political forces and operative identities on offer within a particular conjuncture. No a priori exclusions seem warranted here, in the construction of popular-­democratic subjectivity. Which is not to say, of course, that tensions related to the function of leadership and other aspects of the relationship between populism and left-­wing politics should not be raised. This is something that Marlière presses vi-­s-vis Mélenchon’s populist strategy: He has ceased to use the notion of left altogether. What defines FI’s populism is the role and the centrality of the leader. One may wonder whether populism is the best strategy to broaden the left’s electorate as left-­wing and right-­wing populisms do not tap in the same culture and do not express the same feelings. (Marlière, Chapter 4, this volume) However, novel research efforts will also be required to tackle other emerging issues that merit our attention. In bringing this postscript to a close, I would like

Postscript   205 to dwell on a couple of them, especially those that are already registered in the various contributions. Let me start with the relation between crisis and populism, which is discussed in many chapters. Crisis and populism Researchers of populist mobilisations have often stressed the central role that some notion of ‘crisis’ plays in the manifestation of populist phenomena (Laclau 1977: 175; Taggart 2000: 2, 4–5, 93–94, 117; Roberts 2015). Benjamin Moffitt has recently placed emphasis on the performative construction of crisis by populist discourse itself: ‘if we do not have the performance of crisis, we do not have populism’ (Moffitt 2015: 190). Connecting both perspectives, Ernesto Laclau has highlighted the dual character of social dislocation: dislocation, the failure of an established system of representation to effectively incorporate an ‘anomaly’ (or ‘failure’), is presupposed as a triggering mechanism for new populist and other discursive constructions, which performatively narrate its characteristics and offer distinct political solutions (Laclau 1990: 63, 65). In this approach, the real of the crisis (what others would call the ‘objective’ dimension of the crisis) becomes accessible through mediation, through its performative construction and representation by populist discourse (Stavrakakis et al. 2018). Hence, according to an Essex School perspective, it is through the performative articulation of such narratives that ‘discourses’ are constituted and identities assumed. In addition, this process invariably involves ‘the construction of antagonisms and the drawing of political frontiers between “insiders” and “outsiders” ’ (Howarth and Stavrakakis 2000: 4). This dialectic choreography between economic crisis, crisis of representation, and new political narratives with populist hegemonic pretensions marks many examples of relatively successful populist projects in the recent European crisis conjuncture. Thus, in the words of Giorgos Katsambekis, ‘[t]he rise to power of Syriza, once a fringe political force, can be seen as one of the main by-­ products of the severe socio-­economic crisis that hit Greece in 2009’ (Katsambekis, Chapter 1, this volume). The situation is arguably similar in Spain and Slovenia. As Kioupkiolis observes: ‘as it happens frequently with populist politics […], Podemos was a response to a crisis of political representation’ (Kioupkiolis, Chapter 2, this volume). And as Toplišek likewise concludes: ‘The 2012–2013 protests, therefore, opened up an opportunity for the strategic shift of the Slovenian radical left shift towards direct engagement with electoral politics’ (Toplišek, Chapter 3, this volume). The opposite also seems to be true. Where crisis has not reached a critical threshold (real or imagined), no substantial gains have been won by populist projects so far. The case of the Netherlands is revealing here: The Netherlands do not seem to experience a crisis of representation like Greece, Spain or France: Dutch politics is still ‘business as usual,’ and as far as there is a crisis, it benefits nationalist-­populist parties like the PVV and

206   Yannis Stavrakakis the new Forum for Democracy (Forum voor Democratie/FvD), which entered parliament in 2017 with two seats, more than any left-­wing party. (Lucardie and Voerman, Chapter 5, this volume) But then again one needs to be alert to the fact that the crisis in question may not be a general crisis of the state, a general crisis of hegemony. Populism may also be a ‘solution’ to a more limited crisis of a left-­wing political tradition. For example, in France, [h]aving diagnosed that social democracy was a spent force as a progressive organisation […], Mélenchon left the PS in 2008 and launched the Left Party (Parti de Gauche/PG). He was elected twice a member of the European parliament (2009–2017), and elected FI deputy (member of the National Assembly) in June 2017. (Marlière, Chapter 4, in this volume) Likewise, ‘it is true that Corbynism did emerge out of a crisis of representation within the Labour Party and that under Corbyn there is now a clear antagonistic, ideological divide between the Labour leadership and the Conservatives’. In effect, ‘suggesting that radical or oppositional movements emerge from a crisis of representation and that they reflect an antagonism of some sort seems to be stating the obvious’ (Maiguashca and Dean, Chapter 7, this volume). At any rate, discursive articulation relies on blame attribution, on the affective investment of difference through the identification of ‘constitutive outsides’, sustaining thus binary oppositions such as us/them (Howarth and Stavrakakis 2000: 22). Similar conclusions can be drawn from a framing perspective. In order to render our experience meaningful, framing efforts are supposed to identify problems, to diagnose causes and to assign blame (Goffman 1974; Snow and Benford 1988; Kuypers 2010): ‘framing processes also allow for the definition of the self and the opponents, in short for the definition of the “us” and the “them” category’ (Caiani and Della Porta 2011: 182). Such a discursive and/or rhetorical perspective on framing and articulation processes alerts us to something rarely highlighted in populism research: it is never only one political force that is engaged in the aforementioned process. In fact, for every populist actor asserting his or her presence, there are other anti-­populist actors antagonising it. Hence, our hypothesis is that it is not just populists who take advantage of a crisis situation in a bid to mobilise subjects and to put forward a counter-­hegemonic project. Hegemonic political forces and mainstream media are often the first ones to pursue a (radically anti-­populist) construction of the crisis, for example, by shifting the blame on to the ‘populists’ themselves. In other words, it is impossible to effectively study populism without carefully examining anti-­populism (Stavrakakis 2014; Stavrakakis et al. 2018; Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2018). And yet we rarely encounter attempts to define ‘anti-­populism’ in ways that highlight its specificity as a type of discursive articulation and communication strategy.

Postscript   207 Populism in power The rigorous study of left-­wing populism in Europe – especially in the crisis-­ ridden South – inevitably poses another important question, that of populism in power, a rather counterintuitive notion to the extent that public wisdom generally has it that populism can only be effective in opposition. Yet, the example of the current Syriza coalition government in Greece invites one to urgently reconsider this misleading idea (see Katsambekis, Chapter 1, this volume). Obviously, few populist parties have formed governments, especially within the European context. Second, as already mentioned, populism is often understood as a political strategy or rhetorical style that may be potentially rewarding while in opposition, but it is certainly challenging, if not harmful, when in government (to the extent that maximalist populist promises can rarely be kept). Both these statements, however, no matter how self-­evident they seem, should not be taken for granted and should remain open to scrutiny. In fact, many populist governments have managed to establish long-­term populist hegemonies, primarily in Latin American countries like Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, etc. (see de la Torre 2014; Hawkins 2010; Panizza 2009; Philip and Panizza 2011), but also in Europe. The case of Greece under the populist rule of Andreas Papandreou’s PASOK throughout the 1980s, and contemporary Hungary are two important cases in point (see Batory 2015; Lyrintzis 1987; Spourdalakis 1988). The case of contemporary Greece, a European country in which not one but two populist parties have been sharing power, is clearly of huge interest. Here, the left-­ wing populist Syriza and the right-­wing populist nationalist ANEL formed a coalition government after the January 2015 elections (see Aslanidis and Kaltwasser 2016). Interestingly enough, the coalition has remained in power even though it failed to deliver on its promises to stop austerity and renegotiate the bailout agreements (memoranda) between Greece and its European partners/lenders, including some sort of radical debt relief. Despite this failure, the two parties almost repeated their January 2015 performance in the September 2015 elections and continue to govern together (see Katsambekis, Chapter 1, this volume). Not only, then, does the coalition itself represent a ‘major political novelty’ – ‘the first ever European alliance of a radical left-­wing and a radical right-­wing populist party’. Its resilience, too, ‘prevailing over every theory of economic voting’ (Aslanidis and Kaltwasser 2016: 1078–1080), seems to constitute a paradox worthy of exploring in depth (for a first elaboration, see Andreadis and Stavrakakis 2017). Horizontality versus verticality in populist politics Populist politics is usually associated with a vertical, unmediated relationship between the leader and the led. Yet, the reality of populist actors may be more complex, as the example of Spain demonstrates: Podemos was started as an endeavour to ally in a hybrid mix two divergent approaches to democratic politics: the horizontal, open, diverse, networked

208   Yannis Stavrakakis and assembly-­based mobilizations of the multitude on the streets and the web, on the one hand, and the vertical, hierarchical, unified, formal and representative structures of party formations, on the other. (Kioupkiolis, Chapter 2, this volume) Interestingly enough, this has also been the conclusion of our research with the POPULISMUS team in Venezuela. Likewise, the Chavista bloc has been marked not only by heterogeneity but also by fundamental contradictions, crucially between the logics of horizontality and verticality. Its coalescence around the figure of a charismatic leader and its top-­down direction were in tension with its more egalitarian and bottom-­up forms of social self-­ management, which have entered into relations of mutual support and conflict with the Chavista administration and have evinced different levels of independence from it. The conflictual interplay between horizontality and verticality has not only informed the relations between the Chavista government and the grassroots. It has also pervaded grassroots organisations internally, as these display varying degrees of nonhierarchical structure, self-­management, commitment to radical democracy and autonomy from the leadership and the state (see Stavrakakis et al. 2016: 67). In this sense, the articulation between the two logics needs to be further studied to reach a comprehensive account of the complexity of populist politics at a global level. And here, astonishingly, Laclau’s formal approach can be of great help. It is clear that, for him, an empowered democracy today will need to effectively combine horizontalism and verticalism: the horizontal dimension of autonomy will be incapable, left to itself, of bringing about long-­term historical change if it is not complemented by the vertical dimension of ‘hegemony’ – that is, a radical transformation of the state. Autonomy left to itself leads, sooner or later, to the exhaustion and the dispersion of the movements of protest. But hegemony not accompanied by mass action at the level of civil society leads to a bureaucratism that will be easily colonized by the corporative power of the forces of the status quo. To advance both in the directions of autonomy and hegemony is the real challenge to those who aim for a democratic future […]. (Laclau, 2014: 9) At the same time, what opens up at this point is a huge opportunity for left-­wing institutional innovation: Egalitarian populist movements in recent years have not yet developed the required structure and stamina to persist and carry out systemic transformation on their own initiative. But the ‘vertical’ solutions of the past – centralised parties, governments and leaders – could not redeem the potentials of progressive populism towards greater freedom and equality. The political breakthroughs of populism 2.0 may do, if movements build

Postscript   209 upon them, buttress them with proper institutional designs, and tackle their deficiencies. (Kioupkiolis, Chapter 8, this volume)

Concluding remarks: double hermeneutics To conclude, the analysis of Podemos in Spain as well as that of Mélenchon’s political project in the relevant chapters of this volume also uncover the links between populist politicians and theorists of populism that often operate as their supreme inspiration (a relationship of double hermeneutics). Today, the drama of normative anti-­populist reflection that unfolds in front of our eyes in academia is multi-­dimensional. As for its impact, it may very well be terminal. It has turned out to be not only grossly incapable of predicting or understanding what is happening, but also embodying an elitist arrogance, which increases its insignificance and minimises its wider appeal. Only the passage towards a formal reflexive approach can provide the necessary resources for a much-­needed reorientation – and here discursive approaches are leading the way. I have tried to show in the preceding paragraphs how this can be achieved on a variety of levels, especially when we deal with Left-­wing populism in Europe. At the same time, however, it becomes increasingly important to register the importance of the current historical conjuncture and of a major theoretico-­ political dilemma it brings forth: what is increasingly realised is that the crucial cleavage is no longer that between populism and anti-­populism, but, instead, that between different types of populism. As long as global inequality, uncertainty and fear keep growing, the demands of the impoverished, neglected and forgotten middle and lower classes will intensify. And as these demands are usually expressed using an antagonistic popular-­democratic grammar, through a reference to the signifier ‘the people’, it should be expected that they, in turn, will be discredited and denounced as ‘populist’. Furthermore, if the ‘revolt of the elites’ – to refer to the seminal book by Christopher Lasch – continues unabated, if inclusionary, egalitarian populist calls are ignored or even crushed – here the Greek case is crucial, see Katsambekis, Chapter 1 in this volume – then authoritarian exclusion, whether populist or non-­populist, will surely figure as the only force able to ostensibly challenge an increasingly unequal, unjust and disconnected status quo, reducing ‘the people’ to a xenophobic and chauvinistic ‘nation’, translating economic grievances into essentialist identity claims and transposing to other types of persecuted minorities an anti-­elitism that targets the ‘minority’ of the 1 per cent. Can we really let our arrogance and ignorance make this happen? If this is the case, then intellectuals may soon find themselves forced to choose between inclusionary and exclusionary populism. They may have to take sides in favour of inclusionary populism and against both a decaying, openly elitist establishment and its exclusionary populist pseudo-­alternative. To the extent that the role of ‘the people’ remains central within any democratic regime, to the extent, in other words, that some kind of populism will remain

210   Yannis Stavrakakis unavoidable, what we may need is to cautiously engage with and sublimate inclusionary populism, while fighting exclusionary populism. This may be especially the case from a Left-­wing perspective. Indeed, it might be impossible to combat exclusionary populism without engaging inclusionary populism in a bid to reflexively educate emancipatory popular desires (Stavrakakis 2014: 514). A host of important progressive theorists currently seem to be realising this crucial dilemma (Mouffe 2018; 2016; Butler 2017; Fraser 2017; Piketty 2017), which might indeed be unavoidable (see Stavrakakis 2017).

Note 1 In this section, I will be drawing on arguments first articulated in my article ‘Discourse Theory in Populism Research: Three Challenges and a Dilemma’, Journal of Language and Politics 16(4): 523–534.

References Andreadis, I. and Stavrakakis, Y. (2017) ‘European Populist Parties in Government: How Well Are Voters Represented? Evidence from Greece’, Swiss Political Science Review, advance online publication, DOI: 10.1111/spsr.12255. Aslanidis, P. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2016) ‘Dealing with Populists in Government: The SYRIZA-­ANEL Coalition in Greece’, Democratization, DOI: 10.1080/13510347. 2016.1154842. Barthes, R. (1979) ‘Lecture in Inauguration of the Chair of Literary Semiology’, Collège de France, 7 January 1977, October 8: 3–16. Batory, A. (2015) ‘Populists in Government? Hungary’s “System of National Cooperation” ’, Democratization 23(2): 283–303. Butler, J. (2017) ‘Trump is Emancipating Unbridled Hatred’, Zeit Online, 28 October. Available at:­butler-donald-­trump-populism-­interview/ komplettansicht (accessed 4 July 2018). Caiani, M. and Della Porta, D. (2011) ‘The Elitist Populism of the Extreme Right’, Acta Politica 46(2): 180–202. Canovan, M. (1981) Populism, London: Junction Books. Collins, R. (1989) ‘The Originality Trap: Richard Hofstadter on Populism’, The Journal of American History 76(1): 150–167. Crouch, C. (2004) Post-­Democracy, Cambridge: Polity. de Cleen, B. and Stavrakakis, Y. (2017) ‘Distinctions and Articulations: Discourse Theory and the Study of Populism and Nationalism’, Javnost – The Public 24(4): 301–319. de la Torre, Carlos (ed.) (2014) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. Diamandouros, N. (1994) ‘Cultural Dualism and Political Change in Post-­authoritarian Greece’, Working paper 50, Madrid: Instituto Juan March. Dyrberg, T. B. (2003) ‘Right/left in the Context of New Political Frontiers: What’s Radical Politics Today?’, Journal of Language and Politics 2(2): 333–360.  Fraser, N. (2017) ‘Against Progressive Neoliberalism, A New Progressive Populism’, Dissent, 28 January. Available at:­ fraser-against-­progressive-neoliberalism-­progressive-populism (accessed 4 July 2018).

Postscript   211 Germani, G. (1978) Authoritarianism, Fascism, and National Populism, New Brunswick: Transaction. Gilman, N. (2003) Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Goffman, E. (1974) Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience, New York: Harper and Row. Habermas, J. (2013) The Crisis of the European Union: A Response, Cambridge: Polity. Hawkins, K. (2010) Venezuela’s Chavismo and Populism in Comparative Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hofstadter, R. (1955) ‘The Folklore of Populism’, in The Age of Reform, New York: Vintage Books. Howarth, D. and Stavrakakis, Y. (2000) ‘Introducing Discourse Theory and Political Analysis’, in Norval, Aletta, Howarth, David and Stavrakakis, Yannis (eds) Discourse Theory and Political Analysis, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1‑23. Katsambekis, G. (2016) ‘Radical Left Populism in Contemporary Greece: Syriza’s Trajectory from Minoritarian Opposition to Power’, Constellations 23(3): 391–403. Kioupkiolis, A. (2016) ‘Podemos: The Ambiguous Promises of Left-­wing Populism in Contemporary Spain’, Journal of Political Ideologies 21(2): 99–120. Krugman, P. (2016) ‘Our Unknown Country’, New York Times. Available at: www.­night-2016/the-­unknown-country (accessed 4 July 2018). Kuypers, J. (2010) ‘Framing Analysis as a Rhetorical Process’, in D’Angelo, P. and Kuypers, J. (eds) Doing News Framing Analysis: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives, New York: Routledge, 286–311. Laclau, E. (1977) Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory, London: NLB. Laclau, E. (1990) New Reflections on the Revolution of our Time, London: Verso. Laclau, E. (2005) On Populist Reason, London: Verso. Laclau, E. (2014) The Rhetorical Foundations of Society, London: Verso. Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. [1985] (2001) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (2nd ed.), London: Verso. Latham, M. (2000) Modernization as Ideology, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Latour, B. (2016) ‘Two Bubbles of Unrealism: Learning From the Tragedy of Trump’, Los Angeles Review of Books. Available at: /article/two-­ bubbles-unrealism-­learning-tragedy-­trump/ (accessed 4 July 2018). Lipset, S. M. (1960) Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics, New York: Doubleday. Lyrintzis, C. (1987) ‘The Power of Populism: The Greek Case’, European Journal of Political Research 15(6): 667–686. Moffitt, B. (2015) ‘How to Perform Crisis: A Model for Understanding the Key Role of Crisis in Contemporary Populism’, Government and Opposition 50(2): 189–217. Mouffe, C. (2016) ‘In Defence of Left-­wing Populism’, The Conversation, 29 April. Available at:­defence-of-­left-wing-­populism-55869 (accessed 1 July 2017). Mouffe, C. (2018) For a Left Populism, London: Verso. Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (eds) (2012) Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or Corrective for Democracy?, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2013) ‘Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary Populism: Comparing Contemporary Europe and Latin America’, Government and Opposition 48(2): 147–174.

212   Yannis Stavrakakis Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C. R. (2017) Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nugent, W. [1963] (2013) The Tolerant Populists: Kansas Populism and Nativism, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Ostiguy, P. (2009) ‘The High-­Low Political Divide: Rethinking Populism and AntiPopulism’, Kellogg Institute Committee on Concepts and Methods Working Paper Series 360. Available at:­ Low_Divide_Rethinking_Populism_and_Anti-­Populism (accessed 1 July 2017). Panizza, F. (ed) (2005) Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, London: Verso. Panizza, F. (2009) Contemporary Latin America: Development and Democracy Beyond the Washington Consensus: The Rise of the Left, London: Zed Books. Philip, G. and Panizza, F. (2011) The Triumph of Politics: The Return of the Left in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, Cambridge: Polity Press. Piketty, T. (2017) ‘Long Live Populism!’ Le Monde Blogs, 17 January. Available at:­live-populism/ (accessed 1 July 2017). Pollack, N. (1962) The Populist Response to Industrial America, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Roberts, K. M. (2015) ‘Populism, Political Mobilizations, and Crises of Political Representation’, in de la Torre, C. (ed.) The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 140–158. Snow, D. A. and Benford, R. D. (1988) ‘Ideology, Frame Resonance, and Participant Mobilization’, International Social Movement Research 1: 197–217. Spourdalakis, M. (1988) The Rise of the Greek Socialist Party, London: Routledge. Stavrakakis, Y. (2004) ‘Antinomies of Formalism: Laclau’s Theory of Populism and the Lessons from Religious Populism in Greece’, Journal of Political Ideologies 9(3): 253–267. Stavrakakis, Y. (2014) ‘The Return of “the People”: Populism and Anti-­Populism in the Shadow of the European Crisis’, Constellations 21(4): 505–517. Stavrakakis, Y. (2017) ‘Discourse Theory in Populism Research’, Journal of Language and Politics 16(4): 523–534. Stavrakakis, Y. and Jäger, A. (2017) ‘Accomplishments and Limitations of the “New” Mainstream in Contemporary Populism Studies’, European Journal of Social Theory, advance online publication, DOI: 10.1177/1368431017723337. Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2014) ‘Left-­wing Populism in the European Periphery: The Case of SYRIZA’, Journal of Political Ideologies 19(2): 119–142. Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsambekis, G. (2018) ‘The Populism/Anti-­populism Frontier and its Mediation in Crisis-­ridden Greece’, European Political Science, First Online: 22 January 2018, DOI: 10.1057/s41304-017-0138-3. Stavrakakis, Y., Katsambekis, G., Kioupkiolis, A., Nikisianis, N. and Siomos, T. (2018) ‘Populism, Anti-­populism and Crisis’, Contemporary Political Theory 17(1): 4–27. Stavrakakis, Y., Katsambekis, G., Nikisianis, N., Kioupkiolis, A. and Siomos, T. (2017) ‘Extreme Right-­wing Populism in Europe: Revisiting a Reified Association’, Critical Discourse Studies 14(4): 420–439. Taggart, P. (2000) Populism, Buckingham: Open University Press. Vann Woodward, C. (1981) ‘Who Are “the People”?’ The New Republic, 16 May, 32–34. Wodak, R. (2015) The Politics of Fear: What Right-­Wing Populist Discourses Mean, London: Sage.


15M (movement) xi, 2, 15, 49–50, 52–56, 58, 168, 173, 176–189 aganaktismenoi xi, 24–25, 30–31, 75, 158 Alavanos, Alekos 26 anti-elitism 8, 22, 47, 66, 74, 82, 134, 157, 201, 204, 109 Arab Spring 17, 168, 174, 182, 188 autonomy 173, 174, 175, 181, 190; and hegemony xi, 5, 6, 15, 48, 61, 67; social 175 austerity 1, 3, 15, 16, 21, 24, 28, 30, 32, 33–37, 41, 42, 50, 55, 56, 65, 74, 77, 83, 85, 89, 123, 126, 148, 163, 187, 207; anti-austerity 24–25, 28, 30–31, 32, 34, 37, 40, 147–148, 150, 153, 154, 158; pro-austerity forces 34, 37 Bobbio, Norberto 12–13 Canovan, Margaret 6–7, 134, 161, 200 Chávez, Hugo 16, 52, 56, 64, 100, 107, 147, 187, 190; neochavismo 64 citizens 1, 6, 9, 23, 28, 30, 31, 35, 36, 37, 49–57, 59, 60, 65, 101, 104, 115, 135, 178, 179, 181, 182, 183, 187, 189; angry 158; citizen insurrection 98; citizenism 23, 176–177; citizenry 60, 172; citizens’ movement 94; citizens’ platforms 50, 53, 54, 61; citizen’s revolution 96, 101; citizenship 13, 38; disaffected 67, 78, 88; mass of 97, 196; ordinary 54–57, 101, 179, 181, 183, 189; second class 118 Coalition of Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos/SYN), Greece 25–27 common, the 176; common democracy 118; common politics 54–55; commoning 54, 66; politics of the common 48, 106

Communist Party, Greek (KKE) 26, 31, 162 Communist Party of the Netherlands 113, 115, 116, 123 conceptual (over)stretching 17, 134, 146, 161, 196 Corbyn, Jeremy 3–4, 18n2, 18n3, 145–151, 153–159, 163, 177, 206; Corbynism 4, 16–17, 145–146, 148–149, 151–159, 161, 163, 196, 206; Corbynite discourse 163; #Grime4Corbyn campaign 157; movement 150; phenomenon 151 crisis 1–4, 14–16, 56, 105, 124, 126, 135, 158, 187–188, 199, 201, 203, 205–206; of capitalism 136; of democracy 1, 134; economic 1, 2, 3, 14, 21, 40, 47, 49, 50, 77, 79, 148, 205; European 197, 205; financial 14, 24, 76, 90n1, 148; Greek 17n1, 25–31, 34, 40; of hegemony 206; humanitarian 33, 40; of legitimation 25, 49; of the liberal-democratic consensus 49; of modern civilisation 136; of (political) representation 14, 24–25, 40, 47, 59, 65, 126, 152–153, 205; of the political system 187; populism and 9, 205; security 9; social 9; socioeconomic 23, 65, 205; sovereign debt 76, 86; Spanish 51, 55; of the state 206; systemic 139; see also dislocation Democracia Real Ya (Real Democracy Now) 177 democracy 1, 9, 15, 25, 32–34, 37, 48–50, 55, 56, 59, 66, 77, 82, 89, 99, 135, 137–138, 150, 153, 158, 162, 178–180, 188–189, 199, 208; American 197; bourgeois 118; common 118; direct 25, 83, 135, 138, 189; emancipatory 177;

214   Index democracy continued German 129, 141; internal 122; horizontal 54; liberal 48, 65, 90n1, 187; parliamentary, participatory 24, 56, 66, 178; popular 137; post-democracy 48–49, 66, 67, 100; radical 61, 208; real 5, 25, 49, 67, 116, 117, 120, 188; representative 49, 96, 135, 137–138, 182, 187; western 129 Democratic Labour Party (DSD), Slovenia 73 Die Linke see Left Party (LP), Germany digital commons 173 dislocation 9, 29, 31, 205 dualism 51, 54

Indignados see 15M (movement) Initiative for Democratic Socialism (IDS), Slovenia 73, 75–76, 86–88, 90n4 International Monetary Fund (IMF) 24, 86, 189 institutionalisation 5, 15, 48, 62, 67 Janša, Janez 74–76, 79, 84, 89 Kant, Agnes 122, 124 Kox, Tiny 120 Koffeman, Nico 119, 123

hegemony 1, 5, 55–56, 59, 61, 183, 208; counter-hegemony 153; neoliberal 56, 65, 187, 189; of ‘pablismo’ 63; the politics of 171, 176, 180; populist 59, 176; theory of 48, 58–59, 170–171; see also autonomy; crisis Hegemony and Socialist Strategy 61 horizontality xi, 48, 66, 99, 176–177, 184; agonistic 185, 188; and verticality 207–208

L’Ère du Peuple (The Time of the People) 98 Labour Party (PvdA), Netherlands 16, 123–126 Labour Party, UK 4, 17, 18n3, 145–151, 153–158, 163, 177, 196, 206 Laclau, Ernesto 5–9, 16, 21, 31, 40, 47–48, 50–51, 58–61, 67, 67n3, 88, 95, 98, 100, 107, 114, 145–146, 150–153, 157, 159–160, 162, 164n1, 169–172, 176, 178, 180, 194–196, 200–202, 205, 208; Laclauians 159–160; Laclauian tradition 160 leadership 15, 39, 62, 86–88, 93, 103, 105, 107, 126, 133, 177, 180, 183–184, 189, 195, 204, 208; centralised 15, 48, 184, 189; collaborative 173; collective 183; individual 6, 59; informal 185; exclusionary 184; intellectual 48, 58; of the Labour Party, UK 145–148, 150, 153, 158, 177, 206; of Mélenchon 100, 107; of Pablo Iglesias 60, 64, 66; personal(ist) 66–67, 169, 172–173, 183; of Podemos 15, 48, 53, 55, 62–63, 65, 107; political 183; populist 5, 170; of the SP 120–122; of Syriza 26, 35, 39; top-down 173; vertical 5, 177 Left Front (FDG), France 2, 94, 96–97, 103 Left Party (LP), Germany 3, 14, 16, 39, 96, 124, 129–133, 135–141, 196 Left/right distinction 12–13, 16, 48, 52, 56, 63, 66, 75, 94, 101, 106–107, 161, 178, 179, 184 Levica (United Left), Slovenia 3, 73–92, 194 Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) 79

Iglesias, Pablo 50, 52–53, 56, 59–60, 62–64, 66, 67n3, 96, 100, 103, 107, 158, 161 Independent Greeks (ANEL) 1, 34, 36, 38, 42, 42n5, 203

Maoism 16, 23, 114–118, 122, 195; de-Maoisation 119, 121 March, Luke 2–3, 13, 15, 82, 89, 130, 135, 162, 196 Marijnissen, Jan 118, 120, 122, 124, 126

equivalence 50, 171, 180; chain of 8, 13, 27, 29–30, 50, 74, 88, 101, 106, 152, 155, 158, 171, 180, 201; difference and 201; logic of 61, 201 equivalential chain see equivalence Errejón, Íñigo 51–52, 58, 62–64, 100, 103, 107 Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV) 123–124 feminisation 186 feminism 150, 185–188 Forum for Democracy (FvD), Netherlands 126, 206 France Insoumise (FI) see Unbowed France Freeden, Michael 11, 114 Front de Gauche see Left Front (FDG), France Gerbaudo, Paolo 23, 176–177 Great Recession 3, 22

Index   215 Marijnissen, Lilian 122, 124–125 Marxism-Leninism 114, 116, 119, 121 Mélenchon, Jean-Luc 2, 3, 15–16, 21, 41, 81, 93–107, 108n2, 108n6, 108n7, 108n8, 195, 203, 204, 206, 209 memorandum (of understanding) 21, 24, 35, 37, 38; ‘pro-memorandum’ versus ‘anti-memorandum’ divide in Greece 31 millennials 169, 174, 181, 185 Momentum (movement), UK 4, 16, 18n3, 140, 148–151, 154, 156–157, 159 Mouffe, Chantal 6, 13–14, 61, 88, 100–101, 106, 114, 161, 200–201 Mudde, Cas 7, 10–12, 22, 114–115, 134, 146, 159–160, 162, 168–170, 178, 184, 188, 202 multicultural 104, 118 Narodniki 4, 17, 82, 168, 176, 188 New Democracy (ND), Greece 24, 26–27, 30–31, 40, 42n3, 42n7 Occupy (movement) xi, 17, 34, 75, 150, 163, 168, 176, 182, 188 On populist reason 7, 151 Ostiguy, Pierre 9, 23, 35, 36 Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK), Greece 17n1, 21, 24, 26, 27, 29–31, 32, 38, 40, 42n3, 42n7, 148; pasokification 148 Papademos, Lucas 24 Papandreou, Andreas 24, 42n7, 207 Papandreou, George 24 participation, open 173, 185, 188 Party of the European Left (PEL) 13, 41, 81, 124 people, the 6–9, 22–25, 28, 30, 32–34, 36–40, 54, 58, 60, 64–65, 67, 81–82, 94–95, 98, 100, 114–116, 118–120, 130, 132–134, 137, 139, 141, 148, 150, 152, 154–156, 160–161, 163, 172, 177–178, 183, 185, 189–190, 200, 209; against the elite/establishment 22, 56, 59, 62, 94–95, 97–98, 106, 115, 136, 188, 195, 201; appeals to 11, 52; construction of 57, 81–82, 171, 205; as the democratic sovereign 8, 25, 50, 135, 178; in elitism 12; as empty signifier 12, 202–203; exclusionary/closed 8–9, 209; in German (Menschen) 137; homogeneous 10, 22, 114, 134, 159, 170, 181; identified with the leader 107; inclusionary/open 9; of left populism

13; as multitude 98; as nodal point 22, 74, 97, 146, 153, 201; the ordinary 81, 116, 118; people-centrism 8, 22, 201; people-nation 15, 48, 61; as plebs 50, 171; in pluralism 12; plural/ heterogeneous 23, 39, 41, 115, 134; popular unity 23, 98; power of/to 52, 168; protagonist 32–33, 52; pure 10, 12, 22, 114, 134, 159, 170; rule of 115; in Slovenian (ljudstvo) 81; as subordinate 23; versus the multitude 176 People’s Assembly, UK 157 People’s Party, US 4, 17, 168, 198 personalism 48, 59–61, 190 Pizzorno, Alessandro 13 pluralism 12, 48, 60, 170, 181; antipluralism 22; 184; conflictual 61 plurality 23, 31, 40, 50, 61, 66, 171, 175, 180, 184, 188 Podemos xi, 1–3, 15, 17, 21, 25, 29, 47–66, 67n3, 75, 88, 94, 98–101, 103, 106–107, 134, 148, 150, 158, 161, 168, 177, 189, 194–195, 203, 205, 207–208, 209 Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory 7 Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) 24, 32 populism: anti-populism 86, 188, 197–198, 206, 209; Chavista 190; definition 6–12, 22–23, 50–51, 74, 94–95, 114, 133–135, 151–154, 159–161, 169–173, 200–203; discursive approach 7–9, 22–23, 29, 50–51, 151–153, 169, 170–171; and elitism 12, 170; epistemological 155, 161; grassroots/bottom-up 17, 52, 168–169, 177; ideational approach to 10–12, 154, 159, 169–170; inclusionary/ exclusionary 9, 15, 28, 40, 202–203, 209–210; leader-centric 23, 39, 93; leftwing 2, 4, 9, 12–13, 15, 22, 28, 47, 51, 59, 65–67, 90, 94, 106–107, 145, 151, 162–163, 194–195, 204, 209; middleclass 64; οpen-source 169, 176, 184, 188; performative approach to 6, 9, 11, 205; plebiscitarian 63; populism 2.0 17, 47, 168–169, 170, 174, 177, 180–189, 194, 208–209; post-populism 169, 177; pragmatic, reflexive 58, 197; right-wing 2, 8, 28, 51, 66, 93, 106–107, 140, 154, 161–162, 177, 198; strategic approach to 10, 95, 169, 172–173; style of communication 114; ‘thicker’ conception of 161–163; top-down 17, 52, 169, 173, 176; second-wave of, technopopulism 51, 57, 64; see also crisis

216   Index POPULISMUS (project) xii, 8, 21, 153, 208 Potami, Greece 38 radical left 1–3, 5, 6, 13–14, 18n2, 18n3, 21, 23, 25, 32, 39, 40, 75–77, 93, 96, 99, 104, 124, 133–135, 151, 196; and radical right 140, 161, 197 radical right 2, 8–9, 16, 24, 194; see also radical left reflexivity 17, 51, 58, 169, 185–188; critical 197; self-reflexivity 199 Roberts, Kenneth 9 Roemer, Emile 115, 122, 124–125 signifier, empty 5, 12, 27, 34, 50, 59, 103, 106, 152, 154, 162, 171, 179–181, 202–203; floating 58; nodal 27, 201; populist 81, 159; and feminism 185–186, 188; and government/power 4, 16, 35–36, 40, 126, 207; and moralism 10–12, 22–23, 28–29, 41, 154, 170; and organisation 5; and pluralism 12, 22–23, 41; and socialism 81–82, 195; unifying 154; see also people, the Slovenian protests 2012–2013 xi, 74–76 social movements xi, 1–2, 4–5, 25, 26–27, 30, 34, 40, 48–49, 50, 52, 54–55, 65–66, 75, 87, 106, 124, 140, 149, 154,

157–158, 175, 187, 195; horizontal(ist) 15, 47, 53, 66; left 73; populist 4, 17, 22, 168; unified 157 socialism 11, 13, 41, 77, 113, 116, 119–120, 163; twenty-first century 56; actually existing 119; democratic 75, 88–89, 96; ecosocialism 104; radical 120; see also populism Socialist Party (SP), Netherlands 3, 16, 39, 113–126, 195, 203 squares movement 4, 17, 23, 24, 31, 36, 40, 168, 173; see also 15M (movement); aganaktismenoi Stavrakakis, Yannis 22, 114, 146, 153–154, 158–160, 162, 170 Syriza xi, 1–3, 14–15, 17, 21–42, 42n3, 42n4, 42n5, 52, 56, 58, 66, 75, 83, 90, 99, 100, 124, 134, 148, 158, 168, 177, 189, 194, 203, 205, 207 technopolitics 15, 47, 56, 57, 66, 180–181 troika 32–34, 36, 83 Tsipras, Alexis 23, 26, 28, 31, 34, 36–39, 42n2, 96, 100, 107, 124, 158 UK Uncut 157 Unbowed France 2, 3, 15, 94–107, 108n6 verticality 66; see also horizontality