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We Asked 3 Progressive Voices What ‘Left Populism’ Looks Like. They Said Solidarity, Anti-Racism and the Working Class.

Broadbent Institute panel discusses shares its thoughts on how to fight hateful demagogues and the rise of the far-right

As far-right nationalist movements gain ground in Europe and North America,  the Broadbent Institute’s 2019 Progress Summit in Ottawa confronted the question with a panel titled “this is what right populism looks like.”

In the wake of waves of hate-motivated attacks, such as the recent massacre of 5o Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, panelists weighed in on how the Left can counter narratives that inspire hate and the rise of authoritarian leaders.

But as the panel noted, the term “populism” is often used to whitewash more hateful and dangerous beliefs.

“Populism has become, in a way, a euphemism,” said columnist and broadcaster Michael Coren, who moderated the panel.

“It often describes racism and xenophobia, but the term populism itself seems cuddly. Nobody will say ‘I’m a proud racist’ even in contemporary Canada. But they will say I’m a populist. Should we try to take the term back?”

PressProgress asked the three panelists about their thoughts on “Left populism” and what its most important ingredients are:

Todd Tucker, political scientist and Roosevelt Institute fellow

“In the US you start to see candidates on the left who try to claim the idea of populism as something that belongs more on the left than on the right. The argument is that if you’re talking about people versus the elites, the people are really working class people, its people of colour, it’s the diversity that we have, its you, against the few that want to divide you.”

Zita Gurmai, Vice President of the Hungarian Socialist party

“I think its time to look in the mirror. We’re seeing people divided into smaller and smaller parties. This division is dangerous. We need new ideas. A new dream. We need solidarity at this time, and a vision of a future where no one is left behind.”

Emilie Nicolas, anthropologist and Québec-based columnist

“I think it’s very dangerous for the left to only focus on class. That’s what people do when they aren’t comfortable talking about race. People are still trying to make it not about race, people are still trying to make it not about white supremacy. This is part of Canada’s foundational ideology, and that’s a conversation we need to have. What are the founding myths of Canada and how are they connected to violence?”

 

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