The significance of the current wave of populist agitation is that the working class is beginning to wake up to the fact that progressivism is its enemy.
In Spiked, Fred Furedi gets to the heart of the matter:
The best way to view the current populist moment is as a delayed response to the top-down cultural revolution that occurred in the Seventies. In that decade, new attitudes towards marriage, family life, relations between the sexes, the role of the nation and the meaning of citizenship came to be codified in many Western societies. By the beginning of the Eighties, new forms of cultural authority had been established by the political elites.
This so-called cultural turn is often attributed to the influence of ‘Cultural Marxists’ burrowing away in universities. But this analysis overlooks something important – that the cultural turn took place right under the noses of Thatcher and Reagan. It was in their era that the new post-Sixties cultural values were institutionalised by Anglo-American cultural elites.
In retrospect, it seems clear that the anti-traditional cultural turn that occurred under the watch of the Thatcher / Reagan political order was an attempt by Western political elites to establish a new foundation to their authority. Most strikingly, the emergent cultural oligarchy perceived themselves as mediators and gatekeepers in a globalised world where public life is impacted on by issues and problems that supposedly transcend the nation state and national control.
They devoted much energy to de-nationalising public life, and delegitimising the attitudes and values held by citizens. This was the era when the dogma that there is no alternative to globalisation really took hold. The belittlement of sovereignty – both national sovereignty and popular sovereignty – was a central task of the new cultural establishment. In a very short period of time, many people found that their long-held belief in the values of community, nation and family was being dismissed as outdated, irrelevant and even prejudiced.
We witnessed the pathologisation of customary attitudes towards family, community and human relationships. And the end result has been the crystallisation of a powerful sense of cultural insecurity in European societies. Over the past two or three decades, significant sections of European societies have been dispossessed of the values they lived by and which made great sense to them. Many of them felt silenced and defensive about voicing their concerns. They felt unable to raise their reservations about multiculturalism, diversity, immigration and the sacralisation of identity politics. In comparison to the younger generations – who are often influenced by the cosmopolitan ethos that is dominant in their schools and universities – older citizens felt culturally insecure and sometimes helpless. Those who lived outside the culturally privileged, globalist urban neighbourhoods felt very strongly that their way of life was despised and scorned by the new cultural elites. They felt like strangers in their own homes.
Working class rage now intuitively turns against the means that have been used to castrate and subjugate it: “progressive” assaults on family, “patriarchy,” masculinity, heterosexuality, rootedness. The working class is finally waking up to the fact that since the ’60s the left has been a shell occupied by an alien force. This “New” left retained the old left’s claim to represent the working class but its actual efforts were all directed at a single-minded effort to emasculate and prostrate the working class.
What actually happened in the ’60s under the banner of cultural revolution was the replacement of a senescent elite by its spoiled children. The snake shed its skin. It was a renovation of the elite. As it always does, one faction of the bourgeoisie had appropriated revolutionary rhetoric to mount an assault on another faction. But once this new “progressive” faction was installed in power (in the media and culture industries and in an expanded governmental bureaucracy now bloated with functionaries promoting “diversity”), it proved to be even more virulently elitist than the old elite since what it demanded in the name of fostering “tolerance” and “diversity” was working class submission to the wholesale inversion of working class norms. The working class was expected to disown the masculine virtues that had both inspired and sustained its militancy under the harshest of conditions. The refuge of family life was taken away from it through a relentless devaluation of fatherhood and the forced conscription of women into working “careers.” Men and women were coerced and encouraged to isolate themselves from each other and turn to homosexuality.
All of this was done to destroy what had held the working class together as a class, its class consciousness. It was an attempt to pulverize the working class and render its atomized constituents into docile, zombified consumers voracious for commodified versions of things that had once been communitarian possessions: self-regard, mutual support, the security of home life, familial continuity. All of this, the progressives poisoned at the root in the name of empowering women, perverts, and the formerly colonized (who became a steady source of cheap labor).
For some 50 years, these anti-working class “progressives” even managed to coerce the working class to vote them into power by means of a cleverly rigged political duopoly that reduced options to bad and worse.
The populist insurrections that we see today are the result of bad and worse becoming indistinguishable. In the United States, for instance, the Democrats are now the most jingoistic of the two parties. Their contempt for the working class was made overt by Hillary Clinton’s summary denunciation of those indifferent or opposed to her coronation as deplorables. Their elitism is flaunted by their open alliance with the most pampered and privileged sectors of society (Silicon Valley billionaires, Wall Street financiers, the media and entertainment aristocracies.)
Necessarily, class struggle has become a struggle against progressivism and its cultural abominations. Underneath a disintegrating disguise, the working class is beginning to glimpse the alien monster that possesses the left.