To understand that the rise of rightwing populism is, on the one hand, the result of the fragmentation of conditions of social reproduction due to neoliberal policies. Such policies have put into crisis the political composition of the working people. In that sense, on the other hand, right-wing populism is the result of the crisis of the left in the sense of being unable to articulate the particular demands of different fractions of the working people into wide-range, multi sectorial, political organizations. Different social movements have not been able to articulate and engage in a democratic, participatory way with each other, in a way that integrates and comprehend the fragmentation as part of the unity created by hetero-patriarchal, racist, extractivist capitalism.
Discussions on populism (such as Laclau’s) propose that populist movements, whether from the right or the left, need to be able to create empty signifiers that unite the fragmented demands. However, in our opinion, Laclau’s analysis lacks a materialistic approach to political constitution. For that reason, to him the political articulation of “the people” is for him a basically discurssive process.
On the contrary, we understand that the constitution of social hegemony is based on the material (re)production of social relations, be them class, gender, race, human in/with nature, etc.. For that reason, the constitution of alternative forms of hegemony (in gramscian terms) requieres putting into question social practices through radical political action, that goes beyond current political forms, both in discourse as well as in practice. The autonomous practice of pre-figurative political forms of intervention, which reject current institutions, operates as a means to create alternative, radical, political consciences (as I understand, was RL’s suggestion) and also to constitute new forms of social relations within left-wing political organizations.
While right-wing movements build on the hatred, individualism, and fear created by capitalist (neoliberal or developmental) social relations and practices, left wing movements need to practice and propose forms of political intervention that relay on other values such as solidarity, freedom (in Rosa’s sense) and love. These practices and articulations must come from actual movements and struggles, of which, today, those against free trade and extractivism, for democratic Europe, for feminism and against racism, seem -from afar- to be the most powerful. These seem to pose the most radical interdictions to capitalism, but need to be mingled, to gain massification and social power.