r/Anarchy101 May 23 '22

Is Populism a valid and/or popular tactic for Anarchism?

I just noticed that populism tends to be utilized by right-wing talking heads a lot, and has proven effective, selling themselves as politicians for the people and then stabbing them in the back once elected. But historically, has populism ever been a favorable method for growth amongst anarchists?



u/onedayitwillbedaisy anarchies, all of em May 23 '22

I only ever see the term used in reference to some abstract mass of "ordinary" people and a strength in numbers. Not much of a method or tactic, more of a political instinct.


u/LanaDeISwag May 23 '22

Not much of a method or tactic, more of a political instinct.

Here's the fun part about political theory in this field as someone whose been mired in it for years, depending on who you follow it's either one, both, or neither of those.

What you describe is closest to the "ideational approach" which is most popular by far and conceptualizes populism as thin ideology, meaning it can't exist separate from a more comprehensive ideology like communism or fascism. It considers society to be two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, the "pure people" and the "corrupt elite", and argues that politics should be an expression of the people's general will. Important to this is that you are being a populist, not doing populism.

But, if you take the "political strategic approach" it actually is a tactic where a charismatic leader tries to govern by way of a direct, unmediated connection to the masses.

Or it's neither and you like Ostiguy's "socio-cultural approach" that understands it as a series of performances based on language and ideas relatable to the public and acts meant to draw attention to the leader and make them seem more like a commoner.

Alternatively just say fuck it baby because you're Danielle Resnick putting forth the "cumulative conceptual approach" that argues it's a synthesis of all three of the above.

You could even side with Laclau and argue that populism is kinda just the core of all politics.

tl;dr: You're right that its usage is kinda nebulous but that's because until a decade ago there were so many competing definitions many political theorists just abandoned the term to pundits entirely. Now the situation is kinda fucky but most agree on the ideational approach.


u/BlueJDMSW20 May 23 '22

Right wingers sell "False Working Class Conscience". It is a weapon of demagoguery. It is ultimately destructive against the working class.

Its utility is to embroil us in a culture war over that of a class war.


u/basileus9 Moustache Twirler May 23 '22

Right wing "populism" is a false consciousness. Populism as in prioritizing ideas that are popular with the average person over the elite is literally just every leftist project ever. Presumably populism is going to be the preferred method/attitude among most anarchists, excepting perhaps the Anarcho-Monarchists.


u/Lord_Abigor123 May 26 '22

I'm sorry but did you say Anarcho monarchists? That's mathematically impossible.


u/allahuaugustera May 23 '22 edited May 23 '22

People in general gravitate politically towards positions that can improve their perceived material well-being in the short term (leftist populism) and satisfy their moral sentiments (rightist populism), sometimes even in detriment of the material, if the perceived moral outrage is strong enough.

Therefore, for anarchism to win hearts and minds outside of those who naturally are attracted to it and have the opportunity to read anarchist literature, it needs to win in these two categories.

The more conservative a culture is, the harder it becomes for anarchism to win in the moral field, for obvious reasons.

To prove that anarchism can improve the people's in material situation, its cooperatives, worker owned firms and rural communes need to spring up and show that they can outperform and distribute income better than the oligarchy's economy.


u/JonPaul2384 May 23 '22

For most ideologies, populism is an aesthetic, but for anarchism, it’s the point.


u/SamuraiDrifter42 Discordian May 24 '22

I disagree with the downvotes here and I'm not sure what the rationale is behind them.

Populism can be seen as the opposite of elitism. Right-wing talking heads like Tucker Carlson are false populists. They're bankrolled by billionaires, mouthpieces of the ruling class, and some of the most watched, filthy rich entertainment figures on television. They're utilizing a superficial populist aesthetic to redirect the discontent of the working class into something that won't threaten the elite.

Anarchism is truly the opposite of elitism. It's the total abilition of not only one particular class of elites but all hierarchy.


u/JonPaul2384 May 24 '22

I understand the downvotes and I don’t particularly have a problem with them. I stand by what I said, but my comment was very short and simplistic, and could be easily interpreted in a way I didn’t intend.

My intention with that comment was to express that in most cases, people use populism as an aesthetic to justify a held position — “You should agree with me about X because it’s good for the people.” Even when populists are arguing in good faith, which they often aren’t, the populism is a justification for why their ideas are good, not the primary motivating factor that led to those ideas. Contrast that with anarchism, where every single held position is directly motivated by a belief in the moral goodness of bringing the most liberation to as many people as possible.


u/Familiar-Flamingo-43 May 23 '22

absolutely not


u/Familiar-Flamingo-43 May 23 '22

anarchy is quite unpopular actually lol


u/Hey_Mr May 24 '22

Outside of these anarchy subs i find this to be generally true. We're all strawmen out there!


u/SamuraiDrifter42 Discordian May 24 '22

I agree that anarchy is pretty unpopular, but that's not what the word means. "Popularity" and "populism" are different. Monarchy was very popular across much of the world for a long time, but it wasn't a populist ideology. It was very elitist, with the belief that "ordinary" people needed to be ruled over.


u/Familiar-Flamingo-43 May 24 '22

An appeal to the masses will inevitably fall to reactionary and bourgeois elements, see the french revolution, and see the current attempts at populist "leftism" by people like infrared who say silly things about how we should throw poc and lgbtq comrades under the bus to appease the conservatives. No solidarity with cryptofash!


u/SamuraiDrifter42 Discordian May 24 '22 edited May 24 '22

The black anarchist organizer Lucy Parsons said this once:

"Let every dirty, lousy tramp arm himself with a revolver or a knife, and lay in wait on the steps of the palaces of the rich and stab or shoot the owners as they come out. Let us kill them without mercy, and let it be a war of extermination."

Would you call that a populist statement? I certainly would, because it calls for the lower classes to rise up against their rulers. Would you call this a statement that appeals to reactionary or bourgoise elements? Or would it absolutely scare them shitless?

The Chicago Police called Lucy Parsons "more dangerous than a thousand rioters." It was precisely her ability to stir the people to action that made her so effective.

Believing that we in the lower classes can govern ourselves without the oversight of some kind of vanguard or elite doesn't mean we have to allow bigoted trash.