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0 votes
Are they necessarily opposed to each other (in what ways)? Or are populist movements allies in anti-capitalist/state/war/authoritarian (any or all) struggles?

2 Answers

+1 vote
It would depend on the populist movement, the anarchist, and what was happening at the time. For example, both Occupy and the Tea Party movements are populist, some anarchists found affinity with Occupy (and almost certainly not the Tea Party), other "anarchists" (probably not ones who frequents this site) would might view the Tea Party as being potential allies (in their affinity with big-L Libertarianism).

I think what is important is to recognize that anarchists (in their best moments) don't deign to speak for anyone but themselves, where as populists claim to have "the people" on their side. I could definitely see leftist anarchists using populism, and I don't think there is anything wrong with allying with populists if their goals and mine correspond, or at least will prove mutually beneficial to some extent, but like any alliance, that changes once our goals are no longer complementary.

As a side note, there is a question here: exploring whether using non-jargony language is populist, and, based on how it is framed, I came at it from a very different direction.
by (22.1k points)
I agree with this answer, but at the same time I'd like to note that I don't see populism as a social force, and I don't agree that anarchists would 'ally with populists.'

Populism is a propaganda tactic that aims to convince people that they belong to a homogenous group. This is only ever used by people who have some kind of agenda, and who are trying to sway people to accept their ideology. "We are the 99%," for example, is accompanied with the dominant ideology that middle class people carry with them, hence we hear "the police are part of the 99%" and such.

I'm new to this site, so does what I'm saying here make sense?
Agreed Matrim, regarding populism and anarchism, but the question asks about populist movements, which is why I answered as I did. All the same, I think it is really helpful to have your example of populism in action as reinforcement of homogeneity.
For this reason i tend to agree with the view of Antonio Negri who rejects using the word "people" since he thinks that label prepares subjects for the state by reducing them to a One. To the word "people" he opposes the word "multitude" which acknoledges the plurality and multiplicity of collectives.
+4 votes
Populism refers to political appeals and defense of "the people". "The people" are of course amorfous and diverse but populisms in general will appeal to that which can bring them a large amount of votes or adhesions whether that is labour rights and progressive taxation systems or xenophobia, racism and social paranoias over issues of "security". As such, within such a vague concept both Adolf Hitler and the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist trade union CNT (see fit the populist label  but both US republican and democratic parties will also have populist features. The vagueness of it all has been analysed in a large politology on the subject mainly from the point of view how "the people" are movilized.  

The opposite of populism will be some sort of elitism which will note to the ignorance, "herd mentalities" (as Nietzsche called it see and cultural poverty of "the people". On this point both neoliberal technocratic elites such as the International Monetary Fund and anarchist Emma Goldman could be said to be "anti-populists".

In the first case the right wing IMF and similar minded neoliberal technocratic elites who follow neoliberal economics ( or as they call it in the US right wing "Libertarianism" ( they argue that people are ingnorant on the subject of economics and stand againts what they call "populist" measures such as wealth distribution and extensions of the welfare state. Another different but not unrelated brand of right wing elitism is that of cultural and authoritarian conservatism which argues that since "the people" are an ignorant and irrational mass they need to be led by those who they think are "the best" and "the wisest" which in their opinion will tend to be right wing conservative politicians, neoliberal technocrats such as those mentioned before or landlords and succesful entreprenuors as well as in some cases church leaders who supposedly represent "God´s views".

In the second case anarchist Emma Goldman as influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche as well as for other reasons said in a controversial essay called "Minorities and Majorities" that:

"In proportion to its increase, however, principles, ideals, justice, and uprightness are completely swamped by the array of numbers. In the struggle for supremacy the various political parties outdo each other in trickery, deceit, cunning, and shady machinations, confident that the one who succeeds is sure to be hailed by the majority as the victor. That is the only god, — Success. As to what expense, what terrible cost to character, is of no moment. We have not far to go in search of proof to verify this sad fact...Today, as then, public opinion is the omnipresent tyrant; today, as then, the majority represents a mass of cowards, willing to accept him who mirrors its own soul and mind poverty...And how could the latter be acquired without numbers? Yes, authority, coercion, and dependence rest on the mass, but never freedom or the free unfoldment of the individual, never the birth of a free society." (

The second case is an episode of a specific cultural left wing anti-populism (some will say a quasi elitism) which laments over the submissivenes and the cultural and political conservatism of "the people" and it stands next to other cases such as that of the marxist Frankfurt School of social criticism ( or in the specific US context the existence of a "liberal elite" (see In the specific case of Anarchists, they tend to be anti-populist in issues such as their rejection of nationalism (a usual agglutinator of populist movilization), libertarian (see or frankly libertine ( on issues of sex and drugs and anti-religious if not frankly atheistic (againts religious "popular" conservatism), and highly anti-authoritarian and againts "cults of personality" (againts the strong tendency within populist movements towards cults of personality).

In this way anarchism will have both "populist" features such as calls for wealth redistribution and direct democracy as well as its general anti-authoritarianism while on the other hand it will appear highly anti-populist such as in its anti-religious, anti-nationalistic and anti-cults of personality traits.
by (3.3k points)
edited by
Damn! iconoclast bringing it again.