Xu Jilin: Trump: populist conservatism of national supremacy

Trump’s rise to power four years ago heralded a change in the winds of this century: the era of neoliberal globalization was ending, and a new century characterized by nationalism was becoming evident.

   Writing in the Financial Times on the third day after Trump’s election, Fukuyama noted, “We seem to be entering a new era of populist nationalism, in which the dominant liberal order constructed since the 1950s is beginning to come under attack from an angry and robust democratic majority. The risk that we might slip into a world of competitive and angry nationalism is enormous, and if it does happen, it will mark a moment as momentous as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.”

   The hallmark year of the last century was the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, when the iron-fisted leader Lenin combined populism and internationalism to launch the revolutionary years of the 20th century. The century from 1917 to 2017, in which the tide of the times shifted from left to right, during which there was the Cold War, the “end of history” and the globalization chant, has now surprisingly become an era of conservative nationalism, with almost all the major countries of the world, except Germany and France, being dominated by nationalist leaders.

   Why did populism combine with internationalism in 1917, but turn to nationalism in 2017? How did populism develop four sprees in the space of a century? What are the characteristics of Trump’s populism, and what are its characteristics?

   First, what is populism?

   Populism is a modern phenomenon. In a representative democracy, popular participation in politics is an indirect process through institutionalized party representation that elects its own interest-agent political elite. When this system of elite representation is in crisis or in decline, the mobilized populace will bypass political parties or even destroy the elite system and directly intervene in the political process or resort to charismatic leaders for self-serving interests.

   In terms of political ideology, populism is neutral and can be combined with either left-wing, radical Leninism or anarchism, or under the banner of right-wing, conservative nationalism or authoritarianism. But whether left or right, populism shares a common “family emblem” with three main features: the people as a whole, nihilism, and the charismatic leader.

   The people, as populism understands and articulates it, is not an individual with specific and countable rights, i.e. a citizen in a republic. The people in populist terms is a homogeneous whole with indivisible interests, and Rousseau’s “theory of the sovereignty of the people” is the precursor of modern populism, in which the supreme sovereignty of the people is embodied in a collective public will. It cannot be represented, nor can it be delegated to political proxies, the people must be directly present, but paradoxically, the collective will of the whole can be “proclaimed”, personified by the charismatic leader.

   In modern democracy, the constitution is also the spiritual embodiment of the collective will of the people, and competitive political parties may also claim to represent the interests of the people, but the core difference between populism and democracy is not whether or not the will or interests of the people are represented, but rather the populist monopoly on the representation of the people. Political parties in a representative system compete for a divisible people’s interest, and what the different parties represent is only one part of the people, which must recognize and also take care of the interests of the other part of the people represented by the opposing parties. There is no pure, abstract “public will” that overcomes the “private interests”. The people’s interests are not the only ones that can be represented.” For example, the institutional set-up of the separation of powers in the United States presupposes that neither the president, nor Congress, nor the judiciary are the sole representatives of the people’s interests, and that it takes a mutual balance and game of power to get infinitely closer to the interests of the people as a whole.

   Yet, true to Jan-Werner Muller, populism is a moral monopoly on the representation of the people. They do not recognize the pluralistic and competitive nature of modern politics, that only they truly represent the will and interests of the people, and that others, or other political parties, are either false representatives of the people’s interests or enemies of the people. And so populism must have an enemy, and that is the enemy of the people. Without an enemy there is no self. Populism usually has a strong concept of the enemy, where the people are moral and righteous, while the enemy of the people is evil and must be destroyed.

   Although populism is strongly moral and even religious, it is nihilistic in its values. By nihilism, it is meant that populism regards the interests of the people as the only and supreme value, but there is a great deal of arbitrariness and uncertainty as to what that value actually is. Because of its ambiguity, it is particularly easy for charismatic leaders or politicians to manipulate it, to pass off their own values and interests as “public opinion” or the common good.

   Paradoxically, populism, while nihilistic in value, is religious in form. It requires some kind of promised vision, some kind of utopian fantasy, in order to attract and mobilize as many people as possible to the “great cause” promised by the leader. Populism portrays reality as a dark, utopian vision of beauty and light, and between that dark reality and a bright future, a charismatic leader is needed to lead the people to make a historic leap forward.

   In modern politics, there is always a certain populist impulse lurking at the bottom of society, and whether it erupts into a widespread movement depends on the emergence of a charismatic leader. At the heart of the modern political system is a bureaucratic bureaucracy, but the populist leader bypasses the bureaucratic machine and speaks directly to the people through the public square or the new online media. Political leaders who grow up in bureaucratic organizations do not necessarily have personal charisma; but leaders who can launch populist movements must have Chirisma-like personal charisma, without which no populist movement can be formed.

   When the population is not seriously divided and there is a greater degree of consensus, and political parties are trying to win over the middle ground, it is rare for populist impulses to develop at the bottom of society or for charismatic leaders to emerge from within the establishment. When there is a war, a crisis of order or an economic crisis, when society is torn into two incompatible factions, when the establishment tends to decline and when extreme parties or factions dominate the parliament, the charismatic leader who transcends party lines will stand out, face the people directly and unleash a populist frenzy.

   Two, four populist events over the past century

   In the hundred years of world history since 1917, there have been four frenzies of populist movements: the Red October Revolution in Russia in 1917, Nazi Germany taking state power in 1933 with a racist appeal, the anarchist Maystorm in France in 1968, and conservative nationalism symbolized by Trump’s rise to power in 2017. Two of these were left-wing populist movements with class or cultural liberation as their banner, and two were right-wing, with racism or nationalism as their rallying cry.

The October Revolution in Russia in 1917 ushered in a new era of the red 20th century. The old order in Tsarist Russia, which had spiraled out of control with the defeat of the war, was resurrected by the Soviets, born out of the 1905 Revolution, which became a parallel regime to the Provisional Government after the February Revolution. The soviets resembled the Paris Commune in France and were made up of workers and soldiers through direct democracy. Under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, the Bolshevik Party, seizing on the slogans of ending the war and distributing land, succeeded in gaining the support of the lower classes and used the soviets to carry out the second October Revolution, which eventually overthrew the Provisional Government and seized power. A new revolutionary order was established on the ruins of the old ruins destroyed by the war. Lenin then abolished the Constituent Assembly, and the Soviet regime with its direct democracy metamorphosed into an iron-fisted dictatorship of the proletariat controlled by the Bolshevik party. The enemies of the Red Regime were those who opposed it: from landlords, rich peasants and capitalists to old officers and bureaucrats, as well as opponents within the new regime, all of whom were labelled “enemies of the people”.

   The First World War, which directly triggered the Russian Revolution, was a consequence of the rise of nationalism in Europe, and the internationalist banner hoisted by the Soviet Union was a reaction to the nationalism of the First World War, which called on the proletariat and the oppressed nations and peoples of the world to unite in a revolution of national independence and class liberation and to build a new world of equality. Behind the populist mobilization there is a messianic communist utopia, as Tony Judt said: “Marxism is the moral gospel of human salvation, and the moral seriousness of Marx’s convictions binds the fate of our whole world to the condition of the poorest and most downtrodden in society”, Marxism ” To be a force for unwavering submission to the ideas and movements that represent and defend the interests of the suffering people of the world”.

   After the October Revolution, two separate worlds, socialism and capitalism, were formed around the globe. On the one side was the world revolution sown everywhere by the Third International, and on the other side was the redistribution of resources, capital and power in the capitalist world as a result of the world economic crisis of 1929. In Germany, the democratic institutions established by the Weimar Constitution were unable to overcome the national humiliation brought about by the economic depression and the Treaty of Versailles, the liberal and left-wing parties were scattered and impotent, and there was a widespread expectation of a strong leader to come to the rescue of Germany and bring about a national renaissance. Against this backdrop, Hitler, the demonic Nazi leader, was born.

   Hitler did not transform the entire social structure as Stalin had done, but merely added a fascist structure to the existing order. He framed the Jews as enemies of the nation and stirred up fanaticism throughout the German nation, from the intelligentsia to the common people, with the doctrine of national superiority. Totalitarianism organized the marginalized, lost in modernization, to awaken the sleeping majority and give them a sense of belonging in the name of the nation and state. The illusory national revival of the Nazi’s early military and economic successes was a shot in the arm for the nation’s fervor.

   The fall of the Nazi empire silenced right-wing nationalism for more than half a century. The economic prosperity and rapid growth of the West after World War II had created a post-war generation of middle-classes, and it seemed that the populist movement should have disappeared into obscurity. However, the French May Storm of 1968 set off yet another revolutionary populist frenzy in the West. The main force of this revolution was no longer the workers, peasants or other toiling masses at the bottom of society, but the children of the urban middle class. This has shocked conservative commentators who say that this time the young students are protesting not out of discontent, but out of boredom. In fact, both radical Marxists and conservative statists saw the May Storm in a different light. It was not a traditional class revolution, but a cultural revolution of the younger generation against the repressive social institutions held by the older generation.

   This cultural revolution of the younger generation was more or less influenced by the example of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution. Only Mao’s revolutionary Red Guards were directed against the bureaucracy, while the student revolt in Paris was directed against the mainstream values of the Christian-bourgeoisie. The existentialist philosopher Paul Sartre became the spiritual leader of the French cultural revolution. However, while the May Storm and the October Revolution were both left-wing populist movements, their revolutionary nature was quite different; the May Storm did not aim to seize state power and had no intention of creating a new state apparatus in the form of a Paris Commune or a Soviet-style state; it was rather an anarchist revolution that sought cultural emancipation of all kinds, ranging from the sexual revolution to the identity rights of marginalized communities. The movement had no center, nor did it need to have one, no class struggle, only identity. The French May Storm and the simultaneous outbreak of cultural resistance in the United States ushered in a new era of left-wing politics of resistance, no longer dedicated to the overall seizure of power and subversion, but rather a change in strategy, with a variety of localized, fragmented, and disconnected sexual liberation, feminist movements, gay movements, minority politics, and so on, as new forms of populist movements, the influence of which has spread to the present day, with the result of protecting the The “political correctness” of the underprivileged became an unshakable principle.

   By the end of the 20th century, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, China’s opening up and reform, and globalization on the fast track, Fukuyama even optimistically hailed “the end of history”, as if the ultimate world of Western-style neoliberalism was to come. However, his teacher, the wily Huntington, proposed a new blueprint for post-Cold War world conflict, the “clash of civilizations”. In less than a decade, it became a prophecy. The 9/11 attacks in 2011 opened the nightmare of Islamic terrorism; with the rise of China and the end of the honeymoon relationship between the West and Russia, the world plunged back into the “New Cold War” between East and West. On the other hand, globalization has led to an increase in the inequality between countries and within countries, and the call for “anti-globalization” has become increasingly popular in the Western world. The inversion of the trend formed by all these contradictions and conflicts has finally accumulated into a historical turning point in 2017: an era of globalized populist conservatism has suddenly arrived. .

   USA Today

   Populist Conservatism for Ethnic Supremacy

   Britain’s exit from the European Union, the election of Trump, the rise to power of new populist right-wing parties in Italy, Austria, and Hungary, and the start of a global trade war between the United States and various countries, these major world events that took place around 2017 officially mark the end of the neoliberal era of globalization.

   The United States is the number one power in the world today, it is the world’s bellwether. The rise of Trump’s right-wing populism-nationalism is not an accidental event, but for the United States, its foreign policy may be a major adjustment to the globalism that has been practiced in the United States for more than 70 years since the Pacific War, and its internal policy may be a major backlash against the “political correctness” that has developed over the past half-century since the 1960s. . In other words, Trump has to return to America’s isolationist tradition in diplomacy and reconstruct a white-centered, Christian civilizational national identity in domestic affairs.

At the time of Trump’s initial election, public opinion was generally that he was nothing more than a businessman, or a political businessman, worthless, speculative and fickle, who would use principles as bargaining chips.

However, the history of a year and a half in power shows that Trump has his own stubborn beliefs after what seems to be a moody and volatile period. Trump’s beliefs are based on three principles: Anglo-Saxon Christian Protestantism, American supremacist nationalism, and classical liberal capitalism.
   First, is Trump a devout Christian? There seems to be very little religious vibe emanating from his speeches and Twitter rhetoric. However, the descendant of European immigrants from Germany to the United States has a strong white-centric centrist (Christian) mentality. Whether it is his ban on Muslims, the building of the Great Wall on the US-Mexico border, or his fierce opposition to the “political correctness” of cultural pluralism, his vision of America is not a heterogeneous, open, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, pluralistic empire, but rather an Anglo-Saxon Protestant-centered America, where all religions live side by side as equals. The United States is a mono-civilized nation. Since the 1960s, cultural pluralism has been the dominant ideology in the United States, but Trump is going back to the early American “melting pot” era, when anyone who wants to become a new citizen of the United States must embrace the values of mainstream American Christian civilization.

   In a sense, Trump is just a crude version of Huntington. Already two decades ago, Huntington had identified America’s external enemies as Islam and Confucianism, and its internal enemies as the cultural pluralism that has dismantled Anglo-Saxon Christian civilization. What Huntington wanted to restore was the Protestant tradition of America’s founding as a white-centered, mono-civilized nation. In his view, if it continued to be eroded by various alien and heterogeneous civilizations, America would sooner or later fall apart, like the Roman and Soviet empires, due to a lack of identity with the nation’s core values. In fact, since the era of George W. Bush, the Republican Party has been practicing this “Huntington Doctrine”, only to Trump here, the will is more resolute, attitude more tough, more radical measures.

   Secondly, in the international policy, Trump also changed the Roosevelt since the United States to save the world’s cosmopolitan ideal, back to the early isolationist tradition. In the history of the United States, there have been two conflicting cultural traditions, one is the Puritan ideal of universalism, the belief that the United States is in the “pinnacle city” of God’s favor, has the responsibility to spread God’s gospel around the world (later secularized into American values), and make sacrifices for the common welfare of mankind. The other is the isolationist policy defined by Washington at the founding of the United States, which has the national interest of the United States at its core and does not ally itself with any nation. Universalism and isolationism constitute two sides of the contradiction in U.S. foreign policy. The United States of America in the nearly eighty years from World War II to the present is a universalist America, which, as the world’s number one power, exports American values everywhere and acts as the world’s policeman. The various “anti-globalization” policies of Trump since he came to power are a major adjustment of the United States globalist policy since the Second World War and a return to the earlier isolationist tradition. However, Trump’s isolationism is not a complete withdrawal from the field of international cooperation, but everything in the national interest of the United States as the highest principle. All that does not involve the core interests of the United States, or even detrimental to the interests of the United States, Trump resolutely withdrew, and the field of the interests of the United States, Trump not only did not retreat, but behaved more forcefully and aggressively than before. This major strategic adjustment of the United States has provoked a strong backlash in the world, and in response and even in retaliation to the unilateralism of the United States, the countries concerned have also reformulated their foreign policies in their own national interests. The world order centered on human interests that has been formed since globalization has been severely challenged by resurrected national supremacy, and once the demon of national supremacy is unleashed, the coming years of the 21st century will see more conflicts between nations, and the world will be at risk of turmoil and uncertainty unseen since World War II.

   Third, does Trump have an ideology of his own? This must mention Bannon, who was once Trump’s chief strategist. Although he has been dismissed by Trump, he is still Trump’s soul mate. Bannon is a firm believer that there are three forces that pose the greatest danger to the U.S.: first, Muslim fundamentalism, second, rising Chinese state capitalism, and third, America’s homegrown cultural elite (the so-called Davos Party committed to globalization), the latter two of which he refers to as elite capitalism, seeing the position as the greatest external and internal enemy threatening U.S. free capitalism, which is what he sees as the The Jewish and Christian civilizations of life share the same social roots. It is clear that free capitalism, which advocates competition and fair trade, is the political ideology of Trump’s businessman president, and that free capitalism, together with the Christian view of civilization and the national interest above all else, constitutes Trump’s trinity of core values.

Trump is not an accidental phenomenon; he has a different populist base in American society that he ignores. His nationalism, based on the values of Christian civilization and liberal capitalism, has created a continuous populist upsurge in the population, both during the campaign and during his administration. Bannon referred to it as the “tribalist movement” or the “new nativist movement”. The majority of this movement is the lower middle class of white Americans, who used to be the blue-collar or lower white-collar class with stable incomes, a group of conservative, conscientious Christians. In the process of industrial displacement and widening income disparity created by globalization, neither the elite classes of Wall Street and Silicon Valley have the largest share of the pie of the new economic development, nor have they been given special care like the Afro-Black and Latino communities, who consider themselves victims of the globalization movement. The “political correctness” of cultural pluralism, in turn, has made them feel marginalized from the white culture that was at the center. With the advent of Trump, the “silent majority” of whites were thrilled to find a savior, an advocate for their interests. While the identity politics of marginalized groups on the left (people of color, women, queers) is gaining momentum, the identity politics of white groups on the right has emerged on the American political scene as a form of confrontation. The two morphologically isomorphic, interest-opposed, and value-driven identity politics have torn America in half and are showing an increasingly extreme confrontation. Trump makes the Republican Party turn right, the Democratic Party in this stimulus will also turn further left, the middle of the establishment space is also increasingly narrowing, the end of the mid-term congressional elections and the 2020 presidential election is bound to appear extreme left and right wing dueling scenes. And unlike the establishment, what the right-wing Trump and the left-wing candidates will be able to leverage must be the mobilization of the underlying populist forces, but the social bases of the two sides are different: the lower-middle class white class on one side, and the non-white ethnic groups and various marginalized communities on the other. It’s just that the latter is a mess, and the identity, civilizational and national identity that the former has coalesced with Trump as its leader will continue to be the social engine that will continue to move American society to the right.

   Once the populist frenzy is mobilized, it will be difficult to end peacefully. Today, whether for the U.S., Western Europe, Russia, Turkey, or the world, it is still just the beginning of a right-wing conservative populism that has a tendency to agitate each other under the banner of national interest above all else. The future is going to be even more unsettling for the world. What is frightening at this point is the famous Liang Shouming question.

   Is the world going to be okay?