Left-wing Populism
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Left-wing Populism

Left-wing populism, also called social populism, is a political ideology that combines left-wing politics with populist rhetoric and themes. Its rhetoric often consists of anti-elitism, opposition to the Establishment and speaking for the "common people".[1] Recurring themes for left-wing populists include economic democracy, social justice, and skepticism of globalization. Socialist theory plays a lesser role than in traditional left-wing ideologies.[2][3]

Criticism of capitalism and globalization is linked to antimilitarism, which has increased in left populist movements as a result of unpopular United States military operations, especially those in the Middle East.[4] It is considered that the populist left does not exclude others horizontally and relies on egalitarian ideals.[1] Some scholars point out nationalist left-wing populist movements as well, a feature exhibited by Kemalism in Turkey for instance or the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.[5] Unlike exclusionary or right-wing populism, left-wing populist parties tend to claim to be supportive of minority rights[6] and to an idea of nationality that is not delimited by cultural or ethnic particularisms.[7]

With the rise of Greek Syriza, Spanish Podemos and to some extent the Italian Five Star Movement during the European debt crisis, there has been increased debate on new left-wing populism in Europe.[8][9]

By country

European countries


The Party of Democratic Socialism was explicitly studied under left-wing populism, especially by German academics.[10] The party was formed after the reunification of Germany and it was similar to right-wing populists in that it relied on anti-elitism and media attention provided by a charismatic leadership.[11] The party competed for the same voter base with the right-wing populists to some extent, although it relied on a more serious platform in Eastern Germany. This was limited by anti-immigration sentiments preferred by some voters, although the lines were for example crossed by Oskar Lafontaine, who used a term previously associated with the Nazi Party, Fremdarbeiter ("foreign workers"), in his election campaign in 2005.[11] The PDS merged into the Left Party in 2007.[12]


Syriza, which became the largest party since January 2015 elections, has been described as a left-wing populist party after their platform incorporated most demands of the popular movements in Greece during the government-debt crisis. Populist traits in Syriza's platform include growing importance of "the People" in their rhetoric and "us/the people against them/the establishment" antagonism in campaigning. On immigration and LGBT rights, Syriza is inclusionary. Syriza itself does not accept the label "populist".[13][14]


The Italian Five Star Movement (M5S), which became the largest party in the 2018 general election, has been often described as a big tent populist party,[15][16] but sometimes also as a left-wing populist movement;[17] in fact the "five stars", which are a reference to five key issues for the party, are public water, sustainable transport, sustainable development, right to Internet access, and environmentalism, typical proposals of left-wing populist parties.[18] However, despite its background in left wing politics, the M5S has often expressed right wing views on immigration.[19]

In September 2019, the M5S formed a government with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the left-wing Free and Equal (LeU), with Giuseppe Conte at its head.[20][21] The government has been sometimes referred to as a left-wing populist cabinet.[22]


The Socialist Party has run a left-wing populist platform after dropping its communist course in 1991.[23] Although some have pointed out that the party has become less populist over the years, it still includes anti-elitism in its recent election manifestos.[24] It opposes what it sees as the European superstate.


The left-wing populist party Podemos achieved 8 percent of the national vote in the 2014 European Parliament election. Due to avoiding nativist language typical with right-wing populists, Podemos is able to attract left wing voters disappointed with the political establishment without taking sides in the regional political struggle.[25] At the 2015 election for the national parliament, Podemos reached 20.65% of the vote and became the third largest party in the parliament after the conservative People's Party with 28.71% and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party with 22.02%. In the new parliament, Podemos holds 69 out of 350 seats and this result ended the traditional two-party system of Spain.[26] In a November 2018 interview with Jacobin, Íñigo Errejón argues that Podemos requires a new "national-popular" strategy in order to win more elections.[27]

United Kingdom

South American countries


Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (the President of Argentina from 2007 to 2015) and her husband Néstor Kirchner were said to practice Kirchnerism, a variant of Peronism that was often mentioned alongside other Pink tide governments in Latin America. During Cristina Fernández de Kirchner time in office, she has spoken against certain free trade agreements such as the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. Her administration was characterized by tax increases, especially on agricultural exports during the late 2000s commodities boom, Argentina's main export, in order to fund social programs such as the PROGRESAR university scholarships, the universal allocation per child subsidy (commonly referred to as AUH in Argentina, Asignación Universal por Hijo), a means-tested benefit to families with children who qualified for the subsidy, and progressive social reforms such as the recognition of same-sex marriage.


In Brazil, the biggest popular leader is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the 35th President of Brazil, who promoted changes of broad popular support based on his policy to combat social inequality, generating a movement called lulism.[][dubious ]


The leadership of Siles Zuazo practiced left-wing populism[28] as well as that of former socialist President Evo Morales.[29]


Rafael Correa, the former President of Ecuador, has stressed the importance of a "populist discourse" and has integrated technocrats to work within this context for the common Ecuadorians. In the conflict between the indigenous peoples and the government, Correa has blamed foreign non-governmental organizations for exploiting the indigenous people.[30][31][32]


The current governing party the National Regeneration Movement is a left wing populist party.[33]


The presidency of Hugo Chávez resembled a combination of folk wisdom and charismatic leadership with doctrinaire socialism.[29] Chávez's government was also described to have been a "throwback" to populist nationalism and redistributivism.[34]

United States

Huey Long, the fiery Great Depression-era Governor-turned-Senator of Louisiana, was an early example of left wing populism in the United States, advocating for wealth redistribution under his Share Our Wealth plan. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, self-described democratic socialists, are example of modern left-wing populist politicians.[35][36][37][38] Ocasio-Cortez's Democratic primary victory over the establishment Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent, was widely seen as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm election primaries. Ocasio-Cortez was described by The Nation magazine as a "new rock star" who was "storming the country on behalf of insurgent populists."[39]

Left-wing populist political parties

Current left-wing populist parties or parties with left-wing populist factions

see Movement for a People's Party

Represented in national legislatures

Not represented in national legislatures

See also


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Further reading

  • Albertazzi, Daniele; McDonnell, Duncan (2008). Twenty-First Century Populism. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 9780230013490.
  • Weyland, Kurt (2013). "The Threat from the Populist Left". Journal of Democracy. 24 (3): 18-32. doi:10.1353/jod.2013.0045. S2CID 154433853.
  • March, Luke (2007). "From Vanguard of the Proletariat to Vox Populi: Left-Populism as a 'Shadow' of Contemporary Socialism". SAIS Review of International Affairs. 27 (1): 63-77. doi:10.1353/sais.2007.0013. S2CID 154586793.

External links

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