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A Brief Analysis of Nathan J. Robinson’s ‘Isn’t ‘Right-Wing Populism’ Just Fascism?’

Nathan Robinson, founder of Current Affairs magazine | William Widmer | 2019

Nathan J. Robinson’s Isn’t ‘Right-Wing Populism’ Just Fascism? explores the implications of an alliance between left and right-wing populism, with reference to its promotion by Rising’s Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti, left and right-wing co-commentators, respectively.

In Robinson’s comparison of these two seemingly opposed branches of populism, he suggests that right-wing populism is simply just a new wave of fascist rhetoric, with a pro-worker message, despite its pro-elitism, anti-immigration, anti-egalitarianism, ethno-nationalism, and explicit bigotry, in action. Thus, Robinson suggests that these traits, shared by the politics of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Viktor Orban in Hungary, and Donald Trump in the United States, correspond with the ‘national socialism’, or fascism, of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Thus, Robinson suggests that left-populism should not consider any form of alliance with right-populism, if it is even able to declare itself as populism, due to its contradictory enactment of. anti-populist policy.

Robinson, in accordance with his leftist framework, adopts what most similarly corresponds to the practice of Critical Pedagogy. In doing so, Robinson does not confine his analysis of the plausibility of an alliance between these two forms of populism to these two ideologies in isolation, or in some limited comparison, but within the greater historical and current political context, and their relationships within such. This derives from Robinson’s preconceptual recognition of oppressive institutional systems, the interdependent reinforcement of their relations, and the need with which the people under these systems need to revolt against such. Robinson then acknowledges how right-wing populism, in practice, upholds these systems and how this inherently discredits any left-populist alliance. This informs the rest of his analysis as he provides this elementary framework, which may be adopted to explain right-populists’ rhetoric. Moreover, this adoption of Critical Pedagogy seeks to criticise the inadequacy of the Critical Thinking approach arguably adopted by Ball and Enjeti, that seeks to describe these two branches of populism without greater political or historical context, and thus, without discussion of the implications of a populist alliance.

In doing so, Robinson collates his supportive reasoning & evidence with strong structural integrity, which supposes that a set of characteristics, i.e, the characteristics of fascism, both differ from those of left-wing populism, and correspond with those of right-wing populism. From this simple comparison, of relevant facts, Robinson consistently suggests a relationship between fascism and right-wing populism, such that they are equal in their character. Robinson hence produces a conclusion of sufficient support by referencing the actions of right-wing populists in contrast to their rhetoric, and the overwhelming similarities between its historical and current manifestations.

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