What is populism?

We explain what populism is, its history and how this government is characterized. Examples of Latin American populisms. The Russian case

  1. What is populism?

Populism is a form of government with strong leadership of a charismatic subject , with proposals for social equality and popular mobilization. It is important to note the dichotomous simplification and the clear predominance of emotional arguments over rational ones.

The term populism is used, in many cases, in a pejorative way , in itself it does not imply that the regime belongs to the right or the left but rather describes other aspects such as the lack of economic planning.

The governments populists may have projects politicians of any kind. When Latin American governments take social measures aimed at gaining the sympathy of the population , they are called populists. One of the criticisms of populism points to the universal character of the term.

  1. History of Populism

A populist government is like an enemy face of the wealthy classes.

It is correct to say that populism arose in the 19th century simultaneously in Russian and American territory. Throughout history , both communist and socialist sectors have called governments of countries that did not intend to overthrow capitalism , but were functional to that economic system.

Some common practices of populism have to do with sustaining a critical attitude towards the United States and with planning the economy under the Keynesian model. These governments have also pretended that the popular sectors hold the totality of power, as an enemy face of the well-off classes that have interests opposed to the working class .

Populist regimes have encouraged indigenous culture to reject imperialism , without necessarily reinforcing nationalism . Some examples of these regimes were Mexican agrarianism, American populism, Italian carbonarians and Spanish cantonalism.

Although governments of these characteristics have tried to maintain cold relations with the United States, there have also been presidents in that country who implemented populist practices, such as Roosevelt and Kennedy. In some Spanish newspapers, Obama has been branded as populist but this qualification was controversial.

  1. Examples of populisms in Latin America

  • Venezuela. The presidencies of Carlos Andrés Perez between 1989 and 1993, Hugo Chavez from 1999 and 2013, and finally, that of Nicolás Maduro from 2013 to the present.
  • Ecuador.  The presidents José María Velazco Ibarra in his multiple governments and Rafael Correa from 2007.
  • Bolivia We have the presidency of Evo Morales from 2006 onwards.
  • Brazil. Three populist presidencies, such as Vargas in his multiple governments, Lula from 2002 to 2006 and Dilma Rousseff from 2011.
  • Chile. There is only one presidency as an exponent of this type of policy, that of Michelle Bachelet.
  • Argentina. Several analysts have characterized the governments of Perón as populists, and recently the governments of Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
  • Costa Rica. We can see the presidency of Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia between 1940 and 1944.
  • Puerto Rico. There was only one populist presidency, that of Luis Muñoz Marín between 1949 and 1965.
  • Mexico.  We have the government of Lázaro Cárdenas between 1934 and 1940.
  1. Russian populism

Russian populism
Russian populism gave back to the people the faith that they could intervene in their future.

In Russia, populism was a doctrine and an ideological structure product of a generation of young intellectuals who criticized national social, economic and political conditions in the mid-19th century.

Populism was considered a radical thought , so many young people did not go beyond the action of theorizing political commitment . Among the repercussions that professing populist thought could have were persecution, kidnappings and murders. In that context, Herzen is considered the father of this system , since he strongly opposed bourgeois development and longed for the transition to socialism to be achieved without first going through capitalism.

Russian populism gave back to the people the faith that they could intervene in their future and being a broad ideological sector and allowing themselves to embrace many positions of different natures, achieved many adherents. Herzen, within the classical populist doctrine, explained the need for a revolution of the economic type, because one of the political type could not resolve all the contradictions in the nation.

Finally, we can make a chronological division of Russian populism:

  • Radical stage. It is the first stage, which goes from 1850 to 1870. Here the whole theoretical and ideological apparatus is developed but the action is not reached.
  • Anarchist stage In this second stage, which lasts a decade and goes from 1860 to 1870, there is an approach of intellectuals to the peasantry in order to educate them and prepare them theoretically for action.
  • Liberal stage In the third stage, which runs from 1880 to 1900, Russian populism tries to adapt to the capitalization of the economy. The people cease to recognize these ideas as liberating doctrines and adopt Marxism instead.

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