Left-wing populism

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Left-wing populism is a political ideology that combines left-wing politics and populist rhetoric and themes. The rhetoric of left-wing populism often consists of anti-elitist sentiments, opposition to the Establishment and speaking for the "common people".[1] The important themes for left-wing populists usually include anti-capitalism, social justice, pacifism and anti-globalization, whereas class society ideology or socialist theory is not as important as it is to traditional left-wing parties.[2] The criticism of capitalism and globalization is linked to anti-militarism, which has increased in the left populist movements as a result of unpopular United States military operations, especially those in the Middle East.[3] 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.[4] For left-wing populist parties supportive of minority rights among others, the term "inclusionary populism" has been used.[5]

With the rise of Greek Syriza and Spanish Podemos during the European debt crisis, there has been increased debate on new left-wing populism in Europe.[6][7]

By country[edit]

European countries[edit]

Multinational coalitions[edit]

Many leftist and populist political parties in Europe belong to the European United Left–Nordic Green Left.


The Party of Democratic Socialism was explicitly studied under left-wing populism, especially by German academics.[8] 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.[9] 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.[9] The PDS merged into the Left Party in 2007.[10]


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".[11][12]


The Socialist Party has run a left-wing populist platform after dropping its communist course in 1991.[13] 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.[14] 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 all leftist voters disappointed with the political establishment without taking sides in the regional political struggle.[15] 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.[16] In a November 2018 interview with Jacobin magazine, Íñigo Errejón argues that Podemos requires a new "national-popular" strategy in order to win more elections.[17]

Anova–Nationalist Brotherhood is a Galician nationalist left-wing party that supports Galician independence from the Spanish government. In addition to national liberation, Anova defines itself as a socialist, feminist, ecologist and internationalist organization. Its internal organization is run by assemblies.[18]

United Kingdom[edit]

South American countries[edit]


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 early 21st century Latin American left-wing populist movements in Boliva and Venezuela. During Cristina Fernández de Kirchner time in office, she often engaged in criticism of the United States, gave speeches with anti-globalization overtones and sought to form economic alliances with non-Western countries such as China and Russia, with some degree of success.[citation needed] She has also repeatedly spoken against capitalism in general. Her administration was characterized by marked tax increases, especially on agricultural produce, Argentina's main export. In 2009, she instated 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 program (despite its name, the AUH is not a universal subsidy).


The leadership of Siles Zuazo practiced left-wing populism[19] as well as that of incumbent socialist President Evo Morales.[20]


Rafael Correa, the 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.[21][22][23]


The presidency of Hugo Chávez resembled a combination of folk wisdom and charismatic leadership with doctrinaire socialism.[20] Chávez's government was also described to have been a "throwback" to populist nationalism and redistributivism.[24]

United States[edit]

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.

Bernie Sanders, 2016 presidential candidate

2016 presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders has been described as a populist.[25]

Senator Elizabeth Warren has been described as a populist.[26][27]

Left-wing populist political parties[edit]

Current left-wing populist parties or parties with left-wing populist factions[edit]

Represented in national legislatures[edit]

Not represented in national legislatures[edit]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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.

External links[edit]