There are those among us – me included – who so dislike technocracy and technocrats in general that we would probably opt for populism, almost whever it came from. Though not quite.
Still, I have been wondering whether it might be possible to have a populism from the left.
I almost wonder whether the left became so technocratic because it was Michael Gove who first voiced the classic populist line about ow people were “fed up with experts”.
The term ‘populist’ was actually used as the name for a leftist political party in the USA in the late 1880s.
This is what one prominent Populist leader said when he arrived at the steps of the White House. “Up these steps the lobbyists of trusts and corporations have passed unchallenged on their way to committee rooms, access to which we, the representatives of the toiling wealth-producers, have been denied. For a quarter of a century, the rich have been growing richer, the poor poorer.”
It sounds like the 1990s, doesn’t it? But actually this was an Ohio businessman called Jacob Coxey more than a century ago, back in May 1894. It was Coxey who led a march of unemployed people from the cities of the Mid West.
A few seconds after he spoke these words, he was arrested for trespass.
Coxey’s so-called Army was important because it marked a high point in campaigning for the Populist Party. They had taken over the mantle of the campaign for more money in circulation from the failed Greenback Party, campaigning for money based on plentiful silver rather than just on the scarce commodity of gold.
It was a concept known in economics as bi-metallism.
The Populist Party managed to link southern farmers with the big cities of the Mid West, all campaigning for Free Silver. It’s tenets were put together in Omaha in 1892 by Ignatius Donnelly, a man who had previously devoted his life to the discovery of Atlantis and proving that Bacon had written Shakespeare.
The Populists came very close to breaking the mould. To coin a phrase.
This is Donnelly in the Omaha Declaration: “The newspapers are largely subsidised or muzzled, public opinion silenced, business prostrate, our homes covered with mortgages, labour impoverished and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists. The urban workmen are denied the right of organisation for self-protection… and they are rapidly disintegrating to European conditions.”
A horrible thought that – ugh, not European conditions!
I give you this Populist flavour here partly because we’ve had nothing like them in the UK, campaigning primarily about the amount of currency in circulatiomn. And partly because one of their most enthusiastic activists was an unsuccessful Chicago journalist called Frank Baum.
It was Baum who gave us the Wizard of Oz, a coded diatribe against the gold standard. Oz is, of course, the way we designate weight in gold.
You may remember that Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road wearing the Witch of the East’s magic Silver Shoes – changed to red in the Judy Garland film.
Nobody understands the power of the shoes, until she’s told at the end: “All you have to do is knock the heels together three times and command the shoes to carry you wherever you wish to go.”
The poor residents of Oz have to wear green-tinted glasses fastened by golden buckles.
The Yellow Brick Road journey is intended as a memory of Coxey’s Army, and we all know that – in the end – the Wonderful Wizard, the personification of the gold standard, is finally revealed as a fraud. Hiding behind a curtain, desperately twiddling the levers.
The Populists didn’t succeed. They were undermined by the adoption of Free Silver by the Democrats in the person of the great orator William Jennings Bryan – who incidentally ended his life as prosecutor at the Tennessee Monkey Trial.
At the 1896 Democratic Convention, Bryan brought his acceptance speech to a crescendo by raising his arms above his head and then slowly down into the shape of a cross, with the words: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”
Bryan lost the election, and twice more – which must be some kind of record. But this was also a speech that inspired a generation, portraying gold as an instrument of torture, weighing us down, the very basis of sin. An object of veneration that’s turned against us because there simply isn’t enough money for life.
So why have we ended up with populists coming from the technocratic right – how anyone could describe a sleazeball like Trump as a populist, I can’t imagine!
Then as suddenly as I wondered about populism from the Left, there came to pass in the USA just such a phenomenon.
It is called Robert F. Kennedy Jnr, son of Bobby Kennedy, gunned down in California in 1968, who has now announced his candidacy for the presidency next year.
He only had to say that to be already on 20 per cent in the polls.
He has no money and no war chest, so he isn’t expected to strip Biden of the nomination. He is also a potentially divisive figure because of his opposition to the covid vaccines.
Now, I don’t know what I think about this (I tend to agree with Paul Kingsnorth on this and most things). I have been watching his long documentary – of his very long book The Real Anthony Fauci – and I have to say that, so far, it is pretty convincing.
It chips away at a set of worrying questions – like why the medical establishment start to ridicule the use of ivermectin – describing it inaccurately as a ‘horse de-wormer’ – after a number of studies had shown that it was an effective treatment for Covid-19.
Kennedy’s answer was that it was because the establishment had ben itching to test out their new mRNA technology.
Now that the great agencies of the American state are shifting their position on where Covid came from – they now believe it came from the Wuhan laboratory after all – we may need to look more closely at the whole thing.
Especially since our own inquiry into covid is beginning to heat up.
From what I’ve seen of it so far – apart from poor old Fauci, and possibly Gates too – Kennedy isn’t accusing anyone of conspiracy, or anything worse than making mistakes.
Nor is against vaccines in general. He is against this one because it was never properly tested and because of all the unexplained sudden deaths on both sides of the Atlantic.
Many of them from a pulmonary embolism – which is exactly what my father died of some weeks ago.
The Americans have been even more gung-ho with their vaccine than we were. Silicon Valley has also taken it upon themselves to hold the line.
It seems ridiculous that even eminent virologists can’t say what they need t say online – finding themselves falling back on calling it C0v1d to avoid the automatic ‘truth’ checkers.
That is the reasons I have only seen half the documentary – because when I went back to watch the second half yesterday evening, it had been taken down.
This is ridiculous. And though I have no truck with the anti-vaxxers – who would swing to Trump – I feel completely loyal to the holistic health movement in the USA, and I fear they may now be fed up enough to swing to Trump too.
That is why I’m glad that Kennedy is going for it.