What the convergence of the American and Central European political discourse seems to prove is that social conflicts in the era of the global market economy are centered around three main axes: (1) distribution of wealth, (2) destruction of the traditional family along with historically prevailing gender roles, and (3) migration and race. Any progressive political project has to, in one way or another, define, frame, and address those clusters of problems, creating a narrative capable of mobilizing and channeling the social desire away from the conservative-populist alley. In this context the only difference between Left and Right is that the latter, starting from the 1970s, became gradually more and more proficient in translating the real social tensions into the phantasmatic language of populist politics.
There is, finally, one more reason why only a unified front of Old and New Left may be successful in countering both neoliberalism and populism within parliamentary politics. An important—I’d say even the largest—part of progressive political mobilization is nowadays done by women. At least that is the situation in Poland. It is obvious that women would not give up women’s causes and fight just for redistribution under the banners of the Old Left. We do not need, however, to treat this as a limitation or predicament. As a matter of fact, the women’s struggle is undoubtedly the biggest and the most important single positive factor in contemporary Polish politics, a fact that was very well epitomized in autumn 2016 by the so called Black March and women’s strike in opposition to the possibility of further restrictions on a Polish abortion law that is already one of the most restrictive in the EU.
It’s here again, that we encounter the basic flaw of liberal common sense, with its fixation on cultural factors and the importance of ethos. What they neglect is an element that was entirely wiped out of both public and academic discourse in Poland as well as elsewhere, for example, in the US: the issue of class and its indelible materialist component. Populism is a kind of displaced and perverted class revolt. It derives from an oppression of double kind: material for the poor and symbolic for the lower-middle class.
The ideas and convictions expressed by the Polish conservative adherents to postcolonial theory that Bill so eloquently analyzes are just a new articulation of an attitude long established in Polish culture: the one of an alternative and indigenous modernity sharply contrasting with the content of Western modernism, to use above-mentioned Jameson’s notion. What the Polish adherents of the postcolonial studies advocate is not a simple rejection of modernity tout court, an attitude that can nowadays be found in such places as Bhutan, but rather a perverse deviation from modernity: modernization without modernism.