September 2016 3 9
esmond Fennell is exasperated. In a
typically erudite piece (left) it is nev-
ertheless not clear just what his
analysis and vision are.
The suspicion is that the piece is
grounded in an unarticulated conservative
right-wing populism, ill at ease with the reality
that that is the prevailing international
To start with the beginning of his piece, politi-
cal commentary doesn’t always – or even
predominantly - couple populism with “far-
right. It really doesn’t. Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba
and much of South America historically repre-
sent far-left populism writ large and have been
defined as such. Podemos in Spain and Syriza
in Greece have dominated political commentary
for the last few years and are far-left populists.
People Before Profit and the Anti Austerity Alli-
ance in Ireland are far-left populists, pursuing
that agenda through “issues-based” cam-
paigns especially on charges for water and
waste and the property tax – campaigns that
are chosen for their popularity, not their leftist-
ness. Sinn Féin also pursues the same
campaigns from an apparently left base.
Right doesn’t mean wrong for political com-
mentators. Right is right for most of the US and
British Press, for the emanations of IMN and
Denis O’Brien, for the Sunday Business Post,
the Sunday Times and, in incarnations like Ste-
phen Collins and Cliff Taylor, for much of the
Irish Times.
PC – and there’s sleight of hand here because
PC has a very well-established voguish mean-
ing of political correctness even though that’s
being glossed over here - uses little but ordi-
nary language with its dictionary meanings.
Left, right, progressive and conservative will
never have had their terminological day
because they describe the basic stances that
drive particular politicians in ways that enable
voters to predict what stance they’ll take on
issues that haven’t arisen yet but on which their
vote is delegating the politician to take stances.
Most analysts consider politics can be expedi-
tiously considered on left-to-right,
equality-to-freedom, progressive-to-
regressive, liberal-to-authoritarian, conserva-
tive-to-radical spectra.
Wanting commentators to break everything
down into what is good and what is bad – as
Wilde claimed books are written only well or
badly – would be a terrible bind for political sci
entists and politicians. You need to have
The lesson from Fianna Fáil, from Fine Gael,
from the entire history of post-Independence
Irish politics, is that without ideology Irish
parties fall back on parochialism,
on nepotism, on short-ter-
mism, on confusion. You
need to know what
you’re voting for. If
youre seeking
votes there is a
moral obligation
to indicate how
you intend to
ventilate your
mandate. You
can’t just say,
like De Valera,
you’ll simply look
into your heart.
Because people won’t
trust you to.
The seating positions
afforded left and right in
the French National
Assembly, like Latin and
all its emanations, are of
historical but no practical
relevance, especially in
an article that purports to
be about contemporary
It is not the case that
socialism is no longer on
offer. It really is out of
touch to suggest it. What
of Corbyn’s British Labour
Party, Bernie Sanders, Podemos, Syriza, the
Italian and French Communist parties, the
Socialist People’s Party in Denmark, the Work-
ers’ Party in Brazil? The avowedly Trotskyite
left, well represented in Ireland’s Dáil? Social-
ism is on offer over most of the globe.
There are new emanations of socialism on
offer. Green-left, communalism, Occupy, social
democracy, democratic socialism, and, which
Village favours, egalitarianism. There are
indeed multifarious varieties of egalitarianism,
none of which has Desmond Fennell, in all of
his eminent wide-ranging academic and polem-
ical lives ever chosen to analyse or even
recognise. Village tends to promote equality of
outcome or equality of condition. There’s a
hugely interesting debate as to what these
incarnations import.
The ‘PC’ jargon does not
associate right with
authoritarian. The Tory
Party in Britain and
Fine Gael are happy
to be seen to be
centre right. The
Republican Party
in the US, even
pre-Trump, has
always been
right. Political
have famously long
favoured these par-
ties. Think Sunday
Communist Russia and
North Korea are Straw Men.
Nobody presentable actu-
ally supports these
regimes so why dig them
out for debate?
Progredior, Progredi,
Progressus Sum. Yes we
know. Progressive doesn’t
mean moving forward,
except for dictionary fetish-
ists. It has a precise
economic meaning – tend-
ing to favour the less
well-off. It is a perfectly
desirable and clear goal for anyone in politics.
The principal problem is not that commenta-
tors do not say what they mean. We live in an
era where it has never been easier to register a
view, an era where the need for ‘sound bites
and ‘click bait’ keeps views simple, where any
old rubbish finds an outlet. The problem is not
evasiveness it is lack of substance, of depth.
Left - egalitarian
Good and bad won’t predict how politicians
exercise the mandate voters give them
The division is
between left
and right
Political commentary
doesn’talways couple
populism with far-
right. South America,
Podemos, Syriza,
People Before Profit
and the AAA are far-left


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