21:20 GMT +323 March 2017

    How the Liberalization of the Left Led to the Rise of the Far-Right

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    Neil Clark

    The 2008 financial crash, brought about largely by the greed and recklessness of very wealthy bankers, ought have been a great opportunity for the political left. But instead, as popular opposition to elite-friendly globalization grew, it was the right, and the far-right in particular, which gained ground in countries across the Western hemisphere.

    In their brilliant new book, The Rise of the Right, three leading criminologists, Simon Winlow, Steve Hall and James Treadwell, set out to explain the rise of right-wing nationalism in England.

    Although the book mainly concerns itself with English society and politics, there's lessons to be learnt for readers in the US and in the rest of Europe too. In fact, I'd go as far to say that if the Western left don't pay heed to what Winlow et al have to say, then it could be curtains forever.

    The situation really is that serious.

    'The Capitalist Horizon'

    The basic problem identified by the authors, is that the left, which once put the everyday concerns of working-class people at the very head of its program, has become liberalized. As neo-liberalism became hegemonic, the main parties of the left and their representatives turned their attention away from economic reform and instead begun fighting culture wars. Public ownership and a commitment to genuine egalitarianism was out — identity politics was in. The talk was of "toleration" and not of "exploitation."

    "The left lost interest in the traditional field of political economy, and instead opened up new theaters of conflict on the field of culture. Generally speaking, the left accepted the capitalist horizon," Winlow et al explain.

    Political life in Britain became sterile as Labour and the Conservatives converged to promote a pro-capitalist, economically and socially liberal agenda. The working-class were excluded from this new, City of London-approved consensus.

    In the 2001 general election, faced with a choice between Tweedledum Tony Blair and Tweedledee William Hague, just 59% of people bothered voting. Compare that level of engagement to 1950, when turnout was 83.9%. But back then, the working-class was properly represented. 

    The authors of The Rise of the Right stress that while "middle-class liberal domination of working-class thought and politics is nothing new" — just think of the role the Fabians played in early Labour Party history — things have got a whole lot worse in the post social-democratic era.

    Demonization of Socialism

    Former carpenter Eric Heffer, who died in 1991, is cited as "one of the last honest and confrontational working-class heavyweights in the Labour Party." The authors mention how the CIA played their part too in destroying the genuine socialist left — as chronicled by H. Wilford's book, The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune? which is referenced in chapter three:

    "Central to this was the abandonment of class and the turn to language, cultural identity and social movements… The American liberal-progressivist habit of demonizing socialism by placing it in the same breath as fascism was imported into Europe to provide more attractive and subtle support to the conservative right's demonization program."

    The CIA got exactly what they wanted.

    In the era of hegemonic neo-liberalism, anyone who dares to challenge the liberal-left from a socialist perspective, can expect to be denounced by Establishment gatekeepers as a "Stalinist" or even "far-right." Even advocating a return to the much fairer economic policies of 1945-79 is regarded as beyond the pale.

    'Liberal' Media

    Back to the 70s? When the gap between the rich and poor in Britain was at its lowest in history, and the country still had a manufacturing base — why, you must be insane! The acceptable parameters of debate have become hopelessly narrowed, with "liberal" media playing a key role in keeping alternative solutions, which would benefit the majority, "off-limits."

    "The right-liberal and left-liberal media can be distinguished by their approaches to issues such as welfare, multiculturalism and taxation, but when faced with even the remotest chance of the return of anything like real left politics, they become one voice," the authors declare. 

    Is it any wonder therefore, that with their voices ignored by those who once claimed to represent them, the British working-class has looked for other options? 

    The second half of The Rise of the Right includes interviews with working-class men and women who support far-right political groups like the English Defence League (EDL). Here's Steppy, who is 39, on why he doesn't vote Labour:

    Far-Right Rising

    "Those posh white people… They've taken over the Labour party. They're taking over everywhere. And look what they're doing. First thing they get their mates top jobs. And then their mates get jobs for their mates. Your feminists are cut from the same cloth. They talk about democracy, but there's no democracy. Not in this country…"

    Anti-Muslim prejudice was widespread among the interviewees. 

    Muslims have become a scapegoat for the anger, frustration and alienation that many supporters of the EDL and other far-right groups feel.

    But the big problem, as the authors show, has been the rapacious economic system we live under, which is inimical to the best interests of the majority. It's neo-liberalism that has destroyed entire working-class communities and the spirit of solidarity that once existed. It's neo-liberalism that has created so much loneliness and anxiety.

    Tony, like many interviewees, looks back nostalgically to the Britain of forty years ago:

    "Things were better then.. For people like me it was better. We had a right laugh at school and well, everything just seemed to work. There was jobs then. Everyone worked. People stuck together."

    Going Back to Square One

    Instead of listening to working-class people like Tony, too many political representatives of the "left" prefer to take their cue from "liberal" middle-class media columnists, and focus on issues which said media columnists believe are of the most pressing concern. This has to stop if the rise of the far-right is to be checked.

    In chapter eight of their book, the authors argue that the left "must begin from the beginning again":

    "For us the left today needs to be returned to the working class. It is the working-class that must win the fight for social and economic justice. Middle-class liberals cannot and will not win it on their behalf."

    The authors say that leftists need to acknowledge that what they call "hippy counter-culturalism" was a "colossal error" and then begin to undo some of the damage it caused.

    Culture should not be abandoned, but "put back in its sub-dominant place." Economic reform, and in particular ending the dictatorship of finance capital must be the priority. A publicly-owned national investment bank, the re-nationalization of key industries, and the return of jobs — proper, meaningful, well-paid, full-time contracted jobs to areas turned into wastelands has to be right at the top of Labour's agenda. 

    The rise of the far-right is not inevitable, neither is it irreversible. But the left is doomed unless it campaigns on bread-and-butter working-class issues and makes a clean break with elite-friendly neo-liberalism. If Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hasn't ordered a copy of The Rise of the Right yet, then I recommend he does so very quickly.

    *The Rise of the Right, English Nationalism and the Transformation of Working-Class Politics — Simon Winlow, Steve Hall and James Treadwell, published by Policy Press.

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    • Angus Gallagherin reply toivanwa88(Show commentHide comment)
      ivanwa88, exactly. That's the basis of working class resistance- honour, decency, civic patriotism, and faith. The very things these Brit Marxists gimps despise.
    • Angus Gallagher
      Comrades, do you want Farage, Le Pen, Frauke Petry, and detente between Russia and America? Do you believe western civilization is worth saving from the EU-NATO Axis and population replacement?
      Or do you want these Brit Marxist gimps?
      You decide.
    • Jonathan Ferguson
      NOT EVEN toleration. More like postmodern 'tolerance.' Neil, have you read John Gray's essay on this, in Enlightenment's Wake? He discusses Herbert Butterfield, Isaiah Berlin, and the toleration/tolerance distinction.
    • Jonathan Ferguson
      Interesting review, by the way. Sounds an important book.
    • avatar
      suggests that leftists are pretty stupid, not to realise that Newtown's basic Law about action and reaction also holds true in the human world.
    • avatar
      Randall Lee Hilburnin reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, That stupidity has brought us something increasingly like one party rule that we now have in America. One either submits to the ruling party or suffers the consequences. It is rapidly approaching that point. It is fixing to get ugly.
    • Mishao
      This accurate portrayal of the US demonstrates there is no left beyond some of the small, stalwart parties that are statistically, virtually non-existent.
    • avatar
      Excellent topic, the real left is liberalized by infiltration of spies. Billionaires control leftist parties through the secret service, rich people are afraid that their property will be confiscated if leftists get majority at elections. Rich people use also their media to make propaganda against the left. Therefore, they spy the left from moment they create a leftist party, with the excuse of spying leftist extremism. I speak about those who are rhetorically really on the left, spies get to to top of the party and become classic red bourgeoisie (buying houses worth million Eur, in Denmark for example), but social democrats are even worse, they openly propagate liberal fascist politics: repression against immigrants and smaller taxes for riches. Social democrats are the most responsible for the rise of far right i.e. fascists. Due to fascism against immigrants, social democrats pushed many leftist voters to find some alternatives (pirate party, etc), but due to corruption and worse economy, many voters started to give a vote for fascists.
      Shortly, real left are infiltrated by spies who changed the direction/course of the party, social democrats realized liberal fascist politics full of corruption, voters turned to the right wing parties i.e. fascists.

      Considering fascists are amateurs for the economy, they are obsessed with immigrants and only immigrants (whole day every day), during the time, people will turn against fascists too. But in the meantime, fascists will impose totalitarian state and there are no new partisans to fight against new Mussolini. And we know also that fascists are not against billionaires, it is very easy to corrupt fascists and to make them good for rich people. Fascism and racism are extreme form of capitalism: economic exploitation on the basis of nationality, race, religion, etc. It means, fascists and racists are serving rich people. Danish billionaires finance Danish racist party (Danish People Party).

      In any case, American corruption in Europe in the end brought the rise of fascist totalitarian system which is against American liberal global capitalism, but it is still serving interest of rich people: bigger profit on the basis of economic exploitation.
    • rogertidy
      How very true! The working class feel that they are disrespected by the 'liberal-left' elite, and they are right to fell that way.

      The promoters of 'identity politics' have derailed the left and taken it in the wrong direction. That is true in Britain, and even more true in the US, where the so-called 'left' railed against Trump because of his alleged racism and sexism but were largely quiet when the US invaded Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and supported so-called 'moderate' Islamists in the horrific destabilization of Syria. How ironic that is! After all, the victims of these conflicts, which have led to the rise of Islamist extremism, are mainly people of colour and women. So much for the hypocritical 'feminism' and 'anti-racism' of the US fake left, which is so out-of-touch that it thinks Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are 'progressive'.

      The left will get nowhere until it again places economics at the centre of its analysis. The root of the problem that societies are facing today is capitalist imperialism (which is often described as globalism). The financial and corporate elite, which is increasingly global in its scope, has no loyalty to any country but will always seek to export capital and productive resources to those countries where it can maximize profits. Moreover, when any country stands in the way of this process, the Lords of Capital respond with blatant military force or subversion to overthrow its government. That is why the US and Britain, etc. have been involved in so many foreign wars and attempts at regime-change. And that is why so many American, British and other countries' jobs have been exported in recent years to the so-called Third World where labour is cheaper and can be more easily exploited.

      In the end, the whole capitalist system will come tumbling down; but until it does the main focus of the left should be on combating imperialism. That, among other things, means standing up for the national interest of one's own country against global capital. The left turns its back on patriotism at its peril!

      Finally, the left is wrong about Trump. He is standing up for his country against the global financial and corporate elite, whereas his predecessors for the last few decades have all represented that elite and always placed it in front of the interests of the American people. Ironically, in the present national and international situation, it is Trump who is the true progressive while globalists like Clinton are the enemies of progress.
    • avatar
      michaelin reply toRandall Lee Hilburn(Show commentHide comment)
      Randall and all the while they claim that this being politically correct. :) As Marlon said..."the horror...the horror"
    • avatar
      Randall Lee Hilburnin reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, American Capitalism created the economic problems of the United States, not immigrants and not foreign competition. Somehow a lot of people got it into their heads that the solution to the problem was throwing out one group of Plutocrats and replacing them with another bunch of vermin that crawled up out of the same sewer. The same system that caused the problem to begin with now offers as the solution an even more extreme form of itself. The only way a person in the United States could not see what is/was happening is if they refuse(d) to see it.

      Jefferson set up the Democratic Party originally to represent the common peoples interests against those of the economic elites. The Party has long ago stabbed those it was supposed to represent in the back and gone into the business of identity politics, frequently of professional victims. The Left has followed in train behind the Democratic Party as it has taken the road to irrelevance and ultimately oblivion. Leaving only a Republican Party that has never ever been the friend of the common people, even in the days of the fraud Lincoln. Who was always the frontman for Northeastern banking and commercial interests who were trying to eliminate competition from the Southern Planter Class. They couldn't have cared less about the Negro except as a means to that end. At the very same time they were trying to free the slaves they were trying to exterminate the Native Americans and steal their land and resources so they could make a profit off of them.

      I am one of those of the opinion that if you saw the rise of a true American Left Wing Party free of the fatal addiction to identity politics and instead based on the pursuit of economic justice for everybody like such parties were originally set up to pursue their growth could potentially be explosive. That is if, and only if, they could get around the media blackout that American Corporate Media, both Mainstream and Alternative, slaps on any genuine alternative to the status quo.
    • Angus Gallagher
      Here are the facts about Neil Clark:
      1. He's an engaging writer with interesting ideas.
      2. He's sincere and a well respected journalist.
      3. His geopolitical analysis is accurate.
      4. He's better aligned to real British people than Blairites.
      The main point of disagreement is on mass migration and a nation's right to its identity and Moscow should judge who is right and who is wrong here between us all. Still, Neil Clark's brand of socialism is something that is temperamentally more aligned to British working class interests than these wretched interventionist Blairites. But Corbyn is just as bad, a pathetic and despicable parody act. Overall, certain ideas Neil has can and should be assimilated by UKIP. As long as they're prepared to defend British interests and British identity, people like Neil Clark can have as much socialism as they want as far as UKIP are concerned. If you think of the English Civil War, Cromwell's side included everything from millenarian Fifth Monarchists to communistic Diggers and Levellers. So there's room today for diverse ideas that seem outwardly to clash- but which share the same impulses.
      We need something like the 'Putney Debates' to reconcile any genuine elements within the British hard left with civic patriots like UKIP where Moscow is analogous to the fate of Bohemian Protestantism versus the counter-reformation as a core common interest. Mostly however, there is hardly any potential material to work with and we don't need any compromise with the left because we have the people on our side.
    • avatar
      jasin reply toAngus Gallagher(Show commentHide comment)
      Angus Gallagher, They changed it to LBGTQ. And yes, they are insane.
    • avatar
      michaelin reply toRandall Lee Hilburn(Show commentHide comment)
      Randall, thanks for that! You remind me how the australian labor party also changed its spots around the time of the late 60's.
    • avatar
      Randall Lee Hilburnin reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, In my opinion if a party came along which could get around the media blackout and propaganda and promised economic justice and the right of cultural self-determination it would be unstoppable. In other words if it was a Jeffersonian style Democratic Party. Of course I am speaking of things in an American context. Black, Latino, and White Labor have common economic interests but their cultures are radically different.
    • 2007harleydavidsonsgin reply toAngus Gallagher(Show commentHide comment)
      Angus Gallagher, Dearest sir you are
      A Master of articulation ! I on the other hand, like many a common working slug take great delight reading your very insightfull commintary! You should consider being a columnist. All of you here are so spot on and a breath of fresh air.
    • avatar
      michaelin reply toRandall Lee Hilburn(Show commentHide comment)
      Randall, in today's climate and conditions, the idea that a party could actually do any of that is bordering on fantasy. :) Not that it wouldn't be needed of course! :)
    • avatar
      Randall Lee Hilburnin reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, Agreed. I guess I was speaking of things in as they say a theoretical context.

      In the United States on all levels a true reform candidate faces both a media blackout and massive funding being channeled to their opponent in an election. If Trump had run as anything other than a candidate of a major party the two major parties would have combined together to insure that he never went anywhere. But when an individual runs as a member of a major party they have to agree to support that party's platform, which in the American case means one or the other version of the status quo.

      If as sometimes happens on very rare occasions and normally on a more local level an outsider candidate manages to win office in spite of the obstacles placed in their path, the "ruling classes" have a number of weapons they can use against the troublemaker:
      (1) So isolate the individual in the day to day workings of the government that they are rendered completely ineffective. This actually happened to one of my brothers-in-law.
      (2) Blackmail. Where they try to find out information on the subject that they can use to ruin them if it is ever made public. Or try to maneuver them into such a compromising situation.
      (3) Bribery. If necessary with more than just money and material things. It can also mean with drugs, or various sexual practices with either or both sexes. Worst of all they can arrange for the practice of pedophilia with boys and/or girls without fear of prosecution. This is common practice as well with corporations who do business with the government. In this one I speak from being around it.
      (4) Some combination of #2 and #3.
      (5) Threatening the members of ones family, like a mate and/or children.
      Normally used when even threats of assassination aren't effective and a person cannot otherwise be neutralized.
      (6) Assassination, or at least threats of it. #'s 5 and 6 are obviously the weapons of last resort. This is also used when one of their politicians either begins to reform themselves, like Kennedy, or remains corrupt but begins to behave independently, like Lincoln.

      There is an interesting phenomenon that one sometimes sees take place. It is where you have a fake reform candidate who manages to get themselves elected for the express but obviously hidden purpose of collecting bribes in exchange for not doing the very things that the voters voted them into office to do. Several years back this actually happened in the state where I live. In that particular case what happened was so blatantly obvious that they weren't reelected, which was fine by them since they had grown very wealthy in the meantime. No prosecution either here.

      I would dearly like to think that my little post mortem analyses here only applies to the failed political system of the USA, but I have a sneaking suspicion that is the norm around the world in the so-called democracies rather than being the exception.
    • avatar
      michaelin reply toRandall Lee Hilburn(Show commentHide comment)
      Randall, nice summation. Thanks :) I wholeheartedly agree with the steps by the way. You are correct also with your suspicion about elsewhere. Wherever there is 'democracy' there is also the trappings of power and corrupt practices - not to mention illegal / immoral activities.
    • avatar
      Randall Lee Hilburnin reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, The Achilles heal of democracy some have concluded is money. To be elected or stay in office one must spend an awful lot of money. The door is thus opened to a boundless ocean of corruption.

      Unless one is part of a political body small enough to engage in direct democracy I don't see how this defect can be corrected. Outside of Marx's "primitive communal societies" the only large scale cases of it that I am aware of are Iceland during the Viking Age and at one time the city-state of Athens in Ancient Greece.
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