By Alex Callinicos
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2848

Don’t believe the far right is finished

Traditional conservatives are still taking on board far right rhetoric and policies in an attempt to survive the collapse of the centre
Issue 2848
Donald Trump holds a red baseball cap that says Trump Was Right, while speaking at a far right rally

Donald Trump’s base, which includes the far right, is still present (Picture: Gage Skidmore)

Has the far right peaked? One can understand why some people might think so. Donald Trump faces trial for covering up hush money to the porn star Stormy Daniels. Boris Johnson may lose his parliamentary seat. Jair Bolsonaro lost the Brazilian presidential elections.

The people who are most tempted to answer “yes” are liberals for whom the Brexit referendum and Trump’s victory in 2016 were aberrations.

They see these as probably cooked up by Vladimir Putin’s dirty tricks department. They hope that now, with the rascals Trump and Johnson in trouble, “normality” is returning.

This is an illusion. The old neoliberal “normality” isn’t back. You have only to look at the banking crisis, rising global temperatures, and war and rumours of war in Europe and the Pacific to see this.

The cracking up of the neoliberal order after the 2008 financial crisis gave the far right their opening. Now the cracks are widening.

Far right governments are entrenched all over the world. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the opposition in India, has just been sentenced to two years in prison for criminal defamation.

He had asked at an election rally, “Why do all these thieves have Modi as their surname?” Narendra Modi is the far right prime minister of India.

Meanwhile, Giorgia Meloni, leader of the fascist Fratelli d’Italia and Italian prime minister, is being accused of rewriting history. Last week was the anniversary of a massacre of 335 people by the German occupation forces on March 24 1944 in the Ardeatine Caves near Rome.

Meloni said they were “slaughtered simply because they were Italian”. In fact, the massacre was a reprisal for an attack by anti‑fascist partisans that killed 33 Nazi soldiers on a street in Rome.

Gianfranco Pagliarulo of the National Association of Italian Partisans said, “Sure, they were Italians, but they were chosen on the basis of a selection that affected anti-fascists, resistance fighters, political opponents and Jews.” He added that the massacre was carried out with the help of Italian fascist officials.

Moreover, Trump isn’t history. Edward Luce of the Financial Times newspaper warns Trump’s base “is as potent as ever. Had it faded, Republican bigwigs from Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the House, to Mike Pence, the former vice president, would not be echoing Trump’s diatribes about the looming indictment.

“Republicans who would rather walk over hot coals than once again see Trump become their nominee feel obliged to endorse his narrative.” Indeed, Trump used the prosecution to launch his presidential campaign in Waco, Texas.

It’s much harder for Johnson to come back. Rishi Sunak was able to ride out a minor Tory rebellion against his deal with the European Union over Northern Ireland comparatively easily. That was even though Johnson and Liz Truss voted against it.

But look at Suella Braverman, home secretary, holding one of the most powerful offices of state. She uses far right language—for example, denouncing “Cultural Marxism”—and glories in her plans to deport refugees to Rwanda. The difference between her and Meloni is that she belongs to a mainstream conservative party but ideologically they are pretty close.

The fact that Braverman has flourished under three successive Tory prime ministers is a sign that the traditional centre right is in crisis. To survive, it is increasingly taking on board far right rhetoric and policies. We can see this also in continental Europe, with, for example, Les Republicains in France.

The old neoliberal centre is falling apart. Labour under the wooden hypocrite Keir Starmer is flourishing in the polls only because the Tories are in such disarray.

Fortunately, there is a counter-current that comes, not as yet mainly from the organised left, but from working class resistance. This is most advanced in France, where Charles III’s state visit was cancelled after protestors started to chant, “Louis XVI, we cut your head off—Macron we can do the same to you.”

Resistance hasn’t reached this scale yet in Britain. But here too the red thread of class struggle has grown stronger, with the strike wave of the past year. There the strength is developing that can crush the far right.

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