Far-right rise is testament to the left’s failure….
The headline-grabbing Searchlight poll should certainly be cause for concern. However, caveats should be added straight away. The poll found that 48% of people *would consider* supporting a a far-right party, if they gave up violence. Considering doing something is a completely different kettle of fish to the actual doing of something. In fact, it is an old truism of opinion pollsters that you can make people say pretty much anything but you can’t make them do anything.
It seems this question formed part of a set around issues like immigration and national identity. Answering sympathetically to those questions logically leads to the consideration of supporting the far-right. So, in that sense the headline figure is hardly surprising. In conclusion, the report wrongly cites the English Defence League as potentially the main beneficiary of its findings. A much more obvious candidate exists in UKIP to capture this mood since UKIP is without the baggage that would haunt the EDL no matter how much it tried to escape from its ‘boot-boy’ image.
The main findings of the poll show us how far things have fallen. The finding, for example, that;
A new politics of identity, culture, and nation has grown out of the politics of race and immigration, and is increasingly the opinion driver in modern British politics
is a direct reflection of the collapse of working class identity. Of course, part of this process has been the implosion of the left and the collapse of socialism in most peoples minds as offering a viable vision of an alternative society. The destruction of class identity has played a key role in the rise of the far-right and Labour, specifically New Labour, has played a large part in this process, something that even the New Statesman is forced to acknowledge:
Under Tony Blair, Labour exorcised the spectre of class from mainstream politics. This has inadvertently given racist and anti immigrant propaganda (whether from the BNP, or from more “respectable” sources) greater traction, because people no longer have a progressive framework through which to address their discontent.
While identifying economic concerns as being the primer for the rise of the far-right I think the conclusion that therefore all we need to do is better address these is disingenuous. Even if these things underpin the responses given, the fact is that expressing these fears and concerns through the creation of a cultural identity shows the need for a more sophisticated response. The left routinely raises economic demands but since it has detached itself from a living and breathing consistently democratic programme this does nothing to address a feeling of oppression and alienation couched in cultural terms. Nor does it do much to create a positive identity based around class as opposed to culture or race. Put simply, the left addresses people in the language of the lowest common denominator, ie as economic units, and does nothing to raise peoples horizons. Being brutal, the left as it currently is constituted, treats people no better than capitalism and therefore has little hope of destroying it. By contrast, the far-right offers a strong and reasonably coherent (at least superficially) group narrative and group identity which does offer the illusion of a better society.
Repairing the shattered marriage between socialism and democracy is the first step to fighting the rise of the far-right. If that is not done then this current capitalist crisis, far from causing an upswing in left-wing support, could easily lead to the reverse and to very dark places indeed.