A short time after our last issue came out, the British population decided in a referendum to follow the lead of a section of ultra-reactionaries on the right wing of the Conservative Party and UKIP to leave the European Union. In prominent discourse, this development was attributed to some kind of working class revolt. Although there had been a call from sections of the left for a ‘Lexit’ (left exit), this wasn’t essentially an issue of the working class. Rather, it was undoubtedly put into motion by a conflict within the establishment, caused essentially by the fallout of the economic crisis and by their failing strategies to deal with it. Mainstream media – such as the Daily Mail and the Express (both famous for their relentless far right propaganda over the decades, which included support for Hitler in the 30s by the Mail) – managed to whip up xenophobia and managed to mobilise their constituency.
A similar mechanism seemed to be at work when Donald Trump was elected president in the United States. Much of the political class was gobsmacked, but the wanna-be stormtroopers on both sides of the atlantic felt empowered enough to let loose their pent up desire to commit hate crimes. Undoubtedly there is a rise of the far right, but in some ways it could be a golden opportunity for the left, if it is able to organise the resistance against it.
The leaders of the right – from Trump to Putin and Erdogan to Farage – all outwardly suffer extreme narcissistic personality defects and certainly lack any ability to solve even the most basic problems of the economic crisis, except when it comes to pushing aside opposition and profiting politically or even economically from the mess. What is happening isn’t fascism yet, but the tendency towards an authoritarian rule by decree. This is supported by those who used to be known as neo-Nazis, rebranded themselves as the ‘New Right’ in the late 60s, and more recently as the ‘Alt Right’. Many of these are people who hope to draw political capital from this climate. Since the 70s, the ‘New Right’ has been chiseling away at the gains the left had made in that period and has tried to create a discourse-hegemony promoting its racist ‘values’ and pseudo-science. Connected to this is the right’s ongoing fight to control women’s bodies, which makes these authoritarian movements comparable to Islamism, which, ironically, they claim to be fighting.
They are constantly decrying the supposed domination of the media by ‘liberals’, when a platform like Breitbart, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Alt Right, was living off mainstream advertising revenue. This included BMW, Lufthansa, T-Mobile, Visa, Zalando, and even Greenpeace and Oxfam – who all may or may not have known that their ads were featured via Google DoubleClick on the site. Whatever may be the case, the result was that the site appeared legit in a mainstream way.
Countering the apparent momentum of the right, there have been massive mobilisations and popular resistance. But it needs more for the left to come out of its crisis. Much of the traditional left is divided between bickering sects and outdated concepts, and even more so by the focus on identity politics, single issue campaigns, or, worse, the appeasement towards Islamism and other reactionary forces. There is also a widespread inability to see a perspective outside of the narrow perception of what the ‘left’ is. This manifests itself in the return of some left-Keynesian concepts, which are already seen as radical because they move away from the neo-liberal consensus, but they don’t abandon the terrain of capitalism, offering a different way of saving the system instead. A truly radical perspective would have to look beyond a world of commodity production, money and nation states.
One aspect that might well contribute to this weakness may be the fact that the precarisation that most of us are increasingly subjected to manifests itself not only in the conditions of labour, but also by the fact that millions voluntarily donate hours of unpaid work every day to companies like Facebook whose value depends on the participation of as many people as possible. If we add this un-activity to the work day, then little time and energy are left for actual organisation and struggles. We hope with our efforts with this magazine to contribute to meaningful discussions about how to counteract these developments.