After more than 10 years of since the start of the economic crisis of ’07-’09 and precisely because of the inability of the bourgeois technocrats to find viable answers to the spiral of economic turbulence, traditional political representation is also in deep crisis. Center-left and center-right parties and government are crumbling, leaving the door open to new parties that emerge.
At the same time we should say that despite the crisis of political representation, in a large part of the world the ruling class appears to be playing alone on a pitch without an opponent, after the successive capitulations and sell-outs of political parties identified with the Left and the defeat of the great social and workers’ mobilisations of the previous political era.
Against this background, in a number of countries around the world we are witnessing the growth of far-right forces with significant electoral gains and the assumption of government positions. But what is the character of this (not always new) far-right?
Donald Trump at the top
There is no doubt that Trump’s political stature, his mode of speech, his tenure in government and his general presence easily anoint him the patriarch of today’s far-right. For many of today’s “fascist” stars, the former US president is an idol and a role model. Central to this, of course, is the special weight of the US in the world: the fact that a right-wing populist has managed to find himself at the ‘helm’ of the world’s largest imperialist power.
At the same time, however, Trump’s political presence also encapsulates a set of contradictory characteristics that constitute the political identity of contemporary reborn far-right populism and its representatives. His policies combine extreme neoliberalism with social conservatism, making them some kind of political monstrosity. Let us remember Gramsci, who said that
“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters”
Trump himself is a capitalist, of course. He advocates for an extremely neo-liberal economic programme in which there is no room for the slightest benefit to society. Privatisation and extreme austerity measures are the gospels of the far-right internationally. The words of Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, are typical when he describes taxation as ‘theft’, social justice as an ‘aberration’ and advocates the immediate abolition of public health and education.
This is accompanied by the emergence of elements of a peculiar protectionism – not of the poor, as the far-right presents it, but of the ‘national’ capitalists of each country. This is, of course, nothing new. During the euro crisis, for example, we saw a section of Italian industrialists openly propose a return to the lira. In the same vein, Trump has threatened to bring American companies’ factories back to the US, and has previously withdrawn from international agreements and pursued a policy of economic sanctions, mainly against Chinese companies. Today, for example, Milei in Argentina is talking about breaking off economic cooperation with China (even though China is Argentina’s main economic partner) and reviving talk of dollarising the peso.
Another characteristic of the far-right is its passionate support for the state of Israel against the Palestinians.
This is a new element, since until recently opposition to ‘the Jews’ was a tautological element for any kind of fascist and far-right nationalist. But today we see Wilders in the Netherlands essentially proposing the exile of all Palestinians to Jordan, Milei fanatically supporting Israel and Le Pen appearing sceptical even about the humanitarian corridors in Gaza.
At the heart of this new element is, of course, the Islamophobia that has been cultivated in the West since the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. The far-right chooses to identify with their “old” enemies, the Jews, in order to help exterminate their “new” enemy, the poor Muslims. After all, the Nazis and Fascists in the inter-war period had primarily targeted poor Jews. Now that the state of Israel is rich and powerful, things are changing…
Another element that unites the far-right is misogyny.
They are all in favour of banning abortion and rolling back the gains made by the women’s movement in recent years.
Characteristically, Milei abolished the Ministry for Women, Gender and Diversity and he said he will wage a “cultural war against feminism and socialism”.
If there is one thing that has certainly not changed for the far-right, whether old or new, it is the continued presence in its political discourse of a number of conspiracy theories.
The first victim, of course, is the climate crisis, the existence of which Trump was the first to openly question. In the same vein, Milei called climate change a “socialist lie”, while Wilders’ party platform in the Netherlands states that he will stop local governments from working “with gender policies, climate madness and diversity posturing”.
Recently, of course, a new position on the environment has also emerged in far-right parties, and it is, of course, conspiratorial. There are right-wing extremists who claim that climate change exists, but that the people responsible for it are… refugees! (These theories are called eco-fascism and you can read more about them here)
The conspiracy theories that emerged during the pandemic were the bread and butter of the far-right worldwide. It fished in the murky waters of anti-vaccinationism and cultivated it overtly or covertly, even combining it with anti-Chinese racism.
At its ideological core, the far-right has created a new identity that it claims to defend, even using terminology that sounds progressive at first glance.
Thus, against the rights of the LGBTQI community, it promotes the defence of the ‘heterosexual diversity which is under attack’ and ‘heterosexual rights’. Against the advancements for women, it advocates the “defence of the family”. Islamophobia and racism are presented as the “defence of Western civilisation” and the “protection of the rights of Christians”.
This ideological indoctrination is aimed at creating an identity that is supposed to be under constant attack and threat, i.e. they present the perpetrator as the victim. In this way, they try to rally around them, especially the youth who, in their desperation, are looking for something to hold on to.
Of course, the far-right’s positions are not identical in every country, because there are national peculiarities, traditions, etc. There are also big differences between the “moderate” far-right, which claims government positions, and the purely fascist attack squads. Everywhere, however, we see an attempt to “face lift” the far-right in order to open it up to new layers. One of the main proponents of this shift is Renaud Camus in France, who introduced the theory of the “Great Replacement” (where there is supposedly a plan to replace the population of white Christians in Europe with dark-skinned Muslims). Camus also inspired the now banned Generation Identity movement in France. Here we see an attempt by the far-right to appropriate concepts, symbols and traditions of the Left and twist them to serve racist hatred. In a 2017 interview, he said:
“I therefore believe that we are entering into an absolute necessity of a struggle that will no longer be political … for which there are two main sources of inspiration: that of the Resistance [meaning the French resistance against the Nazis] and that of anti-colonial struggles. We are under occupation—I am absolutely not afraid of the word, I often speak of the second occupation … We also follow the tradition of all anti-colonial struggles … Algeria, which has become independent, has considered that it would not be truly independent without the departure of the settlers … I also believe that there will be no liberation of the territory without the departure of the occupier or colonization, i. e. without remigration [a euphemism for deportations]. All the major texts in the fight against decolonization apply admirably to France, in particular those of Frantz Fanon [referring to an important figure of the anti-colonisation struggle in Martinique]… Faced with this, I propose open resistance, that is, to revolt.”
The collective: the main enemy
Last but not least, the role of “individual identity” is central to the entire discourse of contemporary far-right. The values projected as paramount are a mixture of individualism, economic liberalism and “traditional” conservative values.
At a time when the concept of collectivity is constantly under attack, the defence of individualism is at the heart of all far-right theories. Thus, for example, in the time of the pandemic, the answer to the justified suspicion of the pharmaceutical industry could not be its nationalisation, but the refusal of the individual to be vaccinated and to protect his or her body. There was no reference to a collective right to health, only to personal choice. In the economic field, it is more or less the same: extreme neo-liberalism, individual pursuit of better living conditions, personal advancement and no mention of collective demands, which are the permanent red rag.
And it is here that the “systemic” nature of the far-right is most clearly revealed. Despite all the “anti-establishment” slogans, despite the existing clashes with the “cosmopolitan” wing of capital, its ideology contains the marrow of capitalism, in its most extreme form.
Almost 200 years ago, Marx and Engels wrote in German Ideology that “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness”. This fact seems to have been grasped by the far-right, which, at a time of deep crisis for the system, is trying to channel the changing consciousness of society in a direction that is harmless to the system and its representatives. It is the task of the forces of the international revolutionary Left to stop this course and, taking advantage of the blind alleys that the system offers in abundance to the working class and poor sections of the population, to try to turn the consciousness in a revolutionary direction and eventually build the political forces that are needed to organise this transition.