Saturday, 16 July 2022

The Hard Right and the Far Right

Commenting on my analysis of Penny Mordaunt's leadership bid, and the point about her potential meddling with the Treasury upsetting the right, James Meadway noted that "a Brexity section of the right hate HMT, too - talking Brexit down, putting out Remainer forecasts, etc." He's right, so I think we need to think about what we mean by "the right" of the Tory party.

Eager watchers of the Brexit saga are well aware of the European Research Group on the backbenches, the self-appointed guardians of ensuring the UK left the EU. But there are other groups too. We've mentioned the Northern Research Group (no prizes for guessing which part of the country it draws support from), the One Nation grouping, the No Turning Back group, the Covid Recovery Group (the formal name of the anti-maskers), and loads of others. But while the Tory right can concentrate around some groups, with the ERG being the most notable, it tends to cut across these variously formalised factions.

I think it's useful to think about the Tory right in two ways, so here's a rule of thumb. On the one hand you have the hard right. What characterises them is a fealty to market fundamentalism, whether because they're ideologically convinced of their rightness and/or because it grows out of their class affinity with the interests the Tory party brings together. Rish! Sunak and Sajid Javid hail from this faction, and it has the most cross over with the Tory establishment. Thatcher worship, anti-worker militancy, obsessions with cutting taxes and gutting public services are what they're about.

And then we have the far right. This is the term usually reserved for fascist outfits like the BNP, For Britain (now defunct), the National Front, etc. But givent their virtual eradication it makes sense to use it in the context of the Tory party. When the right are pushing hard against trans rights, are actively agitating for pushing refugees back into the sea, regularly trot out "Cultural Marxist" and Great Reset conspiracies, take the "war on woke" as a core strategy for winning votes, openly agitates for the abandonment of the ECHR and the abandonment of green targets, all that's missing from this entirely negative prospectus is the BNP logo. As watchers of Britain's fascist movement are well aware, the BNP abandoned - at least in its public-facing propaganda - a stress on biological racism in the 90s and emphasised essential cultural differences between "British values" and the religious and cultural practices of certain minority ethnicities. And in the 00s the BNP reaped some limited success with 60-odd councillors and two MEPs. The Tory far right are likewise "culturalist" and have subsumed this project. Its culturalism allows it to count Priti Patel and Suella Braverman among its number, with Kemi Badenoch as its remaining standard bearer in the leadership contest.

There are commonalities between the two groupings. As broad camps, both are entirely at ease with and indeed favour an authoritarian state. Nor are they entirely mutually exclusive. Jacob Rees-Moog, for instance, is in equal parts neoliberal and identarian. But despite the overlaps, the differences matter. The hard right tend more toward the emerging social liberal consensus on identity matters, and the far right are happier to say "fuck business", to coin a phrase, if it conflicts with their project. Badenoch's embarrassing attack on Ben and Jerry's, the purveyors of over-priced ice cream, at her leadership launch is a case in point. And the continuity remain criticisms James flagged up is another.

When we talk about the right in the Tories we need to be clear about which right we're talking about. The job of political comment is to inform and explain, after all.

Imge Credit


georgesdelatour said...

I think you’re on to something here. If you were to widen this type of analysis across the whole political spectrum, and even write a book about it, it would be fascinating. I’d buy it, so that’s one sale :)

I’m old, and, back in the 1980s, I read The Economist every week; mainly because it had excellent coverage of the whole world, not just the USA and Europe. The editorial line was very pro-business, corporations, capitalism, financialisation etc. But on non-economic issues like gay rights, female CEOs etc, it was often far bolder than, say, the New Statesman. I came to the conclusion that The Economist had completely absorbed the arguments of Gramsci and the Frankfurt School, but was standing them on their head; using them to make capitalism invincible rather than to overthrow it; by making sure every new potentially restless minority group was swiftly incorporated into the system.

The Economist editorials of the 1980s are the reality of the 2020s: a kind of left wing capitalism with well-funded HR departments, where you can be ultra-left wing about anything (except, of course, abolishing private property).

The combined effect of 1) Economist-type left-wing capitalism with 2) Rudy Dutschke-type “long march through the institutions” culture-war, is a pincer movement against any kind of conservatism based in tradition rather than in capitalism. Marx’s phrase, the title of this blog, is being proven true even in ways which might have surprised the great commie prophet of Highgate.

On YouTube you can find an intriguing debate between Catholic-Marxist Terry Eagleton and traditionalist conservative Roger Scruton (it’s about 10 years old). Eagleton points out that capitalism is destroying Scruton’s loved traditions far more mercilessly than, say, Clement Attlee-type socialism ever could. This highlights the central problem for trad conservatives everywhere. What do you want to conserve, and practically, how are you going to conserve it?

Boffy said...

What is missing here is a class analysis of the interests each of these factions are representing. Without it just describing the ideas each purveys is subjective and ungrounded.

Required is an understanding that the hard Right/Brexiters are fundamentally reactionary petty-bourgeois, and represent the interests of that class. Its why they support Brexit and all that goes with it in small state, free markets, attacks on trades unions etc.

The Far Right whilst they appeal to the petty-bourgeois reactionaries as foot soldiers using nationalistic and anti-capitalist rhetoric - which is why Oswald Mosely could go straight from being a Fabian Labour Minister, and promoting his Memorandum supported by Nye Bevan et al to setting up his BUF using the same politics and economic ideas - they are actually the representatives of the ruling class, and recognise that its state is based upon large scale capital, and a large social-democratic state (hence the ease of Mosely and Mussolini's transition again.

The problem for the Far Right currently, is that the ruling class has no need of them, and so they are left mouthing their nationalistic, anti-capitalist rhetoric with only sections of the petty-bourgeoisie listening but their services as foot soldiers not required, and so unlike for Hitler and Mussolini no state to assist them. On the contrary, as they found in the US on January 6th, the capitalist state ready to crush them.

Blissex said...

Indeed the main wings of the Conservatives are hard-right and far-right, both rather to the right of Thatcher herself. What is missing from this blog post is mainly two points:

* The hard-right is mostly Liberal globalist thatcherite and the far-right is Tory nationalist thatcherite. While the Thatcher governments were not quite as right-wing as either contemporary Conservative main factions, she herself was both in some ways Tory nationalist (instinctively) and in other Liberal globalist (intellectually).

* New Labour's political position was in the 2000s and today in the 2020s mostly hard-right Liberal globalist (the Mandelson Tendency) but also with aspect designed to appeal to far-right Tory nationalists (the Blunkett-Straw approach), plus some modest elements of wannabe social-democracy injected by Gordon Brown, much to the horror of Militant Mandelsoncy.

Blissex said...

«The job of political comment is to inform and explain, after all.»

If the job of political comment was that, the press would be saying that:

* the Johnson administration has done far worse than beers at work and expensive wallpaper;
* the attacks against Johnson is gang warfare among Conservative factions;
* these politics-free personal attacks are a perversion of politics just like Johnson's spivery;
* it is between Liberals and Tories, that have common (property) but not identical class interests;
* most likely the long term issue is about is Single Market membership;
* fairly likely this is because USA (and Japan) corporates that have invested in "maquiladora" assembly plants and european headquarters in England are angry that these have no longer unrestricted access to the Single Market, and that the english assets of USA security services no longer have access to EU internal workings and the USA security services have to rely on less reliable continental ones.

Except for a people few like this who point out that politics is not really about ideas or personalities (e.g. “Apart from refusing to confront real problems and concerns”) the media are concordant in framing national politics as if it were student politics.

Blissex said...

«back in the 1980s, I read The Economist every week; mainly because it had excellent coverage of the whole world, not just the USA and Europe.»

Same here, and I also liked it because of the whole-world coverage (legacy of empire), but mainly for two other reasons:

* It decorated its claims with lots of useful, insightful numbers and graphs, something that it still does, even if less.

* It was quite candid as to many aspects of the system.

Both (in particular the latter reason) were the outcome of Norman Macraggae being the driving editorial force, and it having a tiny (50,000=100,000 copies) circulation mostly in the UK. Now that it has a circulation of over 1,000,000 mostly in the USA it is largely like the NYT and WaPo a dedicated follower of the "conventional wisdom", I read it mainly to understand what is the current "party line":

«But on non-economic issues like gay rights, female CEOs etc, it was often far bolder than, say, the New Statesman. [...] making sure every new potentially restless minority group was swiftly incorporated into the system. [...] a kind of left wing capitalism with well-funded HR departments, where you can be ultra-left wing about anything»

I often see this kind of argument and I cringe because it is based on the crazy idea that "bourgeois liberties" and indeed libertarianism and even "libertinism" are like “ultra-left-wing” when they are instead "radical" free-markets liberalism:

* Historically the term "left" indeed labelled hard-right "radical" liberals, representing the interests of "free market" business people, as opposed to hard-right "tory" conservatives, representing the interests of "traditional institutions" landowners , but for a long while now it indicates those who represent the interests of workers and the lower classes.

* While "gay marriage"/LGBTQI+ intersectionality is consistent with "radical" Liberalism, its consequences, and I reckon its purpose, is not ideological, is to split the working class among many competing lobbies, and to give an answer to the question "who is the oppressor class" which is not "business and property rentiers", but "the white working class" (the "deplorables"). The argument constantly pushed by the corporate media is that if someone is poor it is because the "deplorables" are discriminating against them, or if the "deplorables" are poor it can only be because they are failures because they are poor despite having "white privilege".

* The secondary consequence and purpose of identity politics is to uphold the radical Liberal ideology of "free markets", via the concepts of "my body my choice", "among consenting adults" and "freedom of contract" and I think that the longer term purpose is to reintroduce debt imprisonment first (already done in many cases in much of the USA) and debt servitude later, and then of course tradeable debt servitude contracts.

The "radical" politics is based on the strict individualism of the hard right, rather the opposite of reciprocity and solidarity of the left.