Far-right’s roots in capitalist chaos – no time to lose in the fight back

By Laura Fitzgerald

“It’s too ridiculous to take seriously and too serious to be ridiculous”. In Naomi Klein’s latest best seller Doppelganger (2023), she returns frequently to this Philip Roth tidbit in grappling to sum up the conspiracy theory rightists and the alternative universe they inhabit. 

A recent example of this was contained in a ‘Vote No in the family referendum’ flyer that unironically boasted a stock image of a kitchen sink, and another of a mother and her baby with the heading: “Women are ‘not chained’ to this.. women are deeply connected.. to this”. How is it that a coterie of backward extreme rightists, Catholic fundamentalists, conspiracy theorists and hard-core racists and even fascists, are gaining ground, organising, and having an impact at this time?

An international backlash

The far-right threat is an international phenomenon emanating out of the system of capitalism itself. Wracked with multifaceted crises – economic, ecological, political, social and more – increased protectionism, nationalism, chauvinism and repression are objectively necessary from the point of view of the capitalist system reeling from these crises. 

Since the 2008 economic crash, the system has faced crisis after crisis. These processes led to revolutionary uprisings in some countries. They resulted in the popularising of some rudimentary anti-capitalist and class-aware ideas en masse – the 1% versus the 99%; the sham of ‘meritocracy’ exposed; the ‘right’ of billionaires to exist became a source of ridicule. This presents an ideological problem for capitalism’s ruling class. 

The 2010s saw a new feminist and queer struggle wave emerge, a phenomenal mass awakening leaving no country untouched in its exposition of gender violence and its call for bodily autonomy and freedom. The Black Lives Matter revolt, and the school student internationally coordinated strikes for climate justice also brought hope. A capitalist system, most especially one in decline, needs racism, needs sexism, needs the gender binary on so many levels, including the unpaid care work that majority women do and the macho violence that the capitalist state and imperialism rely on. These vices are as much part of the profit-system as environmental degradation and workers’ exploitation. 

The strong anti-feminist, anti-trans element to the right-wing backlash therefore flows from the needs of the system. 

Symptoms of a decaying system

The capitalist system in crisis means increasing exploitation and oppression. The latest Oxfam wealth report indicates that since 2020, the richest five men in the world have doubled their fortunes, while nearly five billion people globally have become poorer. In this state, the housing crisis only seems to reach a new nadir every number of months, with record homelessness and the brutal human toll of the same. There is no shortage of reasons to feel angry, disaffected, or alienated. 

The brutal conditions, the isolation, the mental and physical health endangering realities of the capitalist system – combined with an absence of a class conscious understanding of capitalism as a system – these are ripe conditions for predatory, hateful far-right actors to gain influence. 

As well as organising with renewed urgency to come together in broad alliances with all anti-racist and antifascist campaigners to counter these forces in every workplace, community, university and school, there is also an urgency to deepen anti-capitalist and socialist political organising. This vital struggle for fundamental change must be consciously brought into a burgeoning anti-fascist movement – a movement that should be closely linked with the solidarity struggle against the genocide in Gaza. 

An urgent movement 

The poison of the far right has its seeds in today’s capitalist polycrisis. The solution therefore must be left, anti-capitalist, revolutionary and socialist. 

Anti-oppression struggles will be vital in pushing back against the anti-feminist, anti-trans and racist rhetoric and ideology that the far right is peddling – ideas that elements of the more mainstream political establishment will increasingly be echoing, with all the danger that this poses to people of colour, queer people etc. 

Moreover, these anti-oppression struggles have to be increasingly merged with every other struggle – as the workers in Cork library understood when they successfully pressured Forsa Union to call a major anti-far right demonstration in the city last year, combining a vital workers’ and LGBTQ rights struggle. 

A Left that fails to recognise the importance of these struggles and issues will be a left ill-equipped to really wholesale expose the capitalist system – a vital element in building the basis for true solidarity of all the working class and oppressed, which is a prerequisite for socialist change. This solidarity is the only place where hope lies, amidst the bleak backdrop of a cruel, violent and unacceptable capitalist status quo. 

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