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Frank Furedi, How Fear Works: a Review, “The Red-Brown Dreadnoughts”.

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Image result for how fear works frank furedi

Mr Dreadnought Faces Fear.

Frank Furedi How Fear Works. Culture of Fear in the Twenty-first Century. Bloomsbury. 2018.

“I pass, like night, from land to land;

I have strange power of speech:

That moment that his face I see,

I know the man that must hear me:

To him my tale I teach.”

The Ancient Mariner. Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

“In recent times” announces Frank Furedi, “ I have given around eighty lectures on the culture of fear a round the world.” This will come as a surprise to many who associate the one-time leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, RCP, (defunct in 1997) Emeritus professor of Sociology and self-identifying humanist with his progeny in Spiked. That on-line magazine is best known for its claims to defend free speech; libertarian attacks on environmentalism, and “political correctness”. So predictable is its “contrarian” stand that a left-wing prophet regularly forecasts coming articles by editor Brendan O’Neill. Unaided I imagined a heavy swipe at Greta Thunberg. A second later and this came up on Google, “The cult of Greta Thunberg.

Over the last couple of years Spiked has been an outlet for pro-Brexit sovereigntist and ‘working class’ nationalist identity politics, and a strident defender of national populism. Funding from the hard-right Koch Foundation is probably as well known as the ideas Spiked and its nebulae of fronts promote (How US billionaires are fuelling the hard-right cause in Britain 

Populist politics are far from a contrarian joke. The Brexit Party. In discussing How Fear Works, on the friendly platform of Spiked Furedi said, “critics of populism accuse populist movements of using the politics of fear. But more concerning is the fear of populism.” (The Fear of Populism is really the fear of the masses). He has poured scorn on “project fear” Not only have contributors to the site stood as candidates for Nigel Farage’s rally, but one, also ex-RCP, the broadcaster Claire Fox, is now one of their best known MEPs.

Relentless in his global preaching How Fear Works is, as the author points out, the latest in a number of his fearful works, including The Politics of Fear (2005) That book talked of the end of distinction between left and right. “It is amongst the left-wing intelligentsia” Furedi asserted, “that the greatest scorn is reserved for the ideas of progress associated with the Enlightenment” The “conservatism of fear” could be seen in those protesting “against capitalism” in the ‘alter-globalisation’ movement of the time. Their concerns for regulation and the environment demonstrated a “misanthropic mistrust of human ambitions and experimentation”. (1)

Green Catastrophes. 

In this respect Furedi bears comparison to the jeremiads against the Green movement’s “catastrophism” by Pascal Bruckner, Le Fanatisme de l’apocalypse. Sauver la Terre, punir l’Homme/The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse (2013).  At present one expects The present book on the “ascendancy of the culture of fear” and the “unawareness of any cherished values” is more ambitious. It ranges from such “eschatological anxieties”, the “perils facing society” to the “psychology of fear” and the “way it was perceived in previous historical epochs”. In this respect he asserts that, “History provides an important intellectual resource for illustrating how people managed to tame their fears and move forward.” (2)

A substantial part How Fear Workers is devoted to sociology from newspaper clippings, or rather what I saw on the Web. If the media is not “an omnipotent force” creating the culture of fear, it is Furedi´s prime source. Written into this “cultural script” of dread is everything from population growth, emotional harm, and how “the evidence of reason and science provides the motivation for fearing threats”. This authority is used for “Warnings about obesity, flue epidemics, SARS and superbugs”. Toning down his previous resolutely sceptical approach Furedi indicates that campaigners on global warning sometimes engage in “distortion of evidence”. “Fear entrepreneurs” and “moral entrepreneurs” are out to protect the public. Safety has become a value in itself.  I saw it somewhere on Facebook.

Furedi offers a reconstruction of the place of fear in, a bite sizes, of  the history of the moral imagination of human beings. Personhood he indicates, has drawn back from responding to fear with “wisdom, courage, moderation and justice”. But what ancient virtues can be detached from the societies that embodied them?

Heroic Virtues.

The one time New Leftist Alasdair Macintyre sketched the ancient “heroic virtues” and the Aristotelian hierarchy of virtues, engaged in a “quest” to reunite our fragmented ethics. “Truthfulness, justice and courage” would replace subjective emotivism, the therapist and the ‘value neutral’ manager. Furedi is more ambitious, calling on the “Judaism and Christianity” for “moral principles” and the “contribution of the Ancients – Greeks and Romans – Christian philosophy and the Enlightenment” to back a move forward towards “openness to experimentation” and risk-taking. It is at odds with our “precautionary culture”, though perhaps, amongst the previous “resources” not all together at once. (4)

Moving from the importance of free debate, the need to take risks, the “virtue of courage” we find that a  “loss of faith in public life and in people’s decision-making” runs through modern politics. Like critical theorists of “post-democracy” the one-time Revolutionary Communist is outraged at “contempt for the public”. He, mirroring the often-expressed view of writers such as Jacques Rancière, considers that the term “populist” is used to belittle popular democracy.

Interviewed in 2017 he talked of being a “genuinely committed European” and the welcome Brexit vote. “The EU is risk averse, it believes that if something moves it should be regulated. It represents risk as a form of danger not an opportunity.” The alternative is national sovereignty, “National sovereignty is not simply about waving the flag, it’s about understanding that only through the institutions of a nation state can you have a sense of control over your destiny and hold your leaders and politicians to account. It is only in this terrain that democracy has any real meaning.” How exactly a nation state enables people to take control over one’s (personal or collective?)  “destiny” is not explored. Furedi belongs to that class of people who think that sovereignty gives the power to rule the waves and turn the oceans into lemonade. While negotiating a Brexit on WTO terms.

In his horror story, which extend from the European Union outwards, Furedi   relies on assertions about the power of “political oligarchy ”, the “elite” is working against the masses . Why and how, backed by empirical evidence,  it fabricates ‘fear’ is less than clear. Outside of news clippings and reflections about the philosophy and history of being afraid we have a theoretical and practical vacuum.

For Spiked and the ex-RCP one thing remains clear. Against the home of that upper crust, the EU, stands the Brexit Party. It, after the failures of the labour movement and the actually existing left,  is the bearer of new hopes. National sovereignty in the hands of Farage and his crew looks an unlikely vehicle for open-minded experimentation and risk. Most would consider than the Brexiteers’ political project is centred on creating a safe space for their emotional needs. They have one home in Spiked. It has a niche. It has developed as a pivotal part of the Red-Brown front. Spiked relayed through its allies within the broader Full Brexit and other has reached out to a fraction of some who call themselves ‘left’. They include Blue Labour types worried about the erosion of ‘community’, those raving at the cosmopolitan EU, identity politics that erodes centuries of indigenous working class culture, and who enjoy the odd burst of Shelly from Claire Fox. Nobody can hide that the online magazine and its panoply of allied Academy of Ideas events has allied them to Nigel Farage, the extreme right of the European sovereigntism.

Encouraged by their Dreadnoughts the Brexit Party is already acting on the political stage. Their antics in the European Parliament indicate the poverty of their nationalist ambitions.  It is, as Furedi will recognise, hard to see how we on that internationalist left that he loathes, will lack the courage to continue our implacable opposition to this department of the culture of fear dominated by the “language of emotionalism”.


  1. Page 67 and 11, Politics of fear. Beyond Left and Right. Frank Furedi. Continuum 2005
  2. Page 244. How Fear Works. Culture of Fear in the Twenty-first Century. Bloomsbury. 2018.
  3. Page 127. Page 99. How Fear Works
  4. Page 192 After Virtues. Alasdair MacIntyre. Duckworth. 1987. Page 244. How Fear Works
  5. Therapy Culture. Cultivating Vulnerability in an Anxious Age. Frank Furedi. Routledge. 2004

More material on the origins of Spiked/the RCP:

Triangulating Bobism 2: The Furedi cult

Who Are They? Jenny Turner reports from the Battle of Ideas

Libertarian Humanism or Critical Utopianism? The Demise of the Revolutionary Communist Party Dave Walker

From New Interventions, Vol.8 No.3, 1998



Brexit and Trump are “two sides of the same coin” which no protest can ignore.

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Protest Against Trump’s Vision of a Brexit Britain.


Viewers of Channel Four last night know that apart from the free entry of US  business chancers into the NHS Trump is also demanding that this should be in the supermarkets.


The Truth About Chlorinated Chicken review – an instant appetite-ruiner

Just in time for Trump’s UK visit, Channel 4’s Dispatches looked at the food standard implications of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. It wasn’t a pretty sight

Chlorine washing may prevent the detection of contaminants through ordinary testing, because it partially masks the problem. Quilton had no trouble finding a Texas restaurant owner who will swear there is nothing wrong with American chicken – “Not a thing. Superior quality and flavour”. But the numbers speak for themselves: US rates of campylobacter infection are 10 times higher than in the UK. The US records hundreds of salmonella deaths a year; the UK has in recent years recorded none.

Central to the programme was footage shot inside a giant processing plant by an undercover employee. Looking at it, a former EU meat inspector was able to identify several flagrant violations of good hygiene practice and even the plant’s own policies, but there was more sickening stuff on display: a supervisor is overheard talking about “a trend of adulterated product”, by which she means glass in the chicken, and also making reference to a recent “amputation”. To me, the word amputation brings to mind an operation performed by a professional for the good of a patient, and not, as in this instance, some poultry worker losing three fingers in a machine.

One study found 95 such “amputations” over a single year in American poultry processing, making it one of the most dangerous occupations in the US. Debbie Berkowitz, a former chief of staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), who now campaigns for employment rights, maintains that the industry is also exploitative: employees, her office found, were routinely denied basic rights, including toilet breaks. “Workers did not want to have to soil themselves,” she said. “So they wore diapers (nappies)  on the line.

Who we are: Stop Trump Coalition.


We will make it clear to the British government that it’s not OK to normalise Trump’s agenda and the hate and fear it has sparked.

Trumpism directly threatens steps towards tackling:
Peace and disarmament
Climate change
Fighting discrimination, particularly against already marginalised groups like migrants and Muslims
Corporate greed

And – this is not mentioned – Brexit!

It was not mentioned, at least I did not hear it, in the interviews with the Stop Trump demo on the telly this morning.

Yet this is the core of Trump’s agenda, as his support for Farage and Boris Johnson and present touting of “trade deals”  makes clear.

One can only imagine the squirming that’s going on amongst the Brexit  left who cannot bring themselves to admit that there is a link, a tight bond, between the carnival of reaction that is the Brexit Party and the Tory No Deal Right and Trump’s agenda.

Will they see that the demand for a Sovereign nation battling it out with Trade Deals with Trump, and  – who knows since he’s iffy about it, the WTO, would be a burden for a  left government.

Will they continue to indulge that section of the left, as yet only a section,  that by its talk of the “real” people who back Brexit, and loathing of “rootless cosmopolitans”  has become the the fellow travellers of National Populism?

Like this chap, who’s something of hero o the red-brown front?

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Another Europe certainly does not think so.

Even the Liberals are getting in on the act.


Trump’s response so far.





National Populism: Trump to Boost Farage as Brexit Party Support Surges.

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Image result for front page sunday express

What do want? “Smash the System”! 

These figures predict the beginning of a political earthquake.

One might say that such a tectonic shift in support cannot happen.

There are good grounds for scepticism.


Fast backwards to France a couple of years ago.

Since the French elections of 2017 the victory of President Macron and its aftermath have seen the traditional parties of left and right nearly wiped off the map.

The first round of the Presidential contest saw the former ruling Parti Socialiste get 6,36% for its candidate, Benoît Hamon. For the traditional right,

François Fillon scored a respectable 20,01%. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, for the “movement” or “point de ralliement” la France insoumise, got 19,58%. The context went into the second round with a duel between Emmanuel Macron and   Marine Le Pen, which ended in Macron’s victory at 66,1% over the far-right Le Len getting 33,9%.

In the legislative elections held afterwards Macron’s party and allies won 348 seats. The left (Socialists, Communists and La France insoumise) was reduced to 44 deputies.

This is the result of this year’s European elections which saw, in France, the left further reduced (only the Socialists, PS, and La France insoumise LFI won seats) the ‘neither right nor left’ Greens (EELV) win MEPs, and the traditional right (Les Républicains, LR)  also lose heavily. The results were again dominated by Macron’s party and Le Pen’s rally (RN).

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "élections européennes France 2019 resultat en image"

Some  features stand out.

The first is the marginalisation of a splintered left.

If people have been “freed” from the slavery of their traditional allegiances,  in  Christophe Guilluy’s words, “Le grand marronnage des classes populaires” (Le Crépuscule de la France d’en haut, 2018) their new home is not in any renewed democratic politics.

Far from creative grass roots politics, or a new kind of left, we had the success of Macron’s ‘start up’ Business party.

This is its internal structure, “La République En Marche! considers every person who submits identification information (date of birth, email, full address and telephone, number) and adheres to the party’s charter to be an adherent.” The English Wikipedia entry neglects to go further into how LRM  operates, “les décisions viennent d’en haut, il y a une commission d’investiture sans que les militants ne votent…”,   Decisions come from above, there is a commission of investiture (selection of candidates) without activists voting. (see Structure )

It is a “movement”, like Mélenchon’s La France insoumise, run top down by a coterie of professionals in communication and in liaison with the Parliamentary group  around the Leader (with all the authority in this case of the President)  with no internal democratic decision making, only online “consultations”.

The Third is that if the “gilets Jaunes”, whose main rallying call has been for Macron to Resign, have not created an alternative out of their “assemblies”, or one that is invisible to anybody but their more gushing admirers, from the UK’s National Populists of left and right, and some romantic leftists.

I the European elections it was the Rassemblement national (RN), ex Front national (FN) who came first. This party has a tiny, 38 000 official membership. It has a structure, said originally to be inspired by the French Communist Party, of a an executive bureau, a political bureau and a central committee, now know (since 2018) as the ‘national council.”

Is that the kind of political melt-down we are facing in the UK.

Richard Seymour, in no less an organ than the New York Times observes.

.Long underestimated, Mr. Farage has done more than any politician in a generation to yank British politics to the hard, nationalist right. He is one of the most effective and dangerous demagogues Britain has ever seen.

Seymour notes the most relevant aspect of the Brexit Party’s model, which has been widely commented on:

Farage has spotted an opportunity: a new political model, inspired by the Five Star Movement in Italy. A “digital platform” that harnesses the free labor of its “users,” allowing them “participation” through content-sharing and online polls, rather than rights. Parliamentary democracy is slow at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. Such platforms, however, introduce volatility to the system. Dropping UKIP, a traditional membership party, he launched something like a venture capitalist start-up, with crowdfunders rather than members, and a chief executive rather than a leader.

Unlike older party models, it doesn’t invest in lasting infrastructure. It is nimble-footed, expert at gaming social media — the stock market of attention. It won the battle for clicks, and made a killing in this election. Such online frenzies are akin to destabilizing flows of hot money, forcing legacy parties to adapt or die. But when Parliament is so weak, its legitimacy so tenuous, they can look like democratic upsurge.

If the poll today there is more than a “online frenzy” happening.

The M5S,  Movimento 5 Stelle may or may not be a “model” for some.  I doubt if Macron or Mélenchon’ would see it that way and Podemos, while partially inspired, has at least some democratic framework.

Most significantly M5S, with an unstable record of support (32,7% of the vote in 2017 Parliamentary elections, 17,1% in this year’s European elections, in coalition with the far-right Lega, has, with its deputy PM   Luigi Di Maio paved the way for the hold on power of his fellow deputy PM,  the National Populist Matteo Salvini.

Yet the issue of Democracy apparently remains at the centre of the Brexit Party’s claim to Speak for the People, for National Sovereignty, and for a Hard Brexit.

Usefully highlighting the core of the operation Seymour does see off this self-serving claim by Claire Fox:

She heralds this ” “start of a new politics”

In Spiked the former RCP activists continues: Claire Fox on what’s next for the Brexit Party and her journey from Marxist to MEP.

when I was in the RCP many moons ago – and the past really is a different country – I was always a democrat, a supporter of liberty, agency and sovereignty, so I don’t think I’ve travelled that far.

I somehow felt that if I could do anything to rescue the democratic potential of the 2016 vote, then I would. So in that sense, it has been a journey. But the journey was not so much from revolutionary communism to standing next to Farage, but from commenting on events to taking on that responsibility.

Her Boss continued in this vein.

The Brexit Surge

Engaging the ignored masses, tapping their democratic insights, genuinely drawing their convictions and concerns and beliefs into the heart of the political sphere – this is now the key task of everyone who is committed to the idea of Brexit, democracy and radical political change in this country.

Brendan O’Neill

But…..if you’re not democratic inside your ‘party’, if you leave things to the Farage coterie, how can you be democratic in the country?

Seymour concludes,

The quintessential City trader and apostle of cutthroat competition, he is exploiting our democratic crisis to remake politics in his own image.

Shift forward to today’s headlines.

Image result for Nigel Farage and Donald Trump newspaper front page

Is the Brexit Party also fascist?

For the moment we take this into account:

Mr Brexit Comes to London to decide on future UK PM, backs Farage, and has already insulted Meghan Markle.

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Nigel Farage Donald Trump


Mr Brexit Comes to London.

Trump is coming to visit Britain to Back Brexit.

He has already insulted one of the most liked people in Britain.

Trump calls Duchess of Sussex ‘nasty’


During the state visit, the president, his wife Melania, and his four adult children are expected to meet Prince Harry as well as Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. Meghan is expected to stay home with Archie.

Trump referred to the American-born Duchess of Sussex as “nasty” over comments she made in 2016 threatening to move to Canada if Trump won the presidency.

“I didn’t know that she was nasty,” he said when informed of her criticism. The former Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in 2018 and gave birth to their first child, Archie, in May.

He has decided on who will be the next P.M.

In 2016 he said this.

Image result for mr brexit trump


Now there is this:


It may seem odd that some of pro-Brexit left are hostile to this radical critic of members of the Royal Family, who backs the “Fuck Business” Boris, and who is doing all he can to make Brexit happen.

But internationalists are clear: Piss off Trump!



Reflections on the European vote: Remain and Reform!

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2019 England European Election Results.

“If you wanted to show a foreigner England” begins chapter nineteen of Howards End, “perhaps the wisest course would be to take him to the final section of the Purbeck Hills, and stand him on their summit.” E. M. Forster gazes to the “gates of London itself. So tremendous is the City’s trail!” We pause for breath, “But the cliffs of freshwater it shall never touch, and the island will guard the Island’s purity till the end of time.”

If you wanted to show the Brexit Party after its triumph in the European elections, our media have decided, do not stray in the shadow of the City with the hard Brexit Nigel Farage and Home Counties Boris Johnson. Stand in the North and ask the views on Europe of those who voted for the Egocrat. They voted to Leave and to “get the job done”. Now.

In Bradford, on Channel Four News, a former Labour supporter was fed up with a party that ignores the “working class”. Labour stands now; he was ready to inform us, for the middle class. The days of Tony Blair’s robust proletarian politics are long gone. He left happy backing the Brexit Party, defending our Island Purity in the company of a man Benjamin Disraeli would have saluted as an Angel in Marble, a former Tory voter.

Decline of Working Class Politics.

1971 saw the appearance of The Decline of Working Class Politics by Barry Hindess. It talked of the “apathy, resignation and indifference” that “characterise the political position of the working class throughout the developed industrial countries of the west today.” The political sociologist that he was at that time charted the evidence in terms of a sharp drop in grass roots working class participation in the Labour Party. Hindess suggested that political action outside its formal structures, including industrial unrest, would not stem a longer term “rejection of politics”, formal politics amongst this section of the population. (1)

The 1970s and 1980s, with large scale union unrest, and radicalisations channelled into the Labour Party might be seen as a parenthesis from this trend. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, apparently a ‘left populism’ has been seen as a means to revive a mass socialist movement. Whether it can ward off the longer-term fragmentation and decline in working class politics is another issue.

Europe has seen some dramatic declines in working class parties, combining the fall out from the end of Official Communism in 1989 and the failures of ‘Third Way’ social democracy represented by Blair, Brown, die Neue Mitte in Germany, and social liberal governments in a number of countries, notably France under President Hollande.  In Italy the left, reduced by the centrist  Partito Democratico,  barely exists. 

In the elections this year France the once ruling Parti Socialiste scrapped a few seats this Sunday with 6,2% of the vote, while the left populist La France insoumise scored .. 6,3% . This contrasts with their leader,  Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s  personal vote of 19,48% in the 2017 Presidential elections.  With some exceptions, such as the Dutch labour party, the only radical parties, with an ambiguous relationship to the left (sometimes in coalition with it, other times not), that did well were the Greens. The EELV won an unexpected 13, 47% in France (only a few months ago they barely topped LFI) and did well in Britain.

The main result from France was that the Marine Le Pen’s Party won 23,31% of the vote, while Macron’s party got 22,41% – a win for National Populism.

RN Prenez le pouvoir, liste soutenue par Marine Le Pen Jordan Bardella 5,281,745 23.31 –1.55 23 –1 22 –2
REMMoDem Renaissance soutenue par La République en Marche, le MoDem et ses partenaires Nathalie Loiseau 5,076,469 22.41

Italy is a slough of despond.

In Spain, by contrast the Socialist party (PSOE) did well, although another left populist group,  more democratic and internationalist than la France insoumise, lost a lot of votes.


The Spanish Socialist Party, which won the most votes at the recent April 28 general elections but fell short of a majority, secured another bitter-sweet victory at the “Super Sunday” polls yesterday. The PSOE, as the party is known, consolidated its power at the European Union, municipal and regional polls, but left-wing groups lost the jewel in the crown: Madrid City Hall, which until now had been controlled by former judge Manuela Carmena. Leftist groups also failed to beat out the right in the Madrid region. The conservative Popular Party (PP) and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), with the support of the far-right Vox, could join forces to govern in Madrid. The divisions of the left, combined with the poor showing of anti-austerity group Podemos, were the key factors behind this failure.


The biggest turnaround, however, was for Podemos, which suffered a much greater loss than expected. The group’s founding leader, Pablo Iglesias, will now be left exposed to criticism for the poor result. The situation will also weaken his negotiating position with acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who needs the anti-austerity group’s support to form a government. Iglesias had been vying for a coalition government, and for Podemos to have control of several ministries. This may be off the table after Sunday’s polls, but the 42 seats that the group holds in the lower house of parliament are still essential for Sánchez if he is to be voted back in as prime minister, and Iglesias could negotiate a global pact – the group’s seats are key to forming a government in a number of regions, including Aragón, the Balearic Islands and Asturias, as well as dozens of local councils.

Socialists win big in Sunday’s elections but the right takes control of Madrid

The Podemos vote went down from 10,5% to 7,96%

Working Class Politics in Britain.

Occupational change, above all the shrinking of industrial employment, to the growth in tertiary, often precarious, employment with individual sometimes insecure, contracts, and employer monitoring. Welfare ‘reform’, from Britain’s Universal Credit to the mean-spirited cut backs imposed in France in Édouard Louis’s latest book, Qui a tué mon père, has further sapped class solidarity. Unions across the continent have been, outside a few white collar and transport sectors, weakened. That they have shrunk is not news to anybody. But the effect of that decline on what it means for a political working class identity, which seems at present going the way of other ‘identities’, a particularity, not universality, is not clearly recognised.

Inside Labour there are those still keen to listen to the voices of those who have backed the Brexit Party. Their voices count. In the pseudo psephology of the Brexit left they have more weight than anybody else – the Labour voters who went to the Greens and the Liberal Democrats to start with. There are those who consider that a firm commitment to leaving Europe, a ‘socialist’ Brexit, a People’s Brexit, or whatever phrase that have mongered this week, would best shore up Labour’s vote. Some go so far as indulge themselves in a neo-Stalinism that dreams of socialism in one country, Britain. 

Despite this they remain in denial.

Confronting the facts about the sections of the popular vote that go to the far right is never going to be easy. The French Front National, now Rassemblement National, of Marine Le Pen, has long been the “premier parti des ouvriers in France”. In a delicate and perhaps life-changing book Retour à Reims, Didier Eribon talked in 2009 of how members of his family in Northern France had passed from support for the Communist Party to voting for the national populist right. He asked for way to “neutralise” the xenophobic racist, “negative passions” that enabled the FN to mobilise its electorate. This non-fiction novel also covers homophobia, another issue which is becoming political in Britain, with the bigoted anti-gay scenes outside a Birmingham Primary school set to spread further.

Left Populists in Decline.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon sought not just to counteract the racialist right. La France insoumise promised to “federate the people”, beyond left and right, against the “oligarchy”. His party-movement, a “point de ralliement” (rallying point) is built on the Internet. Resembling in this respect president Macron’s La République en Marche, this easy to access network “is broad. But its hierarchy is steep. The man at the top stands aloof” Over the least year LFI has seen dissent, democratic, or nationalist, swept away. Indulging in his favourite sport, attacking every other group on the left, from the “social liberal” Parti Socialiste, to the ‘sectarian’ Communists, Mélenchon’s spend the last weeks of his campaign attacking the Greens. Ferociously (Crash de la France insoumise aux européennes : Jean-Luc Mélenchon à l’heure des comptes).

This is the consequence:  Elections européennes 2019 : la gauche dominée par EELV mais toujours aussi divisée

Left populism may have lost one prominent model and the other, Podemos, has had a set back, but will some continue to offer this “insurgent” template for Labour. Or will the left recognise that the best answer, in the far from wished for position we are in now, is to unite around an internationalist and Universalist position on Europe: remain and reform. The alternative is is to listen to these people.

The signs sent out by John MacDonnell, who has risen to the needs of the hour, in that direction are encouraging.

I have more trust in comrade MacDonnell than the group around Corbyn but this is the latest news;


Update: the Morning Star, of the Boycott Labour Communist Party of Britain, says today,

British politics is volatile. The emergence of the Brexit Party from nowhere to hold mass rallies up and down the country and dominate the stage at these elections shows how quickly any formation that captures an anti-Establishment zeitgeist can take off (without suggesting for a moment that this alliance of ex-Tory and ex-Ukip chancers are actually anti-Establishment.)

It also demonstrates the anger that large sections of the public feel about Parliament’s inability to deliver Brexit. Claims that a second referendum would “break the deadlock” don’t hold water. These results suggest one would simply entrench the division of the country into two mutually hostile camps


  1. Page 167 – 8. The Decline of Working Class Politics. Barry  Hindess  Granada Publishing 1971.
  2. Page 160 Retour à Reims, Didier Eribon. Champs essaies, Edition. 108 with an introduction by Édouard Louis.
  3. Page 149 How Democracy Ends. David Runciman. Profile Books. 2018.

National Populist Farage’s “Real target is Britain’s ‘failed’ democracy, not Brexit.”

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Image result for nigel farage

National Populist Egocrat. 

Sky reporter Lewis Goodall has been one of the most perceptive writers about Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party.

His article in the Observer today is a must-read.

Nigel Farage’s real target is Britain’s ‘failed’ democracy, not Brexit

Ukip was deeply and recognisably British. The half-colonels; the angry golf-playing uncles; the rankling over “elf and safety” and political correctness. Its pound-sign logo was almost quaint: It was a Britain Orwell would have recognised. Ideologically, too, its Euroscepticism mined a deep vein in British politics, tracing back to our entry in 1973, if not before.


Politics has moved on – and so has Farage.

Brexit now isn’t even his principal concern, its failure the mere embodiment of a wider malaise. Instead, the collapse of the Brexit process is proof of his new analysis: that British democracy does not work and does not even exist. Worse, that every organ of the state and political life, be it the parties, the media, the courts – parliamentary democracy itself – are malign and work against the interests of “the people”. Never before have we had a major political force that operates with that basic reflex.

Goodhall concludes,

For Brexit party success will surely change the alchemy of the Tory makeup. Indeed, it already has, setting the seal on the end of Theresa May’s premiership and ensuring the all-but-certain election of a no-dealer in her stead. Far from a Conservative turn to the kind of broad, centrist Christian democracy to which Theresa May once aspired, her party may follow the Republicans in becoming a hard-edged populist movement. In an age where “one-nation” seems impossible and where we are at least two, Farage and his success will force them to choose. Out of fear, they will choose him


Goodhall clearly has his finger on one essential aspect of National Populism.

With a belief that the “elite” is working against the “people” it splits the world into the camp of implacable  enemies and the real “folks” (as Farage, speaking American says).

This is anti-pluralism.

The Sky journalist notes,

Being at those rallies, it struck me how many of my friends would listen to what they heard on the stage and the sentiment of those in the crowd and feel complete loathing and fear, at the same time as those around me cheered with joy and expectation. We no longer just disagree with each other, we don’t even begin to understand how our fellow citizens think.

This chimes with the analysis offered by Jan-Werner Müller in What Is Populism? (2016).

He argued that “only some of the people are really the people” and at populism’s core is a rejection of pluralism. Populists will always claim that they and they alone represent the people and their true interests. 

Not only liberals should be concerned.

Democratic socialism is the expression of a plurality of interests, against different forms of oppression and exploitation, brought together in a common purpose for socialist objectives.

Its origins lie in institutions, like the labour movement, which were built by people themselves. In this century left wing and radical campaigns and trade unions are also the created  and runby the membership democratically. The political parties of the democratic socialist left, unlike Stalinist parties, and despite a tendency to their own “oligarchical” structures, are in principle based on member-wide democracy. A wide spectrum of views, social democratic, ‘revisionism’, types of democratic socialism, various forms of democratic Marxism, are part of this movement.

The democratic basis of politics lies on different versions of this belief, put forward his later writings by the Socialisme ou Barbarie  thinker, Claude Lefort,

For Lefort democracy is the system characterized by the institutionalization of conflict within society, the division of social body; it recognizes and even considers legitimate the existence of divergent interests, conflicting opinions, visions of the world that are opposed and even incompatible. Lefort’s vision makes the disappearance of the leader as a political body – the putting to death of the king, as Kantorowicz calls it – the founding moment of democracy because it makes the seat of power, hitherto occupied by an eternal substance transcending the mere physical existence of monarchs, into an “empty space” where groups with shared interests and opinions can succeed each other, but only for a time and at the will of elections. Power is no longer tied to any specific programme, goal, or proposal; it is nothing but a collection of instruments put temporarily at the disposal of those who win a majority. “In Lefort’s invented and inventive democracy,” writes Dominique Colas, “power comes from the people and belongs to no one.

Farage and the National Populists  wish to monopolise the political space and make this “power” belong to their “people”.

They, the embodiment of the ‘real’ people, that is those who voted for Brexit, the “somewhere” people, the genuine salt of the earth types with roots, in the land and memory of the country and the ancestors of the nation.

Above all the National Populists equally deny the ” uncertainty” of politics and wish to impose their, ‘real’ majority views on the state and the inhabitants of a country.

Many of the present day populist parties, using as David Runciman (How Democracy Ends. 2018)  and many others note, new communication technology, have formed ‘parties’ and movements as business start-ups, run by the leadership, and typically one ‘charismatic’ figure.

They claim to stand for the real People against the Oligarchy –  the elites – and “globalism”.

In some respects Farage resembles what Lefort called an “egocrat” in the totalitarian mould (Un Homme en trop. Essai sur l’archipel du goulag de Soljénitsyne. New Edition. 2015).

His wishes run through the party organs.

Clearly the age of Stalinist, Fascist and Nazi “total” terror is ended and it would be seriously wrong to compare the Brexit Party to these “conspiracies in broad daylight” with their Gulag, Camps and mass murder.

Müller predicted that “..with their basic commitment to the idea that only they represented the people”. Once installed in office, “they will engage in occupying the state mass clientelism and corruption, and the suppression of anything like a critical civil society. (What Is Populism? Page 102)

The Brexit Party is, above all, a vehicle for the demand to end the complexity of politics and to impose the figure of its leader in the “empty space”, the seat of power than anybody and nobody can occupy in democratic institutions – the Sovereign. It wishes to make social life ‘transparent’ contest between itself and its targets, the EU and the non-people.

Nothing can be gained by ‘listening’ to the demands of the political forces of the Brexit Party.

The attempt by ‘left populists’ to speak to this audience in the hope that they can give a voice to some of the ‘democratic’ aspects of their demands in unable to grapple with the way that the thrust of National Populism is against democratic pluralism.

In many respects they are more of a danger than the ‘dark enlightenment‘  of the far right that seeks a new form of openly anti-democratic politics.

National Populists are, to cite Chantal Mouffe in her use of Carl Schmitt , “the enemy” (The Return of the Political. Chantal Mouffe. 2005). 

This has already been Farage’s impact in the UK this month.

Brexit Party’s rise forced dithering Tory MPs to ditch Theresa May.

One expects more when the European election results are announced this evening.

Ireland, Irexit and the Manipulations of the British National Populist Right.

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National Populists Try to Enter Irish Politics.

(Thanks to Jim for this latest)

For anybody wishing to understand Brexit  Ireland is at the forefront.

Irish commentators, starting with Fintan O’Toole,  whose Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain has marked the whole debate, have written some of the finest articles and books on the issues involved.

Sharper than a serpent’s tooth O’Tool bit the National Populist right of Spiked,

“His sneering at Leave voters smacks of aristocratic elitism.” writes the hybrid Norman surnamed Michael Fitzpatrick.

Anybody who knows Irish people, and left-wing activists in or from Ireland, will realise that a great deal is at stake.

For those who have been asleep for the last few years this is the sticking point,

Brexit: What is the Irish border backstop? BBC.

A key part of the Brexit negotiations was about the border that separates Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Last month, EU leaders approved a withdrawal deal with the UK that includes an agreement on the Irish border.

Both sides committed to avoiding the return of a “hard border” – physical checks or infrastructure – after Brexit.

This is where the controversial “backstop” comes in.

The backstop is a position of last resort, to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.

At present, goods and services are traded between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland with few restrictions.

The UK and Ireland are currently part of the EU single market and customs union, so products do not need to be inspected for customs and standards.


And that had been a problem in the UK?

That is an understatement.

If a backstop only applied to Northern Ireland, then the customs and regulatory border would essentially be drawn down the middle of the Irish Sea.

Goods coming into Northern Ireland from elsewhere in the UK would have to be checked to make sure they met EU standards.

Any separate status for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK is seen as potentially damaging to the union as a whole.

As such, Prime Minister Theresa May continually rejected the EU’s proposal saying it would threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK.

She suggested a backstop that would see the UK, as a whole, remaining aligned with the EU customs union for a limited time after 2020.

Her proposal, published in June, contained nothing about single market regulatory issues, which are probably more important than customs in terms of maintaining a soft border.

The highly recommended Sráid Marx An Irish Marxist Blog discusses the left’s response in depth.

He analyses this aspect of the thorny subject with all the seriousness it needs, in a 3 part series,

Should socialists support a border poll? 1

One consequence of Brexit has been louder demands for a border poll and the legitimacy of a test of support for a united Ireland, on the basis that Brexit breaches the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

I have argued before that Brexit does not breach the GFA although it does exacerbate its failures and does involve increased tension between the British and Irish Governments, who are the custodians of the agreement.  It does catalyse increased instability and it does give rise to expectations that support for a united Ireland will have increased as a result. I have also argued that while this may be the case it is unlikely that a poll would result in a vote within the North for a united Ireland.

Those following the issue have not failed to notice that after its creation earlier this year a party in Ireland advocating Irexit, Irish withdrawal from the EU has got publicity. The Irish Freedom Party, also known as Irexit Freedom to Prosper (IrishÉire Amach: Cumann na Saoirse).

It began with this in February.

 Last weekend, a group of 600 people, drawn to an appearance by leading Brexit flame-fanner Nigel Farage in Dublin, showed that there is some public appetite for an exit from the EU like the British, or at least that more questions be asked about the direction the EU is heading in.

Irexit: Could it be Ireland’s next big political movement?

But it was this, in March, which grabbed wider attention:

British Far Right Extremism Manipulating Ireland

Irexit Parody. Medium.

This story covers the evidence of ongoing British far right groups trying to influence Irish people towards an Irish exit from the EU. These people do not have Irish people’s interests at heart. It is about pushing their own personal Anti-EU, right-wing messaging, while pretending the genesis of that project originated within Ireland.

The excellent article should be read in full but this should whet people’s appetite.

About a month back, after seeing endless UK based social media accounts pushing Irexit, I was drawn into trying to figure out where these accounts originated. The Irexit party seemed to have an official party website created by a fake web development company. (I did get to the bottom of who runs that but I don’t believe they are relevant to this story). However, I also noticed the unofficial social marketing campaign around Irexit, was being run under the Muintir na héireann website and social media accounts. This is where in the terms and conditions of the Muintir na héireann website, I found the first link to infamous British far right individuals. Muintir na héireann’s terms and conditions pointed to the same address as the European Knights Project and Liberty Defenders..

Jack Sen, real name Dilip Sengupta, is a self-styled spin doctor for nationalist movements. He manages websites and social media campaigns to promote his own beliefs and those of prominent figures in far right extremism. In between his regular Skype’s with David Duke (former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan), Jack Sen took time to run for election with his associates within UKIP, only to be thrown out at the last minute for public anti-Semitism comments about labour candidate Luciana Berger’s Jewish ethnicity.

This is the conclusion:

Some serious questions do need to be asked.

  1. Why would, after throwing him out of UKIP, Nigel Farage and/or his associates again use or aid a known neo nazi, to support the Irexit campaign?
  2. How would Hermann Kelly, who lives in brussels working in PR for Nigel Farage’s EU party EFDD, be allowed the freedom to return to Ireland to form a new anti-EU party, without that being the express wishes of Nigel Farage himself?
  3. Where did the Irexit campaign get all its funding from?
  4. Where did the Irexit campaign get all its funding from?
  5. Where did the Irexit campaign get all its funding from?
  6. After Hermann Kelly’s involvement in libertas and that funding fiasco, why would our media choose to give this even a second worth of airtime to platform the next move? https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/politics/ganley-confirms-libertas-got-cash-from-hedge-fund-group-102147.html
  7. Finally it is clear that the Irexit Party do not stand alone but have the backing and support of a cabal of other “independent” candidates and parties. Why do irish people have to go to some random twitter account to see this? Why is our established media not better at explaining these interconnections to our voters? More on the interconnections here — https://twitter.com/IrexitP/status/1126986431065415681/photo/1

Parts of the Irish left, such as the Communist Party of Ireland and the Socialist Party also oppose EU membership, though the latter is not clear if this means just Brexit or Irexit as well.

The Socialist Party, which has 3 TDs in the Dail, makes this observation,

It is essential that the workers’ movement also considers the potential impact of the withdrawal agreement on sectarian divisions in the North. The draft agreement outlines a scenario in which there will be a developing East-West border. This will increase sectarian tension and weaken workers’ unity, and we are opposed to the agreement on this basis. The trade union movement should reverse its current position and come out against the draft agreement.

We have been warned that if the agreement is not voted through the UK will crash out of the EU, and a hardening of the North-South border will then be “inevitable”. If this were to happen it will increase sectarian tension and weaken workers’ unity. We are resolutely opposed to this scenario too. We do not accept that border checks or controls on the North-South border are in fact inevitable. The trade union movement must oppose, and refuse to implement when possible, such measures.

The Brexit Calamity & the Role of the Workers Movement

How this can be reconciled with their backing Brexit, and how such a result could happen, is, apparently a matter for the workers’ movement, in some misty land where everything turns out right if the correct line is followed.

Since the Socialist Party has yet to support Irexit we are left even deeper in the dark.