At this moment radical politics is flat on its back having been hit with a devastatingly effective neo-Conservative programme. Donald Trump in the United States and Theresa May in the UK are following an aggressive reactionary programme and in mainland Europe the hope is that Centre Right politicians can hold out against Far Right and Neo-Fascist politicians. But the scale of the victory is no fluke, a kind of lucky break by reactionary politics. The Neo-Conservatives have thoroughly prepared for this moment and their success is down to making a very specific political philosophy acceptable to a great many people. The road forward for radical politics is rocky and long. I want to briefly explain why, using a classic example from an earlier post.
In that previous blog I pointed to the work of David Brooks back in the 1990s. Very briefly, here is what he proposed. The pursuit of national greatness is all-imporant and is the fundamental pillar of the project. All else depends upon its successful articulation. How to do this? Here are just some of the ways and how they are being given real world form by the UK Government:
- Firstly associate yourself with a golden age of the past. This may mean building physical objects. So in the UK promoting Empire 2.0 may be useful but not nearly as effective as, say, building a new Royal Yacht!
- There must be great programmes for government to pusue. Brexit! A perfect opportunity seized upon with glee by Theresa May giving the Government a heaven sent opportunity to use the rhetoric of independence and national exceptionalism. But if not Brexit then something else would have been adopted.
- Explicitly tie naked ambition and willpower into the programme. Hence the insistence on Grammar schools, despite Justine Greening vainly attempting to promote them as engines of social mobility!
- Persuade a poplulation bouyed up by the pursuit of greatness that a strong government has better things to do than strengthen comminities and individual liberties. Note that Conservatives have quiety dropped the rhetoric of smaller Government. So trash the laws and programmes which support services. But quietly forget about ‘balancing the budget’.
- Promote an iron discipline to achieve the greatness. In the UK if this means putting up with falling wages and living standards, then the price is worth paying!
Brooks was interviewed recently, The expectation was that he would be ecstatic, with Trump scoring a devastating victory for his ideology. But not so. Apparently what he envisaged was someone more focussed and disciplined to implement the programme than the erratic and vainglorious Trump!
It is important to note that this is not a purely political issue. The scale of the problem is huge with highly influential cultural vehicles such as newspapers (the Daily Mail, Express, etc), TV news and reality programmes (see my post on this from a Neo-Liberal perspective) mobilised in the promotion of the neo-Conservative line. Add to this, of course, Banks and Multinational Corporations. Radical and progressive politics can and will recover but it will take time to develop from new foundations. Political philosophies of equal potency do exist but we must not be afraid of adopting them and translating them into a programme. But remember the neo-Conservatives spent decades achieving their hegemony here so the sooner we start the better!