The Far Right, Capitalism, and Class: Toward a Political Economy
A Symposium and Book Project on Class and the Far Right
When: October 14-15, 2023
Where: Ontario Tech University, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
A new challenge to liberal democratic states is spreading around the globe in the form of an ascendent hard right. In the United States and Canada, right populists are gaining power within establishment conservative parties. In Europe, new populist and anti-immigrant parties have sidelined traditional conservatives and, in some cases, have peeled off working class support from social democratic parties. Meanwhile, parties with roots in fascist and neofascist movements have become mainstream, as in Italy, Sweden, and Greece.
The rise of this new hard right must be understood to be an outcome of the crises of legitimacy that have manifested across the advanced capitalist countries. Resolving the crisis of the 1970s by removing barriers to capital mobility came at the expense of states’ legitimation functions and the collapse of postwar class compromises. While the more coercive states that emerged were able to contain surprisingly limited working-class resistance, growing contradictions lurked just below the surface. Working-class communities were devastated by ‘deindustrialization,’ while petite bourgeoises and smaller capitalists unable to restructure internationally were increasingly squeezed by the intensifying competitive pressures of globalization. This proved fertile ground for the emergence of a ‘new right,’ which occupied the terrain abandoned by increasingly neoliberal social democratic parties.
The 2008 crisis brought these tensions explosively to the fore. Working class people — especially racialized people — suffered sharp declines in living standards, as savings and home values evaporated while indebtedness exploded. These tensions were further exacerbated by the economic shutdowns and emergency economic stabilization measures of COVID-19, leading to extensive mobilizations by hard-right forces.
Confronted with these new challenges, liberals have largely opted to double down on technocratic governance and rely on emergency powers in the name of protecting democracy and constitutional rule. Left forces have been unable to take advantage of the delegitimation of the state and, in the absence of any real alternative, have largely supported the neoliberal centre in its coercive response to the right. While centrist political victories—such as Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump—are celebrated as “harm reduction,” the underlying conditions that produced these hard right forces continue to be reproduced.
This crisis is compounded by the fact that, in the face of seemingly constant economic, political, and environmental crises, working classes and the left fragment and further decompose. While the embrace of unions by a new generation of activists offers some glimmers of hope, labour movements continue to be outflanked by globalization, hampered by bureaucracy and legalism, and crippled by state repression.
Despite some important recent scholarship, there is a dearth of materialist analysis situating the rise of the right in relation to these structural dynamics. Most mainstream analyses reduce the far-right threat to the domain of “culture,” thereby obscuring more than they elucidate and justifying the coercive responses of neoliberal states. There is thus an urgent need for an analysis that centres class and political economy. As such, we invite proposals for papers that take up the following questions, or tackle the issues of class and the far right in similar ways:
- How are liberal democratic states responding to the threat of an “illiberal” right?
- To what extent do current far-right moments threaten global capitalism? Insofar as these forces have captured positions within states or have come to influence their political strategies, to what extent have they been able to initiate or contribute to a process of ‘de-globalization’?
- How do the politics of the right derive from and exacerbate new geopolitical rivalries and conflicts – including between the US and China, but also Russia and NATO, as well as others?
- How has neoliberal state restructuring – including the rollback of welfare states and the consolidation of more authoritarian states – resulted from, contributed to, and/or mitigated the crises of capitalism and the rise of the right?
- How do state repressive apparatuses both clamp down on right wing forces and provide a terrain on which they are able to build and organize?
- What is the class character of far-right movements and organizations? What roles are working classes, lumpenproletariats, and petite bourgeoises playing in relation to the development of far-right ideologies and forces? To what extent are fractions of ‘big’ capital lending, or likely to lend, support to far-right movements?
- How has the political economy of neoliberalism and the state – including the repressive apparatus – impacted the dynamics of racialization, and in what ways has this interacted with the formation of hard-right forces? How do these dynamics, and resistance against them through such movements as Black Lives Matter, relate to processes of class formation?
- How should broader right-wing cultural politics be understood and opposed? How can the left contribute to building a revitalized and inclusive working-class movement capable of combatting identity-based oppression?
- Given its decline – and in some cases rightward drift – what role can the contemporary trade union movement play in opposing the right and contributing to left alternatives?
Submissions must include:
- An abstract (500 words maximum) summarizing the paper you intend to develop and share for feedback at the symposium.
- A short biographical statement
The extended deadline for submissions is April 30, 2023.
Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Symposium participants will be invited to submit chapters for an edited volume on the themes of class and the far right.
Organizing Committee: Jordan House, Stephen Maher, Scott Aquanno, Tanner Mirrlees, Barbara Perry
Dr. Jordan House, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism, Ontario Tech University