By Jason Michael
“Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold,” wrote W.B. Yeats in 1919 when the world last lurched to the right. As the certainties of the liberal democratic ideal have been challenged the ruling classes are abandoning their traditional representatives.
In the latter days of David Cameron’s time at Number 10 it was apparent that the Conservative Party was in the middle of a bitter civil war. At the same time Labour was wholly unable to win political advantage from the crisis on the other side of the Commons because it too was descending into in-fighting and paralysing instability. Neither the government nor the opposition were capable of offering anything approximating competent leadership in the United Kingdom. On the face of it this decomposition of the party political mainstream at Westminster looked to be a continuation of the fractious 2014 battle for Scotland and the union, but its replication across Europe and North America is indicative of a deeper crisis in Western democracy.
During this period the British right came to have a directive influence over the political centre. We will recall that despite gaining only a single seat in the 2015 general election UKIP won 12.6 percent of the vote, making it the third largest party in terms of vote share. While this does not give the right influence in parliament, it certainly gives it influence over it. Both the Conservatives and Labour have been forced further to the right in order to claw back support from an increasingly right-leaning electorate. What this tells us, more broadly, is that the traditional parties represent the will of the ruling class less – and the result is a break between the popular vote and the traditional centrist parties. Again, this was to become the trend that would herald the election of Donald Trump.
In effect this is a return to the Gramscian “crisis of authority,” in which a cleavage appears between the represented dominant class and the political representation of the same. Gramsci explains this:
At a certain point in their historical lives, social classes become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in their particular organisational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent, and lead them, are no longer recognised by their class (or fraction of a class) as its representation.
– Antonio Gramsci, Observations on Certain Aspects of the Structure of Political Parties in Periods of Organic Crisis
Here Gramsci puts his finger on the nature of the crisis; the represented classes – particularly the dominant class – no longer recognise the parties that represent their interests. Neither the British Conservative Party nor its Blairite alternative represents the will of the British ruling class. In the United States Donald Trump was able to defeat the neoliberal establishment’s candidate, Hillary Clinton, because the dominant class has grown disenchanted with globalism and the whole neoliberal project. It no longer recognises the traditional parties that have represented its historical will.
Noam Chomsky Interview on Cultural Hegemony
Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)