The spectacle of a Democratic Party in disarray at its 2016 national convention prompted Donald Trump to tweet, in an artfully composed example of the appropriation of left-wing rhetoric by the Right: “While Bernie has totally given up on his fight for the people, we welcome all voters who want a better future for our workers.”
The responsibility for this scenario falls on the shoulders of American liberals, who, scandalized by Trump’s invective, had advanced the self-fulfilling prophecy that a left-wing populist would never be able to defeat him. The final nail in the coffin was hammered in by Bernie Sanders himself at the DNC, when he defied some of his own supporters to pave the way for a candidate whose public perception is characterized by corruption, secrecy, and opportunism.
The previous week, as he accepted his nomination at the Republican National Convention, Trump declared himself “the law and order candidate,” promising that “safety will be restored” by his presidency. The next day, a distressed Washington Post declared Trump “a unique threat to democracy.”
But memories inside the Beltway are far too short — every moment in the representation of American politics appears as an exception to the rule. It was not long ago that the liberal-left in the United States saw George W. Bush as a turn of the system towards a satanic monarchy, inaugurating an age of surveillance, inequality, and war. Barack Obama, in contrast, provided an exceptional moment of hope: a charming, erudite, and cosmopolitan leader to calmly guide us to even lower circles of surveillance, inequality, and war.
Now the election season pits the hawkish supervisor of Obama’s military strategy against an unhinged billionaire sociopath with a shrewd mind for marketing. In this topsy-turvy election it has turned out to be foolish to make predictions. It seems fair, however, to ask a question that is being ignored or suppressed: if eight years of Bill Clinton gave us George W. Bush, and eight years of Obama gave us Trump, what would eight years of Hillary Clinton give us?
Helpfully, Trump has given us a clue. By reviving the slogans of Reagan and Nixon, and presenting his candidacy as a reaction to social conflict surrounding racist police violence, he has made his lineage all too clear. While the American left has yet to come to terms with the sequence that runs from Nixon, to Reagan, to Bush, to Trump, the Jamaican-born British intellectual Stuart Hall devoted a large portion of his career to grappling with the similarly unsettling rise of Margaret Thatcher, in the context of a debate among the British left that anticipates the American present.
“What the country needs,” said Thatcher during her 1979 campaign, “is less tax and more law and order.” For Hall, the success of this slogan was far from surprising. A year before Thatcher took office, he was engaged in researching the social climate in which her rhetoric could take hold of the public mind — and it centered on the “moral panic” surrounding mugging.
The first editor of New Left Review, Hall was appointed director of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham in the late sixties, by its founder Richard Hoggart. Along with colleagues at the Centre, he published Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order in 1978.
While this study was, at first glance, focused on media representations of crime, this was in fact a component of a broader analysis of the decline of British social democracy and the fading of the fabled “postwar consensus” that had prevailed since 1945, when the Labour Party formed a majority government.
In the period immediately after World War II, the state took over failing industries, employed a large proportion of labor, regulated demand and employment, assumed responsibility for social welfare, expanded education to meet the requirements of technological development, increased its involvement in media communication, and worked to harmonize international trade.
Despite Labour’s declared commitment to socialism, this postwar stabilization of the economy did not fundamentally alter the underlying economic system. It was, however, able to build a welfare state on the basis of this “period of unparalleled productive growth,” and as Policing the Crisis put it, postwar representative democracy developed on the basis of the “augmented role of the state in economic affairs.”
But the British participation in the global postwar boom had serious weaknesses, caused by debilitating effects of the imperial legacy and a creaky industrial infrastructure resistant to innovation. It was no match for sharpening international competition, fluctuations in the profit rate, and growing inflation. Yet the Labour Party had painted itself into a corner, with “no alternative strategy for managing the economic crisis.”
Unfavorable economic conditions weren’t the only obstacle to the task of preserving the existing order. The state would also have to confront “a strong, though often corporate, working class with rising material expectations, tough traditions of bargaining, resistance and struggle.” As a consequence, “each crisis of the system has, progressively, taken the overt form of a crisis in the management of the state.” Following Antonio Gramsci and Nicos Poulantzas, Hall and his colleagues called this situation “a crisis of hegemony.”
The state increasingly played the role of striking “bargains” with the working class, to give it a “stake” in the system through the mediation of the organized labor movement, whose institutions had “progressively been incorporated into the management of the economy.” In such a context, in which working-class struggles seemed to confront the state directly, preserving consent as the primary means of democratic rule, rather than coercion, became a central problem.
Consumer society had presented potential resources for a solution; the increasing state use of mass media was directed towards shaping and transforming a “consensus on values.” But during a crisis of hegemony, consensus can no longer be taken for granted; the crisis constitutes “a moment of profound rupture in the political and economic life of a society, an accumulation of contradictions . . . when the whole basis of political leadership and cultural authority becomes exposed and contested.”
And it was indeed such a crisis that was in the process of unfolding. At the end of the 1960s a variety of moral panics bubbled to the surface of polite British society, surrounding youth culture and immigration. A wide range of phenomena, from protest and counterculture to permissiveness and crime came to be presented as part of a single, overwhelming threat to the foundations of the social order. At the same time, the economy witnessed “the re-entry to the historical stage of the class struggle in a visible, open, and escalating form”:
A society careering off the rails through “permissiveness,” “participation,” and “protest” into “the alternative society” and “anarchy” is one thing. It is quite another moment when the working class once again takes the offensive in a mood of active militancy . . . The attempt by a social-democratic government to manage the state through an organised version of consensus is finally exhausted and bankrupted between 1964 and 1970, so, gradually, the class struggle comes more and more into the open, assumes a more manifest presence. This development is electrifying.
The incomes policies of the 1970s, which tried to manage inflation by trading lower wage increases for a constraint on rising prices, represented an attempt “to exercise and enforce restraint over wages and the working class by consent,” by “winning the unions to full collaboration with the state in disciplining the working class.”
But this project failed, in part because of the continued rebelliousness of the rank-and-file and “the massive shift of the locus of class conflict in industry from management/union disputes to management/shop-floor disputes.” Rank-and-file militancy and shop-floor organization displaced the negotiating table: “Local conditions could be exploited and local advantages taken best in large-scale factory work, especially in engineering, where, as a result of the complex divisions of labour, a stoppage of ten men in one section could bring the whole assembly line to a grinding halt.”
Conservative ideology played an important role in the state response to this threat. A “transition from this tightening of control at the end of the 1960s into the full repressive ‘closure’ of 1970” gave way to the “law-and-order society.” Moral panic and economic instability legitimated the state’s resort to the use of repression as crisis management, a “routinization of control” which made policing seem “normal, natural, and thus right and inevitable.”
This campaign had a less obvious advantage: it lent legitimacy to the state’s initiative “to discipline, restrain and coerce, to bring, also within the framework of law and order, not only demonstrators, criminals, squatters and dope addicts, but the solid ranks of the working class itself. This recalcitrant class — or at least its disorderly minorities — had also to be harnessed to ‘order.’”
Unencumbered with the tie to organized labor, Conservatives were able to attack trade union power with the 1971 Industrial Relations Act. They appealed to “national unity” and called to “restore authority to government.” Even when the act was repealed under the Labour government which followed, with its centrist “Social Contracts,” its effect had already been imprinted onto the landscape of the class struggle. The crisis represented a deep structural shift in the character of the postwar capitalist state.
All of these elements were under consideration at Birmingham, but so was the rise of racist anti-immigrant sentiments announced by the likes of MP Enoch Powell and the neofascist National Front, in response to the redefinition of British identity by Rastafarians and “rude boys.” Hall and his colleagues approached this cultural discord through the perceived rise in violent crime.
Media representations of mugging in the 1970s had a particular feature, one that persists today: a deliberate and unyielding association of crime with black youth. Police had been engaged in “controlling and containing” the black population since the early 1970s, but after the political turmoil and economic collapse of the mid-seventies, resulting cuts in welfare, education, and social support hit the black populations concentrated in the inner city the hardest.
What’s more, part of the effect of the upheaval of the 1960s had been to introduce a new sensibility of resistance in the inner city, and what now emerged was an explosive situation: “a sector of the population, already mobilised in terms of black consciousness, was now also the sector most exposed to the accelerating pace of the economic recession.”
The consequence was “nothing less than the synchronization of the race and the class aspects of the crisis,” the Birmingham scholars wrote. “Policing the blacks threatened to mesh with the problem of policing the poor and policing the unemployed: all three were concentrated in precisely the same urban areas.” “Policing the blacks” became “synonymous with the wider problem of policing the crisis.”
Here Policing the Crisis presents an oft-quoted slogan: “Race is the modality in which class is lived.” For black members of the working class, it was primarily through the experience of “race” that they could “come to a consciousness of their structured subordination”: “It is through the modality of race that blacks comprehend, handle, and then begin to resist the exploitation which is an objective feature of their class situation.” The dub reggae poet Linton Kwesi Johnson performed this coming to consciousness “Wat About Di Working Class?”:
Nah badda blame it ‘pon the black working class, Mr. Racist
Blame it ‘pon the ruling class
Blame it ‘pon your capitalist boss
We pay the costs, we suffer the loss
The forces of reaction were swift and decisive. The election of Margaret Thatcher as leader of the opposition in 1975 represented the movement of the radical right from the margins to the center, building on the ideology of law and order to advance a strategy of breaking from the postwar consensus.
This strategy would take center stage as social-democratic crisis management came up against an unavoidable impasse: “Britain in the 1970s is a country for whose crisis there are no viable capitalist solutions left, and where, as yet, there is no political base for an alternative socialist strategy. It is a nation locked in a deadly stalemate: a state of unstoppable capitalist decline.”
Class domination would take on new modes, registered principally in “a tilt in the operation of the state away from consent towards the pole of coercion.” The moral panic over mugging, then, was “one of the forms of appearance of a more deep-seated historical crisis”; it played an important role in the state’s stabilization.
The perception of a rise in crime was “one of the principal forms of ideological consciousness by means of which a ‘silent majority’ is won over to the support of increasingly coercive measures on the part of the state, and lends its legitimacy to a ‘more than usual’ exercise of control.” In 1977, The Clash covered a song by Hall’s Jamaican compatriot Junior Murvin, “Police and Thieves,” on their debut album — its account of the Jamaican police state sounded equally like a description of London.
The postwar consensus of the benevolent welfare state was giving way to an authoritarian consensus, a development that British sociologist Ralph Miliband had hinted at as early as 1969. He ended his book The State in Capitalist Society with a description of a certain dialectic between reform and repression.
The state meets social pressure with reform, but can never go the full way; “as reform reveals itself incapable of subduing pressure and protest, so does the emphasis shift towards repression, coercion, police power, law and order.” But repression also engenders opposition, and “along that road that lies the transition from ‘bourgeois democracy’ to conservative authoritarianism.”
This did not necessarily mean fascism. In fact, Miliband’s example came from the Left:
Wherever they have been given the chance, social-democratic leaders have eagerly bent themselves to the administration of the capitalist state: but that administration increasingly requires the strengthening of the capitalist state, to which purpose, from a conservative point of view, these leaders have made a valuable contribution.
Such a strengthening of the state, however, had left social democracy with “an increased vulnerability to the blandishments of the Right . . . the path is made smoother for would-be popular saviours, whose extreme conservatism is carefully concealed beneath a demagogic rhetoric of national renewal and social redemption, garnished, wherever suitable, with an appeal to racial and any other kind of profitable prejudice.”
Miliband concluded that the “socialist movement has reached such a commanding position,” that “it may be too late for the forces of conservatism to take up the authoritarian option with any real chance of success.”
Yet for Hall, Thatcher was the prime example of authoritarianism’s remarkable success. Policing the Crisis had shown how social democracy’s management of the capitalist crisis had created contradictions which opened up a space for new right-wing strategies, and how popular consent to authority was coming to be secured by new kinds of ideological struggle.
What was now emerging was an anti-statist strategy of the Right — or rather, one which represented itself as anti-statist to win the consent of a disgruntled populace, all the while pursuing a highly centralist approach to governance.
This strategy functioned by harnessing popular discontent and neutralizing opposition, making use of some elements of popular opinion to fashion a new kind of consent. In 1979, Hall elaborated on the new strategy in an essay called “The Great Moving Right Show.” It was originally published in Marxism Today, the experimental theoretical journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain, just months before Thatcher’s election as prime minister.
The roots of her rise, he insisted, lay in the “contradiction within social democracy,” which had “effectively disorganised the Left and the working class response to the crisis.” Synthesizing the dynamics that had been reviewed historically in Policing the Crisis, Hall explained that the contradiction began with social democracy’s efforts at gaining electoral power, which required it to “maximise its claims as the political representative of the interests of the working class and organised labour,” capable of “mastering the crisis” and “defending — within the constraints imposed by recession — working class interests.”
This was not “a homogeneous political entity but a complex political formation,” not an expression of the working class within government, but “the principal means of representation of the class.” “Representation,” as a political function in parliamentary democracy, “has to be understood as an active and formative relationship,” which “organises the class, constituting it as a political force — a social democratic political force — in the same moment as it is constituted.”
But once social democracy enters government, it is “committed to finding solutions to the crisis which are capable of winning support from key sections of capital, since its solutions are framed within those limits.” This requires it to use its “indissoluble link” with the leaderships of the trade unions “not to advance but to discipline the class and organizations it represents.”
This function revolves around the state, and social democracy must hold to “a neutral and benevolent interpretation of the role of the state as incarnator of the national interest above the class struggle.” It equates the expansion of the state with socialism, “without reference to the mobilization of effective democratic power at the popular level,” and uses the enlarged interventionist apparatus of the state to “manage the capitalist crisis on behalf of capital.”
The state ends up “inscribed through every feature and aspect of social life”: “Social democracy has no alternative viable strategy, especially for ‘big’ capital (and ‘big’ capital has no viable alternative strategy for itself) which does not involve massive state support.”
This is the backdrop for the radical right, which operates in the same space as social democracy and exploits its contradictions. It “takes the elements which are already constructed into place, dismantles them, reconstitutes them into a new logic, and articulates the space in a new way, polarizing it to the Right.”
It is able to appeal to the mistrust of statism, to the frustration with the social-democratic management of capitalist crisis, by advancing a seemingly anti-statist neoliberal agenda. Thatcherism targeted collectivist values, but also the very real statism that had plagued Labour from the beginning — it took advantage of the distance the reformist leadership had maintained from its rank-and-file, and demonstrated the very real irreconcilability between collectivist values and the task of managing the capitalist crisis.
The remarkable achievement of Thatcherism was its ability to tie the abstract economic philosophies of Austrian liberalism, advanced by libertarian heroes Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, to popular sentiments regarding “nation, family, duty, authority, standards, self-reliance,” powerful ideological motors in the context of the political mobilization for law and order.
This “rich mix” Hall dubbed “authoritarian populism,” and its ideological maneuvers could not be reduced to mere trickery — in fact, it operated on “genuine contradictions,” with “a rational and material core”: “Its success and effectivity does not lie in its capacity to dupe unsuspecting folk but in the way it addresses real problems, real and lived experiences, real contradictions — and yet is able to represent them within a logic of discourse which pulls them systematically into line with policies and class strategies of the Right.”
Marxism Today was, all things considered, an unusual and far-reaching project, with the visual style of a commercial magazine, and coverage of popular culture which sought to intervene in the consciousness of consumer society — provoking the outrage of Miliband’s comrade John Saville, who carefully and disdainfully documented the pages the journal devoted to fashion.
However, perhaps the most influential critique was presented by Miliband himself in “The New Revisionism in Britain,” published in New Left Review in 1985. This “new revisionism,” Miliband argued, was a repetition of the first wave represented by Hugh Gaitskell — he had already used the term in Parliamentary Socialism.
At the center was the debate over the strategic questions faced by the Labour Party, which Miliband did not think were adequately captured by theories of authoritarian populism. He reminded the reader that the decline in working-class electoral support for the Labour Party had been a trend since 1951, resulting from its own contradictions.
Of course, as we have documented above, Hall had carefully analyzed this phenomenon and in fact made it the basis of his theory of Thatcherism. But for Miliband, Hall still waffled on the question, decrying the leadership’s suspicion of the “self-activation of the working class,” yet constantly phrasing his analysis in terms of the possibility of the party’s “renewal,” even if he was skeptical that it would take place.
Miliband’s primary concern, however, was to refute the new revisionist tendency to reject “class politics,” understood as “the insistence on the ‘primacy’ of organised labour in the challenge to capitalist power and the task of creating a radically different social order.” Miliband defended this primacy: “no other group, movement or force in capitalist society is remotely capable of mounting as effective and formidable a challenge to the existing structures of power and privilege as it is in the power of organised labour to mount.”
There were two angles on which this primacy had to be defended, the first relating to changes in the production process and the social landscape of the advanced capitalist countries; André Gorz’s Farewell to the Working Class was named as an influential “revisionist” precursor.
Miliband accepted that “the working class has experienced in recent years an accelerated process of recomposition, with a decline of the traditional industrial sectors and a considerable further growth of the white-collar, distribution, service and technical sectors” — but he did not accept that this meant that the classical coordinates of socialist politics should change. After all, wage-earners continued to compose the largest part of the population of the advanced capitalist countries, and were still capable of developing a socialist consciousness.
The second challenge was that of the new social movements. Miliband started with the reasonable reminder that “the working class includes very large numbers of people who are also members of ‘new social movements,’ or who are part of the constituency which these movements seek to reach.” But he also argued that it would be a mistake for these people to understand their experiences of oppression through their identities.
In fact, the category of “class politics” encompassed the new social movements, since organized labor did not fight for its own “economistic” and “corporate” ends, “but for the whole working class and many beyond it.” Though such a struggle “requires a system of popular alliances,” Miliband maintained that “it is only the organised working class which can form the basis of that system.”
Left unanswered, however, was how the working class would be organized, and this question looms behind both of the debates. As Robin Blackburn has recently reflected, “1985 marked the beginning of nearly three decades of class demobilisation and demoralisation,” and Miliband “underestimated the effects of a far-reaching global recomposition of capital and labour as the century drew to its close.” His discussion of the new social movements remained speculative, without serious investigation of the questions they raised about the character of working-class politics.
In contrast, Hall’s own analysis of race as a “modality” through which black workers became aware of their class position was based on an analysis of the composition of the black working class, the history of migrant culture, and the political organizations of black struggles — and he was able to build upon this to identify potential forms of political activity which had general relevance for the class, since racism was part of the way laboring populations were structured by capital.
This strategic impasse was playing out quite directly in the political conjuncture, with the experience of the 1984–85 miners’ strike. The fierceness of this struggle made any discussion emotionally charged. Hall had been highly critical before the strike — of the intense hardship and risk implied by striking during a period of austerity and industrial decline, and the undemocratic decision to strike without a ballot.
He went on to criticize the “familial and masculinist” mobilization of the miners, “‘as men’ who have a duty to stand up and fight.” The class-politics framing of the movement, lodged in a specific class identity, had kept the miners’ strike from “generalizing into a wider social struggle.”
Aspects of this analysis were probably true. But it provoked understandable derision from Miliband. It came at a time when many, especially those affiliated with Marxism Today, were associating the strike with a stubborn and antiquated “hard left.”
Of course, it is not that the term is completely without referent; anyone who has participated in a social movement has encountered those who appoint themselves “as keeper of left consciences, as political guarantor, as the litmus test of orthodoxy.” But in retrospect, employed against those who defended trade unions in the context of overwhelming capitalist assault, this epithet strikes the wrong note.
On the other hand, Miliband’s own argument dismissed any of the substantive issues these critiques did raise. According to Michael Newman’s biography, he was criticized for this by his wife Marion Kozaks, who thought the New Revisionism article “overstated the primacy of class and failed to attach sufficient weight to social movements, viewing them as divisive rather than as potential allies for class based movements — as, for example, in women’s groups supporting the miners.”
Such unexpected lines of alliance have recently been dramatized in the film Pride, which shows the fundraising efforts of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a gesture of solidarity returned by the participation of Welsh miner groups at the 1985 London Pride march, and the National Union of Mineworkers’ decisive support for a successful Labour Party resolution in favor of LGBT rights.
As Doreen Massey and Hilary Wainwright wrote, in their commentary on feminist strike support groups, “it is not a question of either industrial action or the new social movements, nor is it one of just adding the two together . . . New institutions can be built through which ‘class politics’ can be seen as more than simply industrial militancy plus parliamentary representation.” It was the urgency of such new institutions, and the difficulty of constructing them, that underlay Hall’s pessimism:
The strike was thus doomed to be fought and lost as an old rather than as a new form of politics. To those of us who felt this from very early on, it was doubly unbearable because — in the solidarity it displayed, the gigantic levels of support it engendered, the unparalleled involvement of the women in the mining communities, the feminist presence in the strike, the breaking down of barriers between different social interests which it presaged – the miners’ strike was in fact instinctually with the politics of the new, it was a major engagement with Thatcherism which should have marked the transition to the politics of the present and future, but which was fought and lost, imprisoned in the categories and strategies of the past.
But if each side of the debate had a point, it is not clear that any participant understood what the catastrophic defeat of the miners’ strike truly represented. Despite Hall’s account of the powerful effects of authoritarian populism, his theory did not seem to anticipate how drastically this defeat would change the field, and how total it would be.
It has not been adequately appreciated that this moment has to be understood as a defeat for the new social movements as well. While Rainbow Coalitions, multiculturalism, and identity politics would live on, they came to indicate their growing detachment from the organizational form of grassroots, militant movements which could form anti-systemic alliances. And despite his earlier opposition to the “New Revisionism,” it is really not clear that Miliband’s approach led him to an actual political alternative.
The misadventures of the Miliband name notwithstanding, it is Hall who is now frequently accused of paving the way for New Labour. This somewhat misstates the dynamics at work; it was Thatcherism that paved the way for New Labour, and Hall was one of the people who described Thatcherism’s mode of operation with the greatest clarity. We have no reason to doubt that Miliband would have vigorously criticized the dramatic swing to the right engineered by Tony Blair, if he had lived to see it.
Hall, for his part, excoriated Blair in a one-time revival of Marxism Today in 1997 (it had ended in 1991), with an article called “The Great Moving Nowhere Show.” While he documented the capitulations of New Labour to neoliberalism, and the new social subjects it manifested (“Economic Man or as s/he came to be called, The Enterprising Subject and the Sovereign Consumer”), he did not present a political analysis of the phenomenon comparable to his account of Thatcherism.
Of course, Blair was following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, whose presidency not only brought the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the crime bill, and the welfare reform bill, but was also embedded in a cultural style, driven by focus groups and image consultants, that played on the diversity of the new times, leading Toni Morrison to famously comment that Clinton was “the first black president.”
A term beyond “authoritarian populism” will probably be needed to describe this phenomenon, which showed, on the one hand, that the hegemonic strategy of the Right was so successful as to absorb the putative left, and facilitate the consolidation of economic inequality and the further rollback of reforms condensed in the state; and on the other hand, that pluralism, the celebration of the popular media, and the turn to youth culture did not necessarily constitute, in the absence of viable revolutionary mobilization, an oppositional force — as the grassroots campaigns for the actual first black president have since amply demonstrated.
It is precisely on the stymied development of an antagonistic agent that the discussion of culture and ideology must be situated — not as an explanation for the complex mechanisms of shifts in electoral politics. Long after Thatcher and Reagan an industry of commentators asks why working-class Americans vote against their “interests,” inviting us to pit Kansas against Connecticut, red state against blue state. But it is in fact in the decomposition and disorganization of the working class that we must seek an explanation for the rise of the Right — not in consciousness, false or otherwise.
The empirical evidence shows that the US working class, measured by income, has a consistent voting preference for the Democrats, and this holds true even if we restrict our data to the white working class. But contrary to the market logic of “interests,” this voting practice has never actually increased working-class power, and so the indeterminate ether of American public opinion ends up subordinated to the organizational power of right-wing vanguards. Whether authoritarian populism has changed people’s ideas is a poorly framed question.
Its role in the neoliberal transformation was to attack the possibility of strategic alliances between the new social movements and organization at the point of production. Traditionalist ideologies of family, church, and nation were a preemptive strike against the potential political barrier to accumulation that these lines of alliance could impose from below.
“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,” said Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention. He’s right; and the crisis is also on the Left. Our discourse is too often reduced to petty squabbles, on the one side an ahistorical absorption in spectacular postures of undirected rebellion and identitarian narcissism, and on the other, a stodgy and unattractive orthodoxy. The art of politics is nowhere to be found — except, perhaps on the delirious right, a reality that Hall also described:
I remember the moment in the 1979 election when Mr Callaghan, on his last political legs, so to speak, said with real astonishment about the offensive of Mrs Thatcher, “She means to tear society up by the roots.” This was an unthinkable idea in the social democratic vocabulary: a radical attack on the status quo.
The truth is that, traditionalist ideas, the ideas of social and moral respectability, have penetrated so deep inside socialist consciousness that it is quite common to find people committed to a radical political programme, underpinned by wholly traditional feelings and sentiments.
Our crisis has prevented us from carrying out the urgent task Hall presciently laid out: to understand “how different forces come together, conjuncturally, to create the new terrain on which a different politics must form up.” It is up to us to invent a different politics — or Trump will be the only one doing it.