The Red Right Hand and Another Tory Term

In John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, when Belial, a fallen angel, argues in favor of ending the war in heaven, he tries to unnerve his fellow rebels with the fear of a vengeful god, whose heaven is being vandalised because of the Devils’ revolt; “What if the breath that kindled those grim fires – Awaked, should blow them in sevenfold rage – And plunge us in the flames, or from above – Should intermitted vengeance arm again – His red right hand to plague us?” The ‘Red’ here refers to the violent and wrathful nature of an anticipated godly action, which is in actual, a reaction to the desecrations that the institution of ‘sin’, pioneered by ‘Satan’, effectuated.

While also upholding the meaning that Belial implied, this piece has used the phrase with an additional connotation, the one that has more to do with political semantics of the last two centuries. The ‘red’ as used by the left, both revolutionary and mainstream, and the ‘right hand’ as is used to identify the religious, traditionalist and popularly dubbed as conservative political and social forces. However, with the 20th century understanding, the phrase must sound highly paradoxical. When in the modern history, has the mankind ever stumbled upon a phenomenon that is simultaneously right and left, conservative and progressive, parochial and modern? The 21st century is the time for the unimaginable to happen. The experience of the cosmopolitan modernity has fashioned such political identities that the categorisations of the past can hardly accommodate. Therefore, the red right hand here, is a tendency that has the undertones of both tradition and modernity, a political faction that is mindful of both its economic character and racial-religious identity, an anti-immigrant, euro-sceptic, pro-Brexit, street active white working class. It is as if Milton foresaw his country in the new millennium centuries ago. The cosmopolitan secularisation of the public space might have reached the tipping point. The ecclesiastical, the priestly, the sacerdotal, the ruthless and vengeful divine, which for centuries lurked in the suburbia of political theory, has come back with a recast outlook, to haunt Europe and petrify all the specters it has been haunted by, in the days gone by. The Red Right Hand is here.

In this century, if the politics that helps you make the high office with overwhelming numbers is so dreary, what can be said of the one that does not?

The Labour’s historic meltdown of December the 13th, was yet another juncture in the ongoing global loop, that proved the progressive politics, not really in touch with the contemporary realities. This however, means not at all that the right-wing populism is not failing, but the left’s inability to consolidate the anti-system rage in its favour regardless of the popularity of its slogans and manifestos. In the times critical as these, the labour had always managed to attract considerable folds of electorate, if not win. 1930s stand as an exception here for having the only Labour defeat that dwarfs the current one. But, the magnitude of failure this time, has far bigger repercussions. We ought not to forget that this is going to be the fourth consecutive Tory term despite a continuous series of difficulties and governance failures namely the debunking of the European myth, decline of Thatcherian-neo-liberal economics, Immigrant crisis, de-industrialization, unemployment, rising racial antagonisms and most of all, the inability to get through with the Brexit deal. Let alone Labour, one can argue that the 2010s have been an equally dismal decade for the Conservatives as well, given that two of their prime ministers had to self-drag themselves out of 10 Downing Street. Press has also compared this election with that of 1983 when Michael Foot faced a humbling defeat at the hands of Margaret Thatcher. But neither then, nor ever, were the Tories as vulnerable as they were now yet, the Labour failed to produce even a near victory. In this century, if the politics that helps you make the high office with overwhelming numbers is so dreary, what can be said of the one that does not? To address the question that why could Jeremy Corbyn not even put up a challenging fight when the Tories themselves were in the worst doldrums, this analysis is highlighting three major developments; (1) The emergent racial character of the new working class politics in the United Kingdom and most of the West (2) The Tories’ breach of the red wall and finding inroads to the working class Labour base in the Northern England and Whales (3) Far-Right’s potency to win numbers for its mainstream, popular and legitimate faces like Borris Johnson on the contrary to that of Far-Left. All three of these are somewhat similar and constitute a single phenomenon previously referred to as the rise of the red right hand.

It is as if Milton foresaw his country in the new millennium centuries ago. The cosmopolitan secularisation of the public space might have reached the tipping point. The ecclesiastical, the priestly, the sacerdotal, the ruthless and vengeful divine, which for centuries lurked in the suburbia of political theory, has come back with a recast outlook, to haunt Europe and petrify all the specters it has been haunted by, in the days gone by. The Red Right Hand is here.

In recent times, the major anti-market rage has come from the right wingers. The local white working classes have encountered plunge in wages and unemployment because of the Western governments’ neo-liberal policies. Furthermore, they are also faced with the cultural paranoia that has developed in the wake of receding social space for white populace in the Western cosmopolitans. This was indicated in “The Great Replacement”, the Christchurch mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant’s Manifesto. He was more than convinced that the pro-market policies and handling of the Middle Eastern crisis had wreaked havoc on the white people in the form of massive immigrant influx and subsequently the availability of cheap labour in the Western cosmopolitans. Similarly, in the US, an almost same tendency identified itself as the ‘Alt-Right’, the right that is now the harbinger of working class voices but from the same race. Thus, a new brand of working class politics has emerged which is as much aware of its cultural and racial positioning as its class identity. The case is no different in the Great Britain.

This racial character of the current major political mobilizations has imparted an out rightly new political perception to the British citizenry. Brexit by far, being the outcome of the same struggle mentioned in the previous paragraph in effect was supposed to craft the results of the 2019 UK general election. While, Borris Johnson sounds so determined to finally do away with the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020. The Tories hardly let any turbulence in their hardliner pro-Brexit narrative and proceeded with an unhindered clear vision for UK’s ouster from the EU. Corbyn on the other hand, however well-informed with his socialist tilt, failed to generate a coherent and convincing policy narrative over Brexit. Resultantly, while not attending to the racial concerns of its working-class base, the Labour lost its historical fortresses to the Conservatives. Education reforms and the NHS rhetoric alone could not help Corbyn reach out to the larger masses and mainly resonated only with the urban cosmopolitan civil and academic elite. The electorate trusted Johnson more than it trusted Corbyn when it comes to Brexit. Regardless of the academic prowess of the left and the liberal-left, the right-wing fiendish rants appealed to the masses a great deal.

What the Left needs to immediately understand is that, the current global political unrest is not only a response to a failing economic system, but to a much larger paradigm. This better be understood before the red right hand turns the lamenting on the ‘Paradise Lost’ into the celebration of the ‘Paradise Regained’.

Lastly, the past decade has demonstrated a great amount of potency on the part of far-right to accumulate mass support for the mainstream conservative leaders. This can be seen from the United States to India. Yesterday’s illegitimate racist political rationales are constantly becoming normalized. This provides with robust mechanisms for popular consolidation of the forces of the right, from far right to the center. The left on the contrary is lacking these mechanisms and emphasizing more on economy-centric politics. The scenario is not going to change in the Left’s favour, unless it seriously attempts to address the cultural concerns of the factions it claims to represent, instead of repeating the jargon of the hard-left of the 60s and 70s over and over. And if at some time in foreseeable future, the left succeeds in developing such mechanisms, it will account for a new brand of politics. The ‘Alt-Left’ perhaps? What the Left needs to immediately understand is that, the current global political unrest is not only a response to a failing economic system, but to a much larger paradigm. This better be understood before the red right hand turns the lamenting on the ‘Paradise Lost’ into the celebration of the ‘Paradise Regained’, which given the current circumstances will not be a very pleasing sight.

Hamraz Sarwani

Hamraz Sarwani

is an Assistant Editor at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research.

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