Law and Order: Make Marxism Great Again

As he accepted his nomination at the Republican National Convention, Donald 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.” 1

But memories inside the Beltway are far too shortevery 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. American liberals, scandalized by Trump’s invective, advanced the self-fulfilling prophecy that a left-wing populist would never be able to defeat him – and at the Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders himself defied Wikileaks and his own supporters to pave the way for a candidate whose public perception is characterized by corruption, secrecy, and opportunism. While a Trump presidency is not impossible, 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. 2 “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.

Crisis and Coercion

The first editor of New Left Review, Stuart 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. It is an almost unbelievably wide-ranging book: empirical investigations of mugging and analyses of media representations are interspersed with theoretical elaborations on the ideology of empiricism, the problem of the English aristocracy, and Marx’s account of Bonapartism; the history of postwar British capitalism is recounted with careful attention to Elvis, mods and rockers, and Desmond Dekker. But perhaps what is even more bewildering than its blurring of genres and its exhaustive detail in capturing the 1970s is the startlingly contemporary character of its analysis and the social phenomena it describes.

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 the majority government. To capture the 1970s moment Policing the Crisis traced the unique form of social democratic hegemony established in 1945, when “the state considerably expanded its over-all function of managing crises and superintending the ‘general conditions’ of capitalist production and accumulation, and of defending the rate of profit.” 3 British social democracy 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. The postwar stabilization of capitalism did not fundamentally alter the relations of the economic system, but it was able to build a welfare state on the basis of this “period of unparalleled productive growth,” and it consolidated parliamentary democracy on the basis of the “augmented role of the state in economic affairs.” 4

But the British participation in the global postwar boom contained important weaknesses, caused by the debilitating effects of the imperial legacy and a creaky industrial infrastructure resistant to innovation. The interventionist state progressively encountered sharpening international competition, fluctuations in the profit rate, increasing cyclical instability, and growing inflation. 5 Yet the Labour Party had painted itself into a corner, with “no alternative strategy for managing the economic crisis.” Its commitment to maintaining the structures of capitalist society, limiting itself to the readjustment of distribution on the basis of productive growth, meant that it had to protect the conditions of accumulation at all costs. Thus its central goal was to expand productivity: “to make labour more productive – which, in conditions of low investment, meant raising the rate of the exploitation of labour.” But the unfavorable economic conditions were not 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, a crisis of hegemony.6

In other words, the state ended up “managing capital where capital could no longer successfully manage itself,” which meant “ drawing the economic class struggle increasingly on to its own terrain … a more overt and direct effort by the state to manage the political class struggle.” 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 as one of its major corporate supports.” This meant regulating an uneasy balance between concessions and restraints, oriented towards supporting capital’s growth and stability in the long term. Social democracy therefore had the function of “harmonisation of interests,” the “pacification and harmonisation of class struggle.” 7

In such a context, in which working-class struggles seemed to confront the state directly, preserving consent as the primary mechanism of democratic rule became a central problem – the increasing state use of media, its attention to shaping cultural representations and intervening in the meanings they constructed, was directed towards shaping and transforming a “consensus on values.8 During a crisis of hegemony, such consensus could not be taken for granted; the crisis constituted “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.9

Conservative governments also participated in the postwar management of consensus, which operated on broadly the same mechanisms despite the alternating electoral fortunes of the parties. But at the end of the 1960s British society was already experiencing moral panics, 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. The conservative termination of the postwar consensus provided a distinct response to this cultural upheaval with its emphasis on “law and order” and the restoration of authority, paving the way for new ideological formations. 10

However, such a shift in the balance of forces was not due only to the ‘60s counterculture. The “transition from this tightening of control at the end of the 1960s into the full repressive ‘closure’ of 1970,” which gave way to the “law-and-order society” and redefined the field of social conflict, was in fact driven by “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. To say “takes the offensive” might suggest that, for a time, it was absent from the relations of force, resistance, and consent in the society. Nothing could be further from the truth. But the form which the class struggle assumed in the period of Labourism was different from the form it begins to assume – to assume again – as we enter the 1970s. 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. One of its consequences is to translate a struggle which is emerging at the level of civil society and its superstructural institutions (principally the form of the crisis during the period up to and immediately after our “1968”) directly on to the terrain of capital and labour, and thus – in the era of organised late capitalism – on to the terrain of the state. 11

The terrain of the state itself was being recomposed: the process of crisis management required “a recomposition of the whole state apparatus and of relations between the different branches of the state, and between the state itself and civil society.” But since the state had directly involved itself in the productive system and the mediation of class struggle, “the recomposition of the capitalist state is also, and inevitably, the recomposition ‘from above’ of the working class.” 12

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.” 13 But this project failed, in part because of the intransigence 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 shopfloor organization displaced the negotiating table:

Far from following their leaders into the arms of the state, or – as some variants of the “affluent-worker thesis” predicted – simply disappearing off the face of the earth into the middle classes, the rank-and-file workers in industry found another point of antagonism with the structure of capitalist management and threw up around it a formidable, flexible and militant defensive organisation. 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. This vulnerability of large-scale industry was increased under conditions of full or near-full employment with a shortage of skilled labour. 14

Conservative ideology played an important role in the state response to this threat. The 1970 “law-and-order” campaign had legitimated the state’s resort to the use of repression as crisis management, a “routinisation 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.’” 15

Unencumbered with the tie to organized labor, the Conservatives were ones capable of breaking ground in the shift of the legal framework towards limiting trade union power with the 1971 Industrial Relations Act. They were able to appeal to “national unity,” to call to “restore authority to government,” providing a positive corollary to the negative theme of “law and order.” 16 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, then, represented a deep structural shift in the character of the postwar capitalist state. The Conservative interlude in the crisis of social democracy

marked the conclusion of a critical internal shift in the nature of the balance or equilibrium on which contemporary capitalist state power is founded. And, though the basic strophe of change may derive from a deeper level of the structure, this difference – between a masked and a more open form of repressive régime – arises most acutely at the level of the political class struggle itself. The growth of political dissent, from the mid-1960s onwards, then the resumption of a more militant form of working-class political struggle at the turn of the decade, coupled with the pervasive weakness of the British economic base, have made it impossible, for a time, to manage the crisis, politically, without an escalation in the use and forms of repressive state power. 17

This shift would become decisive, and the election of 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 in the course of the 1970s. It was a process

managed by a government which is silently praying that it can effect the transfer of the crisis to the working class without arousing mass political resistance, and thus create that mirage of British social democratic governments – “favourable investment conditions.” If it cuts too fast, the unions will be forced to bolt the ‘social contract,’ and destroy social democracy’s fragile social and political base; if it does not cut fast and hard, the international bankers will simply cut their credit short. If it raises taxes, the middle classes – now in a state of irritable, Thatcher-like arousal – will either emigrate en masse or begin, Chilean-style, to rattle their pressure-cooker lids; if it does not tax, the last remnants of the welfare state – and with them any hope of buying working-class compliance – will disappear. 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. 18

But alongside the social democratic attempt to incorporate the working class “junior partners in the management of crisis” was the growth of divisions internal to the class, the effects of sectionalism, economism, syndicalism, and reformism. 19 This situation did not amount to a revolutionary conjuncture; far from it, it heralded “the coming of ‘iron times.’” 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.” 20 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.” 21

Race and Recomposition

Media representations of mugging raised another problem for understanding the field of social conflict of the 1970s. There was an unmistakable association of crime with black youth. How could this social figure be understood politically, both to explain its targeting by policing and its own agency? Police had been engaged in “controlling and containing” the black population since the early 1970s, but after 1974 the dynamics grew deeper. The 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 synchronisation of the race and the class aspects of the crisis”: “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.” 22 Policing the blacks became “synonymous with the wider problem of policing the crisis.23

To study the specificities of the race problem required some nuance. The black population also participated in industrial labor; there was a “growing industrial militancy amongst black workers,” and they were in fact more likely to participate in unions than their white counterparts. 24 They played a central role in the destabilizing class struggles of the period: “In many of the key industrial disputes which ‘create’ the crisis – in the motor industry, for example – black and white workers have been involved in a common struggle.” Nevertheless, black workers were disproportionately represented in unskilled and semi-skilled labor, and bore the brunt of deskilling and layoffs. The effect of shifting ideological parameters in the crisis of hegemony meant that these divisions could play a destructive political role:

Although the black and white poor find themselves, objectively, in the same position, they inhabit a world ideologically so structured that each can be made to provide the other with its negative reference group, the “manifest cause” of each other’s ill-fortune. As economic circumstances tighten, so the competitive struggle between workers is increased, and a competition structured in terms of race or colour distinctions has a great deal of mileage. It is precisely on this nerve that the National Front is playing at the moment, with considerable effect. So the crisis of the working class is reproduced, once again, through the structural mechanisms of racism, as a crisis within and between the working classes. 25

Part of this internal crisis was the growth of unemployment, and the challenge it posed to working-class organization. In everyday experience, unemployment was closely tied up with race. Due to its “structural position in the labor force” at a time of economic recession, the black workforce – “especially young black school-leavers, seeking employment for the first time” – now appeared to be something like an “ ethnically distinct class fraction – the one most exposed to the winds of unemployment.” 26 It was “a significant sector of the growing army of the unwaged, and one vulnerable to accelerating social pauperisation.” 27 This amounted to nothing less than a use of the recession “to drive through a major recomposition of black labour by capital itself.” Understanding the position of black workers meant going beyond “the immediate contingencies of ‘discrimination’” to “a structural feature of modern capital, and the pivotal role which black labour now plays in the metropoles of capital in a major phase of its recomposition.” 28

The difficult task was to understand what kind of agency this recomposition contained. As black youth were increasingly incorporated into the unemployed reserve army of labor, there could be no question that their objective position was deteriorating; but “the dynamic factor is the change in the way this objective process is collectively understood and resisted.” Within the common experience of unemployment, Policing the Crisis suggested, “the social content and political meaning of ‘worklessness’ is being thoroughly transformed from inside.” Militancy among black youth was coming not from shopfloor socialization, but from this transformation of worklessness. 29 Drawing on the journal Race Today, which included figures influenced by C.L.R. James like Darcus Howe, Farrukh Dhondy, and Linton Kwesi Johnson, the authors identified emerging political tendencies within the black community. The new political dynamism was

predicated on the autonomy and self-activity of black groups in struggle; and it identifies the most significant theme of this struggle as the growing “refusal to work” of the black unemployed. The high levels of youthful black unemployment are here reinterpreted as part of a conscious political “refusal to work.” This refusal to work is crucial, since it strikes at capital. It means that this sector of the class refuses to enter competition with those already in productive work. Hence it refuses the traditional role of the “reserve army of labour” – i.e. as an instrument which can be used to break or undermine the bargaining power of those still in work. 30

In a tantalizing passage the authors note that this “analysis of the position of blacks is quite close to that elaborated by a major current in contemporary Italian Marxist theory (what is sometimes called ‘the Italian School’).” Members of the “Italian School” cited in a footnote include Mario Tronti, Sergio Bologna, Ferruccio Gambino, Silvia Federici, and Mario Montaño (the latter two under their pseudonym “Guido Baldi”). The summary of this Italian account of the current stage of capitalist development moves very quickly, reflecting the scant availability of sources at the time, but it leads to an original development of the methodology:

The recomposition of capital has therefore, in turn, “recomposed” the working class… This “productive” recomposition of the class also involves a political recomposition – the old reflexes and organisations of class struggle belonging to an earlier phase being dismantled, and class struggle tending to generate new forms of militant resistance directly against the exploitation of the new labour process… it can be seen at once how this analysis can be extended to illuminate the specific position of black labour (and other migrant “labours”) in the “advanced” sectors of modern British industry; but also how other forms of “direct resistance” – like the refusal to work – can assume a quite different meaning and strategic position, as forms of class struggle, not of a marginal but of pivotal sections of the working class. 31

The political agency of the wageless, then, lay in the forms of self-help it generated, from “hustling” to the vernacular cultures of mutual support, drawing on the Caribbean legacy that migrants carried with them. While there was no necessary political content to hustling, the American examples of Malcolm X and George Jackson indicated its potential to be the site of development for a revolutionary practice. Wagelessness was redefined on the streets “as a positive rather than as a passive form of struggle; as belonging to a majority rather than a ‘marginal’ working-class experience, a position thoroughly filled out and amplified, culturally and ideologically, and therefore capable of providing the base of a viable class strategy.” 32 This took on a guiding importance for a broad class struggle, since “migrant workers now form the permanent basis of the modern industrial reserve army.33

Furthermore, since the working class in general was confronting growing unemployment, just as the costs of the crisis were being imposed upon it by the state, these new forms of contestation took on a crucial significance. Earlier reform victories were being “drastically eroded and reversed,” and the political power of the working class and its organizations were challenged by an “authoritarian consensus.” As this dynamic of erosion and onslaught continued within the crisis, the practices of policing and the media representations of crime took on a central importance for working-class politics, posing “the most massive and critical problems of strategy and struggles”: “how to prevent a sizeable section of the class from being more or less permanently criminalised.34 Identifying the new agencies of resistance by the black unemployed and finding a way to join them to the broader class struggle could serve as a basis for responding to the authoritarian consensus, which threatened the working class as a whole.

This analysis, however, came up against a potential limit. Wagelessness, and “the forms of political organisation and ideological consciousness which arises or could arise from its base,” could be understood in two ways. One interpretation saw “wagelessness” and its autonomous forms of reproduction, including crime, as a form of the mass worker’s refusal to work. But a contrary interpretation took on a disturbing salience as the recession deepened. It was starting to become inescapably clear that “those blacks, in larger numbers, who are ‘refusing work’ are making a virtue of necessity; there is hardly any work left for young black school-leavers to refuse. As large as is the section who have just found it possible to survive through the hustling life of the street, the numbers of blacks who would take work if they were offered it is larger.35

No clear solution was available for this dilemma; while existing theories of the lumpenproletariat provided useful insights, the deployment of this class category in colonial Africa by the likes of Fanon did not map onto the conditions of the advanced capitalist metropolis as clearly as the likes of the Black Panther Party implied. This “difficult problem of analysis” had “pertinent effects at the level of developing a theoretically informed political practice and strategy”; nevertheless, the authors of Policing the Crisis confessed that they had “deliberately refrained from entering directly into this question, because it is a matter which we believe must be resolved in struggle, rather than on paper.” 36

Turning instead to the theoretical problem of race, it is here that Policing the Crisis presents the famous slogan: “Race is the modality in which class is lived.” 37 In the context of the authoritarian consensus this was not a sectional phenomenon – it was a reality which “has consequences for the whole class, whose relation to their conditions of existence is now transformed by race.” 38 But for black members of the working class in particular, 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.” 39

The tension between the “consequences for the whole class” and the specific experience of the black working class could not be easily resolved. There was an extent to which the strategy of street crime could be understood as a “sectional struggle,” much like the white trade union struggles which excluded the black unemployed. Both were necessary defensive struggles, but the gap left between the autonomous activity of each class sector was quickly filled by capital, converted into division by racism:

Capital reproduces the class as a whole, structured by race. It dominates the divided class, in part, through those internal divisions which have “racism” as one of their effects. It contains and disables the representative class organisations by confining them, in part, to strategies and struggles which are race-specific, which do not surmount its limits, its barriers. Through race, it continues to defeat the attempts to construct, at the political level, organisations which do in fact adequately represent the class as a whole – that is, which represent it against capitalism, against racism. 40

But this was another problem which could not be resolved on paper. It reflected the fact that “there is, as yet, no active politics, no form of organised struggle, and no strategy which is able adequately and decisively to intervene in the quasi-rebellion of the black wageless such as would be capable of bringing about that break in the current false appropriations of oppression through crime.” Only a new form of organized struggle could effect the “critical transformation of the criminalised consciousness into something more sustained and thorough-going in a political sense,” and this constituted “a powerful reminder that we should not mistake a proto-political consciousness for organised political class struggle and practice.” The absence of such an active politics posed “a necessary warning about any strategy which is based simply on favouring current modes of resistance, in the hope that, in and of themselves, by natural evolution rather than by break and transformation, they could become, spontaneously, another thing.” 41

An Exceptional Form of State?

To understand the development from Policing the Crisis to the analysis of Thatcherism, we should pay attention to the dialogue the book enters into with Nicos Poulantzas’s State, Power, Socialism, which appeared the same year. Poulantzas, who apparently kept good track of developments on the British Left, read Policing the Crisis, noting that the authors “did not seriously discuss the new form of state.42 Conversely, Policing the Crisis had already indicated that that “Poulantzas… whose writings have greatly stimulated and informed our work, sometimes appears to go to the… extreme and virtually absorb everything which is not part of the ‘economic anatomy’ of capitalism into the terrain of the state. This blurs and obscures key distinctions which need to be retained.” 43

Part of the difficulty Poulantzas detected, we may speculate, may have been with Policing the Crisis ’s description of British society as tending towards an “exceptional state,” a term he reserved for fascism and military dictatorship. This is indeed a terminological limit in their conception, though they take pains to emphasize that the crisis of hegemony they describe “does not entail a suspension of the ‘normal’ exercise of state power,” and therefore is not “a fully exceptional form of the state”: “It is better understood as – to put it paradoxically – an ‘exceptional’ moment’ in the ‘normal’ form of the late capitalist state.” This “exceptional moment” was characterized by “the increased reliance on coercive mechanisms and apparatuses already available within the normal repertoire of state power, and the powerful orchestration, in support of this tilt of the balance towards the coercive pole, of an authoritarian consensus.” 44

However, Poulantzas also devoted the bulk of his book to understanding the changes in the character of the state in response to the capitalist crisis: the emergence of “authoritarian statism,” defined as “intensified state control over every sphere of socio­economic life combined with radical decline of the institutions of political democracy and with draconian and multiform curtailment of so-called ‘formal’ liberties.” 45 While emphasizing that fascism, military dictatorship, and Bonapartism constituted “ exceptional forms of State,” Poulantzas noted that the forms of democracy itself are by no means guaranteed. 46 In this regard he reframed the classical question of the form of the bourgeois state, which had once been posed by Pashukanis:

why, in general, does the bourgeoisie seek to maintain its domination by having recourse precisely to the national-popular State – to the modern representative State with all its characteristic institutions? For it is far from self-evident that the bourgeoisie would have chosen this particular form if it had been able to tailor a State to its requirements. While the bourgeoisie continues to derive many benefits from such a state, it is by no means always contented with it, any more than it was in the past. 47

Those studying the contemporary state had to reckon with “important changes in democracy”: “greater exclusion of the masses from the centres of political decision-making; widening of the distance between citizens and the state apparatus, just when the State is invading the life of society as a whole; an unprecedented degree of state centralism; increased attempts to regiment the masses through ‘participation’ schemes.” In other words, an overall “sharpening of the authoritarian character of political mechanisms.” 48

Such changes had to be understood in the context of “the political crisis and the crisis of the State.” 49 While the economic crisis of the late 1970s was assuredly “not a passing phenomenon but, in many respects, a structural crisis,” this did not mean that the political or state crisis could be reduced to it, in the manner of the classical notions of the decay and death-agony of capitalism, according to which the state was in crisis simply “by virtue of being the last possible state form before the necessary advent of socialism.” 50 Instead, while grounding the analysis in the permanent and recurring character of capitalist crisis, political crisis and state crisis had to be situated in a conjuncture characterized by the condensation of particular contradictions within the existing institutions of the state. Authoritarian statism took form within this conjuncture, responding to the elements of crisis, but it did not have the exceptional character of fascism – it represented a new “normal” functioning of the state.

Alongside the conjunctural response of political institutions to the crisis, there was also a “considerable shift in class relations.” Its immediate manifestation was the deepening of inequality, intensified exploitation, resting on “more complex and disguised forms such as speed-up, higher labour productivity, and degradation of living conditions.” Postwar prosperity gave way to “economic crisis, inflation and above all unemployment (the spectacular increase of which seems to be a structural feature of the current phase),” all of which “helped to decompose a relative consensus based on growth and social well-being.”

On the one hand, these developments “stimulated a rise and politicization of struggle expressed in the new demands and forms of struggle of the European workers’ movement.” On the other hand, new demands went beyond the workers’ movement: “this general process does not stop with the working class: the phase of capital accumulation known as accelerated industrialization has led to massive inequality affecting certain broad categories of the population: old people, the youth, women.” As a result, “conflicts more closely bound up with the ideological crisis appear as both the origin and the effect of a new popular awareness concerning questions that are now no longer ‘secondary’ fronts – witness, in this regard, the student movement, the women’s liberation movement and the ecological movement.” 51

This proliferation of class figures, fronts, and lines of struggle formed part of the opening that authoritarian statism paradoxically provided. In fact, “authoritarian statism is itself partially responsible for creating new forms of popular struggle.” The reaction to authoritarian statism was marked by “the emergence of struggles that have in view the exercise of direct, rank-and-file democracy.” These struggles advanced “a characteristic anti-statism,” and were inclined to “express themselves in the mushrooming of self-management centres and networks of direct intervention by the masses in the decisions which affect them.” Poulantzas identified two strategic effects of these struggles: first, even though they were “located ‘at a distance’ from the State,” they had “major dislocatory effects within the State itself”; second, they prevented authoritarian statism from enclosing the masses the masses in its “disciplinary web,” or integrating them into its “authoritarian circuits,” instead provoking a “general insistence on the need for direct, rank-and-file democracy – a veritable explosion of democratic demands.” 52

Organization and Disorganization

The most famous themes of State, Power, Socialism, which develop concepts introduced in Classes in Contemporary Capitalism and Crisis of the Dictatorships, have to be understood in the context of the conjunctural and strategic analysis traced above. Poulantzas sought to elaborate on an understanding of the state which could respond to the existing strategic field, leading him to define it as “the specific material condensation of a relationship of forces among classes and class fractions.” 53 Because of Poulantzas’s close association with strategy of fusing popular and representative power, what is most widely remembered about this definition is the extent to which it emphasizes that class struggle reaches within the state itself:

popular struggles traverse the State from top to bottom and in a mode quite other than penetration of an intrinsic entity from the outside. If political struggles bearing on the State traverse its apparatuses, this is because they are already inscribed in that state framework whose strategic configuration they map out. Of course, popular struggles, and power in general, stretch far beyond the State: but insofar as they are genuinely political, they are not really external to the State.

However, the masses maintained their presence in the state “without that ever having changed anything of its hard core” – that is, the presence of the popular classes in the state did not mean, as Eurocommunist parties of government maintained, that the popular classes could hold power in the state. Holding power was impossible “because of the very material structure of the State, comprising as it does internal mechanisms of reproduction of the domination-subordination relationship: this structure does indeed retain the dominated classes within itself, but it retains them precisely as dominated classes.” 54 The political domination of the bourgeoisie, then, was “ inscribed in the institutional structure of the state,” and this was necessary for understanding its form. Affirming that “the class struggle has primacy over apparatuses,” Poulantzas nevertheless argued that “it is not outside, or prior to, the State that the bourgeoisie is established as the dominant class: the State is not erected to suit its convenience, and nor does it function as a mere appendage of bourgeois domination.” 55

This was the necessary limit on the action of left governments. Even if a left government were to bring some branches of the state under its control, this would not necessarily result in a real shift in power. The bourgeoisie’s dominance could be transposed from one apparatus to another, reorganizing the centralized unity of the state, since “the State is not a monolithic bloc, but a strategic field.” 56

In other words, the primary purpose of Poulantzas’s argument that the state is a condensation of forces was not in any sense a simplistic defense of socialist participation in the state. It was in fact, prior to this, a theorization of the relationship between the components of the dominant bloc. In Poulantzas’s crucial formulation:

With regard to the dominant classes, and particularly the bourgeoisie, the State’s principal role is one of organization. It represents and organizes the dominant class or classes; or, more precisely, it represents and organizes the long-term political interest of a power bloc, which is composed of several bourgeois class fractions… and which sometimes embraces dominant classes issuing from other modes of production that are present in the capitalist social formation. 57

By constituting the political unity of the dominant classes, the State thereby established them as dominant, an organizational process which extended through the “totality of its apparatuses,” including the military and police. It was precisely the “contradictions among the dominant classes and fractions” which made it “necessary for the unity of the bloc to be organized by the State”: “As the material condensation of a contradictory relationship, the State does not at all organize the unity of the power bloc from the outside, by resolving class contradictions at a distance. On the contrary, however paradoxical it may seem, the play of these contradictions within the State’s materiality alone makes possible the State’s organizational role.” 58

Importantly, the state’s relation to the dominated classes did not only consist in its traversal by their struggles. First and foremost, the state apparatuses would “consecrate and reproduce hegemony by bringing the power bloc and certain dominated classes into a (variable) game of provisional compromises.” They were able to “organize-unify the power bloc by permanently disorganizing – dividing the dominated classes, polarizing them towards the power bloc, and short-circuiting their own political organizations.” 59

These two themes regarding organization should be emphasized in the strongest sense. In keeping with our overarching framework, we could characterize this theoretical field as the class composition of capital, interpreted from two directions. 60 The first is the dynamic character of the power of the capitalist class, which has to adapt to the requirements of managing  capital accumulation and reproducing domination. The state-form, which shifts in the 20th century from welfare-state corporatism and interventionism to neoliberalism and retrenchment, is much more than an expression of the logic of capital; it is a historical form that responds to the shifts in class forces with processes of organization. The second is the specifically capitalist political  recomposition of the working class, which has historically functioned as a strategy of assault or pre-emptive strike on the development of working-class power: the state as the dis organizer of the dominated classes.

The organizational-disorganizational régime that Poulantzas called authoritarian statism is now generally described as “neoliberalism.” In its scientific capacity the term describes the state-driven process of crisis management, which functioned to overcome the contradictions of the postwar “Golden Age” and sweep away the existing barriers to accumulation. Regrettably, this rather precise definition too often gives way to a kind of weak phenomenology, which reduces the capitalist revolution from above, the turbulent and uneven processes of crisis management and restructuring, to the way we feel when we look at Facebook. Such impressionistic sketches of flows and fragmentation can hardly account for the harsh authoritarianism of the law-and-order society which facilitated the transition, nor the resort to the traditional cultural values of family, church, and nation. To understand the contradictory coherence of this new ruling-class strategy, further conceptual development would be required. 61

Authoritarian Consensus

As early as 1969 Ralph Miliband had hinted at the development of an authoritarian consensus, ending 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.” 62

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.” 63 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.” 64

For Hall, Thatcher was an example of authoritarianism’s remarkable success. The analysis begun in Policing the Crisis deepened when Hall read State, Power Socialism. The concept of “authoritarian statism” seemed to powerfully capture the transformations in state power internal to the crisis of hegemony. But several things were left out. Policing the Crisis had shown how social democracy’s management of the capitalist crisis had engendered contradictions which provided 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 mobilize consent, while pursuing a highly state-centralist approach to governance. And 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. 65 Hall drew on the early theories of populism presented by Ernesto Laclau, which captured how the representation of “the people” was a process of ideological contestation over tradition, to generate the new, seemingly contradictory term “authoritarian populism” – which constructs a “people” it then absorbs under the direction of a political leadership. 66

Published in 1979 in Marxism Today, the theoretical journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain, months before Thatcher’s election as Prime Minister, Hall’s “The Great Moving Right Show” tried to explain the rise of the Right with the use of this concept. He emphasized that its roots lay in the “contradiction within social democracy,” which had “effectively disorganized 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 “maximize its claims as the political representative of the interests of the working class and organized 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 “organizes the class, constituting it as a political force – a social democratic political force – in the same moment as it is constituted.” 67

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.” 68 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.” 69

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.” 70 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 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. 71 What “populism” explained was the Right’s “popular success in neutralizing the contradiction between people and the state/power bloc and winning popular interpellations so decisively for the Right.” But this populist ideological maneuver could not be reduced to a mere trick – 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.” 72

Let us now pick up a dropped stitch. We could say that by modifying “authoritarian statism” to “authoritarian populism,” Hall supplemented Poulantzas’s notion of the state as the organizer of the dominant classes and disorganizer of the subordinate classes. Hall showed that the state also organized the subordinated, and the role of this organization is to preclude the self-organization of the subordinate classes into an agent antagonistic to the social order. Authoritarian populism went beyond the strategy of “provisional compromise” and incorporation, proceeding towards an open antagonism. 73 During the period of capitalist prosperity the organizational tasks of the state could be adopted by the parties of labor. Hall’s analysis of Thatcherism showed how, in the crisis of hegemony, these tasks fell to the Right – even the social-democratic form of integration became unacceptable, and had to be eradicated and prevented.

Revisionism and Retreat

“The Great Moving Right Show” was a pathbreaking essay, which introduced an argument elaborated in several other articles, many in Marxism Today – Hall, devoted to intervening in “common sense,” tended to scatter his writing into semi-popular articles. The dramatic reception they received at the time had to do, of course, with the dramatic electoral rise of the Right, forming the cutting edge of a new neoliberal project and drawing the electoral support of former Labour voters. But it also had to do with the overall direction taken by Marxism Today, with Martin Jacques as editor.

It 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. 74 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. 75

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. 76

These strategic debates are tangled into a terminological knot, due largely to the bewildering non-mappability of the various terms of abuse. While Miliband was presumably arguing against the British equivalent of “Eurocommunism” – a difficult comparison to make, given the very different organizational, political, and demographic histories of the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Labour Party, in comparison to the communist parties of Continental Europe – he was still being criticized for this very tendency himself. Alex Callinicos wrote in a 1985 issue of International Socialism that Miliband’s “admirable” critique “fails fully to grasp the political logic of the Eurocommunists’ arguments,” because he shared their “central strategic concept, that of a ‘broad alliance’ as the precondition of an eventual overthrow of capital.” Callinicos argued that the failure of attempts to reform the Labour Party from within had clearly demonstrated “the need for an independent revolutionary party.” Since, for Callinicos, this already existed in the form of the Socialist Workers’ Party, there was no need to inquire into the structural limits imposed on the development of such a party. 77

It is not self-evident that we can today conflate the diverse theoretical strands of the period – the turn to postructuralism, the emphasis on ideology and culture, the new social movements, all of which continue to provoke clenched teeth among certain Marxists – with the political directions taken by some participants. This polemical approach, exemplified at the time by Ellen Meiksins Wood’s The Retreat from Class, obscured the heterogeneity of all sides of the debate. The theoretical tendencies represented in Marxism Today, after all, emerged in an unusual constellation initiated by the observations of Eric Hobsbawm – hardly a representative of poststructuralism and identity politics – on the many changes in the composition of the working class. 78

But what certainly seems true in retrospect is that the Marxism Today tendency met the conjuncture it had the acuteness to identify with a weak program, grounded in democratization, political alliances, and cultural counter-hegemony. Hall’s role in that political configuration was especially unclear, as Wood notes with frustration in Retreat from Class. He did not, as Hobsbawm definitely did, support the shift of Labour to the right led by Neil Kinnock; he criticized both Kinnock’s anti-democratic maneuvering in the party and his dismissive attitude towards feminism. But he did repeat vague and potentially reformist slogans about forming “broad alliances” which would pursue “modest objectives,” and he participated in divisive rhetoric about the “hard” or “fundamentalist” left, which in many ways simply mirrored its target’s dismissive attitude toward the new social movements. 79

Miliband’s primary concern, however, was to refute the new revisionist tendency to reject “class politics,” understood as “the insistence on the ‘primacy’ of organized 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 organized labour to mount.” 80

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. 81 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 very 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 organized working class which can form the basis of that system.” 82

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 demobilization and demoralization,” and Miliband “underestimated the effects of a far-reaching global recomposition of capital and labour as the century drew to its close.” 83 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.

All of this 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.” 84

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.” 85 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.” 86 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. 87 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.” 88 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. 89

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.

Moving On

In order to accurately understand the limits of these positions, we will have to start by seeing what light they shed on their historical moment. Critics tended to attribute to Hall the view that Thatcherism had widespread support, which some, including Miliband, argued was a mistaken interpretation of the reality that Labour had alienated its own electoral bloc. But this was not really the point. As he and Martin Jacques wrote in the introduction to The Politics of Thatcherism, “though Thatcherism has proved to be an effective, populist force, it continues to be a minority one. The divisions of the left enhance its appearance of popularity, unity and coherence.” However, “Thatcherism is not finally to be judged in electoral terms – important as these moments of mobilization are in the political process. Rather, it should be judged in terms of its success or failure in disorganizing the labour movement and progressive forces, in shifting the terms of political debate, in reorganizing the political terrain and in changing the balance of political forces in favor of capital and the right.” 90

We emphasize here the organizational angle of this argument, with attention to three features: the contradictions of social democracy, the strategic relation to the new social movements, and the destruction of working-class organization.

  1. The contradictions of social democracy. It was impossible for contemporary movements to advance a return to postwar social democracy, or to use its methods. There is, even now, a tendency among social democrats to believe “that there’s a little bit of leeway left in the old, economic-corporate, incremental, Keynesian game” – to think that we could “go back to a little smidgeon of Keynesianism here, a little bit more of the welfare state there, a little bit of the old Fabian thing.” Even while rejecting “a cataclysmic vision of the future,” Hall insisted that the “option is now closed. It’s exhausted. Nobody believes in it anymore. Its material conditions have disappeared.” 91 The reasons for this were not just the neoliberal restructuring that authoritarian populism had pushed through; they were also the persistence of the contradictions internal to social democracy, whose statism and bureaucratism offered no way forward, and ultimately “became a strategy by which a government ‘of’ the working people polices and disciplines the working class,” in the interest of “restoring the conditions of expanded accumulation.” 92 This was far more than a sectarian or academic dispute – there were serious political consequences to adherence to illusions about social democracy. A bureaucratic party working towards parliamentary participation in the state could only be seen as a “less efficient or convincing manager of capitalist crisis,” and would thereby yield the ground to the Right. 93 It was not an adequate basis for socialist organization and could not advance an effective program.
  2. The strategic relation to the new social movements. The “remaking” of the working class of the advanced capitalist countries taking place in the 20th century was as profound as the one which first created the labor movement, and it was “transforming the material basis, the occupational boundaries, the gender and ethnic composition, the political cultures and the social imagery of ‘class.’” 94 While a traditionalist section of the Left considered these factors to be secondary, authoritarian populism did not. It exploited the fragmentation and anxiety provoked by crisis, and was able to deploy racist anti-immigrant sentiments and traditionalist ideas about gender and family structures, in a complex combination with the entrepreneurial subject of neoliberalism, and thereby met the challenge of the new social movements: “The new social forces and movements, which have put a set of profound new questions on the political agenda, have not been adequately combined with an older style of class politics. Nor, for the most part, have they been allowed to have a sufficiently transformatory impact on the traditional organizations and programs of the left. This is the kind of mistake which Thatcherism, with its attention to the centrality of women’s domestic role, the policing of black communities and the frontal engagement with the peace movement, has not committed.” 95 Such an analysis did not amount to an attempt to “deny the pertinence of class relations”; the point was “to recognize the changing class composition of our society.” 96
  3. The destruction of working-class organization. A major factor in the “historic dislocation of socialism and the left is the recomposition of the working classes of modem industrial societies,” and this dislocation was felt at the level of existing working class’s organizations. 97 In the context of capitalist crisis, authoritarian populism “coincided with and exploited these longer-term tendencies” and advanced a successful strategy to break these organizations. 98 Socialists had been held back by “a too automatic conception of class, which failed to recognize how the capitalist labour process divided, fragmented and segmented the labour force at the same time as it provided the potential conditions of its political unification.” 99 But in truth there could never be “ the given unity of the working class” which a socialist program could simply reflect: “There have always been the divisions and fracturings we would expect under an advanced capitalist division of labour. Underlying these are certain shared conditions of exploitation and of social and community life which provide the contradictory raw materials from which the complex unity of a class could possibly be constructed; and out of which a socialist politics could be forged but of which there was never any guarantee.” 100 A socialist strategy unaware of this would be incapable of dealing with the “fragmentation of the earlier class identities.” The reality was that “class formation and class relations were being profoundly revolutionized and transformed; you couldn’t have a socialist politics unless it was actually rooted in those transformations. And if socialism couldn’t root itself there, horror of horrors, the right could root itself there, and bloody well has.” 101 Responding to the new political conjuncture would not be an automatic progression: “The unity of skilled and unskilled, of employed and unemployed, of whites and blacks, of men and women, of the new public sectors with the traditional private sector struggles will not be ‘given’ by circumstances.” 102 Hall noted that “the process of recomposition and restructuring of the working class is neither even or uniform.” 103 These uneven processes of recomposition “fragment the class culture of the party as a political formation. They give rise to new constituencies, new demands. They generate new tensions and demand new forms of organization, changing the social infrastructure of Labour politics.” 104 Defeating Thatcherism could not consist of a “defensive gathering of forces around the old strategies”; it required “the construction of a new political force, the building of a new network of alliances.” 105

The unanswered question was what this new political force would look like. But despite this counterfactual speculation, Trotskyist critics were not wrong to say that Marxism Today and Miliband shared a common problematic, and that this extended in many respects to those who pushed for reform within the Labour Party. The oppositional tendency is represented above all by Tony Benn, who grew quite close to Miliband in these years. His legacy of democratic socialist transformation has been carried on by his acolyte Jeremy Corbyn, whose main antagonists, somehow, are Ralph Miliband’s sons Ed and David, and Benn himself’s son Hilary Benn. It may have to be left to the Virgils and Homers of the 22nd Century to understand this phenomenon.

Hall and Benn had debated each other at the Left Alive conference in 1984. Reading their statements today, there is a sense in which it is hard to see how things got so polarized, since after all Benn was actually pursuing the basis for Hall’s project: the democratization of the Labour Party against its statism and bureaucratic degeneration. Yet if there was in fact a common project hidden by the more visible terms of the debate, it was not destined to be a successful one. In this regard Hall’s pessimistic assessment of the balance of forces seems to have been more correct than Benn’s optimism about the prospects for “socialism in our time.” 106 Indeed, Hall had identified a problem that would only grow more acute:

The labour movement is going to have to change the nature of its organisation, the nature of its hierarchies and its culture in order to reflect more accurately the actual range of forces and experiences which constitute “the Left.” Until this internal transformation in the labour movement occurs you will not have an instrument that is capable of generalising the struggle for socialism to the working class on all the sites on which exploitation occurs, and indeed expanding it to the society as a whole. 107

However, Hall’s own strategic horizon also fell within the classic disorder of English politics, the inability to think politics outside the Labour Party. His proposals of countering the strategies of Thatcherism with a new, socialist hegemonic project, one which took ideology seriously and engaged the grounds of race and gender without consigning them to secondary status, tended to abruptly turn back, at the last minute, before seriously proposing a totally new organizational form for an anti-capitalist project. The lines of alliance were so deeply mixed up that despite occasional critical remarks, he was unable to launch a deep critique of the trends toward neoliberalization of Labour represented by Neil Kinnock. The right wing of the Labour Party succeeded in representing itself as the only modernizing force, the only force interested in abandoning statist social democracy and using media representations to renew the party’s image. In truth it was the most anti-democratic and bureaucratic element in the party, and its media strategy was almost entirely an outgrowth of its willingness to completely capitulate to Thatcher’s policy agenda. A deeper structural critique of Labour did not seem to be forthcoming. Benn stands out as an unusual figure among politicians, for his principled commitment to egalitarianism and democracy; but this is precisely why his attempt to reform a Labour Party composed of more ordinary politicians, whose ideological limits Miliband had painstakingly exposed so many years ago, seems to have had limited prospects. 108

While Hall’s pessimism led to a more accurate assessment of the balance of forces, it paradoxically did not appreciate the extent of the limits this defeat imposed. His interventions had assumed the context of a mass, institutional left – even if it was a social-democratic one in crisis. But as social democracy accommodated itself to neoliberalism and Thatcherism destroyed the remaining alternatives, what remained of the socialist project was left powerless. This is the context for some of the bizarre strategic assessments which would follow, for example in an article written with Martin Jacques in which Hall described Band Aid – the group of celebrities who assembled to croon “Do They Know It’s Christmas” – as “one of the great popular movements of our time.” 109

Here pessimism had inverted itself into an extreme optimism, which would be most clearly manifested in Marxism Today ’s announcement of “New Times” in 1988. 110 This was represented as a shift away from studying Thatcherism towards theorizing “the world,” but such a turn meant losing the precise focus that had been required by the earlier, more discrete object of analysis. Many of the contributions now read like a litany of tiresome ‘90s clichés, which may once have felt liberating, but grew progressively distant from a politics of liberation. There was certainly merit in trying to seriously grapple with the social change brought about by credit cards and MTV, but “New Times” ended up altogether too totalizing, consistent with many expressions of periodizing overreach which sometimes surround the term “post-Fordism,” losing the conjunctural character of the early work and its emphasis on forces, blocs, and strategies. Too preoccupied with criticizing the rest of the Left as old-fashioned, its weak proposals of new progressive alliances ran the risk of giving old kinds of reformism new (though admittedly more fashionable) clothing.

In the context of the legacy of the classical organizations of the labor movement, New Times pushed the boundaries to think “in terms of the construction of political positions through and across difference.” 111 But as the conjunctural organizational questions posed by the new social movements were displaced by the themes of identity and democracy, the anti-systemic character of their politics came to be neutralized and absorbed. In the period that Hall entered in the 1990s, the strategic horizon seemed to have closed, and with it the prospects for socialist transformation faded from view. No cultural strategy emerged that was successful in defeating neoliberalism, and the recomposition of social subjects opened as many new problems as it seemed to suggest new possibilities. 112 Within these new frameworks new social movements no longer posed the question of organization. Instead, they became the impetus for a new principle of radical democracy – indeed, in the new writings of Ernesto Laclau with Chantal Mouffe, this was socialist strategy. The tension between the materialist investigation of organizational forms and the ethical discourse on democracy had been largely decided in favor of the latter, with a theoretically innovated language. Hall had been an astute critic of Laclau and Mouffe, but his own emphasis on democracy veered in a similar direction. 113

Miliband’s Socialism for a Sceptical Age, his last book, written and published in 1994, was an appropriate mirror image for New Times, and was just as much an effect of crisis of the left brought about by defeat and restructuring. He sought to defend democratic and egalitarian values, continuing his insistence on the defense of “bourgeois freedoms” against rhetoric of “smashing” the state and proletarian dictatorship, and repeating the case for a combination of direct and representative democracy. 114 He went as far as to describe the possible “mechanisms” of a democratic socialist state, which would regulate and intervene in a “mixed economy” (here echoing some of the more unfortunate formulations of Hall): “Markets would have a definite place in a predominantly socialized economy,” he wrote, but they “would not be the ultimate determinant of economic life.” 115 There is often an astounding level of detail; we are told that “advertising would certainly not be abolished in a socialist society; but it would be greatly reduced and would lose its frantic and biased character. This would cut costs considerably and would also be of great benefit to cultures now saturated with low-grade commercial propaganda.” 116

The strategy Miliband now endorsed had been drastically scaled back: “the best that the Left can hope for in the relevant future in advanced capitalist countries (and for that matter elsewhere as well) is the strengthening of left reformism as a current of thought and policy in social democratic parties.” He admitted that even with these restricted goals, “the outlook for left reformism is at present rather weak.” 117 It was a testament to the bleakness of the situation that these statements came from the author of Parliamentary Socialism, who had in the late ’70s urged the left to “move on” from the Labour party.

Despite the severe limitations for socialism, Miliband continued to argue that the new social movements were inadequate, since the transformations they aimed at “would not… fundamentally alter the existing structures of capitalist power.” Feminism could only “effect a certain feminization of those structures”; black movements might “seek an end to the discrimination which a white society exercises against black people, but their critique of that society tends to be narrowly focused on this aspect of it.” 118 No wonder, then that these movements ended up embracing “post-modernist strictures against ‘universalism.’” 119

However, his review of scenarios in which genuinely universalist left parties won the “majority of votes” was also a somber one. 120 While a repetition of Chile seemed unlikely in advanced capitalist countries, the more salient example was that of Mitterrand in France. After a year of genuine reform, Mitterrand “found himself faced with a deteriorating balance of payments” and opted for austerity and retrenchment. 121 However, it was difficult to imagine an alternative path. It had to be admitted, according to Miliband, that “the nationalization at a stroke of the main means of economic activity” was an impossibility, comparable to “smashing the state.” It was more realistic to imagine that “the government would continue, for a certain period of time, to operate in the context of an economy in which capitalist enterprise played a major role.” This would mean, “among other things, allowing firms an adequate rate of profit, and indeed helping them to achieve it.” 122

On the other hand, Miliband insisted that “a socialist government… would be absolutely determined from the start to make a real improvement in the conditions of life of the great majority,” by refusing austerity. 123 It is not clear in Miliband’s account how these two goals would be reconciled. The only solution is the greater clarity of the socialist government in its goals, and the “dual power” pressure from below which would come from grassroots movements: “A close partnership would need to be forged between government and activists, of a kind that would replicate the partnership, referred to earlier, between government and business.” 124 Here, however, a stronger emphasis was placed on the state side of the duality than in his earlier writings: “a strong executive power is an absolutely essential, though not a sufficient, condition for the government to survive at all, and for it to do what it is committed to do… A strong executive power would be essential if a socialist government was to endure and make progress.” 125

Despite his earlier opposition to the “New Revisionism,” it is really not clear that Miliband’s approach led him to an actual political alternative to “New Times.” His model of dual power required radical grassroots pressure, but the whole historical record, illuminated in Miliband’s own work, demonstrated that scaled-back reformist parties are hardly inclined towards cultivating the movements that exert this kind of pressure. Newman’s biography suggests that Miliband’s moderated views “might have been reinforced by his sons’ participation in Labour Party policy-making.” In revising Socialism for a Sceptical Age Miliband had to some extent incorporated feedback from his sons, though he resisted their suggestions that he reduce references to 1917 and Marxism. 126 David Miliband had already served on Neil Kinnock’s staff and would go on to become Tony Blair’s policy adviser the year the book was published, contributing to the program that would win Blair the election in 1997.

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. 127 We have no reason to doubt that Miliband would have vigorously criticized the dramatic swing to the right engineered by 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. 128

Of course, Blair was following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, whose presidency not only brought 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. 129

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 U.S. 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. 130 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 pre-emptive strike against the potential political barrier to accumulation that these lines of alliance could impose from below.

What the co-optation of the new social movements by New Labour and identity politics really demonstrates is that it was not enough to say that the existing left organizations needed to renew and renovate their approach to ideology, culture, identity, desire, and subjectivity. The reality was that a recomposed working class needed new forms of organization adequate to its recomposition. The seemingly inescapable temptation to cling to existing models of organization perhaps expressed this need in an inverted form. In the end neither Miliband nor Hall was able to overcome the idea of working within, or in close relation to, the Labour party.

One of Hall’s last writings – in a testament to his creativity and commitment to the study of popular “common sense,” an analysis written with Alan O’Shea of comments on the website of The Sun – urged the Labour Party to take “a more courageous, innovative, ‘educative’ and path-breaking strategic approach” in order to gain ground. 131 It is hard to imagine what he expected Labour to achieve if it did gain ground, after several decades of consistent disappointment. While it may have seemed as though Miliband had dissected the ideology of Labourism just as the New Left was emerging, the cadaver managed to put itself back together.

Bewildered by New Times and Skeptical Ages, the Left is far too caught up in 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. 132

Our disorientation 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.” 133 It is up to us to invent a different politics – or Donald Trump will be the only one doing it.

References   [ + ]

1. Washington Post, July 22, 2016.
2. See Asad Haider, “Bernstein in Seattle: Representative Democracy and the Revolutionary Subject,” Viewpoint Magazine (May 2016).
3. Stuart Hall et al., Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 210.
4. Ibid., 224.
5. Ibid., 229, 258–59.
6. Ibid., 211.
7. Ibid., 232–33.
8. Ibid., 212.
9. Ibid., 214.
10. Ibid., 243.
11. Ibid., 256.
12. Ibid., 257.
13. Ibid., 260.
14. Ibid., 262.
15. Ibid., 273.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid., 298.
18. Ibid., 302–03.
19. Ibid., 311–12.
20. Ibid., 214.
21. Ibid., 218.
22. Ibid., 325.
23. Ibid., 326.
24. Ibid., 325.
25. Ibid., 333.
26. Ibid., 325.
27. Ibid., 332.
28. Ibid., 337.
29. Ibid., 349.
30. Ibid., 363.
31. Ibid., 365.
32. Ibid., 371.
33. Ibid., 373.
34. Ibid., 382.
35. Ibid., 383.
36. Ibid., 386.
37. Ibid.
38. Ibid., 387.
39. Ibid., 340.
40. Ibid., 387.
41. Ibid., 389.
42. Reading notes provided by Christine Buci-Glucksmann, cited in Bob Jessop et al., Thatcherism: A Tale of Two Nations (Cambridge, UK: Blackwell Pub, 1989), 111.
43. Hall et al., Policing the Crisis, 216.
44. Ibid., 214. They elaborate later on this historical development: “The 1971 period thus allows us to see, in miniature, the dialectical movement by which the ‘law-and-order’ panic becomes fully institutionalised as an ‘exceptional’ form of the state. For convenience sake, we can condense this movement into three closely connected phases: first, the overwhelming tendency of the state to move in the direction of the law (the sheer comprehensiveness of the supporting legislative activity in this period, all of it culminating in a tightening of legal sanctions, is staggering); second, the mobilisation, and the extended, routine employment of the law-enforcement agencies in the exercise of ‘informal’ control; the third and culminating point is the tendency of all issues to converge, ideologically, at the ‘violence’ threshold” (282).
45. Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism, trans. Patrick Camiller (London: New Left Books, 1978), 203–04.
46. Ibid., 74.
47. Ibid., 12.
48. Ibid., 238.
49. Ibid., 205.
50. Ibid., 208–09.
51. Ibid., 211.
52. Ibid., 246–47.
53. Ibid., 129.
54. Ibid.
55. Ibid., 125–26.
56. Ibid., 138.
57. Ibid., 127. Similar terminology is employed, from a very different vantage point, in Göran Therborn, What Does the Ruling Class Do When It Rules?: State Apparatuses and State Power Under Feudalism, Capitalism and Socialism (London: Verso, 1980).
58. Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism, 133. Interestingly, Miliband had written: “it is the state upon which has fallen the prime responsibility for the organization of reform.” Miliband, Marxism and Politics, (Oxford University Press, 1977), 87.
59. Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism, 140.
60. Thanks to Gigi Roggero for suggesting this concept in conversation.
61. On neoliberalism, see the summary of Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin: “The common tendency to analyze these developments in terms of the key tenets of neoliberal ideology as articulated by Reagan or Thatcher, or for that matter by Milton Friedman or Alan Greenspan, is a classic case of failing to see the wood for the trees. It misses the continuities between their prescriptions for free markets and the long-term goals already articulated by the American state at the time of the relaunching of global capitalism in the postwar era. And it fails to register the growing contradictions within the postwar class compromise, as the realization of near full employment and growing social expenditures took place alongside rapidly increasing commodification and ever-deepening capitalist social relations. Neoliberalism involved not only the restructuring of institutions to ensure that the anti-inflation parameter was enforced, but also the removal of barriers to competition in all markets, and especially in the labor market. Breaking the inflationary spiral involved, above all, disciplining labor. By accomplishing this, it secured the confidence of industrial as well as financial capital. Despite the Reaganite rhetoric in which neoliberal practices were enveloped (“government is not the solution, government is the problem”), it was the state that was the key actor. The mechanisms of neoliberalism – understood in terms of the expansion and deepening of markets and competitive pressures – may have been economic, but neoliberalism was essentially a political response to the democratic gains that had been previously achieved by working classes and which had become, from capital’s perspective, barriers to accumulation. It was only on the most stylized and superficial reading that the state could be seen to have withdrawn. Neoliberal practices did not entail institutional retreat so much as the expansion and consolidation of the networks of institutional linkages to an already globalizing capitalism.” The Making of Global Capitalism (New York: Verso, 2012), 14-15. Despite the great success of this book, this basic point does not seem to have been widely absorbed.
62. Ibid., 271–72.
63. Miliband, The State in Capitalist Society, 273–74.
64. Ibid., 276.
65. Stuart Hall, “Authoritarian Populism: A Reply,” New Left Review I, no. 151 (June 1985): 117–18; Poulantzas, “Interview with Stuart Hall and Alan Hunt,” 199–200; Stuart Hall, “Nicos Poulantzas: ‘State, Power, Socialism,’” New Left Review I, no. 119 (February 1980): 68. For a more complete theoretical elaboration of “authoritarian populism” see “Popular-Democratic vs. Authoritarian Populism: Two Ways of ‘Taking Democracy Seriously’” in Stuart Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left (London ; New York: Verso Books, 1988).
66. Ernesto Laclau, Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism (London: Verso, 1977).
67. Stuart Hall, “The Great Moving Right Show,” Marxism Today, January 1979: 16.
68. Ibid., 17.
69. Ibid., 18; see also the more elaborated version in The Hard Road to Renewal, 50–51.
70. Hall, “The Great Moving Right Show,” 16.
71. Ibid., 17, 18; for a detailed account of the resort to “tradition” see “Popular-Democratic” in The Hard Road to Renewal, 144–46.
72. Hall, “The Great Moving Right Show,” 20.
73. Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism, 140.
74. John Saville, “Marxism Today: An Anatomy,” Socialist Register 26, no. 26 (March 18, 1990).
75. Ralph Miliband, “The New Revisionism in Britain,” New Left Review I, no. 150 (April 1985): 6; Miliband, Parliamentary Socialism, 332.
76. Miliband, “The New Revisionism in Britain,” 207; See “The Crisis of Labour” and “Blue Election, Election Blues” in Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal.
77. Alex Callinicos, “The Politics of Marxism Today,” International Socialism 2, no. 29 (Summer 1985).
78. Eric Hobsbawm, “The Forward March of Labour Halted?,” in The Forward March of Labour Halted?, ed. Martin Jacques and Francis Mulhern (New Left Books in association with Marxism today, 1981).
79. Stuart Hall and Martin Jacques, eds., “Introduction,” in The Politics of Thatcherism (London: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd, 1983).
80. Miliband, “The New Revisionism in Britain.”
81. Ibid.
82. Ibid., 26.
83. Robin Blackburn, “Stuart Hall, 1932–2014,” New Left Review II, no. 86 (April 2014): 75–93.
84. Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 203, 204.
85. Ibid., 241. Note that Hall is not referring to the miners here.
86. Newman, Ralph Miliband And The Politics Of The New Left, 285–86.
87. It is often glib to criticize commercial films for historical inaccuracy when they do so much to raise awareness of the history of popular movements. One pertinent criticism of Pride, however, is the extent to which, by showing the formation of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners to be a spontaneous act, it understates the complex organizational networks at work. This history is traced in the excellent article by Diarmaid Kelliher, “Solidarity and Sexuality: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners 1984–5,” History Workshop Journal 77, no. 1 (April 1, 2014): 240–62.
88. Doreen Massey and Hilary Wainwright, “Beyond the Coalfields,” in Digging Deeper: Issues in the Miners’ Strike, ed. Huw Beynon (Verso, 1985), 168.
89. Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 205.
90. Hall and Jacques, “Introduction,” 15, 13.
91. Stuart Hall, “Gramsci and Us,” Marxism Today, June 1987: 21.
92. Stuart Hall, “The Battle for Socialist Ideas in the 1980s,” Socialist Register 19, no. 19 (March 18, 1982): 10.
93. Hall and Jacques, “Introduction,” 14.
94. Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 5.
95. Hall and Jacques, “Introduction,” 14.
96. Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 200.
97. Ibid., 246.
98. Hall and Jacques, “Introduction,” 14.
99. Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 246.
100. Ibid., 201.
101. The Oxford University Socialist Discussion Group, Out of Apathy: Voices of the New Left 30 Years On (London: Verso, 1989) 104.
102. Hall and Jacques, “Introduction,” 15.
103. Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 247.
104. Ibid., 208.
105. Hall and Jacques, “Introduction,” 16.
106. Tony Benn, “Who Dares Wins,” Marxism Today, January 1985: 15.
107. Stuart Hall, “Faith, Hope, or Clarity,” Marxism Today, January 1985: 19.
108. On the theme of democratization, see Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 171.
109. Ibid., 251.
110. See the introduction to Stuart Hall and Martin Jacques, eds., New Times: The Changing Face of Politics in the 1990s (London: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd, 1989), and especially the excerpts from the “Manifesto for New Times.”
111. Out of Apathy, 152.
112. Hall quite clearly acknowledged this problem along the way; see Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 281; and more recently, “Living with Difference,” Soundings, no. 37 (Winter 2007).
113. Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 10–11; “On Postmodernism and Articulation,” in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, eds. Kuan-Hsing Chen and David Morley (London; New York: Routledge, 1996), 145–49. I have commented on the conceptual shortcomings of “democracy” in “Bernstein in Seattle: Representative Democracy and the Revolutionary Subject (Part 2).”
114. Ralph Miliband, Socialism for a Sceptical Age (London; New York: Verso, 1994), 72, 74, 89.
115. Ibid., 117. Miliband’s case for a combination of public ownership and “a sizable privately owned sector” (110) is laid out in the fourth chapter; for Hall’s formulations see Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal, 230, 279.
116. Miliband, Socialism for a Sceptical Age, 124.
117. Ibid., 148.
118. Ibid., 140.
119. Ibid., 141.
120. Ibid., 159.
121. Ibid., 166.
122. Ibid., 175.
123. Ibid., 181.
124. Ibid., 184.
125. Ibid., 186.
126. Newman, Ralph Miliband And The Politics Of The New Left, 331. Newman convincingly dispels the rhetoric sometimes heard on today’s Left that Miliband’s sons have betrayed his heritage; see 339–40.
127. But see Hall, “Living with Difference” for a frank acknowledgement of the way his insistence on the political intelligence of Thatcherism seemed, at times, to pass over into celebration.
128. Stuart Hall, “The Great Moving Nowhere Show,” Marxism Today, December 1998: 11; this kind of analysis is extended and updated in Stuart Hall, “The Neo-Liberal Revolution,” Cultural Studies 25, no. 6 (November 1, 2011): 705–28.
129. The highly ambiguous relation of the Obama reelection to public attitudes surrounding economic inequality has been documented by Larry Bartels, “The Class War Gets Personal: Inequality as a Political Issue in the 2012 Election,” 2013.
130. See Larry M. Bartels, “Who’s Bitter Now?” New York Times, April 17, 2008, and the two versions of “What’s the Matter with What’s the Matter With Kansas?”, the first (2005) available on his website and the second published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 2006, 1: 201–26; and Andrew Gelman, “Economic Divisions and Political Polarization in Red and Blue America,” Pathways (Summer 2011): 3–6. Mainstream political science is locked in a statistical stalemate between the interpretations called “party sorting” and “polarization” – the first claiming that the so-called culture wars are restricted to political elites, who then force otherwise moderate voters to line up on either side, the second arguing for a foundation of real popular divisions driven by race and religion. The polarization perspective has been defended by Alan I. Abramowitz, “How race and religion have polarized American voters,” Washington Post, January 20, 2014; for a representative sample of how these scholarly debates play out in policy discussions, see Morris P. Fiorina, “America’s Missing Moderates: Hiding in Plain Sight,” The American Interest 8, no. 4 (February 12, 2013), and the ensuing debate with Abramowitz, “Polarized or Sorted? Just What’s Wrong With Our Politics, Anyway?,” The American Interest, March 11, 2013. This entire debate is based on the somewhat stupefying assumption that a left pole exists in U.S. politics in the first place. In light of the extensive research demonstrating that policy-making is entirely controlled by elites, and that the materially influential views of the very rich – the top 1%, and especially the top 0.1% – are far to the right of those of the general public, it is hard to see the polarization perspective as much more than the anxiety of a less affluent liberal minority, concentrated among journalists and academics. See Benjamin I. Page, Larry M. Bartels, and Jason Seawright, “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans,” Perspectives on Politics 11, no. 1 (March 2013): 51-73.
131. Stuart Hall and Alan O’Shea, “Common-Sense Neoliberalism,” Soundings 55, no. 55 (December 13, 2013): 18.
132. Hall, “Battle for Socialist Ideas,” 17.
133. Hall, “Gramsci and Us,” 16.

Author of the article

is an editor of Viewpoint and author of Mistaken Identity: Anti-Racism and the Struggle Against White Supremacy (Verso, Spring 2018).