The far right in Ireland – Should we be concerned?

“More right-wing than Genghis Khan” is an expression often used to describe how far to the right someone is. Whatever about the accuracy of this statement, communists, socialist republicans and the left generally have a particular antipathy to right-wing ideology, and for a myriad of reasons.

The first response is to “beat them off the streets” wherever they appear; and it seems they are and will be appearing more regularly. A more considered response, though, might be tactically more appropriate.

Today this rise of the right wing and even of fascist tendencies appears to be driven mainly by the reality of the covid-19 pandemic and more generally by the presence of migrants. The financing and assistance received from American groups such as Q-Anon cannot be dismissed either. But of course that’s far from the full story.

Ireland has its own history of right-wing groups. In the 1930s we had O’Duffy’s Blueshirts, inextricably linked to Francoist fascists and the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War. They were promoted, praised and blessed by the Catholic Church—not an insignificant point then or today.

And it’s probably fair to say that since then there has been a latent right-wing tendency in Ireland. This has manifested itself periodically through rabid nationalism, racism, anti-Traveller, anti-LGBTQ+, opposition to the gay marriage referendum, and opposition to abortion. Their ideology is based on a romantic nationalism, wrapped in virulent Catholic notions of an idealistic Ireland. In other parts of the world Christianity seems to be its bedfellow, especially in America.

Today we have a new generation of right-wing groups, most of which have come to prominence through the covid-19 pandemic. In the 26 Counties the National Party, Irish Freedom Party, Síol na hÉireann and Anti-Corruption Ireland are the main far-right groups; in the North, Britain First has made forays into local issues and is supported locally by loyalist groups.

Their stock in trade is transforming lies into their propagandist reality. They spread wild and wonderful conspiracy theories, to cause confusion, to hide the reality of inequality and exploitation, and to turn engineered anxiety into fake loss, especially where anger and anxiety already exist in society.

They manipulate “common sense” to the exclusion of “good sense,” to appeal to the ordinary person in the street. But never mention the “elephant in the room,” neoliberal capitalism, or the clear need to confront it and to build a proper people’s democracy.

From the experience of this writer, once these points are proffered in any debate with the right a deafening silence, or diversionary tactics, descend on that debate.

Ultimately, though, many ordinary people, especially the poor and working poor, are fooled into thinking that there is some truth in what they are saying. Their propaganda is particularly attractive and beguiling when they feign anti-government or anti-establishment language. People naturally love to blame governments and power for their ills, so it’s an easy sell.

Of course governments and power fuel these notions by their own ineptitude but more importantly through their need to preserve the capitalist system at all costs. In the case of covid, the pharmaceutical industry, the fly-by-night PPE suppliers and many more who have blatantly exploited the pandemic for profit only feed into the deliberately simplistic “ramblings of the right.” It can be difficult to explain the reality to the wider population without risking in some ways sounding like the right.

And though they are prolific on various social media, their actual influence in Ireland is negligible. However, that always has the possibility of changing. And power would promote them when and if it suited their agenda.

The reality, however, is that none of the existing right-wing groups in Ireland have made any impression in the electoral arena, though they have in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in Britain.

Europe, North America and even Britain have a very different story to tell with regard to right-wing politics and even the murderous atrocities of fascism. Europe surely has witnessed the worst excesses of the tyranny of the far right and fascism; indeed that too has had an influence on the tactical politics of the left in Europe.

Workers and their class suffer the most from right-wing scare-mongering. They don’t appreciate that they will never get the democracy they desire through their support of right-wing groups, instead more inequality, exploitation, and authoritarianism. Power does and will use the far right to subjugate and divide the working class; it will also use it to place itself in the role of saviour from the apparent excesses of the right. They will resort to the three-card trick of “stick with us and we will save you.”

That is, of course, as long as you are not working-class, poor, gay, a migrant, a Traveller, or, worse still, a communist.