Here are the points I made when introducing the session “From neoliberalism to illiberalism: What is behind the rise of the far right?” at the ‘Getting to grips with neoliberalism’ teach/learn-in in Wigan on November 24:

Can real democracy – economic and political power resting with the people – be achieved within and through the current political/state system?

Perhaps this is the most central question of all, which is often sidestepped because there are no obvious answers and because electoral politics and pressure on the state is what we might call our ‘authorised heritage’.

Why is the question of the state so important?

The state is a set of institutions that together manage, administer, execute and enforce power over citizens and society as a whole.

While it doesn’t have direct economic power, it sets the framework for that power.

Governments have a role of directing the state. Governments come and go. The state rolls on.

So the questions are:

– Is the state neutral when it comes to reconciling competing interests between workers and capitalists?

– Does this state rule in the interests of the majority? Or if not, can it made to do so?

– How would electing a Corbyn government change the situation, if at all, in relation to the state? Or might his government become a casualty?

– If you think the state is partisan in some way, for example tied to neoliberalism, can we reimagine and reconstruct the state?

– If so, how could we achieve that and what would a real democracy look like?

– What steps could a real democracy take to end neoliberal rule?

At the same time, far-right populists are challenging for control of the state. They have achieved it in Brazil, Italy, Poland and Hungary. In the shape of Trump, they are struggling to enforce their rule in the United States.

Yesterday Tommy Robinson became a Ukip advisor. Tomorrow, who knows as the Brexit crisis spirals out of control.

– So how do we fight the emergence of the far right?

– Is it about opposing racism, nationalism and xenophobia or more?

– How can we avoid this becoming a ‘single issue’?