May, Kahlo and the memeification of Marxism
Following Theresa May’s calamitous speech at the Conservative Party conference, there’s been a great deal of handwringing over the accessory adorning the prime minister’s wrist: a Frida Kahlo bracelet.
So-called ‘left Twitter’ has reacted with confusion and anger at the PM’s apparent tribute to Kahlo, a self-proclaimed ‘unconditional ally of the communist revolutionary movement’ who famously petitioned the Mexican government to grant asylum to Leon Trotsky, who later became her lover.
The papers have also tried to make sense of May’s supposedly Bolshevik bracelet. The Telegraph offered some entirely unconvincing reasons as to ‘Why it matters that Theresa May wore a Frida Kahlo bracelet during her conference speech’. The Guardian asked, ‘Was Theresa May’s Frida Kahlo bracelet a political statement?’. And the Express went into full-on Red Scare mode, pondering if the bracelet was ‘sending a secret communist message’, not realising that May’s speech was more Miliband than Marx.
The truth is that just like May’s much-discussed kitten heels, which once so excited Britain’s ailing commentariat, the Kahlo bracelet merely serves to add a bit of colour to an otherwise bland politician.
But at least May is aware that wearing a bracelet with a communist on it does not make her a communist. This is more than can be said of the crowd who are currently calling her out for ‘abusing’ Kahlo’s image, taking it in vain, and committing an offence against communism. These are the same types on the Corbynista left who display their ‘radicalism’ by sporting hammer and sickle tote bags. They respond with glee to being labelled Marxists by the right, but are so lacking in radicalism that they are genuinely impressed by Emily Thornberry.
It’s true that communist symbolism has become commodified – its icons today have no connection to any radical political project, and May’s Frida Kahlo bracelet is evidence of this. But this is mainly the work of a so-called left that likes to pose as radical when it is anything but. The online left may joke about ‘seizing the memes of production’, but it seems unaware that Marxism today really is little more than a meme.
Fraser Myers is a producer at WORLDbytes.
spiked is free, and it always will be, which is why we need your help. We don’t have a paywall, or bonus content for paying customers, because we want our arguments for freedom and democracy, against misanthropy and identity politics, to reach as many people as possible. Which is why we ask those of our readers who can afford it to chip in. One-off donations are hugely appreciated, but monthly donations are even better. They allow us to plan for the future and to grow. Even £5 a month is a huge help. It’s much cheaper than your average magazine subscription, and it ensures that spiked is free and open to all. To make either a monthly or a one-off donation, click here. Thank you for your support.
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.