Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
20 October 2015updated 10 Oct 2017 9:58am

Is Star Wars a right-wing parable – or a call to solidarity?

At first glance, the politics of Star Wars are highly regressive. But the importance of building a coalition of all classes and occupations is clearly shown. 

By Stephen Bush

At first glance, the politics of Star Wars are, for people of a left-wing persuasion, extremely troubling. Our hero – Luke Skywalker – is basically a counter-revolutionary, who, over the course of the three films, re-entrenches the inherited privileges of his family – the ability to use the Force – at gunpoint.

The prequel trilogy only confirms that the Jedi are Tories: it reveals that Jedi have the ability to use the force due to their “midichlorians”, sentient microscopic beings that are present in all life but exist in greater numbers in Jedi. As the greater Force abilities of Jedi dynasties – that of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia – show, the Jedi are the science fiction of a family that puts its assets in a trust.

The Galactic Empire, in contrast, seems to be a meritocracy, albeit one with a fairly violent set of penalties for failure. Skywalker himself dreams of signing up to train in the Empire’s navy: compare and contrast with the forces of the Rebel Alliance, who give Skywalker a ship thanks to a favourable report from a family friend, Biggs Darklighter.

However, when you look again, Star Wars is not a call for the establishment of inherited privilege – but a confirmation of the left-wing values of solidarity and collective action. Skywalker is born a farmer of limited means and establishes a cross-class coalition to defeat the Empire, comprising Han Solo and his Wookie friend Chewbacca – a pair of sole traders, equivalent to white van men – as well as the aristocratic Princess Leia.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

In the final defeat of the Empire, they are assisted by a grassroots uprising in the shape of the Ewoks, and even – in the manner of New Labour – succeed in winning over big business, with even Lando Calrissian, a dispossessed energy magnate, participating in the assault upon the Death Star.

Content from our partners
How automation can help telecoms companies unlock their growth potential
The pandemic has had a scarring effect on loneliness, but we can do better
Feel confident gifting tech to your children this Christmas

The success of Skywalker’s broad coalition is in direct contrast to the failure of the narrow, elite-based grouping that Obi Wan Kenobi assembles in his doomed attempt to prevent the rise of the Sith in the prequel trilogy. Kenobi, far from building a broad church, recruits a narrow band of Jedi, Galactic Senators, and constitutional monarchs in order to stop Darth Sidious from destroying the Galactic Republic. Predictably, a movement drawn only from the metropolitan elite meets a failure even greater than that of the Yes side in the 2011 referendum on the Alternative Vote.