In Tomorrow’s Ravenscliffe By-Election workers should Vote Labour, but they should only do so, because Labour is still the only mass Workers Party. More than that at the moment cannot really be said. Far better, actually than just voting Labour, would be for workers, and particularly socialists to join the Labour Party, and begin to make it what it should be – the organisational basis through which the political struggle, for the self-activity of the working class is conducted.
The last of the propaganda from the various parties has now dropped through the doors unless there is some last minute offering on election day. It’s a sad fact, but if I were just an ordinary worker basing my decision on who to support based on that propaganda then I’d probably be voting for the BNP!!!!! Of course, I’m not just an ordinary worker, and I won’t. Fortunately, most of the other people voting tomorrow also will not be casting their vote solely on the basis of the propaganda put through their doors either, and so again fortunately, very, very few of them will be voting for the BNP either, or even for the BNP Light – UKIP. They too will come into the voting booth with a history whether it’s a history based on a tradition of voting Labour, a recognition of what the BNP really are despite their more toned down image, a history of respect for the work done by Liberals within the Community, or just that history of snobbery that is the hallmark of the working class Tory, who having bought a decent house in a nice area, now deludes themselves that despite the mountain of debt run up to buy the house and car and other trappings, despite the fact that they are just one pay check away from disaster, they are in some unfathomable way, now middle class.
We live in fortunate times. The rise of the BNP, is a symptom of the failure of the Labour Party to address the needs and concerns of ordinary working people, including those that delude themselves into believing they are middle class. That failure, and the rise of the BNP is also a symptom of the bankruptcy of the Left, its failure over the last 100 years to relate to the working class in any other way than the way fleas relate to a dog. The working class knows something is there, does its best to ignore it, and on occasions has a good scratch to shake it off so that it stops being annoyed. The Left has been nothing more than an annoying parasite, feeding off the working class’s blood to engorge its own organisations. And for that great mass of the class, which simply does not meet up to its main criteria – that is it is not a potential recruit to its organisations – the left has had nothing but scorn, writing it off as reactionary, backward, right-wing and so on, as though that were not to be expected of a class exploited under the conditions of Capitalist production, as though that weren’t precisely the starting point from which Marxists had to relate to it, educated it, organise it and ultimately transform it!
It is fortunate, for now, that that is the cause of the rise of the BNP. Why? Because, the ruling class only calls forth the fascist solution when it has to, when its very existence is threatened. No serious person believes that is the case at the moment. If anything, the ruling class probably sees the BNP as more a threat to its interests than it does, the isolated, irrelevant Left, or the tame poodles of the mainstream Labour Movement. The Capitalists have no intention of letting their political power, and the advantages of bourgeois democracy for its profit maximising, fall into the hands of a bunch of yahoos, and rabble rousers. Keeping them simmering is one thing, allowing them to spread a certain amount of racism to divide the working class, and maintain a situation in which a certain pool of illegal immigrant workers can be kept as available cheap labour is one thing, creating the instability that a powerful fascist presence would create is something quite different. For now in the corridors of Capitalist power, in the heartlands of the rich the BNP are looked down on with disdain. If they become more powerful, the ruling class can be expected to put them down. First it will be the Capitalist media that will turn against them, turn down the open racism in its pages, the forces of the permanent state will begin to more heavily infiltrate them, undermine them and generally fit them up, just as during the 1970’s and 80’s they did with the left. That’s nothing the Left should be pleased about, it is just a reflection of the fact that the left is so weak that the bosses see the Right as the danger.
The left also shouldn’t be pleased, because the bosses will not destroy the BNP, just put it in its place, ready for when they do need it, when the current Long Wave boom ends, when the economic crisis that descends on world capitalism makes the current blip look like a holiday break.
And then the current weakness of the left, and of the mainstream Labour Movement could be catastrophic. I’ve read all the propaganda that has come through the door. The BNP have put out three leaflets. Each one has dealt in some detail with the main problems that ordinary people have concerns about, Jobs, Houses, Crime, and Living Standards. That is more than any of the other candidates have done. The Tories who now control the Borough Council – a situation that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago – have simply played up their role in running the Council, in getting a few footpaths and other improvements done locally. The Liberals have focussed as they normally do on the issues of Litter and dog crap, though to be fair they have been the only Party that has in any way tried to attack the BNP – the others have basically tried to ignore their existence – and they have used their new trump card of Vince Cable, who is wheeled out on any occasion now as the guru of the financial crisis. The Labour Party have also put out three leaflets, and it has to be said they could have saved a lot of time and money by not bothering, because in none of them have they had anything to say.
But, if you were an ordinary worker though you might be pleased that some of the footpaths have been tarmacced, that the local Country Park has had some investment spent on it etc. it is hardly likely to be your main concern if you’ve just lost your job, you can’t get a house or are facing being thrown out of one, or you are plagued with anti-social behaviour, or knife crime. On all those things it’s the BNP that is providing answers not the main parties.
Of course, they are answers that socialists profoundly oppose, but for now they are answers which workers could easily be attracted to, especially in the absence of the left having any other solutions apart from Socialism Now, alliances with “anti-imperialist” communities – even when the politics of them is hardly distinguishable from that of the BNP – or just calls for more militancy or worse “Build the party”.
As I get older I realise how quickly time moves on. And time is running out. The left needs urgently to wake up, to abandon its fantasies of being the next Lenin, the next Bolshevik Party, and begin to focus on the real working class. It is necessary to “build the party”, but not the make believe toy town parties that the left means by that, but the real existing Workers Party, the Labour Party. It needs to utilise what there is Left in terms of its organisation, its connection to the local working class communities, and connections to the Trade Unions – while they are still there – and to use them not as it has done in the past, for its own sectarian ends, but in the way Marx and Engels described, as means of mobilising the self-activity of the workers, of encouraging the workers to take things into its own hands, and provide its own solutions, to raise the class off its knees, renew its confidence and organisation, and in so doing the Marxists will as a necessary by-product strengthen their own ranks, their present often infantile disputes and concerns will be tested in the fire of workers concerns and reasoning, those that meet the needs of the workers, address its interests, and provide it with the right answers will grow, and the rest will either learn or be marginalized.
We are not yet again at one of those moments when the choice is presented starkly of socialism or barbarism. But that choice is coming, and unless the left uses the next ten years to address itself properly to the class that question is likely to be answered negatively.