Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Vote Labour But….

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.


Montreal said...

It’s funny but most people I know that support the BNP, A) Have a nice house. B) Have a job and C) Have never been the victims of crime.

Arthur Bough said...

That used to be the case a few years ago. The typical BNP voter lived just outside the working class areas where many immigrants lived, and reflected that kind of fear of the unknown.

Today, that is far from the case. In Stoke, which is now one of the BNP's main strongholds they first began to win seats in a part of the City that was a traditional Labour stronghold, a rundown area of old terraced streets. Having consolidated there they went on to win other traditional Labour seats. They focussed attention on the deprived Council estates, they began to take part in the tenants and Residents Associations on these huge housing estates, and soon began to pick up support, and then Council seats.

That also seems to be the pattern elsewhere of the BNP replacing Labour amongst very depressed sections of the working class who have had no benefit in ten years of Labour in power. In fact, if you look at some of the areas where they have won seats in such Labour areas, they have even won votes from existing ethnic communities, precisely because they appear to be addressing the poblems those people as ordinary workers face, and the fact that they attack immigrants does not put off such settled immigrant communities, precisley because, as has happened in the past, they too see new immigrants as threatening their jobs, houses etc. as does the white working class.

For such people the facile arguments of the BNP do not seem as facile as they do to us. On the contrary, compared to the solutions offered by most of the Left, which in any of their forms do not offer any practical immediate solution, the solutions now being put forward by the BNP seem eminently reasonable and sensible.

And come on, in the last few weeks we have seen union leaders collapse into the same kind of Nationalist solutions as those being touted by the BNP. We saw the Communist Party true to its National Socialist traditions fail to offer any criticism of the "British Jobs for British Workers" slogans during the refinery strikes. Now the Communist Party and its fellow travellers appear to be putting forward a similar Nationalist programme in relation to the EU harking back to the reactionary Nationalist politics of the Alternative Economic Strategy, and the Littel Englander opposposition to the Common Market they adopted in the 1970's.

In the last week I was involved in a hubbub in my local anti-fascist group, because some of the leadership were touting a campaign against the BNP over its use of WWII imagery. I objected, pointing out that the pictures of Spitfires, the flag-waving and all that crap which they objected to WAS precisely the kind of Nationalism that the BNP represents. Painting them, in fact, as being the same enemy as Britain's WWII enemy is in fact itself nationalist and racist, because it implies that Nazism is something German!!!

In response to my criticism that at the same time as the Spitfires were flying over Britain in 1940, they and other British Empire forces were keeping prisonor millions of colonial slaves treating them not much differently from the way the Nazis treated the people they subjugated, there was a flurry of e-mails from supposed anti-racists to the effect that the British Empire was a wondrous thing that had brought civilisation to the natives. From some of the comments you would have thought you were ;oistneing to Cecil Rhodes, not an anti-racist.

That I think is an indication of the depth to which this cancer runs even within the labour movement. It can't be dealt with simply by denunciation, or by staying away from workers who hold such reactionary ideas, as sections of the left did over the refinery strikes. But, it does require the left to counter those ideas, it does require a clear critique of those like the CP and their fellow travellers who perpetrate nationalist ideas, but it also does require the left to begin to offer workers real and immediately practical solutions to their problems as opposed to pages of accounts of past revoluitonary struggles, old texts in which the average worker has no interest, pie in the sky demands and calls for the State to act in ways its never going to act, and in which workers know it isn't going to ask, let alone ridiclous calls that effectively amount to revolution now.

Anonymous said...

I work for a large housing trust, 15K homes. I think you are correct about the BNP ideas being very prevalent in the estates. The vast majority are on benefits or are working for around the minimum wage. They are basically dependent on corporation/rsl housing. The desperation of the housing situation is adding fuel to the fire of racist/nationalist ideas. I hear comments all the time reflecting the idea that there wouldn't really be a problem if it wasn't for immigrants. People are desperate for housing, everyone sees their own priorities as being greater than someone else's. The nationalist message chimes in really well with the fears and frustrations of people who can't afford the live in the area they were born and raised. Furthermore, these types of ideas are not far below the surface of many housing officers, managers and executives. "The ruling ideas..."


Arthur Bough said...


Good to hear from you again. Yes, I think that much of the Left is either so isolated in its little circles of like minded people that it doesn't understand just how rampant these ideas are, or else doesn't want to believe it.

I think we are lucky that the bosses don't need the BNP for now. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't begin to clip their wings. But, forces once unleashe can tend to have a dynamic of their own.

I am sure that some of the solution lies in what I've been arguing about Co-operatives. Of course, that's not automatic. An estate with mostly white tenants if it set up a Housing Co-op could oppose non-whites being members of the Co-op. That is where the role of socialists comes in, and its where the idea that Co-ops have to be part of a National Federation also comes in.

I was hoping to have produced my article on Co-ops by now, but responding to a BNP supporter on the Public Sociologist website, and to BCFG here over the last couple of weeks have taken up some of my time, and I found that there was more research that needed to be done the more I developed it. As it is I hope to produce it in the ent week or so, but even then I think I will have to leave off some further economic analysis and criticisim of some orthodox economic models on Co-operative production to the future.

The Ravenscliffe by-eelction showed I think the need for socialists to get stuck into the Branch LP's. Our Anti-Fascist organisation shoed itself really to be useless. I spent a part of the previous week arguing with people who wanted to put out Nationalist propaganda, and some whose politics were inseparable from Cecil Rhodes!!!! Its necessary to provide workers with political alternatives to their problems, and only a Workers Party can do that, only socialists working through that party can do it. But, the LP failed to do it, and that shows to me why its necessary to get socialists back in their building the basis for such activity.

I was surprsied the BNP got the vote they did in what was not the best ward for them to stand. In fact there were not many votes that separated all the parties. Had the votes for UKIP gone to the BNP they would have won comfortably!!! Its necesary to stop concentrating on preventing the BNP from winning, and start concentrating on the LP winning, and winning by advocating politics thatc an provide solutions for workers here and now.

Montreal said...

I was trying to make the point that the BNP mentality was not just a condition of the underclass but was also held by those in the upper classes.
Now I agree that the state would do all it could to prevent the BNP gaining too much ground but this shouldn't be extended to BNP sympatheic managers or executives who I think would have no problem with their success.

Arthur Bough said...

Actually I don't think that is true. I can't give any evidence to back that up, it would require some proper sociological and psephological evaluation, but my impressoin is that generally speaking the upper classes, even the upper middle classes see organisations like the BNP as rather tawdry. I was talking to someone the other day who was making exactly that point after having been on an anti-BNP demo. They said they had passed through a very affluent area where a rather posh woman was watching the proceedings. Expecting her to shout some abuse, he was surprised when the woman asked if she could join the demo, saying "Those BNP people are very nasty."

Given the fact that rich people are likely to mix with rich people from a variety of backgrounds and udner conditions where the same competition that leads to racism, sexism etc. in the working class is absent it is in fact far more likely that such people with have more liberal and tolerant attitudes.

Of course, as i said, all of that changes over night when their class interests are directly threatened.