Saturday, 13 May 2017

Lessons of the Local Elections (8) The Bigoted 30%

The Bigoted 30%

I have argued for some time that 30% of the population are bigoted, by which I mean that they hold a series of reactionary views not on the basis of any rational argument, but simply as emotional responses, articles of faith, irrespective of any facts to the contrary, in the same way that religious people simply believe in God or the Bible, irrespective of facts or logic. Many of these people are part of the older generation, which learned things by rote, rather than by critical reasoning, and who grew up during a time when it was taken for granted that Britain was still a world leading power, and Britons ruled the waves.  But, a look at the recent elections in the US and in Europe, show a similarly proportion of the population in other countries that represent a similar strata.

None of this prevented many of these people from voting Labour in the past, so long as the issues were framed in purely economic terms. When the certainties of the post WWII world began to break down, however, their world has been upset. In Scotland, many of those workers who would have traditionally voted Labour, were won to the idea that their problems resided not in capitalism, but in Westminster, and so they were attracted to the dead-end nationalist politics of the SNP. In Britain, essentially the same mental processes drew some of them to UKIP. They have now been absorbed into the Tory fold.

As Paul Mason correctly said on Newsnight on the Friday after the local elections, attempting to relate to these elements, who are soft racists, is a waste of time. They are bigots on a range of issues, from homosexuality to environmentalism. The question that has to be addressed is how to mobilise the other 70% of the population to stop this drift into reaction. In the 1980's, Neil Kinnock destroyed the Labour Party in order to push through a move to the right in response to Thatcher's assault on the working-class. Yet, having come to power in 1983, and moved the party increasingly to the right, Kinnock failed to win in 1987 and again in 1992. He simply succeeded in shifting the locus of the political centre in Britain decisively to the right.  We must ensure that whatever the General Election, Corbyn also stays in place, to continue the process of shifting Labour back to its traditional position as a progressive social-democratic party, and thereby to reverse the shift to the right in British politics that Kinnock and his heirs caused.

Kinnock's heirs today, because they are careerist politicians who will say anything, adopt any position, if they think it will win them votes, and line them up with a lucrative and cushy job for most of their life, would follow that course again today. They have shown that they are quite prepared to adapt to all of the racist notions in relation to immigration, and free movement of workers, for example. Where, in the 1980's, Kinnock turned Labour into a pale pink version of the Tories, today his heirs would turn Labour into a pale purple version of UKIP or the BNP, if they thought that was what was necessary to win the votes of workers, and the middle class. And that sentiment was expressed by some of those Labour candidates in the elections who spoke about the reactionary messages they had been getting on doorsteps, and their eagerness not to confront those reactionary ideas, but to adopt them, as a means of winning votes!

In the 1930's, Oswald Moseley went from being a Labour MP, to being a fascist, and similar movements occurred across Europe. We should fight tooth and claw to prevent Labour from being dragged down into that morass of reaction. But, to do that, Corbyn and the Labour leadership have a heavy responsibility.

Corbyn's parents met fighting against Moseley's fascists at the Battle of Cable Street.  We have to fight a different, but similar battle today against the infection of nationalism into our movement.

The Labour leadership have to make clear that whatever the election result, Corbyn stays. The treachery of the Labour right has to be addressed. We need the McDonnell amendment to be passed, and we need the introduction of mandatory reselection, and a thorough democratisation of party structures. We need to start removing all the dead wood, and all of the old right wing elements at every level of the party. We should start to use our large membership to create Labour Party workplace branches, to take our message directly to workers where it matters. We should forge the two wings of the Labour Movement together by merging District Labour Parties and Trades Councils into Trades and Labour Councils, and we should turn all of these bodies out towards the communities and workplaces, so as to become community and workplace leaders providing practical solutions to workers problems, as and when they arise.

In that way, we can begin to forge together the progressive forces required to take on the forces of reaction. But, it will require organisation and activity at the grass roots level, not stitch ups between political forces at the top.

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