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The Post-BNP Era

Steven Allen | 08.06.2009 21:52 | Anti-racism | Repression | Social Struggles

An analysis of the rise of the British National Party in the UK as a result of the mainstream political elite ignoring the working class. Argues that this has happened across Europe, resulting in the rise of the far Right as a direct consequence of the failure of neo-liberal economic individualism. Suggests that a new class-based analysis is required to challenge the breakdown of politics.

Some facts over the last few weeks have struck me as providing an important call to action for progressive-minded people throughout the European Union, particularly after the record low turnouts at the European polls from Britain to Poland and from Hungary to Italy over the weekend.

For the first time in history, a far-Right party, the British National Party, had its leader, Nick Griffin, voted in as a Member of the European Parliament for the North West region. The BNP are well-known as a fascist party with racist policies who openly proclaim the superiority of the 'indigenous population' and who have a checkered history of involvement in violence and riots in tinderbox areas such as Bexley in East London, and Bradford in Yorkshire.

The BNP cynically targets political disaffection in communities where there are large White populations but where non-White groups have moved into nearby communities, stoking fear of 'newcomers' in generally working and lower middle class areas. Insodoing, they take advantage of a large section of the population who feel utterly ignored and let-down by the mainstream political elite of Westminster and are frustrated through lack of representation.

The BNP portray this legitimate frustration to be a result of immigration policies and 'political correctness,' at the expense of Whites, and thereby foment violent politics in run down areas. They create a cause, a seemingly legitimate call-to-arms for young White people who feel they lack opportunities and a stake in modern society. In Bexley, kids end up joining gangs called 'RA' - 'Racist Attack' - and violence is on the up. Tensions are stirred and our communities are slowly becoming separated, with young people scared to cross territorial lines across the country.

The Rightward Swing of Mainstream Politics

The rise of the BNP would be less concerning if it has just happened as a freak one-off within Britain, the result of frustration with recent revelations about MPs expenses and a general lack of trust in politicians. Yet, this is not simply the case, and a broader analysis of the politics of the New Labour Party over the last 12 years must be considered as the context.

New Labour was founded as a reaction to the Labour Party going through the dark days of Margaret Thatcher's "Greed Is Good" era of privatisation, the rise of private home ownership and the provision of greater powers to the police in response to the Poll Tax Riots. The New Labour leaders - Tony Blair and Gordon Brown - believed that the socialist tendencies of what subsequently became known as Old Labour had made them unelectable. They believed there had been a paradigm shift in the nation which meant that private wealth was a public good, and duly reshaped the Labour Party along these lines. This view came from their own liberal backgrounds, whereby they represented a much more Right-wing message than that which had been espoused by the Unions and the Party over the previous 80 years.

New Labour's True Impact

In dramatic fashion and with New Labour's landslide victory in the 1997 election, New Labour, lead by Brown and Blair (for all their public battles) set about reshaping Britain into a liberal home-owning democracy. Early moves included the incredibly aggressive development of public-private finance initiatives, on the argument that the private sector was more effective at the delivery of public services; the de-regulation of financial markets; and the fastest development of criminal and immigration laws in this country for a generation.

In the 10 years of Tony Blair's leadership of New Labour, almost 1,500 imprisonable criminal offences were ushered in through annual Criminal Justice Bills - at a rate that even the judiciary could not keep up with - and a doubling of the prison population to bursting point. Wealth inequalities have grown at unprecedented levels whilst New Labour passionately fought the case for laissez-faire economics.

But why should the rise of the BNP have anything to do with the rise of New Labour? Well, in decisively siding itself with the liberal middle class earning population, the Labour Party historically turned its back on the essential base of its power - the White working class majority, the Unions and people with socialist values.

Never before has the working class in particular been so feared and maligned by the very party which historically represented their interests. The message to White young people up and down this country, for example, is clear: stay off the streets, if you don't then you'll be arrested and possibly tagged (under the Anti Social Behaviour Act, for example) whilst your parents constantly remind you that Labour no longer represents them.

Evidence for this cannot be clearer. With the Labour Party under Gordon Brown achieving less than 15% of the vote on a turnout of less than 35% in the European Elections, its painfully clear that Labour's traditional base has finally decided it can't take any more. And, contra the scare-mongering of the Labour elite, this has not given a massive boost to the Conservative Party (who have basically stuck in the polls. In actual fact, people have been voting for fascist and nationalistic policies of parties such as the UK Independence Party (who also cash in on the anti-immigration tone of modern politics) and the BNP.

This rise of the BNP has, in my view, come as a direct result of the Rightward shift of mainstream politics, combined with the homogeneity of the major political parties. With around 13% of the vote, the BNP is becoming a serious national contender in country where there is now widespread dissent with the increasingly fractious political scene, with no end in sight.

And, if that isn't enough, the European context is just as concerning.

The Rise of the Right Throughout Europe

This widespread disenchantment with mainstream politics is not just confined to Britain. Right across Europe the picture is worryingly similar. As a reaction to the liberal economic mismanagement by the Alliance of the Democratic Left - and its strong belief in the economic case for Poland joining the EU - hard Right-wing parties emerged to take power in the form of the Law and Order and Civic Platform. Their policies are nationalistic, authoritarian and economically conservative. At the same time, race crimes have risen massively and there is new talk of the need for engagement with Russia.

In Italy, the state-based kleptocracy of Silvio Berlusconi's political party, the People of Freedom movement, has arisen from the ashes of Berlusconi's previous existence after just a year of the political mismanagement of the widely condemned government of Romano Prodi. Prodi's failure to tackle corruption and inability to make public services work was rapidly taken advantage of by Berlusconi's Right-wing coalition. Political debate in Italy is now concerned with tightening immigration policy severely and has given rise to a concerning onslaught on Eastern European and gypsy groups, particularly after a couple of overhyped crimes committed by people from these backgrounds.

After years of failed promises on the part of the liberal and socialist parties of Bulgaria since it entered the 'democratic era' when the Communist Party gave up exclusive power, the political makeup has moved decided Rightward. Suffering a severe brain drain through its membership to the EU, and stunted economic growth due to serious corruption, far Right parties have gained a foothold for the first time since the Second World War.

From the successes of Pim Fortuyn's anti-Islamic party in the Netherlands, to the growing strength of the Nationalist Party in Malta, the 'frontline against the flood of North African immigration into the EU,' fear and mistrust of others, and racism is decisively on the rise, often in the name of nationalism and often as a reaction against perceived double standards of liberal ruling parties. The disconnect between socialist and liberal parties across Europe from their historic bases has never been greater, and there has never been such a great opportunity for racist and fascist powers to grow in strength and number.

The Dangers of a Forgotten Majority

It is in this context that the rise of Right-wing fascist parties across the continent becomes at once alarming and a true call to action for all of those who have values of freedom, equality (not merely of the failed neo-liberal concept merely of economic 'opportunity') and humanitarianism.

Its clear, for example, that one of the first actions of the extreme racist and Right-wing parties who have been elected to the European Parliament may find a leader in the appalling rhetoric of Nick Griffin. With the Left in disarray due to failed economic liberalism - in France with the divisive infighting of the Socialist Party, in Poland with the eradication of the Left, in Britain with the decisive damage suffered by the Labour Party - extreme Right-wing parties are coming to power in a way they haven't done since before the Nazi power grew in strength.

We should also be concerned about the relics that the Left have left behind which can only be to the benefit of the extreme Right. For example, the normalisation of states of emergency which have justified unprecedented attacks of civil liberties will surely prove to be a concerning weapon in the hands of parties such as the BNP. And with tagging, ID cards and the use of imprisonment growing across the EU, it is right to feel worried about what our communities may look like in the next 5 years.

Now is the Time for a New Political Analysis

It would be easy in the current climate to think that the battle of true liberalism and the fight for equality may be lost. Yet, to do so would only be to hand greater power to the racist ideologies which have already been described. I however, choose to view the current era as a critical time for those of us who believe that a fairer, more just society is not just possible but is a responsibility for us all.

Many friends of mine in the last couple of days, appalled and concerned at the dangerous new direction which Britain has taken in electing UKIP and the BNP at the European Elections, have blamed the majority of the population who chose not to vote in the elections (65% in total). Yet, this position is naive.

Anyone, like me, who works in schools and local community settings around the country consistently, will be able to tell their own stories about rising disaffection in our communities and youth, about the power of the police and state in locking young people up, and the deep disdain of the materialism which has taken hold across the country. The failure of those in power to argue against such issues - indeed to create the conditions for their development - have created the disconnect.

Yet, what is fundamentally clear is that the majority of those who are not voting are actively choosing not to, rather than passively failing to do so. supporters of the ultra-Right parties are growing in number due to the powerful political ideologies of parties such as the BNP who find a niche in the space between economic liberal values and the failure of these values to provide for people who have traditionally been referred to as the working class.

On the macro-level, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 1.3billion young people under 30 will be in the global job market within 10 years, yet only 400million jobs are likely to be available for them. That mean that, within 10 years, we will be faced by a global underclass of young people under 30 totalling almost a billion people, the interests of whom will be unrepresented under the current materialist individualism of the global era.

This class-based analysis, whilst giving us an understanding of what is happening, also gives an indication of how to combat the problem. Those who have been forgotten by mainstream politics must be re-engaged by people who actively challenge racism and fascism as being against their own interests. Immigrants and White working class communities fundamentally suffer from the same problems - marginalisation, the enforced importance of materialism, and scape-goating for all social ills.

Yet, the White working class are not simply the cause of these social ills - of rising crime and fear in our communities, and of ever-increasing ativistic individualism - but are its greatest victims. It is time someone came out and said that we are all failed victims of economic liberalism, and that a new social ideology must be developed to give voice to the voiceless and power to the downtrodden. The consequences of us not doing so are truly troubling indeed.

Steven Allen
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Display the following 2 comments

  1. Your on the ball, — christeathan
  2. Food for Thought — John