Archive for the ‘Conservatives’ Category
Iain Duncan Smith’s Responsibility.
Yesterday I spent an enjoyable hour with Scarey, an East Ender, in the pub.
Over a few jars we talked of beloved comrade Anwar Huq who used to drive us out to the Suffolk wilds in pursuit of the perfect pint.
Scarey is now on the dole and not well off but seems in good cheer.
As I left I bumped into M, a bloke I know.
He is a lorry driver.
He comes up to us when we run stalls for the left and says, “I know Andy is a socialist so I’ll sign that.”
He has told me that some of the happiest days of his life were when he went to the big anti-racist festivals in London (not 70s – 90s).
M is living on the streets of Ipswich – homeless.
I am utterly utterly distraught at this.
We had a long wait for Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) yesterday (we began at 9 o’clock) but he finally arrived at “MyGo” Ipswich at 5.00 pm, accompanied by Ben Gummer, before heading off to a £45 a head Tory fund raising dinner in Melton.
This Tory Party stunt received a hostile welcome from many people.
Members of DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) from Suffolk and Norfolk, and Suffolk Peoples Assembly made sure the message that his term of office as Work & Pensions Minister has been a disaster for people with disabilities and should be terminated immediately came over loud and clear.
As we stood many Ipswich people came up and told us their own stories of how IDS has made their lives worse.
Cries of ‘murderer’ greeted the Tory Toff as he was spotted in the building.
So effective was this messaging that the tv interview they were trying to conduct had to be moved from room to room within the building – only for DPAC banners and renewed chanting to pop up outside the window of each successive refuge.
We think they might have had to hide in the broom cupboard to complete the footage!
The report on Look East (BBC) mentioned that a “small group of protesters tried to disrupt the visit.”
They showed the Proud Banner of Suffolk DPAC in the window of the room where he’d finally scurried to.
Report from Sarah and Andy.
Bob Lambert Receives Islamic Human Rights Award (2007).
Lambert is in the news again, for what reason?
Well this was his most recent appearance (September 2014).
Ministers have been urged to enlist the help of several controversial Muslim groups to stem the flow of British jihadists to Iraq and Syria.
Calls are growing for Whitehall to restore ties in particular with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), one of the country’s largest Islamic organisations. The group, which once enjoyed a close relationship with the government, has been ostracised since 2009 when one of its officials signed a declaration supporting Hamas and calling on Muslims to destroy “foreign warships” preventing arms smuggling into Gaza.
Robert Lambert, a former head of the Metropolitan police Muslim contact unit who is now a lecturer in terrorism studies at the University of St Andrews, said that the MCB and other Muslim groups could be valuable partners in the struggle against home-grown jihad….”
Originally in the Times (yesterday) – Hat-tip DT.
But on this occasion it’s not to develop the failures that resulted from the policy of co-operating with ‘moderate’ (hard-right) Islamists that he expounded in Countering Al Qaeda in London: Police and Muslims in Partnerships (2011).
It’s Lambert’s past and the great wrong that he has done that’s in the news.
Today we learn.
The Metropolitan Police is to pay £425,000 to a woman whose child was fathered by a man who she did not know was an undercover police officer.
The unprecedented payment comes after a legal battle with women who say they were duped into relationships with officers who were spying on them.
Scotland Yard says it “unreservedly apologises for any pain and suffering”.
The woman told BBC News she had received psychiatric care after learning the officer’s real identity.
Married with children
The Met’s payment is part of an agreement for her to drop her legal action alleging assault, negligence, deceit and misconduct by senior officers.
Scotland Yard statement
The force faces further possible claims from other women who say they were tricked into relationships with Special Demonstration Squad officers.
The SDS ran long-term undercover operations designed to infiltrate protest groups, including animal rights organisations.
One of its key officers, former Special Branch detective Bob Lambert, used the pseudonym Bob Robinson, and was tasked with infiltrating the Animal Liberation Front.
During that operation in the mid 1980s, he formed a relationship with a 22-year-old activist called Jacqui – even though he was already married with children. In 1985 she gave birth – but when the boy was two years old, the father vanished.
Jacqui only discovered the real identity of her son’s father in 2012 after he had been outed by other campaigners.
Scotland Yard had refused to confirm or deny whether Bob Lambert was an SDS operative, despite his own admissions to journalists, until it was forced to change its position in August.
We note with concern that this individual is still a Lecturer in ‘Terrorism Studies’ at St Andrews University.
The University sees fit to publish this (link) about the past for which the Met now has had to pay out a hefty sum,
For the bulk of his police service (1977–2007) Robert Lambert worked in counter-terrorism, gaining operational experience of all forms of violent political threats to the UK, from Irish republican to the many strands of international terrorism that include what may now best be described as the al-Qaida movement. One common denominator in all the many and varied terrorist recruitment strategies he witnessed over the years is the exploitation of a sense of political injustice amongst susceptible youth. Throughout his police career Lambert placed value on street or grass roots perspectives over more rigid top down security approaches to counter-terrorism.
We helpfully note that there is something…missing in this account.
One hopes that a number of glaring absences are swiftly replaced by a fuller account of Lambert’s ‘career’.
The word “exploitation” is also particularly unfortunate.
Ideal Happy Suffolk Library User.
In 2012 Suffolk LIbraries were taken away from public ownership (‘divested’) and direct control by elected councillors under a hard-right leadership of Suffolk County Council. They were given to an Industrial and Provident Society
Or as they put it,
In the first arrangement of its type in the UK, and after extensive consultation with the people of Suffolk, on Wednesday 1 August 2012, all of Suffolk’s 44 libraries and the mobile, school and prison library services were put under the direct control of the Suffolk’s Libraries IPS Ltd, an independent company registered as a charity.
Suffolk’s Libraries has a long-term contract with Suffolk County Council to ensure the service is delivered to an agreed specification and to work with local community groups to develop locally-focused services at each library.
The county council remains the statutory library authority, and monitors the performance of the library service through a framework that forms part of the contract.
As a member of the Ipswich Friends, who are on the list, I would be interested to know how this election took place – certainly it would be hard to recall being consulted, let alone presented with a ballot paper.
It would be possible to go further into this arrangement, whose transparency has been unfavourably compared to the Kremlin’s under Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.
Our concern is the future of the libraries.
It would seem that a number of problems have come to a head: Ipswich Library is opening late tomorrow, because a special ‘Staff Meeting’ is taking place.
It is known (I have seen a copy of the, non-public, minutes of the meeting) that part of the Library is to be transferred to a business ‘hub’ of some kind (as if Ipswich needs another one….).
Appropriately commerce will replace part of the Arts section.
In the meantime a large number of books from all over the Central Library are ‘disappearing’ and some books on the shelves are ‘not-recognised’ – about to be withdrawn for sale.
One loyal member of staff say that these volumes have gone to a better, happier, place.
Others, less favourable to management, suggest that the “disappeared” will never be seen again.
The computer provision, which last year’s annual public report (a rare glimpse into the Provy’s workings) needs upgrading, is in a mess.
Some new terminals are available (though 2 have already broken down) with super, indeed excellent, service, exist (though their censorship filter blocks some left-wing sites).
Some of the old ones still function.
There is a shortage of free computers and great competition to use them – an essential activity for Jobseekers.
But near to them are the dead carcasses of extinct terminals, a sad reminder of former days.
We suspect a funding crisis is in the offing and “profit centres” are seen as the way out.
Note the word “suspect“, not “certain”.
It is said – from the Management – that “nothing has been decided yet” about the libraries’ future.
We have heard that one before: it is no doubt taught in many ‘dealing with a crisis’ master classes for managers.
Teresa May Outlines Plans to Clamp down on ‘Harmful Individuals’.
Very Short Treatise on Intolerance.
Nietzsche wrote somewhere that the greatest haters, with the longest memories and deepest grudges, are learned religious men. (1) The contrary can easily be found. But malevolent violence in the Middle East – inspired and carried out by those who see themselves as holy – is something thrust in front of us every single day.
That this affects Europe was equally brought home quickly. It is not an exaggeration to say that the world of social media and instant media reporting, has worn away the sense of distance. That thousands of European volunteers, including hundreds of British citizens, have joined the Jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq became news in weeks. For those who follow the right sites, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, more information piled up every day.
From these sources the oppressions and crimes of the Islamist forces rapidly became known. In Iraq and Syria the Islamic State and Isis began to carry out ethnic and religious cleansing, tortured, raped, and committed acts of genocide.
Clamp-down on ‘harmful individuals”.
That there are those who continue to justify the Jihadists, here and now, is equally public. The British Conservative Party has announced that it intends, if elected in 2015, to legislate. It will issue “banning orders” on “extremist” groups. It will ratchet up its ‘anti-terrorism’ strategy and ‘anti-extremism’ programme. There will be ‘terrorism Asbos’ – extreme disruption orders, that will restrict the actions of named individuals, including a ban on their media appearances. (BBC)
Opponents of the proposals will state that it not possible to ban a version of a faith, which is a private matter. But the liberal argument in defence of free speech appears to hit a wall at this point. The Jihadists’ behaviour is not confined to “self-regarding acts” (John Stuart Mill). It is anything but limited to the individual: they are carrying out the Word of god, as spoken by their own authorities, to bring the world into line with their ideas.
Jihadists and Violence.
If we argue that the consequences of Jihadist ideology are violent few would disagree. The link could not be plainer and self-designated. They appear to be, and are intolerance incarnate. But if Mill’s doctrine has its faults, a much greater one is to “augment the authority of whatever sacerdotal or legislative body (that) may represent the majority”, as John Morley pointed out. (On Compromise. 1886)
Give those in government and their functionaries that power and it is not hard to see that Teresa May’s laws would open the door to abuses. A floodgate of malicious accusations (anonymous or Tabloid inspired). As somebody who has been the target of a ‘moderate’ Islamist – soon proved false – claims, one also see the scope for factional warfare between Muslim groups and their opponents, secularists or otherwise, opening up. And that is before we consider the potential for racists and other hate groups using the legislation for their own purposes. That the idea appears to encompass “extremisms” as a whole – left, right, religious and otherwise – rings others alarm bells. As David Davis (Conservative) observed, these measures “quite incredible powers to limit democratic rights”. Or as Padraig Reidy puts in the Tory Telegraph, “The concept of extremism has become rather like fascism: a catch-all term for things we don’t like.”
It would be hard to find any organised religion (with the possible exception of the Society of Friends) that did not claim special powers over other people and society. If we oppose this claim then it’s not the individual who’s the problem but the institutions that would bring compulsory rules over other people’s lives. The Conservatives’ proposals come close to this, very close indeed for anybody suspected of “extremism”.
By contrast those who consider that there is no special place for religion in our common political institutions, would not consider the public body the best authority make the ultimate decision over what is and what is not an acceptable “moderate” religious belief. Secularists would leave the faithful to battle amongst themselves over whether they are hard-liners or reasonable. This would leave the rest of us free to exist as human beings, at liberty to adopt, to approve, to mock or to criticise any religious belief that tries to impinge on our lives.
There remains the problem of Islamism. Some simply deny that there is any connection between Islam and ISIS/Islamic State. We have seen the attempt by some to get the media to call the Islamic State the “un” or “so-called” Islamic State. It’s as if Trotskyists demanded that the old Soviet Union be always referred to by its “proper” name, as a “degenerated/deformed workers’ state”.
The analogy can be extended. Some commentators have compared the reaction of political Islamists, including those in government, as in Turkey, to the left’s difficult coming to terms with Stalin’s blood-drenched rule. This is not an easy process, and it has not ended yet.
One thing is certain coming to terms with the crimes of the Islamists in the Middle East will not be helped by fine-sounding phrases that instantly dismiss any connection between their ideology and Islam. This is a claim shared by Teresa May who states, ” Islam is a religion of peace.” We would wish for evidence to back this assertion.
It may be said that those who loudly clamoured for bans on books and publications, which “offended” Islam, from the Satanic Verses onwards, are not in a good position to demand freedom of expression. That is indeed a rod of their own making.
Intolerance of the Intolerant.
None of this implies any let up on the pressure on violent Islamists. Those who follow the tradition of Voltaire’s Traité sur la tolérance (1763) are not tolerant of fanaticism. The crimes of Isis/Islamic State, including those committed by European Jihadists, should be answerable to courts and due process. We can, already, clamp down on incitement to violence and religious hatred. The means to bring to account those actively involved in Jihad exist. The killers in the service of the Assad regime deserve the same treatment – bringing up a subject which, to examine properly, would extend this ‘short’ treatise by several pages.
What we do not need is increased “authority” to legislate on what is, and what is not, ‘extremism.”
(1) “The really great Haters in History have always been priests, but also the cleverest haters – in comparison with the cleverness of priestly revenge every other piece of cleverness is practically negligible” Genealogy of Morals. 1887.
The Home Secretary revealed the new “extremism disruption orders” would ban those who “spread hate but do not break existing laws” from the airwaves and make it easier to formally proscribe groups deemed to be linked to terrorism.
The orders will apply to those who “spread or incite hatred” of gender, race or religion as well as those who engage in “harmful activities” for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”. That’s prompted fears the laws could be used on non-violent political groups and the political enemies of those in power.
Critics said the powers were draconian and mocked the notion of banning those who are not proven to have broken the law, while human rights Liberty said the powers were “worthy of a caliphate”.
The eurosceptic party that is jeopardising the Tories’ chance of winning the next election – and to which two MPs and other prominent politicians have already defected – also suggested it could be banned with such an order.
Suzanne Evans, deputy chair of Ukip, told a fringe event at the Tory Party conference that the power could be used to close down her party, the BBC’s Norman Smith reported.
Hope Not Hate call for contributions to debate on “To ban or not to ban?” : here.
How should society tackle extremism?
There will be various streams to this debate, so ideas and contributions on them all will be useful:
- What is extremism?
- Where does extremism come from?
- How should the Government tackle extremism?
- How should communities tackle extremism?
- What are the limits of freedom of speech?
Islamic State, “Only a popular mass movement is capable of confronting it and the authoritarian regimes.” says SWP, but no mention of Kurds.
Brave Kurdish Fighters or Western “Pawns”?
Say no to war on Syria and Iraq by Simon Assaf, says Socialist Worker.
Fear of the revolutions lies behind the latest wars. Bashar al-Assad’s regime used Islamic State to help break the popular revolution.
“Assad and Islamic State had an unofficial agreement not to attack each other,” explained Ghayath.
“This left the regime free to bomb cities, while the Islamists murdered secular activists.”
Assad now sees a chance to regain “legitimacy” with the West as part of an alliance against Islamic State. Ghayath added that there is a “consensus” among rebel groups to welcome the West.
“The regime and sections of the opposition are competing to become the most effective US ally in the battle against Islamic State,” he said.
But the West is no ally of the struggle against dictatorships or Islamic State.
The roots of the problem lie with the West.
“Islamic State is the child of the Western occupation of Iraq and the sectarian disaster that followed,” said Ghayath.
“Only a popular mass movement is capable of confronting it and the authoritarian regimes.”
Children, most claim, have no moral responsibility.
So demands to bring them, and the foreign jihadis (including from the UK) to justice are not considered,
But what of the “mass popular movement”?
What about the Kurdish forces?
Do they not exist?
Are they not part of a “popular mass movement”?
We learnt in August what the SWP’s view on the Kurdish movement is,
David Cameron has announced that Britain will arm Kurdish forces fighting the growth of the reactionary Islamic State group in Iraq.
Many on the left think this a good alternative to direct Western intervention, which has been responsible for the spread of sectarianism in the region.
The Kurds live in an area divided between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and have been fighting for a Kurdish state. Socialists support this struggle.
But only Western imperialism will benefit if in the process the Kurds become a pawn in the spiralling conflict.
Injecting Western arms will not stop Iraq’s slide into sectarian civil war.
The West has always defended its own interests in the region through backing brutal dictators.
Already in some parts of northern Iraq protests have taken place demanding the expulsion of Arabs from Kurdish areas, as if they were all Islamic State supporters.
Poor nationalist movements can’t always choose who to source arms from.
But despite the horror at what the Islamic State is doing, Western intervention will only prolong the fighting and intensify the divisions.
The SWP ‘supports’ the Kurdish struggle by knowing better than the Kurds what is in their interests.
The Stop the War Coalition gives ten reasons not the back the Western Intervention.
1) The West’s last operation in Iraq ended just three years ago. For those with a short memory it didn’t go well. More than half a million people died, millions fled the country and Iraq’s infrastructure was devastated. The operation generated deep resentment against the West.
2) The current chaos in Iraq – including the rise of the reactionary Isis – is largely the result of the eight years of that occupation.
3) Bombing always kills and terrorises civilians. Recent coalition bombing raids on Raqqa in Syria have brought death and panic to its residents. One civilian there told western reporters ‘I would not wish them on my worst enemy’.
4) All three of Britain’s major military interventions in the last thirteen years have been disasters. In 2001 we were told an invasion of Afghanistan would rout the Taliban. Thirteen years and tens of thousands of deaths later the Taliban have grown in strength and the country is broken. The bombing of Libya in 2011 was justified as essential to stop a massacre by Gaddafi. After it began an estimated 30,000 were killed in a terrifying cycle of violence. The country is now a failed state with no real government.
5) The coalition that has been put together for the bombing of Syria – apparently in an effort to give the attacks legitimacy – comprises some of the most ruthless and benighted regimes in the region. Human Rights Watch reports that nineteen people were beheaded in Saudi Aarbia in August. Qatar and UAE have notorious human rights’ records that include the use of forced labour. All three have funded violent Jihadi groups in the region.
6) Bombing raids will increase hatred of the west. One of the wider results of the ‘War on Terror’ has been to spread Al- Quaida and other terrorist groups across whole regions of the world. In 2001 there were relatively small numbers of such militants, centred mainly on Pakistan. Now there are groups across the middle east, central Asia and Africa.
7) The timing is cynical. David Cameron has recalled parliament to debate an attack on Iraq just two days before the start of the last Tory Conference before the general election. This at a time when he is engaged in pushing a right wing, nationalist agenda for party political purposes.
8) Mission creep is almost inevitable. There are already more than a thousand US military active in Iraq and senior US military figures are arguing they should now be openly involved in fighting. In Britain a growing number of voices fromTony Blair to Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb are recommending British boots on the ground.
9) The attack will cost money much needed for other things. One Tomahawk cruise missile costs £850,000, enough to pay the annual salary of 28 NHS nurses. The US has already fired about 50 of these missiles at Isis targets in Syria. It is estimated Britain spent between £500 million and one billion pounds bombing Libya in 2011. This was roughly the same as the savings made by ending the education maintenance allowance (EMA); or three times the amount saved by scrapping the disability living allowance.
10) The vote will have a global impact. On Friday, MPs have a chance to make a real difference on matters of peace and war. The US wants Britain on board to prove it is not isolated. When MPs blocked Cameron’s last push for airstrikes, on Syria a year ago, they stopped Obama launching attacks too. A no vote could help reverse the drift towards another full scale western war in the middle east.
We can set aside the importance of the fear that bombing will “increase hatred of the West”.
If it is possible to increase the level of hatred the ISIS genociders hold then loathing their enemies for attacking them is not a bad thing.
The cost is a non-issue: we do not put a price on preventing genocide.
This is perhaps the most ignoble argument possible.
The essential of the argument is that bombing will not be effective, it will not work, it will result in a chain of reactions that will end up with more killings, and will involve bolsytering deeply unpelsant regimes.
These points carry weight.
But what about backing the Kurds who have asked for help.
What about some international solidarity with the victims of the killers?
Back the PKK for a start!
“The PKK engaged Islamic State forces in Syria in mid-July 2014 as part of the Syrian Civil War. In August the PKK engaged IS in Northern Iraq and pressured the Government of Turkey to take a stand against IS. PKK forces also helped “tens of thousands of Yazidis escape an encircled Mount Sinjar.”
And watch this: Syrian Woman Wears Hidden Camera to Reveal Life Under ISIS Rule
Will this Defeat UKIP?
Some on the left remain in mourning for the failure of the Scottish referendum to “bring their country into the world of free and sovereign nations”. Some console themselves that Alba is already a “transformed, empowered country.” (Neil Ascherson. Observer. 21.8.14.)
Westminster Centralism appears on the wane. A large constituency demands a “grant of real responsibility to local communities.” This means, they say, a change in the structure of the British constitution, perhaps an English parliament, certainly greater control for regions and cities inside and outwith Scotland’s borders.
Constitutional issues are not the preserve of Scottish nationalists or the new regionalists. UKIP has made its transition from pressure group to serious political contender by demanding that Britain be ‘free’ from the legislative power of the European Union. The issue of sovereignty is the central concern of Nigel Farage’s party. UKIP is, first and foremost, anti-EU. It wants ‘independence’ for the British people from ‘Brussels’. It is not ‘Eurosceptic’; it is Europhobic.
The Scottish separatists want to see the back of ‘Westminster’, for the good of their own people. Some, notably in the SNP, claim to see the European Union as a positive force that would help them towards that aim. With their common concern with national power we can call both parties, despite this major difference on the EU, “sovereigntists.” The party once led by Alex Salmond believes in a limited degree of pooled sovereignty in order to ‘save the nation state’ (as Milward called it), UKIP is simply wants to shore up the nation state. (1)
Stand up to UKIP.
Left-wing activists, called to support the campaign Stand up to UKIP, which plans a major demonstration outside the Party’s conference next weekend, can be forgiven for forgetting the word “independence” in the title. The launch of this campaign, after all, declares,
“It has built up its electoral base by both presenting itself as a party opposed to the European Union, but more importantly by spreading poisonous lies and hatred towards migrants and Muslims. We believe UKIP is a racist party. This may be something Farage and the party’s leadership is quick to deny. But in the run up to the European elections UKIP’s mask slipped. UKIP presents the anti-racist movement with a major problem – dragging British politics to the right.”
Let us leave aside the claim that UKIP specialises in ‘anti-Muslim’ campaigning. This will come as news to the Bangladeshi organisers of the Ipswich ‘Multi-cultural festival’ at the end of August this year, who included a full page UKIP advertisement, along with Labour and Tory endorsements, in the day’s programme. It will also be a surprise to anybody reading official UKIP material, which does not single out the topic of Islam, but instead includes it within a blanket condemnation on multi-culturalism – the real reason to be astonished at the Ipswich anomaly.
Andy Jones argues, “UKIP is the main organised expression of the new anti-immigrant racism.” (International Socialism. June 2014. No 114) Nobody can deny that it has gained support for its hostility towards migration – their leaflets warning of a mass Bulgarian and Rumanian invasion are still fresh in people’s minds. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin point to their ability to “recognise and often moblise public resentments of immigration and ethnic minorities among the white majority” (Page 159 Revolt on the Right. 2014).
Is this part and parcel of a “party of bigots, sexists, Islamophobes and homophobes”? Perhaps. But does this imply that they have won votes as this kind of party? Stand up to UKIP clearly seems to think that “exposing” them as such will eat away at their support. Others consider that this is part of their appeal.
Ford and Godwin state that UKIP’s “electoral base is old, male, working class, white and less educated, much like the BNP’s (Ibid). Their analysis of the attitudes within the group they identify would tend to support the view that many of UKIP’s less attractive and prejudices attitudes have an echo within their constituency. Others note that the Stand up to UKIP list of bigoted opinions, slightly more politely expressed, is shared with middle class and upper class voters, the readership of the Daily Mail, Telegraph, and the Times. That UKIP voters are by no means largely working class. (2)
In the publicity for the 27th demonstration at UKIP’s conference it’s stated, “UKIP likes to say it is the “people’s army” in opposition to the political elite in the mainstream parties. But it is a racist party that blames migrant workers for the problems in society it is acting as a shield for the bankers who are really responsible for the economic crisis.”
Is shouting “racist party” outside the UKIP meeting going to change anybody’s opinions? I say shouting, but screaming ‘racist’ is the likely prospect. The involvement of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) signals the direction the protest is taking. This Sealed-Knot re-enactment of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) demonstrations of yesteryear is a dead-end. The chorus, conducted by the Socialist Workers Party (Stand up’s main initiator) is not going to win over anybody outside their ranks.
Revealing the role of UKIP as “shield for the bankers” is as unlikely undermine their support as “unmasking” them as an unsavoury load of old racists. The competition created in the labour market by migration is – on at least some evidence deliberately encouraged by employers – is the material basis on which people ‘blame’ foreigners for low wages.
A trade union approach is to set a standard, the Living Wage, and high social benefits and work protection for all. Only unions are capable of grappling with these problems directly, bringing the actual and potential UKIP voters together with migrants on the basis of common interests. The left needs to focus on campaigns by the TUC and its affiliates, to prevent the bosses from setting one group against another. It is the European Union which should create the conditions for continent-wide higher wages and social benefits, a strategy of upgrading standards. Any form of sovereigntist politics, from UKIP, the SNP (which advocates lower corporation tax in Scotland) to the Conservative Party’s own Eurosceptic policies (the most direct threat), is an attack on this internationalist approach.
After Douglas Carswell’s resignation from the Tory party and decision to stand for UKIP in Clacton on the 9th of October the party is rarely out of the headline. Polls gives Carswell a wide lead. The group now has 39,143 members. The left has to think, deeply and seriously, without yelling, about how to deal with UKIP’s appeal.
UKIP’s biggest weakness is not that it is a party with an exceptionally high membership of obsessives, xenophobes and oddballs. Having set out on a ‘populist’ path, that is, with the call for the British to rise up against the Brussels elite, its focus anti-European policies cut if off from the large numbers of people who (correctly) identify the ‘elite’ with a domestic Establishment. Many in these circles, including those who are virulently opposed to ‘Brussels’, are attracted, with a degree of ‘cultural cringe’ to the United States. They are prepared to cooperate with Washington and Wall Street in enterprises like TIIP, which open the way to an even greater extension of free-market power.
Farage’s organisation does not combine their prejudices with a degree of ‘social’ demands (protecting ‘the British worker’ ‘our NHS’). It opts for hard-line free-market policies. Continental populists, by contrast, are often opposed to ‘globalisation’ and ‘neo-liberalism’. Some European ‘populist’ parties, like the French Front National, have even tried to influence trade unions (3). This may reflect their middle class base, although the French FN equally benefits from electoral backing in middle class and wealthy areas (the traditional fiefs of the right and extreme-right in cities like Paris).
Yet UKIP’s electoral success (27.5% of the vote in the European elections) has had exactly the same effect: a constant drag towards the right, hauling political players towards its brand of patriotism.
That they are braggarts, demagogues, that their xenophobic policies (directed against other Europeans) have racial overtones (against any ‘foreigners’ – that is, including British citizens, ethnic minorities), is important. This should be brought out and attacked.
But the only way Farage’s party will be sent back to the margins is by facing up to the issue of Sovereignty. To Stand up to UKIP is to stand up for the European Union, to engage in the transformation of its structures and to build a European Social Republic.
Note: for a real anti-racist campaigning group see Hope not Hate which has covered everyday racism, UKIP, the BNP and other UK far-right groups, including Islamists.
(1) The European Rescue of the Nation State (1999) by the late Alan Milward.
(2) “The data on which Ford and Goodwin base their analysis of Ukip voters consists, as they acknowledge, of people who intend to vote Ukip, rather than those who have. On the occasions when Ukip’s vote increases dramatically (such as in European elections) their new or temporary voters are more likely to be middle-class, financially secure and from Conservative backgrounds. And, while Ukip did indeed attract more former Labour voters during the later New Labour years, they have won a substantially higher proportion of Tory voters since the coalition came to power.
So there might be another explanation for the high Ukip vote in Labour areas. As the BBC’s political research editor, David Cowling, points out, in Labour’s safest seat in the country at the 2010 election, 28% of voters still supported other parties. This is not because Liverpool Walton is peppered with enclaves of bankers and stockbrokers; it’s because a substantial section of the working class has always voted for parties other than Labour and now that vote is going to Ukip. Ford and Goodwin argue that Ukip’s success has reduced the swing to Labour among old, poor and male voters. But that’s different from saying that Ukip is eating into the existing Labour vote, as it clearly is into the Conservatives’.” David Edgar.
(2) See the collection of articles in Nouveau Visages des Extrêmes Droites. Manière de Voir. Le Monde Diplomatique. 134. Avril Mai 2014.
Update: SWP Party Notes,
Stand Up to Ukip: Doncaster 27 September
Ukip look odds on to win their first MP in the Clacton by-election on 9 October following the defection of Douglas Carswell to Ukip from the Tories.
Nigel Farage hopes to exploit the tensions inside the Tory party together with rising Islamaphobia to increase Ukip’s influence. This will drag politics further to the right, further boosting racist scapegoating.
The demonstration outside Ukip’s conference in Doncaster on Saturday 27 September is a key step in developing campaign against Ukip.
Every branch needs to think about transport to Doncaster. Approach trade unions for sponsorship and to publicise the demo and we should produce tickets to sell. (a template is attached). We should leaflet FE colleges and universities as they return. Using the Stand up to Ukip statement, which has an impressive list of ‘big’ names on it around work and with people we know locally is a good way to talk to people about the importance of coming to Doncaster and showing that there is organised opposition to Ukip.
More transport has been put on over the last week – including from Huddesfield, Chesterfield, Nottingham, West Midlands, Newcastle, Derby. For the full list go to standuptoukip.org
There are SUTU public meetings tonight in Manchester and Cambridge.
To order colour 2-sided A5 leaflets advertising the demo in Doncaster, firstname.lastname@example.org – 1,000 cost £15.