Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Enoch Powell, Europe, Farage, the Working Class and the Brexit Party.

with one comment

Image result for paul foot enoch powell

Founder of British National Populism.

Enoch Powell was the first post-war politician in Britain to take an openly racist political position.

He, above all amongst Conservatives, is still recognised as a key political figure of the late 20th century.

What is is his legacy?

This is a helpful summary:

The ‘ultimate impact’ of Powell on the discourse on immigration and ‘race relations’ in Britain was ‘to shift it further to the right’.[7] Also taken up by Margaret Thatcher in her 1978 statements on immigration on Granada TV’s World in Action, Powell’s remarks have provided a rudimentary framework for attacks on immigration and multiculturalism ever since.

The Legacy of Enoch Powell. Hatful of History.

Paul Foot wrote his obituary in 1998.

Everyone who wrote about him was certain of one thing: Enoch Powell was not a racist. He ‘said things we didn’t agree with’ (Tony Blair). He was ‘an extreme nationalist, but not a racialist’ (Denis Healey). He inspired racialists ‘but was not a racialist himself’ (Tony Benn). The Tory papers which revered him and called for parliament to be prorogued in his memory would not contemplate the possibility that he was a racialist. The unanimity was complete. Which is all very odd because the most important thing by far about Enoch Powell was that he was a racist pig of the most despicable variety.

The point is easily proved. In a private speech to lobby correspondents some years before he started speaking in public on immigration, he said, ‘Often when I am kneeling down in church I think to myself how much we should thank god, the holy ghost, for the gift of capitalism.’ Powell believed in capitalism just as a religious nut believes in the holy ghost. When fighting elections in Wolverhampton he would spell out the ‘simple choice’ between ‘free enterprise and a planned society’. He gloried in what he called the symmetry of capitalism. Ponderously, with a deliberate form of speech which many mistook for careful thought, he explained how the market drove and inspired the capitalist economy to ever higher summits of perfection. There was only one condition: that capital should be left to find its own place and its own direction.

Beyond the Powell

Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, in 1968,  issued dire warnings about the impact of immigration, was followed by these working class actions,

After the “Rivers of Blood” speech, Powell was transformed into a national public figure and won huge support across the UK. Three days after the speech, on 23 April, as the Race Relations Bill was being debated in the House of Commons 1,000 dockers marched on Westminster protesting against the “victimisation” of Powell, with slogans such as “we want Enoch Powell!” and “Enoch here, Enoch there, we want Enoch everywhere”. The next day, 400 meat porters from Smithfield market handed in a 92-page petition in support of Powell, amidst other mass demonstrations of working-class support, much of it from trade unionists, in London and Wolverhampton.

This was only the tip of the iceberg. At the end of April showed that 74% of those asked agreed with his speech and only 15% disagreed, with 11% unsure. The controversy divided the country, with many working class people backing Powell. One of my father’s brothers, a shop-steward in a car-plant in the Midlands, agreed with the Tory Toff. For over a decade my Dad refused to speak to him. In my North London secondary school some of the cockneys (often skinheads) and my friends had fights over ‘Good ol’ Enoch’.

Powell was also an ardent opponent of British membership of the European Union, or Common Market/European Economic Community, was it was known in the 1970s.

This was his view. on what was at stake over British membership of this alliance of states based on pooled sovereignty.

The House of Commons is at this moment being asked to agree to the renunciation of its own independence and supreme authority—but not the House of Commons by itself. The House of Commons is the personification of the people of Britain: its independence is synonymous with their independence; its supremacy is synonymous with their self-government and freedom. Through the centuries Britain has created the House of Commons and the House of Commons has moulded Britain, until the history of the one and the life of the one cannot be separated from the history and life of the other.

 Do not be deceived. With other weapons and in other ways the contention is as surely about the future of Britain’s nationhood as were the combats which raged in the skies over southern England in the autumn of 1940. The gladiators are few; their weapons are but words; and yet the fight is everyman’s.

Speech at Newton, Montgomeryshire (4 March 1972), from The Common Market: Renegotiate or Come Out

It does not take much to see these views echoed in the present Brexit debate, from the European Research Group to Spiked and the Full Brexit.

Powell as a National Populist, with race, nation, People., Sovereignty, all welded together by a demagogue.

In 1974  Powell took this line:

Powell described British membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) as “if there be a conflict between the call of country and that of party, the call of country must come first” and went on to say: Curiously, it so happens that the question ‘Who governs Britain?’ which at the moment is being frivolously posed, might be taken, in real earnest, as the title of what I have to say. This is the first and last election at which the British people will be given the opportunity to decide whether their country is to remain a democratic nation, governed by the will of its own electorate expressed in its own Parliament, or whether it will become one province in a new European superstate under institutions which know nothing of the political rights and liberties that we have so long taken for granted.

Speech to an audience of around 1,500 people on 23 February 1974 about British membership of the EEC. 

If the electoral system had been different, if ‘start up’ virtual parties, funded by right-wing millionaires and far right US allies had existed, who knows if Powell would have done. He could have led a political force, like the Brexit Party., As it was Powell’s only direct political intervention of any electoral significance was perhaps his call in 1974 to vote Labour, in the belief that they would oppose British membership of the EU.In the 1975 Referendum over EEC membership.

During the 1975 contest  Michel Foot and other left figures of the Labour Party, such as Peter Shore, Barbara Castle, and the right-winger Eric Varley  opposed to EEC membership notoriously appeared on platforms with Powell. Tony Benn would also campaign against the Common Market. The Communist Party of Great Britain clung onto the ‘No’s shirt tails.

Powell ended his political career as an Ulster Unionist, a group whose presence is a key to present Tory turmoil over Brexit

For reasons rooted in their own support for a Sovereign Britain free to make deals with the un-elected WTO, the remains of this patriotic left are keen to underline working class support for Brexit.

The Brexit Bolsheviks even have a direct line to  how the working class thinks.

During the week the daily of the Labour boycotting Communist Party of Britain, the Morning Star had this editorial during the week.

Labour must recapture the anger of working-class Leave voters

The rising index of voters signifying their intention to vote for Farage’s Brexit business entity is the direct consequence of the failure of our deeply unrepresentative parliamentary system to give effect to the Brexit vote and, more directly, it is the product of a deepening reservoir of contempt for mainstream politicians.

The Labour Party’s big losses are among people where the Leave vote signified working-class anger.

This is not a healthy situation. Labour needs to recapture its insurgent spirit and find a shared language with the millions of people it needs if it is to form a government.

These are among the millions who seem unprepared to vote for its candidates in next week’s election.

Yet what exactly is the electoral basis of this ‘anger’?

Yesterday Peter Kellner demolished some myths about the working class anti-Brexit vote.

The polls are clear – Labour’s Brexit tactics are failing spectacularly. Peter Kellner

The party is haemorrhaging votes in the mistaken belief that the leave tendency is driven by its working-class base

“A YouGov analysis of more than 25,000 voters suggests the following division of leave voters in the referendum, linked to the 2017 election result.

• Middle-class leave voters: Conservative 5.6 million; Labour 1.6 million.

• Working-class leave voters: Conservative 4.4 million; Labour 2.2 million. (A few of the remaining 3.6 million leave voters supported smaller parties; most did not vote in 2017.)”

“So the largest block of leave voters were middle-class Conservatives, followed by working-class Conservatives. Just one in eight leave voters was a working-class Labour supporter. To be sure, had even half of these 2.2 million voters backed remain, the result of the referendum would be different. But to suggest that the referendum’s 17.4 million leave voters were dominated by working-class Labour supporters is simply wrong.”

Kellner concludes,

None of this addresses the wisdom of Labour’s policy towards Brexit and a new referendum. All it does is indicate that its policy is specifically haemorrhaging remain votes without enhancing its appeal to leave voters. If the party’s aim was to maximise support next week by appealing to both remain and leave Britain, it is failing spectacularly.

This is obviously far from the last word on the electoral sociology of this election.

As this indicates.

But the issue of those working class Brexit backers is above all a political one.

There are still Lexiters (left supporters of Brexit) who believe that the anger of what Kellner indicates is in a majority the rage of  conservative (both small and Big ‘C’) sections of the working class  and their counterparts in the Middle Class Tory voters,  contains within it the seeds of a genuine People’s Brexit, a fight against EU ‘neo-liberalism’.

The kind of “insurgent spirit” of the Smithfield Porters…

They are unlikely to be convinced by Kellner since they have a hotline to what the ‘real’ workers think.

In case others, fed up with the whole show, think this is a battle between two nationalisms, this should concentrate their minds.

The Brexit Party combines exactly the same extreme nationalism, hard line free-market policies as Powell.

Enoch Powell would not doubt have been happy to get this kind of support:

 

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Andrew Coates

    May 17, 2019 at 5:54 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: