Notes On What Passes For Debate

As expected, the first two of the three ‘historic’ party leaders’ television ‘debates’ have be completely apolitical tosh. Instead the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders have indulged in a round robin of sound bites, each vying with the other to appear more presidential and to sound more hardcore on a number of ‘dog whistle’ populist topics — ‘immigration’, ‘law and order’ and so on. They have promised points systems, more people incarcerated under the antiquated and brutal prison regime and services slashed and burned, instead of setting out how they would deal with the cause(s) of crime and poverty.

Cameron’s Tories show their contempt for people with the totally risible slogan

VOTE FOR CHANGE
VOTE CONSERVATIVE

LibDem leader Nick Clegg is ‘channelling’ former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s vocal mannerisms and hand gestures in a quite disconcerting fashion. Clegg also repeatedly refers to Labour and the Conservatives as the ‘old’ parties, cheap sleight of hand from the current leader of a party which traces its ancestry back to 1678.

But which one is Obama? It’s Clegg … it’s Cameron … no it’s Clegg. It definitely is not Brown.

The Elephant In The Room

The British Labour Party is running like frightened rabbits from the right-wing consensus on immigration, a consensus that stretches all of the way from the extremes of the BNP and UKIP, through the Daily Mail and wannabe far-right websites like Harry’s Place, through the conservative press, and clasps at the ankles of New Labour.

During the BBC coverage of the Euro Election results, New Labour Health Secretary Andy Burnham responded to the election of the first BNP MEP by saying

Clearly, there are concerns about immigration. The government has got to respond to those concerns.

This is echoed in the campaigning of the nationalist popular front No2EU — Yes to Democracy (but only if you have the ‘right’ passport) and the line of supporting websites, such as ‘Socialist’ Unity, with their cretinous division of workers along national lines into ‘indigenous’ and ‘immigrants’, the latter purportedly ‘disadvantaging’ the former.

Acceding to the right-wing consensus on immigration is doing the work of the BNP for them. Instead of challenging the consensus, the centre-left and a worrying section of the ‘far’ left is surrendering to it. They should stand up to the the racism, homophobia and antisemitism of the BNP, not jump to every dog whistle and allow the BNP to set policy.

The right-wing press repeatedly complains that it is ‘silenced’ on the ‘question of immigration’. How then does it manage daily to unleash a torrent of hatred against migrants and asylum seekers, with the outright lies about ‘uncontrolled mass migration’, scare stories of Britain changed beyond recognition, of ‘race-replacement’ and the ‘cosmopolitanisation’ of town centres, demonising dark-skinned ‘foreigners’ as criminals and disease carriers — confident in the conviction that it is normal to hate and fear people who have a different skin colour or accent, that is normal not to want to see people with darker skin than you walking down the street where you live? How is it able to publish racist scaremongering claims of institutionalised state ‘discrimination’ against white Britons — discrimination which exists entirely in the heads of Melanie Phillips and Nick Griffin.

It’s not time “that the BNP’s arguments must be addressed”, it’s time, instead, that we focused on the real roots of the Nazi support, not in some alleged spontaneously-occurring working class racism, but in “[a] popular media which propagates a constant sense of hostility and anxiety towards non-white, non-Christian groups, and a government which derives its idea of consensus from the opinion pages of the press and vomits up the rhetoric of fear and hate.”

There are minor political differences between the BNP and the rest of the far right — the BNP blames ‘the left’ for orchestrating attacks on it, while Melanie Phillips, writing in the Spectator, tries to draw some mad line between ‘racial prejudice’ and ‘racism’, and thinks the BNP are ‘the left’[1]. Observers are forced to suspend disbelief that Phillips’ head doesn’t implode under the weight of contradictions inherent her belief that ‘socialism’ at once allows both vicious racism and open borders — nature abhors a vacuum. Differences aside, if Griffin and Phillips looked at one another it would be though they gazed in a mirror. After his election Griffin referred to British identity and Christian heritage. Phillips inveighs against the ‘Islamisation of Britain’ and appeals to the notion of British ‘identity’ based on ‘Judeo-Christian ethics’[2] and ‘shared particulars of religion, law, history, traditions and culture’.

The contention which pervades the right-wing consensus is that society is under attack, that ‘our way of life’ is mortally threatened by alien and devious unknowable foreigners, accompanied by a strong conviction of personal injury. This is the tactic of ‘blaming the victim’ — it turns existing power relations on their head, and the powerless, voiceless minority is is made out to be the aggressor.

the blind murderer has always seen his victim as a persecutor against whom he must defend himself[3]

It was not Labour voters switching to the BNP in droves who elected nazis to the European Parliament. A great number of Labour voters simply stayed at home — New Labour’s problem is the failure to motivate and mobilise traditional Labour voters. The Labour Party’s forthcoming electoral annihilation will present an opportunity for political reorientation.

To start off, they can tell the truth about the economy — about why we have boom and bust cycles. It is not the fault of migrants that jobs pay only £5.78 an hour, it is the greedy bosses screwing the workers. Stop taking voters in the ‘heartlands’ of Wales, Scotland and the North for granted, while housing rots and jobs steadily drift to London and the Southeast. Tell the truth about immigration. Stand up to the fascist parties and the right-wing media which repeat over and over and over again ‘they are to blame, they are the reason you are poor’. When constituents, in their ignorance, complain about migrants and supposed ‘special privileges’, ask why they believe such things. Instead of pandering to the racist consensus, make it clear that none of this is true, that it’s a big stinking lie put about by vile racist scum to divert attention from the real problem — the elephant in the room: capitalism.

It is time for them to stop triangulating, and bury once and for all the thoroughly discredited experiment with Thatcherism.

[1] The Nazis had ‘socialist’ in the name of their party you see. Followers of Phillips should await her forthcoming trenchant denunciation of the conservative, Catholic CSU (Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern), as a ‘socialist trade union’ and a jeremiad against the concept of ‘democracy’, the essential qualities of which are exposed in the name of the military-industrial gulag, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

[2] The formulation ‘ Judeo-Christian’ properly belongs in the mouths of the right, conflating as it does the people who were subject to 2000 years of pogroms, murder, forced resettlement and ultimately genocide, with the very perpetrators of those crimes.

[3] Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, The Dialectic of Enlightenment, 1944.

Is This The Nadir?

Until 1995, Clause IV of the British Labour Party constitution undertook:

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

What does the Blairite former cabinet minister Stephen Byers think of the 50p tax rate on earnings over £150K, announced in last week’s budget?

I believe it should be opposed because in the long run it will be something which will be damaging for both the Labour Party and the economy.

…It’s A Black And White Issue

The strapline for the NO2EU nationalist platform in the forthcoming European Parliament elections is …it’s a black and white issue. They really are that stupid, although they are not alone. It is symptomatic of the racist dementia infecting discourse on the rapidly growing right wing of the labour movement, a slide which, unchecked, leads all the way to the Deutsche Arbeitsfront. Instead of fighting against so-called ‘social dumping’ by campaigning for equal rights, representation and fair wages and conditions for all European workers, NO2EU, a front organisation of the National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), is banging the drum of economic protectionism, nationalism and the ‘sovereign’ rights of states, and supports restrictions on workers according to the passport they hold. NO2EU blames the EU for declining wages and conditions of British workers, while completely ignoring the role of the British boss class in the current capitalist crisis. NO2EU, by seeking to divert blame to the EU, is defending the interests of British capital.

This initiative follows the strike action at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in January and February, demanding ‘British Jobs for British Workers’, which diverted legitimate grievances about unemployment and access to jobs into a nationalist campaign against ‘foreign’ workers. The Socialist Party, to its great credit, intervened and the strike committee agreed to the following demands:

> No victimisation of workers taking solidarity action.
> All workers in UK to be covered by NAECI Agreement.
> Union controlled registering of unemployed and locally skilled union members, with nominating rights as work becomes available.
> Government and employer investment in proper training/apprenticeships for new generation of construction workers – fight for a future for young people.
> All Immigrant labour to be unionised.
> Trade Union assistance for immigrant workers — including interpreters — and access to Trade Union advice – to promote active integrated Trade Union Members.
> Build links with construction trade unions on the continent.

The Socialist Party’s intervention was ultimately unsuccessful, as the dispute was eventually settled by the adoption of a nationality-based quota system. There is however, no accounting for their participation as activists in the nationalist NO2EU campaign. Another to divide the working class along national lines is GMB official and hunt follower Andy Newman, who at the time of the Lindsey strike wrote without any apparent embarrassment

[E]nsuring that increased immigration doesn’t disadvantage the indigenous population shoudl [sic] be a socialist demand, along with demanding equality for all — migrant and indigenous.

‘Disadvantage’? His true colours are showing. The demand should be jobs and housing for all. What of people who move, for example, from Hull to Exeter? How are these ‘indigenous migrants’ qualitatively different to ‘immigrants’? Because, according to Newman’s ‘logic’ they do not ‘disadvantage’ the ‘indigenous’ population, it is only ‘immigrants’ who have this special quality. Are we really to believe that, unlike ‘immigrants’, people from Hull don’t require housing and social services? A socialist demand for equality begins with removal of all specious divisions of nationality and ethnicity.

Completing the circle of defence of nation and capital before class, Andy socialism-in-one-county Newman defended UNITE’s disgraceful betrayal of their members, when an entire shift of 850 agency workers at the Cowley Mini car plant was dismissed in February. UNITE officials admitted they had been negotiating with the bosses for weeks, but said nothing to the rank and file — in fact they assured them that they knew nothing of rumoured lay-offs right up to the moment they were sacked and ordered to leave the premises within one hour — because, they said, they feared they might lose their jobs. ‘Sorry mate, more than my job’s worth…’ Again, UNITE officials were doing the bosses’ dirty work and policing the workers. The sacked workers were furious:

We paid the union. It is a corrupt organisation. They gave us one hour’s notice that we are losing our jobs in a credit crisis. If you cannot represent us, we want the money we’ve given to you over the years and pay us back our money. We are going to speak to the media outside, and we are going to tell every newspaper, every newspaper, exactly how you’ve represented us. We asked you yesterday what was our situation, and you said you didn’t know.

Trade union consciousness is formed in the context of the dominant bourgeois, nationalist ideology. For every expression of proletarian internationalism, there are many more expressions of nationalism, sectionalism, and exhortations to put nation before class in defence of the ‘national interest’. The ‘labour aristocracy’ and vulgar Marxists fetishise trade union consciousness as the highest form of proletarian consciousness. Criticism of this nationalist, economist ideology which is thoroughly subordinated to the bourgeois nation state, is denounced by the ‘labour aristocracy’ as ‘ultra-leftist’, or, turning matters completely on their heads, ‘bourgeois’ — because, we are told, the best interests of the workers are served, and can only be served, by subordination to the dictates of the bosses and the nation state. The class collaborationist trade union leaders are not interested in overturning the relations of production that exploit the same workers whose interests the workers pay them to represent. Instead, bloated union officials act as the bosses’ tea-boys and bag-carriers.

It is in the context of the sclerotic degeneration into bourgeois nationalism, ‘ossified reformism’, and the incorporation of the trade union bureaucracies — whose class collaborationist leaders are in the pockets of the bosses, and have subordinated themselves to the interests of capital to secure the continuation of their wealth and privileges as ‘lords of labour’ — into the apparatus of the bourgeois nation state, that the need for ‘spontaneous’ action, in concert with revolutionary proletarian education, arises: to throw off the dead hands of the trade union bureacracies that are holding us down, even as the bosses are strangling us.

Labour Caves In To BNP Ideology Again

The government continues its disgusting subordination to the BNP-led concensus that economic and associated social problems in Britain are caused by migrants. The Home Secretary has torn herself away from filling in expense claim forms to announce new restrictions in the already discriminatory and unjust immigration ‘points system’, which will further limit the entry of migrants and their families from outside the EU. Obviously, the announcement is a sop to the right, which fails to acknowledge, let alone address, the real causes of economic and social inequality. It is not workers who are to blame for the nightmare of capitalism, who have insisted on the casualisation of labour or use unemployment as a weapon to force down wages and conditions.

Tory Damian Green has predictably managed to outdo Smith in grotesqueness, responding that she is ‘tinkering around the edges’ of the system. We are confident that he isn’t advocating overturning capitalist relations of production.