Yesterday I spent around four hours in total selling the Socialist Worker with a friend and petitioning for no evictions resulting from the bedroom tax. We also had a petition titled No to UKIP, No to racism. This didn’t seem to have a plan of action – just collecting names to gauge feelings about the party and to get email addresses of anyone interested in hearing more. I noticed – and other comrades have found the same while campaigning – that voters think Ukip are just the eurosceptic, anti-immigrant party, and care just as much about welfare and poorer people as Labour used to. So much so that some people gladly signed the bedroom tax petition, aware of its absurdity and knowing someone who will be affected, then telling us we’re totally wrong about Ukip. One guy said, after agreeing with us about the bedroom tax, “They can’t be racist. I’ve just voted for them!” going on to say that austerity and undermining benefits was only necessary because of the coalition that has been too soft on immigration.
The reality is that Farage’s party is ideologically right-libertarian (not libertarian on social issues of course), going as far as to call those reliant on benefits a “parasitic underclass.” They would not challenge the bedroom tax. They propose a 25% flat-rate tax, not helping the working poor but working in the interests of corporations and landlords charging unfair rates. This it not an anti-establishment party. Nobody is more firmly rooted in the establishment.
What anti-racists and anti-capitalists need to make clear is that yes, immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria can be provided for. The solutions are to fund more council housing, nationalise industries and trains instead of putting healthcare into private hands, be stricter on tax avoidance, and for the BBC and others to stop giving a platform to fascists and national populists. Giving how Labour has failed its usual voters, it is utterly unsurprising that this kind of thinking isn’t popular.
The other issue with the UK Independence Party is the amount of candidates and activists affiliated or previously affiliated with the National Front, EDL, and other more unambiguously racist organisations. Others don’t have these uncomfortable alliances but can be quoted saying awful things about Muslims and, well, non-whites. Every time, they can be dismissed as an extreme and unrepresentative example, or a decent non-racist who made a simple mistake. But how many individual racist Kippers is it going to take for the party to admit that they have a problem with race?