32 anti-fascists, mostly local to Thanet, gathered in the Red Hall tonight to discuss the current threat of the far-right and the tasks for UAF. Around fifteen anti-anti-fascists from around Kent disrupted the meeting from outside, but that’s a generous estimate. From what I could see on Facebook, they were a combination of the English Defence League and the more honest Nazis of what remains of the National Front. The speakers were the Labour Councillor Will Scobie for Margate and Cliftonville, Bunny LaRoche (UAF, SWP, Love Music Hate Racism), and Christine Shawcroft from the Labour NEC. After their talks it was an open discussion and many contributed from the floor.
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?
Today I got to be a first-time voter, in the Kent County Council elections. I was very excited about this, despite being in a very conservative area and having no real faith in our parliamentary democracy. This is a similar contradiction to watching England play football. For me an ideal world is one without states and borders, but every so often I can suspend this and become patriotic for 90 minutes.
I voted for Jo Kidd, the candidate for the Green Party of England and Wales. There are a ton of socialists and closet-socialists in the Green Party so I’m hoping it might go that way, rather than social democracy. In some places I might have voted Labour, if there was a good trade unionist running, or possibly in Whitstable, I would have voted for the Labour candidate Rita O’Brien, who leads the East Kent Keep Our NHS Public group. But the Labour party doesn’t look like it will reverse its rightward trend any time soon, nor is it likely to take more effective action on environmentalism than Blair or Brown. Climate change really needs to be more in the foreground now, as well as the jobs that will be created by green energy.