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Tag Archives: Ukip

Miriyam

What I will talk about mainly is the recent events and what they mean for the struggle against racism. The attack in Paris was, particularly for Dutch anti-racist activists, a quite bizarre experience. I was very active in the Dutch anti-racist movement when [?1:05] came up firstly after 9/11 in 2001 and then Theo Van Gogh was killed two years later. Watching Paris was like being thrown back 10 years, with some similarities and differences that I want to going into because I think they are important for our analysis in how we deal with the current form of Islamophobia and how we understand also how it changed.

charlie-hebdo-2What is interesting is, everything you hear about Paris, similarly what we heard about Van Gogh in the Netherlands, is that it’s very unique and that it’s “unprecedented” and “historical.” All the news framings are giving us the idea that this is a historic phenomena. The only reason why it’s unique is the sense that terrible things happen in the world but they happen in the periphery, or they are proxy wars elsewhere, in which Europe or the West is involved, but they don’t happen in the centre. This is the “unique” element used in framing this as a “shocking” event. For those of us who know people in other parts of the world, who are in solidarity with other struggles, it doesn’t quite feel that way. Of course it’s unique for other reasons but we sort of have an ability to internationalise and frame these events in a different light. But an identical narrative was given when [?3:06] was killed: it was the first political assassination in 300 years in the Netherlands.

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My most memorable day of 2013 was being part of a huge crowd of anti-fascists preventing the British National Party from having a march around London on June 1st. The slogan that still rings in my ears among many from that day is, “The BNP is a Nazi party – Smash the BNP.” It’s not in my nature to be violent or confrontational. But when faced with supporters of the BNP or the National Front, many of us who usually want a quiet life become a different person. There’s no doubt why this is. It’s because you know what they think of you and what they’d do to you with any power. You know what they think of you whether you’re queer, a trade unionist, non-white, a religious minority, or you simply care for the wellbeing of any of these people. When I shout, “Smash the BNP” it isn’t just a scary chant but it’s what I want to happen.

They still have a couple of councillors but hopefully, with bankruptcy, internal crisis and splits, and no more MEPs!, the nationalists really are smashed. Though they might like to pretend otherwise, UKIP has taken a great deal of their vote. It is wrong to call UKIP fascist and probably wrong to call them far right. But the people they are a threat to are the same people who have been intimidated by the BNP. (No, I’m not talking about the ‘political establishment’.) Being gay myself (more-or-less) I can’t help but focus on their homophobic element.

Everyone knows that Nick Griffin hates us. He has used homophobia to appeal to traditionalist Christianity; uses slurs like “poof”; has intimidated individual same-sex couples; and has out-right called gay couples and men who kiss each other ‘creepy’. A great deal of media attention has been directed to the more outrageous comments made by UKIP candidates and supporters. Some have been suspended but it has ultimately had little impact on the outcome of the European Parliament elections. Roger Helmer MEP has been re-elected in the East Midlands despite his comment that “Homosexuality is not a valid lifestyle worthy of equal respect”. Nigel Farage has predictably defended Helmer by pointing out how old he is, apparently letting him off the hook: “If we asked the 70s and over in this country how they felt about [homosexuality], most of them still feel uncomfortable.” Farage doesn’t harbour the same hatred as someone like Nick Griffin but you’re a fool if you think his party doesn’t benefit from his kind of thinking being mainstream.

But how can UKIP possibly be homophobic! They also just elected David Coburn, an openly gay MEP in Scotland! We all know this excuse. “I’m allowed to make those comments – some of my best friends are disabled.” A National Front member once told me: “Why are you calling me a racist? I’ve got black family,” to which I responded, “Oh yeah? Why don’t you bring them on a fucking NF demo!” An openly gay MEP is just as capable as anyone else of internalising homophobic and sexist junk and being an oppressor. The only openly gay MP, Rokas Zilinkas (Homeland Union Party), in Lithuania is one of the key politicians in that country in opposing equal rights of protest and assembly for LGBT organisations like Baltic Pride. He also supports Russian-style laws against ‘gay propaganda.’ Coburn’s attitude suggests that he will do nothing to further the cause of queer liberation; he feels the battle has been one with civil partnerships.

I’ve heard Black and Asian comrades describe the racism they face day to day by saying it often makes them want to cry and hide under the covers. This doesn’t mean they are lesser activists or that I don’t consider them heroes. It’s the same way I feel most of the time faced with homophobia. It doesn’t hurt to hear one increasingly irrelevant and desperate fascist idiot like Griffin say what he has to say about sexuality. It hurts that his party has shifted the debate and that so much of his hate speech has mainstream acceptance.

There’s a particularly nasty conversation I overheard in school that I still play over in my head. I failed to intervene, probably because it was so accepted in secondary school that being gay was in some way sick or wrong. One of my classmates was telling about how his brother’s best friend recently came out as gay. Another student advised, “You should tell your brother to sew his arse-cheeks together.” Most of the class laughed. The teacher must have heard the conversation but ignored it. What’s the implication of this joke? Firstly that all gay men are sex addicts and attracted to every other man they meet; secondly that gay men are more likely to be rapists. These two ideas are the substance of so many jibes and insults you hear every day made against gay people which so often go unnoticed. There’s a parallel here with what one rs21 speaker called, in a meeting on racism and resistance, ‘politically correct racism’. He gave the example: “I don’t hate Muslims but don’t they treat women appallingly?”

Anyone can see a problem with the racism of a neo-fascist party, but the ruling class—the political establishment that UKIP must now admit it is part of—will always find a new way to make oppressive language acceptable. The efforts of Hope Not Hate and others in ‘exposing’ UKIP are not enough. I’ll leave it up to someone cleverer to work out the details, but to truly remove homophobia from political acceptability, sexuality and gender studies must be taught and understood in a way that allows future generations to see through the evasive language of ‘politically correct bigotry’.

Based on a talk that I gave to the Kent Socialist Workers Party group. To many people these ideas will be obvious, but sometimes it helps to be reminded of the obvious. References are at the bottom.

There are three main tasks that face a revolutionary socialist party. The first is the SWP’s role, or any socialist party’s role, as an antifascist opposition; second is the importance of education on socialism: this topic is the majority of this article; third is the importance of internationalism and of relating individual struggles, as explained by Duncan Hallas.

At the recent Party Council of the SWP (June 2nd), Weyman Bennett (UAF) made a point about the role of socialists in fighting the far right. Recent experience has shown that social-democracy  (that is, introducing socialist politics through reformist methods) in Europe, for example in Sweden, Denmark, and arguably the area controlled by our own Green Party, has shown no opposition to austerity. Many problems and kinds of unrest caused by capitalism make the rise of fascism all the easier. Trotsky in his last article (August 1940), Bonapartism, Fascism, and War gives many examples of these problems but there are three that are most relatable to our current situation: “the gravest crisis of capitalist society; growing confusion and indifference; the growth of hostility to the proletariat”.

I could give specific examples, but they are fairly self-explanatory. The polling strength of the racist Swedish Democrats is the result of scapegoating inequality and other social ills on immigrants. It is quite clear that if the periodical and inevitable crises of capitalism can lead to the popularity of fascist and right-wing populist ideas, a dedicated anti-capitalist party will also be the most effective antifascist party. Left-reformists themselves have a lot to answer for in the rise of the far right. The Labour party has taken a typically conservative stance on immigration, while Ed Milliband expresses his respect for UKIP. All this serves to normalise anti-immigrant hatred.

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Last Saturday (June 1st) a small group of British National Party supporters, apparently 150 of them (it looked about 40), had a pen to protest in outside parliament. Across the country on this day there were a total of 55 protests held by the BNP, English Defence League, National Front, and other racists hoping to pass off the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by an extremist Muslim as representative of Islam, and as the fault of immigration. All but two of these protests were outnumbered by counter-demos, mostly organised by Unite Against Fascism. It was great to see many SWP and ex-SWP members around, as well as our old sign The BNP is a Nazi Party – Smash the BNP. Many members of the Socialist Party were present, as well as Unison and PCS activists.

We managed, by refusing to be moved, to prevent the BNP from marching for five hours (midday to 5pm). When the police managed to get them marching, only 15 of them remained. Some activists against the badger cull managed to finally break them up! Human rights activist Peter Tatchell later recommended on twitter later that UAF use a “sitting protest” rather than the usual “macho methods”. Some of the ‘Anonymous’ protesters tried this, for about five minutes. It is a liberal tactic that achieves nothing more than a chalk drawing of a peace symbol. By allowing the fash to march freely, we would be guilty of giving them a platform. Most of the 58 antifascists who were arrested and dealt with so violently were protesting peacefully and defending democracy. [Relevant reading from ’77: In Defence of Violence]

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Yesterday I spent around four hours in total selling the Socialist Worker with a friend andImage 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?

  • Richard Seymour and Roobin on UKIP: A very British tea party
  • My step-cousin, via twitter: “UKIP is terrible and whoever supports it should have a frog hit them with Nigel Farage’s leg.”
  • F the Bedroom Tax, MC NxtGen

Finally! I got a copy of *that* Socialist Worker. It’s very unsettling to see a positive headlineImage in the Worker, and I’m not sure what it says that they needed a death to be able to write one. On the back of the Thatcher’s Dead pullout there’s a good section on how Labour are essentially trying to copy Thatcherism. “Labour’s failure to challenge right wing ideas has helped legitimise them.”

Me and nine others took part in an East Kent KONP (Keep Our NHS Public) meeting. We have plans to celebrate around 6th July, which will be the 65th birthday of the National Health Service. We will most likely have a showing of Spirit of ’45 and some speakers.

There was lots of other internal and publicity stuff to talk about, but we probably spent longer addressing the campaign against the Bedroom Tax. There are many myths that need to explain on benefits, but the main issue is that being unemployed and on housing benefits is the norm. This is only a minority. Most benefits claimants are either pensioners, disabled, or on in-work benefits. The divisive exaggerations are only a distraction from the billions lost in the rich’s tax avoidance, which doesn’t receive nearly enough outrage. Seeing as Ukip would go even further than the Tories with cutting benefits, there is an anti-Ukip leaflet that we will be giving out leading up to the Kent County Council elections. I have found from talking to people while leafletting or selling papers that many Ukip-supporters do not know what the party is really about, merely agreeing with the anti-EU stance. We agreed we need to pressure local Labour councillors to back the ‘No Evictions’ motion supported by independent left candidate Ian Driver, who has expressed his disgust at the bedroom tax and privatisation of the NHS.