BNP, again…

The  BBC’s search for ratings has given far too much oxygen already to the BNP but I shall wade in with this article by Gary Younge. It’s the best thing I’ve read on the subject and discusses how New Labour have tackled race and how they have marginalised white working-classes.

It’s a shame that a proper left-winger and right-winger weren’t put up for the show – Tony Benn and Norman Tebbit would be ideal – it would allow politics instead of the identity of party/politicians to be at the heart of the debate.

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9 thoughts on “BNP, again…

  1. What a brilliant piece of journalism. It’s reminded me of an article by Walter Benn Michaels. I hadn’t come across him until a couple of months ago, and then forgot to chase him up, but according to the bible that is Wikipedia he’s an American literary theorist and has most recently argued that “the language of identity has displaced an argument about economic inequality – that we now have a politics of recognition, but not a politics of redistribution”. Like the sound of it..? The article he wrote for the LRB, which you can find here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n16/mich02_.html makes for an excellent discussion of the relationships between neoliberalism, racial discriminationan and class inequality. Basically that “increasing tolerance of economic inequality and increasing intolerance of racism, sexism and homophobia – of discrimination as such – are fundamental characteristics of neoliberalism”. Apologies for the laziness of the quote – I’m very hungry. Although Michaels is speaking about American policy, I think he translates very well alongside Gary Younge.

    I’d been feeling undecided about allowing the BNP on Question Time, until the BBC posted footage of the earlier BBC protests and I was filled with a sense of something that might translate as ‘identity pride’. More on that later.

  2. As befits my status as man-working-for-charity-of-the-people, here’s a nice down-to-earth analysis of the whole thing (without a single hypen, other than in the URL). http://livingwithrats.blogspot.com/2009/10/after-question-time-are-we-any-nearer.html (can i use html in comments?) Labour have failed on the doorstep, although their party hasn’t given the activists much to work with.

    While we’re at it, important to remember how the two parties talk about immigration http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/news/566051/head-to-head.html
    Labour aren’t great, but the Tories are much worse…

  3. Will: the people’s champion, it is good to see you in a bathhouse. Especially THE bathhouse. Good links too. Since Rich says we should all state our claims more, I shall ‘ham up’ my response.

    The issues compelling people to vote BNP can’t be reduced to the wrong PR. The fact that the BNPs doorstep campaigning resonates is symptomatic of the political economic issues people are confronting. So while I like the down-to-earthness of ‘just get the message out on the streets’, this message is not good enough.

    Also the living with rats blog has a slightly grating suspicion of protesters. People taking to the streets against fascism through British history is a primary reason why the far-right have never (even now) got anywhere. People organising themselves to take on the far right (and other issues) a better sign than well-managed PR effort on the part of new labour.

    The bad news is that more people are not protesting with them. (As an aside, I think the no-platform anti-fascists have been poor because of a lack of ambition. By not addressing why people who sympathise with BNP do so, they miss the point).

  4. Thanks for the link to my post, Will. Just to clarify, Sahil, I’m not suspicious of protesters: I’ve attended a fair few protests myself in my time. Sometimes, as in the case of the Iraq war, it’s the only way to make your feelings known about decisions that are taken over your head.

    My issue is that as a response to the BNP it’s inadequate, and encourages people who already have paranoid tendencies to feel their paranoia is vindicated. What’s more, by resorting to stereotypes and caricatures of BNP supporters, protesters are in danger of descending into the kind of dehumanising behaviour that so outrages them when other people practice it.

    It’s a bit like the parent who thinks they can stop their child’s tantrums by yelling at them. It might make the parent feel better in the short term, but is there evidence that it works?

  5. “People taking to the streets against fascism through British history is a primary reason why the far-right have never (even now) got anywhere” – Sahil

    I don’t agree that the reason the far right have been thwarted is down to the actions of protesters. I sense since you say a primary reason (you can’t have more than one primary reason) you don’t really agree with this either.

    Far right (and far left) politcs accompany real social problems and are diffused by recognising the concerns and making concessions accordingly. The wind was taken out of the sails of the britsh communist party by left leaning concessions from mainstream politics.

    I do however, agree that protesting is a good way to vent your spleen and maybe shock those in power into compromising, as well as a great place to practise your steel drumming.

  6. Who speaks in the name of thebathhouse? I’m not convinced this introduction of hierarchy can be a good thing. Do you presume to comment on behalf of the collective? Do you embody the blog?

  7. It’s good to see the bathhouse kicking! Just a few general responses.
     
    On grammar, quite right. Far right. 
     
    On the significance of popular protest… The battle of Cable Street I’d see as instrumental in inhibiting the rise of the far right in the UK. In the 1970s and 80s when the National Front was on the march, people – new immigrants, white working class mobilised through unions, liberal bathhouse readers – organized themselves in response and took their politics to the place racism is often felt at its most ugly: the streets. A right-wing attempt at popular anti-establishment politics was met by a more popular and progressive response. If today, rather than the pithy crowd of last week, a million people took to the streets to denounce the politics of the BNP and the politics that led people to the BNP we’d have a far greater symbol and act of resistence than Jack Straw bumbling about on our television screens. 
     
    Secondly, bathhouse folk should be defending the liberty of those under threat by the far right. The success of racist politics isn’t measured solely by electoral significance but also by how theatened minority groups feel. The solidarity and protection felt by ethnic minorities when people take to the steets to defend them can’t be ignored. Rather than protecting the paranoia of those moved to racist politics, and sit at home writing letters to your MP, waiting for elite institutions (especiallly those with dubious histories like the police) to act, we should act ourselves to dampen the very real threat felt by minority groups. If I felt that my right to walk the streets free from racial abuse was under threat, I’d feel safer by a mass protest defending me than I would by bathhouse readers sitting in a pub waiting for Question Time.
     
    Thirdly, history isn’t a tale of top-down politics unfolding through time. As Rich says it’s a process of constant negotiation with different interest groups. Protest is not simply to vent frustration, it frames and reshapes debate. The consequence of the Iraq war demonstations is that for a generation leaders will be unable  to go to war unilaterally again. Obama would not have beaten Hillary in the primaries if it weren’t for the strength of the anti-war sentiment. Now thenegotiation with Iran is fundementally different. Blairs legacy is defined by Iraq becuase of public protest. Collective action is an agent in history and it’s damaging to constantly dismiss people’s attempts to do this. I agree that the anti-fascists have failed themselves  by ignoring some of the politics behind why people turn to the BNP, but public resistence and shouting down certian platforms for racism is not as dehumanising as letting minority groups feel threatened. While protest and humour are not enough, by themselves, to dismiss the far right, it would be impossible to counter the BNP without them.

  8. Just found this great page from the Hope Not Hate website, laying out what they’re going to do to stop the BNP in Barking and Dagenham (next Borough along from Community Links). Has completely restored my faith in their campaign. Quote below relates to our original discussion, but whole thing is good…
    http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/Battlefield-Barking-and-Dagenham

    “The campaign will be long, difficult and unpredictable. There will be a temptation to chase the BNP, to hold demos and protests wherever Griffin raises his head, but this would be a distraction from the job at hand. The election is going to be won or lost in a few polling districts well away from the glare of the media, the shopping centres and the main transport hubs. Identifying and turning out the anti-BNP voters in these localities has to be our main priority, not chasing Griffin around the streets on the other side of the borough.

    “There is also a wider political reason why we must stay focused. Many of the people of Barking and Dagenham, especially those on the giant Becontree estate, share the same sense of victimhood as those who sympathised with Griffin after the Question Time fiasco or believed the Africans for Essex myth despite evidence to the contrary. Chasing Griffin around and holding constant demos against him is more likely to alienate us from ordinary voters than a policy of engaging with them and addressing the issues of concern.”

  9. They sound fantastic. We should get involved. I also think, though, part of making the BNP an illegitimate option involves making a large-scale protest at every public event they hold.

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