Saturday 22 November 2008

Anti-fascists should not be bleary eyed

In the wake of the BNP's list-leak disaster, Labour MP Hazel Blears is quite right to lay the belt into the BNP by describing them as 'playing on people's apprehensions and peddling "pernicious but plausible lies"' (BBC News: Blears sounds warning about BNP). She also rightly claims that the BNP has been successful because working-class people feel 'ignored by mainstream politicians'. At the same time, however, she seems very vague about how we should deal with this problem.

Why is this important? Because there is also a pernicious argument within the mainstream parties, Labour included, that we should try to undercut the BNP's support by pandering to some of its demands. This has seen Blears' own New Labour government bring in ever tougher rules on immigration and ever more draconian crackdowns on asylum seekers, while harping on about 'Britishness' and the need for ethnic minorities to become more assimilated into 'British society'. Yet far from undercutting the BNP, such measures have boosted them by legitimising their racist beliefs, and allowing them to set the political agenda.

At the same time, the New Labour government is introducing measures, such as further attacks on benefits at a time when unemployment is increasing (BBC News: Welfare plan 'may cause poverty'). Such actions not only increase people's alienation from mainstream politics, they also fuel the misery and despair on which the fascists feed.

In order to attack the fascists and their racist ideas - which handicap our ability to unite against reactionary measures such as welfare cuts - we need to take on their myths, not pander to them. However much British people's living standards have been attacked, they are - contrary to the right-wing myths peddled by the capitalist media and Establishment - still better than those suffered by asylum seekers. Asylum seekers do not get council houses, they are housed in spartan accommodation reserved for asylum seekers, forced to live on benefits (increasingly in the form of vouchers) of less money than that given to British nationals, and are subject to constant surveillance - even having their possessions checked to make sure they don't own 'luxuries'. For the truth about asylum in the UK, check out the Refugee Council website, which has a section devoted to refuting myths about asylum seekers. And the theatre show "They get free mobiles, don't they?" by the Banner Theatre Company, gives an excellent insight into the real lives of asylum seekers.

Speaking of unappealing 'safe havens', the BNP certainly ain't a safe haven for people - white people included - who are disillusioned with the Establishment parties. Even leaving aside their racist, oppressive and violent politics and behaviour, let us not forget how the BNP's membership list ended up online. It is widely believed to have been caused by an internal dispute within the BNP, in which one member who was forced out decided to execute a 'scorched earth policy' on the BNP. This is not an aberration, the BNP have had a simmering feud since last year (Searchlight Hope Not Hate: Internal splits threaten BNP's chances in London Assembly poll). Indeed, the anti-democratic nature of fascist parties, internally as well as externally, tends to create splits and splinters; the BNP itself formed in the early 1980s from a split within the National Front. And the intolerant nature of fascism tends to make such disagreements erupt pyroclastically - the epitome of such loose-cannon behaviour was the Night of the Long Knives purge, back in Nazi Germany, when Hitler murdered his own SA storm troopers!

So what can we do when we become bitter and disillusioned with our government and its Establishment rivals? What we need to do is build a left wing alternative, which can unite workers, regardless of colour, sex, sexuality or disability, into a movement which can challenge the capitalist Establishment and its puppet politicians from below. Then we can effectively challenge cuts in benefits, job losses etc without blaming the most marginalised within society. What's more, by creating unity against the such acts of the capitalist system, we can sow the seeds of a movement which can eventually destroy the capitaist system itself. And create a socialist society which is free of racism, prejudice, poverty, unemployment and misery.

Black and white, gay and straight, able bodied and disabled - UNITE AND FIGHT!!!

Friday 21 November 2008

Blundering Nazis Pwned!

We've all been enjoying schadenfreude over the BNP's membership list ending up online (Love Music Hate Racism: Fascist public servants exposed as BNP chickens come home to roost). And LOLing as the BNP's reactions are hilariously hypocritical - bleating about their members being placed in danger (one word: Redwatch!) and wanting to use the Human Rights Act (which the BNP wants to repeal) against those who posted the list online.

Having said that, I would not like to see a witch-hunt against those on the list for a number of reasons. Firstly, it may give false creedence to the pernicious myth that anti-fascists are "as bad as the fascists". Yes, this myth ignores the fact that, unlike the fascists, we do not target people on the basis of unchangeable characteristics such as colour or disability, in fact we only target their poisoned ideology. What's more, UAF has welcomed former National Front and BNP members who have seen the error of their ways, ie it is perfectly possible for people to stop being fascists. Whereas I've never seen a black man become white (with the possible exception of Michael Jackson, LOL). Nevertheless, the "as bad as they are" myth continues, and has been parroted by the less aware in the wake of the BNP list leak. So we should not encourage it.

Even more importantly, there are questions about the accuracy of the list. Even if names haven't been deliberately added (let's fact it, we've only got the BNP's "highly trustworthy" word for that), there are people on the list who naively joined the BNP briefly and who now condemn what the BNP actually stands for - such as the Reverend John Stanton (Searchlight: Church leader withdraws support for the BNP). Others may never have actually been members at all, like a worker at Windsor Castle (BBC News: BNP members 'targeted by threats'). Even in the case of the Merseyside policeman, maybe the Police need more accurate evidence than the online membership list before sacking him ... perhaps they could obtain such evidence by raiding the office of the local BNP branch where he is apparently a member :D

Where the list will come in useful, however, is for locating areas where there is a cluster of BNP members, or areas near a BNP organiser, and leafleting these areas with anti-fascist literature and building a movement in said areas against the BNP and its toxic ideology.

BTW The laughs at the BNP's expense don't stop here ... check out the LOLGRIFFIN blog :-)

Monday 10 November 2008

Total eclipse of the brain

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has really dropped a clanger (more like the Bells of St Clements :-P ) with his description of Barack Obama, the next president of the USA (for those who've been on holiday on another planet!) as "tanned" (BBC News: Berlusconi says Obama is 'tanned')

Berlusconi was quick to deny that he was being racist. That's as maybe, but I'm afraid his defence really isn't made any easier by the fact that his Forza Italia party is governing Italy in coalition with the fascist MSI party and the horribly right-wing Northern League. (Ironically, although the Northern League want separation of their 'Padua' region from Italy, their closest UK equivalent politically is probably the Ulster Unionists). Or the fact that his government has taken a hard stance against immigration, and attacks on immigrants and Roma gypsies in Italy have increased massively under his rule.

Besides, I always thought there was something a bit dodgy about a party (Forza Italia) which is named after a football chant. Then again, it's perhaps just as well Berlusconi wasn't English, or he'd probably have named his party 'You're Shit And We Know You Are' ...

Over to America, I'm glad Obama won the election for a number of reasons. Firstly, the election of a black man as US President has given 'the bird' to America's racist past (epitomised by the 'Jim Crow' apartheid laws in the southern US during the early half of the 20th Century). It also proves beyond reasonable doubt that racism is not, as many on the right allege, an indelible part of 'human nature'. But perhaps even more importantly, Obama's election owed at least as much to grass-roots local campaigning by working class activists as it did to rich donors. Hopefully, the high illusions among many in Obama will be translated into activism to shift his administration, and America in general, to the left.

Back to Berlusconi, he is best known as a media baron who owns several TV and radio stations in Italy - a factor which no doubt helped his election campaign. Yet back in the 1970's, when he took on and broke the Italian RAI state monopoly in broadcasting, he was considered by some to be almost a liberator of the airwaves. By the 1990's, he was coming rather close to creating his own national TV monopoly - so, hardly surprising that soon after he came to power, Italian broadcasting was re-regulated and the first raids in decades took place on a number of unlicenced TV stations.

Yet, despite Berlusconi's media empire, he is not all-powerful. He was voted out of power after his first term in office, only to be re-elected when the centre-left Olive Tree coalition let down its supporters (sound familiar?) More importantly, his government and the Italian capitalist Establishment of which he is a part, can be broken by Italian working class activity such as strikes and protests.

Stuff Forza Italia - I'd rather be singing Bandiera Rossa :-)

Saturday 8 November 2008

Blog off, Blears!

Ah well, I guess we should be flattered that political blogs are obviously a big enough thorn in the side of the government, for a government minister to attack us (BBC News: Blears attacks political bloggers). But Blears' knee-jerk attacks on those who disagree with her, and the way her government is going, do nobody any favours - least of all herself and her government!

Far from "fuelling disengagement" with politics, as Ms Blears alleges, blogs are one way in which ordinary people can re-engage with a political scene which many feel is becoming increasingly remote from working class people. If anything is fuelling disengagement, it is the flood of reactionary right-wing policies which are often driven by the needs of the capitalist Establishment, and the out-of-touch rantings of government ministers in tabloids like The Sun and the News Of The Establishment, sorry, World. Indeed, one government minister even pitched his reactionary immigration legislation at Sun readers (BBC News: Woolas ' looking to Sun readers'). If you ask me, Blears' attack on grass-roots blogs while remaining silent on ministers spouting, even signalling new legislation, via the tabloids, seems to be a case of the Establishment's "seeming hypocrisy" which Blears berates us for unearthing :-P

Ms Blears does have a point when she says some blogs are right-wing - even some blogs which are allegedly left-wing (notably those of the so-called 'decent left'), in supporting wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and (in the case of Harry's Place) even 42 days detention for 'terror suspects', often have de-facto reactionary right-wing undercurrents. But there are many left-wing blogs out there, many some way to the left of Blears and her fellow New Labourites (easy I know!) - such as Snowball's excellent Adventures in Historical Materialism blog. Blogging is also invaluable in getting across news which is not covered by the Establishment media, which Blears' friends are so in love with. Especially in more repressive regimes (eg Burma during the military regime), or areas under foreign occupation (eg Iraq and Palestine).

Yet, at the same time, it is true that blogging on its own is very limited as to how much social change (or 'added value' to use Blears' Newspeak) it can bring. For real social change, we need to confront the capitalist Establishment in real space.

Which is why this blog urges all readers (that means you!) to actively support, and get involved with, every strike, every protest against cuts in services and attacks on our living standards, to become actively involved in your trade union, and - last but not least - become actively involved in politics by joining a truly working class political organisation, such as the Socialist Workers Party!

Tuesday 4 November 2008

A stinky Trump in the face of conservation

It beggars belief that the Scottish government has given planning permission for Trump International to build a massive golf course, which will result in the environmental rape of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (RSPB: "Greener Scotland" is sold down the river). Especially considering Trump's immature attitude that the site is developed exactly as he wishes or not at all - he even turned down an alternative design commissioned by the RSPB, which would have saved the SSSI!

Now I've nothing intrinsically against golf as a sport (although I don't play it myself), but I do have a problem with the creation of golf courses when it involves the destruction of wild habitats - just as I dislike the endless building of supermarkets, yuppie houses and PFI projects when they involve the destruction of wild spaces, kids' playing fields, etc. I also dislike the way many golf clubs have astronomical membership fees which effectively exclude working class people (indeed, some operate as a clique with an invitation-only membership policy which the Freemasons would be proud of! ) The Trump International development, a playground for the rich (and, seemingly, the pet project of Mr Trump himself) seems to epitomise both the environmentally destructive and socially exclusive aspects, which give golf a piss-poor name.

The Scottish government's granting of planning permission for this monstrosity also says it all about how the Scottish National Party can be every bit as bad, when it comes to kow-towing to the rich and powerful, as the other Establishment parties. Especially when we contrast their incredibly permissive attitude towards Trump, with their refusal to overturn the homophobic rule which prevents gay people from giving blood (BBC News: Gay blood donor appeal rejected). No wonder homophobic bosses like Stagecoach magnate Brian Souter feel at home in the SNP :-(

Don't get me wrong, I'm in favour of an independent Scotland. But if its rulers continue to allow the capitalist Establishment - whether American capitalists like Trump or Scottish capitalists like Souter - to run the show, such independence will feel very hollow for working class people in Scotland.

Which is why, in the coming Glenrothes by-election, I will be cheering for Louise McLeary, the Solidarity candidate.