Home > Dave's Favourites, General Politics, Labour Party News, Marxism, Socialism, Trade Unions > The BNP’s defeat and Labour’s victory

The BNP’s defeat and Labour’s victory

Carl on this blog has just today touted his idea that the BNP are finished, backing it up with a Martin Goodman article from the Guardian site about the BNP getting pretty much annihilated at the May 2012 local elections. It’s entirely possible that they are right, and that the BNP is finished as an electoral force, and that some role was played by Hope Not Hate and other campaigns which used their manpower to get out an anti-BNP vote.

There are some cautionary notes to be sounded. First, the degree to which it matters how well the BNP do is limited. Their efforts to turn mainstream are not about to be abandoned, and there are other groups out there which have learned some of the lessons – and which have in turn had a right-wards drag upon Labour’s leadership courtesy of “Blue Labour”. I mean, of course, the English Defence League and their new political aspirations.

Second, BNP councillors by and large voted just like Tories, so in terms of the actual presence of these 57 (and now a damn sight fewer) people in council chambers, the practical effect is like eliminating that number of Tories. Though it bears mentioning that in one of the six wards the BNP just lost, it was lost to a Tory, who will almost certainly continue a record of voting for privatisation, cuts to services and piss-poor planning decisions.

This is quite an important point, as it gives the answer to those people who condone working with Tories if it means getting rid of the BNP. Tories, being the immediate political face of capitalism, cause fascism. They attack every means of working class subsistence and culture that can’t turn their mates a profit and then when the workers complain, they blame it on human rights, political correctness, immigrants, homosexuals and Jews, or Muslims these days.

Third, and linked to point number two, electoral armageddon or no, the physical force mob of the BNP will almost certainly go nowhere, except to other parties or groups who can offer them the same sort of opportunity for getting their bald heads and beer bellies on national television. This is a serious issue, as these people are the shock troops who can break up opposition to fascism at a community level.

Fourth, this defeat might not have the morale impact we expect, thanks to the parallels with the electoral eclipse of the NF post-1979, and the cautionary tale that will give to any thinking fascists out there, contradiction in terms though that may be. Griffin and his crew are bound to be aware of this, most of them having lived through it. Even if these aren’t the lessons they draw, the survival of Griffin as leader indicates that he’s found some means of innoculating himself.

The historical parallels I mention have even more importance for us socialists however, and our political understanding. The election of a Conservative government starkly poses the issue of class. Then as now, a Tory government cut social spending and attempted to extort ever greater productivity out of workers, through the threat of unemployment.

The most politically aware layers of the working class, perceiving the attacks, moved to galvanise resistance through the unions, through anti-cuts groups and through socialist organisations.This socialist and working class resurgence can, by bringing in new layers of workers to political activism, demoralise and push out the fascists.

Labour, offering an immediate electoral alternative will be the key beneficiaries in the early stage of this process, by virtue of being not-Conservative, and will claim back all those who voted Lib-Dem in 2008, since the Lib-Dems no longer have the political space to pretend to an alternative. This is hardly any different to the elections of 1981 in which the Ken Livingtone-led GLC was elected; the NF share of the vote dropped there too.

That Labour’s alternative cuts, “not so far, not so deep”, are not a viable long-term option beyond the first euphoric wave of having dispensed with the arch-enemy is neither here nor there. Hence in Burnley, where another BNP councillor has bitten the dust, Labour have also reclaimed at least four seats from the Liberal Democrats, who won them in 2008.

In the Amber Valley wards of Heanor East and Heanor West, the voting figures stack up as follows; the Tories in 2008 scored 482-412, then 391-381 in 2012. Labour scored 454-560 in 2008, then 744-838 in 2012. Meanwhile the BNP went from 537-727 in 2008 to 284-272 in 2012. The left-wing party, such as it is, gained from both the right-wing parties, and this gain was replicated across the country, by and large, and is a cause for a small celebration.

It is only a small celebration because Labour’s resurgence can be halted in its tracks by the short, sharp demoralisation of the organised working class, in the form of defeats of the industrial action sweeping the country. Despite the electoral jubilation, this is a defeat which the Labour Party is doing nothing to avoid and is in fact actively encouraging, with constant disparaging remarks in the press not to mention obstructionist tactics by Labour bureaucrats in the unions.

It’s also a small celebration because Labour’s political strategy is akin to blowing their own heads off, should they actually win the next election. They will immediately and massively undermine their own working class support by instituting cuts across the board; if these are not so deep as the Conservatives, I’m sure that will be of some consolation to the people having their wages cut by £900 instead of £1000, or who are one of nine hundred and not one of a thousand made redundant as public services are cut to the bone.

Such a strategy is all Labour has, and this will not change, period. It will definitely result in a much bigger Tory government being returned to office shortly thereafter, unless something changes drastically – or, as in Greece, some new force emerges from the chaos to challenge Labour from the left.

Ironically, it’s this very threat of a Tory government which would be used against PLP backbenchers to shore up the leadership. And the reason Labour goes around and around in these circles is because it has no class-based analysis and cannot see any further than the wafer thin difference between Labour and the Tories, or any further than the next election for that matter.

Class is the fundamental, unavoidable division in capitalism, created by the very structure of how we produce everything of which the modern world consists. At times of crisis in capitalism, all other questions become subordinate to this one fault line. This is one fault line which Labour cannot understand, even as it is pushed to defend the working class by virtue of its historical traditions. It is intrinsic to capitalism, outside of which Labour refuses to step. It can and will only be solved by a revolutionary party that unites the working class to abolish capitalism.

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  1. May 9, 2012 at 2:01 am

    The author is Matthew Goodwin, not Martin Goodman. It’s worth checking out his academic work*. His contention has been that voters are largely put off by parties with a history of violence, and the BNP was ultimately unable to shake off that image. On the other hand, xenophobia and particularly Islamophobia is pretty strong right now, so there’s an electoral space for a party to represent such views. Goodwin seems to have suggested that UKIP could successfully fulfill this role, especially when bolstered by strategically defecting Tory voters.

    * http://www.matthewjgoodwin.com/p/publications.html

  2. May 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Dave, bly, nearly missed this.

    I just wanted to add in something to Naadir’s point; namely, it was never enough for us (and by us I mean local anti-fash) that people would turn their noses up at the BNP for being violent. I say this as a totally reformed, totally unbrave social democrat now, but back then we may have engaged in acts that might at some stretch seem if you know what I mean duh duh duh etc. We wanted the idea of the BNP and what they stood for to be what people hated – what they did in a past life was violent, what they were hoping to achieve was even more violent.

    During elections we used to get the BNP and Ukip materials at the same time, once by this poor young girl who had no idea. I personally think the two parties were in cahoots in my local area, despite knowing that one is economically protectionist, one economically liberal, and shades of authoritarianism differentiate the two parties nationally as well.

    On this, we would not have been content with voters, put off by the BNP for their violent past, to go to Ukip – that was hopeless. It’s good in some ways, the vote splits the right, and Ukip will be hopeless at keeping politicians because a lot of them are workshy. Look at their lousy lot in Europe; drink-soaked popinjays or what!

    I’m glad to see that the BNP have simply run out of steam. I’m not too fearful of the BFP. It might have tommy ‘edl’ robinson, who is offering half-price membership to fellow EDLers, but even though it’s headed up by a former Ukipper, it’s a faction; it’s a split in the far right.

    It’s propped up by Eddy Butler, who is a far-right splitter by nature. He’s like a Kilroy of the fash. It’s all in-fighting and despair for the far right now. The BNP was their last hope, it looked as though it would successfully express itself in social conservative language while remaining economically naive – that was the best they could hope for. It’s gone to shit.

    The project run out of pace, and people made their choice last week. Now the BNP should throw out Griffin, install Brons as their leader who will take the party back to the old-days rhetoric, closer to John Tyndall than John Bean, and the whole thing will collapse. The party will end up competing not for seats, but for the burnt, curious hearts and minds of the likes of the White Nationalist Party of the November 9th Society – who consider the BNP to be more like socialists than national socialists.

    Street groups may rise, but they really are fringe. Dangerous, but fringey, for which we have judicial law to deal with. The electoral success of the far right in the UK has taken an enormous blow, for which we should all be fucking pleased.

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