UKIP: Basically The BNP (In Waxed Jackets & Wellies)
We live in unpleasant times. Thirty years of neoliberalism, the fall of the USSR and its satellites, has seen the forces of reaction seemingly more powerful than ever. In the UK, at least, the extra parliamentary left has been demoralised, atomised and scattered to the four winds. Split has followed split and internal warfare has rendered its component parts impotent, divided and utterly useless in providing any effective opposition to the three decade-long wave of capitalist triumphalism.
At a time when historical conditions could scarcely be more favourable to social democratic, even socialist, ideas, it’s the extremist right who have tapped into the growing frustration, anger and contempt induced by an utterly corrupt political class. Labour’s wholesale capitulation to neoliberalism and enthusiastic replicating of polices which were once the traditional preserve of the Conservatives has resulted in a decisive shift in the UK’s political centre of gravity – to the right.
The media has both informed and reflected that shift as, daily, the UK’s citizens are assailed by a racist barrage of anti-immigrant propaganda and thus even the most outrageous and demonstrably false smears are unquestioningly accepted as fact. The latest being the entirely untrue nonsense that sandwich franchise operators, Subway, have taken ham and pork off their menu and replaced them with Halal products in response to pressure from ‘extremist’ Muslims, as merely the latest ploy in their sinister campaign to effect the islamification of Britain.
In reality, Subway, according to their representative, “… put a programme into place in 2007 to ensure that the population demographic is taken into account when new store openings are considered, in order that we meet consumer demand in each location." Standard business practice, in other words. The fact is that there has been no campaign, no demand by 'militant' or 'extremist' Muslims; Subway have simply made a commercial decision to widen their appeal to their client base in particular areas. Capitalist organisation tries to maximise profits, eh? Hold the front page.
And the cumulative effect of these pernicious smears? Sadly, not just the truly repellent Katy Hopkins calling for a boycott of Subway, but UKip – basically, the BNP in waxed jackets and wellies – topping the polls at 31%. There are those desperately trying to convince the rest of us that UKip are a legitimate political Party; just one that, unfortunately, has attracted a non-representative handful of racists, homophobes, bigots and Christian fundamentalist wing-nuts.
Such people need to explain why UKip attracts such people in the first place and why BNP leader, Nick Griffin advised his followers, “if, for whatever reason, anyone who thinks of themselves as a nationalist isn’t prepared to join us and lend a shoulder to our wheel, then there is one other useful thing they can do: that is to join UKip, or to put in effort in the social networks to find and influence those who have. Over the next few months, UKip will sign up thousands of new, mainly newly politicised, members. Most of them are not merely patriotic, they are also instinctively, though at present totally incoherently, nationalist and racially aware."
While many on the left crow with delight every time an unhinged UKipper gives public voice to the racism and bigotry that underpins the Party’s ‘values’, such people are spectacularly missing the point. As Marx famously observed, “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.” Thus, such outbursts not only fail to do the Party any real damage – something sections of the left simply can’t understand – but, instead, they actually improve the Party’s standing with increasing numbers of voters. Voters who, for decades, have been sold the lie that immigrants, Muslims and the poor are responsible for society’s ills. Not bankers, not CEOs, not corrupt and self-serving politicians but the poorest, most vulnerable and least powerful sections of the working class. And it’s working, too (in England, at least. In Scotland and Wales, UKip is effectively nowhere).
To be fair to UKip, they’re only saying publicly what the Conservative Party privately thinks - but that English society is now such fertile ground for such sentiments is not only appalling, but deeply worrying. Possibly only the most hysterical of the far left would predict that our current trajectory will end in gas chambers and jackboots, although such an outcome has to start somewhere.
However, dismissing UKip as a protest vote of no importance, insisting that the Party will fail to convert their growing support into Westminster seats is dangerous complacency. There is no guarantee whatsoever that such an eventuality will occur. It’s perfectly possible that UKip could replace the Lib Dems as the third largest Party in England.
While Labour consistently refuses to tackle poverty-pay, profiteering landlords and wholesale tax-dodging and corruption in boardrooms across the UK, Miliband and co make it easy for UKip to distract and tempt those who are frightened, financially insecure and mired in poverty. Farage’s anti-immigrant and anti-Europe agenda is proving dangerously attractive to many. Unfortunately too many don’t realise, or refuse to see, that Ukip is a virulently anti-working class Party. Farage, with his nauseatingly fake ordinary bloke down the pub persona, is about as much of a friend to the working class as Cameron and Osborne; just as one might expect of a millionaire, public school-educated, former banker.
While UKip winning a General Election is simply not on the cards, the Party wouldn’t necessarily need to in order to wreak horrifying damage on the nation. If Scotland should breakaway from the UK later this year, one possible nightmare scenario could be a Tory-UKip coalition emerging at the next General Election. Should that happen, you can kiss goodbye to maternity pay, the NHS, the minimum wage, Jobseekers’ Allowance and Incapacity Benefit. You can then say hello to further reductions in workers’ rights, a doubling of the defence budget, further cuts in the public sector resulting in two million job losses and much, much more.
England, don’t say you weren’t warned. If you tolerate this…