"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Too Late For Labour To Stop The BNP


Article Taken From The National Website Of The Independent Working Class Association

New Labour’s sudden concern for the wellbeing of the ‘white working class’ is a product solely of the threat they feel from the BNP. Aside from its cynicism, this move is too little, too late. New Labour made the conscious choice to turn its back on the working class once and for all in 1994. They have sowed the wind, now they will reap the whirlwind.

Reviewing the responses to Local Government Minister John Denham’s recent announcement on the race vs. class issue (see BBC News – Labour battles the BNP on class and race), it was noticeable that the right wing press (The Times, the Telegraph and the Financial Times) were able to respond to Denham’s statement in a rational, coherent manner. They were able to conceive that, just perhaps, class is at least as important a social factor as race. This stood in contrast to the reaction of The Guardian, which accused Denham of saying that racism no longer existed (which he didn’t) and pandering to lowest common denominator underclass prejudice.

Take, for instance, the response of Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph, who was able to articulate -as clearly as the IWCA has often done- how many social problems which are normally viewed as racial are in fact class-based:

“Class has always explained far more about Britain than race – and many of the problems we think of as racial are at least as much about class. Take British Pakistanis and British Bangladeshis. Undoubtedly two of the most disadvantaged groups, they are far more likely to be poor or jobless, than the average white person. The traditional liberal explanation was simple – they were the victims of racism. Of course, they did, and do, suffer from racism. But that simple diagnosis cannot explain why British Indians – exactly the same race as Pakistanis and Bangladeshis – are, on average, richer, better educated and more likely to be employed than whites. Nor can it explain why members of Britain’s Chinese community are wealthier than whites. Most Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are Muslim – so perhaps it’s about faith? No – sadly for those ranting about “Islamophobia”, British Arabs, though mostly also Muslim, are almost as wealthy and advantaged as the Indians. The key factor is not race, or faith, but class. British Indians are mainly middle-class, the descendants of merchants and traders. So are Britain’s Arab and Chinese communities. British Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are mainly working-class, the descendants of poor villagers brought here for factory work.

“Thirty years ago, there was not a single non-white MP, let alone minister, and it was perfectly acceptable to tell bigoted jokes on prime-time TV. Mixed marriages were almost unknown; the police were openly racist. Racism has undoubtedly diminished, but class discrimination has, in some respects, got worse. A working-class Londoner is more trapped, less likely to advance than he or she was 30 years ago. State education is no longer a force for mobility. Training in non-academic skills has collapsed. Housing is impossibly overpriced. Above all, work itself has become less secure. And though class discrimination affects all races, the largest group of victims is white. White working-class anger has become a force that no politician can ignore. And those politicians who do ignore it – such as Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London – get swept away.” (John Denham’s right: It’s class, not race, that determines Britain’s have-nots – Telegraph).

Even the rabidly right-wing Simon Heffer was able to get his head around the concept of ‘class not race’, though as a good Thatcherite he attributes the travails of the British working class not to the destruction of the productive economy and the triumph of finance capital, but to single mothers and the demise of grammar schools (How to help the white working class – Telegraph).

This stands in contrast to the reaction of the Guardian. To the liberal multiculturalist mindset, it is literally inconceivable that the issue of class might explain more than race; that it may not be the case that all whites have a uniform access to power, opportunity and influence, the type of which is denied to all non-whites; that non-white ethnic groups are not uniform, and significant class cleavages might exist within them. To the liberal multiculturalist, the notion of class unity and class politics across racial lines is a threat not only to their worldview, but also in many cases their paycheques and funding. Home affairs editor Alan Travers worried of Denham’s statement that “such a “sophisticated” message ends up falling between two stools and reassures neither the poorest of the white working class nor inner-city black and Asian “core” Labour voters” (John Denham’s subtler approach to race and class carries new risk | Society | The Guardian, the use of quotation marks around ‘sophisticated’ is Travis’s). But the most revealing reaction, the one truest to multicultural form, came from assistant comment editor Joseph Harker, who had this to say:

“New Labour abolished the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission and shoved all the “isms” into one overbearing, bureaucratic and malfunctioning equalities commission. Now Denham wants to repeat the thinking, merging minorities into an overall “social class” group which will represent all the economically disadvantaged. Well, this just won’t do, because Britain’s racial minorities do not fit neatly into its traditional class structure (emphasis added). Most minorities in Britain are from poor backgrounds, with little or no longstanding family wealth. Even those who have not faced direct or indirect discrimination have had to overcome economic and social obstacles. But do those who have done so, and gained a decent education or a decent job, immediately break free from all-pervasive racism and therefore no longer require any legal or other support?

“Not only that, but no one has yet come up with a decent, all-encompassing description of what “working class” really is. Does a man or woman automatically become middle class the moment they gain an A-level? Or a degree? In which case, class inequality will always be embedded, because the success stories are excluded from the figures – and it will always appear that the working class are worse-off than minority groups. Even if such distinctions were worked out, why would black and Asian people want to join with the white working classes, when some of them are signing up to the British National party and seem only too keen to blame non-whites for their own disadvantages? (emphasis added)” (Labour has not eliminated racism | Joseph Harker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk).

So, Harker thinks it’s a bad thing that all the ‘economically disadvantaged’ might be thought of as an ‘overall social class’; disputes the existence of such a concept as ‘the working class’; believes that black and Asian people shouldn’t join with the ‘white working class’; accepts that ‘class inequality will always be embedded’, and believes that minorities ‘who have gained a decent education or a decent job’ are still in need of ‘legal or other support’. So: race over class (class no longer existing), support for political balkanisation and separatism, and the acceptance of existing class/economic hierarchies – not to mention inherent racial differences, at least among the lower orders – alongside continued support for the black middle class, all in the space of 250 words. Quite remarkable, even for the liberal left. It takes some doing to miss the point so spectacularly, but Harker has managed it.

We should finish by pointing out what should be obvious: that Denham’s concern for the ‘white working class’ is purely opportunistic and, in any case, comes years too late. It is motivated solely by the (justified) concern that the BNP have the potential to eat into what is left of Labour’s core vote. While it is not too late for the BNP to be taken on and stopped politically, it is too late for Labour to do the job: that ship has sailed. New Labour made the choice to turn its back on the working class, assuming it had nowhere else to go. That betrayal will not be forgotten or forgiven.

http://www.iwca.info/?p=10149

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23 responses

  1. Bob Harding

    The article points out how racism has undoubtedly diminished over the last thirty years, while class discrimination has got worse. Nearly thirty years ago I remember being told by members of the Militant Tendency how race issues and issues around sexuality were “middle class” issues. They did not want to get involved in talking about these things in public, while in private, my friends and family in the Militant felt gay people were…well, lets put this very politely..”unnatural”. This week on the local television news it was pointed out how Justin Fashinu (who later committed suicide) was the one and only footballer in those thirty years to be able to openly admit he was gay. Could it be of any significance at all if only one player of the nations’ national sport has been able to even mention being gay? Just recently one player of Wales’ national sport has managed to be open about being gay. Its probably worth listening to the views of the 0.001% ( or whatever ) of sportsmen that believe they have taken an enormous step in stopping keeping these things secret. The article refers to these sort of issues as if they have had to reap “a middle class whirlwind”, after many (but not all) working class socialists wanted to turn a blind eye and spoke of race and gender discrimination as being”middle class issues”.

    Surely if we are going to speak of “the working class” (which is something working people don’t usually do) we should imagine the vast majority of the working class and not only the national 1% (or less) who may vote BNP in pockets around the country. If you think potential BNP voters are very important fair enough, but don’t imagine that the majority of working class people are like this. I remember the pathetic whirlwind of gushing MASS hysteria that greeted Princess Di’s death and how alien I felt amongst my fellow nurses when it happened. The article seems to imagine the average working class person is like the so called “football hooligans” that the average worker fears and despises. There are millions ( not just tiny groups ) of working class people who think David Cameron’s smarmy middle class ways are actually a positive selling point as opposed to a too gruff, “uninspiring” Gordon Brown.

    Many of the working people I work and mix with, say things which imply they identify with a group; but the “we” they refer to is not “the working class” but “the nation” (and the geographical area where people are born). Many workers, whose families were born in an area, dishonestly claim that many immigrants are better off than them. The reason that people from Hastings said that people from Kosovo where economically better off than them (when truthfully they where worse off) is the same reason that people from Thetford claim this against the Portuguese (and now the Polish immigrants). Its the same attitude that middle class people have against working class people and that working people have against people on the dole. Its all prejudice trying to bolster a pathetic and potentially dangerous supremacist “at least we are better than you” viewpoint.

    Working class consciousness is not a pre-given and material conditions won’t just come to ensure “the workers” will identify themselves as such; and inevitably fight together against those who “have” the most. The British NATIONALIST party try to relate to the prejudices of our present time. An alternative to Nationalism has to be patiently constructed and built by starting to challenge reactionary pre-conceptions whenever some working people show an interest in politics. It’s simply not good enough to simply state that British workers consuming in Primark (say) “have more in common” with those workers who produced the clothes for one eightieth of our minimum wage; or that working class kids who suffer a little bit of obesity have “more in common” with those who die of starvation, than they do with the children of those in managerial type jobs.

    Its not good enough to say those British “immigrants” doing their jobs in Afghanistan have more in common with Afghan refugees in this country, than they do with various grades of officers they follow as best they can. Its not good enough to say they also know what its like to “go without” just because they have shortages of modern helicopters, high-tech weaponry and armoury. Hopefully the writers of the article wouldn’t disagree with me because they feel that it is women’s issues that the war is really about!

    Last week, in Morrisons supermarket, I saw lady who angrily shouted “English” at some other people shopping. She didn’t do this because of the colour of their skin or their sexuality, but because they weren’t speaking the “right” language. The article would have been more appropriate if it was trying to come to terms with, and offer an alternative to the White Race Party or The Heterosexual Party: but it certainly didn’t address the issues British Nationalists do. (Although many British Nationalists can’t stand to think that the dreaded Islam is standing up to British Nationalism in the Middle East.)

    Why didn’t the article address the issues of the day and take notice of what many working class people actually say and believe? Could it be because the writer strives to play the same “identity politics” as the liberal left. It seems to make a case for wanting (white) workers to have more access to power, opportunity and influence. It would like the next thirty years to reduce “class discrimination”. If these type of ideas had been a significant influence over the past centuries we would still have slavery. There would be a group called the Independent Slave Association. They would want a rank-and-file movement in their slave unions and complain about their leaders selling out over the slaves’ conditions. They’d wonder how many A level pieces of paper it would take to make you a slave owner rather than a slave. They’d complain that not enough slaves have the fair opportunity to rise up the ranks and become slave owners themselves.

    February 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm

  2. Donny

    This might be better posted on the original website here http://www.iwca.info/?p=10149

    February 26, 2010 at 7:33 pm

  3. Ruarhi Keefe

    “If you think potential BNP voters are very important fair enough, but don’t imagine that the majority of working class people are like this.”
    You dont speak for me. I don’t need anyone to tell me what I imagine my class are like or about thanks.
    “It seems to make a case for wanting (white) workers to have more access to power, opportunity and influence.”
    Does it bollox.
    You do know who wrote this article do you? An IWCA/RED ACTION/AFA etc member. I think they’ve been around long enough and fought hard enough against the fascists to warrant better than you implying they are minifucking nationalists who need a lesson on class. Perhaps you should look them up.
    http://www.redaction.org/

    February 26, 2010 at 9:12 pm

  4. Comments are not moderated on here so please keep it civil.

    February 26, 2010 at 10:16 pm

  5. Bob Harding

    I’m well aware of Red Action and have enjoyed the times I’ve spoke to people belonging to them. Obviously I was responding to words written in the article, with little interest in passing judgement on individuals. I do happen to think the left have a long term habit of implying “the working class” are all the same and anyone who raises questions about the history, progress (sic) and language of the left is doing a good thing. Bob.

    February 27, 2010 at 8:35 am

  6. victor koenick

    ok , forgive my grammar but i am now going to explain the situation in working class terms , while their were loads of jobs and credit no one cared about the massive influx of cheap ununionised forighn labour , but now that we are in a deppression people do care and are now in direct competion with each other over jobs and housing , because the left has been disapearing up its own arse for years championing completly irrelivant issues such as homosexuality , islam , and feminism and deliberatly attacking any kind of cross gender / race unity ie militant , afa , and any kind of old school commie or trade unionist

    February 27, 2010 at 10:10 am

  7. victor koenick

    it has laid the foundation stones for a white nationalist movement , which is a direct backlash to what i would call trendy lefty troty politics , based around multiculturalism /racism sexism and gender politics , the answer is working class consciousness , solidarity and unity against our true enemies the rulling classes who love multiculturalism , political correctnness and racism, it is called devide and conquer folks , but befor we can destroy the fash or the rulling classes we must ideologicaly destroy the politics of , multiculturalism , diversity and racism , with old school , strength through unity , solidarity , vic

    February 27, 2010 at 10:17 am

  8. Sal

    “So, Harker thinks it’s a bad thing that all the ‘economically disadvantaged’ might be thought of as an ‘overall social class’; disputes the existence of such a concept as ‘the working class’; believes that black and Asian people shouldn’t join with the ‘white working class’; accepts that ‘class inequality will always be embedded’, and believes that minorities ‘who have gained a decent education or a decent job’ are still in need of ‘legal or other support’. So: race over class (class no longer existing), support for political balkanisation and separatism, and the acceptance of existing class/economic hierarchies – not to mention inherent racial differences, at least among the lower orders – alongside continued support for the black middle class, all in the space of 250 words. Quite remarkable, even for the liberal left.”

    Spot on! Great article.

    February 27, 2010 at 12:27 pm

  9. Rick

    Hi Bob

    Well I know a lot of people who have grown up on council estates for instance or have at one time or another played with trade unions and very firmly identify themselves as ‘working class’.

    Millions of people may no longer work in industry and sup a pint down the local Working Mens Club, primarily because they can’t, but I think you’re being slightly disingenuous here by claiming that most ‘working class’ people are ‘sociologically classless’ or actively have aspirations of becoming ‘middle-class’.

    I am also fairly surprised that you appear to be lecturing (no offence meant) people on who the ‘working class’ are as if it’s impossible to BE ‘working-class’ or to understand the ‘working-class’ if you hold the particular views described in the above article.

    You also seem to have a very blase attitude to the ‘1% (or less) who may vote BNP in pockets around the country’.

    There were over 1 million votes! Were they all fascist? Of course not. So where did they come from?

    They represent a large section of society that feels they’ve been let down or feel threatened. Many more people who feel the same way didn’t vote.

    You I am aware consider these people to be nothing more than ‘petty nationalists’. Most in reality come from a traditionally ‘left’ vote.

    If the ‘left’ in this country were really ‘worth it’s salt’ surely we should be astounded by how the BNP would be able to pick up so many votes…

    Most on the left are however NOT astounded as they, like you, see those who voted BNP in such massive numbers, as we’ve described above…’petty nationalists’.

    The fact of the matter is that since 1994 the left have given up and lost the plot and any semblance of a reasonable direction. They’d rather march with supporters of mad ‘mullahs’ and ‘religious nuts’ than to actually accept that class is a more important issue and root of much of our problems than race if we are ever to progress let alone attempt to seriously do anything about it…

    And yes the accusations of ‘racist’ fly around as soon as one brings the topic up suggesting there are any ‘mad mullahs’ or ‘religious nuts’ in the ‘muslim community’.

    Fine for us to attack the Protestant Northern Irish though isn’t it!

    It’s a bit like the old adage ‘Just because they’re MAD doesn’t mean they aren’t BAD’..

    Hence my belief the ‘left’ are seriously in trouble.

    Personally I believe what Sal has posted above just about sums up the ‘lefts’ failures and the stupidity of ‘multiculturalism’..

    They’ll be advocating the erection of 20 foot high walls next….

    Best Wishes.

    February 27, 2010 at 8:30 pm

  10. Bob Harding

    A lot of points to reply to. Vick first:
    By “language” I meant politico hectoring at people and using Marxist terminology. About the left championing Islam? Don’t you think various Islamic groupings are fanatically championing “Islam” themselves and wouldn’t want socialists doing this?
    If the working class, socialist left had championed gender and race issues then we wouldn’t be having this sort of conversation about the middle class, liberal, guardian agenda about these issues. I’m not attacking cross-race campaigns, I’m trying to highlight cross-nationality campaigns too. Because I’m all in favour of unionised rates of pay regardless of nationality, I don’t believe disputes should be resolved on the basis of Nationality rather than wage and conditions and class. i.e. striking to “win” 50% of jobs being British and 50% other Nationalities.
    What is so bad about some people wanting to destroy racism rather than wanting to destroy political talk about about racism? Not sure about your points on Nationality Vick? Do you want direct competition with other Nationalities or cross-Nation unity?

    February 27, 2010 at 9:21 pm

  11. Bob Harding

    Rick, I don’t think most ‘working class’ people are ’sociologically classless’ or actively have aspirations of becoming ‘middle-class’. I don’t think people’s thoughts, words and beliefs are strictly determined by “class” or any sociological category people may lecture about. The working class seems the most varied class and can have a million and one points of view and you’d be stretching it to think most views are particularly “political”. I actually did mean it when I said its fair enough to say that voters who voted BNP were an important issue, but I was making another point about some “lefties” labelling all working class people as one type. I don’t for a minute dismiss these people as nothing more than “petty Nationalists”. The people I’m talking about are those I come across at work, know extremely well and treat them as individuals who occasionally come out with Nationalist views, perhaps reflecting the (decidedly non petty) majority.

    February 27, 2010 at 10:01 pm

  12. Bob Harding

    As it happens, I can’t see how its in any way ‘racist’ to refer to ‘mad mullahs’ or ‘religious nuts’ in the ‘Muslim community’. I’ve never attacked the Protestant Northern Irish, South African whites, Americans, Germans, Israeli Jews or the English. You shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t think any of these categories strictly determine anyone’s beliefs. I see nothing wrong with uniting over all issues which divide us: and this certainly includes racism, Nationalism and being obsessively against homosexuality.

    February 27, 2010 at 10:12 pm

  13. victor koenick

    to put it realy simply i think the answer to the bnp nf etc is proportional representation and positive descrimination in housing and jobs to include the white english as a race and to abolish all single faith schools , religeon is tosh and the superstitiose should practice their voodoo in their own time , the answer to religeouse conflict is athieism, and raise the minimum wage to a respectable level and create millions of jobs with community projects , as to the thought police of political correctness , well it will be used as a stick to bash the original and outspoken , if people are that sensitive they should fuck of , the trouble is the left in britain is dominated by a petty nerdy train spottery anorachy decadent middle class , who hate the working classes sense of personal identity because they need yet lack that themselves, they like the working class so long as they know their place , looking up to the elite leadership for guidance .solidarity vic

    February 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm

  14. victor koenick

    oh im sorry did i say that the english white people were a race , am i a racist , was i politicaly correct , oh bolix to it , surley if their is a black race their must also be a white race , maybe the unions should organise , white hetrosexual anglo saxon protestant wings , to match the gay and black wings, i dont think, class unity , unity through strength , strength through unity , solidarity , workers of the world unite you have a world to win , and nothing to lose but your chains , dont let the lefty bosses split us up through issues of race , sexual preferance and gender ,

    February 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm

  15. victor koenick

    oh and bob is a realy nice bloke and a good comrade, hes just misguided , love you bob x

    February 27, 2010 at 11:21 pm

  16. Rick

    Posting on return from the pub is never a good idea on a public forum! 😉

    February 28, 2010 at 5:58 am

  17. Rick

    Bob,

    My points relating to you and your views around ‘nationalism’ came from something you wrote in response to an article by Larry O’Harra. You wrote that ‘the elephant in the room was nationalism’….

    I wasn’t saying YOU would start shouting ‘racist’ if someone were to use the term ‘mad mullahs’ etc I was pointing out how pathetically wet the left are now. People can and do, me included, take the piss out of the Protestant Northern Irish etc but if you even mention the word ‘muslim’ you are vilified for being some sort of racist.

    Reminds me of Monty Pythons Life of Brian and the stoning scene…Jehovah! Jehovah!

    February 28, 2010 at 6:31 am

  18. victor koenick

    i had only had a couple , and i stand by my points , i realy do believe that political correctness and personality / gender / race politics which the left call multiculturalism and diversity have been encouraged by the rulling classes becaues they know it stops any kind of class unity , i mean if workers cant even discuss things in a relaxed manner for fear of the posh pc thought police judging them the minute they open their mouths , what chance is their for class struggle , it is classic devide and conquer , and the lefty moonies are too thick and unimaginative to suss it out , touble is the by product of this is a white nationalist movement

    February 28, 2010 at 11:46 am

  19. Rick

    Well I certainly wouldn’t argue with that…spot on.

    February 28, 2010 at 12:02 pm

  20. Bob Harding

    I’ve never really thought of the guardian, liberal intelligentsia and companies’ human resource departments as being “left”. I suppose I would contrast the middle class led-from-above fetish of what words are in vogue, to an inter-working class two way discussion, lead-from-below. Also I can’t think of groups like the SWP as being “Trots”. The old WRP and the present writers of “Workers Hammer” may be “moonies” and not quite on our planet, but they do attempt to represent Trotsky’s views. Surely Vick, you wouldn’t see everything about the Anti Vietnam War protests and the American Civil Rights movement as a diversionary conspiracy. (The millions of Vietnamese slaughtered should provoke any means necessary to put a stop to it. In 1900 the average life expectancy for a black person in the USA was 33.0 years, while it was 73.2 in 2006.)

    I feel some of Vick’s attitudes are closer to Trotsky’s than mine in the following way: I try to move away from complaining that the past miss-leadership are all to blame for not being properly left wing, or genuine or militant enough. They aren’t really to do with socialism and instead of bemoaning the fact, I see the alternative as independent working class self-determination. In the process of the working class ruling and getting rid of class based societies we need to get our own house in order. At the end of the day, all “solutions” and political changes should be done by our class; who need to be the agents of change (or it isn’t socialism at all). The views that really count are the million and one working class views on class, race, nationality, gender etc. If these views are unprejudiced they clear the way for the self-determination of the working class. If these views are prejudices, then its these prejudices which are diversionary from socialism.

    February 28, 2010 at 6:42 pm

  21. Rick

    http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/bangladeshi_3715.jsp

    March 1, 2010 at 10:29 pm

  22. victor koenick

    i dont understand , i think we agree now , do we?

    March 2, 2010 at 7:29 pm

  23. I posted link as subject matter relates. Interesting article.

    March 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm

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