"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

Housing

Localism Cuts To Council Housing


Some News In On The Attacks On Public Housing.

‘Self financing’ reform of Council housing finance is based on systematic underfunding. Already Birmingham, Nottingham and other councils plan to demolish thousands of council homesBarking and Dagenham Council are discussing whole stock transfer, in face of Government plans to raise Right to Buy discounts, with no receipts available for new council housing.

A national protest at Parliament next week will challenge Government attacks and demand action to build the homes we need. A Housing Emergency protest on 15 November will oppose attacks on tenancies, rents and benefits, and demand new Council housing – see leaflet. AndDCH Briefing on the Localism Bill.

The Localism Bill, which MPs are now voting through, introduces fixed term tenancies, and powers to reduce succession rights, end homeless access to council housing and remove thousands from housing waiting lists.

Come to Parliament 4pm 15th Nov – bring banners and placards. Arrange to see your MPs to put the case for council housing. See Localism Bill Briefing and leaflet.

Come to the meeting 5pm Committee Room 15 House of Commons, with MPs, councillors, trade unions, tenants and others.

Council consultation on Landlord (Tenancy) policies
Lobby Councils to reject permissive powers, stop fixed term tenancies, up to 80% market rents, and cuts in access to council housing. Organise speakers, meetings and lobbies for a joint tenant, union and councillors’ campaign for investment in the council housing we need – see council resolution.
DCH meeting 10 December 
National meeting 12-4pm 10 December in Camden Town Hall Judd St London WC1H 9JE see map here

 

 

 

http://www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/dch_displaybroadcast.cfm?ID=2172

 


Councils to demolish homes to cut HRA debt

Councils will demolish thousands of homes to slash the amount of debt they take on under the imminent reform of the housing subsidy system.

Some authorities have drawn up plans in a matter of months this year to knock down hundreds of homes for financial gain. Other councils have fast-tracked proposals, an Inside Housing investigation has found.

They have acted because of an in-built ‘demolition deadline’ in plans to scrap the housing revenue account. Under the system the majority of town halls in England will take on a share of the existing £21 billion national housing debt based on the number of properties they own.

But stock set to be demolished before 2017 will not be included in the calculations – providing a sizeable financial incentive to demolish. It is understood the number of homes councils told the Communities and Local Government department they will demolish exceeded its expectations.

Nottingham and Birmingham councils have drawn up some of the most eye-catching plans – proposing to flatten more than 2,000 homes between them. All councils argue the homes picked would be costly to maintain and would not have a long-term future anyway.

Michael Gelling, chair of the Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisations of England, said: ‘You have all this pressure [waiting lists] on the social housing sector and this will make it worse.’

In a paper seen by Nottingham Council’s executive board last month, the council, which currently has 13,000 people on its waiting list, said its arm’s-length management organisation had assessed all 29,000 of its homes as a result of the HRA reforms.

Demolishing 973 homes would reduce its HRA debt by £10.2 million. But the plans could prove controversial in some areas – 50 per cent of residents responded to consultation on one 209-home estate, with 51 per cent of those saying they favoured demolition.

Birmingham plans to flatten up to 1,279 homes. It failed to respond to Inside Housing’sinquiries but reportedly had more than 17,000 people on its waiting list earlier this year.

Council reports said the homes would be ‘costly to maintain’ and that the job to identify homes ‘is now underway as it will save a lot of money in debt repayment costs if tower blocks are identified for demolition by September’.

A paper presented to Eastbourne Council, which is demolishing a number of retirement blocks, added, ‘further demolitions and disposals of retirement courts will be necessary to allow the council to develop a viable HRA business plan’.

Ian Fitzpatrick, senior head of community at Eastbourne Council, said: ‘This process is all about good asset management over the long term.’

A CLG spokesperson said: ‘As landlords, local authorities are best placed to manage their housing stock taking account of local conditions, both of the housing stock itself and demand.’

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/development/councils-to-demolish-homes-to-cut-hra-debt/6518666.article



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Lives Of (#Norwich) Council Estate Residents Documented In New Book


Guardian Article

 

Allan Young and Shereen Hilling, two Norwich estate residents whose stories are featured in a new book, Moving Histories of Class and Community

Getting on your bike to look for work, once encouraged by Norman Tebbit and now by Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, has always been a feature of working-class life, yet the perception remains that people living on council estates are both “stuck” in their communities and hostile to incomers. A new book, Moving Histories of Class and Community, debunks these myths while examining the deep attachment to place shown by residents of three Norwich estates.

Ben Rogaly and Becky Taylor, a geographer and historian from the universities of Sussex and London respectively, spent three years interviewing local people from the Marlpit, Larkman and North Earlham estates, gaining detailed accounts of often difficult lives which paint a complex picture of how class is lived – often all over the place, but with a strong notion of what “home” means.

“The movement to council estates is one of the biggest mass migrations that has taken place,” says Taylor. The poet Paul Farley has compared the building of massive estates on the periphery of British cities, to which millions of former inner-city dwellers moved between the 1920s and 1970s, to the Highland clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries. One way in which people coped with their new surroundings was to form fierce attachments to them, which were broken by further state-assisted migrations into national service or on to work programmes.

Other families were fragmented, in body if not in spirit, by individual members’ emigrations to Australia and Canada; yet even what Taylor terms “micro-migrations” of a few streets, deeply troubled some interviewees. What emerges is a collective sense of tension between the safety and belonging felt by those who have grown up and lived their lives on the three estates and their often precarious circumstances as a result of living there.

Residents are aware that all three estates carry a bad reputation within Norwich, yet on the whole care less about outside perceptions than about maintaining privacy, esteem and respectability as individuals in their local area – qualities Taylor hopes that she and Rogaly have preserved. “One woman we interviewed told us that she really feels [the book] has affirmed what she felt and gave her a voice. To capture something that people knew they felt, but hadn’t put into words before, that is key.”

 

  1. Moving Histories of Class and Community: Identity, Place and Belonging in Contemporary England (Identity Studies in the Social Sciences)
  2. by Ben Rogaly, Becky Taylor
  3. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop

Community Resistance: Kirkby Rent Strike 1972, Somethings Don’t Change.


Background: “Since 1945 Liverpool and its dockland have changed almost beyond recognition. Devastated by war and then transformed by post-war strategies to address some of the appalling social conditions, initiatives to attract industry to the area and the registration of dockers with schemes to decasualize port employment, the economic, social and cultural life of the dockland has been turned upside down. One of the most significant changes however, has come with the attempts to tackle the enormous problem of housing. Slum clearance programmes decanted many thousands of families from dockland Liverpool to purpose built overspill estates on the outskirts of the city. One of the most significant of these outer developments was Kirkby, located at the northwest edge of the city. This was a village of around 3,000 inhabitants in 1939, which by 1961 had grown to become a new town for over 50,000. Ultimately envisaged as a self-sustaining community with its own economic, social and cultural functions, Kirkby’s further expansion was ensured when in 1965 Liverpool Corporation committed itself to the clearance of another 30,000 ‘unfit’ dwellings, mainly from the traditional dockland areas.


The growth of Kirkby was not without its difficulties. It has often been cited as a classic illustration of the failures of planning and mistaken overspill development. The image of a tough community, uprooted and placed by an uncaring local authority in a bleak estate with no facilities or services, suffering high unemployment and racked by vandalism was a caricature, but nevertheless contained elements of truth. Problems with housing in Kirkby, particularly the poor quality of design and construction combined with a long backlog of repairs, were manifest from the earliest days. On the whole women were left with the responsibility of tackling the local authority about these problems in what were predominantly family homes. Furthermore, when in the early 1970s factory closures and growing unemployment further threatened Kirkby, women on the Tower Hill estate formed a discussion and support group to help themselves and their families through the crisis. However, when the 1972 Housing Finance Act resulted in a further £1 rent rise, this brought grievances that had been bubbling under for the previous decade to a head. The women formed an Unfair Rents Action Group and responded by organizing a 14-month long rent strike.

Militant collective organization no longer remained the preserve of male members of the household. In the new setting of the overspill estate, women recognised the value of the militant tradition. Outside of the labour movement or the factory floor, women in Kirkby mobilized to forge their own solidarity and collective organization. This movement sought not only to benefit the household economy through the fight against unfair rents, but for a time would also campaign for the benefit of the whole community. Traditional dockland militancy and community solidarity had clearly evolved to remain of use in its new location.”

Wake up Lefties, start finally dealing with the real issues which are in our communities, the issues haven’t changed and neither have you! 


#DaleFarm: a community with nowhere to go by Roxy Freeman


Guardian ‘comment is free’ article

 

 

On Tuesday night I fell asleep with a heavy heart after hearing the news that the clearance at Dale Farm  was likely to start the following morning. I hoped that, overnight, common sense would prevail and a forced eviction would not take place, but I awoke to the inevitable sight of riot police storming the camp  at dawn.

For the residents of Dale Farm, and Gypsies and Travellers all over the world, their worst nightmare was finally coming true. “They’re breaking the law,” I hear many of you cry, “It’s green belt land.” And you are right: it is an illegal camp, and if we want to live in a civilised society we must all uphold the law, no matter what background or culture we come from.

But the law is not black and white, and these people have certainly been let down by the system. Legal wrangling aside, the reality is that hundreds of human beings are about to be dragged from their homes and forced on to the roads.

My overriding emotions are sadness and confusion. I’m writing this from a caravan on my father’s land: it is parked here legally, but the memories of countless evictions from my childhood are etched in my mind. When I look up I expect to see the men in Day-Glo coats walking towards me and I’m filled with a sense of dread. I know how the Irish Travellers at Dale Farm feel as their life crumbles around them and they have nowhere to go. Hopeless is the only word that can describe it.

Most people in the UK don’t want them at Dale Farm or anywhere else in the country. Over 90% of those who responded to a recent poll believe a forced eviction is the right outcome. I won’t use many of the sensationalist terms being thrown around by some of the activists and Travellers involved in the eviction, and I don’t think this is a case of ethnic cleansing; but do I know first-hand how unaccepted the nomadic lifestyle is today. It doesn’t matter how quiet, clean or law-abiding you are, if you live in a caravan you are scum in the eyes of most of the British  population.

Gone are the days when the government actively tried to defuse the tension and hostility between settled and travelling people. Sites are not being created, and budgets given to councils to do so are being used for other “more pressing” issues. It is a case of: “Not on my patch.”

Basildon council leader Tony Ball pulled out of discussions with the Homes and Communities Agency – who offered land to rehouse the Dale Farm families within Essex and within a suitable distance to the children’s school. In my opinion that was because keeping them within his borough would lose votes, and votes seem to be more important than human welfare.

A peaceful solution was never going to be found because Ball apparently believes that Basildon already has more than its quota of Travellers. Swap the word Travellers with any other ethnic group and ask yourself if that is an acceptable position to take.

For the Dale Farm community the tragic reality remains: they have nowhere to go. As they exit the site they will be greeted by blocked-up tracks and barricaded lanes, parks with trenches dug around them, and car parks with a heavy security presence. They’ll end up in laybys, the children will have no chance of an education, and their quality of life will be appalling. But at least they won’t be in Basildon.

People all over the country cheer the enforcement officers on, relishing the scenes of distress and trauma. I ask: whatever happened to human compassion?


Shelter: Private Rent Watch Report 1 – Analysis of local rent levels and affordability.


The first report in a series using official private rental market statistics to examine rent levels and affordability for average earners at local authority level.

Summary

The private rented sector is experiencing unprecedented growth, and the cost and affordability of rents is a major concern for many tenants. Shelter are producing  a series of reports examining the market, using official statistics published by the Valuations Office Agency for the first time in September 2011. Report one focuses on average rent levels across England, and the affordability of those rents for full-time earners (an amount which is comparable to average total household income for private renters). Further reports will examine affordability for Local Housing Allowance claimants and trends in rent inflation.

If you are interested in a wider range of local level housing and homelessness statistics, visit our new Housing Databank resource.

 

http://england.shelter.org.uk/home

 


Multiculturalism & identity politics – the reactionary consequences and how they can be challenged


IWCA article looking at the politics of race and identity.

 

Recent weeks have seen racial tensions in the news once more, with the antics of the ‘English Defence League’ and those responding to them featuring high in the headlines. Like the BNP, the EDL claim to be defending the rights of the majority culture in the same manner as minorities, with support from their liberal sympathisers, defend theirs. As times get harder and the economic cake shrinks over the coming years, the battle for the crumbs will, as things stand, be fought along racial lines. This is the legacy of identity politics and multiculturalism.

The purpose of this article is to start the process of taking our analysis of multiculturalism and identity politics to a new level. The aim is to ensure we have the tools to be able to challenge the stance of both the left and the right on this issue. With regard to the right, it is not just the BNP we want to challenge but the more deferential kind of conservatism that may fill the vacuum created by the collapse of the neo-liberal project. A key part of this challenge is to highlight how backward and reactionary the embrace of multiculturalism and identity politics is. In particular, we want to draw attention to the way in which identity politics traps people and denies them the opportunity to transcend their circumstances – a vitally important aim given the parlous state of the economy and the coming age of austerity.

The 30 year experiment with neo-liberalism has crashed and burned. The bubble economy of the last ten years was built on the triple pillars of a debt fuelled consumer boom, supposedly ever rising property prices that were meant to underpin that debt and last, but by no means least, the shenanigans of high finance. These three pillars have crumbled to dust leaving an economy with no dynamism and no means of renewing itself. Neo-liberalism has been responsible for the decline of upward social mobility from the working class over the last thirty years. With a moribund economy, the downward mobility of those who thought they could buy the middle class lifestyle on credit will, if anything, swell the ranks of the working class.

New Labour are in the process of self destructing, Unless Gordon Brown can pull off the miracle of all times, the Tories look set to form the next government. With the failure of neo-liberalism leaving a vacuum on the political right, conservatives are grasping around for a new narrative that will fit the looming age of austerity. Further investigation is needed to enable us to predict with some certainty what that narrative will be. However, in an age where prevailing economic circumstances have made upward social mobility from the working class almost an impossibility, an acceleration of the return to a more hierarchical, rigid society is pretty much on the cards, albeit one assuming a 21st century form utilising the green rhetoric of limits. In this kind of climate, any kind of thinking that implies peoples’ identities are fixed, whether they are cultural, religious or based on class, will only serve to reinforce social and cultural divisions, thwarting any attempts to move society onto a more dynamic, progressive footing.

We have a responsibility to challenge backward notions about the immutability of peoples’ identities and to fight for a vision of a society where the majority of ordinary working people, regardless of their ethnic, religious or social background, can fulfil their aspirations.

The left’s obsession with identity politics

To be brutally honest, there never was a golden age of the political left. But there was a time when there was more of a commitment to universal values and aspirations. The problem for the left was that they never had a convincing or successful programme that could deliver equality for all along with economic and social justice. The left certainly never had an analysis or programme that convinced the vast majority of working class people to fully place their faith in them. This failure inevitably led the working class to give up on the left and the left to emphatically turn their backs on the working class. The rest is the grisly history of the left’s retreat into the world of identity politics.

It is a travesty that so called progressives should embrace the politics of identity. For what are identity politics other than a celebration of what you were born into? Celebrating an accident of birth denies the possibility of transcending what you are and striving for a better future for yourself, your family and your community. The only people who would willingly embrace such a limiting and rigid society are the more traditional conservatives who long for a more stable and hierarchical society, even if upward social mobility is a casualty of this. Which makes it all the more odd that so called ‘progressives’ are quite happy to promote identity politics and multiculturalism when it is clear they only serve to consign people to a fixed status in society. It may not be the explicit intention of these ‘progressives’ to do this but it is certainly the unintended consequence. What they also fail to see is that conservative notions about identity and culture being immutable can also be applied to class. When a devastating economic crisis has effectively ended any chance of upward social mobility for the working class, championing the politics of identity is a betrayal of their aspirations.

So this begs the question, why has the left embraced identity politics? While the purpose here is not to undertake a post mortem on the failure of the left, the answer to the question does lie in some of the numerous wrong turns they have made in the past.

The liberal left’s inexorable drift into identity politics has its roots, in part, in the struggles against imperialism and racism. The problems the left has brought upon itself in the course of those struggles stem from an over-emphasis on the cultural aspects of these issues and an underplaying of the material and economic factors at play.

The failure of much of the liberal left in their analysis to effectively take on board the political, material and economic factors which fuelled imperialism from its inception in the 19th century have led to the cultural and moral aspects of the issue being over-played. The politics of guilt and self loathing that are the hallmarks of the liberal left are a direct consequence of this failure. A few of the more orthodox Marxist sects certainly had a much better understanding of the dynamics of imperialism but the very nature of these groups meant there was always going to be a very limited audience for their analysis.

This liberal left self-loathing guilt and the automatic, unthinking and uncritical reflex of West-equals-bad and anything non-Western must be good sits uneasily with the fact that many leaders of the liberation struggles from the 1940s onwards respected the learning and thinking of Western civilisation. These leaders wryly observed it was a great shame the colonial powers didn’t live up to the Enlightenment values they supposedly espoused. Kenan Malik describes this outlook thus:

Those who actually fought Western imperialism over the past two centuries recognised that their struggles were rooted in the Enlightenment tradition. ‘I denounce European colonialist scholarship’, wrote CLR James, the West Indian writer and political revolutionary. ‘But I respect the learning and the profound discoveries of Western civilisation.’ [1]                      

The struggle against racism in Britain has been diverted into the sidings when it comes to upholding universal values such as economic and social justice for all. There have been plenty of barriers to immigrants over the generations that have prevented them from achieving their aims of building a new and better life – one being active racial discrimination and the other being the limits to the ability of the economic system we live under to guarantee the chance of improvement for all. While it was essential to fight racial discrimination, the left failed to effectively link this struggle with a challenge to the material, economic and social constraints that prevented immigrants and the working class as a whole from moving up the ladder. The consequence of this was to allow the issue of racism to become one of culture and attitudes with the material and economic aspects of the matter only paid occasional lip service.

Merely stepping onto the terrain of culture and attitudes sets in motion a chain of consequences that lead to blaming the majority population for the continuance of racism and the finger wagging, moralising approach to anti-racism that has been a hallmark of the left for over thirty years now. The situation was reached where the ethnic minorities could do no wrong and the white working class were condemned pretty much every time they expressed concerns over the impact of immigration or the unfairness of multiculturalism. The bitter legacy of the embrace of identity politics is the cleavage of the working class along the lines described by Frances Fox Piven thus:

Identity politics fosters lateral cleavages which are unlikely to reflect fundamental conflicts over societal power and resources and, indeed, may seal popular allegiance ‘to the ruling classes that exploit them. [2]

On the other hand:

Class politics, at least in principle, promotes vertical cleavages, mobilizing people around axes which broadly correspond to hierarchies of power, and which promote challenges to these hierarchies. [3]                                                                                       

The consequence of this is the division of the working class as the liberal left fawns over the ethnic minorities while barely concealing their contempt for the white working class. A contempt which once you examine the language used and the motivations behind it, is racist. The left long ago abandoned what was at best, an uneasy relationship with the British working class when it was judged that the class wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the political programme on offer. That breakdown of the relationship has over the decades, morphed into a despairing contempt for the British working class and the assumption that they are irredeemably reactionary and resistant to any attempts at enlightenment. In other words, the left has implicitly embraced the notion that there are certain characteristics of the British working class that are immutable and unchanging. When you consider the consequences of ascribing immutable characteristics to any social or ethnic grouping, then it has to be said the liberal left are on very dangerous ground indeed in their demonisation of the white working class.

The BNP are multiculturalists

The BNP claims to despise multiculturalism. While it can be said they deplore what they see as the consequences of the liberal left embrace of multiculturalism, the far right see each and every culture as immutable and unchanging, hence the need to preserve the cultural identity of the white majority by taking a stand against inter-marriage. The BNP will claim they respect the premise that other cultures have a right to their own existence, the proviso being that differing cultures have to be kept separate in order to preserve their ‘purity’. They also claim that cultural divisions are natural and attempts to eradicate or even dilute them run against the natural order. Alastair Harper writing in the BNP journal, Identity, stated that:

As the Duke of Wellington said “Being born in a stable does not make one a horse” – Britishness is chromosomal not residential. [4]

The far right have looked at how the left has embraced identity politics and have appropriated some of the terminology and language of the left to celebrate the culture of the majority white population. After all, when the BNP say that if such and such a group can celebrate their culture, then surely the white majority has as much of a right to celebrate theirs? If you are of a liberal left persuasion and have already signed up to the notion that minority cultures have a right to celebrate what they are, then it can be said it is hypocritical of them to deny that right to the white majority. Such is the dilemma faced by the liberal left as the consequences of their embrace of identity politics start to bite them back.

The BNP in their desire to defend and enforce cultural and ethnic boundaries face a potential flaw in their desire to  portray themselves as the ‘friends’ of the working class. The fatal flaw is that the far right’s assertion that cultural divisions are natural can also quite easily be turned around by conservatives and applied to class divisions…

Why traditional conservatives love identity politics

With an allegedly reformist leader in the person of David Cameron who has been frantically re-branding conservatism to make it relevant to the 21st century, why are we talking about ‘traditional conservatism’? As stated in the introduction, the disintegration of the neo-liberal economic and social experiment has left a vacuum on the political right. We are moving into a period where even if there is a technical recovery from the recession, the pace of growth will be so sluggish that there will be no feeling of dynamism in the economy. Allied to this will be the inevitable raising of taxes and painful cuts in public spending as the government of the day attempts to work off the massive public debt, a considerable chunk of which was incurred in the desperate bid to avert systemic bank failure.

To put it bluntly, for any incoming government after the next election, the prospect they face is a nightmare of the worst order. Given New Labour’s complete and utter disintegration, it is more than likely that the next government will be a Tory one. The Tories are going to have to find a narrative to help them in presiding over at best a sluggish economy, austerity and the ever present threat of the IMF having to pay a visit if insufficient progress is being made in reducing the crippling level of public (and private) debt owed by UK plc. The Tories are going to have to find a way of telling the vast bulk of the population that they can forget about their dreams and aspirations as the nation hunkers down to generations of austerity.

Talk of economic growth, dynamism and the prospect of rising living standards will be off the agenda for a long while. Instead, the discussion will be about limits, making do, and accepting what you have and where you are in society. While it would be difficult for the Tories to openly return to the hierarchical view of society they embraced in the past, they will be making every effort to develop a narrative of limits and accepting what you have that will be relevant to the 21st century. There are considerably more subtle ways of promoting this notion, one being green rhetoric about limits to growth being appropriated and twisted around to a dialogue about people learning to be more content with what they have. As well as this, the Tories will have the extremely delicate task of having to explain why upward social mobility is an ever receding possibility for the bulk of the population. As stated earlier, the issue of how the Tories will develop this narrative will be the subject of further investigation.

Traditional conservatives claim that cultures do not mix successfully and that different peoples are best left to get on with their own affairs. This stems from the assumption that culture is an immutable characteristic of any given society and one that only evolves slowly. The same argument has been used by some conservatives to justify the continuance of class divisions, hence their making every effort to depict class as something that is more or less immutable with only a few being deemed capable of making an upward move out of their class. Obviously, it is a rare conservative who will explicitly state such open prejudice – most will choose a form of language that either implies or sows the seed of a notion in peoples’ minds that there is a natural and unchanging aspect to class divisions. One example of how these notions can be sown came in this recent utterance from the former chief schools inspector, Chris Woodhead, on the issue of social class and life chances:

I think it would be unlikely that large numbers of grammar school kids would come from those disadvantaged areas – the genes are likely to be better if your parents are teachers, academics, lawyers, whatever. And the nurture is likely to be better. But that doesn’t mean that there are not going to be DH Lawrences. [5]

With a long period of austerity, a moribund economy and upward social mobility a thing of the past, it will be tempting for at least some conservatives to revisit past thinking about class divisions having at least in part, a natural element to them, albeit that thinking will have to be re-presented in a form that has relevance to the 21st century. It is worth taking a brief look at the history of such thinking. Racial thinking in the 19th century had its origins in the deterministic notion that the poor were poor because of the lot dealt to them by nature and that in the main, there was little chance of the majority of them ever being able to transcend their circumstances. This account of working class life in the Saturday Review, a well-read liberal magazine of the Victorian era, typifies the English middle class attitudes of this era:

The Bethnal Green poor… are a caste apart, a race of whom we know nothing, whose lives are of quite different complexion from ours, persons with whom we have no point of contact. And although there is not yet quite the same separation of classes or castes in the country, yet the great mass of the agricultural poor are divided from the educated and the comfortable, from squires and parsons and tradesmen, by a barrier which custom has forged through long centuries, and which only very exceptional circumstances ever beat down, and then only for an instant. The slaves are separated from the whites by more glaring… marks of distinction; but still distinctions and separations, like those of English classes which always endure, which last from the cradle to the grave, which prevent anything like association or companionship, produce a general effect on the life of the extreme poor, and subject them to isolation, which offer a very fair parallel to the separation of the slaves from the whites.[6]

In the 21st century, it would be hoped that this kind of deterministic thinking would have been thoroughly discredited. However, a scan through the comments left after any article on social mobility and class in a right wing paper such as the Telegraph will reveal that these prejudices are alive and well. The quote below is just one example of how these views can be expressed:

More children is not a solution or a good idea if those children are born to those at the bottom of the social ladder. Intelligence, either of the genetic or acquired variety, does not occur naturally at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder at anything like it does at the middle or upper ends. Having a disproportionate number of children born to parents at the bottom of the mental acuity scale will not save anything. It will create an intractable feudal society with an educated, intelligent elite and a far larger uneducable underclass. We must encourage educated women to bear more children or do it ‘artificially’ if we are to avoid this dysgenic nightmare. [7]

While conservatives condemn the obsession of multiculturalists with celebrating the identity of minorities while ignoring the majority, privately they must be delighted at the message that is implicitly conveyed by the liberal left. The left’s obsession with encouraging minorities to celebrate the culture they have in a world where upward social mobility is a fading dream, sends out an implicit signal that identities cannot be transcended and that people have little choice but to accept what and where they are. In other words, there is the danger that where there is little or no upward social mobility, class divisions become naturalised. This has to be music to the ears of those conservatives who hanker after a stable social order where people know their place in the pecking order…

Why multiculturalism and identity politics are reactionary and backwards

The celebration of a particular culture is in fact, a recognition that in a society where material and social progress can no longer be guaranteed for the mass of the people, cultural identity is the one constant that people can hang onto when times are hard. It is an implicit admission that the project of achieving material, social and economic progress for the mass of the people has effectively been abandoned by the left. As Kenan Malik states, this outlook is the consequence of the narrowing of political options.

As the meaning of politics has narrowed, so people have begun to view themselves and their social affiliations in a different way. Social solidarity has become increasingly defined not in political terms – as collective action in pursuit of certain political ideals but in terms of ethnicity or culture. The question people ask themselves are not so much ‘What kind of society do I want to live in?’ as ‘Who are we?’ [8]

The liberal left is unable to understand that there is nothing progressive in unthinkingly encouraging people to simply celebrate what they are. This is particularly the case when reactionary and backward social practices not only go unchallenged but are excused on the basis that they are an ‘integral part of the culture’. This unthinking encouragement for ethnic minorities to celebrate what they are is at odds with the prime motive of any immigrant which is to start a new life in a new country and to leave the past behind.

The major failure of the left was promoting this uncritical celebration of culture for pretty much every ethnic and religious minority while at the same time, strongly condemning and such expression of pride from the white working class majority. Not only did the left turn its back on the white working class, they embarked upon an ideological trajectory that would guarantee the white working class turning its back on the left in utter disgust!

Fairness for all

When the IWCA have been canvassing and the issue of race and multiculturalism has been brought up, the vast majority of white working class people we have talked to simply want fair treatment. They rightly object to public funding for community projects that benefit one small ethnic minority at the expense of the majority.

The liberal left’s encouragement for various minorities to celebrate their culture stands in stark contrast to their thinly veiled contempt for any of the white working class who simply want an acknowledgement of their Englishness / Britishness. As discussed earlier, part of this is down to liberal guilt about the colonial past plus an anti-imperialism that unthinkingly assumes that anything Western is bad, so by definition, anything anti-Western has to be good. However, that is only part of the explanation for their dismissive attitude towards any white working class assertion of English / British identity. Again, as discussed earlier, there is a thinly veiled contempt for the working class who had the temerity to snub the patronising, middle class, Fabian, social democratic political model. One clear consequence of this contempt is that the white working class majority can never expect fairness from a middle class left who despise them. This is why we need to have the argument out with the left on how backward, reactionary and ultimately their unthinking support for multiculturalism and identity is.

Despite the siren promises made by the likes of the BNP, the working class cannot expect a fair society to be delivered from an authoritarian political tendency that supports a rigid social structure. The far right’s implicit support for a rigid social hierarchy has to be brought out and shown as the barrier to working class advancement it really is.

Firing our guns in both directions at once is the only way we can offer a distinctive analysis and critique of identity politics that once and for all, labels it as a reactionary and backward doctrine that only serves to hold working class people back. This means paradoxically, de-racialising identity politics and showing it to be nothing more than support for a social hierarchy where people are expected to know their place. Once this can be achieved, the more fundamental questions of what kind of social economy we want can then start to be seriously addressed.

Summary

The following points are intended to act as a brief summary of why we think multiculturalism and identity politics have dangerously reactionary consequences.

1) Over recent decades, the left has increasingly abandoned the working class and class politics in favour of identity politics: the politics of race, gender and sexuality. In turn, this has caused the working class to increasingly abandon the left.

2) Taken to its logical conclusion, identity politics is a conservative, anti-human concept that sees society as static – a view that can translate just as easily to rigid class hierarchies as it can to competing and incompatible cultural and racial identities.

3) Defining people in terms of the ‘identity’ they were born into is a rejection of the idea of a dynamic society, where it is seen as possible – and desirable – for class and cultural identities to be transcended so that everyone can reach their full and unique potential.

4) The promotion of identity politics fosters artificial divisions within the working class and helps to encourage a racialised view of the world, preparing the ground for race-based politics. This view of society simply doesn’t reflect fundamental conflicts over economic and societal power yet it has the potential to fatally fragment each and every progressive working class movement in the future. Like the Labour Party, the BNP is fully signed up to the notion of identity politics, to the extent that their magazine is called ‘Identity’.

5) We support the concept of full equality, where people are judged on what they do rather than on what they are perceived to be. As a consequence of this, we oppose funding for initiatives that are restricted to particular ethnic and cultural groups as they undermine community solidarity. We support efforts to end discrimination, with the aim being equal treatment for all.

References

[1]        Kenan Malik – Against multiculturalism – New Humanist, Summer 2002 –http://www.kenanmalik.com/essays/against_mc.html

[2&3]   Frances Fox Piven – Globalising Capitalism and the rise of

Identity Politics –  http://socialistregister.com/socialistregister.com/files/SR_1995_Piven.pdf 

[4]        Alastair Harper – Blood of the Isles – Identity, June 2007 –

http://www.identitymagazine.org.uk/pdf/200706iii.pdf

[5]        Polly Curtis – ‘Don’t say I was wrong’ – The Guardian, 12 May 2009 –         http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/may/12/chris-woodhead-teaching

[6]        Saturday Review – 16 January, 1864

[7]        Comment made by Scott on: Can we pay for pensions without working until we drop? – Daily Telegraph, 7 May, 2009 –http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/edmundconway/5286906/Can-we-pay-for-pensions-without-working-until-we-drop.html

[8]        Kenan Malik – Making a difference: culture, race and social policy – Patterns of PrejudiceVol 39, no 4, December 2005 –http://www.kenanmalik.com/papers/pop_multiculturalism.html


Today’s Dale Farm Judgement From The High Court.


 

 

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