The results: Labour gets a grilling
The local and European Parliament elections conducted on 4 June were, as was widely predicted, a disaster for Labour, which suffered its worst election result since the Second World War. In the local elections (for all 27 County Councils, three existing Unitary Authorities and five new Unitary Authorities), Labour managed to lose control of all four of the counties that it had previously held, along with 291 councillors (the Tories, meanwhile, gained seven councils and 244 councillors). In the elections to the European Parliament, Labour was beaten into third place by the Conservatives and the obscure (albeit well-funded) UK Independence Party.
Given the widespread disillusionment with Labour, most people were not surprised at the scale of its defeat. What’s more, the abysmally low election turnout reflects a growing public dissatisfaction with parliamentary politics in general. The recent MPs’ expenses debacle showed people only too clearly the parasitism that lies at the very heart of bourgeois politics. Meanwhile, it’s abundantly obvious that the gigantic economic crisis we are in the grip of has an existence independent of parliamentary decrees (although the multi-billion-pound handouts to the banks have not exactly helped to counter the public perception that this Labour government represents big business and big business alone). The expenses scandal, the economic crisis, the ongoing genocidal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine and the devastating attacks on the welfare state all add up to increasing public disillusionment with Labour, with social democracy and with parliamentary politics in general.
BNP wins two EU Parliament seats
The result that really got people talking was the election of two BNP Euro MPs. From the Trotskyists to the Conservatives, from the Socialist Worker to the Telegraph, all were concerned about this apparently significant boost to the cause of fascism in Britain. Labour MPs, forgetting their own support for genocidal wars and racist legislation, mused endlessly in the liberal broadsheets about the rising threat of the vile BNP. Unite Against Fascism, chaired by the revolting Peter Hain, who only last year was calling on South Africa to cut off Zimbabwe’s electricity supply in order to topple the elected Zimbabwean government, creaked into action, issuing press releases and calling impromptu demonstrations.
Not many commentators took the time to point out that the actual number of votes polled for the BNP was barely greater than it was in 2004. Their 1.3% increase (from 4.9% to 6.2%) is explained in its entirety by the reduced voter turnout. Indeed, in Yorkshire and Humberside, where the BNP won one of its seats, it scored fewer votes than it did in 2004. The only thing one can say is that the BNP suffered less from voter apathy than did Labour. It certainly isn’t possible to say that there has been a significant upswing in the BNP’s popularity.
Usefulness of the BNP to the British state
We don’t wish anyone to think that we are ‘soft’ on the BNP – it is an abhorrent, racist, fascist and pro-imperialist organisation. Indeed, we consider that our opposition to the BNP is far more thoroughgoing and meaningful than that put forward by the various darlings of the liberal left, who dwell on the obscure rantings of a few leading BNP members and who never seem to remember what fascism actually is – “the violent attempt of decaying capitalism to defeat the proletarian revolution and forcibly retard its own demise” (Harpal Brar, Imperialism – the Eve of the Social Revolution of the Proletariat).
Yes, the BNP peddles childish anti-immigration propaganda; yes, they have appalling right-wing policies on education, health care, criminal justice and many other issues; yes, they call for vast increases in ‘defence’ spending; yes, they call for reduced foreign aid; yes, they have racist membership criteria; yes, they call for immigrant repatriation; yes, many of their members deny the Nazi holocaust; yes, many of their members revere Hitler; yes, they are basically mad.
Nonetheless, what are the substantive policy differences between them and that great bastion of social democracy, the Labour Party? Does Labour peddle anti-immigration propaganda? Yes. Does it pursue colonial wars? Yes. Is it busily scaling back civil liberties and ramping up repressive measures? Yes. Is it dismantling the welfare state? Yes. Hence Stalin’s brilliant if startling remark that “social democracy objectively represents the moderate wing of fascism”.
And let’s not let the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats off the hook. “The Tories and Lib Dems, far from opposing all this racist hysteria and repressive legislation, are continually falling over themselves to prove that they, too, hold the interests of British multinationals to be paramount and are prepared to do whatever is necessary to defend those interests” (CPGB-ML leaflet ‘Labour racism recruits for the BNP’).
The fact is that the presence of the BNP serves two useful purposes for the British ruling class. First, it provides a safety net for those members of the labour aristocracy and petty bourgeoisie who are starting to lose patience with the mainstream parties (and who are looking for an easy answer to the question of why their quality of life is deteriorating); as far as the ruling class is concerned, it is infinitely preferable for people to join the fascists than join the communists. Second, the BNP provides a valuable scarecrow that, with its repellent and blatant racism, wipes out all Labour’s sins and makes it worthy of the liberal vote.
In short, Labour and the BNP enjoy a symbiotic relationship – the same symbiotic relationship used by social democracy and fascism throughout the 20th century. “While fascism smashes the class organisations of the working class from without and opposes their whole basis and counters them with an alternative ‘national’ ideology, social democracy undermines them from within by diverting them along reformist bourgeois channels” (Brar, ibid).
Fascism and social democracy share the same ideological backbone: the principle of class collaboration; the idea that workers and capitalists must work together to create a sustainable capitalism. The main differences are in the methods they employ. As Palme Dutt points out in his brilliant work Social Revolution and Fascism (1934): “Fascism operates primarily by coercion, alongside of deception; social democracy operates primarily by deception alongside of coercion”.
The real struggle against fascism
We do believe that the fight against fascism is important; indeed, as the imperialist world sinks deeper and deeper into economic crisis, the ruling class will increasingly turn to racist propaganda and fascist methods in order to protect its rule. Already we can see the ready-made ‘solutions’ to the problems of the working class (not “capitalism must go”, but “British jobs for British workers”). Already we can see the introduction of repressive legislation and surveillance technology. Already we can see the increasingly hostile attitude of the state to political activism (the recent G20 and Gaza protests being cases in point).
But wait! All of these measures are being actively introduced by the Labour Party! The BNP supports these measures, certainly, but it isn’t actually implementing them (for the simple reason that it isn’t in power). The main steps being taken in the direction of fascism at this point in time are being taken by the ‘respectable’ Labour Party. Therefore the calls to “vote Labour to stop the racist BNP” don’t sound particularly sensible. “Distasteful though it might be to risk a BNP councillor in the town hall, it is far more important at the present time to expose those whose racism is couched in ‘respectable’ terminology, but who are, in reality, the most effective propagators of racism (and thus the best recruiters for the BNP) – ie, the main bourgeois parties, be they Labour, Lib Dems or Tories” (CPGB-ML leaflet, ibid).
Could there ever be fascism in Britain? Yes, there could. The ruling class resorts to fascism when it can no longer rely on social democracy to keep the working class in line. Perhaps they won’t call it ‘fascism’, and perhaps they’ll avoid too many visible links to Hitler and Mussolini, but they will not hesitate to use fascism if they feel that capitalism itself is under threat. Some say that fascism simply isn’t in the nature of the British ruling class, which likes to rule quietly and serenely with the help of Earl Grey tea and cucumber sandwiches. We might reply that the vast masses of India, China, the Caribbean, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Ghana, Nigeria, Malaysia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and countless other countries that have suffered under the jackboot of British colonialism certainly don’t share this view of a gentle, benevolent ruler. ‘National character’ notwithstanding, the decline of the economy, the inevitable demise of social democracy and the inevitable rise of the revolutionary movement will drive the capitalists to desperate measures.
“In each case fascism is nurtured and helped to grow, in some countries to assume power, not against the wishes of the bourgeoisie and the state, but with their tender loving care and assistance. It develops through the forms of bourgeois democracy, through the systematic, methodical and step-by-step strengthening of the coercive state apparatus, the institution of emergency powers, and the restriction of the rights of the working class – this process being greatly accelerated by reformist and constitutional illusions engendered by Social Democracy, which paralyse the will of the working class to resist. When the ground has thus been fully prepared in the conditions of bourgeois democracy, and the workers’ movement disrupted and disorganised, only then is the final blow delivered by the bourgeoisie, with the establishment of fascist dictatorship” (Brar, ibid).
The fight against fascism goes hand in hand with the fight against capitalism, against imperialism and against social democracy. In other words, the fight against fascism is part of the struggle for communism.
“In view of the fact that the conditions for the institution of fascism are created by the ruling class within the shell of bourgeois ‘democracy’, the fight against fascism cannot be waged by the working class putting its trust in bourgeois ‘democracy’ as a defence against fascism. This fight can only successfully be waged by a united and determined working class against all the attacks of finance capital in the economic and political field – against anti-trade union laws and wage cuts; against the so-called anti-terrorism legislation; against racist immigration and asylum laws which are solely aimed at sowing divisions in the working class by shifting the blame for the ills of capitalism on to the backs of the unfortunate victims of imperialist plunder, brigandage and war; against restrictions on the right to free speech and assembly, and so on and so forth…
“Communism or fascism? – This is the choice that confronts the working class. The third way offered by Social Democracy only leads, in the final analysis, to the cul-de-sac of fascism” (Brar, ibid).