Posts Tagged ‘‘Revolt on the Right’’

Sargon of Gasbag on How the Norf Went Tory

January 11, 2020

A few days ago Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin put up a video, in which he presented his idea of why the north of England and the midlands went Tory. It was based on a cartoon from 4chan’s Pol Board, and so presented a very caricatured view of the north. Sargon is the extreme right-winger, who personally did much to destroy UKIP simply by joining it. This ‘classical liberal’ – meaning libertarian – with his highly reactionary views on feminism and racism was too much even for the Kippers. His home branch of Swindon wanted him deselected when the party chose him as the second of their two MEP candidates for south-west England, and the Gloucestershire branch closed down completely. And according to Sargon, the ‘Norf’ went Tory because Blair turned the Labour party from the party of the working class throughout Britain into the party of the liberal metropolitan elite, and turned its attention away from class issues to supporting Islam, refugees, radical feminism and gay rights. This conflict with the social conservative values of working people, and particularly northern working people. As a result, they voted for Johnson, who had the same values they had.

The strip depicts the northern working class as Norf F.C., a local football team. They have their counterparts and rivals in Sowf F.C., a southern football team, and in the Welsh and Scots. The north is presented as a region of fat skinhead football hooligans, poorly educated, and suffering from scurvy and malnutrition, but who love their families, their communities and their country. In the strip’s view, these communities were traditionally Labour. But this changed with the election of Tony Blair, an Oxford educated lawyer, who took over the party. Under his aegis, it no longer was the party of the working class, but instead had a lower middle class membership. These were over-educated officer workers, who turned it towards Communism with the election of Jeremy Corbyn. They supported racism witchhunts, gay rights and flooding White communities with coloured immigrants, and were pro-EU. They despised natural, healthy patriotism. The result was that when Boris appeared, despite being an Etonian toff they recognised themselves in him. He would do something about Brexit and immigration, and would attack the radical left who support Muslim rape gangs and wanted to chop off their sons’ genitals. And who would also put the ‘bum boys’ in their place. It led to the massive defeat of the Labour party, and in particular ‘Communists’ like owen Jones and Ash Sarkar of Novara media.

I’m not going to show the video here, but if you want to see it for yourself, go to YouTube and search for ‘How the Norf Went Tory’, which is his wretched video’s title.

To Sargon, Corbyn is a friend of Hezbollah and Hamas, and to show how threatening the feminists and LGBTQ section of the Labour party he shows various radical feminists with T-shirts saying ‘White People Are Terrorists’ and a trans-activist with a baseball bat and the tattoo ‘Die Cis Scum’, referring to cis-gendered people – those who identify with their biological gender. The over-educated lower middle class people he sneers at are graduates of gender studies, who work in McDonalds, or have submitted to what he describes as ‘office serfdom’.

It’s very much a simplistic view, but there’s much truth in it as well as great deal of distortion. Let’s go through it.

The UKIP View of the North

Firstly, it represents very much the UKIP view of events. The academic study of UKIP, Revolt on the Right,  found that its members were poorly educated, working class people in the north. They had socially Conservative views, hated the European Union, resented immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and felt abandoned by the traditional parties. He is also right in identifying the change from working class representation to middle class representation with Blair’s leadership. Blair didn’t like the working class. He wanted to get the votes of the swing voters in marginal constituencies. As Sargon’s video acknowledges, he supported the neoliberalism that had devastated the northern economy and which made so many northerners hate the policy’s architect, Maggie Thatcher. Within the party, Blair sidelined working class organisations like the trade unions in favour of courting and recruiting business managers.

The Labour party was keen to represent Blacks and other ethnic minorities, women and gays due to its ideological commitment to equality. This policy became particularly important after Thatcher’s victory in 1979, when it appeared to some that the White working class had abandoned the party. I’ve also seen books published in the ’70s lamenting the right-ward movement within the Labour party due to its membership becoming increasingly middle class, so this trend actually predates Blair somewhat. However, it acquired a new importance under Blair because of the emphasis his administration place on BAME rights, feminism and gay rights. In my view, this was partly as an attempt to preserve some claim to radicalism and progressive values while abandoning socialism and the working class.

Sargon Doesn’t Understand Class and Communism

Sargon also doesn’t understand either what Communism is. He seems to believe in the rantings of the contemporary right that it’s all about identity politics and changing the traditional culture from above. That’s one form of Marxist politics coming from the ideas of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. But traditional, orthodox Marxism emphasised the importance of the working class and the class structure of society. Marx’s theory of Dialectical Materialism held that it was the economic base of society that defined ideology, not the other way around. Once the working class came into power and socialised the economy, the ideologies supported and created by capitalism would disappear. Gramsci’s ideas about changing ideology and culture became fashionable in left-wing circles because it was believed that the working class was actually in decline as society changed. Demographers noted that increasing numbers of people were becoming lower middle class. Hence the movement on the left towards that sector of society, rather than the traditional working class.

Corbyn More Politically Committed to Working Class

Yes, Corbyn also supported anti-racism, feminism and gay rights, but these had been key values of the left since the 1980s. I remember then how the Labour party and leading figures like Michael Foot and Ken Livingstone were vilified as Communists and Trotskyites, and how the party was caricatured as standing for Black lesbians. There were all those stories circulating in the Scum, for example, about how radical teachers in London schools had decided that ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ was racist, and insisted children sing ‘Baa Baa Green Sheep’ instead. Corbyn does come from a privileged background, but his views and the Labour manifesto are far more working class in the sense that they represent a return to traditional socialist economic policies than Blair’s. And certainly far more than Johnson’s and the Tories.

I have to admit that I’m one of the over-educated officer worker types Sargon sneers at. But I never did gender studies, not that I’m sneering at it or those who studied it. My first degree is in history. And I am very sure that most of the legions of graduates now trying to get any kind of paid work have a very wide variety degrees. I also think that many of them also come from the aspirant working class, who went into higher education in order to get on. Also, if you were interested or active in working class politics in the 1980s, you were exposed and took over the anti-racism and anti-sexism campaigns. Ben Elton was notorious as a left-wing comedian in the 1980s, but he defended the working class and ethnic minorities against the Tories.  It was not the case that the White working class was viewed with suspicion as a hotbed of racism, although sections of it, represented by such grotesques as Alf Garnet, certainly were. But it was that section of the working class that the Scum and the Tory party addressed, and so it’s now surprise that they see themselves represented by Boris.

Their belief in Boris is ultimately misplaced, however. Boris will betray them, just like he has betrayed everyone else.

He isn’t going to get Brexit done. He is going to continue with his privatisations, including that of the NHS, and dismantlement of the welfare state. The people in the northern and midlands communities that voted for him are going to find themselves still poor, and probably much poorer, under him.

But the lessons for Labour should be that there should be no return to Blairism. 

David Rosenberg and many other left-wing bloggers have argued from their own personal experience that the way of winning working class voters back to Labour and away from the far-right is through the hard work of knocking on doors and neighbourhood campaigning. This is what Blairism didn’t do. Jones showed in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class that it was Blair that turned away and demonised them, and simply expected them to continue voting Labour as they didn’t have anywhere else to go. And it was the Blairites and Tories, who viewed the White working class as racist and vilified them as such. Although it also has to be said that they also courted them by appealing to their patriotism and their feeling of marginalisation in an increasingly multicultural society. And the fact that Jones took the trouble to attack this refutes Sargon’s attempt to present Jones as a ‘Communist’, who was against their interests.

Yes, you can find the misandrists, and the anti-White racists and extreme gay and trans rights activists in the Labour party. But they’re an unrepresentative minority, who are going to be controversial even in their own small circles. Attempts by the Tories to magnify their influence are deliberately deceptive in order to stop people from believing that the Labour party means to do anything for ordinary working people. Just as Sargon has tried to do in his video.

Winning back the working class from Boris does not mean a return to Blair and attempting to turn the party into the Conservatives 2.0. But it does mean returning to working class activism, representation and continuing to support real policies to benefit the working class, whether Black, White or Brown, Christian, atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or whatever.

And that has to be a return to genuine socialism.

UKIP’s Working Class Voters and the Tory Victories in Labour Heartlands

December 19, 2019

Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin in their book Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support For The Radical Right in Britain (Abingdon: Routledge 2014) argue that UKIP’s brief appearance as a new political force was due to it developing strong working class support. It articulated the frustration with contemporary politics of the people left behind. These were generally older, less educated workers, marginalised through de-industrialisation and social change, particularly immigration and European integration. They write

UKIP’s revolt is a working-class phenomenon. Its support is heavily concentrated among older, blue-collar workers, with little education and few skills; groups who have been ‘left-behind’ by the economic and social transformation of Britain in recent decades and pushed to the margins as the main parties have converged to the centre ground. UKIP are not a second home for disgruntled Tories in the shires; they are a first home for angry and disaffected working-class Britons of all political backgrounds, who have lost faith in a political system that ceased to represent them long ago.

Support for UKIP does not line up in a straightforward way with traditional notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’, but reflects a divide between a political mainstream dominated by a more financially secure and highly educated middle class, and a more insecure and precarious working class, which feels its concerns have been written out of political debate. In a sense, UKIP’s rise represents the re-emergence of class conflicts that Tony Blair’s New Labour and David Cameron’s compassionate Conservatism submerged but never resolved – conflicts that reflect basic differences in the position and prospects of citizens in different walks of life. Before the arrival of UKIP, the marginalisation of these conflicts had already produced historic changes in political behaviour. Blue-collar voters turned their backs on politics en masse, causing a collapse in electoral turn-out to record lows, and fuelling a surge in support for the extreme right BNP, making it briefly the most successful extreme right party in the history of British elections. Since 2004, Farage and his foot soldiers have channelled the same social divisions into a far more impressive electoral rebellion….

(T)he potential for a political insurgency of this kind has existed for a long time. Its seeds lay among groups of voters who struggled with the destabilising and threatening changes brought in by de-industrialisation, globalisation and, later, European integration and mass immigration. These groups always occupied a precarious position on Britain’s economic ladder, and now, as their incomes stagnated and their prospects for social mobility receded, they found themselves being left behind.

Many within this left-behind army also grew up before Britain experienced the recent waves of immigration and before the country joined the EU, and their political and social values reflect this. This is a group of voters who are more inclined to believe in an ethnic conception of British national identity, defined by birth and ancestry, and who have vivid memories of a country that once stood independent and proudly apart from Europe. They also came of age in an era where political parties offered competing and sharply contrasting visions of British society, and had strong incentives to listen to, and respect, their traditional supporters. Shaped by these experiences, today these voters look out at a fundamentally different Britain: ethnically and culturally diverse; cosmopolitan; integrated into a transnational, European political network; and dominated by a university-educated and more prosperous middle class that hold a radically different set of values, all of which is embraced and celebrated by those who rule over them. This is not a country that the rebels recognise, nor one they like. (pp. 270-1).

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters believe that the defeat in the recent general election was primarily due to Brexit and Boris Johnson’s presentation of the Tories as the party that would ‘get Brexit done’. Craig Gent, in his article for Novara Media, ‘Learning the Lessons of Labour’s Northern Nightmare Will Take Longer Than A Weekend’ argues that the northern communities, who turned to the Tories were those which voted for Brexit. He writes

The bare facts are these: Labour’s election campaign did not look the same across northern towns as it did on left Twitter. Swathes of towns that said they wanted Brexit in 2016 still want Brexit. Those towns by and large felt patronised by the offer of a second referendum, a policy whose public support has always been inflated by the gaseous outpourings of its most ardent supporters. And two years on from 2017, the novelty of Corbynmania had thoroughly worn off, with his increasingly stage-managed media appearances beginning to rub people up the wrong way.

See: https://novaramedia.com/2019/12/17/learning-the-lessons-of-labours-northern-nightmare-will-take-longer-than-a-weekend/

It’s also been argued that working class voters turned to the Tories in the north and midlands because the Leave vote was primarily a rejection of the political establishment, and in those areas, Labour was the political establishment.

Some of the features of UKIP’s working class supporters obviously don’t fit those, who voted Tory last Thursday. The people voting for Johnson weren’t just the over-55s, for example, and so wouldn’t have had the glowing memories of Britain before we entered the EU, or EEC as it then was. And it should be remembered that UKIP was never as large or as powerful as its supporters and cheerleaders in the lamestream media presented it. But clearly there are a large chunk of the British electorate, who did feel ignored by Labour’s Blairite leadership and shared their elders’ impressions of a Britain that was powerful and prosperous outside the EU, and which had been actively harmed by its entry.

But Boris won’t do anything for them, except possibly make a few token gestures towards improving conditions for those communities. It will mean hard work, but Labour can win those communities back.

But it means not taking them for granted, as Gent’s article states, and building a solid working class base once again through community activism and campaigning.

And not leaving them behind to concentrate on marginals and Tory swing voters, as New Labour did.

 

 

UKIP Disintegrates as 50,000 Members Flock to the Tories

September 17, 2016

It seems this has been the week for extreme right-wing parties collapsing. Hope Not Hate first reported that the NF looked like it was in terminal decline, with some of its old boot-boys demanding that it should now be wound up. Then, a few days later, they reported that the EDL company, English Footsoldier EDL Limited, had been compulsorily dissolved by the authorities after it failed to supply all the documents required of businesses under British law. And yesterday Mike posted a piece reporting that UKIP were also shedding members at a rate of knots.

Alexandra Phillips, one of the Fuhrage’s top aides, has defected to the Tories, along with another 50,000 kippers she claims have also joined the Tory party. The Tories have indeed increased their membership by this number, but as Mike says, this doesn’t touch the Labour party, who have seen their membership increase to 600,000, thanks largely to Jeremy Corbyn.

Mike points out that the defection of such large numbers to the Tories does refute the kipper claim, repeated by the party’s defenders on Mike’s blog and over here, that the party was somehow ‘left-wing’. It wasn’t. While many of the grass-roots members did believe in the nationalisation of public services, like railways and the utility industries, the party leadership was always right-wing Tory, and their policies reflected that. Mike points out as an example of this the fact that Phillips was denounced as a ‘Pinko’ when she advised Fuhrage not to talk about banning immigrants with HIV. Mike demonstrates that both the Tories and UKIP held identical policies with a handy graphic from Pride’s Purge. Mike ends his article by quoting David Whitley, who tweeted the suggestion that we should go back to treating UKIP like the BNP.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/16/mass-exodus-from-ukip-to-the-tories-whatever-happened-to-the-peoples-army/

Mike’s exactly right, as is the Guardian when it quotes Phillips as saying that the Tories are doing the ‘UKIP dance’ on Brexit, grammar schools and fracking. There should be no surprises there. UKIP’s leadership were the extreme right-wing, Eurosceptic branch of the Tory party. And the Brexit campaign was largely led by high-profile Tories – Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, for example. Not that you would have realised this from Theresa May. After the ‘Remain’ side lost, May started spinning the narrative that it wasn’t due to the Tories after all, but the Labour party. Working class Labour voters had been responsible for the narrow Brexit victory, while the nice, Tory voting middle classes had all voted for ‘Remain’. And like the rest of the establishment, she claimed it was all due to Jeremy Corbyn, because he wasn’t as enthusiastic about promoting the European cause as the rest of them. Including, Mike has shown, Theresa May herself. Despite all the complaints about Corbyn not pulling his weight during the campaigning over the referendum, Corbyn did put in his time and effort supporting ‘Remain’, much more than May herself. And the claim that, as the supporters of the Leave campaign were largely working class, they must have been Labour voters is similarly dubious. One book on the party, Revolt on the Right, which attempts a serious political analysis of the party, its programme and the sociological composition of the party and its supporters, has a few cases studies of typical UKIP voters and members. At least one of these was a working class Labour supporter, until Maggie Thatcher came along. They voted for her because they believed she represented the working class, despite the fact that she didn’t, and cordially despised them. The same person didn’t vote for Tony Blair, because he didn’t represent the working class. This is interesting in itself, as the only difference between the two was background. As a lawyer, Blair was rather more middle class than Maggie, though she was also middle class as the daughter of someone who owned his own grocery business. But this slight difference in background affected the way Blair was perceived by those working class voters, who were taken in by the all rhetoric about Maggie’s working class origins and how she lived above the shop and the rest of the guff.
The people, who voted for UKIP weren’t Labour supports, but working class Tories, the spiritual heirs of Alf Garnett. But this is too much for May to admit, and so she had to use their social class to smear Labour and Corbyn. As so many others were doing.

I’m also not remotely amazed that UKIP are now in a process of disintegration. They were a one-issue party. Their whole raison d’etre was to get Britain out of the EU. And now that’s been fulfilled -sort-of, if the powers that be ever get round to it – they’ve lost their purpose. And so the party is beginning to disintegrate, and its members returning to their real home in the Tories.

It Was Not Corbyn, But the Tories and Blairites, Who Are to Blame for Brexit

June 25, 2016

After the disastrous vote of 52 per cent of the British people to leave the EU on Friday, the Tories, Lib Dems and Blairites automatically turned to blaming Jeremy Corbyn. One stupid Tory MP on the breakfast news on BBC 1 on Friday declared that it was all Labour’s fault. She announced that the people voting to leave were all working class Labour voters. This ignores the fact that the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel and the rest of the gutter pack, were all Tories, and that the most vociferously sections of the British political establishment critical of the EU was the Eurosceptic extreme Right of the Tory party. But having lost the vote, and seen her party deeply divided on the issue, this lady clearly couldn’t stand the fault that it was all her fault.

Predictably, Tim Farron, the head of the Lib Dems, followed suit, blaming it all on Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, you see, had not campaigned hard enough for us to stay in, and so it was all somehow due to him. He was then joined by two Labour MPs, Margaret Hodge and someone Coffey. They immediately demanded a ‘no confidence’ vote in Corbyn. Now I think that Corbyn has been a Eurosceptic, and in fairness I don’t think he put his heart into personally campaigning for Europe. But I’m not sure how much difference it would have made if he had. And it all seems to me that the decision to leave was taken very much in spite of Labour as a deliberate act of opposition, and not because of a simple lack of effort by the Labour leadership.

The authors of the book on UKIP, Revolt on the Right, which is an academic study of the party, point out that the majority of the party’s grassroots supporters are older Labour voters, who are socially very conservative – against immigration and gay rights, and so on. These are the very people that Bliar, Broon and New Labour abandoned. Blair and his cronies fully embraced Thatcherism, including its hatred and contempt of working class organisations. One of the first things Blair did in the 1990s was threaten to cut ties with the trade unions if they didn’t back one of his ‘modernising’ measures. He then further cut down workers’ rights and the power of the unions as a way of currying favour with the right-wing press and the middle class, swing voters New Labour wanted to appeal to. In the last years of Blair’s period in office and Broon’s occupancy of No. 10, the party passed further measures to make it easier to sack employees, all in the name of encouraging mobility in the labour market, or some other vile piece of economists’ jargon to make people losing job security sound positive.

At the same time, New Labour was, like Clinton’s New Democrats, also committed to internationalism and the movement of labour between nations. Behind some of the idealistic verbiage behind this, about encouraging peaceful relations between nations, hands across the water, diversity and so on, there was a harsher, economic motive. Immigrants were and are easier to exploit than indigenous, settled workers, and profits made from them could be used to support the welfare measures for the rest of the population without raising taxes. Though Blair and his successors were also extremely keen to cut down on these as well.

Now Blair’s New Labour effectively ignored the working class as a whole, but it did put genuine efforts into raising the performance and opportunities for women and ethnic minorities, in schools, at work and in politics. And it was the White working class that felt particularly snubbed. A few years ago, you may recall, the Beeb broadcast a short season of films about race relations in Britain. One of them showed the face of a stereotypical working class man, which was gradually scribbled over with black until at last nothing was visible. A gruff male voice then asked whether the White working class had been written out politically. I think it was a very controversial trailer, but it’s actually a good question. Many White working class voters felt that New Labour was ignoring them, and when the time came they transferred their support to UKIP.

Many of the ‘Leave’ voters undoubtedly were working class, but they weren’t necessarily Labour voters. In the case of UKIP, they’re largely former Labour voters. If they’re not Eurosceptic Tories. When I met our local Labour MP, Karin Smith and the local councillor for my part of Bristol last year, I expressed my dismay at finding that people in the neighbouring ward had voted for a Kipper as one of their councillors. It shocked me, as I didn’t think this part of Bristol was particularly racist. They told me that from talking to the people there, they found that what moved them to vote UKIP was economic fears, not racism. Again, this is a fair point. Mike over at Vox Political had a running argument on his blog with a Kipper who insisted, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that UKIP was ‘left-wing’. He appears to have done so solely because of Farage’s tactics of lumping the opponents altogether as ‘LibLabCon’. Liberals, Labour and the Tories are all raging Neoliberals with a fanatical worship of Maggie Thatcher, or at least that’s how they appeared. UKIP claimed to be different, even though it was more Neoliberal, pro-privatisation and fanatical in its adoration of Thatcher than the others.

Aside from the grotty xenophobia and racism of the ‘leave’ camp, the vote to leave was a sharp retort against Neoliberalism and its supporters across the political spectrum. And in the Labour party, this means Blairites like Hodge and Coffey. It does not mean Corbyn.