Little Britain and their points systems

Eddie Ford looks at the nationalist right in this election

Next week the mainstream parties will be facing electoral challenges not just from the left, like the 'big hitters' of the Scottish Socialist Party (58 seats) or the Socialist Workers Party-George Galloway Respect (26). So, apart from the fascist British National Party (118) and National Front (13), voters will also be faced with a clutch of nationalist and 'Little England' groups and organisations. We have the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip, 496 contests), the Veritas Party (62), English Democrats Party (21), English Democratic Party (2), Third Way (2), Get Britain Back Party (1), English Independence Party (1), Imperial Party (1), New England Party (1). Additionally, many of the eccentric single-issue 'parties' and 'independents', like the Publican Party - Free to Smoke (Pubs) or Families First UK, will no doubt be peddling politics of a distinctly rightwing or reactionary bent. How do we communists assess groups like Ukip, Veritas or the English Democrats Party? Would it be right to describe them in any way as 'fascist' or 'neo-fascist'? Certainly, Robert Kilroy-Silk, the popinjay founder and leader of Veritas, has on more than one occasion been compared to Oswald Mosley, fuhrer of the British Union of Fascists (albeit a very second or third-rate version). Regrettably, for some time now, the left has been heavily prone to theoretical and linguistic slippage, or to the 'over-usage' of certain terms and labels. Like something out of the Young ones comedy show, we have all seen the tendency, amusing or otherwise, to label all and any rightwing individual or group as 'fascist' or even 'Nazi'. Far from serving to help the left to win friends and gain influence over society as a whole, this definitional fickleness has in fact acted to further marginalise the position and ideas of the far or revolutionary left. More concretely, the way terms like 'fascism', 'Nazism', 'racism', 'national chauvinism', etc, have become virtually interchangeable has proved to be particularly deleterious for our movement. Furthermore, our Socialist Workers Party comrades, for one, have a consistent history of labelling just about every far right organisation it comes across - such as the Front National in France or the Freedom Party in Austria - as either 'Nazi' or 'neo-Nazi'. This can only blur our understanding of the phenomenon of fascism and lead us to spectacularly misunderstand the nature of the period we live in - and hence the tasks that confront us. Thus, if we approach this question historically, as opposed to ideologically, then it is quite clear that Nazism is a particular German form of fascism and that the word 'Nazi' is an contraction of 'national socialist'. Adolph Hitler's National Socialist German Worker's Party was just one of many similar, tiny groups which sprang up in Germany during the troubled, liberal Weimar republic established after German imperialism's humiliating defeat in World War I. At the heart of 'national socialist' doctrine was a morbid obsession with the Volk, a word which when directly translated into English becomes 'people' - but has almost none of the foaming intensity or meaning of the original German term. It was Hitler's utter devotion to the fascist ideal of the Volk that caused him to write that the liberal was concerned with the individual and the communist with humanity, but the national socialist fought for the rights of the Volk. Armed with this world view, fascism sought the complete destruction of the independent labour movement. Unions were crushed, and reformed into professional organisations within the state-controlled 'corporative system'. Terror was accompanied by the drive to build an ideology premised on a bizarre Nazi pseudo-science which categorised the world into a hierarchy of 'races': the 'Aryans' perched at the very top, the Slavs, blacks, gypsies and Jews down at the very bottom. In other words, fascism is therefore the antithesis of the revolutionary movement: a very direct opposite, almost a reflection, and ultimately an alternative future to communism if the working class is defeated. Benito Mussolini and Hitler's movements came into being and temporarily thrived under particular and concrete conditions where the question of socialist revolution had been posed point blank - and bloodily answered in the negative. From this scientific socialist perspective, it is not theoretically permissible to remotely describe Ukip, Veritas, the EDP (both versions), etc, as either fascist or proto-fascist. Indeed, for communists, even to describe Ukip, for example, as racist is surely to misuse the word. What Ukip pushes is a virulently petty, and astoundingly ignorant, 'Little Britain' national chauvinism which incorporates official anti-racism but firmly rejects the liberal nostrums of multiculturalism - with its talk of celebrating 'diversity' and 'difference', and so on. Rather, the nationalist ideologues of Ukip, Veritas, etc want a forced, top-down assimilationism whereby 'Britishness' (for the Patels as well as the Smiths) is defined by the degree and intensity of your loyalty to all the national myths and fictions of post-imperial/World War II establishment Britain. The very opposite, of course, of our voluntary, bottom-up, communist assimilationism which looks forward to the eventual merging of all the various nations, countries and peoples of the world. A cursory examination of the general election manifestos produced by the non-mainstream rightist groups reminds one of nothing more than a glorified, and vaguely comical, charter for 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells', combined with an incredibly narrow obsession with the EU - depicted as a rapacious 'evil empire' which would ruthlessly crush 1,000 years of uninterrupted English history given half a chance. The flip-side of this unrelenting hostility to the EU and all its diabolical works is populist rhetoric against asylum-seekers and immigration in general. In this vein Ukip's leader, Roger Knapman MEP, tells us in the foreword to its manifesto that "people sometimes tell me that Ukip is a single-issue party", then adds: "The point is that the single issue of freeing Britain from the EU overrides all others - no other issue can be properly addressed while we remain in the EU. For instance, we are no longer free to choose our own policy on asylum-seekers because this is now subject to EU directives." The Ukip manifesto attempts to steal at least some of Michael Howard's clothes by fulminating: "But too often rights favour the criminal rather than the victim and the unruly pupil rather than the teacher", etc. Ukip will repeal the 1999 Human Rights Act, preferring to rely on "British custom, our common laws and the principles of the European Convention of Human Rights, which are based on individual freedom rather than state control". As for immigration controls, we read the following: "The Conservatives have promised to impose quotas on immigration. Given that Britain has accepted EU control over the treatment and assessment of asylum-seekers, this is no more credible than their promise to ignore EU fishing policy. The first responsibility of a British government is to its own population, not to those who would like to settle here. All British people, including our ethnic minorities, want immigration brought under control. Having taken Britain out of the EU, Ukip would aim to approach net immigration both by imposing far stricter limits on legal immigration and by taking control, at last, of the vexed problem of illegal immigration. Adopt a 'points' system for evaluating applications for work permits based on an identified need for specific skills and other tests of suitability" - such as "'Britishness' tests". Not surprisingly, these sentiments are echoed, if not repeated almost word for word, in the Veritas manifesto, which informs us: "Our manifesto is based on our two core beliefs: (1) we must be able to govern ourselves as an independent nation; (2) we must maintain and protect our personal and constitutional freedoms, for which many have fought and died over the centuries. Neither belief is compatible with continued membership of the EU. All our policies are therefore based on our intention to leave the EU immediately." With this aim in mind, Veritas make the following pledges: "End the government's 'open door' policy and admit only those needed because of their skills. They will be expected to speak English, pass health tests, have no criminal convictions and integrate into the British way of life"; and "impose a three-year general moratorium on immigration, whilst we develop an Australian-style points system" - though of course Veritas will "always admit people on genuine compassionate grounds". As if cloned in the same evil laboratory, the English Democrats Party - whose star candidate, Gary Bushell, is standing in the "Brit town" of Greenwich - also thinks that "there should be a points system for entry to the UK which is based on the Canadian model" - well, it makes a change from the Australian model, I suppose. EDP's manifesto goes on to outline how "points should be awarded for, among other things: educational and professional qualifications; family links with England; financial resources; the ability to speak English. In other words, entry should be determined by our needs as a society and the ability of newcomers to be absorbed into the prevailing public culture". Naturally, any one who takes the time to trawl through the various other 'anti-EU' manifestos will find the same message - enough is enough, we are a little island, it is time to raise the drawbridge and retreat into national purdah. Communists, it goes without saying, find the views of Knapman, Kilroy-Silk, Bushell et al to be quite obnoxious and vile. But we have to face the bitter truth that we have heard disturbingly similar rhetoric from George Galloway. In his now notorious comments in the Morning Star (February 12), comrade Galloway actually reproduces the language of Ukip and Veritas by calling for a "points system" to determine which migrants are to be deemed 'useful' to British society (in reality British capital) and should therefore be allowed in, and which are not. How are comrade Galloway's views essentially different - when it comes to concrete, programmatic actualisation - from the putrescent outpourings found in a Ukip or Veritas general election manifesto? Communists recognise that Britain's official ideology, whether expounded by Michael Howard, Tony Blair or Robert Kilroy-Silk, is undoubtedly nationalist, or national chauvinist, and that British nationalism today - except for the fascist fringe - is 'multiracial' and multi-ethnic. We need to counterpose to this currently hegemonic bourgeois anti-racism our own internationalist and proletarian anti-racism and programme, which means by definition unequivocal opposition to all 'left' variants of British nationalism. Eddie Ford