No to SWP Berufsverbot

To defeat the BNP, we must fight the system - and not call for ballet dancers to lose their jobs, says Jim Moody

Weyman Bennett and the Socialist Workers Party are fond of organising against fascists. But their opposition to the British National Party is conducted in a way that aims to place the SWP in the respectable mainstream rather than challenge the system that continually spawns reactionaries like the BNP.

The most recent attempt to claim the heights of moral outrage was the Unite Against Fascism picket of the English National Ballet on January 12. And why? Because a recent BNP recruit, principal dancer Simone Clarke, was appearing in a performance of Giselle. The picketers called explicitly for Clarke to be sacked - an incredibly stupid way to combat reactionary views.

If employers can sack someone because of their politics, there is nothing in principle to stop them sacking someone of whatever political colour, including red. In fact such action has more often been directed at the left - one only has to recall US McCarthyism or the West German Berufsverbot, both of which caused communists to be hounded out their jobs.

Of course, if a person's rightwing views impacted negatively on the way they did their job, it would be entirely correct to demand their dismissal. Out and out racists ought not to be employed as teachers in inner city schools, to give an obvious example.

Representing the UAF, SWP central committee member Bennett was quoted as saying, "We would like to see Simone Clarke removed ... We believe she had used her position to support a party which fosters division "¦" Her views are "incompatible with a leading arts institution such as the English National Ballet" (BBC website, January 8). But no doubt others regard the views of revolutionary socialists as "incompatible" with employment by capitalist companies - or any department of the bourgeois state, for that matter.

The well-publicised picket also drew Clarke's own party supporters out of the woodwork. So it was that at the matinee last Friday afternoon, 30 besuited BNP boot boys were in unwonted attendance, easily outnumbering UAF supporters in the auditorium. Clarke's recruitment reflects a push by the BNP to recruit more 'respectable' members - BNP leader Nick Griffin has called on members to "clean up our act, put the boots away and put on suits".

Truly, the UAFers in the auditorium seemed lacklustre in their protest, perhaps realising that they were on a hiding to nothing. According to an ENB security guard, "Two of them stood up and shouted a bit, but as soon as we tapped them on the shoulder and asked them to leave they were as good as gold" (The Guardian January 13).

Previously, when her affiliation was revealed in the same newspaper, Clarke reportedly said that the BNP "seemed to be the only party 'willing to take a stand' against immigration. She claimed that her boyfriend, Yat Sen-Chang, who is also an acclaimed lead dancer, encouraged her to join the BNP" (The Guardian January 1).

We communists know what fascist organisations and their members can do and would like to do. But we also know what the British state has done and is doing. Its reactionary attacks need combating now: it is the main enemy of our class. Clarke's reason for joining the BNP was immigration, a big issue where the main bourgeois parties differ with the BNP only in the degree of their opposition to it and their support for immigration law.

A plastic bucket from China has more right to enter Britain than a person from China. Britain's anti-working class immigration laws preventing free entry into the country were first enacted in 1905 to keep out Jews, and have been tightened ever since. As extreme democrats we do not accept the state's right to keep anyone out or act as gatekeeper, deciding who can and who cannot live and work in Britain. Communists, Marxists and revolutionaries reject the idea that anyone can be refused entry onto any territory by any state - only our class enemy benefits from the current situation.

The ruling class delights in being able to marshal workers as they wish, to beat them down where they can, in order to ensure that they remain compliant. Asserting the authority to say who can enter any particular territory allows the state a free hand in serving the overall interests of the capitalist class. The existence in Britain of 'illegal' (ie, undocumented) workers from elsewhere in the world means the existence of workers who can be exploited even more than those who have to be paid the minimum wage. Even if they are paid that rate, their unofficial or temporary status serves to keep them cowed, discouraging trade union membership and weakening the overall position of workers vis-à -vis the bourgeoisie. Every restriction on entry into Britain has the gang-masters and, more importantly, employers greedy for higher profits rubbing their hands with glee. The restrictions certainly do not benefit the working class.

Although the CPGB has put forward motions at SWP-controlled forums, such as the Respect conference, calling for the removal of all border controls, SWP voting fodder has ensured that such moves have been quashed on leadership diktat. Such is the SWP's Little Britain mentality, currying favour with phantom elements to their right. These elements of the supposed revolutionary left pretend to be in favour of no frontiers, but in practice are in the same continuum that ends at the far right. Speaking on Radio Five Live on January 12, comrade Bennett said it was "legitimate" to debate immigration. He meant in the way the mainstream parties do - only the "Nazi" BNP is beyond the pale, even though it actually participates in that debate on the pretty much the same terms as they do.

But the SWP can only complain about 'racist' immigration controls, not the core of anti-migrant policy, which is fundamentally anti-working class. It is, of course, entirely necessary to campaign against racism, but the SWP does so in a way that merges seamlessly with official Britain's anti-racist consensus. More to the point, if it cannot campaign against such an enormous affront to the vast majority of humanity as migration law and call for open borders, what good is it to the working class? Is this why the SWP's UAF scurries round trying to find 'Nazis' to sack? This and the popular-frontist class collaborationism that imbues everything this right-moving group touches.

How is it that the SWP's 'united fronts' - the UAF, Stop the War Coalition, Respect - are never organised on an explicitly working class basis, but are always positioned so as to remain within the same bourgeois political continuum? Well, activity for the sake of activity is the name of the SWP's game. It has no programme, its members are schooled in blind obedience to the leadership on pain of expulsion and kept busy selling Socialist Worker and 'fighting fascism' (ie, letting the BNP set its political agenda). By such means if it cannot keep members thanks to the revolving door syndrome, at least it can hope continually to refresh its membership with new blood.

As the SWP's creature, "Unite Against Fascism is a new national campaign with the aim of alerting British society to the rising threat of the extreme right, in particular the British National Party (BNP), gaining an electoral foothold in this country. We aim to unite the broadest possible spectrum of society to counter this threat" (my emphasis, www.uaf.org.uk/aboutUAF.asp?choice=1). The leadership of New Labour and the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties could sign up to such guff. After all, in current circumstances each of them despises the extremist right as much as they do the organised left - especially as it is the likes of the BNP that is more likely to deprive them of votes. If we had a genuine Marxist party that was united and dangerous to their class rule, then it would be a different story.

The SWP's methodology is to attempt to bring together disparate forces in its 'united fronts' on the basis of current majority political opinion. And with all its talk about the Nazi BNP, the UAF (like the Anti-Nazi League before it) harks back to the rewriting of history at which our rulers were so adept after 1945. Instead of being seen for the inter-imperialist war it was - with Nazi Germany intent on rewriting the Versailles treaty and becoming the leading world power - World War II is portrayed as a war to 'defend democracy', with the Allies painted in humanitarian colours, striving to rid the world of the evils of Nazism and fascism. Nowadays, whichever SWP vehicle fronts it, UAF or ANL, the class act is the same, when it comes to opposing the BNP: forget the imperialist crimes of New Labour and the Tories in Iraq and Afghanistan - here is something so objectionable that we will all just have to pull together. Rather Churchillian, in fact.

In the 1930s, a substantial section of the British ruling class supported Hitler and wanted something similar to his regime in Britain. He was stamping on the Bolsheviks, after all. The Daily Mail was so rightwing it might as well have been the organ of Sir Oswald Moseley's British Union of Fascists. In view of this, the rag certainly had some gall, given its history, when commenting on the Clarke case recently: "The BNP is certainly repellent, with its knee-jerk hatred of foreigners and history of organised thuggery ..." (Daily Mail December 30 2006). Quite like the Nazi brownshirts and Moseley blackshirts the paper used to praise to the sky.

Growth in fascism is, in any event, a symptom of failure of the left. Some of the millions disgusted with the self-serving Tory, Liberal, and Labour professional politicians cast around and latch onto the fascists because they appear to offer something different. The extreme right has appeal precisely because it presents itself as opposed to the old politics. The sectarian radical left, divided against itself organisationally, has a direct responsibility for its refusal to uphold the independent working class politics of Marxism - the only real, human alternative to mainstream bourgeois politics.

In this way the SWP contributes to a situation where parties like the BNP are seen as the way to break the smug consensus. The SWP then directs its activism against the very entity that, through its bankruptcy, it has helped to develop. What wonderful co-dependency!