Even the most apathetic and politically backward sections of the British working class realise that the fall out from the 2008 global economic crisis adversely impacts upon the majority of households in the UK.
One requires only a superficial awareness of current affairs to notice that as jobs are lost by the thousands, public services are cut to the bone, and the juggernaut of austerity ploughs on desolating communities, synchronously wealth continues to flow upwards into the pockets of the elite.
The tiny number of individuals who have seen their share of the national wealth continue to increase since 2008 are either in government themselves or closely allied to those in power.
Millions of families face another year of austerity, as Osborne continues trying to roll back living standards to the 1930s. Meanwhile as inequality increases those running the nation become evermore detached from an increasingly alienated and bitter electorate.
The Conservative Party, as per tradition, aptly fulfils its function of fighting for the interests of Britain’s wealthiest, many of whom reside in the South East and other traditional Tory heartlands. Regardless of the ‘We are all in it together (just some are more in it together that others)’ rhetoric that the Prime Minister blows off from time to time, the truth is evident for those who wish to see it. Indeed, it is an increasing challenge to ignore the reality that Osborne’s never-ending programme of austerity is digging Britain deeper into a hole from whence recovery becomes progressively more difficult.
Nick Clegg, Cameron’s understudy, signed his party’s death warrant after he bartered away any electoral trust and goodwill the Liberal Democrats had for the thirty pieces of silver a taste of government offered. Now disliked and distrusted by many of their former supporters – not to mention students upset over the broken promise to abolish tuition fees – the party faces a slaughter in the 2015 general election. Whatever remaining parliamentary presence remains post 2015 is likely to be a shadow of the Liberal Democrats in their heyday and it is possible the party will never be thought of as a serious political force for a long time to come, if ever.
The BNP, meanwhile, has been drastically weakened in recent years, on account of the tremendous efforts of many activists and trade unionists who relentlessly campaigned to expose the party’s true racist nature. Having had a total of 55 councillors in 2009 the party now has only two local government representatives. Earlier this year, leader Nick Griffin was declared bankrupt and coupled with news of infighting with the party, the BNP image no longer appeals to many of those who might once have considered voting for the party.
The remaining political parties with a parliamentary presence are either confined to regional politics, such as Sinn Fein, Plaid Cymru, and the Scottish National Party, or lack mass support, such as the Green Party or Respect who both have a single MP in government and are unable to singlehandedly constitute a force against the Coalition.
The Labour Party – set up by the British trade union movement to promote the interests of the working class majority – continues to bite the hand that feeds it and backstab those whose interests it was created to represent.
The Blair years tarnished the party’s image with the blood of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Simultaneously, the march into the arms of big business left many Labour Party members and supporters appalled by the failed New Labour experiment. Significant numbers of rank and file members, including some of Labour’s best cadres, have either left to join smaller parties on the left of the political spectrum or have abandoned party politics altogether, additionally appalled by the increasing bureaucracy and influx of careerists.
Considering the present state of affairs, one would expect the Labour Party to be surging ahead in the polls. A deepening global economic crisis with no hope on the horizon and the undeniable reality that the Coalition have no realistic programme for bringing Britain out of recession ought to have people flocking towards any alternative solution to the crisis’if only there were one.
In the present climate, any political programme that offered an alternative to further austerity would be popular with the electorate. In the absence of a viable alternative, large sections of the working class are tempted to turn towards whoever promises a way out.
A society in trouble might be tempted to try anything, however useless or irrational that seems to those looking in from the outside. Enter Nigel Farage of UKIP with his anti-establishment image.
When thinking of UKIP, one might conjure up images of crusty old Tory voters from the home counties appalled at David Cameron’s perceived ‘softness’ on immigration, Europe, and gay marriage. Perhaps we also envisage the sort of person who might describe themselves as a ‘working class Tory’ – an oxymoron akin to ‘responsible capitalism’.
Yet several recent polls estimate UKIPs share in the European elections next month at nearly 20% of the total, possibly even bumping the Conservative Party down into third place. Such figures suggest that other voters, not just those who traditionally viewed UKIP as an option, are being attracted to the party’s image.
In a recent televised debate between Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and his UKIP counterpart, Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader made reference to a “white working class” becoming an “underclass”, blaming immigration and not the anti-union policies of the Thatcher years for the above. Farage’s self promotion as an anti-establishment figure who will champion the cause of the “white working class” obscures his true political identity. A public school educated former member of the Conservative Party who followed his father into a lucrative career as a stockbroker is not the sort of character one might envisage when thinking of a class warrior. Farage is a French Huguenot name and so his ancestors are likely to have arrived in Britain as refugees fleeing persecution by a French Catholic elite massacring Protestants during the 16th and 17th centuries. Hundreds of thousands of Huguenots sought refuge in neighbouring Protestant countries, including Britain. Lucky for Farage’s ancestors there was no UKIP or Daily Mail at the time to screech on about a mass influx of European immigrants coming to Britain to take jobs away from British serfs and threatening to ruin the traditional 17th century British way of life.
UKIP seek to plug an electoral void that ought to be filled by a Labour Party offering a socialist programme. Fundamentally UKIP are a protest vote against the three main parties who have little to offer the majority of British people. Their policies pander to the lower common denominator of class consciousness. Even a casual glance at UKIP’s policies by way of their 2010 manifesto ( http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/mar/07/ukip-policies-manifesto-commitments ) reveals their anti-working class nature. A proposed flat tax rate of 31% will benefit the wealthy and plans to cut state spending to 1997, with a loss of potentially 2 million public sector jobs, does not sound altogether different from what the Tories are currently doing. An increase in military spending, with plans to “buy three new aircraft carriers and 50 more Lightning fighter jets”, sits alongside plans to scrap Jobseekers Allowance and Incapacity Benefit. The 2010 UKIP manifesto also proposes that GP surgeries and hospitals are auctioned off to the highest bidding charity or private enterprise.
A five year freeze on immigration; an end to the promotion of multiculturalism; more prisons and longer prison sentences; scrapping of the Human Rights Act; a ban on schools showing Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” which portrays the destructive effects of climate change; plans to hold all asylum seekers in secure units, as well as other related ideas to make the average bigot orgasm, are also thrown into the manifesto.
As for the party’s public image, Godfrey Bloom, a former banker and until recently a UKIP MEP, adds a flavour of misogyny with comments such as “no self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.”
Despite the protest vote popularity that UKIP currently enjoy, if they ever came to power as part of a coalition government they would be quickly exposed to the electorate at large as just another party which serves the interests of the ruling class.
The chance of UKIP picking up more than a handful, if any, parliamentary seats in the next general election is slim. However, their main threat is two fold.
The threat of losing votes and seats in parliament could result in the Tory party lurching further to the right as they try to outdo their UKIP rivals with reaction, bigotry and callousness. More worryingly, there is the risk that a section of the leadership within the Labour Party might erroneously imagine that UKIP/right wing Tory policies are those that appeal to the electorate are try to keep up with Cameron and Farage.
Secondly UKIP use fear and reaction to mesmerise voters who might otherwise have voted for a Labour Party with policies that serve the interests of the working class. For this reason, the Labour Party ought to offer voters a real alternative by returning to its original principles, namely Clause 4 of the 1918 text of the Labour Party Constitution which states:
“to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”
A socialist solution to the problems of global capitalism by way of a return to the core values of the Labour party would give the British working class, be they Labour members or not, ideals to rally around, a voice in parliament and hope for a better future. Additionally, an alternative to austerity would do much for democracy by providing the British voter with a real choice – one between two alternate sets of policies rather than between two bland personalities representing different factions of the ruling class.
A socialist solution to the crisis is needed: houses for the homeless, jobs for the jobless, a redistribution of wealth, decent pensions and public services, the revival of the manufacturing industry, common ownership of the banks and the largest 100 companies would be a good start.
Chicago based activist Paul D’Amato wrote in his 2006 book The Meaning of Marxism “The memory of the working class can only be embodied in organisations that are capable of carrying on the tradition”.
Capitalism has outlived its historical usefulness. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic does not offer the stricken passengers a way off the boat. The transition to a system run by the majority in the interests of all – one based on emulation not competition and co-operation not competition – is needed now more than ever.Tags: Domestic (UK)
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This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek