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New Labour's about-turn on BNP

Targeting the BBC for its decision to invite the neo-fascist British National Party onto its Question Time programme is missing the point. The real volte face is on the part of New Labour, which has decided to abandon its long-standing policy of refusing to sit on a platform alongside the BNP.

Now the party is so desperate for votes that it is prepared to discuss with just about anyone. The only surprise is that it has taken New Labour so long to come round. The BBC knew New Labour’s decision in advance, otherwise it wouldn’t have extended the invitation to the BNP in the first place. Now, according to reports, New Labour will put up a “cabinet heavyweight” to confront the BNP, which will have the neo-fascists trembling in their jackboots.

Anyway, how is New Labour going to “confront” Nick Griffin when its own policies and pronouncements have played right into the hands of the BNP leader and his party? Attacks on “bogus” asylum seekers and refugees began almost as soon as New Labour was elected in 1997, lending credibility to the BNP’s racist policies. The demonisation of the Muslim community, reinforced by invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, have also encouraged the BNP.

Government policies that have widened inequality in society have enriched some sections at the expense of older, white working class communities whose votes New Labour had considered unwelcome and unnecessary. Local authorities where migrant workers were moved to have been denied the resources to build new homes and facilities, allowing the BNP to win seats on local councils and get two Euro MPs elected.

Now the capitalist economic crisis is bearing down most heavily on poorer workers who were encouraged to take out mortgages in the absence of decent, affordable social housing, as well as young people. The BNP is taking advantage of Gordon Brown’s “British Jobs for British Workers” remarks to win support (meanwhile the trade union leaders are encouraging actions against foreign workers, which shows how incapable they are of fighting the BNP).

Having said that, it is mistaken to call for a ban on the BNP appearing on Question Time. To do so would promote the notion that capitalist institutions – and the BBC is a key part of the state – somehow have a role to play in the fight against neo-fascism. They do not for the simple reason that the reappearance of a fascist movement is not something separate from capitalism but an expression of the degeneration of the system itself, especially its democratic aspects.

The parliamentary expenses scandal earlier this year served to highlight a deeper malaise at the heart of the state political system. It now openly serves big business and the banks and the voice of ordinary people counts for little in so far as the major capitalist parties like New Labour are concerned. Into this vacuum has stepped the BNP, posing as the champion of the ordinary (white) man.

Stopping the BNP, and the slide towards authoritarian rule as the economic crisis deepens, means challenging the capitalist state with a view to replacing it with more advanced forms of democratic rule that transfer political and economic power to the majority. You can be sure that no one is going to get an invitation to talk about those sorts of ideas on Question Time!

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
7 September 2009

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