By Daniel Margrain
During his barnstorming speech at the last Labour Party Conference, Jeremy Corbyn said:
“If you believe, like me, it’s a scandal that here in Britain, in the sixth biggest economy in the world, 4 million children are in poverty, 6 million workers are paid less than the living wage. And if, like me, you believe we can do things far better, then help me build support for a genuine alternative that will invest in our future – a more prosperous future – in which the wealth we all create is shared more equally.”
Buoyed by both the electoral success of Trump, and the disorientation of large sections of the Left resulting largely from the growth in right-wing populism throughout Europe, Paul Nuttall will exploit these issues during this coming Thursday’s Stoke and Copeland by-election campaigns by cynically using the kind of socialist language of Corbyn above, in an attempt to steal the Labour vote.
Nuttall, who gained a fraction of the votes secured by Corbyn during their respective leadership campaigns, denies climate change and opposes abortion and gay marriage. He is also in favour of capital punishment, fox hunting, NHS privatization and lied when he claimed to have been “a survivor of the Hillsborough disaster.” The latest scandal emerged on February 18 when a UKIP canvasser was allegedly caught on CCTV urinating on the house of 73-year-old widow Marjorie Pinches, from Northwood in Stoke.
Rarely is the political-media establishment willing to discredit the kind of fascist cult UKIP represents, particularly when faced with the potential threat of a genuine socialist alternative. But to their credit, up until now, they have done a pretty good job of exposing Nuttall for the lying, homophobic, racist and xenophobic thug that he is.
What would appear to be a growing class consciousness among a significant segment of the population is, I would contend, offset by a large minority of working class voters who are sympathetic to UKIPs right-wing message and who, too often, are persuaded to vote against their own interests. This would explain the reason why the UKIP vote among ordinary people during the forthcoming by-elections are unlikely to be insignificant.
As far back as the 1930s, Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci grasped that when confidence in the working class is high – like it was, for example, during the 1960s – people are less likely to be ‘brainwashed’ by the kind of extreme ruling class ideology represented by groups like UKIP than is the case when confidence in the class is relatively low, as it is now.
These kinds of contradictions help explain how the emergence of an opportunistic right-wing establishment tool like Nuttall is able to exploit the same political space as principled socialists. This is achieved by perpetuating the myth that the party Nuttall leads is in any way able to effectively represent the interests of an angry and disaffected working class, many of whom channel their anger and disaffection towards immigrants. Nuttall will hope to be able to channel this disillusionment at the ballot box in Stoke where anti-EU sentiment is high.
Unfortunately, some unprincipled and careerist Labour politicians like Rachel Reeves are also only too willing to pander to racists in order to grab their votes. For example, during an anti-immigration speech, she sought to ensure potential Labour voters that her party could be just as racist and reactionary as UKIP and the Tories. Similarly, a tweet by a long-standing Labour party member and Brexit-supporter, Scott Nelson, who I responded to in the wake of Nuttall’s victory (see below), illustrates that pandering to racist ideas is not the monopoly of right-wing and faux-left politicians.
Scott Nelson @SocialistVoice
Daniel Margrain Retweeted Scott Nelson
“No pandering to racists, sorry. If we lose votes, then so be it.”
People voted for Brexit for a multitude of reasons that include anti-establishment sentiments, the democracy argument, to give David Cameron a kick, naive wishful thinking, Lexit and because they believed the brazen lies that the hard-right Vote Leave mob told them. However, it’s undeniable that a significant percentage of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit, did so because they bought into the racist immigration fear-mongering ideas of extreme-right groups like UKIP and Britain First.
Given the level of contradictory working class consciousness outlined above, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that many working class UKIP voters who oppose the socialist principles and values espoused by Corbyn, nevertheless favour issues like taxing the rich and renationalizing the railways.
It’s this kind of contradiction that underpins the genius of a propaganda system that demonizes political figures the establishment regard as a threat to the status quo. The corporate mainstream media tend to bash socialists like Corbyn while promoting bigots like Farage by giving the latter a media outlet such as a mainstream radio talk show with which to espouse reactionary right-wing views, because his role is akin to that of a deflector shield whose purpose is to conceal the political establishments own ineptitude.
The inability of the media in highlighting, in any fundamental way, the tensions that exist between Theresa May, Boris Johnson and EU ministers over the Brexit debacle is a case in point. Johnson’s contention, for example, that the EUs position amounting to an automatic trade-off between access to the single market and free movement was “complete baloney”, is a total misreading of the Lisbon Treaty that nevertheless went largely unchallenged in the media.
In response to Johnson’s outburst, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in a rather sardonic fashion, “If we need to do more, we’ll gladly send her Majesty’s foreign minister a copy of the Lisbon Treaty then he can read that there is a link between the single market and the four core principles in Europe.” The minister continued, “I can also say it in English, so if clarification is necessary, I can pay a visit and explain this to him in good English.”
Johnson’s assertion that the UK should already have triggered Article 50, was subsequently contradicted by May, while the three ministers tasked at extricating the UK from the EU are too busy fighting among themselves. Moreover, Johnson has spent a great deal of his time flying around Europe apologizing to everybody he has insulted. And yet, the media only tend to report on the lack of unity within the Labour ranks with regards to Brexit. Meanwhile, EU leaders continue to harden their stance against the Tories saying that they intend to rule out any cherry-picking in relation to the ability of Britain to access the single market.
Lowest common denominator
By demonizing Corbyn on the one hand, and with their disproportionate coverage of right-wing parties like the Tories and UKIP on the other, the media fail to bring real power to account. There can only be one reason why they have barely mentioned any of the tensions within the ruling class that have arisen over the Brexit debacle, and that’s because they regard Corbyn as the lightening rod for abuse and bad publicity.
The election of Paul Nuttall as leader of UKIP, whose image is more worker and street fighter than cheeky-chappy banker and financier, will not only serve as another establishment deflector shield, but is also intended to split the working class Labour vote by appealing to the lowest of common denominators. Like a journeyman who travels on a road without end in the anticipation that beyond the rainbow lies salvation, Nuttall’s race to the bottom is in reality, a race on a road to nowhere. I am hoping that come the vote on Thursday, the good people of Stoke and Copeland will see sense, and help propel UKIP to the dustbin of history where they belong.
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