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Well, now, this is depressing… May 29, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
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…I’m sure many of us caught it already on the Guardian website, but the report on the English Defence League is something else. That said you’d wonder if it’s self-limiting in terms of it’s political appeal given that it seems to be so clearly located in street violence… but an eye opener to see other minorities represented there.

Interesting to see how the new UK government responds.

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1. Pope Epopt - May 29, 2010

Stipe me – Sikhs and soldiers!

Well we’re just going to have gird our loins (this gets harder the older one gets) and accept that anti-fascism will be a significant part of this crisis.

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WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2010

We surely are Pope Epopt. As if it isn’t bad enough.

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2. Pope Epopt - May 29, 2010

I’m wondering how self-limiting this will be, given that the political face of English fascism is looking for a new home, with the collapse of the BNP in the last election.

Kudos here, is due to Billy Bragg and ‘natives’ of greater East London and elsewhere who went after the BNP very actively during the last election, and undermined their local support.

But I think history has shown that politicals will move over from the BNP or arise among the military / paramilitary elements.

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WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2010

That’s a thing as well. A link up between those who see the BNP as a busted flush might well seem very attractive. And doubtless there are those who hanker after the 1970s style NF street violence.

I was very impressed by Bragg. I saw a clip of him doing that and that takes genuine personal courage.

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3. WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2010

Mind you, all that said, isn’t it all a bit back to the future? The 1970s style actions didn’t work. Then the ‘kinder gentler face’ ahem of the BNP more recently didn’t work. So it’s back to Plan A for some.

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shane - May 29, 2010

The 1970s style actions died out because Margaret Thatcher appropriated some of their immigration policies. This EDL is a phenomenon of the Facebook and Youtube era – loosely structured street protest movements, usually concerning a single issue – like the Tea parties in America. The EDL was set up on Facebook after the Muslim protests in Luton against British soldiers returning home; it also uses Facebook to attract new members and communicate with them about new demonstations.

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4. shane - May 29, 2010

I’d highly recommend the ‘Young British and Angry’ BBC documentary on Youtube…it’s much lengthier but some of it overlaps with the Guardian video….

One thing that stands out for me in watching these clips is how English the iconography of the EDL is, not least the title of the organization. If you look back at the NF demonstations in the 70s, they have a very Imperial British aura and it’s all Union flags.

I used to laugh when Ulster Unionists rationalized the British link by appealing to the more multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nature of British society (..think David Trimble). But one of the reasons why English identity is on the rise, particularly in the post-devolution era, is because Britishness is now seen as less specific because of its more encompassing capacity. Asian immigrants in England and their descendants find it easy and natural to self-identify as British Asians. This contrasts with their brethren north of the border who identify as Scottish Asians, rarely British Asians. Yet you never hear of ‘English Asians’.

This trend to wave the St George’s Flag is quite recent in origin. Look back at the 1966 World Cup, when England beat West Germany, and you’ll see only Union Flags among the English spectators. Compare it to the 2006 World Cup, where England’s spectators are waving only St George’s Flags. The British identity forged in Empire and War seems to be crumbling. Devolution has accelerated this trend, and constitutional and funding disparaties between the regions have accelerated it. The IPPR have warned yesterday that David Cameron is facing an English backlash once the cuts are made: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7772551/David-Cameron-facing-English-backlash-over-Scottish-spending.html

Blood and Soil politics always increase in times of economic turmoil. But perhaps creating a French-style civic English nationality could be the most effective in defeating this nonsense?

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WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2010

Shane that’s a point I hadn’t thought at about at all re the iconography. But you’re right, it’s entirely English. I’m intrigued by how the identity opens up to incorporate, at least on a cosmetic level – and who knows how deeply, English and black, but how the religion issue (again however cosmetically used given that they’ll find an excuse to hate) is the dividing line.

An inclusive English nationality shouldn’t be a big ask but one gets the impression that it’s treated as a third rail in UK politics.

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Tim Johnston - May 29, 2010

The English are becoming anti-British too, maybe in the same way that Russia was the first country (I think) to secede from the Soviet Union!
It’s got a lot to do with a perception that the “celtic fringes” have more rights than England, where of course by far the most people live.

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ejh - May 29, 2010

This trend to wave the St George’s Flag is quite recent in origin.

It began at the 1996 European Championships which were held in England, and in fact it had quite an honourable purpose which was to accept that using the Union Flag as a symbol of Englishness was unreasonable.

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WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2010

Which is fair enough.

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5. BH - May 29, 2010

The BNP got 500,000 plus votes in the general election, far more than any British fascist party in the 20th century ever got and have two MEPs, again far more than the NF in its heyday ever got (never getting anyone elected to anything). That would suggest they are not quite a busted flush. Secondly compare it to the votes the far left in Britain got…

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WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2010

Surely, and busted flush was perhaps an overstatement on my part. And yet they failed in their oft-stated and very public aims at the election and are in disarray. On the other hand if they were to think strategically they’d be waving the AV referendum in…

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6. BH - May 29, 2010

Given the euphoria about their poor performance it’s not hard to see how people would think they are a busted flush. But in 2005 the BNP got 192,000 votes, this time they got 560,000. They will be disappointed at not getting a seat and their local setbacks but for a party that had no elected representation of any sort until the early part of the decade their votes are going up, not down. Again, I can’t help comparing it to the far left’s electoral support.

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WorldbyStorm - May 30, 2010

You’re absolutely right on the last point, and I glossed over it above. The far left isn’t at the races in the UK. Now, granted unlike here the Labour Party provides a broad coalition from center rightish across to close to the far left in some instances, but it’s at 29% at the moment in terms of poll rating. But by the same token the Tories occupy more or less the same ground on the right of the spectrum. And yet the BNP gets half a million votes.

We’re screwed on the left.

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7. yourcousin - May 30, 2010

But wouldn’t this be the result of Labour in power for umpteen years? This is the nasty underbelly of the Nu Labour. Just like in Hungary where after years of Socialist government, the conservative party swept to power with a good contingent from the far right to boot. You can also see something interesting happening in Arkansas where Bill Clinton is ripping on the “left” (ie liberals and the AFL) in support of his business friendly ally.

We all know that these parties abandoned their working class constituencies to put middle class burbs into play. That’s life. In Scoland that’s led to the SNP, in other places more reactionary forms appear. We on the “left” need to deal with this bullshit and call all of them what they are*.

*confession here. I’m not entirely sure what they “are”, but I do know that the Clintonesque/Blairite/Gyurcsánesque models while all representing different strands share a common trait sucking up toward the wealthy and “center” and shitting on many of their traditional bases, first in the pursuit of power and often more damningly in order to hold on to said power.

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ejh - May 30, 2010

This is also likely to be the result if Zapatero falls (as seems likely, soon) in Spain: the problem will be defined as public spending, the unions and los funcionarios. To an English eye it all has a bad feeling of “the last days of Callaghan” about it. Of course new rightwing governments will be lauded across Europe for their courage, fiscal rectitude and so on, as you in Ireland have been about the first to notice.

If nobody believes in socialist solutions, then you have a pick of rightwing solutions: either the enemy is public spending (much more easily believed if you’re well off) or it’s immigration (very easily believed if you or your friends are out of a job). I’ve been saying in a couple of places (Crooked Timber, Blood and Treasure) that what I fear is the direction of politics into two major camps; one, socially liberal but anti-state provision, the liberal-privatisers, the other more protective of the welfare state but illiberal and xenophobic, an authoritarian-corporate trend. (Of course this would be a mutually-reinforcing pattern, each side being inclined to display their worst tendencies by the others doping the same.) If you want an alternative to this, a movment or a party or a trend or what you will, it has to be able to convince people that it has a chance of success: that it can win local battles and, when it comes down to it, tand up to the demands to the financial markets. And does such a thing exist?

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DublinDilettante - May 30, 2010

There’s been an interesting development along those lines in the Czech Republic this weekend. A right-wing split from the Civic Democrats beat the Communists into fourth by taking forty-odd seats, in an election the Social Democrats were expected to win. Something very similar happened in Hungary last month, where the party in question (Jobbik) is even more explicitly nationalist.

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WorldbyStorm - May 30, 2010

There’s a lot in what both of you are saying. You could definitely see hints of a welfare state/illiberal approach developing in Labour in the UK, but not xenophobic.

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ejh - May 30, 2010

It’s not really the Czech result I’m thinking of. I’m not saying “we might see some far-right parties picking up a lot of seats”, though I’m sure we will. I’m thinking about what might happen if right-of-centre politics moves in the direction of socially-liberal-economically-market-fundamentalist views, which seems to me entirely plausible, and if Labour-type parties move in the direction of responding very actively to anti-immigration and other illiberal positions which are widely held among their supporters. This also seems very plausible.

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DublinDilettante - May 30, 2010

That’s been somewhat the way of it in the UK alright, but what I was getting out with the Mitteleuropa examples is precisely that these right-wing parties are less wedded to neoliberalism than the social democrats, so it might be difficult for social democrats to snatch back their clothes (even by New Labour-esque authoritarian turns.)

Jobbik even describes itself as an antiglobalisation party; and when you think about it, it’s very difficult to be a sincere, committed xenophobe without being antiglobalisation.

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ejh - May 31, 2010

It’s also a questin though of how far to the economic right the liberal tendency is prepared to go. The Pds would be an early example, but it’s when I saw that the German Free Democrats wanted to privatise pensions that I really started to think abiout the way things were going. There really are lots of these young liberal-privatisers about, and of course if you’re young, going well and from a professional or business class background, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

(I also think that there’s going to be lots more privatisation anyway, simply because states will find it a convenient way to raise funds. Naturally, they’ll not get top prices for their goods.)

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8. kbranno - May 30, 2010

What is the legacy of 13 years of New Labour? The EDL and a 500,000 votes srong BNP.

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yourcousin - May 30, 2010

But let’s face it, there wasn’t one of us here said, “I’m so happy to hear the words ‘Tory PM'”.

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WorldbyStorm - May 30, 2010

IMO I think you’re both right though.

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