Time for the left to take UKIP seriously

UKIP - making racism mainstream
UKIP – making racism mainstream

You’ve probably never heard of the Christian Party (Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship) but in the Eastleigh by election last week their 163 votes was more than the 62 won the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).  This electoral formation which brings together the two largest groups on the British far left and the RMT was even outperformed by the Elvis Loves Pets Party’s 73 votes. If you were looking for a comprehensive demolition of the far left’s electoral strategy Eastleigh is where you will find it argues Liam Mac Uaid

The election was won in terms of votes cast by the Lib Dems, who by virtue of holding onto one of their safest seats following the conviction of Chris Huhne and the allegations against Lord Rennard, appear to have avoided Armageddon.

The real winners were the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). They won 27.8% of the vote picking up support from former Tories, former Lib Dems and new voters. They are now defining the debate on the right, particularly around the issue of immigration. Their voters are racist, anti-immigrant and proud of the fact, something which is finding a resonance among the Tories and , to a certain extent Labour. Miliband is due to give a speech on the subject in the next few days and the Labour supporting Sunday Mirror ran a story this weekend “Butlin’s is hiring hundreds of foreign workers in recruitment drives throughout ­Eastern Europe while turning away unemployed Brits.” This is the angle one expects from the British National Party or the Daily Mail.

While UKIP’s public profile is mostly based on immigrant bashing and hostility to the European Union it has a wide range of reactionary policies. These range from climate change denial; large scale use of nuclear energy; a 40 per cent increase on defence spending annually; doubling the number of prison places; restoring grammar schools; teaching children to be proud of the British Empire and even lifting the smoking ban in public places. Alongside the party’s overt racism its leader Nigel Farrage is a frequent deployer of casual misogyny in political argument. Last week in Eastleigh 11,571people voted for this programme.

This means that half way through the life of a government which has pushed through the most serious attacks on the British working class since the 1920s opposition is being articulated by middle class racists. The left is utterly absent from the debate.

If nothing else it means that the time for complacency is over. The ideas articulated by TUSC in its election campaign are shared by a big part or British society. The left’s problem is that it is not seen as having a credible instrument with which to fight for them. It is beyond scandalous that deep into an economic crisis that is impoverishing millions the terms of the debate are being set by racists in blazers. The neo-fascist BNP has been swept aside by the rise of UKIP. The tactics of street mobilisations that helped marginalise it will not work against a mass party like UKIP. If the left takes one lesson from Eastleigh it must be that it has to start pulling together an electoral challenge that will push the debate back onto an anti-capitalist, left of Labour terrain.

  1. The left is a shambles in the UK and has been for a very long time.
    There is only one electable left-wing party, the Green Party, unfortunately they didn’t stand in Eastleigh. Though I am sure they would have come in 5th, just after Labour.
    TUSC should consider merging with the Greens and help push them even further left via ‘Green Left’ the internal Green Party faction.

  2. I agree the left must unite and come up with credible ideas to take the country forward. The likes of UKIP and, to some degree, the Conservatives are making immigrants into scapegoats for our problems (Hitler did precisely the same thing with the Jewish community) which some members of the British public ‘buy’ out of prejudice and/or ignorance.

    The difficulty is the main political party in this country which was traditionally socialist and voted for by British socialists was the Labour Party. Which is now New Labour and no longer socialist. Betrayal of the biggest socialist party in the UK was always going to do tremendous damage

    • No, the left is not on the side of “the British unemployed”. The left is (or should be) on the side of the international working class as a whole, and against a system which puts worker against worker and nation against nation.

  3. TUSC was and is a disaster.

    And the project of Socialist Resistance is to recreate it, based on smaller groups than the components of TUSC.

    • If that really was SR’s “project”, we would have done it by now! Easiest thing in the world for me and a few mates to proclaim ourselves the new left party! What we actually argue for is bringing together the forces of the revolutionary left, but also (and probably more importantly) others who want to oppose capitalism and austerity but who don’t necessarily identify as revolutionaries, into a broad democratic party. The challenge for the left groups in this is to prioritise the building of such a party above their own sectarian concerns.

  4. It comes to something when even the leader of UKIP refuses to join forces with the Tories while Cameron is in charge, labelling him a ” con man” on radio4. The left appears so fragmented and a change in our approach is needed! A good piece from John McDonnell highlights how the Labour Party is the working class party, our party and not those who have infiltrated it, the rich boys! Time maybe for us to take back our party and influence those who stand for us to truly stand for us.

  5. “Racists in Blazers”?

    Evidence, please? I spent a week doorknocking in Eastliegh (did you?), and found no evidence of that…

  6. UKIP are not racists, There is a massive difference between being against immigration and being against uncontrolled immigration, the latter being a massive drain on our jobs, hospitals, education, welfare, etc all these things that actually do affect the working class families of Britain and yet the Labour party who is supposed to be for the working class all think this open door policy we have to abide by because its EU law is absolutely fantastic. UKIP comprises of both left & right politically minded people who are trying creating commonsense policies for a better Britain for all its people.

  7. UKIP are not a racist party. Members -r ex-members of racist parties like the BNP are forbidden from joining. There are a number of “ethnic” UKIP representatives.

  8. RBS – a stste owned bank has lost 5.2 billion pounds this year but has just paid its bankers 600 million in bonuses – uncontrolled bankers are a massive drain on working class jobs, education, welfare.It was the bankers who created Britain’s deficit and are still milking the working class now.

  9. The Unite statement is excellent.

    “Ukip knows people are fearful and fed up under austerity but instead of offering honest, genuine solutions, the party resorts to tired distortions and clichés about ‘foreigners’.

    “With nothing to say on saving the NHS from the clutches of privateers, Ukip offers nothing for working people. Just like the Tories it is a ‘nasty party’ on the side of the rich bankers who caused the economic misery that is inflicting so much pain on ordinary working people.”

    And while it may be uncomfortable for people who are newly attracted to UKIP, the party’s constant stigmatising of immigrants is simply a way of using the fact that Britain is a multi-cultural society as a way of shifting the debate to the political ground associated with the far right.

    The party says nothing about poverty and inequality and the only explanation it offers is that there are too many immigrants. That is where the racism enters its programme.

  10. I think we (Socialist Resistance) should continue as applicant members of TUSC and try to develop / change it into a more bottom-up, more pluralist, more democratic coalition. And, ultimately, into an individual membership party. We have to acknowledge the strengths of the SP and SWP and TUSC. Yes, TUSC… the only group/ coalition actually presenting a socialist/ Marxist, electoral challenge/ opportunity. Sometimes TUSC is weak in terms of votes gained at elections (as, undeniably in the Eastleigh Parliamentary bye-election and some places elsewhere, including, in terms of vote results, a couple of my own campaigns for TUSC). But TUSC does get variable results. Sometimes it gets much stronger election and propaganda and agitational results in other areas / times/ electoral contexts.(see the TUSC website for details). Indeed, TUSC just won a seat on Maltby Town Council with 60% of the votes. So results are variable!

    I am aware of deficiencies concerning the SP and the SWP… I share the SR view and practice of a weaker form of top-down control, more acceptance of open dissent/ argument (witness this comment), and I share the critique of the SP and SWP in terms of their sectarianism, substituting the interests of the(ir) party for the interests of the class, or, to put it more precisely, identifying the(ir) party as the party representing the class interest. But this comment is not intended as having a gratuitous `pop’ at the SP and the SWP… it is their class fighters who lead and organise much of the existing socialist/ Marxist/ class-conscious activity and mobilisation and propaganda and agitation. And in localities such as my own, in Brighton, we (in SR) have very longstanding and amicable and comradely relations with SO and SWP comrades, forged over many years of mobilisations and campaigns.

    At the same time as continuing with our (SR’s) attempt to be officially admitted into TUSC, I do think we can and should take initiatives with groups such as the ACI (Anti-Capitalist Initiative) and ISN (Independent Socialist Network) and explore possibilities for co-ordination, or, indeed, ultimately, possibly, fusion… whether of the individual membership model with factions, and the right to stay, should we desire, in our own internationals… rather like Syriza and also (I think) Antarsya.

    There is a danger however of creating a mini-TUSC with ACI and ISN, as what some might like to see as a counter-pole of attraction to the TUSC. Probably there will be a large number of mini-TUSC attempts with various split-offs from the SWP sought as partners.

    SR has, as far as I am concerned, the correct form of internal party democracy and in policy terms, too (eg the focus on feminism and ecosocialism) though I do think the current SR concept of the Broad Party is too broad, too left social democratic….. (see, for a critique of Syriza’s current movement to the right, the current article by Nicholas Skoufoglou at http://4thinternational.blogspot.co.uk/ , the informal blogspot of what might be termed a left opposition within the Fourth Interbnational (of which SR is a part).

    We need to recompose to work far more closely with groups closest to us… SR needs to forget past disagreements with comrades like Will McMahon and Nick Wrack in ISN for example. Nick Wrack’s analysis of the political situation and task for the socialist/ Marxist left, on the ISN website, is a model analysis and commentary, echoing that of Ken Loach. To reiterate one of Nick Wrack’s points, and a point made above, we need to continue to work with the many excellent, in many cases, life-long, class fighters in the SP, SWP and TUSC.

    Eastleigh, as Ken Loach has very clearly pointed out, at http://www.marxsite.org/2013/03/the-british-left-needs-to-start-againwe.html, should be a wake-up call, for some of the various reasons already set out by comrades- the disastrous performances by the NHAP and TUSC, the lack even of a Syriza embryo in Britain let alone an Antarsya growth beyond the embro of TUSC.

    None of this is, at the moment anyhow, incompatible with support for/ membership of TUSC… to repeat, none of these recomposition attempts and explorations should be viewed as incompatible with membership of TUSC

    Other than the SP and SWP, most socialist and Marxist groups/ parties are relatively impotent, tiny, with a lack of presence within most of the Left let alone within the public, despite the magnificent efforts and histories (and futures?) of various of our comrades within these various organisations

    I’ll end this by saying that TUSC is not THE answer to the formation/ development of a large socialist/ Marxist party in British politics, but it, and its constituent organisations, the SP, the SWP, and the RMT, will need to be part of the answer.


    Dave Hill

  11. Their is a reason the left cannot unite. They argue and oust each other. They play games, they use fascist unappealing rhetoric without fact. It’s generally pretty distasteful to see. The Green party is the only hope and their too concentrated on things that don’t matter. I can safely say the Left OUGHT to be interested in the BRITISH working class. Trying to mobilise some sort of international utopian world for the proletariat is inconceivable and naive. I’m voting ukip because the left has rejected the British worker. Btw, I’m a 2generation “EAstern European immigrant”.

  12. UKIP is interested only in dividing the working class and doing the bankers bidding. What a worker has in common with Nigel Farage is beyond me. However I have a lot in common with my fellow workers who have come to the UK and been born abroad. Farage does not hide his sponsors – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ukip/9554903/Disillusioned-Conservative-donors-are-turning-to-Ukip.html

    Workers are being made to pay for the bankers/capitalist crisis – we should expose/oppose this extremist bankers party

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