Wake up and smell the roses

David Cameron stands by his welfare reforms and refuses to accept any criticism of them despite a Financial Times analysis clearly showing that cuts are hitting poor people in the north far more than those in southern Conservative heartlands.

The research undertaken by the Financial Times shows that a raft of benefit changes, many of which came into effect on April 1st, and will have an annual impact of £607 per working age adult in Birmingham where 54.8% of neighbourhoods are among the poorest 20% in Britain. The average for local authorities in Great Britain is 15.1%.

Cameron refuses to ‘wake up and smell the roses’ and continues to insist that the coalition was right to tackle welfare dependency and denied the reforms would deepen regional economic divisions. He continues to peddle the scrounger v striver rhetoric, knowing that he is tapping into the insecurities that many are now facing and turning communities on each other.

Indeed, this is exactly what the facists did in the 1930’s, scapegoating particular groups for all of society’s problems. The video clip “Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts” (Oswald Mosley and British Union of Fascists footage / BUF tribute) is a frightening portrayal of just how seductive the promises of fascism can be. Thousands of people turned up to the Olympia event, and thousands took to the street, organised in a military style, donned in uniform, marching for fascism. It was Mosley’s copycat scapegoating of Jews for societies problems that became the building blocks for his movement across London and the East End in 1936. Another video clip demonstrates the clear determination of the anti fascist demonstrators to ensure that Mosley and his supporters did not march down Cable Street. Scenes of violence between the demonstrators, the police and members of the BUF, albeit quite horrific, again show the united determination, by so many, to oppose fascism.

In Britain today, there are nearly as many workers unemployed as in the 1930s and many people, experiencing poverty and living difficult lives. There are over one million young people unemployed. The media remind us on a daily basis of the fear of a triple dip recession. Many ordinary working people are losing faith in politicians.

We have a coalition government, led by the Tories overseeing an economic recovery plan of austerity measures, involving cuts to public spending and welfare which is failing.

Behind the rhetoric being spun by the government, the one thing that is clear is that although Cameron is playing a dangerous game, but he needs to turn neighbour against neighbour, quite simply because he needs the votes. The newly-introduced £26,000 benefits cap for households is supported by more than three-quarters of voters of all three main parties, according to a poll when the policy was announced by the government last year.

We know that the Tories will not relent and will continue to peddle their right wing ideology, pushing more people into poverty in their quest to look tough on welfare and we must use the ensuing debate about how that policy is now being implemented to further highlight the unfairness of these policies. But we must remain mindful that amidst all of this political point scoring, how easy it might be for fascism to take a foothold once again in our society, particularly at a time of such great economic crisis, with so many living such wretched lives and many who might easily be seduced by the promise of something ‘different’.

Advertisements

The British far right – still a worry?

I received an interesting email today from the Hope Not Hate Campaign asking for my feedback on an essay they have recently penned that examines the state of the far right in Britain today.

In Britain today, there are almost as many workers unemployed as in the 1930s and many people, experiencing poverty living difficult lives. There are over one million young people unemployed. The media remind us on a daily basis of the fear of a double dip recession and many ordinary working people are losing faith in politicians led by a coalition government sharing an ideological addiction to austerity.

Such economic conditions and disillusionment with mainstream political parties should be perfect for racist politics. Research shows that economic pessimism is a key driver in attitudes towards ‘outsiders’ and there is plenty of pessimism about.

So, with the economy faltering, austerity biting and economic pessimism growing, the conditions for racism and racist scapegoating could hardly be better. The British far right should be having a ball…but surprisingly it appears, racist groups such as the BNP and the EDL are contracting and morale is dropping.

Hope Not Hate’s essay charts the seemingly sorry state of affairs for far right groups such as the British National Party (BNP) following its disastrous defeat in Barking and Dagenham and the English Defence League (EDL), who, at one time had a membership of 90,000 and who could at one point rely on thousands joining it’s organised marches, but are now in decline amid internal warfare and demoralisation. The essay examines the causal effects that have led to the British far right becoming so fragmented and examines who might gain in any upturn.

But it also spells out that there is no room for complacency. The essay chillingly concludes: “The British far right is fragmented and bitterly divided and in the short term this will continue. While we might enjoy the short-term respite there is no room for complacency. Sooner or later the traditional far-right, in the guise of the BNP or EDL, or the Radical Right, in the guise of UKIP, will re-emerge as a major political threat. In the meantime, we should brace ourselves for an upsurge in organised and unorganised racist and political violence.”

Video clips and footage that pay tribute to Oswald Mosley and his fascist movement of the 1930s still appear in abundance on the internet and worryingly, messages of support for Mosley and his Blackshirts suggest the prospects for increased racial violence and terrorism. We must all, as members of society, members of our own communities, as trade unionists or supporters of anti racist organisations stand together and say no. The clear determination of anti fascist demonstrators to ensure that Mosley and his supporters did not march down Cable Street nearly 76 years ago must be remembered. Scenes of violence between the demonstrators, the police and members of the BUF, albeit quite horrific, demonstrates how such united determination, by so many, put a stop to such obscene displays of fascist and racist behaviour.

We must be mindful of the ease in which fascism might take a foothold once again in our society, particularly at such a time of economic crisis, when young and old appear to no longer be able to differentiate between the policies of the major political parties and who may easily seduced by the promise of something ‘different’.

You can help shape the strategy of Hope not Hate by participating here.