Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Throwing money at social atomisation

Yesterday, the Government announced that it "is naming 27 areas which it says need intensive support to survive pressures from recession, migration and social change." These areas will "be targeted to help residents understand they had not been forgotten by decision-makers," this policy being the result of "internal government debates about how best to reach out to disenchanted white working classes."

This measure is offered up "to combat a perception that some areas were favoured over others in a competition for resources." Thus, it is hoped, "a rise in far-right political activity or long-term anti-social behaviour problems" will be stymied. However, a measure to combat false perceptions is doomed from the outset if it, too, begins on an erroneous premise.

There is a "collapse in trust in local authorities and services," and people do "feel aggrieved and under pressure." As a result, they have voiced "resentment over the arrival of Eastern European workers" or become "susceptible to extremist far-right recruitment." However, to say that "migration may have changed the communities" is not to "combat" the perception but to pander to it.

A leaflet produced by the Brighton Solidarity Federation (SolFed) in December 2008, titled Stop the BNP, stop the real bigots, explains the real issue;
The growth of the BNP is a direct result of the policies of New Labour – or the policies proposed by the Tories or Lib Dems. In a “race to the centre” huge working class communities have been abandoned by these parties. At the same time, money is parcelled out to different imaginary, homogenous ‘communities’ on a racial basis, under the control of ‘community leaders’ – who supposedly represent this entire community and repay this with votes. This corrupts the great lived experience many of us have with multiculturalism, into something repellent – official state ‘multiculturalism’ which explicitly divides people on the basis of race, and gives out money and favours on the basis of a series of different ‘communities’ who need representing. In these circumstances is it any surprise that some of the most dispossessed in society see this, see the BNP and believe they will represent the ‘white community’? Of course, such a racial community is a sham – just as much as any other. These are people with the same very real problems that most of us face – lack of decent housing, no or terrible jobs, lack of community facilities and lack of security in the future. The BNP help reduce them to squabbling over who gets the biggest slice of the pie – the real issue is that ordinary peoples slice of the pie continues to shrink as the rich-poor divide grows.
Of course, such a radical perspective cannot be offered by the government as - by definition - they stand in defence of the status quo. As a result, they are more likely to support the "diversity" of "community leaders" who are supportive of incumbent power structures than of grassroots movements which challenge authority and hierarchy. Likewise, they willingly jump through hoops to prove "that we are on the side of every community in this country, no special favours, privileges, just fairness." It is a lot easier than acknowledging the real and growing inequality, the true "competition for resources," between the rich and the poor.

Although the increase is slowing down, UK unemployment levels are at 2.47 million. The national minimum wage increased by 2 percent, against cost of living increases of 5 to 12 percent, whilst supposed government "curbs" do not limit bonuses for bankers at all. Over and over again, from Royal Mail to Jaguar Land Rover, workers are suffering for the profit of their bosses.

The solution to this problem is not to throw £12m at poor, white areas in the hopes that they shut up. Nor is it to join the BNP's fight for "British Jobs for British Workers" and complete the social division and atomisation that Labour and the Conservatives started. What is needed, quite simply, is working class organisation at a grassroots level that offers an anti-fascist as well as anti-capitalist perspective.

As the Brighton SolFed leaflet puts it, "the real problem is not that one community or another gets too much, or that one race is underrepresented - but that communities are divided up by race in the first place!"