Sunday, 8 August 2010

More on autonomous nationalism and class politics

Two months ago, I wrote a post titled "Autonomous nationalism and why antifascism needs a working class perspective," about Autonomous Nationalists UK (AnUk). Now, the Liverpool Front of AnUk has responded with "Autonomous nationalism and why the working class needs an ethnic perspective."

The basic overview is that I take "the usual condescending tone" and "parade the usual cliches" in an argument that is "empty," based on "flawed" reasoning.

The problem is that, in writing this, they are not actually responding to my argument. They have taken a couple of sentences (literally, two) from my post that fit into a more generalised rant about anti-fascists / Marxists which largely ignores the main thrust of what I was saying.

For example;
Anti-fascism has become the very thing it is supposed to protect people against. Anti-fascist groups generally use bullying tactics to silence those who offer an alternative point of view. Slander, violence and censorship are the main tools of the antifascist. Their tactics of violent confrontation only agrievate [sic] the situation, and their supercilious leaders and speakers alienate the very people who they claim to stand for.

Few on the "left-wing" have the same understanding of the working class that we - the people from the poorest areas, who work the lowest paid jobs and suffer form crime and poverty - have. In fact, most "left-wing" activists are well-paid and come form decent areas. Many of them are indeed very intelligent people, but their socio-economic conditioning has removed them from the realities of life that the working class face each day. This is why the Left-Wing and anti-fascist movements fail to bring about "the great revolution": the bourgoise [sic] anti-fascists are telling the proleteriat [sic] that THEY know what is best.
Which is precisely what I meant when I said that "members of the working class who are drawn to the far-right perceive the mainstream anti-fascist movement as dominated by the “right-on” middle classes and students." Having this perception, they have simply repeated the accusation.

Considering that, with my "flawed" reasoning, I could  still distinguish that "they are not detached from the working class, like the BNP's parachuted-in "super activists," but part of it," this is just intellectual laziness.

For them, the left are all aware of class issues only because "we heard somebody speak about them at an Anarchist meeting, or because we read about them in some second rate communist writers collection of glorious sentimentality and psychobabble nonsense!"

The rest of the article is a response to a single sentence. Specifically, my point that working class nationalists "perceive [antifascism] not as a movement against fascism but as an excuse to yell “racist” at the white working class for disagreeing with the status quo."

This offers them a springboard to expand upon their perceptions;
And the status quo is distinctly Marxist! It is the state that is promoting multiculturalism and it is the "Left-wing" who are defending it! These self-proclaimed revolutionaries are pushing the same totalitarian ideology as the government! The state and its supposed opposition are both pursuing the same social agenda, and this agenda is detrimental to the well-being of the indigenous population of these islands.
In the first instance, I would point out that the status quo is not "Marxist." It is corporate capitalist. The working class having to compete for scarce resources whilst the ruling class grow rich with the state as a safety net should the markets fail was not a tenet of Karl Marx's thought.

Throughout what follows, the Liverpool Front conflate anarchism and Marxism with liberalism, which is merely a more dovish trend within the parameters of the dominant socio-economic model.

For example, it might be true that liberals "dismiss any authentic grievances about such things as immigration as "base, vile and racist" without even addressing the relevant issues." But this can hardly be said of the entire left. The IWCA, to take one example, has addressed this in depth.

Liverpool Antifascists have also produced leaflets on immigration and housing (PDF), and jobs and migrant workers (PDF), untangling the issue and its capitalist roots from the propaganda.

Indeed, the Liverpool Front touch on the real problem;
Are English workers to support French workers when both are competing for the same company to build its new factory in their country? Surely the jobs will go to one or the other, and the workers of one of the countries are going to be without the jobs that the factory would have provided - leaving them poor!
Their conclusion is that "the practicalities of this vague and sentimental "international class consciousness" are quite unrealistic." For them, "the idea that people of the same class have more in common than those of the same ethnicity is flimsy at best."

However, in their analogy above, they touch on precisely why international class solidarity is vital.

Capitalism, as an economic system, is global. Capital flow is all-but unhindered by national borders, after over 150 years of imperialism "opening up markets" across the world.

Thus, industry and capital has a far greater pool of labour (not to mention resources) that it can exploit for profits. And, since lower initial costs add to the net gain, it wants that labour to be as cheap as possible. Workers find themselves pitted against one another in a race to the bottom.

Moving a factory from one country to another, or hiring cheap migrant labour over natives are only two examples. The competition does not need to stretch over any racial or national divide. Agency workers are used this way against permanent employees, and "casual" workers against full-timers, just as often. In the past, you also had slaves pitted against freemen and even women against men!

But nationalism sees the working class play into this competition. This is why the media plays up the same hysteria about migrants as the far-right, reinforcing the wedge which allows the weaker group of workers to be exploited and the stronger group undercut.

Liverpool Front ask "how is it fair for us, when we ourselves are in a hole, to start giving away our valuable resources to immigrants?" It is a legitimate question, and indeed it is not a fair situation.

But mass migration is driven by capitalism. The wage differential between countries, forcible "free market reforms" which grin people into poverty, and wars for the control of "strategic markets and resources." All of these things drive the movement of people across the globe.

At the same time, that "food, housing, education, healthcare and jobs are needed for OUR people" wouldn't change if there were no immigrants in the country at all.

As the Brighton Solidarity Federation point out, "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." We shouldn't be "squabbling over who gets the biggest slice of the pie," when "the real issue is that ordinary people's slice of the pie continues to shrink as the rich-poor divide grows."

Most of the lads involved in the Liverpool Front will be aware of this on some level. Echoing my own contrast between them and the BNP, they state that they "are aware of class issues because we have experienced them firsthand."

But, as I stated last time, they "have had a substantive class consciousness distorted by the question of race." They insist on "the working class love of ethnicity," and that the bonds of "culture, history and heritage" are determined by genes. They are not going to be swayed from this by those "defending" multiculturalism and "pushing the same totalitarian ideology as the government."

But, as already stated, this is far from representative of "the left," and it is certainly a strawman when it comes to anarchist and socialist movements.

Liberals and the mainstream don't want to hear our perspectives on the question of race, or an opposition to multiculturalism not grounded in nationalist or racial politics. As a result, those such as the Liverpool Front don't hear them either. But that doesn't mean they don't exist.

As I said in relation to the English Defence League;
State and media propaganda, as well as an entirely out-of-touch left, allows [fascists] to drum up support by turning real grievances driven by capitalism into latent racism.

None of which is acknowledged by UAF, sticking rigidly to the "one society, many cultures" line in order to keep the state and ruling class supporters of their "popular front" on board.

This is entirely the wrong approach to take. Not only because it means antifascism's only success will be as a recruiting front for tiny sects on the authoritarian left, but because it adds to the Blairite spin that "the class war is over." Which, of course, leaves fascism as the only alternative to the status quo.
Which brings me back to the point that "if we are unable to argue against that using only the power of our own reason, then we cannot possibly hope to build a more viable alternative to the woes of the present."

On this, my Liverpool Front counterpart professes agreement. Perhaps, then, this signals an end to threatening to blow up bookshops, disrupting antifascist benefit gigs, and offering to settle these ideological differences with a "straightener"?

I hope so. With the most savage attacks on the working class since the 1930s in the pipeline, we could certainly do without the distraction.