BNP on Question Time: Fascism and democracy sing from the same hymn sheet
The much-criticised appearance of Nick Griffin on BBC Question Time demonstrated that, far from being outside the political mainstream, the BNP actually serves to strengthen the bourgeoisie's democratic ideology.
There was shock, outrage and protests over the appearance of the BNP on Question Time. According to its opponents the BNP isn't a ‘normal' party but is ‘racist' and ‘fascist.' In the words of the Guardian "by inviting it on to Question Time, the BBC runs the risk of normalising" the BNP and provided "its best-ever platform for its poisonous politics".
In fact, all the the programme's participants draped themselves in the national flag at every opportunity. Jack Straw claimed the BNP lacked a "moral compass" while the rest of the politicians on the panel fell over themselves to insist they were tough on immigration. Straw bragged about the success of Labour's immigration policies, which he later repeated in the London Evening Standard: "Asylum applications, at 25,000 a year, are now a third of their peak (and below the average in the European Union 15); the dreadful backlog of appeals which was there in 1997 is being overcome, and enforced removals and voluntary departures are up threefold". This wasn't good enough for Baroness Warsi (herself a descendent of Pakistani immigrants and touted as the ‘most powerful Muslim woman in Britain') who said: "we need a cap on the number of people who are coming here", combined with more tracking and removal of those deemed illegal.
There was also a squabble over who best defended the legacy of Churchill, the man who once declared that he was "strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes" and who did not "admit that a wrong has been done to these people [Native Americans and Australian Aborigines] by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place".
It is clear that racism and nationalism are not the sole province of the extreme Right. The rest of the ruling class is no less willing to propagate racism and prejudice. The popular press, while decrying the BNP, runs endless campaigns about ‘immigrants' who are held responsible for every ill the capitalist system itself imposes on the ‘white working class' - housing shortages, urban decay, unemployment etc. This is the same press that vilifies Muslims for being terrorists or indulges in homophobic rants following the unfortunate deaths of gay pop stars.
Meanwhile, the democratic and multicultural British state, commanded by the Labour Party, has presided over a brutal campaign of prison camps for asylum-seekers and forced repatriation that has included removing terminally ill patients from hospital beds so that they can be deported.
However, the bourgeoisie has to be careful not to overplay the race card as it can provoke a response from the working class. For example, as we reported in WR316, the residents of a Glasgow ‘sink estate' took up the struggle to defend the immigrants in their community from Home Office thugs.
This is why other parts of the bourgeoisie (usually the Left) pose as the defenders of ‘human rights' and contrast the ‘inclusive', multicultural state to the brutality and racism of fascism. Not only does this mask the continuing assaults carried out by the democratic state, but it also encourages workers to seek the state's ‘protection'. One of the most poisonous elements of the current campaign is to present ‘multiculturalism' as a counterweight to the racism of the ‘white working class'. The BNP, in particular, is presented (by friend and foe alike) as being in some way representative of white workers. Warsi herself has argued for more attention to be paid to the ‘concerns' of ‘BNP voters'. The aim is to undermine the potential for working class unity across racial boundaries and keep it divided into competing ‘communities' disputing the crumbs from the exploiters' table. The ruling class wants any reaction against such divisions to be recuperated into a struggle ‘against fascism' under the control of the democratic multicultural state.
By giving the BNP more exposure - and it's possible that the BNP could have an annual apearence on Question Time - the bourgeoisie is trying to increase the impact of these campaigns. This is because it is undertaking a series of brutal attacks on working class living standards. This is the only answer it has to the crisis. But, for all its difficulties, the working class has not suffered a decisive defeat and retains the potential for developing struggles that can threaten the moribund capitalist system. It is fear of these potential struggles that moves the bourgeoisie to reinforce the ideological firewalls that constantly work to break up the unity of the working class. As long as workers are blaming other workers for their problems, there's less chance of them turning on their capitalist masters.
It is true that the working class, in its daily life, is capable of holding all sorts of prejudices. But it is also undeniable that the ruling class will encourage these at every possible opportunity. As an exploited class the working class can only defend itself in a united struggle across all the divisions imposed upon it by capitalism. In developing its struggle, the working class is forced to confront the racist, nationalist poison of the ruling class in both its democratic and fascist forms.