Euro elections: nationalism of Left and Right

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In the lead up to the local and European elections, great play has been made of the threat posed by the British National Party. A few weeks before the elections, archbishops and bishops of the Anglican church made a direct appeal to boycott the BNP. In the furore over MPs' expenses, we were told in numerous articles and TV broadcasts that the big danger in people becoming cynical about the main parties is that they will turn to the BNP in protest. And indeed, the BNP have raised their visibility in this campaign with party political broadcasts and much media coverage of how a win in the Euro elections would provide funds to expand their future campaigns. At the time of writing, results for the European elections are not yet available, but in the local elections the BNP gained seats on some county councils for the first time, and this success could well be repeated in the European parliament.

It is also true that the BNP represent a particularly odious form of racism, above all because their relatively respectable electoral image is only a thin veneer over the fact that their members and supporters are still directly involved in more traditional fascist practices: violent intimidation of political opponents and physical attacks on ethnic, religious and other minorities. But they are far from alone in that regard! It is not the BNP that have run endless media campaigns about the evils of immigration while simultaneously exploiting immigrant labour under the most appalling conditions. Nor is it the BNP that are ruthlessly stepping up border controls, putting asylum seekers in virtual prison camps and expatriating workers who have lived here since childhood, including hundreds of AIDS patients that are being forcibly returned to Africa. And nor was it the BNP that dragged cancer patient Ama Sumani from her hospital bed in order to deport her. All that was organised and carried out by the very legal, democratic and multicultural British state.

The BNP is simply a minor cog in a capitalist political machine that is racist to the core. If its racism is more obvious that other fractions of the bourgeoisie it also allows it to serve as a distraction from the far more widespread and dangerous activities of the mainstream parties.

And when it comes to campaigning in the EU elections on the basis of out and out nationalism, the left is not be outdone by the right. Take No2EU, a coalition initiated by the RMT union, supported by various leftist groups, and supposedly opposing the EU from the standpoint of defending workers' rights. No2EU serves up its own brand of nationalist policies with statements like "defend and develop manufacturing, agriculture and fishing industries in Britain" and "repatriate democratic powers to EU member states". Under the cover of standing up for all workers, they defend an insular, localist vision of workers' rights: "to ferry workers across Europe to carry out jobs that local workers can be trained to perform is an environmental, economic and social nonsense". What they are really demanding is the right of indigenous workers to be exploited by an independent British capitalism.

Despite the differences in packaging, the underlying ideological themes of all the parties are the same: they accept the framework of capitalist nation states and reduce workers to quarrelling with each other over who has the right to be exploited where. Against this, communists have to raise the old slogan of the workers' movement: the workers have no country! 

Ishmael 6/6/09

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