Socialist Worker

Not going back to business as usual

Issue No. 1799

BACK TO business as usual. That was the message from much of the press and many establishment politicians this week. The threat of far right and Nazi parties has, they said, been seen off. Jean-Marie Le Pen has been soundly beaten in the run-off for the presidential election in France.

Here in Britain, they argue, the Nazi BNP may have won three council seats, but it failed to make the major breakthrough it was hoping for. The scare is over, we are told. This attitude is dangerous nonsense. It is precisely 'business as usual' which lies behind the growth in support for far right and Nazi parties.

These organisations do not start winning support because of a sudden upsurge in racist ideas or because crime is supposedly spiralling out of control. They grow because they manage to feed off the deep well of bitterness and insecurity created in millions of people's lives-unemployment, poverty, welfare cuts, more stressful work and lives, and worries about the future.

Those are the fruits of 'normal' politics in which all mainstream parties pursue the same pro-business, privatising, neo-liberal policies. The far right seek to turn the bitterness against scapegoats. Unfortunately support for them cannot be dealt with by getting rid of individual leaders. The mainstream politicians' hypocritical response to the assassination of Dutch far right leader Pim Fortuyn shows that.

Really undercutting that support means offering a genuine alternative to people angry at the system. That alternative must turn the anger people feel onto the right targets-big business and establishment politicians.

That is why by far the most encouraging things seen in France in recent weeks have been the mass mobilisations on the streets against Le Pen and the significant support for revolutionary socialists in the elections. The mass protests have galvanised millions of people and given them a taste of how they can begin to collectively shape the direction society should take. And genuine socialist candidates in the first round of the presidential elections offered a clear alternative to the failed policies of the establishment parties.

Together those socialist candidates got almost three million votes-more than one in ten. On a more modest scale, the fact that in last week's local council elections in England socialist candidates stood, mostly under the banner of the Socialist Alliance, was just as important.

It meant that in at least some areas a message of resistance was put and found an echo. The Socialist Alliance votes were modest. It was the first time the alliance has stood in local council elections in this way, and it only stood in a minority of areas.

But its candidates generally had between 5 and 10 percent of voters giving them support, and in some areas that rose to between 10 and 20 percent of voters. The challenge for socialists everywhere is to build on this kind of support.

That means not just focusing on elections, but above all carrying the socialist message through building real resistance. It means backing and building strikes to beat off job cuts or win decent pay. It means being at the centre of campaigns like that to beat council housing privatisation, or the threat to privatise health, education or other public services.

And it means fighting every attempt to divide working people, on grounds of race, nationality, religion, sex or sexuality, and building the united struggles which can win.

That may not be 'normal' politics. But it is politics that can defeat the Nazis, and change the rotten society they feed off.


German workers strike back

A PICKET line at the DaimlerChrysler plant in Sindelfingen, Germany, last Monday. These pickets were among the 50,000 workers who joined the strike, called by the IG Metall union.

It is their first national strike for seven years. They are fighting for a 6.5 percent pay increase. Their strike shows the power to beat back the right and win better lives for workers.


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What We Think
Sat 11 May 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1799
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