Margaret Hodge, New Labour’s employment minister and MP for Barking & Dagenham in east London, claimed last Sunday that eight out of ten white families in her constituency are tempted to vote for the fascist British National Party (BNP).
This assertion is overblown and probably aimed mainly at motivating Labour’s flagging local election campaign. It is based on little or no firm evidence and threatens to simply raise the profile of the Nazis.
But there certainly is a problem in white working class areas such as Barking and Dagenham. Not so long ago there was a vibrant Labour Party there, tenants’ organisations and a fully functioning trade union movement. All are now gone or have been severely weakened.
New Labour’s slavish insistence that only the market can deliver has created a disaster in the local economy and in local housing.
But Hodge – an Islington millionaire with no real connections to the working class - is right about one thing. New Labour has lost touch with working class people of all backgrounds, as have all the neo-liberal parties. She refuses to face up to her own responsibility for creating this situation. Instead she pushes the fashionable line that the white working class has been “left behind” by immigration and multiculturalism.
This kind of rhetoric just feeds the climate of racism that allows the BNP to grow. It’s based on an insulting assumption that white working class people are naturally racist. And it ignores the long and noble tradition of anti-fascism in the British working class.
New Labour has always regarded working class people of whatever skin colour as being interested only in football, sex and titillation. Now many feel deserted by Labour and are looking elsewhere. There is a pressing need for a radical alternative such as Respect to build out into more working class areas across the country. Respect can unite communities against the corporate warmongers and campaign for decent homes for all.
And the BNP can be fought through campaigns such as Unite Against Fascism that bring people together and mobilises them against the Nazis.
Israel’s state terrorism
A Palestinian suicide bomber kills nine Israelis in Tel Aviv and there is global condemnation. The bombing is denounced as a “despicable act of terror”. Yet over the last three weeks the Israelis have poured 2,000 artillery shells into the Gaza Strip – that’s 150 a day.
This barrage has killed 13 people, including an eight year old girl. Over 80 Palestinians have been injured. Yet this act of state terrorism has been greeted by silence. Instead the US and its allies continue to demand that Palestinians denounce violence and recognise Israel.
But which Israel should they recognise? The Israel of 1948, 1967 – or some future border mapped out in 2010? Since its foundation in 1948 Israel has continued to grab Palestinian land.
Now the Israeli government has unveiled plans which would split the occupied West Bank in two and complete the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem.
Hamas, the radical Islamic group which won the recent Palestinian elections, has repeatedly offered the Israelis a truce. This offer has been met with continued assassinations, repression, humiliation at checkpoints and entrenched settlements in the West Bank. Israel’s answer to the elections in the Occupied Territories is to try and starve Palestinians into submission.