What entertainment! What a fascinating and gruesome TV spectacle! Griffin the fool on the box! What a ratings boost for ‘Mentorn’ (the private company that runs question time, that’s been begging the BBC for years to have the Griffo freakshow). Yes it was great to see Nick Griffin look ridiculous on TV. He really is an unctuous buffoon. But it was still a bad idea to give him a platform on Question Time. The only mitigating factor was being able to see a huge, angry demonstration by anti-fascists outside the BBC TV centre to show how we all feel. (The woman seen being dragged along the floor still wagging her finger at a copper is my especial hero).
Firstly, while it was fun to see Griffin exposed and beset by angry questions from all sides, this will just add to the feeling of victimhood and marginalisation by the millions of alienated white and working class people who may be tempted to look to him. Especially as now Griffin has been made into a household name. Notoriety is still celebrity and ‘outsider’ status can be political gold-dust in these cynical and troubled times. For some people it will just be seen as Griffin (and sections of the marginalised white poor) being ganged up upon by the ‘clever-clogs liberal metropolitan elite’.
Secondly, the subsequent discussion on immigration was appalling. After ‘ganging up’ on Griffin, the whole panel and audience then went on to agree that there was ‘too much immigration’! Thus immigrants became the main problem, the scapegoats for the social crisis, while capitalism gets let off the hook (of course!). This was therefore an establishment consensus, designed to shield that very establishment! In this establishment consensus that is simultaneously ‘anti-fascist’ and anti immigrant, there can be no mention of greedy bankers or capitalism’s chaos. No mention of the virtual abolition of council housing and the welfare state. No mention of tax cuts and tax loopholes lining the pockets of the super-rich. i.e no class politics – of course! If we can’t blame the greedy rich and the madness of capitalism, then instead immigrants must get it in the neck – as the sole cause of homelessness, unemployment and poor services – and it seems they are even to blame for the rise of their persecutor, the BNP, all the panel could agree. From victimising Griffin, they all seamlessly morphed into victimising Griffins victims! And this even harder to stomach when coming from a political establishment soaked in the blood of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as of our young soldiers, offered as a blood sacrifice to global corporate power. Furthermore, it is this terrible and senseless sacrifice that is now fuelling a tribal and virulent Islamophobia.
This BBC freak-show and media feeding frenzy represents how the establishment is using the BNP. They use them to drag politics to the right, and promote racism and Islamophobia – but then try to make sure that the BNP are not the main beneficiary of this rightward shift. An operation to make sure that that it is the mainstream establishment parties that benefit from racism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant feeling, that is stirred up, and then controlled. The BNP are demonised as Nazis (and yes, they are) so vote for the ‘respectable racists’ instead. And all the time the media plays its despicable role, churning out anti-immigrant / Islamophobic propaganda, week after week.
On Question Time we saw Griffin mugged by the establishment, so they can steal his political clothes! (Of course, then they must wash these clothes in bleach, making them a more acceptable and fashionable lighter shade of xenophobia before they will wish to wear them).
Rather than getting hysterical that the BNP are gonna suddenly take over, establish a fascist regime and put us all in the gas chambers, the real worry is that the BNP help push politics to the right. The danger is that by becoming established as a minor ‘anti-establishment’ party they will pollute grassroots dissent within the new epoch of war, unemployment and austerity with racist and Islamophobic poison. This will let capitalism off the hook and cripple working class resistance with a vile game of divide and rule. And of course, this can have tragic consequences at the level of the street and workplace, helping to unleash a wave of discrimination and violence against ethnic, religious, racial and sexual minority groups.
Putting the unctuous Nazi Nick on QT, no matter how ridiculous he looked to the majority, will still have empowered every nasty little racist to come out of the closet. It still gives the BNP more space to organise, more spurious legitimacy to seek a place on political platforms, to try and book rooms previously out of bounds to them in our town halls, colleges and community centres. It may become more of a challenge for anti-fascists to deny the BNP the platform it seeks to poison public debate. But at the same time, the repulsion the BNP provokes in the majority of people, and the huge demonstration witnessed by millions on TV gathered outside the BBC shows the potential for resistance. The more fascism grows, the more resistance to fascism will also grow. We must now find the right strategies to enable the anti-fascist side to win this crucial battle.
What we need is a new working class politics – uniting people of all religions and races against the massive assault on our living standards that is coming. Our pensions schemes will be degraded, so we cant afford to retire when the time comes. The retirement age will be raised, so manual workers (who generally die younger) will be worked until they drop dead. Wages will be cut. Unemployment will rise. And our welfare state will face its final destruction. Meanwhile, this will be accompanied by a still greater shift of wealth and resources from the working class to the super rich. Neither the BNP’s racism, Islamophobia and (now thinly veiled) fascism, nor the bluff and bluster of ‘establishment anti-fascism’ can offer us a way out. Only the rebuilding of a popular, working class and democratic socialism can do that. And the best place to start is getting together to ensure a victory to the current postal workers strike.