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Monday, 6 May 2013

UKIP rise in polls we need a socialist reply

Last weeks county council election threw up a popular vote for UKIP who have gained some ground of late focusing on immigration and the question of the EU. But for socialists we need to do more than just say people are fed up with the other mainstream parties to give a proper analysis that this recent phenomena deserves. A proper look into UKIP’s policies has not been carried out and taken apart by our dear capitalist media I wonder why? Well they are diverting the attention from the real issue and that is the deepening crisis that which their system of capitalism finds itself in today. UKIP do not oppose the European Union because it benefits the bosses at the expense of workers. They have no problem with privatisation of public services and industries, restrictions on trade union rights, redundancies or forcing wages down. The leaders of UKIP and many of their backers are mainly right-wing Tories who are trying to push the Tory party into opposing the EU. Many rich donors are now transferring their political donations from the tories to the UKIP party now not totally abandoning the Tories mind you but certainly opening a split on the right of UK politics which will be interesting how it plays out long term. These right-wing businessmen aren't giving millions of pounds to UKIP because they want more money spent on hospitals and education. They oppose the EU partly from a standpoint of wanting more "free trade" and "deregulation" of businesses. That is, more freedom for big business to gamble with our jobs and pensions, and to profit from the sell-off of more public services. The UKIP leader who has had reams and reams of media coverage and it has felt like wall to wall coverage I thought the BBC were bad enough inviting Owen Jones on all the time but Nigel Farage in the last week or so has taken it to a new level entirely. We must be careful as socialists to separate those who vote UKIP through ha sense of frustration with the other parties in a out and out protest vote from their own members who more or less are a load of cranks of course with only in the last few weeks BNP sympathisers have found their way into the party and UKIP say they have no way of stopping them. But UKIP are not fascist as some say they are they may become that in the future but at this stage they are not. Whilst not fascist, UKIP is a party of the hard-right which campaigns not just against the EU but also against LGBT equality, for harsh immigration controls, deeper spending cuts and a quicker break-up of the NHS. In the European parliament it is in a grouping which includes the far-right, anti-gay United Poland party and the right-wing Italian Northern League. Although UKIP inhabits the world of the hard-right it is important to distinguish it from fascist parties such as the BNP. The aim of fascism is to smash all working class organisation and ultimately all forms of democracy (including parliamentary democracy). UKIP comes from the traditional right-wing of UK politics - a lineage which includes Conservatives such as Enoch Powell and Norman Tebbit as well as UKIP supporters like the recently deceased Patrick Moore. In other words: bigoted, nasty and slightly eccentric, but not fascist. Its party organisation is not of the disciplined combat form which characterises fascist parties. So where does UKIP's support come from? The party does seem to have gained support from a section of working class Labour voters - in 2009, 27 percent of UKIP supporters had voted Labour at the previous election, compared to 21 percent who had voted Conservative. This perhaps reflects how the poison of anti-immigration rhetoric pumped out by the press and politicians (including Labour ones, of course) have gained a hearing among some workers. This is combined with the intense bitterness that exists towards the establishment (including the EU) which UKIP has tried to tap into with slogans such as "Sod the Lot: Vote UKIP". Therefore there are some former Labour voters, motivated by hostility to immigrants and/or anger at the establishment, who might vote for UKIP. However since the Tory-Liberal government was formed in 2010, UKIP support seems to be coming increasingly from disillusioned Conservative voters. In 2012 the polling data changed markedly - only 3 percent of UKIP supporters previously voted Labour while 37 percent previously voted Conservative. Under the hammer of austerity from a Tory government working class voters who flirted with UKIP might well be returning to Labour. UKIP certainly seems to be targeting "True Blue" Conservative voters as a priority. After George Osborne's autumn statement UKIP's main objections were that he did not go far enough in cutting spending or attacking workers rights - hardly an appealing message for Labour voters. UKIP leader Nigel Farage has also used opposition to gay marriage in an attempt to peel away further Conservative votes. Therefore the Conservatives crisis is UKIP's gain - they can present themselves as the new home for the disillusioned Tory base. UKIP success in exploiting Tory divisions puts pressure on Cameron to tack to the right - as he has done over the EU - but if he goes too far he risks making the party unelectable. This is his dilemma. The background to the rise in UKIP's support then is a crisis within the Conservative Party. Without understanding this it can seem that the votes and opinion poll support for UKIP heralds a right-wing shift in society, when in fact it is an outcome of the fragmenting of the Conservative Party's traditional base. This does not mean we should be complacent. A right-wing which is a minority can still be an organised force which influences a wider layer of people, especially when its views are amplified by sections of the media and pandered to by politicians. Socialists must be alert to the dangers of right-wing scapegoating and racism in an economic crisis, and be at the forefront of combating these trends. Politically challenging racism and all attempts to divide workers is central to the development of effective resistance to austerity. The crisis is bringing both opportunities and dangers. This brings me to my final point is that the need for a clear socialist party with key policies to cut across the growing UKIP support in working class areas to give workers hope is key. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition can go so far with this but it’s also for the trade unions of which 6 million people are members of to join and to demand their unions fight back demanding no scape goating of immigrants and to fight for the rate of the job. We do need a new party of the working class labour has lost its working class base. Although workers may still vote for it with their nose pegged this doesn’t answer the question of working class political representation. TUSC hopes to fill that vacuum by offering a clear break with the policies of austerity and despair.

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