Show Hide image

Anger over BNP's 'white history month'

In the wake of publication of the BNP's membership list, Tim Lezard reports on the anger over the fa

Teaching unions have attacked BNP plans to promote White History Month in schools, colleges and universities across England.

As the party reels from the leaking of its membership list, its youth and student wings have launched an alternative to Black History Month, saying: “This is our month, where we can be proud to be white and express it openly.”

The campaign aims to counter 'white guilt trips in the national curriculum' by teaching children the 'truth' about slavery, colonialism and imperialism.

Matthew Collins from anti-fascist organisation Searchlight, said: “This odious campaign reveals the BNP’s true colours. Their views on history have always been selective – [BNP leader] Nick Griffin has denied the Holocaust ever happened.

“They also conveniently neglect to mention their own history, which is ridden with racism, fascism and violence.”

The BNP claims to have sent out thousands of leaflets to teaching establishments and to have emailed headteachers, university deans, student groups, campus groups, scouts and guide groups.

“The world would be a very different place if it wasn’t for the British Empire,” according to the literature.

“The only way the government can get British people to allow themselves to be dispossessed in their own homeland is to make them ashamed of themselves and their history.

“Never be embarrassed of the Empire or ashamed of it, no matter what your teachers say. Be proud of it. It was a time of great improvement and advancement in the world and it was all thanks to the British.”

As part of the month, the BNP is promoting 'The March of the Titans - a history of the white race', a tome that glorifies the Ku Klux Klan and praises Adolf Hitler for backing an anti-smoking drive, discouraging alcohol abuse and outlawing vivisection, whilst admitting "he will always be associated with an outburst of anti-Jewish sentiment".

The book then attempts to justify the Holocaust by saying: "No-one would question that the Jews, like everyone else in the Second World War, suffered great misfortune and were in particular subjected to unprecedented persecution and harassment on racial grounds.

“International Jewry had however publicly and openly declared war on Nazi Germany and the Nazis therefore regarded Jews as a hostile combatant group of special significance."

The campaign was condemned by University and College Union (UCU) General Secretary Sally Hunt, who said: "The BNP has no interest in the freedoms that UCU or the majority of people in this country believe in.

“The academic community is one that is built on diversity and tolerance. The BNP has no interest in sharing those values and preaches only hate and fear.”

The NUT’s Acting General Secretary Christine Blower, said: “The BNP's latest publication, like all of its literature, has no place in the school curriculum. A key purpose of education is to promote respect and equal opportunities. These values are in direct contradiction to BNP policies.”

The Guiding Association of Great Britain also condemned the initiative. A spokeswoman said: “One of the core values of Girlguiding UK is promoting equality and diversity and throughout our membership we build a respect and understanding of a range of cultures."

Getty
Show Hide image

The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times