Ten reasons why the BNP isn't "left-wing"

Norman Tebbit describes the BNP as "left-wing". I beg to differ

I gave Norman Tebbit a warm welcome to the blogosphere earlier this week, but I'm dismayed to see that he's joined those who absurdly seek to redefine the BNP as "left-wing". I'm inclined to argue that to label the BNP as either left-wing or right-wing is to lend the party's "policies" a degree of ideological coherence they don't deserve. But even so, the increasingly popular argument that the BNP is left-wing deserves to be resisted, and here are ten good reasons why.

1. The BNP's political doctrine is based on theories of racial supremacy and hierarchy. Those on the right may have the ghost of a point when they explore the economic similarities between Stalinism and state fascism, but no far-left party has ever endorsed white supremacism.

2. The party may support widespread nationalisation but it's the end not the means that counts. The left supports nationalisation in the belief that it will further economic equality. The far right supports nationalisation in the belief that it will further the power of "the nation".

3. It has pledged to raise the inheritance-tax threshold to £1m (was this before or after the Tories?). Not much sign of left-wing egalitarianism there.

4. Unlike the "far-left" CND (to borrow the right's own definition), the party supports Britain's continued possession of nuclear weapons.

5. It opposes "left-wing" comprehensive education and would reintroduce academic selection at 11.

6. The party supports immediate withdrawal from the EU. Is this necessarily right-wing? Several far-left groups such as No2EU also support withdrawal. But those on the right who describe the BNP as "left-wing" are the very same people who portray the EU as an inherently left-wing institution. They can't have it both ways.

7. Like its fascist predecessors, the BNP is opposed to free trade unions.

8. The BNP opposes civil partnerships, supports the reintroduction of Section 28 and maintains a section on its website called "Liars, buggers and thieves". Even the most misguided conservative has never described homophobia as "left-wing".

9. It has pledged to repeal the Human Rights Act. For good or ill, the mainstream right has largely chosen to define human rights as a cause of the liberal left. It's therefore rather contradictory to describe a party that doesn't believe in them as "left-wing".

10. Appearing on Question Time, Nick Griffin declared the BBC to be part of a "thoroughly unpleasant ultra-leftist establishment". As my colleague Mehdi Hasan has argued, genuine lefties know that the BBC is predominantly right-wing.


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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn supporters should stop excusing Labour’s anti-immigration drift

The Labour leader is a passionate defender of migrants’ rights – Brexit shouldn’t distract the new left movement from that.

Something strange is happening on the British left – a kind of deliberate collective amnesia. During the EU referendum, the overwhelming majority of the left backed Remain.

Contrary to a common myth, both Jeremy Corbyn and the movement behind him put their weight into a campaign that argued forcefully for internationalism, migrants’ rights and regulatory protections.

And yet now, as Labour’s policy on Brexit hardens, swathes of the left appear to be embracing Lexit, and a set of arguments which they would have laughed off stage barely a year ago.

The example of free movement is glaring and obvious, but worth rehashing. When Labour went into the 2017 general election promising to end free movement with the EU, it did so with a wider election campaign whose tone was more pro-migrant than any before it.

Nonetheless, the policy itself, along with restricting migrants’ access to public funds, stood in a long tradition of Labour triangulating to the right on immigration for electorally calculated reasons. When Ed Miliband promised “tough controls on immigration”, the left rightly attacked him.  

The result of this contradiction is that those on the left who want to agree unequivocally with the leadership must find left-wing reasons for doing so. And so, activists who have spent years declaring their solidarity with migrants and calling for a borderless world can now be found contemplating ways for the biggest expansion of border controls in recent British history – which is what the end of free movement would mean – to seem progressive, or like an opportunity.

The idea that giving ground to migrant-bashing narratives or being harsher on Poles might make life easier for non-EU migrants was rightly dismissed by most left-wing activists during the referendum.

Now, some are going quiet or altering course.

On the Single Market, too, neo-Lexit is making a comeback. Having argued passionately in favour of membership, both the Labour leadership and a wider layer of its supporters now argue – to some extent or another – that only by leaving the Single Market could Labour implement a manifesto.

This is simply wrong: there is very little in Labour’s manifesto that does not have an already-existing precedent in continental Europe. In fact, the levers of the EU are a key tool for clamping down on the power of big capital.

In recent speeches, Corbyn has spoken about the Posted Workers’ Directive – but this accounts for about 0.17 per cent of the workforce, and is about to be radically reformed by the European Parliament.

The dangers of this position are serious. If Labour’s leadership takes the path of least resistance on immigration policy and international integration, and its support base rationalises these compromises uncritically, then the logic of the Brexit vote – its borders, its affirmation of anti-migrant narratives, its rising nationalist sentiment – will be mainlined into Labour Party policy.

Socialism in One Country and a return to the nation state cannot work for the left, but they are being championed by the neo-Lexiteers. In one widely shared blogpost on Novara Media, one commentator even goes as far as alluding to Britain’s Road to Socialism – the official programme of the orthodox Communist Party.

The muted and supportive reaction of Labour’s left to the leadership’s compromises on migration and Brexit owes much to the inept positioning of the Labour right. Centrists may gain personal profile and factional capital when the weaponising the issue, but the consequences have been dire.

Around 80 per cent of Labour members still want a second referendum, and making himself the “stop Brexit” candidate could in a parallel universe have been Owen Smith’s path to victory in the second leadership election.

But it meant that in the summer of 2016, when the mass base of Corbynism hardened its factional resolve, it did so under siege not just from rebelling MPs, but from the “Remoaners” as well.

At every juncture, the strategy of the centrist Labour and media establishment has made Brexit more likely. Every time a veteran of the New Labour era – many of whom have appalling records on, for instance, migrants’ rights – tells Labour members to fight Brexit, party members run a mile.

If Tony Blair’s messiah complex was accurate, he would have saved us all a long time ago – by shutting up and going away. The atmosphere of subterfuge and siege from MPs and the liberal press has, by necessity, created a culture of loyalty and intellectual conformity on the left.

But with its position in the party unassailable, and a radical Labour government within touching distance of Downing Street, the last thing the Labour leadership now needs is a wave of Corbynite loyalty-hipsters hailing its every word.

As the history of every attempt to form a radical government shows, what we desperately need is a movement with its own internal democratic life, and an activist army that can push its leaders as well as deliver leaflets for them.

Lexit is no more possible now than it was during the EU referendum, and the support base of the Labour left and the wider party is overwhelmingly in favour of free movement and EU membership.

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are passionate, principled advocates for migrants’ rights and internationalism. By showing leadership, Labour can once again change what is electorally possible.