Sunday, 17 October 2010

Tea, Cake and Lunacy.

Easy Answers.

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, and the subsequent recession, the working-classes of Britain and America are still in a crisis of unemployment and stagnant wages supplemented with credit cards and loans. Most notably the Tea Party movement in the US and the English Defence League in Britain which are now forging an alliance in the name of defending Anglo-American values from Islamism. Though the Tea Party and the English Defence League have little in common, except when it comes down to foreign policy, border security, immigration, political-correctness and multiculturalism. Take economics, where the Tea Parties are free-market fundamentalists, the EDL are lacking any official position on economic policy. Just going by the chants of "British jobs for British workers!" it's likely that the EDL do not share the Tea Party's love of privatisation and deregulation.

Interestingly the membership of both groups at first appears quite different, a rabble of gun-toting survivalists and Christian extremists on one side; a mass of football hooligans and neo-fascists on the other. But both movements are of the working-class which has become superfluous in an economy based on finance and banking. Entire industries like manufacturing and mining have gone into decline, which has devastated whole communities. These communities have been reduced to "pockets of deprivation" where the unemployed fester and pensioners rot. People trapped in such "pockets" look for an answer and, naturally, the mass-media has an answer: it's not the economy, it's immigrants, it's single mums etc. The assumption being that the economic system would work perfectly if it were not for some "meddlesome entity" like immigrants, gays etc. When in fact there are systemic problems within the economy, which have nothing to do with any of these groups.

The rage of the working-class is real and based on legitimate grievances going back to the 1970s, when the assault was first made on the welfare state. The reactionary press has focused on directing all of this anger against the government, whether it be the welfare state or immigration policy. The aim being to distract from real sources of problems in our society. The MP expenses scandal was used by the press to direct anger away from the £7 billion that bankers are receiving in bonuses. In fact if the expenses system was scrapped it would likely leave politicians more likely to jump into the pockets of lobbyists. Though serious reforms to the expenses system are needed such reforms are irrelevant, compared to the kind of changes we need to made in banking. It was the financial sector that have dispossessed people of housing, work and even pensions in some cases.

The media loves to direct rage from the grass-roots against government and unions because the state is potentially democratic and the labour movement is democratic. Businesses on the other hand are pure tyranny, there are no elections and the decisions come from the top if you're disobedient you could lose your job. Other favourite scapegoats include single-parent families, anti-social youths, foreigners, ethnic and religious minorities. But never a bank or a corporation, except in cases where it's against one person like Fred Goodwin or Dick Fuld. The media is a lot like a conveyor-belt on which moral panics are fed to the public, keeping a lot of us in a perpetual state of fear and anger. This is so successful because the readership are constantly working to sustain themselves. So they do not have the time to carry out a research project to filter through all of the nonsense, so lots of people just assume it's true what they read in the press.

Know-Nothing Solidarity.

The scapegoats, that were conjured up by the media, for the EDL and the Tea Parties are Muslims and Mexicans. The EDL claims that the government has pandered to Muslims, giving them special treatment and in doing so is trampling on English culture. The Tea Parties believe that Mexican illegal immigrants are responsible for crime, job losses, wage cuts and the decline of health-care. Similar claims are also made by the press in Britain. But this is no different than the "Know-Nothing" movement of the 19th Century who thought that the influx of German and Irish immigrants would turn the US into a "Catholic country". It was even feared that the Pope was trying to destroy American democracy. Of course none of this happened, but the fears were a result of real grievances such as poverty and unemployment. This was the reason that shops would hang signs in windows stating "No dogs, no Irish." Then towards the end of the 19th Century the Chinese became the new scapegoat and  a racial exclusion act was passed in 1892, banning the Chinese from migrating to the US.

Xenophobia, specifically with the Muslim community as a scapegoat, is the primary characteristic of the EDL. The Tea Party, on the other hand, opts for a strain of nationalist populism branded as a fusion of rugged individuality and Puritan family values, all protected by a strong defence and a militarised border. The EDL lacks a platform so the "bridge" between the Tea Parties and the EDL is Pamela Geller, the leader of 'Stop the Islamization of America' - an organisation modelled on 'Stop the Islamification of Europe'. Geller gained salience in the Tea Party after leading the march against the "Ground Zero Mosque". Though it should be noted that this so-called "mosque" is actually an Islamic Cultural Centre open to all. It will have a restaurant and a basketball court as well as prayer rooms for Muslims, Jews and Christians. Not only is it not a mosque it's not even at Ground Zero, it's two blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.

This standard of nonsense is what has accelerated the Tea Party's rise to prominence and influence in America, but also what feeds the racism of the EDL. Some commentators have speculated that the Tea Party could emerge as a third-party in the future. The Tea Parties are becoming a political force in America, due to the financial backing by billionaires like the Koch brothers. Similarly the EDL is being funded by sympathetic elements of the business community in the UK. However, the EDL is lacking the level of support from the media to achieve the prominence that the Tea Party movement has gained. It could be that the alliance forged between the EDL and the Tea Parties is nothing more than short-sighted opportunism. It is unlikely that the relationship between the two movements could be sustained into the long-term future. Especially as the Tea Party may have weakened itself by associating with a movement of football thugs and neo-Nazis.

Historically there have been two faces of anti-capitalism to emerge during recessions, fascism and socialism. The fascists saw liberalism as bougeois a system as communism was a proletarian movement. Instead fascists situated themselves in the "centre" and sought to transcend class boundaries, whilst upholding an authoritarian hierarchy, for the sake of national solidarity. Socialism, on the other hand, seeks the emancipation of the working-class through the end of capitalism. The emergence of extreme right-wing groups like the EDL should be understood in this historical context. Whereas the ideologues of the Tea Party are out to reaffirm capitalism as it was before the crisis, not as the utopian free-market idealised by many of it's activists. The connection between the two groups could be exploited by the Democrats, which is why the Tea Party will probably dump the EDL. We should be relieved as nothing could from an alliance founded under the slogan "Angry White Men of the World, Unite!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I fool interpret a few of the articles on your website at this very moment, and I really like your fashionableness of blogging. I added it to my favorites trap period list and disposition be checking promote soon. Divert contain in view my position as highly and let me conscious what you think. Thanks.