The Racist Narrative

September 24, 2008

Out canvassing in Clerkenwell, in a towerblock. I knock on the door of a white woman in late middle age, who doesn’t seem particularly pleased to see me. This is nothing new, canvassers are used to being greeted with low level suspicion. I begin my spiel, and ask a few questions about issues affecting the local area.

“Well,” she began, and her eyes darted across the hallway to the door opposite, which a black woman talking loudly into a mobile phone had just entered. “You wouldn’t like it if I told you what’s wrong around here.”

“From your tone, I’m sure I can guess.”

“You know, my daughter, who’s got two little girls, can’t get anything. And Them across the way never do a stroke. That door just bangs all day long”

In Islington, whenever anyone who lives on an estate is talking to someone associated with politics and says something about ‘getting anything’ they mean social housing. It later transpired that her daughter did indeed have ‘something’, which was a one bedroom flat. But since she had two daughters of her own, she wanted more.

I did some further digging. She had voted Lib Dem all her life, up until the last election. She didn’t want to tell me who she’d gone for. But, she said, “I bet you can guess.” And I could. In Clerkenwell, and the rest of old Finsbury, the socialist vote is divided between Labour and the Independent Working Class Association. The IWCA is, in essence, a communist version of the BNP. They employ the same standard of thuggish activists and are only missing an additional ‘W’ from their acronym to sum up what they represent. They do have something else in common with the BNP, and that’s their narrative.

Right now in the campaigning world there’s a lot of people still having Obamagasms over the way in which the candidates have conducted themselves in the US presidential elections. I’ve written about this before, but what seems to have been missed in all the fuss and bother over the narratives of the main parties is that the far right has been using this approach for some time, and it’s been effective. We’ve missed this for several reasons; partly because the things they say on the doorstep don’t get back to us in the way that their campaign literature does, but also because mainstream politicians have a well justified loathing of the BNP and what they stand for. We don’t want to believe that they’re capable of using the same political tricks as lovely Obama.

But they have, and what they’ve done is very clever – in a rather sickening way. The narrative goes like this. The bourgeoisie brought foreign workers over to undercut the wages asked for by British workers. The foreigners are now taking the jobs and the resources (e.g. housing) that should be going to people from round here. When you complain to the Government, they say you’re being racist. But racism is something invented by the bourgeoisie to stop you complaining about Them coming in and taking our jobs and houses. Only the BNP/IWCA are telling the truth about what’s really happening.

It’s a classic Marxist analysis of power; the bourgeoisie are using social ethics to control the working classes. If it’s made immoral to complain about resources being given to Them, then the working classes can no longer do it.

Of course, this is ridiculous. Distributing resources on racial lines is immoral however you cast it. But it’s a narrative that can be seductive for those whose lives are directly affected by inadequate social resources. When someone mutters darkly that there would be enough housing for your daughter to have a place that’ll fit her and her kids if They weren’t here, you’re more inclined to agree if you’re a Clerkenwell grandmother than if you’re a suburban teacher. And it is true that if They left there would be enough social housing in London for the white working classes.

The fact that that social housing wouldn’t be there in the first place if not for the additional wealth brought in by importing workers is neither here nor there; macroeconomic arguments have little relevance for the grannies of Clerkenwell. And outright condemnation of those espousing the racist narrative does nothing except play into the hands of the racists; it’s what results in the response “Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you? Try living down here,”on the doorstep.

I still do not think that the BNP will ever be a major party. But, at present, we are not countering the racist narrative. We need to do better.

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4 Responses to “The Racist Narrative”

  1. John said

    I think with Obama sometimes the means justify the ends – the US is so behind the curve when it comes to social liberalism whether it be healthcare, fair taxation, cultural discourse, minority rights and social security I’m not that bothered that he says these things. The alternative is just too awful to contemplate – just more of the same money going to the super-rich to create another bust that affects us here. More money going into the pockets Clinton-style of `middle-class Americans` can only help us here even just in mood music.

    As for the BNP – I work in the Party’s telephone operations here in the NW and it’s now commonplace in places like Burnley etc when the voter says they `haven’t made up their mind` or `it’s between you and another party` to casually throw in `could it be Labour or BNP perhaps?` – as if you were asking for a cup of tea. I know this doesn’t answer your narrative problem – it does though offer a solution on Voter ID.

    I think we just have to push the `Make it happen` policies that suit and hope for the best – is there really an answer to these voters? I sometimes think that nothing would really suit except some Marxist logic and nothing will ever be enough. I’m not saying that woman you spoke to shouldn’t be engaged – after all, it’s the lack of means really.

  2. Joe Otten said

    While social housing and housing in general are in short supply – as they always seem to be; policies which increase the demand (or allow the demand to increase) without increasing the supply, are indeed ignoring the interests of the working classes, of all races.

    We middle classes would not put up with our pots of state largesse being shared out more widely. We care less about the shortage of housing, too many of us irrationally quite like it.

  3. […] The Racist Narrative on a Liberal Democrat Organiser’s Decline of the Logos blog. Racism, the housing crisis and the […]

  4. “It’s a classic Marxist analysis of power; the bourgeoisie are using social ethics to control the working classes.”
    …which is funny

    “Of course, this is ridiculous. Distributing resources on racial lines is immoral however you cast it.”

    “Of course” (?!)
    [I’m always suspicious of certainty: it smacks of religion…]
    Doesn’t it depend on how you define “moral”?

    I can’t seem to pin down any definition of morality (i.e.: what “good” actually means) that isn’t ultimately ethnocentric – unless you take recourse to the supernatural axiom.
    It starts to make much more sense when you define “good” as meaning “adaptive”, in the Darwinian sense… it helps make sense of otherwise confusing behaviour, as being part of inclusive fitness related to how you define your identity (and how it is defined for you) in connexion with a group or groups.

    I think the thing you are missing here is that what looks like a poor fool being seduced by the “dark side of the force”, is actually at it’s core an unarticulated conflict between ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism.

    It goes to the whole notion of what a country is… civic national identity is basically represented by America (and similar “new” nations): not much different from a corporation; ethnic national identity is the “old” world of tribes: the genes that comprise your very body; what you see when you look in the mirror; your biological parents, and the same drive that fuels genealogy; the part of the earth that an intrinsic part of your identity can never escape.
    The conflict in Europe is one of trying to imprint a “new” world civic nationhood atop “old” world ethnic nationhood… when this happened in the other direction, it involved genocide and slavery (Americas, Austrialia, Russian far east, as well as Africa), and was called colonialism.

    Here’s an older “Racist Narrative”:
    “Another cause of revolution is difference of races which do not at once acquire a common spirit; for a state is not the growth of a day, any more than it grows out of a multitude brought together by accident. Hence the reception of strangers in colonies, either at the time of their foundation or afterwards, has generally produced revolution; for example, the Achaeans who joined the Troezenians in the foundation of Sybaris, becoming later the more numerous, expelled them; hence the curse fell upon Sybaris. At Thurii the Sybarites quarrelled with their fellow-colonists; thinking that the land belonged to them, they wanted too much of it and were driven out.”

    Aristotle, “Politics”, Part III, Book V (4th century BC).

    Of course, we know now that there isn’t really such a thing as “race” (there’s a bit more to it than that); so what you describe as “racist”, is probably more accurately described as “ethnic”… and more of a general “human” thing… Kikuyus and Luos in Kenya; Tibetans and Chinese; Yugoslavia; the Caucasus; Israel-Palestine; Kurds, Armenians, Greeks and Turks; Japs and Koreans; Thais and Khmers; Javanese and Madurese… the list really does go on.

    It might help if people stopped using this anachronistic monochrome relic of the 18th century and formative America (i.e.: the contrived concepts of “whiteness” and “blackness”), and recognise the human behaviour that’s going on here, instead of just vilifying inarticulate people who exist in a different world of priorities, with a fashionable self-righteous mock-liberal diatribe.

    …I sometimes wonder, of all these people who chant these inscrutable mantras like “celebrate diversity”, how many actually live inamongst those whom they defend and decry; or whether they tend to live at a safe and comfortable distance.

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