Wednesday 15 July 2009

Neil Clark, the universal franchise and the BNP

This is a very serious post, and it seems appropriate to drop the tag previously applied to Neil Clark.

He might attack New Labour for ignoring the wishes of a majority of the electorate over the war in Iraq. More generally, he might point out the apparent contradiction between polling data in which the public favour the reintroduction of the death penalty and it is resisted by parliamentarians. Despite his claim to be a "democratic socialist", Clark's own commitment to the universal franchise can be doubted. His socialism is actually non-existent.

Not once voicing any criticism of the BNP in his First Post article of June 8 2009, he claimed:
Since the 1960s, as European Left parties have gradually become more middle class, they have gradually lost their link with their indigenous working-class voters.
So the main party of the Left in the UK should not have identified with people of overseas descent who, naturalized or born here, also have the vote? Now constituting about 8% of the population, often in urban seats which Labour will need to hold onto in the 2010 general election, or to whom the Conservatives will need to appeal if they are to form a government, Clark blithely ignores a section of the population which a genuine 'leftie', unreconstructed or otherwise, would not do.

Perhaps he thinks ethnic groups are second class citizens who should not be allowed to vote. This is a fair conclusion to draw as we shall see. Clark supports the attitude peddled by the BNP that it "[combines] traditional left-wing anti-capitalist and anti-globalist economic policies, with unequivocal opposition to mass immigration". This is quite wrong. For 'old Labour', immigration was an economic policy. The British Nationality Act 1948, which allowed the right of settlement, was passed during a labour shortage.

Clark’s opinion of his readers is so low he assumes we will not do some digging, or remember what he has written. He writes uncritically of the Hungarian ‘Jobbik’, as an example of a party reconnecting with the working class. He complains that the self-styled 'Movement for a Better Hungary', is denounced as "'neo-fascist'" by its opponents, and implying the left should be more like this party, wrote that it “attacked finance-driven globalisation and the 'unpatriotic' pro-globalist elite, in a way which clearly resonated with ordinary people”. In fact, it is denounced as "neo-fascist" because there are good grounds to sustain the label. It is an organisation with a paramilitary wing, supposedly being wound up under government order, which is actually being recreated under a new name. It virulently attacks ‘Roma’ in Hungary and also denounces Jews. In a visit to London in May, representatives of the party met Nick Griffin (dubious link) of the BNP. Apparently “similarities between the two parties and their aims are a promising start for co-operation between the BNP and Jobbik in the future.” Since then, according to a report on Channel Four News, relations have cooled and the two parties will not sit in the same group in the European Parliament.

What difference left-wing parties might have from those of the right is unclear, if indeed anything should really separate them at all. So we have a supposed leftist, suggesting means for left-of-centre parties to regain voters, who identifies his politics with a blatantly far-right party, but hopes no one notices. For a long time, Clark has had difficulties with political labels; in order to sustain his argument in favour of the death penalty, he once had to classify Paul Foot, the journalist and revolutionary socialist, as a “left-liberal”. It is about time Clark stopped burning his candle at both ends and dropped his pretence. It is obvious where he is on the political spectrum, and astonishing the Morning Star and the New Statesman are still prepared to publish his copy.

Update: After posting this article, I toned it down slightly to avoid comments which might be difficult to sustain and fearful of libel. I need not have bothered. Clark has an article on the 'Jobbik' website, a reprint of a First Post article on Hungary is here.