Thursday 29 April 2010

I'm Not Racist, But ...

Guest post from Brother G

One week before a General Election, arguably the most important and controversial election in many years, one might expect the airwaves to be awash with analysis, speculation and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flurry of policy detail, rally reports and grave-sounding public statements on everything from ash clouds over Iceland to storm clouds over Greece.

Imagine my surprise then, when I turned on BBC News last night and instead of being confronted with the usual fare of George Osborne looking like a rabbit caught in a headlight, or Chris Grayling firing off inaccurate crime statistics like some sort of shit Rain Man, I was treated to 45 minutes of rabid journalists huddled around a closed front door in Rochdale.

The discerning and well-informed readership of AVPS will obviously know all about BigotGate by now. In fact even my mother had heard about it within the first hour, a sure sign of media saturation if ever there was one. In an attempt at damage control, Gordon Brown has since made a formal apology, not just to the ‘bigoted’ Gillian Duffy but to the entire Labour Party membership. But does he have anything to be sorry about?

Dave at Though Cowards Flinch has produced a
good piece on the issue where he talks about the way in which such behaviour demonstrates the disconnect that exists between the political class and the electorate. But is that disconnection really unique to the political class, and does such a disconnection justify the ignorant stance on immigration displayed by Ms. Duffy?

The truth of the matter is that Gillian Duffy’s attack on Eastern European immigration was bigoted. Given that, is Brown not justified in calling a spade a spade? Why should someone feel obliged to apologise for the hurt feelings of someone whose words would, for many people, be much more offensive than an off-the-cuff remark by Gordon Brown? Likewise, this occasion certainly wouldn’t be the first (or last) time that campaigners (myself included) have had a good rant about the electorate on the campaign trail. The truth is we are all prone to outbursts against those we disagree with, especially when we think noone is listening. If dismissing people who say racist things as racists is evidence of disconnection, I must confess that I have fallen into the trap myself on occasion, despite the evident oversimplification that such a view demonstrates.

That said, there are two issues here that need to be confronted. The first is that if Gordon Brown is so vehemently opposed to this sort of anti-Immigrant vitriol, why did he not confront it head on? There have been many occasions, on stalls and on the doorsteps, where I’ve been confronted with individuals saying far nastier things than Ms. Duffy. In many cases, explaining the genuine issues around immigration and dispelling the illusion that it is migrant workers who are the guilty party causes these individuals to rethink their position. Even in those instances where the individual turns out to be a hard-bitten racist, you can still take pleasure in the fact that you put forward your argument and stood your ground. In refusing to do this, Gordon Brown took the coward’s way out.

This gives rise to the second issue. One of the reasons why reactionary attitudes like this are so prevalent is that the Labour Party, in its position as the main ‘progressive’ force in British politics, has consistently failed to lay out a positive argument for immigration. Time and time again the three main parties have pandered to the nationalist sentiments of the right-wing media, a fact that can be seen with nauseating clarity in the first leadership debate in which Brown and Cameron went toe to toe in order to prove who could punish foreign people more. The truth is that for all his apparent disdain for bigotry, Gordon Brown has played a fundamental role in its rise.

If the Labour Party really wants to end this ‘bigotry’, we need to be prepared to fight our corner when it comes to immigration. If we continue to let the Right dictate the state of play, the result can only be more intolerance and fear. We should be prepared to confront all those, both inside and outside the Labour Party, who would seek to scapegoat foreign workers for the problems caused by the system in which we live.

It remains to be seen what impact, if any, this event will go on to have in the election. While we can undoubtedly look forward to a plethora of front-page headlines it is likely most people will see the event for what it is, a minor gaffe in an election where there are big consequences to be had. And besides, it wont be the first time we’ve had bigotry plastered all over the front page of
The Sun.

But if today’s events do cause an upset in the polls, I might have a few choice words for the electorate myself.


SamG said...

I get the feeling certain elements within Middle England will be happy to see the hypocrite Brown slagging off the 'bigoted prole monster' that he helped create.

So despite the fact that he looked shambolic, spineless and laughable by yesterdays events, I don't yet know how this will play out in the polls.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


Although Brown's words were harsh the women is a bigot, why is calling her so a problem?

Boffy said...

I agree with much of the sentiment here as I wrote yesterday on my blogs, Chickens Come Home To Roost, and Media Hypocrisy.

The reality is that the LP as a BOURGEOIS Workers Party cannot argue a consistent case for immigration, because to do so requires explaining that the real cause of unemployment is not women taking men's jobs, old people taking young people's jobs, disabled people taking able bodied people's jobs, or foreigners taking British jobs, but is the fault of an irrational Capiatlist economic system, in which the decisions are the prerogative of a tiny number of Capitalists, who base those decisions on their own self-interest, and not the prerogative of the majority of society who would otherwise take the rational decision to simply share out the work amongst the available worekrs so thaat we could all benefit from working less hard, less long!

I have outlined those arguments in more detail in my blog Bigotry, immigration & Unemployment. We can't blame the LP, or even the LP leaders for that because they like most of society including the vast majority of the working class, are dominated by bourgeois ideas - that's what makes it a bouregois workers party after all - and it is no point demnding that Gordon Brown, the LP or the working class simply doesn't hold those views. It is our job, as Marxists, instead, to change those views.

Mick Williams said...

Congratulations Phil on negotiating the first part of the learning curve that is necessary on becoming a Labour Party member.

This leads on through a 'brain-wash' phase to a terminal 'brain-dead' conclusion.

And, commendable as your work 'on the stump' may be for Tristram, you should never forget just who he is, what his privileged background will inevitably mean and just who's person he is.

Who was it who said "The New Labour project will be complete when the Party learns to love Peter Mandelson" ?

I am irresistably reminded of the closing lines from Orwell's 1984:
"Forty years it had taken him to learn just what kind of smile was hidden beneath that dark moustache. But it was all right, the struggle was finished, he had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."

Mick Williams.

Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

...In refusing to do this, Gordon Brown took the coward’s way out.

I thought that was exactly what he did do. In person his response was measured and dealt with her question about immigration.

It was only afterwards in private when he said what he really thought of her.

Phil said...

I don't see what this has got to do with the above article, Mick. But just so you know I am not Tristram's unpaid spin doctor. He has his politics and I have mine.

Phil said...

Arthur, you're dead right.

The real scandal in all this is not what Brown said in the supposed privacy of his motor, but the cynical way the Murdoch media broadcasted these off the cuff, off the record remarks.

Dave Semple said...

I don't think this woman was a bigot and we need to be careful about throwing that term around.

Is everyone who voices a concern about immigration bigoted? If so, that's a pretty big slice of the country - including a lot of people socialists hope to represent.

Not to say they are right. They aren't. But our goal then is to change minds towards a socialist conception of society. Brown can't do that, so he rhymed off an answer and was then peeved about having to address such concerns.

My answer to that is "fucking tough".

Calling people bigots also ignores the structural element to politics. Is it their failure to grasp intricate realities instead of falling in line with consensus or is it our failure to present an alternative? We should a bit of mote casting before basically saying, "Brown was right".

Anyway, it's had enough discussion time from my end.

A. Tory said...

Ah, I see politcally correct weasel label number 3. is back, I thought "rascist" (P.C word number 1. followed by "climate change-denier") was the left-wing intimidation pejorative of choice but apparently "bigot" (previously only applied to the last vestiges of British Christian society who refuse to salute homosexuals in the street or some such "progressive" modernist tripe)is back. Heaven forfend a life-long Labour voter should not want to kneel before the altar of internationalism and swallow every last drop of psudo-communist guff about immigration having no negativ effects that dogs in the street and retards with no grasp of simple logic know to be bollocks.

Bishpeeps said...

What a bunch of wet liberals you are. GB showed a Stalinistic attitude to working people, represented by Gillian: how dare one of these grubby people challenge me?
He should have been eager to convince her by way of his socialist argument. But there's the problem. He has none, because he isn't one, so called her names.
A now you've got a Very Public Berk deffending him. Sad.

Richard said...

It's worse than the failure of the Labour Party to advocate for immigrants. They have abandoned the field to the LibDems, who at least try to do it, in the face of Brown's pandering to people like Duffy (while calling them bigots out of earshot) thus opening a pathway for some disaffected leftists to vote for a party with a free market economic policy.

But, over here, we have own problem in Arizona, with a President that won't do anything about it, either.

Phil said...

Don't feed the trolls, comrades.

Anonymous said...

Not even a carrot?

thinkingdifference said...

As I'm reading this blog post, there's a commercial on TV saying "come to X university where you can talk about religion and your personal views will be respected". Political correctness aside, the discourse that this ad adopts is not dissimilar from what this post discussed: if all opinions are to be respected, this includes the bigot and racist opinions as well. Maybe that's a reason why the PM had to apologize.