The Left must face the truth about UKIP’s working class support

June 8, 2014 at 4:12 pm (AWL, class, elections, Europe, immigration, labour party, populism, posted by JD, unions, workers)

Words of wisdom from Dave Kirk at Workers Liberty:

Pointing the finger: the Ukip poster for the European elections has caused controversy

Above: UKIP’s appeal to angry British workers

In the left’s comments on UKIP “surge” there is much about anger and disenchantment with mainstream politics.

It is true that there is an understandable revulsion against the politicians and parties whose policies and ideology accelerated the effects of the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s.

Tom Walker talks about that anger in his article for Left Unity.

Walker sees UKIP’s support as primarily a repository for anger with the mainstream that is channelled against migrants, minorities and Europe by UKIP. He argues that a strong “populist” party of the left could channel that anger to progressive ends.

Other left commentators have argued a similar thing about the nearly two thirds of voters who abstained in the election. That many of them could be won over by a convincing left party, if it existed.

I think this is dangerous wishful thinking that ignores ideology. Neo-liberal, pro-austerity and anti-migrant ideas are the ruling and largely unchallenged ideas of the age. It would be patronising and wrong to think those working-class voters who voted UKIP were duped into voting for a neo-liberal anti-migrant party. They must to some degree be convinced by, share and reproduce those ideas.

We would also be kidding ourselves if we thought that non-voters shared a form of left wing anti-austerity politics rather then reflecting the balance of ideology amongst those who do vote.

We can win these people to independent working class politics, but we must face facts squarely. Those who vote UKIP or are so despairing that they do not vote are much further from socialism then most Labour voters or Green voters.

Anger is not enough to win people to socialism. We must consciously build a socialist mass movement, a socialist press, a system of socialist education.

To do this the fight to transform the existing organisations of the working class, the unions, is key. It will also require a fight in the political organisation most left-wing workers still look to, the Labour Party.




  2. Howard Fuller said,

    At last some rational comments on UKIP. I noticed even in my own PCS Branch that there were members voting for UKIP, not all white either it has to be said.

    “Socialism”, whatever that is actually supposed to mean these days, is not an automatic appeal to most people, let alone trade union members any more. It raises more thoughts of the old Soviet Union in most minds. It seems somewhat old fashioned even.

    I declare that I do not consider myself a socialist. Social Democrat would seem more appropriate and like most of my work colleagues do not consider it to be racist or even anti-migrant in any shape or form to believe in some form of immigration controls. That’s the reality of how people think outside the closeted world of the “left”.

    Shouting “racist” at people who voted UKIP is actually likely to be counter-productive. There may be racists in UKIP, but their ideology is more petty nationalist than anything else.

    There is no alternative to the Labour Party, but its “traditional base” cannot win elections alone. The old days have long gone, its time for some new and freethinking on what comes next.

    Tom Walker and his Left Unity mates are just in a cul-de-sac going nowhere.

    One final comment. Its secular education that is needed these days.

    • Mike Killingworth said,

      Well I suppose I am much the same as Howard, politically. “Socialism” is a perfect system that doesn’t really suit imperfect people. It is, after all, racist (and therefore anti-socialist) to prefer one’s own children to other people’s – but it’s the way we’re built, however we describe ourselves.

      May I also ask Howard to explain how he sees the differences between grand and petty nationalisms, and between the petty sort and racism? I think that even social democrats can do better than irrational labelling.

  3. The Left must face the truth about UKIP’s working class support | OzHouse said,

    […] Jun 08 2014 by admin […]

  4. Bill Chapman said,

    I think that UKIP will not last long once the character of some of its MEPs and councillors is revealed. See, for example:

  5. Andrew Coates said,

    A thought-provoking post.

    It’s indeed hard to think that people’s anger can be simply be transferred from UKIP to the left, and, apart from accepting austerity arguments, there is a visceral patriotism (a very negative ‘patriotism’) at work as well.

    The organisations that do things that could at least relate to a broad constituencies that might offer some way of building a left alternative are unions, not small left parties. I consider the People’s Assembly part of this as well (round here solidly union and not faction based).

    On secular education btw, here are some first principle thoughts:

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