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Friday, May 20, 2005

Communalism in East London

The British general election last week was, for the most part, quite predictable. It was not much of a surprise that the Labour Party squeaked back into parliament with a vastly reduced majority, set against sizeable gains for both the Tories and the Lib Dems. One of the most sensational stories was the victory of George Galloway over Labour's Oona King in the East London constituency of Bethnal Green & Bow. George Galloway, I am sure that I don't need to tell my readers, is quite the controversial character (have a look at Harry's Place to see the effect he has on some people). A staunch left-winger and a long-term supporter of the Palestinian cause, he was kicked out of the Labour Party in October 2003 due to his vitriolic statements against the Iraqi War. He has since become the public face of the Respect party, a new left(ish) political party created by (principally) the Socialist Workers Party and the Muslim Association of Britain (the British branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) following the enormous anti-war demonstrations that they organized in the months preceding the US-led invasion of Iraq. It is, indeed, an odd marriage of Trotskyites and Islamists. Anyways, despite lacking any real connections to Bethnal Green & Bow, Galloway stood in the constituency because he is by far the biggest name in the party and because it is an area with one of the largest Muslim populations in the entire UK. Around 40% of the registered voters in the constituency are Muslims of (primarily) Bangladeshi origin, and they were the driving force behind Galloway's upset victory.

Essentially, from what I've read, Galloway's campaign was essentially run as a local referendum on the Iraq War, and he more or less explicitly targeted his campaigning squarely at the local Bengali Muslim community, while ignoring the indigenous white working class. Galloway, a Catholic, opens his meetings with the traditional Islamic greeting salaam aleikum, has pressed much flesh with local Muslim dignitaries, and even flew to Bangladesh to do some meet-n-greets, press the flesh, and get into the local news. This is one of the things that I really dislike about Respect, that it has the tendency to adopt explicitly communalist politics and attempt to appeal to voters on the basis of their ethnic or religious identity. Anyone who has read through my archives will know how much I hate identity politics.

On quite a few occassions Respect has produced election literature specifically on international Muslim issues, appealing for votes on issues of Muslim emotion, not nuts and bolts local needs. For instance, the leaflet produced for distribution in local mosques in the Stratford constituency has no mention of local issues like education, crime, housing, health care, or anything like that, purely 'Muslim' issues (another good example is a leaflet produced for Paddy O'Keefe, who was standing in Hove, which only mentions his pro-Muslim credentials). According to the (admittedly quite right-wing and anti-Muslim) columnist Melanie Phillips, in Birmingham Sparkbrook the Respect candidate, Salma Yacoub, spent the lion's share of her time campaigning on Iraq and Kashmir (because most of the Muslims in the area are originally from the disputed state of Kashmir). It's hard to know how accurate all this is, but it's worth looking at the comments from Cheetah on this post from Harry's Place, as well as her own campaign literature (see here, here, here, and here).

In and of itself, such stuff is merely annoying, but I think it's fairly worrying for another reason. If ethnic or religious minorities are seen to be becoming increasingly radicalized and voting for candidates from a party that set this community's issues at the top of its agenda, I believe that, in the long term, this merely plays into the hands of extreme far right groups like the British National Party, who have had growing success in the last half-decade from pushing their own brand of white communalism. Starting from a much more explicitly racist and neo-Nazi position, since the election of life-long racist activist Nick Griffin to the party chairmanship in 1997 the BNP has gained a growing number of votes by moderating (relatively speaking, of course) its rhetoric and abandoning policies like compulsory repatriation for all non-whites in an effort to bring the party more into line with successful European far-right organizations like Le Front National in France, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, and the Danish People's Party in Denmark. The BNP did fairly respectably in this election, in comparison to their consistent wipeouts at previous elections, with their best result coming only a couple of miles east of Bethnal Green and Bow in the Barking constituency, where they took nearly 17% of the vote, and were only narrowly beaten out of second place by the Tories. Barking is something of a 'white flight' area on the London/Essex border that has absorbed a lot of East End whites who've left closer-in East London neighborhoods in recent decades. Areas like Barking, mostly white working or lower middle class near more multi-ethnic neighborhoods, seem to be where the BNP have had the most success in recent years. While I don't think that the BNP will ever get into government, I would not be surprised if they continue to grow (indeed they polled nearly a million votes at the last European elections). Why? Well, I think that it's the logical outcome of a multiculturalism that tells people that they have to 'preserve their culture', whatever that means. If you have the media, national and local government, academia, and armies of social workers talking about the necessity of preserving identities and endlessly talking about the importance of respecting racial, ethnic, and religious identities, you are giving enormous power to these identities, to anti-individualistic communal vagaries. When this happens, as it has, it should come as no surprise that, eventually, a certain amount of people in the white majority will then say "what about us? What about our culture/identity/whatever?" Personally, I don't really care about 'white culture' or 'white history' or white anything, but then I don't care about anyone else's silly emotional attachments to some perceived group whatever. But for those people who espouse identity politics for minority groups, who think it's a good thing, it's pretty ridiculous to then act surprised when some whites foolishly decide to get in the same game.

In this context it is not surprising (at all) that the BNP were quite pleased with Galloway's victory:

The future for British politics is the growth in support and power of the ethno-specific political parties like the BNP, the Peoples' Justice Party and Respect. As parties like Respect grow in power and influence and further radicalise the ethnic communities they represent, then the indigenous British White community of Britain will come to understand that they can no longer avoid the politics of Identity Politics for themselves. The White middle class Liberal Fascists that only ever attack the BNP for defending the interests of the indigenous White community of Britain can now no longer attack us for doing so as the Asian Muslim community is doing the exact same thing in its community. The success of Respect is the end of the
White Liberal Consensus on Multi-Culturalism. It is an irony of history that the first ethnic community to throw off the yoke of Multi-Culturalism and openly embrace Identity Politics by getting an elected representative in Parliament are the Asian Muslim immigrants themselves and their white, self hating, communist collaborators.


The growth of Identity Politics amongst the Asian Muslim community is a welcome sign of the disintegration of the Liberal Consensus on Multi-Culturalism. When the Asian Muslims themselves reject the multi-cultural social model and embrace political parties that link politics with ethnicity then it becomes increasingly ridiculous and hypocritical for the media to attack the BNP for defending the interests of our community; the White indigenous British National Community. The fact that the BNP is called 'racist' for politically representing the interests of the indigenous White community whilst Respect is not is a sign of the inherent anti-white racism of the
media against indigenous whites. The next time the media call the BNP racist we will respond by calling them the real racists. Why should the indigenous white people of Britain be the only ethnic group denied a political party to represent their specific ethnic interests as a community? To do so is racist. This election is a triumph for the BNP. Even the mainstream media have to report that this election has shown the growing power of the BNP, as is seen here on the BBC website and in the Guardian.

Grim tidings, eh?

Speaking personally, I don't like exclusivist identity politics in any shape or form, but I particularly loathe the sort of 'white nationalism' espoused by groups like the BNP in Britain or on websites like Stormfront here in the US. Why? Well, it's quite simple. Islamist groups aren't speaking for me. I think they are monsters, but they aren't claiming to speak for me. Black nationalist groups like the Nation of Islam aren't speaking for me. But I'm white, and Christian, so the idea that dickheads like the BNP or David Duke or whoever else of that ilk could claim to speak for me and represent me because we share skin tones and similar (more or less) ethno-religious backgrounds really makes my blood boil. Yet that is a personal, emotional response. Looking at it from a more detached perspective, on a philosophical level all of these kinds of exclusivist politics based around an emotional appeal to irrational commitments to blood and/or faith are all equally monstrous. It is not healthy for such ideas, of militant difference based around unchangeable characteristics, to gain a foothold in societies that are growing more heterogenous. It's not like the track record for diverse societies where communalism plays a major role in politics has been all that good in recent history. A brief look at Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Northern Ireland, or Nigeria (amongst others) shows the dangers of entrenching communal divisions as a normal part of the political process. Obviously, it would be a reach to say that fifty years down the line England will experience something similar to the convulsions that hit those states, but nevertheless these scattered results, to me, represent what perhaps may be the beginnings of something nastier in the future. Hopefully I am wildly wrong, and when I am old I can look back at this as so much silliness. Diverse societies can work, but they require effort and they almost never succeed when these divisions are played up.

|| RPH || 6:20 AM || |