[Marxism] Racism and the working class [WAS Re: Class and race and gender]

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Tue Jun 22 20:15:13 MDT 2004

To try and broaden this discussion, I wondered people's thoughts on the rise
of support for the far-right amongst some working-class people?  That's
certainly been the case in Britain recently, with the ever-increasing and
ominous rise of the British National Party.  Obviously we need to fight this
to the last, but can hardly avoid the question of why they draw their
support particularly from the working-classes?  Liberal middle class people
use this fact as another weapon for proclaiming their own superiority
(actually their racism is just as prevalent, just not expressed in quite
such direct terms).

But this does provide us with a dilemma; when fighting the rise of extreme
racism on the ground, mightn't we be complicit in simply shifting the whole
onus of responsibility onto the working classes, and as such exacerbating
the type of division amongst working class people that the ruling classes
most want?  Is it not possible that while the conditions of working-class
oppression remain, the possibility of their consciousness being cynically
appropriated by the far right always remains?  And rather than hating and
berating working class racists, we should be trying to convert them to
socialist thinking instead (which, I know, sounds hopelessly idealistic, and
in the short term everything possible needs to be done to protect black and
Asian people from racist oppression and violence)?

I don't have a firm answer to these questions (and certainly wouldn't want
to make light work of them), just looking for a variety of opinions.  I do
gather that the basis of support for many of the far-right parties (who have
a greater, but totally false, veneer of 'respectability') in continental
Europe is centered more upon the lower middle classes.  Why is Britain
different in this respect?


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