A little more than ten years ago, Brendan O’Neill and the rest of the Spiked acolytes were affirming that the working class was over, done and finished with no hope of return. They reaffirmed this at a meeting with MHI (Marxist Humanist Initiative), in March of 2015, via Alan Harding and Dr Mike Fitzpatrick.
Their main thesis was that the working class had lost all agency and sense of itself as a distinct class. This was always a dubious prospect to begin with, but that was the Spiked story and they stuck with it.
So, many of us on the left, who’d watched the political degeneration of former comrades flourish, were astonished when BoNy announced, like a triumphant member of the confederacy, hearing that “the gallant south will rise again”, that a working class movement was back, in his article for working class struggle the Spectator that “The Football Lads Alliance is a working-class movement – and the political class wants to ignore it”
What occasioned his return to the barricades was a demonstration by the so-called “Football Lads Association” (FLA), to protest against what they called “extremism”. This keys into one of Brendan’s main concerns, that people, in light of the Jihadi attacks in both Manchester and London, are not “angry” enough. Certainly the racist who drove all the way from Wales to ram his van into Muslim worshippers (who had just come from lending help to the victims of the Grenfell fire) outside Finsbury Park mosque took him to heart.
Rather than looking through the whole of the article, it will be of more use, to dissect sections of it instead. “On Saturday, London hosted one of the largest working-class demonstrations of recent years and these weepers for the voiceless said nothing. Nada. Zilch. Ah, but these were the wrong kind of working-class people. They were the Football Lads Alliance (FLA), a fascinating grassroots movement founded earlier this year to protest against terrorism and the ideologies that fuel it.”
Perhaps the reason why Theresa May, said nothing about the demo, was because, apart from the inbuilt distaste Tories have for w/c people, plans for a more authoritarian stance on extremism is in the pipeline. One needs to remind the BoNy lad, that Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary plans on restricting the encryption of WhatsApp, and ramping up the Prevent program. Two other things to note here, is his newly discovered fascination with “grass roots movements” and the fact that he in turn ignores/has forgotten there have been several demonstrations organised by the left and trade unions, that has put the numbers of these, ‘Freikorps’ wannabes in the shade. One of them was, ironically in Manchester, shortly after the concert bombing where there were a number of peace demos and benefit concerts
He said, “An estimated 10,000 fans brought Park Lane to a standstill. Rival fans, from Spurs, West Ham, Leeds and other teams, rubbed shoulders, held wreaths in the colours of their clubs, and listened peacefully as speakers railed against hateful extremism and slammed the branding of people who criticise Islamism as ‘Islamophobic’”. In the pubs as the rally drew to a close, several fights broke out between the fans. It must also be noted that in peace rallies in Manchester and London, after the bombings and stab attacks, etc. wreathes were laid, a respectful silence was held and speakers called out against Jihadist violence, so what is BoNy’s issue here?
The FLA founder, who has a very shady history all of his own, stated to loud cheers that, “We want all suspected terrorists who are not British citizens to be permanently removed from the country,” and that “Why should they be allowed to come over here? They’re not British citizens – get them out.”
Socialist Worker, Saturday October 7th 2017 ‘Racism was at the heart of Football Lads Alliance march’.
Yet BoN brings in the infamous Spiked sneer with this section; “Most marches these days are packed with public-sector types, plummy anti-fascists, and Guardian columnists who must maintain their rad cred by occasionally traipsing through the streets with people holding dusty trade-union banners”. First of all, there are large pockets of industrial workers still in play, but also the composition of the w/c has always been subject to change, as Mike Freeman himself acknowledged in the RCPs book, ‘Taking Control’. The w/c is no longer solely the industrial big battalions. It also now includes the ‘precariate’, the lower level public sector workers, as well as teachers, nurses, firemen and women, etc. Far from him being the slayer of sacred, shibboleths, he merely regurgitates the prejudice of Spectator readers who’d call the police if they saw a w/c person of any description in their neighborhood
Brendan, asks that we take Meighan at his word, but why? At the rally, last week, Meighan bellowed, “we want our country back”, and was echoed enthusiastically by the crowd. Tommy Robinson may have turned up to only film, but he was greeted with acclaim when he did so, he also headed the march. Lets also not forget that he was eager last week for the traffic accident outside the British Museum, to have been a terrorist incident. Also both the EDL, Pegida-UK, and UKIP have insisted that they are not racist, or anti-Muslim, but their every utterance and publication on this subject has shown this to be a lie. On Extremism: Both BoN, the FLA, the EDL, UKIP and the Tories, etc. claim to be against ‘extremism”, so do the proprietors of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharib, Bush and Obama. BoN wrote, “As speakers railed against hateful extremism and slammed the branding of people who criticise Islamism as ‘Islamophobic’. Except that those who are doing the critiquing, and on the whole it tends to come from middle-aged social conservatives, rarely, if ever make any distinction between Muslims and Islamists.
One of the FLA leaders a former soldier Phil Campion said, “As far as I’m concerned we’re at war.” He also said, “Politicians have surrendered in arrival halls and airports. They have housed, fed and clothed the enemy”, and that “It’s time to stand up to terror,” Campion went on. “The political correctness has gone too far. We’ve lost our freedom of speech. I’m not allowed to say anything anymore,” he said from the platform, with no sense of how eye rolling ironic that is.
But this has often been the rallying cry of the reactionary petite bourgeoisie as their complaint is that theirs is not the only voice and that they get challenged. Richard Seymour, while he’s writing about white supremacy, I think that this applies equally to the FLA, wrote “Shall we ever tire, I wonder, of dignifying racists and fascists with the mantle of oppression? They, the pitiable, neglected "white working class". They, the underdogs, oppressed in their own nation, by the politically correct, the educated, the middle classes and (sotto voce) the uppity minorities. No matter how many faces they kick in, no matter how many people they stab, no matter how many times they pose with guns as if in tribute to their co-ideologue Breivik, there will always be those who entertain a patronising sympathy for these primitive oiks and their native moxie. For example, here is the knuckle-dragging bore, Brendan O'Neill, late of the RCP, explaining to his rich, white audiences that opposition to the EDL is the behaviour of a rich, white clique motivated by class hatred”
As a counter to BoN’s pound shop class war, which is about as real as a female, porn stars tits. Seymour notes “There is a conception of class implicit in this argument that has nothing to do with class as a category of political economy. It is not even the old status-culture model of class that underpins official statistical classifications. It is a chimera, a purely sentimental, pseudo-ethnic model of class, in which a working class person is defined by certain sumptuary and sartorial habits, attributes, which make for convenient genre markers but which by themselves, can yield no sociological insight. It is an object of nostalgia and melancholia, the deus ex machina of reactionary polemic that strictly does not coincide with the working class as it actually lives and reproduces itself. That working class, the 'actually existing working class' for want of a better term, has anti-fascists and anti-racists in it.”
At the end of the article Brendan, states, “Where our supine political class seeks to shush concern about the ideology of terror, and to cultivate a passive response to violence, the FLA encourages us to be concerned. Where observers tell us it is ‘Islamophobic’ to criticise Islamist thinking, the FLA challenges such sly censoriousness and calls for open, robust and, yes, difficult debate”. Perhaps it’s best if someone tells him, that if you want to convince the wider world as to the class bona fides of the FLA, then you should not reproduce the same sorts of tropes you read on the DM/Express/Sun/CiF (Comment is Free), Spiked website and FB page, comments section. The sort that issue the most bellicose of threats, against feminists, PoC, Muslims, under the claim of being stifled under “PC gawn mad”
Andrew Kliman was writing about Trump, in “With Sober Senses” for MHI, but again it applies here when one sees the current flirtation being done by former revolutionaries, with the UK equivalent of white supremacy. He wrote on August 17th 2017, ‘Will We Allow Trump to Get Away with Fomenting White Supremacy and Racist Violence?’ “After intense outcry throughout the country, and pressure from many of his advisors (notably not including Steve Bannon), Trump read some mitigating words off the teleprompter on Monday.” Also that “one would have to be deliberately obtuse to think that Trump meant any of it. Leading neo-Nazi Richard Spencer correctly characterized the statement as “kumbaya nonsense” and said, “Only a dumb person would take those lines seriously.”” Andrew, also chillingly points out, that “Others, taking a cue from the Charlottesville event—which was nominally a protest over the planned removal of a Confederate-era statue—are organizing efforts to preserve “white heritage” symbols in their home regions.
Preston Wiginton, a Texas-based white nationalist, declared on Saturday that he planned to hold a “White Lives Matter” march on September 11, on the campus of Texas A&M University, with Richard Spencer as keynote speaker”
I am quoting Andrew Kliman because he correctly identifies the false sense of grievance and injustice that white supremacy fosters. It is also dresses it’s authoritarianism in the clothes of taking a stand against “the elites”, “special interests”, etc. The FLA is an attempted reformulation of the right, a right that could quickly become the far right.
What’s more, it is taking place in the context of a far right recovery in parts of Europe. In Europe, and we here in the UK have also seen this happen, is the normalization of the claim “it’s not racist to talk about immigration”. A spin off from that has been in turn the normalization of “it’s not racist to talk about Islam”. These have become code words and ciphers to make racism and bigotry more polite but no less deadly.
It is a sign of Spiked’s political degeneracy that while they may not be directly racist themselves, they have no intention of challenging those that are. Victor Grayson, a left-wing MP in the LP was thrown out because members of the House of Commons were discussing the Licensing Bill. Grayson moved an adjournment so that the house could discuss unemployment.
His departing words should ring in BoN’s ears “You are traitors! Traitors to your class.”But, alas Spiked people have booked their tickets on the carnival of reaction and they are determined to get their moneys worth.