London Nail Bombings

Allowing for the diverse array of 'experts' given air time after the recent London bombings it is amazing how many were on message. All including Searchlight and the ANL were agreed that the bombs, were 'acts of desperation'. A natural consequence of the frustration among the Far-Right from being in a continuous decline since the 1970's. A spin on events summed up by soundbite from the Prime Minister who declared racists to be the 'real outcasts'.

Having established the context, the arrest of a suspect led to high fives all round. Particularly, as the police were quick to point out, he was not 'connected to any group'. And if indeed he was not connected, then the bombings were not deemed politically motivated. If the perpetrator was a lone homicidal maniac, then a fundamental review of anti-racist strategies, as proposed by AFA to the steering group of the National Civil Rights Movement recently, was unnecessary. No need to fix something that wasn't broken. Such was the evident relief, that any who departed from this consensus, became instant outcasts themselves. Including Cardinal Hume, who a day prior to the arrest had the temerity to suggest the bombings reflected some 'underlying sickness in society'. A London Evening Standard editorial attacked him for being 'hysterical and foolish' simply on grounds of the bombings now being known to be the work of a lone wolf, rather than a wolf pack. A pack as a product of society might have required some soul-searching, but a nutter was an aberration, for which nobody in an otherwise tolerant multi-cultural society need be held to account. An entirely rational response if true. Except that very same day Cabinet Minister Nick Raynsford announced plans to raise the threshold needed to secure a seat in the London Assembly elections next May, specifically, in order to prevent the Far-Right 'gaining a foothold on the democratic ladder'.
Then less than a week later, on May 10, a tenfold increase in race crimes in London in the last year, from 250 to over 2,000, caused Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve to remark: 'There is something poisonous in London which is now bubbling to the surface'. On May 26 a Daily Mirror exclusive putting the bomber and Tyndall together only eighteen months earlier was entirely ignored by the same press, which had taken such succour from the 'lone wolf' theory. Reminiscent of the town council in the film Jaws, now that the scare was over, the media including the Evening Standard (who take a keen interest in such matters) didn't want to know.

Meanwhile on Searchlight instigation, the Mirror announced that that of the 81 candidates put up by the BNP for the Euro elections, 8 had given false addresses. This led 50 MP's from all parties to demand a investigation into electoral fraud and a media debate on the probity of banning electoral broadcasts by parties 'like' the BNP.

During one such discussion, a journalist from the Mirror suggested that only those whom a 'tolerant society found acceptable' should be allowed to publicly express their views. Of course these days groups 'like' the BNP, no longer means simply parties of the Far-Right but anyone deemed extremist by 'reasonable people'. (A point underlined by the police who zeroed in on AFA leafletters at a May Day Rally, the day after the Soho bombing, demanding names and addresses for "intelligence purposes".) The catch-all term 'extremist' now includes tenants fighting against council privatisation, those opposed to cabinet style local government, or indeed anyone involved in politics outside of the mainstream parties. Local initiatives by the IWCA in the Midlands are instantly branded 'NF' by Labour, or 'exposed' to non-plussed working class communities as 'subversive by Special Branch.

For over quarter of century British rule in the North of Ireland has facilitated the promotion of 'reasonable people' to positions of quasi-power, and has been facilitated in turn by the pretence that such men and women represented both their communities and a viable future. Naturally the media encouraged this trend, by promoting the views of the right sort of people who sat on quangos and discussion panels. The 'soft unionist' views of the Alliance Party were matched by the 'soft nationalist views' of the SDLP. In short the two governments wanted people they thought might think like them.

It was a dictatorship of the centre that never quite convinced working class communities in the same way. The demonisation of Irish republicans in particular has rebounded so spectacularly, that Sinn Fein leaders like Adams and McGuinness are regarded by working class kids on both sides of the border as 'film stars' rather than politicians. Proving that legislation can delay but never prevent political ideas, if genuinely representative, taking root.

The current strategy of demonisation promoted by Searchlight, the ANL and sections of the media will ultimately not only fail, but risks glamourising fascism in the process for the same reason: they insist on addressing a symptom rather than a cause. In that the policy of 'race first' of which they approve, ie. the constant racialisation of every issue from policing, to education, to football, invites everybody to identify with their own tribe only. A conscious promotion of division responsible for a balkanisation that allows the 'centre' a political rule untroubled by either radical or sustained opposition.
Moreover in the wider political process, the government makes it perfectly clear in its promotion of policies at a national and local level that it is not the 'racists' who are outcast but the working class as a whole. This is not likely to change even if Labour was so minded. Because unless it continues to bribe and flatter middle class sensibilities, old class loyalties will reassert themselves and Labour will lose a host of southland seats again.

Meanwhile the combination of racialising every social issue, at the same time as treating the working class as just another minority, and an abandoned one at that, risks driving those desperate for change toward the Far-Right almost forcibly. A further round of restrictive legislation in order to avoid (in reality put off) the crisis of the vast reactionary reservoir the 'reasonable people' have created, being reflected electorally is then called for. That the demonisation of the Far-Right results in the camouflaged criminalisation of working class activists is, they would claim, evidence of even-handedness. Even-handed maybe, but anti-fascism it ain't. Fascism can be fought only by extending the class struggle, by extending democracy, not shelving it. The centre is still holding, but you sense, only just.

Reproduced from RA vol 4, Issue 1, June/July '99