Last night I was watching “Have I got news for you”. One of the topics discussed concerned Nick Griffin’s proposed appearance at the Queen’s garden party. One of the panelists repeated an idea that I have heard increasingly often amongst those who identify with left politics, that taking account the normal composition of the invitees, what is the big deal about Griffin not only being invited but also attending; after all, it is implied, the garden party is emblematic of British racism; so, what’s the difference. And, in support of such a thesis a joke about the racist comments made by Philip inevitably follows.
What struck me last night was the lack of political understanding of both racism and the BNP. More specifically, that there is no analytical distinction (nor complex links) between the inherent, casual and unpleasant racism of the British establishment and that of a political party whose entire philosophy, existence and attempts at mobilisation centres on racism, racist exclusions and the denial of not only rights but also the very humanity of individuals, who are reduced to abstract and negative evaluated collectivities (i.e. Jews, Muslims, Gays, Lesbians, etc. and so forth).
Unfortunately, it is not only this issue that illustrates the current bankruptcy of contemporary and populist left thinking. In the opposite direction, one can see it at work also in discussions of Israel and of antisemitism.
It is as a consequence of this failure of thought that the nature of Israeli racism against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and in Israeli society is reduced to the fatuousness of a comparison of Israel with Nazi Germany, Zionism with racism and Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto. It is similarly at play not only in the inability of the left to confront and analyse the antisemitism that establishes itself within much antizionist rhetoric and practice, but also in its hackneyed responses of “Zionist manipulation” and bad faith to those who dare raise the issue.
In times gone by, the left sought to offer an analysis and critique of its times. Now, as the points above illustrate, some on the left have reduced themselves to nothing more than a radical expression of the nihilism that as both discussions around the BNP and of the situation in Israel and Palestine illustrate, characterise the political landscape of contemporary Britain.