Is Britain leftist? Ask a postman.

from socialistworker.co.uk

We’ve won! The Lefties and pinko liberals have finally taken over. You could tell by the reaction, last week, to the news that BNP chief-wizard, Nick Griffin, was going to appear on Question Time. Beyond the predictable lefty activist reactions, ordinary, mainstream people actually got involved. And properly freaked out. Radio phone-ins, blogs, newspaper columns and office coffee-points resounded to the sound of otherwise apolitical middle-classers denouncing the BNP in ways that made Joe Public sound suspiciously like George Galloway.

But never fear, oh conservative (or, indeed, Conservative) reader. Britain has not descended into liberalism or fallen into the arms of Marxist ideology. The vision of leftism sweeping the nation last week was just a mirage, a conscience-salving display by a populace that, like a grown-up hippie with a mortgage, likes to think of itself as a bit of a lefty more than actually behaving like one.

Because just as left-leaning newspapers produced posters making fun of how small Nick Griffin’s brain is (embarrassing) and right-leaning tabloids denounced his racism (hypocritical), the nation’s media showed its true political colours while covering last week’s strike action by Royal Mail staff in the Communication Workers Union – and those colours were not varying shades of red. Ordinarily impartial interviewers took for granted the belief that strike action in itself is a damaging, unreasonable and negative phenomenon. Otherwise intelligent commentators with a sense of proportion referred to their having to wait a week for internet hardware (delayed by the strike) as ordinary people’s ‘suffering’. And perhaps most remarkable of all, the Tories and Labour seemed to be pretty much on the same side: in opposition to the strikers.

Photo from socialistunity.com

The question is: why? It’s not like the nation has been crippled by strike after strike, causing constant upheaval to our lives. Royal Mail workers are not the bullies in this situation, either. They are overworked and facing privatisation (disguised as ‘modernisation’) which always means job-losses and a worse deal for both workers and consumers. The only power they have is in acting together. It’s not like the claims of government ministers and Royal Mail bosses of falling mail volumes are true (an excellent exposé of unilateral adjustments of figures and fiddling of statistics by bosses was published a week or two back in the London Review of Books and makes for fascinating reading) or even logical (can you say eBay? Amazon? Junk mail? Post ‘sent’ by ‘outside contractors’ that’s still ultimately delivered by Royal Mail posties?) It is just that the zeitgeist at the moment is pretty right-wing when it comes to strikers.

The reasons why could be debated in a whole book. But whether they are our sense of entitlement (outraged whenever we are even slightly put out), our culture’s hostility to those who seem ‘too political’ (as if that could somehow be a bad thing in a democracy) or just our subconscious belief that ‘the workers’ should be glad for whatever they get, because ‘beggars can’t be choosers’, Christians have a choice. We can go with the flow, side with the spirit of the present moment and accept, uncritically, the attitudes and viewpoints in which we are immersed. Or we can think for ourselves, applying God’s values, rather than those of the market or our privileged class, to issues in the news – hopefully siding with justice, mercy and the poor, rather than the forces of selfishness and expediency.

This originally appeared in The Baptist Times, under a different title.

Here’s a lovely video by Die Krupps about making a choice against fascism:

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The Muslim Threat ?

anti-naziEmbarrassed, horrified and a little dirty. That’s how I felt last week when I discovered that an acquaintance who had been joining me in denouncing Israel’s slaughter of civilians in Gaza on a social networking site was possibly only doing so because he dislikes Jews. Cliché can be disturbingly real as well as disappointing.

My acquaintance describes himself as an ‘ethnonationalist’ and a ‘race realist.’ He resists the term ‘Nazi’ when I suggest it, not for any of the reasons you or I might, but because he rejects nationalism in favour of race-orientation and socialism just on principle. He believes races should not interbreed; that we should defend the ‘uniquely’ brilliant and beautiful accomplishments of white European culture against dilution by the ‘evil’ of multiculturalism (which, inexplicably, he blames for global capitalism) and that Islam is the greatest threat the world faces. He is a racist. He is more thoughtful and honest than most bigots, but that is also what he is. And he is not alone.

Last week saw a furore erupt over a Dutch politician, Geert Wilders being denied entry to the UK because of a film he made: a disgusting piece of Goebbels-style, violently anti-Muslim propaganda (I watched it on the internet – it really is), called Fitna. The film quotes (and, many Muslims online contend, misquotes) passages from the Quran and illustrates them with atrocities supposedly committed by Muslims. It then asserts that Muslim populations are growing in Europe and that we (supposedly White, Judeo-Christians) should fight Islam.

Many Christians will have some sympathy with these ideas. After all, growing Islam means fewer Christians and therefore fewer people in heaven, right? Maybe Christians should support the likes of Wilders, despite the racism?

I think not. The Quran may contain disturbing verses, but so does the Bible. Start from Deuteronomy 13 and work outward. Muslims have done terrible things, but so have Christians. Start from the first Crusade and the rape and murder of men women and children, Jew and Muslim by conquering Christians and move forward through Bosnia and Nigeria. Western European culture (calling it ‘white’ is ridiculous) has much to recommend it, but so does Islamic culture, and both have incubated extremists, evil, corruption and destructive forces.

Another example of why racism is stupid (from www.someofnothing.com)

Another example of why racism is stupid (from http://www.someofnothing.com)

To oppose the growth and spread of Islam on these grounds makes the fundamental mistake of secularised Christendom: confusing culture and nation with faith. The reason to follow Christianity is not found in its followers (though we hope we would give some reason). It is in the one whom we follow. So the spread of Islam can be seen either as an opportunity for witness or a failure on our part to do so because we are more concerned with outward culture than inner faith, more focused on worldly influence and power than the growth of the Kingdom. Hating our ‘enemies’ is a seductive temptation for all Christians, but racist Islamophobia should be resisted as the moral filth and intellectual excrement it is, while never being ashamed to proclaim the uniqueness and sufficiency of Christ. We may reject Islam’s truth claims, but never Muslims as people or their right to their own culture.

As the Bishop of Blackburn rightly said last week, in defence of banning Anglican clergy from BNP membership: ‘You cannot be a racist and speak on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ.’