Monday, February 8, 2016

Is A Socialist Policy Applicable To America. (1927)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Correspondent’s Letter and Our Reply.
Crockett, California.

I am an interested, though at present unaffiliated sympathiser, in fact an adherent to the principles and programme of your party, and have been in the recent past aligned with small study groups both in Detroit and in New York, patterned very much along the same line as your organisation in point of principles.

The question I am about to ask may or may not be fatuous, or ambiguous, it may even have been already gone over in your columns several times in the past year. I have not been able to get copies of your paper in a long time, but now that I live adjacent to San Francisco, I can get the “Standard” at McDonald’s book store as often as it comes, hoping that my query is given an airing in an early issue.

The Kautskian position is, as I understand it, fully endorsed by the S.P. of G.B., particularly where it emphasises the prime importance above all things of political action in the form of parliamentary representation, and by using the constitutional camouflage of the bourgeois state, as a means to attain power. All schemes, such as military coups de etat, are in that case foredoomed, and in the final analysis Socialism as Marx has it, must come about only through the efforts by and for the immense majority. Otherwise, it is not Socialism. Agreed. 

Is the editor able to answer a question that only has to do with America? If so how would he deal with a political situation at present, such as it now exists in the United States, that on the surface of it, and as far as the interests of the proletarian revolutionary movement is concerned, is well-nigh hopeless? I have run across this continent time and again over a decade, and have conversed with countless numbers of workers everywhere, besides reading contemporary periodical literature, giving a more or less accurate expression to the prevailing psychology of the American people. The popular notion is growing, and by now has become well-nigh universal, that political campaigns, election promises and programmes, ballots and everything else that goes with it, is hopelessly corrupt, and the very mention of Socialists, as a trial proposition, in way of political power, elicits no response.

The power of big business and the seemingly impregnable position of finance and industrial capital has, as it were, completely cowed and rendered tame the immense majority of the people in the United States. In the face of all this, what is there to be hoped for, if we are to go by what Kautsky tells us, and assuming that American “prosperity” breaks down in a year or two and renders living almost insupportable for millions who are now employed, and are living in a fools' paradise, to hear them talk, how is that condition going to bring about a swing towards anything that resembles intelligent co-operation in the working-class?

Can the inhibitions and ingrained superstitions of an idiotically ignorant and proud people such as the average Anglo-Saxon and Celtic, native American, be overcome and give way to a change of sentiment from that of extreme egotistic individualism to that of a class-consciousness in its correct sense in anything less than another generation? Does biology, and several other sciences, that deal with man, his physical and mental make-up, give us any hopes for a possibility of any much to be hoped for, sudden change, or at least a mental condition that will even listen to Socialist propaganda ?

I am not in the habit of transcribing articles, or writing anything, and you can condense this as you see fit, and answer it as far as you are capable of doing, living as you do, so far away from these conditions as they appear to me. In short, will Kautsky’s premise fit this country. I close hoping that you will give this due consideration and I remain,
Yours in revolt,
M. Wasson


OUR REPLY.
The above letter sets out by associating us with Kautsky’s attitude, and as the latter has continually shifted his ground politically, we must decline to be identified with such an anti-Socialist as Kautsky has shown himself to be.

Kautsky has, however, offered unanswerable criticisms of Lenin’s views on democracy and dictatorship, and no doubt our Californian correspondent has these points in mind.

The main question in the above letter deals with the application of Marx’s (and therefore the S.P.G.B.’s) policy to the United States. Socialist policy naturally depends for its application upon the conditions prevailing in a country, but those who argue that conditions in any country warrant an entirely different policy to ours, generally fail to deal with the so-called-differences in conditions between this and other countries.

The widespread ignorance of class interests among workers in U.S.A. offers no permanent hindrance to our Socialist policy. That ignorance is due to certain causes, and the lack of interest in revolutionary ideas amongst the masses is a phase which is true of every country for a time.

Economic development has rapidly converted the United States from a prairie into a nation of vast companies, where the largest and latest plant and machinery is in use, each employing many thousands under one roof.

The comparatively recent industrial growth and commercial expansion of the U.S.A. offers one reason for the so-called “better conditions" of labour. This is partly responsible for the lack of interest in social change amongst the workers there. This lack of interest, however, is not simply a reflex of “better” conditions, but a result of capitalist propaganda by press, priest and schoolmaster, which is more powerfully and carefully used in American life than perhaps any other country, to mould the working millions to capitalist views. The extremely careful selection of and control over teachers in school and college to avoid any advanced political views being taught, is notorious. Then we have the intense campaigns always subsidised to naturalise the immigrant arid “educate” him into worship of American institutions. The unexampled dominion of a vast newspaper and magazine press pouring out lies to cloud the “popular” mind is an immense factor in working-class ignorance there.

The primitive and highly-organised and well-financed religious bodies of America still have a remarkably large influence in U.S.A. These agencies of propaganda employed to keep the workers submissive, are effective because temporarily the conditions in the United States have not caused deep and lasting discontent. If a collapse of conditions causes vast discontent, can anything be hoped for if the working-class are ignorant of Socialism?

Such is the question asked by our correspondent.
Discontent in itself is not sufficient. We had 6 or 7 millions out of work in America in 1921 and 1922, but they were largely seeking charity or temporary relief whilst hoping for better times. They did not revolt though the Communists there told them the factories would never re-open, and that the revolution was on the way.

The insecurity of work in a country so highly productive and so scientifically organised in production as America is a very important element in the workers' life, and the growing experience of this in recent years does play a part in the workers' education. The apparent slowness of change in ideas amongst the workers there is evidently one of our questioner’s stumbling-blocks.

If he expects vast and rapid changes amongst the majority in a few years he is likely to be disillusioned. America has profited by European decline since the war, and has captured many of their markets, especially those on the American continent, and so for a while she will be able to keep the wheels turning. Apart from that aspect however, there is the fact to be faced that conditions in so vast and so recently developed a country as the U.S.A. cannot change the individualist outlook to a Socialist one overnight.

The conditions for generations bred an optimism and an individualism amongst the migrating settlers, and only continual experience of the insecurity and suffering of capitalist development can be effective in turning them to Socialist education for enlightenment.

Our experience and general information shows that interest in Socialist ideas and desire for social change does grow in the United States. The vast literature, even of Marx and Engels (apart from the more popular) which has been sold in America is an example that all is not as black as our questioner thinks. One large factor in their backwardness is the deliberate use of the labour leader over there as well as here, to confuse and mislead the worker. From Gompers down to the Communists parading as left-wing labour leaders, these have all been well used to side-track the worker. And as recent revelations and many “raids" and trials have shown, prominent Communists over there have been used by the authorities to preach violence by minorities, and so frighten wage-workers away from even the name of Socialism and Communism.

That conditions are likely to develop anti-capitalist views amongst the workers in U.S.A. is so well-known to the capitalists there that they have spent fabulous sums in controlling almost every agency of education and opinion, including the labour leader.

The open and constant use of the wealth of the few to control affairs by so-called corruption is inevitable, especially in the U.S.A., where the relatively few large owners do not enter into politics themselves, but hire the lawyers and professors to run affairs in their interest. Politics in America are as corrupt possibly as trade union officialism there. This, however, will not prevent or influence the awakened worker once be realises that economic and political action are essential for him, and that neither political or economic action are in themselves corrupt or need ever be corrupt once the workers understand and control the economic and political organisations for themselves and in their own interest.

With the overwhelming mass of the population in America being workers and possessing the majority of the votes as they do, there is no hindrance to them controlling the State machine in America for themselves once they want to and know what to do with it. There is no other way but control of political power in U.S.A., and the stupendous economic development of that country cannot but quicken what has already commenced—the ripening of the working-class mind, and the eventual acceptance of the Socialist position.
Adolph Kohn

Boffin the night away (1978)

From the June 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under the heading “Britain’s Biggest Daily Sale” the Daily Mirror recently told us something important. Well, important enough to run to 3 pages on Wednesday 8 March and 2 pages on Thursday 9 March. Now that’s important and no mistake.

Who could resist it? I mean, a question like “Why Has This Man Captured A Princess’s Heart?”

Forget the heart, you sneer (for after all it is the Wednesday tea-break in the Heart Attack Machine Factory). How about her income? Now there is something worth capturing. Princess Margaret has a £50,000 annual income. Having squandered your 7p on the Daily Mirror you want the goods. “Why Has This Man Captured A Princess’s Heart?” You want a short, easy, fool-proof method.

Well it seems a distinct advantage, if you are in the Princess heart capturing business, for your old man to be well-heeled. We are informed by the biggest daily selling newspaper “Roddy’s brother Dai, older by 18 months, is fascinated by sport and hunting. Even these days, he will race home to the family’s 2,000 acre estate near Abergavenny, Gwent and hunt with unashamed zeal much to his father's delight”. Roddy wasn’t interested: "I am not particularly interested in killing small animals.”

So there’s a clue. Be a sort of gentle guy. Oh, and by the way, make sure your old man has 2,000 acres. Dustmen don’t capture Princess’s hearts.

O.K., you say, the guy isn’t a dustman so what does he work at? The biggest selling daily is ready to inform you. After all, knowledge is power.

The Daily Mirror is a little vague on this one though: “. . . a fair haired young landscape gardener (and would-be pop singer). . .”

The would-be pop singer is easy. Who isn’t? The Saturday nights of Clapham and Maryhill ring to the bath-room echo of plenty of potential Jaggers and Bowies. Gardener? No sweat there either. Their income is as poor as yours.

So what’s the Princess heart-winning ingredient? Let’s take a look at big brother—yes, the fox-hunting one. Whatever else you could say about Roddy Llewellyn’s occupation, his brother could never be accused of gardening.

Vagueness creeps over the biggest selling newspaper again. “Dai has done a variety of jobs. From the travel business (“I wore a bowler and stiff collar in those days”) to his present endeavours which involve boosting British goods in the US”.

But if they are vague on the work-life of the brothers they describe as “Two of Britain’s most intriguing bachelors” they are quite specific on the love-life. How do you think they became Britain’s top-selling newspaper?

They tell of Dai and one of his mates pulling a couple of “very English, very debby girls” in a nightclub of course. Dinner and on to another club. He then hired “a famous Latin-American singing group” to accompany them to Annabels and the Clermont Club. . . . and then on to a friend’s house.

And so to bed. In this case “eventually Dai and his companion ended up making love to the two girls side by side on a huge bed. while the group stood round serenading them—stark naked.”

To all dustmen, engineers, school teachers, labourers and other ungrateful workers who may be reading this—a word of warning.

If you want to find out how a section of society can lead this sort of life-style don’t read the Daily Mirror.

Oh, sure, they’ll give you details of Roddy’s visits to Barbados, Istanbul and Acapulco. You’ll get the details of "Dai’s 4 or 5 cocktail parties in a night...” 

But to find out why you live the dull repetitive life you do; while Dai can say “My motivation is simple. Eat, drink and be merry—I genuinely don’t care what people think. I believe I should experience everything in life that is possible”—don’t look to the top selling newspaper.

Better take out a subscription to one of Britain’s lowest selling newspapers—The Socialist Standard.

For only in this newspaper will you read that the Dais and Roddys of this world lead their jet-set lifestyle only because you—the useful members of society —provide the wealth that makes it possible. Dai’s income comes from your endeavours. The wealth you produce is more than you get back in the form of a wage or a salary. The surplus you produce makes it possible for these parasites to live the way they do.

All this is bad enough, but the Daily Mirror going on about how Princess Margaret refers to her parasite boyfriend as “my darling angel” and similar gushing nonsense, is to add insult to injury.

The one piece of information to emerge out of the whole silly story is the item . . . "He’ll (Dai that is) eventually take her home, indulge in a bit of “boffing” (current upper class slang for you know what) and drive her home.”

Boffing. Now there’s a new one.

Next time the gaffer tells me that I'm not working hard enough. I can reply “Away and boff yourself.” 

Let’s hope he doesn’t read the Daily Mirror.
Dick Donnelly

Bubbles of blood (1985)

From the January 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

I was pulling into a motorway service station somewhere south of Birmingham when the radio announcer said that in 20 minutes' time there would be an interview with a prizewinning Cuban poet. I made a mental note to miss it. I had my coffee, got back into the car and drove off As I switched on again without thinking, the interview was just starting. I couldn't change stations at that moment as I was having to concentrate on changing lanes on the motorway. By the time I'd done that and I was overtaking in the second lane, it was too late. The interviewer had explained that Jorge Valls Arango had just spent 20 years as a political prisoner in a Cuban gaol His prize was for poets undergoing censorship or repression. He was not going to talk about his poetry but about his life in prison in Cuba. I was hooked.

Valls struggled to put together the words to describe what he had been through, but the limited halting English somehow made his story more riveting — and more harrowing. He had been released seven days before, thanks to pressure from the PEN International organisation He had been imprisoned for attempting to defend a friend accused of collaboration with the Batista regime which Castro had overthrown The fact that Valls had himself been in Batista's prisons made no difference.

He described Castro's prison as being slightly different from hell. "From hell you cannot get out but from prison you may die and get out", he declared, and such moments of grim humour made his narrative all the more compelling and authentic. The physical violence against prisoners was horrible, he went on, as were the periods of desperate hunger. But the worst thing was the "psychical and moral violence" — the constant provocations, the time spent in complete isolation, the years spent in small crowded spaces with little air or sun, the sight of others being cruelly tortured or executed. These conditions had driven some of his companions mad and others to suicide. He quoted from one of his poems called Blood.
I am up to my neck in rising blood.
It's a black and sour blood.
I am tied up with a rope of blood.
I am speaking with a voice
     made of bubbles of blood.
I am being heard by five ears of blood.
1 am travelling in a blood-smeared car
1 am disintegrating into worms of blood.
The worms grow and multiply . . .
Towards the end of the interview Valls began to talk about his religious convictions and how they had sustained him through his captivity. His expression was just as powerful but it was an area of experience with which I could not identify. Still, I thought, how could you deny someone suffering so prodigiously the right to find his own source of strength and consolation?

I was still speeding along the motorway when the programme ended. I switched off. Nothing could follow this for the moment. I began to think about the kind of country Cuba was. I had to admit to myself that I didn't know much about it. I would try and find out when I had the time.

I found out more quickly than I expected, for in the same week a six-part TV series on Cuba began, looking at 25 years of rule by Castro. The first programme told me that the Cuban Constitution said: "All have equal rights and equal duties". But clearly some had more equal rights than others — in particular the ruling elite, most of whom were family and friends of Castro, and the ten per cent of the population who had membership of the Communist Party, an honour extended only to the select few The "less equal" members of Cuban society, the series showed, included the majority of the working population who were allowed no freedom of movement in jobs or residence, no trade unions and no freedom of expression or political opposition, and for whom rationing of food, clothing and petrol was a way of life. Even less equal were the 3,000 or more political prisoners, to whom Amnesty International had been denied access since 1977. and the many thousands of others in the 68 gaols of a country which has a population about a sixth the size of Britain

Not that the programmes shed an entirely negative light on the country. Castro's rule had brought certain benefits to the majority of people much improved health care, increase of life expectancy from 55 to 70, a 96 per cent rate of literacy. Such improvements are not to be sneezed at but they must also be seen in a broader context that of a state which demands total conformity of ideas, locks up its dissenters and throws away the key, and confers privilege and status on a minority of the population while officially denying that such privilege and status exist. Is Castro's Cuba therefore fundamentally different from any of the world's other one-party states? Ask Jorge Valls Arango what he thinks.
                                                                                                                                           Howard Moss

(A transcript of most of the interview with Jorge Valls Arango was published in the Listener, 26 July 1984. A social and political analysis of Cuba 25 years after Castro's revolution appeared in the April 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard and is available on request.)

Throwaway Minister (2016)

The Greasy Pole column from the February 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

'Where’s fookin’ Menzies?... Come on, where is he?... just to let you know, I’m not fookin’ having’ it…’ was how Labour Deputy Leader John Prescott warned Tony Blair about the rumours that the Lib Dem Leader was to be included in the government. And some years after that… ‘the meeting was friendly enough. He ended up offering me just about every job that was going – including the Foreign Office – except the one that I held. I said no’ – which was not John Prescott but Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling discussing with Gordon Brown the Labour Leader’s plan to replace him with his favourite Ed Balls.

Eton And Cambridge
It is habitual for political leaders when they are imposing the disciplines of exploitation upon the rest of society to resort to an individual style of expressing themselves, in words as well as actions.  An example  is Oliver Letwin,  who is now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with a history of episodes as Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Home Secretary, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Politics has always been part of the Letwin family’s expectations; his father became Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics and his mother has been described by a close friend as ‘humourless and energetic, argumentative and exceedingly right wing’. It was a family unlikely to place their child at a local state school so little Oliver had to learn about life and impoverishment at Eton. He then went to Cambridge where he joined both the Liberal Club and the Fabian Society – a conflict not made any more digestible by his apology: ‘I am sorry to have to tell you that this was because I was interested in the thoughts of Liberals and Fabians (and still am) rather than because I was ever a Liberal Democrat or a Fabian’.

Broadwater Farm 
Letwin’s first attempt to get into Parliament was at the essentially London Hackney North and Stoke Newington, against  Diane Abbott who was even then a rebel notorious enough for him to protect his ambitions by moving  in 1992 to Hampstead and Highgate, although that was where  another charismatic woman – Glenda Jackson – was entrenched. After all that effort he was probably due for a better prospect and he was given the chance at Dorset West but by the time of his first contest there, in 1997, he had a reputation for serial blundering so that his first majority was down to 1840. Among the earliest of his gaffes in 1985, when he was in Thatcher’s Policy Unit, was to support the vote-haemorrhaging Poll Tax. Although he was liable to be on the receiving end of a barrage of eggs if he spoke up for it in public, Letwin recommended that Scotland should be a ‘trail-blazer’ so that the tax could be used throughout the country if ‘the exemplifications prove… it is feasible’. Another disastrous piece of his work at that time was his part in commenting on the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985, when PC Keith Blakelock was killed. The riots were sparked off by the death of Cynthia Jarrett while the police were searching her home in Tottenham and were a predictable outcome of the particular poverty and despair of that area of London. But Letwin was joint author of an assessment that the cause was ‘solely by individual character and attitudes… new entrepreneurs will set up in the disco and drug trade… refurbished council  blocks will decay through vandalism  combined with neglect…’ This report was at first restricted as private; when it was released in December 2015 Letwin admitted  that ‘some parts’ were ‘badly worded and wrong’ and he apologised for ‘any offence these comments have caused’– the impact of which must have been diminished by the thirty year gap since the riots .

Hapless
Another of his efforts at joint authorship was in 1988, with John Redwood, of a pamphlet which justified the subsequent privatisation of the NHS, by both Tory and Labour governments and preceded his proclaiming that ‘The NHS will not exist under the Tories’. But the results of his efforts as one of the key advisers to Tory governments have not always been as he wished. During the 2001 general election he advocated a £20 billion reduction of the proposed Labour government’s spending. This was regarded as regressive and socially harmful, to the extent that Letwin feared his standing was under threat. He went into a period which Alistair Darling recounts as ‘A hapless Tory shadow minister, subsequently a member of the Tory cabinet, had played into our hands in 2001 by suggesting that the Tories really wanted to cut £20 billion from public spending. He went into hiding. The whole election campaign was dominated by the media search for this man. Oliver Letwin was finally tracked down at a garden party dressed in a Roman toga. We could not have paid for such a boost to our campaign’. The incident was reflected during the election when Letwin’s majority was reduced to 1414, classifying  the seat as marginal to a threat from the Lib Dems. In April 2011 he blurted to Boris Johnson that ‘We don’t want people from Sheffield having cheap holidays’- which may, or may not, have referred to Sheffield MP Nick Clegg.

Sensible
Among  his posturing and threats about the behaviour of others (provided they are not from the ruling elite) in October 2011 Letwin dumped a batch of papers,  including personal and other security matters, in a waste bin in a public place, as exposed when he was photographed in a park close to Downing Street. This was at first excused on the grounds that he was in the habit of rising early, going to the park and dealing with some of his paperwork there. It did not take long for this defence to be shredded, when details of the contents of the documents, some of which were seriously sensitive, were revealed. A spokeswoman for David Cameron had to concede that ‘Clearly it’s not a sensible way to dispose of documents’. Except that it has not been just documents which Letwin has disposed of during his career in power.
Ivan

Distortion (1997)

Letter to the Editors from the June 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

In ALB’s review (Socialist Standard, April) of the Anarchist Communist Federation’s pamphlet Beyond Resistance—A Revolutionary Manifesto for the Millenium he states that the “ . . . ACF proposes punishment beatings". Nowhere in the pamphlet is there such an advocacy of such an appalling tactic (interestingly, you failed to quote, because you could not find such a quote). Nowhere in its magazine Organise!, in its pamphlets, at its public meetings, indeed anywhere in its propaganda is there a single mention of such action and no member of the ACF has ever advocated such actions. It would be like saying that the Socialist Party advocates shaving heads of people who fail to vote for you. Similarly where in our description of building a culture of resistance does the ACF exclude any section of the working class. What we advocate is a situation where all sections of the working class can take part in a vibrant culture of resistance where peoples self-confidence, self-organisation and creativity are built up. We have always argued against lifestyle anarchism, and it is devious and crass of ALB to attempt to identify us as lifestylists. Obviously your reviewer failed to read our pamphlet closely enough. Let people decide for themselves by reading our Manifesto.
RON ALLEN (ACF member), London E1


Reply:
Our claim was based on the following passage from page 13 of the pamphlet:
"... we are involved as working class people in struggling for better community facilities, for resistance to police presence on our streets, and for working doss self-activity in dealing both with the authorities and with anti-social elements in our communities. But at the same time we point out that the enemy is the capitalist state, and so we oppose putting faith in soft-cop community leaders or self-appointed community controllers, such as gangsters or paramilitaries" (emphasis added).
Correct us if were wrong, but this is saying that “anti-social" elements (presumably, burglars, muggers, joy-riders, drug-pushers, child molesters and the like?) should not be dealt with by the police but by working people living in the same area where these "elements" live and operate. The pamphlet doesn't actually say how they are to be "dealt with" but things such as beatings, head- shavings. tarring-and-feathering, tying to posts, sticking notices on front doors, curfews and chasing out of town come to mind. Or was it "soft-cop measures such as counselling, supervision and community work that was being envisaged?

You say. as an individual member of the ACF, that punishment beatings are out. Other ACF members
don't appear to agree with you. such as the author of the article "Yobs and Boot-Boys" that appeared in the Oct-Dec 1994 issue of Organise! who wrote.
"None should cry over the odd hospitalised copper: they had it coming. And if Kenneth Clarke were found stabbed to death one day, we’d feel the same sense of elation we did when Ian Gow and Louis Mountbatten got their comeuppance”
The writer then went on:
" . . .  we should support each other in our communities against anti-social crime . . .  we should take inspiration from Derry in the ‘60s, the mining villages and Brixton frontline in the ‘80s and the bailiff busters in the ‘90s and build a real neighbourhood watch which will keep the yobs out even if they are in uniform. Then the only people who will ring the police will really be grasses and not frightened pensioners.”
The reference to Derry frightens us—and most of us are not even pensioners. This letter page is open for you to reply but don’t forget to specify how the ACF proposes to deal with persistent offenders and those who refuse to accept what is decided should be done with them.— Editors



Is there a threat of fascism? (1997)

From the May 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the 1995 Presidential election, the Front National received just over 15 percent of the vote. But the FN achieved its greatest success in the municipal elections, in June of that year. It captured the councils of Marignane. near Marseille. Orange near Avignon, and the naval base of Toulon, all in the south of the country. In many other towns and cities, the FN received between 30 percent and 48 percent of the votes cast; and by the end of 1995. the party had 2.000 members sitting on local municipal councils.
In February this year, the FN captured Vitrolles in a dramatic municipal election victory, where Catherine Mégret, wife of Bruno Mégret, who hopes to take over the Party when Le Pen finally stands down as leader, achieved almost 53 percent of the second round votes (against 47.5 percent for the reformist‘‘Socialist" Party candidate), and became mayor of the town. Catherine Mégret did not empathise the Front's policy of the forcible expulsion of at least three million immigrant workers: in such an area, it had no need to do so. Many of the electorate are pieds noirs, former French colonists from north Africa who, in the main, support the Front National.

The Front's main support is in the south-east and south-west, the Paris banlieue (formerly Communist Party-controlled municipalities) and region and, to some extent, the Germanic Alsace area in the north-east of the country. The FN has the support, particularly in those areas, but also elsewhere, of youngish, "white" unemployed males, and petit bourgeois, poujadist, small shopkeepers who are continually losing out to the giant supermarket chains.

Although the FN has recently attempted to woo organised workers, and has even formed its own "trade unions" among the police prison warders and the RATP (Paris) transport workers, it has traditionally opposed strikes; and its influence among "blue collar" workers is weak. The Front National has opened up soup kitchens for unemployed ("white") workers, outside, for example, the Gare St. Lazare in Paris! There have, however, been fewer FN-organised mass demonstrations in recent years.

Is the Front National a Fascist party? Even some anti-Fascists have found this difficult to answer.

It is extremely nationalistic; and it even adopted Clovis, the barbarian chief, who converted to Christianity, and became the first Catholic king of Gaul. It is populist; and it includes among its members both right-wing conservatives who support "Thatcherite", free market economic theories, as well as supporters of a corporate state and economy.

At the same time, the FN has been able to accommodate many former members of small Fascist and neo-Nazi parties and groups. The inner "core" of the Front National is both racist and Fascist. Indeed, the long-time leader Jean-Marie Le Pen regularly proclaims the “inequality of the races", and also rants against what he calls “the worldwide Judeo-Masonic conspiracy” (see Le Monde and the Guardian. 5 March). And, like may Fascists, he has an extreme inferiority complex.

The Front National is unlikely to obtain the support of the majority of French workers. But with unemployment officially at 12.7 percent (probably more than four million), and many more workers feeling insecure in their jobs due to increasing redundancies and short-term contracts (as in Britain and elsewhere), together with the irrational nationalism and fear of "foreigners” (actually over 40 percent of all French people are immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants), the FN is able to get a sizeable minority to believe mistakenly—and stupidly—that immigrant workers cause unemployment.
Peter E. Newell