Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On the Right-Wing (2012)

Book Review from the October 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Hate. By Matthew Collins, Biteback Publishing, 2011. £14.99.

Subtitled ‘My Life in the British Far Right’ this is the story of a former member of the National Front in the late 80s and early 90s who then became close to the leadership of the British National Party in the days when it was more openly Nazi than it is now. Collins also later became a fringe participant in the violent Combat 18 group of Nazis and is in a similar mould to other former far-right activists like Ray Hill and Tim Hepple who became ‘moles’ for the anti-fascists associated with Searchlight magazine.

It is an account that is frightening but entertaining in equal measure, giving an insight into the mindset that drives someone from a white, working class background to be involved in fascist politics. It also gives an insight into some of the violent tactics and internal feuding that have characterised the far right in Britain for decades.
The leaders of the so-called ‘master race’are clearly shown up to be the misguided and psychologically unbalanced individuals many of them are. Referring to a particular sortee by Combat 18 thugs in Brick Lane, Collins comments: ‘I looked along our line at the drug dealers, the gangsters, the football hooligans and wife beaters who believed in their tiny minds that they were going to save the white race from drug dealers, wife beaters, gangsters, Jews, blacks and Asians’, and this pretty much sums it up.
The later chapters chronicle Collins’movement away from racist politics over time, his particular function as a ‘mole’for Searchlight and the police interest in his activities, though these don’t perhaps have the depth they might have. The foot soldiers (and ‘political soldiers’) of the BNP, NF, etc have long being considered a potential threat to public order and are therefore closely monitored –and sometimes infiltrated –by the state apparatus, often acting on information gathered by the anti-fascists on the left. This has created much controversy in recent times about the link between the two and Collins doesn’t perhaps address this as clearly as he might.
There are also a few factual errors here and there but nevertheless this is a book worth reading. This is especially so in a political climate where the BNP (despite some recent internal strife) has been garnering significant numbers of working class votes from the politically disaffected since the skinheads, swastikas and jackboots have been less visible to the public eye.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Editorial: Crunch Time for Credit Creationists (2012)

Editorial from the October 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the Credit Crunch of 2008 and the accompanying depression, a flood of ideas has appeared on the internet and in discussion forums of all kinds claiming that, like a stage magician, high-street banks have been creating credit, money or even wealth out of nothing. This, it is claimed, has led to the continuous enrichment of fat-cat bankers at the expense of everyone else. Anarchists, conspiracy theorists, reformists, academics, professional economists and those simply looking for someone to blame for the economic collapse have all taken up the idea and elaborated it into a number of more-or-less confused theories about the way banks operate. According to one such theory, bankers were guilty of pursuing a lucrative but unsustainable policy of ‘credit creation’ in the knowledge that when the crunch inevitably came they would be seen as ‘too big to fail’ and governments would bail them out.  According to many, ‘credit creation’ by banks is not just the cause of the banking crisis, but the origin of the current slump in the economy as well. Others, taking a wider view, argue that it is the cause of longer-term, unsustainable growth. 

Whatever their differences, all these theorists believe that regulation of the banking system and the suppression of ‘credit creation’ will restore the good times we experienced before the sudden catastrophic plunge into rising unemployment, forgetting in their enthusiasm that those times were far from good for a great number of working people. Most believe that it will restore control of the economy, overlooking the fact that the anarchy of the market has never submitted itself to control by any agency.  

That such ideas should take hold now is perhaps not surprising: similar ideas arose and became popular in the years following the last great financial crisis:  the stock market crash of 1929. They provide an easy but deceptive explanation of what has caused the current chaos in the economy, and suggest an easy remedy. They also point the finger of blame at the hated bankers. But where do they take us - really? By locating the cause of our economic and social ills in a relatively secondary facet of the capitalist economy - the activities of the banking system - they fail to address the real source of our problem, which lies deep in the capitalist system itself. They take us, yet again, down the futile road to reformism. No regulation of banking activity can possibly remove the exploitative nature of capitalism’s system of wage labour or eliminate the conflicts on which the system rests. While capitalism exists, the satisfaction of human need can never be the aim of productive activity. Nor can any progress be made to eliminate the system’s huge differences in wealth or provide social fulfilment for the vast majority of humanity. Credit creation theories can only provide us with more of the same. They are, at most, another diversion from the urgent need to replace the capitalist system with a more genuinely social, free and fulfilling society.