Thursday, 18 June 2009

Race mobs in N.Ireland

The election of two BNP MEP’s created shock waves and much analysing and hand-wringing. More shocking, and may be of more significance, are the incredible scenes from Northern Ireland where 100 Romanians have been driven out of their homes by racist mobs in a series of attacks over the past week.

The two events are intrinsically linked. Not because the racist mobs included BNP members. Or loyalist paramilitaries or C18 ‘race-soldiers’. Of course they may have, but they equally may well have not. The link is a common climate of a growing nasty and vicious nationalism – a culture feeding on economic deprivation and a silence from the Left.

A return of the Far Right in this country doesn’t have to look like the 1930’s with black-shirt parades in the streets. If you want to picture a dis-utopian precedent I would suggest Vichy France and Petain’s ‘National Revolution’. Obviously set aside military defeat and the armistice of 1940, but keep the phenomenon of petty minded bigots, racists and reactionaries finding an excuse to crawl out of the woodwork. There were some Nazi sympathisers in the Vichy regime, but it didn’t need them to hand over Jews, gypsies and political undesirables for transportation to the camps at a rate that often outdid that of the Wehrmacht in the occupied zone of France. There were enough petty minded officials and individuals with grudge built up for years who were willing to denounce their neighbours .

Recorded hate crimes in Northern Ireland have more than doubled in the past four years. And the latest attacks on Romanians follow a series of others on Poles and Slovakians in recent months. There’s been some suggestions that Northern Ireland is uniquely pre-disposed to xenophobia and has a ‘tradition’ of hate violence. I don’t believe this – I suspect we may well see the same thing going on in cities on the mainland this summer.

And then we may wake up to the fact that the electoral success of the BNP and even more so the gains of a populist nationalist and anti-immigration party in the shape of UKIP, are not just a protest at mainstream MP’s sleaze. There is a very real danger from a festering reactionary nationalism which will only gain momentum if alternatives are not posed.

No comments: