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MEDIA pundits and anti-socialist Labour MPs are still queuing up to pronounce last week’s local election results in England a triumph for the Tories and a defeat for Jeremy Corbyn.
But one aspect of the results is beyond question. Last Thursday dealt a near fatal blow to Ukip.
The party lost all but three of the 126 council seats it was defending, taking Ukip to the brink of the political grave. The other, more toxic, British National Party failed to stand any candidates at all. Since its high water mark in 2009, when the BNP could boast 55 local councillors, the “party” — if that’s not too polite a word for a racist street gang in suits — has degenerated to the point of disintegration.
These developments, combined with the fact that the Tories suffered a net loss of 33 councillors while Labour made a net gain of 77 from its previous high in 2014, are very welcome.
They are certainly a far cry from the predictions of doom and gloom delivered by pro-EU commentators during and immediately after the 2016 EU referendum.
It seems an age ago now, but left-wing supporters of a break with the European big business super-club were warned that an anti-EU result would set off an unstoppable wave of support for Ukip, the fascists and the Tory right.
The “Lexit” perspective for voting Leave to liberate a future left-led government in Britain from the neoliberal “free market” of the EU was, we were loftily informed, a pipe dream.
The advice from the Guardianland intelligentsia was the same as that given by young Jim’s bereaved father to all disobedient children tempted to run away in the zoo: “Always keep ahold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse.”
We should stick with the EU and its austerity and privatisation punishment beatings, we were told, for fear of setting off a far-right chain reaction.
So much for that pessimistic defeatism.
Of course, last week’s local election results do not signal the imminent demise of the far right, racism and xenophobia in Britain. These have existed since long before we joined the EU in 1973 or voted to leave it in 2016.
Racism and xenophobia are alive and surviving in the Tory Party and among the fascist outfits, all of whom can hope to pick up some disillusioned Ukip supporters.
And as Ukip’s umpteenth leader since the referendum warned after last Thursday’s poll, his party might yet make a comeback: “Think of the Black Death in the Middle Ages,” he said, “it comes along and it causes disruption, and then it goes dormant. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Significantly, Mr Whatshisname pinned his hopes on a “betrayal of Brexit.” Certainly, nothing would be more likely to revive the fortunes of British nationalism than to sabotage implementation of the EU referendum decision and the popular sovereignty that it represents.
Be that as it may, the struggle against all forms of racism and xenophobia must continue. It will be all the stronger if conducted on the basis of unity regardless of differences on the issue of EU membership.
The minority of campaigners who raise anti-Brexit slogans within the anti-racist movement are weakening that struggle by dividing it. They are allowing their illusions about the EU to overrule the need for united action against racism, xenophobia and the fascists.
Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.
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