The recent successes of Nigel Farage and UKIP should leave anti-racists, anti-homophobes and workers concerned with their rights worried. However the ideological pillars of UKIP are rotten. Their claims to liberty and freedom are topsy-turvy, founded on the vilification of migrants and taking away their liberty. Luke Evans rips apart Farage’s hypocrisy, and the flawed thinking he relies on.
UKIP are currently polling somewhere between 30-34%. Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP has claimed that his party is only concerned with “uncontrolled immigration”, using a rhetoric that divides those coming to live here into “hard-workers” and “scroungers”. UKIPs politics on immigration are continued in their stance on welfare in general, believing that being on benefits discourages people from taking up work. Rather than punish the bosses that pay a pittance, they see poor people themselves as the problem. The draconian desire of Farage and his ilk extends to wanting to make people with learning difficulties live in shared “villages” run by private charities. For UKIP, what matters is not how we can find collective solutions to social inequality but how we can divide and manage the diversity of our society so as to separate those deemed unworthy from “good” people.
They are clearly aiming to continue the very long tradition of the state’s invasion into the real and complex lives of ordinary people. Although they claim to be a party rooted in the politics of libertarianism, they prove that liberty for those with wealth and power means safeguarding their right to control the rest of us. It shouldn’t surprise us that, as well as controlling where we live, UKIP also want to reduce our rights at work by destroying all legislation that protects our right to a fair employment tribunal, safe working conditions and maximum weekly hours. They would instead invest all decisions over the conditions under which we would be forced to work in the hands of our bosses. UKIP are in no way a party of a new kind. They follow the long held traditions of the ruling elite to seek to limit our rights and concentrate political and managerial power in the hands of those who are already running our society.
The mechanisms that they would use, like border controls, are a long held tool used by the ruling elite to divide us up into “good” citizens and “bad” citizens. “Good” here meaning those who do as they are told and don’t raise questions about why our society is so unequal, unfair and exploitative.
The history of border controls is an example of how the operations of the State are always about pursuing the interests of the gilded elite. Although some could trace the origins of the UK passport back to medieval times, and the Safe Conduct act of 1414, the passport as a document of citizenship wasn’t operating until the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act in 1914. Introduced in response to the outbreak of World War One, this act created the necessity for British citizens to possess a passport with a photograph that was renewable every 2 years. This act of parliament also meant that anyone over the age of 16, considered alien (i.e. not born in Britain) was required to declare and register themselves with a local police station. 32,000 men considered ‘aliens’ were interned during World War One, and the act was reinforced by a network of MI5 agents engaged in spying operations against people of German origin.
It’s apt to draw parallels between this and the contemporary state surveillance of Muslim people. The policing of the borders of a country has always been about criminalizing the lives of people who are considered the enemy of the state. The concerns of politicians in parliament – protecting the State’s interests in the context of imperial rivalries – motivates the registration and monitoring of the people who live here. The various European Empires of the 20th Century required the colonial administration of identity. The faceless bureaucratic regime was only concerned with keeping tabs on those it deemed too uncivilized to be safe. Be they the indigenous populations of the Third World, or the ‘dangerous foreign radicals’ living in the UK.
The use of photographic technology to capture the likeness of an individual may seem like an incongruous thing. But photographic film was once a political question. The development of a film stock that was adequate for capturing the details of darker skin came about because the apartheid regime in South Africa needed to create identity cards for black people. The colour film stock that existed was inadequate for that task and chemists were tasked with created new stock that could. When some of these Kodak workers found out what their labour was being used for, they then founded the Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement.
Passports and other forms of identity cards are always mechanisms for a State to divide us. Just like the clock feels like a device meant to control our time at work, the passport is a kind of technology. And like all technology it reflects as well as creates the divisions of power and control that exist within our society. When something as seemingly objective as film stock can be influenced by racist ideas, then something like the passport is clearly a means for replicating prejudice and control.
When UKIP talk about taking back power from faceless bureaucrats they are lying. What they really mean is that they want to strengthen the power of faceless bureaucrats that speak English as a first language. A UKIP-led society will be one in which our every movement is measured, priced and graded. Nigel Farage may gawp and guffaw like a harmless buffoon, but he is as much a control freak and authoritarian as every other self-serving politician. His nose is deep in their shared trough, whilst the rest of us are made to work keeping them fed.