Anti-racists are protesting outside the UKIP conference in Doncaster later today. Here are five suggestions on how best to take on the far right party.
1. UKIP is a hard right reactionary party that stokes up bigotry and preys on people’s insecurity. But it is not a fascist organisation like the BNP. Under Griffin the BNP presented itself as a populist right wing party while hiding its true politics. That meant we could attack them by exposing them as Nazis. That method won’t work with UKIP – they are what they say on the tin.
2. Much of UKIP’s appeal comes from exploiting a widespread anti-establishment mood – people who are disgruntled and alienated with all of the main Westminster parties. An effective anti-UKIP campaign will have to have a similar edge, otherwise it will fall on deaf ears. That’s why the graffiti that sprung up on UKIP billboards was so effective, or the raucous protests that greeted Farage on his visit to Kent earlier this year. We also need to drive home that UKIP is no alternative: Farage wants to accelerate the neoliberal policies that have led to misery for so many.
3. We have to understand UKIP’s weak spots and target them. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin’s book on UKIP, Revolt on the Right, is crucial reading. It makes clear that the party is split between grandees at the top who see the UKIP as a Eurosceptic pressure group on the Conservative and a petty bourgeois base that wants to replace the Tories as the main party on the right. UKIP has one foot in the establishment and one foot out – and this can trip them up. Look at how Farage didn’t know what to say in Scotland, where the left wing Radical Independence Campaign helped capture the anti-establishment mood.
4. We have to start winning the arguments about immigration and racism. We have a long slog ahead of us to turn round anti-immigrant attitudes – which is where UKIP draws its strength from. But it can be done. The campaign to stop student Yashika Bageerathi from being deported earlier this year attracted support from students, teachers and well-wishers from all walks of life. Many trade unions have decent policies on paper over these issues, but do little to win those positions among activists, let alone the wider membership. We have to change this if we are to stop the poison of racism from dividing the working class.
5. The left has to start rebuilding in the South of England, East Anglia and Essex. These areas have large working class populations but little in the way of trade union or socialist organisation. That gives space for UKIP to run unopposed. The party’s base is in the middle class, but the danger is it will build out into the working class. Places like Clacton cannot be abandoned or treated as no go areas. If we don’t start offering an alternative on the left, UKIP will clean up on the right.