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Editorial from the Socialist issue 811
Ukip - the establishment's 'anti-establishment' party
Leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, has declared that Ukip is set to top the poll in the European elections. A Sky News poll this week indicated what lies behind Ukip's surge. A massive 72% of voters don't trust the Westminster parties.
For some Ukip appears the most effective stick to beat them with.In reality, however, Ukip is the establishment's 'anti-establishment' party. Ukip receive wall-to-wall publicity in the capitalist media, in stark contrast to forces to the left of Labour.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), is contesting 560 seats in this year's local elections yet has received very little mainstream media coverage.
Farage's constant presence in the news does not represent 'fair' coverage based on a measurement of a party's support. In the 2012 local elections, for example, Ukip received an average of 13% of votes where they stood, compared to TUSC receiving an average of just over 6%. Yet Nigel Farage has been on Question Time eleven times during this parliament, and 27 times since 2009, more than any other politician.
Ukip have even been given assistance by the police. When one blogger posted a list of policies espoused by Ukip candidates - including scrapping paid maternity leave, raising income tax for the poorest 88%, speeding up privatisation of the NHS and cutting education spending - he received an official police visit asking him to remove the offending post, despite it not having broken any laws.
As anger at the mainstream politicians has grown, the capitalist class have had a semi-conscious policy of encouraging support for Ukip as a 'safe' form of protest. Ukip's right-wing nationalist programme does not offer any way forward for working class people; its politics are to the right of the Tory Party.
Ukip is a party of bankers and millionaires, with Farage a millionaire ex-stockbroker. Ukip's big-business donations include one from the ex-chair of Lonmin, the mining company responsible for the August 2012 murder of striking workers in Marikana, South Africa.
However, using populist supposedly 'pro-worker' rhetoric (but completely opposing workers defending themselves via strikes) combined with right-wing nationalist, anti-immigrant propaganda, they have been able to partially step into the vacuum that exists because of the absence of a mass workers' party. Many workers who vote Ukip do not know - or care - what they actually stand for, but want to use them as a means to voice their protest.
In 2011, in the wake of the huge - 750,000 strong - trade union demonstration against cuts to public services Ukip supporters initiated a counter-demo which demanded 'more cuts'. A paltry few hundred turned up.
Ukip could be similarly marginalised on the electoral plane, if the leaders of the trade union movement were leading a serious struggle against austerity. This would mean strike action - including a 24-hour general strike against austerity - but also the building of a political party that opposes austerity.
Instead, at this stage, the majority of the trade union leaders continue to try to mobilise behind Labour, despite its support for austerity and now Miliband's threat to increase Britain's already repressive anti-trade union laws.
TUSC, however, is starting to take the fight against austerity onto the electoral plane. It is supported by the transport workers' union, the RMT, and many prominent trade unionists. Its candidates are trade unionists, anti-cuts activists and community campaigners.
But TUSC is operating in this election on a financial wing and a prayer. If it had the resources of the trade unions behind it - even just the £1.5 million that Unite has reduced its affiliation fee to Labour by - every person in this country could have a leaflet with an anti-austerity message and every town and city could have a billboard with a clear anti-cuts, pro-working class message.
Real alternative needed
Only a genuine workers' party is capable of cutting across Ukip. All the establishment parties are concerned by Ukip's growth but they are incapable of stopping it.
How can the axe-men and women of the pro-austerity parties attack Farage for posing as standing up for 'the little man and woman' when actually supporting an extra £77 billion worth of cuts in public services which would devastate lives? It is mistaken and counter-productive for socialists to organise joint anti-Ukip campaigning with the pro-austerity parties.
How can the big three parties, all up to their necks in expenses scandals, effectively answer Farage - who himself has claimed over £60,000 worth of expenses? A debate with Dave Nellist - the national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - who for nine years was a workers' MP on a worker's wage, would be a very different proposition.
It is not possible to say how long Ukip's surge will continue. Certainly they will see a new swathe of councillors elected on 22 May, and do well in the European elections. It is possible they will be able to use this as a springboard to increase their vote in the general election. It is vital to counter Ukip.
This should include exposing the blatant racism, sexism and homophobia of many of their candidates. However, central to undermining Ukip will be revealing them to be just one more party for the 1%, and more importantly beginning to build an electoral voice that really does stand for the millions not the millionaires.
European elections: Vote No2EU - Yes To Workers' Rights
The Socialist Party supports No2EU - Yes To Workers' Rights in the 2014 European elections
While TUSC is standing in local elections, for the European elections the Socialist Party is supporting No2EU - Yes To Workers' Rights, which is led by the RMT union.
No2EU opposes the pro-privatisation, pro-profiteering, anti-worker policies of the European Union.
- Yes to workers' rights
- Exit the EU on the basis of socialist policies
- Reject EU treaties and policies that privatise our public services
- No to public spending cuts whether they come from Brussels or Britain
- Repeal anti-trade union rulings by the European Court of Justice and the EU
- Yes to international solidarity of working people
In The Socialist 14 May 2014:
Vote Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns