The mainstream media is peddling a destructive lie that we have to crush, asserts Lindsey German
The Dutch election results are a defeat for Geert Wilders and his noxious racism, which can only be a good thing. But – despite a good showing for the Green Left - this is hardly a reason to see the Netherlands as a beacon of hope.
Mark Rutte, the existing PM, played a viciously anti-Turkish game in the last days of the campaign (which strengthened both him and Erdoğan in Turkey) and already accepts many of the right wing premises about 'dangers' of immigration and non-integration.
You can't defeat racism by accepting many of its ideas.
And you can't defeat the far right by beating them in elections and then breathing a sigh of relief and going back to exactly the neoliberal austerity policies which helped to fuel their rise in the first place. But this is exactly what the centre parties are trying to do. It is why they invest so much hope in Emmanuel Macron in France. If he defeats Le Pen he will launch further assaults on workers' rights which will help fuel the far right.
The liberal narrative on all this equates Trump and Brexit - which is incorrect - and assumes that the only thing which can save the world from the far right terror is more of the same from them. Their media has dedicated acres of space to the threat of Wilders for example, without mentioning any left alternatives or the weakness inherent in Wilders' appeal either.
They have talked about growing catastrophe following Brexit and Trump and seen a domino effect following Brexit and Trump without analysing the concrete circumstances of each situation. So we are told this is the first general election since Trump. Wrong. The Austrians voted in December for the Green-backed candidate for president over the far right. The Italian “No” in their referendum came both from left and right to defeat the centre.
So the situation is not one of inexorable march towards fascism but of polarisation in which the centre parties are losing ground to left and right. The response of the left has to recognise this. And it has to fight even harder both for a left alternative and against the policies which allow the right to grow.
How do we do this? In Britain, we should see this as a combination of tactics. The first is to fight racism in all its forms. The demo on Saturday 18 March in central London should be a must for everyone on the left and in the trade union movement. We have to combat lies about migrants and reject the solutions which seek to scapegoat and divide. Secondly, we must fight over the issues which are now facing working people here: destruction of decent public health care and education; the worst housing crisis since the Second World War; the vicious assault on workers conditions and wages; the attacks on benefits. This means a People's Brexit which puts an alternative to the hard right offer from Theresa May. Thirdly we should recognise that there is a fight on inside the labour movement which centres around Jeremy Corbyn, and ensure support for him and his ideas, which presents a proper alternative to right-wing populism.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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