In the Canterbury and Whitstable Constituency, we are surrounded by Ukip – Thanet, Sittingbourne, Dover & Folkestone. Fascism, racism and now Ukip – the list gets longer of the things we are standing up to. Although there are overlaps in combatting all three, they are not the same and it is not possible to simply transpose tactics from one to the other. There is a racist underpinning to everything Ukip says and does, they are not fascists. This is not to deny that there are fascists amongst them and they are sweeping up the support of those who voted for fascists parties in the past. To combat them it is not sufficient to replicate classic anti-fascist techniques. So how do we stand up to Ukip? I am going to suggest 5 things to do and 3 not to.
5 things to do
- Challenge the ideology: immigration is not the problem and isolation is not the solution. Just like when a racist or sexist “joke” is told in the pub – it is important, we must not stay silent. The ‘word on the street’ should not allowed to be a culture of fear – where unchallenged myths and lies become accepted as fact. We can all do this in our own worlds.
- Isolate: we must work together with all those who challenge UKIP’s ideology – inside and outside the Labour Party. Opposition to Ukip is not the property of any one party or faction – they are a threat to everyone who doesn’t share their ideology. Opposition to Ukip is not enough, it is challenging their policies; it is not about tactical alliances with those who actually share many of their beliefs for the illusion of short-term electoral gain.
- Positively multicultural: it is not sufficient to oppose, we must embrace and celebrate multi-culturalism. It is important to be proudly diverse, welcoming migrant communities – not threatening them. Anti-racism must be our touchstone principle – the UN Anti-racism day on 31 March 2015 will be a great opportunity.
- Challenge the real causes of austerity: we have to address and tackle the issues that are concerning people and provide positive solutions and in doing expose Ukip’s policies as no solution at all. Indeed will make things worse for those they purport to help. The fears of insecure workplaces, the lack of jobs and affordable housing and the rising costs of living cannot be ignored.
- Innovative: if Ukip is a reaction, anti-politics, however fake their claim to be different; then we won’t beat them by using tired old methods – spin, rhetoric and false promises. As everyone says, we have to use social media to energise and involve new people – people who don’t find meetings and committees the food of life. That will not be enough, we have to go out into the communities – meet, talk and most importantly listen. Imaginative tactics – we want to stimulate debate and discussion, not discourage it. We need to believe we can win the debate.
And now 3 things we should not do.
- Don’t insult: it is not about name-calling and insulting people – which will alienate those whose support we want. It is about truth-telling and facts. Tempting though it is to simply brand Ukip as racist or stupid, we need to use real examples to explain and demonstrate how and why this is the case.
- Don’t be diverted: Ukip want to be the centre of attention, the media pander to them. It is not about diversion from our positive campaigning – we should not make them the focus of everything we do and say.
- Don’t pander: we will not win by pandering, triangulating our policies on migration and immigration to accommodate their agenda. We cannot out Ukip them, nor should we want to.
Racism is wrong. It sounds like a difficult balance to get right, but it isn’t really. If we hold to the principle that racism is wrong – it becomes clear what path we should follow. It will guide what we say, who we work with and what we do. At risk here is more than a general election, but the nature of the society we live in. This is an opportunity for us to stand up and be proud.