The recent UK protests against the visit of Donald Trump, certainly the most nationalist US President in modern history would have been heartening, if it wasn’t for the fact that so many of the protesters have happily voted for Jeremy Corbyn, possibly the most nationalistic leader in the history of the British Labour Party (or UKLIP, as I now like to call it). While Jeremy Corbyn’s political pedigree, as well as his presentation, is a billion miles from Trump’s, the two men are remarkably similar in terms of their nationalism. Trump makes a big deal of his wish to exclude foreign labour, while Corbyn tends to play this down (though he is becoming more blatant as time goes on). A recent Labour Party video on “bringing back jobs from abroad” appears to be lifted directly from Trump’s Make America Great Again messaging.
None of this should be a surprise. I documented the sudden surge of left-wing fascist values in my book Porn Panic!, written in 2014/15. This included the appearance of strong antisemitism on the left where there had been little previously. The decline of the BNP and UKIP in the polls appears to be strongly driven by the drift of nationalists into the Labour Party.
Taken from Porn Panic, Chapter 9:
Take migration for example. On the surface, anti-foreigner sentiment is focused on the right, while the left is nominally less prone to xenophobia. But in fact, the two strands have become intertwined. Left-wingers, for example, often now rail against the evil of foreign corporations and foreign bankers. The Marxist internationalism of my youth would not distinguish between foreign or local corporations; now the left-wing anti-corporate message has morphed subtly into a xenophobic one. The dubious movement against ‘gentrification’ in London has made it acceptable to rail against property purchase by foreign investors. As Colin Wiles pointed out in the Guardian, this narrative was inaccurate, and often masked anti-immigration sentiment:
“Is a French banker who has rented in London for 10 years and now decided to buy a foreigner or a Londoner?”
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And as Dave Hill wrote, also in the Guardian, foreign buyers were less significant in property price rises than many were claiming:
“… about 10,000 more people moved in to London from elsewhere (370,000) than moved out (360,000) – not much of a difference. So how come the capital’s population is rising so incredibly fast, and has recently topped 8.3 million? Yes, it’s the birth rate, stupid: 134,037 babies were born here in the year to mid-June 2012, according to the ONS estimate. This is a city that breeds.”
Left-wing commentators have also recently embraced the anti-sex trafficking narrative, which in fact is a thinly veiled alliance between the old anti-prostitution and anti-immigration movements. This movement claims – falsely – that millions of women and girls (yes, always women and girls) are being dragged around the globe by the Patriarchy to be raped for profit. The myth provides police forces a cover to raid brothels, identify women working illegally (or ‘trafficked women’, as they are now called) and rescue them (i.e. hand them to immigration officers for detention and deportation). All of this is applauded by some feminists, and others on the left, including veteran campaigners, journalists and trade unionists. As with the porn panic, a thin veneer of feminist rhetoric covers attitudes and actions more usually associated with the extreme right. (Readers with an interest in this area are advised to read Laura Agustín’s 2007 book, Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry).
The anti-banker feeling that surfaced after the 2008 crash has happily merged with anti-Semitic sentiment, and when a blogger rails against Zionist bankers, it can be hard to place them on the political spectrum. Nouveau-leftist Russell Brand fell into this trap in October 2014 when he invited anti-bank activist Lawrence Easeman to help launch his book, Revolution, only to learn that Easeman’s online activism appeared to be tinged with anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi outbursts. Brand’s book launch had to be postponed.
And as the left was appropriating right-wing ideas, so the far-right was doing the reverse. The EDL, and similar far-right groups in Europe, abandoned overt racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism, and appropriated progressive language to attack Muslims. Women’s rights, gay rights, sexual freedom, secularism, female genital mutilation, ‘honour killings’ and belief in democracy were used to falsely paint Muslim immigrants as a threat to European values,including the Enlightenment. And many on the left, deliberately or inadvertently, joined the Muslim-bashing. Cruel, bullying attacks on Muslims, such as the 2010 French ban on veils, were often held up as successes for secularism or women’s rights, while in fact they continued an old French tradition of intolerance for minorities.