The ugly face of patriotism

Dr Johnson once famously remarked that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”. I would also add that it’s the last refuge of the terminally ignorant, the backward and the educationally-deprived. So it is with the English Defence League, whose brand of knee-jerk street politics holds an appeal to the football crews and pub thugs who make up the movement. In March of this year, they declared war on trade unions, communists, socialists, anarchists and anyone who stands to the left of them or who doesn’t agree with their idea of Englishness.

This is from their website:

The EDL know that unions have a part to play to protect workers’ rights, to ensure that employees are treated fairly in the workplace. However it would seem that these unions have become more powerful, more influential and more militant in the political sphere, this is where vested interests infringe upon a democratic political platform, so much so that democracy seems to be ebbing away right before our eyes and its replacement………COMMUNISM!!!!

It would appear that they swallowed the BNP line on trade unions that don’t follow the lead of Harrington’s Solidarity Union.

What is even more indicative of their ignorance is this breathtaking statement.

Great Britain doesn’t do Communism, it never has, yet Communists are afforded more influence and more power as the Labour party look to fund its upcoming election campaign. This is a sad reflection of the corrupt political climate we live in here in the UK.

A couple of things here:   two communist MPs were returned in the 1930’s and one was returned in the 1946 General Election.  But these are men who are totally ignorant of their own history and political system; and given their ignorance of all matters political and social, it is not surprising to see them conflate Labour with ‘reds-under-the-bed’ style communism that was typified by films like Big Jim McLain (1952) which starred John Wayne in the eponymous role.

Perhaps what is more interesting is the way in which these young working class men are seeking to undermine their own class by attacking the unions. New Labour let a lot of people down: they didn’t repeal Thatcher’s anti-union legislation and they failed to build more council homes. Instead, people were urged to buy their own homes and to forget about agitating for better pay and working conditions and just ‘get on with it’.

It is easy for the extreme-right to tap into such ignorance; they can come along and inject certain discourses into the movement and this sudden appearance of anti-working class language is indicative of the influence of the BNP and others.

Gramsci argued that the subaltern classes needed to be educated in order to challenge the dominant class for power. On the basis of the ignorant language of EDL, this cannot come too soon.

According to this blog, the Teabaggers in the US have reached out to the EDL.

There are, though, a couple of other factors:  It’s clear that the EDL would rather people support parties such as UKIP or the English Democrats over mainstream parties, and Labour’s association with the Unite union is a topical knocking-point. Perhaps we are also seeing the importing of rhetoric from the USA, where the crudest 1950s-style anti-Communist posturing has enjoyed a renewed lease of life over the past year or so. I recently noted Pamela Geller’s reference to Obama as the “mad Commie clown”, and this kind of thing is now commonplace among the “teabaggers” – Geller has written posts commending the EDL to American conservatives, and the EDL in turn has directed traffic to her site.

Now there’s a scary thought: a transatlantic coalition of the perpetually thick.

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