Middle class producers at the BBC have conveniently rediscovered the working class in order to make a series that attempts to drive a wedge between workers. The vile advert designed to build some hype around the “White” series depicted a bulldog man’s face being progressively blacked out by foreign words.
Is the white working-class becoming invisible? If it is, suggests the BBC, it is because of that thing “multi-culturalism”? Or perhaps it’s immigration? What’s the difference anyway?
The series opened with a documentary minuting the death-whimpers of a working-man’s club in white-only Wibsey, somewhere near Bradford. Like watching paint dry, it was difficult to feel much of the saccharine emotion that so moved our patronising American guide as he followed and wallowed in the demise of a committee unable to organise a piss-up in their brewery.
Is it really surprising no one wanted to hang around a literally dying group of small-minded and utterly defeated people, however tightly knit?
Callous? Perhaps a little, but any natural affinity I might have had for a worn-down and dispirited working-class community was gradually erased by the growing annoyance at the slow but persistent stream of pathetic people indulging squalid bigotries, in between the odd, selective recollection of the community’s real history of strength and working-class solidarity, combativity and creativity.
Is it just scapegoating on their part, or is there some greater meaning that I’ve missed?
I’m aware of many of the reasons for white working-class disillusion and despair, and it is true that the white working-class in the UK has been significantly defeated and now sold down the river by New Labour, especially in terms of health, housing and education and workers’ rights. It is also true enough that the BNP, with more than a little help from the BBC during the series, is increasingly positioning itself as the real fighters for white workers. This reality should be broadcast, but the two programmes I saw, Last Orders and White Girl, missed the point entirely.
Last Orders wantonly excluded any Asian perspectives, because after all we are truly swamped with the images and voices of working-class Asians in the media, but then again, there’s no Asian working class, only Muslims and Pakis.
It is a disgrace that the sense of personal entitlement of some of the people in the documentary came less from being a worker, or part of a class of workers, but the feeling that they had a natural and automatic right as a race to more than the Asians were getting. You got the sense that Asian people shouldn’t have the audacity to pick at the crumbs until they have been distributed among indigenous whites.
Even White Girl, which seems to have been taken by some as a flattering portrayal of Muslim people, given the contrast with the broken family of protagonists, was racist in a different way as far as I’m concerned.
The real story was actually a hackneyed domestic drama; only this white working-class family drama played itself out against the backdrop of soft-focus, shimmering Mohammedans: Muslims who all have wise words to impart before they vanish back into their lanterns; smiles for everyone and beautiful, mesmerising scripts circling the insides of their mosque domes.
So clean, so caring, they were half-formed characters without any depth or contradictions — essentially just a foil for the real white people, however lacking they may be in community.
Are we grappling with something fundamentally complex? I actually don’t think so. Do large layers of white working-class people feel swamped? Probably. Are they being screwed over? Yes.
But any real comparison of life chances and material wealth shows that white workers suffer no disadvantage in reality compared to the persistent and growing poverty of migrant groups.
Is immigration a problem? It certainly is an issue; the BBC has resuscitated the fascist Enoch Powell as a prescient visionary, speaking sanity in the face of a sleepwalking liberal left. The series and the corresponding “debate” it has precipitated are nothing new. The problems of capitalism are here again attributed to immigrants, using the cipher of “multiculturaism”.
The attack on multi-culturalism, in this context, is not the defence of secularism, is not an appeal for working-class unity and solidarity against capitalism; it is the promotion of a racist explanation for low wages, unemployment, privatisation and a growing sense of alienation and despair with this increasingly crisis-ridden capitalism — a destructive and hateful illogic that through its own course will lead to rivers of blood, if left unchallenged.