In recent years, and particularly in reaction to the latest wave of austerity measures, we have seen an upswing in the size and importance of parties that are to the left of social democracy, a development that is greeted with joy within the radical left.
More concerning on the other hand is the recent growth in popularity of the far-right, With the success of parties like the Greek golden dawn or the French front national as some of the more recent examples.
Yet more worrying than this recent and relatively limited growth of the far-right is the rightward shift of the traditional and powerful centrist parties, with the adoption of parts of the far-right programme by social-democrats, liberals and conservatives becoming fairly regular occurrences. The basis of this programme being harsh penalization for certain crimes that are often associated with the lower income groups in society (burglary, mugging, theft…etc.). And trying to limit migration through increasing repressive measures against it. Both issues being linked through the association of immigrants with crime, and by the use of the same revenge induced rhetoric and promise of heavy repressive measures that is supposed to stop these two phenomena. On the other hand the traditional leftist response has been one that has largely focused upon both the downplaying of the issues and/or declaring them as positive for society (in relation to mass migration). Or in the case of the radical left by referring to how “after the revolution” everything will be better.
It goes without saying that the recent success of these far-right positions at best means that the rhetoric of the left has failed in relation to these problems and at worst that the entire response to these issues has failed. Because whether we want it or not, crime and migration are two pertinent issues in politics today. Ignoring them or inadequately addressing them will only lead to fertile soil for the far-right to grow in.
Addressing the problem will first and for all require the left to acknowledge them, therefore it is necessary for the left to accept the fact that crime is a serious problem that might not directly be solved by throwing more welfare money at it. And that mass migration created by global economic inequality and political repression all around the world is a problem that can have strong disruptive effects on the society that needs to take in these migrants, as well as being a traumatic experience for the migrants themselves. And that it is a phenomenon that needs to be ended. And although it might not seem like actually acknowledging these problems is a big deal, for the people that are or perceive themselves to be affected by these problems it can certainly be a big deal. Therefore it is often observed that the lack of an adequate and vocal response by the left towards these problems basically means ignoring significant parts of the working class.
After acknowledging the problem it is then necessary to analyse and point to the source of the problem. And in relation to the far-right position on the issue this could provide the left with a significant advantage. As the far-right analysis and solution to the problem is one of simply individualising blame and proposing ever increasing repressive measures that will most likely plunge society in a downward spiral where more repression aggravates the problem more therefore necessitating even more heavy handed measures and so on. In contrast the left needs to point to the actual causes of these problems namely inequality both within society and on a global scale, and attach this to a systemic analysis where the link is made with capitalism and class society. And this while pointing to how the far-right approach simply ignores the problem and will probably even worsen the situation.
Another important element is that it is quite necessary for the left to be able to point to an intermediate programme on crime and migration that addresses the problems in the here and now under capitalism. A programme that very importantly can be enacted both when elected into parliament and when not in or not significantly powerful within parliament. As the lacking of a programme in regards to these issues will lead to “after the revolution” rhetoric and because in many cases the left has little opportunity to gain a significant power in parliament leading to a “if you elect our minuscule party” rhetoric. In other words the left needs to have a strong focus on community organizing to be capable of implementing a programme even when not inside any representative institution. Which, whether the radical left wants to realize this or not, is a daily reality for the bulk of them within the Western world.
This intermediate programme would naturally need to advance options that alleviate the economic conditions of both migrants and marginalized communities where alot of the aforementioned criminality originates. Nevertheless it is necessary to be able to critique welfare programmes that the state throws at these people, which often can be paternalistic and hardly include any local control over them, making them more into a glorified form of charity that induces passivity instead of a measure that induces people to stand up for themselves and their rights. The notion that is often advanced by the left that by simply throwing these kinds of welfare programmes at people will thus not solve any of the problems and are wholly inadequate.
Besides arguing for genuine welfare programmes under the control of the people, it is also necessary to not simply leave it at that; besides the necessity of welfare it is also necessary to actively engage with these people and build up a veritable sense of community and mobilize them for a variety of issues. This would include mobilizing against crime within these peoples own communities. Because contrary to what some leftists would want to believe, crime wont suddenly disappear when welfare programmes are in place. And will most likely require further mobilization against criminality within these communities.
A successful implementation of a programme like this could result in the significant lowering of the potential support of the far-right and increase the possibility for the introduction of class politics in both marginalized communities as in the slightly more affluent communities that are often perceived as victims to criminality. I also realize that I might have been a bit vague in relation to the actual specifics on how this programme is supposed to look like. A much more specific and worked out example of what this programme would look like can be found at the site of the IWCA (independent working class association), a leftist organization that is involved in community organizing that involves alot of focus on criminality while still retaining their class politics. Other examples might include some of the black panther party’s survival programmes and more reformist community organizing groups.