BY JONATHAN SILBERMAN
LONDON - Thousands of people attended an election rally organized by the Referendum Party here April 13. Estimates of the attendance varied from 7-10,000. One of the party leaders claimed it had been the largest party political rally since World War II. The Referendum Party is a rightist formation that is campaigning in the election on the single issue of calling for a referendum on moves to achieve European integration through the European Union.
Speakers at the April 13 rally consistently evoked past British wars. One party leader, John Aspinall, said, "We fought off the Spaniards when we had to. We fought off the French at their most powerful, when we had to. We twice fought off mighty Germany, when we had to."
The war mongering was underlined by chauvinist rhetoric. "This century a million Britons have given their lives so that our island should remain free" said George Gardiner. "You will never find me selling that birthright for a mess of potage au feu and sauerkraut."
The Referendum Party leader, billionaire financier and member of the European Parliament James Goldsmith, has dubbed his outfit the "rabble army."
"We are the rabble" Goldsmith declared at his party conference, attended by 4,000 last October. "And we have had enough. So we will fight in every part of this nation and, through our example, we will be present in the struggle for democracy in every nation in Europe."
Goldsmith projects this army as ordinary people pitted against "politicians" who he variously accuses of "betrayal," "surrender," and "lying."
"We are not politicians and do not want to become politicians," Goldsmith states. "We are people drawn from every walk of life, from every region of the nation, and from every major political party - left, right, and center. Among us are doctors, teachers, businessmen, housewives, farmers, fishermen and others."
Goldsmith's rhetoric is heavy on criticism of "the establishment." He stated, "Before the war, it needed Churchill, overriding the active hostility of the establishment, to provide the strength to come to the rescue of Europe." He also gives high praise to the "strong leadership" of former French president Charles De Gaulle, who came to power in 1958 through a military coup, and he has made public his intention of winning to the Referendum Party leaders of the British military .
By campaigning on the single issue of a referendum on Europe, Goldsmith seeks to make the most of divisions in the Tory (Conservative) party, and regroup forces from its right wing. The billionaire funded the European Foundation, headed by William Cash, a right-wing, "Eurosceptic" Tory Member of Parliament (MP). He has announced a list of 93 MPs, most of them Tories, against whom he'll not stand candidates and former Tory cabinet minister Norman Tebbit has stated that the referendum alliance proposed by Goldsmith could be extended to other issues.
On 8 March Tory MP George Gardiner defected to the Referendum Party, receiving public sympathetic backing from some other Conservative Party MPs.
While claiming to be "nonpolitical" and not interested in power, Goldsmith in fact has a broader rightist agenda. One example is his attempted alliance with the Ulster Unionists. In December last year, James Nicholson, an Ulster Unionist member of the European parliament (MEP), joined the Europe of Nations political grouping headed by James Goldsmith. The main unionist parties in Northern Ireland - the Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionists - are right-wing forces that have links with rightist street gangs and paramilitary organizations that defend the "union" of Britain and Ireland and terrorize Catholic communities.
Defense of this colonial "union" has invariably been a plank of right-wing forces in Britain. The last most important rightist force to emerge out of national capitalist politics was Enoch Powell. Now 84, and out of parliamentary politics for 10 years, Powell is remembered for his infamous "rivers of blood" speech when he campaigned for "repatriation" of immigrants. Powell was also always anti-Europe and a staunch defender of the union with Ireland. In 1974 he stood down as Tory MP for Wolverhampton over the Heath government's decision to join the European Union, then called the Common Market. Then he joined the Ulster Unionists, becoming an MP for them.
Goldsmith is also staunchly anti-immigrant. In his book The Trap, the billionaire warns of hundreds of millions of immigrants from the Third World.
Goldsmith gets wind in his sails from what the Tory, Labour, and Liberal Democrat leaderships are saying. For example, the framework of the television broadcasts of all the major parties has been "nation before party," the slogan coined by Goldsmith in his broadcast.
Labour Party chief Anthony Blair used the image of a bulldog, the very symbol adopted by Goldsmith and historically associated in politics with Winston Churchill. Labour Party campaign manager Peter Mandelson explained that Labour had already reclaimed the Union Jack and it was now reclaiming another symbol of "unity, pride, and patriotism."
The Liberal Democrats in their TV broadcast, prominently displayed party leader Patrick Ashdown in battle fatigues, playing up his life as a former army officer."
So far one Labour MP, Peter Shore, has openly defended Goldsmith. Goldsmith has publicized a list of Labour MPs against whom he'll not be standing candidates. The list includes Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and Dennis Skinner - all from Labour's "socialist left" - because of their anti- European views.
Some parties which claim to be avowedly socialist have joined the anti-Europe bandwagon. For example, in its election manifesto, Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party says that it "is totally committed to complete withdrawal from the European Union, or Common Market -that is the only way that Britain can retain control of its economy and its political powers."
Likewise while Goldsmith was starting his election
campaign with fishermen on the Cornish coast, expressing his
anger against the Spanish for alleged fishing quota
violations, the Morning Star, the newspaper associated with
the Communist Party of Britain, carried an editorial which
ranted against "quota hopping" and the "betrayal" of the
British fishing industry.
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