Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Fascist Question.

The Fascist Problem

In June of 2009, the British National Party won 2 seats in the European Parliament and the UK Independence Party won 13 seats. The former being widely regarded as a party of skinheads, football hooligans and anyone else angry enough to read and believe far-Right newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mail. The latter largely serving as an extension of the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party and a glossier option for Daily Mail readers everywhere. The recent success of the far-Right in Europe is mostly down to the financial crisis and the controversial bailouts. In Britain, we have also been witness to scandals surrounding banker bonuses and MP expenses. It is a wave of populism that rushed Nick Griffin and Nigel Farage into the European Parliament.
Though, it has been pointed out that Hitler came to power during the Great Depression, it seems doubtful that voters haven't learned anything from the German flirtation with fascism. But the bailouts and MPs expenses, are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reasons that some working-class people vote for the extreme right.

The facts are that the last 30 years have been pretty tough for the working-class and the under-class in Britain. Since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the gap between the rich and the poor has increased rapidly. The nationalised industries that were once the centre of the economy have mostly been privatised. This led to mass closures of factories and mines that had provided work for generations, but failed to generate profits. Which left many people out of work, because the skills they possessed were no longer necessary. The Thatcherites also succeeded in "smashing" Britain's trade unions, which led to massive wage cuts in the early 1990s which even topped the wage cuts that had been devised by the Reaganites in America. It wasn't until 1997 that a Labour government was triumphantly elected again, but by then the damage had been done and Thatcherism had become an orthodoxy in British politics. The white working-class was left in tatters, desperate for answers, but the media only has praise for the Thatcherite orthodoxy and the only answer given came from papers like The Sun and The Daily Mail. Such media outlets had an answer, the wrong answer, it's the fault of immigrants, single mums, yobs and the welfare state.

Nick Griffin was clearly elated by his victory and posed for pictures giving the peace sign with both of his hands, as the other political parties refused to stand with him, as he delivered his victory speech. He opened by claiming that the other candidates, who left the room as he began his speech, were turning their backs on democracy. The rhetoric he spewed over the audience included references to a "liberal elite", "unelected bureaucrats in Brussels" and "private profit centres for giant corporations". The kind of anti-liberal and anti-capitalist rhetoric he espoused may sound to some like a breathe of fresh air. But his rhetoric is not original, and it is indicative of the ideological tradition Nick Griffin represents in modern Britain. The tradition I am referring to is, of course, fascism - as characterised by centralised control of private enterprise, extreme nationalism and repression of all opposition. The fascists of the 1920s and 30s also claimed to oppose liberalism and free-market capitalism. But the anti-democratic and anti-socialist rhetoric used by those fascists, that is neglected by the fascists of today.

As previously stated it is a wave of populism that the far-Right, and the Right a like, have ridden into office. But what is it that has attracted voters specifically to the British National Party since Nick Griffin came to power? It is doubtful that Griffin's "solutions" to immigration, sinking boat loads of illegals and repatriating the rest, are what has attracted over 1 million voters. The same tune is sung by all far-Right political parties. Perhaps, there is a tendency in British society of course Griffin's rhetoric addresses. His attacks on the political class and the economic system sustaining it, single him out from most politicians. He proposes an oddly isolationist foreign policy, which again marks him out from other politicians. This rhetoric is no doubt mere imagery which Griffin is using to mask his true intentions and exploit to gain a greater mandate. Nevertheless, it has clearly spoken to a tendency in British society. It is clear from the anti-demonstrations throughout this decade,
that there is a large proportion of people who are opposed to the "interventionist" approach to the world taken by Blair and Brown. It is clear from the level of outrage over the recession and the subsequent bailouts, that there is a large proportion of people who oppose "welfare" for the rich.

The Final Solution

Despite public protests organised by the Socialist Workers Party and Unite Against Fascism, Nick Griffin has appeared on Question Time. He accused the anti-fascist demonstration of consisting of "yobs" and of "attacking" his right to freedom of speech - as he snook into the BBC via a side entrance. Depending on who you believe, the demonstration varies in size from around 500 people to over 1,000. What is agreed upon, is that the majority of people present were locals from Sheppard's Bush and White City. During the demonstration there were few arrests, though around 3 police officers were injured. His fellow panelists included Jack Straw, Bonnie Greer, Chris Huhne and Baroness Warsi.
Prior to his public appearance, the British National Party attacked Bonnie Greer and Baroness Warsi on the Party website. They described Warsi as a "product of Tory affirmative action" and Greer as a "black history fabricator", both descriptions appear to be references to political correctness and positive discrimination - favourite targets of slander on the Right.

On Question Time, Nick Griffin was grilled on his use of Winston Churchill in his political campaigns, his denial of the Holocaust and his links to violent groups among lots of other things. Griffin provided no adequate defence of his previous statements, all he could was smile nervously and claim that he had been "misquoted" or he would label the quote an "outrageous lie". Griffin claimed that David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, was the leader of a strictly "non-violent" KKK cell. And yet pictures of Duke can be found on the internet, sporting swastikas and promoting violence against the Chicago Seven. There is an interesting video of Nick Griffin, on the internet, in which he tells a crowd of white supremacists and separatists "British National Party isn't about selling out it's ideas, which are your ideas to." He said this before listing a few terms which are "saleable", terms like identity, democracy, freedom and security. On Question Time, Griffin also claimed that he travelled to Libya in the 1980s and spoke with government officials about cutting the flow of money and arms to the IRA. It is true that Nick Griffin was in Libya in the 80s, but he was actually there to try and persuade Gaddafi's government to fund the National Front. The Libyan government refused to fund Griffin, but he did not return empty-handed, instead Griffin returned with 5,000 books to distribute.

Jack Straw took the moral high ground, drawing comparisons between Griffin and Hitler, while ignoring the Labour Party's failures, such as the fact that over the last 5 years only 2% of houses have gone to immigrants. Not to mention the stance Straw has taken in the past on Burkas, which stirred up a furore in 2006. As well as the opposition of most politicians to Ghurkas becoming British citizens. Leaflets distributed by Baroness Warsi in 2005, that contained homophobic material, failed to come up. Although, when the homophobic article, about the death of Stephen Gately, in The Daily Mail came up and at that point Warsi expressed her view that civil partnerships should be allowed. Though, that should not be mistaken as an embrace of Gay Rights on the part of the Conservative Party. In fact, this episode of Question Time was a white wash, no pun intended, of the racist history of the Conservative Party. People often think of Enoch Powell as the quintessential racist Tory. But it was only in 2001 when then Conservative Deputy Leader Michael Acram sent out a memo to Conservative Party members, warning them not to "use language that is likely to generate racial or religious hatred."

The BBC also avoided criticism, which wasn't surprising, even though it well known that the institution is essentially representative of the white middle-class and that the presence of anyone "differing" from that criteria is a scarcity to say the least. It was good that Nick Griffin was not pandered to or given an easy ride by the BBC, though they may have been so hard on him that he'll look like a martyr to his supporters. However, the British National Party, a fascist political party, should not be the one focus of those of us who are opposed to bigotry and violence. We should not ignore the many prejudices and discriminatory beliefs embedded in public institutions. There are also plenty of bigots in the political class left for us to stamp out. We should not pretend otherwise. It is true that the British National Party are a fascist party that is exploiting the anger of many white working-class people. But people should be more preoccupied with settling the grievances of protest-voters and solving the problems of racism internal to public institution, than simply keeping the fascists quite and invisible.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Election Nausea in Britain.

The Brown Stuff.

Believe it or not, we are currently in the run up to the General Election of 2010, which should be held in May. Though, many have wanted an election since 2007 when Brown succeeded Blair, much in the way that Popes succeed Popes. No change of substance, but a change of shadow. We traded in the Presidential Blair, along with all the blood under his fingernails, for a one-eyed dour Scot, devoid of emotion and charisma. But essentially government remained the same. It may be true that a week is a long time in politics, but it seems doubtful that much will have changed in the many months between now and the General Election. As Prime Minister, Brown enjoyed a short "honeymoon" bouncing triumphantly from the "attack" on Glasgow Airport to the foot-and-mouth "outbreak", before dropping six points behind the Conservatives. The reason for the sudden drop was the dithering around a possible early election, and it was down hill from there.

By the Labour Party Conference of September 2009, Gordon Brown appeared to be flailing for appealing policies, clutching at cheap rhetoric and desperately trying to squeeze into his old socialist trousers. This was definitely a last ditch attempt at survival after a devastating year of bank bailouts and expenses scandals. He attempted to evoke Middle England with talk of a "hard-working majority", which was reminiscent of the "silent majority" phrase often used by Nixon - that he had "borrowed" from Homer who used it to refer to the dead. Brown dismissed the "right-wing fundamentalism" as a "failed ideology", ignoring the obvious fact that he had embraced such ideology for a decade. But ultimately Brown's attempt at "bouncing back" was quickly quashed by The Sun, or more accurately by Rupert Murdoch, who claimed that "Labour's Lost It." It is clear whom Murdoch has sided with, David Cameron, the man who promised to remove the regulatory system that restrains Murdoch from "competing" with the BBC.

Giving Labour a bad image in the press at this point is a somewhat pointless gesture. After all it was Murdoch who backed, what he called, "the Bush policy" in regards to the Middle East. We all know what this government has done wrong, the biggest financial meltdown in 80 years would have been enough on it's own to damn the Labour Party for the next decade or two. But Labour hasn't just driven our economy into the ground and then rewarded those responsible. Many cannot forgive the lying that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a conflict which has left around 1 million Iraqis dead and millions of others displaced. The war in Afghanistan is no more noble, that conflict is being fought to establish a gas pipeline for Halliburton. Unconvincingly, politicians are sticking to same old story "We need to fight them over there, or we'll be fighting them over here." It's an old argument, Lyndon B Johnson once said "We have to stop the communists over there [Vietnam] or we'll soon be fighting them in California." Apparently, this age-old argument justifies blowing 90 children to bits, as NATO fighter planes did last month. A "bad image" should be the least of the Blairites' worries, some would like to see many of them on trial with the Bush Administration.

The Alternative.

The only alternative being the Conservative Party as led by David Cameron, an Etonian Tory who dreams of walking in the footsteps of Thatcher. Though, it isn't clear how Cameron intends to "roll back" the state even further than Thatcher did. Many in Britain believe that the choice is between two parties - and that if you don't want Labour you must vote Conservative - and voting for anyone else is a waste of a vote. Essentially, Cameron's success is derived from the apathetic reaction to the banking bailouts and the expenses row - that typified the failures of New Labour. But it is easy to ride the wave of right-wing populism hindering New Labour. This sort of populism is what made Boris Johnson the Mayor of London and launched the fascist Nick Griffin to a seat in the European Parliament.

People voted for Boris either because they found him funny or because they were outraged by Mayor Livingstone's spending on his private life. But now we're stuck with a Mayor who is currently yearning to demolish estates in White City and Acton, so he can build affordable homes for the needy - people who earn £72,000 and over. The Conservatives are calling it giving common people the "right to move" and there are rumours they may be looking to dismantle council housing completely. But ultimately, even the Conservative Party Conference failed to greatly "invigorate" or "fire up" British voters. Why? Perhaps, it is the fact that everyone knows this is a choice between two evils and there is no lesser evil. By the end of the Conference they had increased in popularity by 4%, which apparently constitutes a "surge" in support for their policies, according to Murdoch's Sky News. This surge was mostly down to the populist critique of Labour utilised by David Cameron in his final speech. Though, his speech clearly lacked any solutions to the failures of the Labour Party.

During recessions it is common for people to "flock" to the Right for answers, because the Right always have a scapegoat in mind at the best of times. But let's not forget that New Labour are on the Right too, but they lack a credible scapegoat. It is clear after the last 12 years that Labour, the People's Party, has failed the people. But we all know that it is the Conservative Party policy to fail the people.
In Brown's speech at the Labour Party Conference the Prime Minister acknowledged that the upcoming general election will be a choice between "two parties". In effect he acknowledged what many have known for years, that our political system is in no way democratic. The choice we face is between the people who failed us and the people who failed us. We actively acknowledge this fact whenever we say something along the lines of "A vote for the Lib Dems is a wasted vote." The truth is we don't need a fourth party, or even a third, we need a first party that represents us. Unfortunately, it looks like we are in for a decade of Conservative governance.