Archive for the ‘BNP’ Category

A Favourable Reference to the Devil

July 22, 2010

Today Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, declared to media experiencing an exceptionally slow news day that he would accept an invitation from Buckingham Palace to attend an annual garden party hosted by the Queen. As an MEP, a spokesman from the palace confirmed, Griffin is eligible to be offered one of 8000 entrance tickets for the function.

Naturally, looking to balance the story and sniff out some token conflict, the courteous BBC turned to a furious Unite against Fascism (UAF) spokesman who declared: “We are opposed to Nick Griffin appearing anywhere in public. Events like this help to make Nick Griffin and the BNP seem legitimate in the eyes of racist voters. The Queen does not just represent Britain but the Commonwealth. Her staff or whoever invited him really need to take a long, hard look at what this day represents – Nick Griffin and racists or multiculturalism.”

Come again? The Queen represents, Britain, the Commonwealth and multiculturalism? Had such words been spoken by a liberal democrat or a Tory then no eyebrows would be raised, but the UAF are supposed to be a ‘socialist’ popular front against ‘fascism’, organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party. No genuine socialist could possibly perceive the monarchy as genuinely representative of people in Britain, or across the Commonwealth nations, and it certainly is not an institution which embraces or inspires multiculturalism. I do not believe for a second that socialists within UAF believe that it does, but what this statement does show is the total failing of the ‘popular front’ tactic in tacking on Fascism, or in the BNP’s case, the fringe far-right.

The statement is underpinned by the idea of the popular front, the notion that the correct way to fight the far-right is to build as broad a coalition as possible, thereby marginalising their extreme ideas. It’s a simple logic, but it leads to the question: with whom should socialists enter into anti-fascist coalitions, and on what basis? When a group of socialists can find themselves making favourable references to the Queen, accepting the signature of Tory party leader (now Prime Minister) David Cameron on their petition or sharing a platform with politicians who in any other circumstances they would campaign against, something has gone very wrong indeed.

It was Winston Churchill, Tory Prime Minster, hero of the right, enemy of the Unions and certifiable war criminal who said: “If Hitler were to invade Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.” It’s this same ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ notion which leads well intended progressives down the blind ally of the popular front.

The crucial point that the UAF seem to have forgotten, and Churchill never needed to worry about, is Class. That is why the popular front can lead to such unholy alliances, as there is no class basis for unity. The Far-Right grow in strength as they prey on areas with real, material problems and where people have no true representation. The task is to form a united front, on a clear working class basis, saying clearly why the BNP and their ilk are gaining ground and what we propose as an alternative. It is never enough to say what you are against; the difficult part is saying what you are for. Such a united front, built out of trade unions, socialist groups and community organisations, could not only stop the far-right on the ground, but can fight to build something better.

It is fitting that this issue should arise once again so close to the anniversary of the Spanish Civil war, there is no clearer example of the historic failings of the popular front then the defeat of the Spanish revolution.

Finally, even though this post is little to do with the monarchy itself, it is worth remembering the relationship between that venerable institution and Fascism. As a disclaimer I will add that, due to their class make up, their base of support and their actual demands, I would suggest that the BNP are not actually a Fascist party. Racist, Intolerant, xenophobic and nationalistic as they may be, the BNP should be campaigned against, but Fascism is a very specific political movement, which the BNP does little to emulate.

During the 1930’s the Fascist party of Oswald Mosley in the UK, the NSDAP Nazi party in Germany, Franco’s regime in Spain and Mussolini’s Italian Facisiti all had the support of wealthy capitalists and sections of the aristocracy, including the Monarchy. Put simply the 1930’s was a era of huge crisis for Global capitalism, not only with the economic collapse and the following depression, but also the challenge that it faced from the Soviet Union and the growing workers movements throughout the industrial world. The economic crisis was inevitably followed by political crisis, with weak conservative and liberal democracies rising and falling at the drop of a hat. In this crisis reactionary fascist movements began to grow, the rank and file filled with the disenfranchised middle class, some of whom were disillusioned by the failure of revolutionary movements in places like Germany. It was towards these groups that the ruling class, both capitalist and aristocrat, turned in order to preserve a collapsing system. Fascism was no simple mass movement of angry working men, it was a system adopted by the ruling class, who were temporarily prepared to cede power to a dictator, for the price of preserving capitalism in some form and destroying the working class labour movement.

In the United Kingdom prior to his abdication King Edward VIII was a strong supporter of Hitler, for destroying the Labour movement, halting ‘communism’ and rebuilding a ruined Germany. Footage can still be found of Edward and his wife Mrs Simpson giving the Nazi salute during a tour of Germany. It was only when war loomed and this support became a political embarrassment that Edward was exiled to be governor of the Bahamas. However even at the height of the War he was still the figure seen as leading the Monarchy under a Hitler state. Let us make no mistake, had Hitler won the war, the British monarchy would have continued to thrive.

Perhaps these are the thoughts that the UAF spokesman should have kept in mind when he was asked his views on the Griffin invite. Perhaps he could have considered his response before telling reporters that Griffin and his kind were welcome to take sandwiches at the home of an outdated and irrelevant aristocratic institution which represents a class who have historically supported Fascism. He could have said that Griffin and Elizabeth Windsor were welcome to each other, as neither truly represent working people in Britain or indeed the Commonwealth and neither have those peoples’ interests in mind. 

 (Post-Publication addition – The invitation has now been withdrawn as the Palace feel the BNP have sought to ‘politicise’ the occasion.)