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The Postmodern Fascist Movement

Posted on 7th February 2010. 6 Comments

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Chris Wright tackles the latest round in the BNP-DUS debacle…

“The spectre that people appear to be troubled by is that of crypto-fascism with a Hitlerian plan for a totalitarian racial Britain…”
Facebook groups have proliferated, emails have been sent – I feel somehow compelled to contribute to these keyboard recriminations on the subject of the second DUS cancelled invitation to the BNP.
The stirring sound of ‘Rule Britannia’ blaring from a BNP truck outside the library the other day reminded me of the phone-call I made to a local BNP activist a couple of years ago: he had somehow rigged his phone up to play ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ at you while you wait for him to pick up. The call was to arrange an interview – though ‘interview’ is not quite how it worked out – with the Griffin himself, following the first round of silly DUS-BNP controversy a couple of years ago.
What interested me about the BNP, then and now, is the nature of the transition made by a section of the marching and race rioting fascist community to the New Labourish practices of marketing, media, image and ‘electability’ – and, more fascinating still, the fact that everyone assumes this is a bad thing. The spectre that people appear to be troubled by is that of crypto-fascism with a Hitlerian plan for a totalitarian racial Britain, to be obtained by pretending to be merely non-violent racial nationalists. Not only does this demonstrate a troubling lack of faith in the general reasonableness of the seething mass political entity known as the electorate (who would have to consent to the plan in some sense at some point if it is to work), it also suggests an inability to accept that a person who lives by radically reactionary views might more or less believe what they say: behind the declared interest in standing up for the rights of ‘the indigenous’ economically and socially, so the reasoning goes, there must be a covert desire for something like world domination, genocide, military dictatorship. So it’s this – call it the Nazi or thug element – that we are told must be exposed.
I can’t say I was proud of the semi-interview I conducted over a meal with the Party Chairman at ASK – having had a single morning to prepare, a day before my first exam of the year, the opportunity for genuinely enlightening questions and answers was well and truly missed – but I was determined to try to get inside the man’s head rather than ‘expose’ him.
“My point is, Griffin and the BNP do have a way of thinking: like Tony Blair, he believes most of what he says in public…”
For instance, I tried pressing him on Rwanda, rather than his past statements on the Holocaust: he argued that whentwo ethnic groups live on top on each other – placing one mobile phone on another to illustrate – there is likely to be genocide, and any ‘intervention’ by the West will entangle us forever in that country in order to prevent the problem. Iraq and Afghanistan, he thinks, were idealistic wars, more or less the result of ex-Communist thinking: we were all young once, he reassured me, and it’s ‘natural’ that the young should make such mistakes, but our politicians should be more grown up. My point is, Griffin and the BNP do have a way of thinking: like Tony Blair, he believes most of what he says in public, even if, like Tony Blair, he tries his best to be savvy about image.
Whenever this question arises of how to treat the BNP in relation to respectable forums, such as Question Time and the Union Society, the case against the ‘no platform’ policy is always that we will expose the BNP by entering into dialogue with them. Yet the facts are open to anyone for examination without any television or debating society appearances: the record of Andrew Brons, for instance, is better accessed from the public domain than it will be from his own lips with his own spin. These facts show a man once a prominent member of the National Front, now canvassing on doorsteps and promising voters to work civilly with fellow MEPs and offering up managerial commitments to ‘achievable’ reductions in immigration. The Enoch Powell speech would be too rabble-rousing for the contemporary postmodern fascist movement. This isn’t a recipe for a military coup, in other words. The electoral success of the BNP will be limited by the fact that their vision of a world divided into ethnic groups is of fringe interest (by the way, DUS, this viewpoint must not be identified as the critique of multiculturalism). Meanwhile, talking about the success of the BNP and hosting storms in teacups over their place in the public sphere makes an admirable substitute for politics which starts from the premise of the world we live in now.
“As Nick Griffin says, we do all have to grow up…”
But isn’t it an insincere conversion to democracy? Not really, no. Understanding the coherence of their racially cynical ideology, the transition seems to me more or less identical to the Labour Party’s Clause IV moment. Not because there is equivalence between racist violence and the socialist commitment to state control of the means of production, but because both made a certain perverse political sense within the bounds of a sincerely held radical philosophy, and both have been abandoned in favour of a dampened, meliorating progress towards a version of the end goal that has been pragmatically revised downwards.
As Nick Griffin says, we do all have to grow up. The challenge of our politics is how to live in a more mature political world while aspiring to honesty, intelligence and seriousness. Of course, the BNP fall rather spectacularly short of that, even more so than Gordon Brown and David Cameron, but I’m quite happy to come out and state unequivocally that one thing they are not guilty of is representing a neo-Nazi threat, except perhaps in the postmodern sense that we accuse each other of being ‘Nazi’ upon this or that infringement of liberal high-mindedness. (‘Not to be a Nazi, but would you mind…’)
The hot air generated by this invitation is simply a waste of time and energy. I’m almost tempted to get a little high-minded myself about the University Registrar Carolyn Fowler’s statement that that ‘any threat to public safety supersedes the importance of freedom of expression’ – that’s a recipe for complicity to totalitarianism if ever there was one (where would this bovine attitude place Sophie Scholl?). But the overriding impression left by this latest episode is that everything, from the invite to the protest to the cancellation, expresses a perverse disdain for real politics in favour of the merely titillating, sensational stuff of controversy – as if battling out the ‘free speech’ issue is a nostalgic taste of the old days when political arguments got people out of bed in the morning.
It’s harder now, and we must learn to respect the choice to ignore the democratic process, without the moral blackmail of invoking suffragettes (who died so that you girls were able to vote, not so that you would feel obliged to vote without taking any time to work out whom to vote for). We must also learn that the pleasure of attaining an audience should be balanced with the aspiration of having a real debate rather than a pointless dialogue of placards.
Chris Wright

6 Comments »

  • David said:

    NIck Griffin was a official EU representative at copenhagen. A fervent nationalist working as a representative for the EU…
    There is a very simple explanation for the BNP if you’re willing to admit you’ve been duped. The BNP are a creation of the establishment used in a game of dialectics to move us towards the goals they want. Their role is to discredit opposition, so to discredit nationalism, discredit global warming skeptics etc…

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/copenhagen-climate-change-confe/6683385/BNP-leader-Nick-Griffin-will-represent-Europe-at-Copenhagen-climate-change-summit.html

    Protesting for free speech is a noble act. But what is more noble is people actually exercising their right of free speech by breaking through the propaganda matrix and facing the hard truth

    Hard truth 1; we don’t live in the UK anymore…

    http://www.wiseupjournal.com/?p=1338

  • Donnchadh said:

    Chris,
    interesting take. You may be right that the BNP, or at least their leadership, have genuinely changed their spots, and aren’t trying to smuggle in fascism under more polite guise. Or perhaps not. I think that even this polite guise itself is quite sufficient to debar them from serious political discourse.
    What’s interesting in all this is how lightly the DUS, particularly the members who made the decision to invite the BNP, have gotten off. If we think of the DUS as aspiring to provide a forum for intellectual challenge and exploration, to provide a standard and a stimulus for the student body to engage with great issues, how strange it is that they would blithely cast these aspirations aside to so blatantly court controversy and populism.
    But a more cynical and perhaps wiser part of me pipes up to say, listen old chap, this is the DUS we’re talking about. Kindly lower your expectations to a more appropriate level. And I have to admit that this cynical part of me might have a point.

  • Chris said:

    Donnchadh: In line with the point argued by your more cynical self, I can imagine less pointful debates held by the DUS than a debate in which the BNP took part – if only because it’s good for people to test their assumptions. ‘Is it in fact possible that community of race is a good way for a society to order itself?’ We all think not, but we should remind ourselves why, and coming up against people who think differently is a good way to do so. So the first invite was fine I think, because that was under the motion ‘this house believes that extremist parties have a right to be heard’, or soemthing similar. Whereas the multiculturalism motion implies that the initial point is to think about multiculturalism, and inviting two BNP speakers is a good way to have that discussion, which it isn’t.

  • Donnchadh said:

    Chris,
    I think that’s an important distinction you’ve drawn. However, my more cynical self is busy drawing up a list of things which most people assume, and (crucially) which they have good reason to assume, which it would seem pointless and tiresome for the DUS to provide a forum for discussion on. I can probably talk him out of posting it on D21, but a peek over his shoulder reveals it to include not legalising certain horrible crimes, not abolishing democracy, and not establishing state ownership of the means of production of fine china and old port. He ranks having the BNP around to chat about organising society on a race basis as soemwhere between the second and the third of these hypothetical discussions in order of wilful perversity and downright lack of importance.

  • Ali said:

    The author really has no idea what postmodern means.

  • Andra said:

    Donnchadh,

    Your cynical self is an intelligent man. The very existence of the BNP proves that not everyone is as fortunate. They may be representative of a negligible percentage of the population, they may be an anachronism, but they do exist. They have a point of view the majority will dismiss on grounds of common sense, but in many cases this common sense is synonymous with conformity, not much else.

    Point 1> we are after all far far away in the Northeast of England, which hasn’t been ethnically diverse for as long as other parts of the country, and still isn’t in the case of certain cities.

    Point 2> if you intend to debate multiculturalism, what speakers would be more suited to argue the AGAINST case?

    Point 3> interestingly enough, in the bubble of what many people regard as the white middle class Durham Student community, something has almost taken place. A National Student organization did not shy away from writing a letter littered with threats and almost dragging in coaches full of empty headed activists. Perhaps in the end all that was achieved was a reminder of how, by regarding certain people as somewhat inferior races, the BNP have been designated an inferior race. But this is an interesting area of our present day culture.

    In Germany Mein Kampf is banned. Not even philosophy scholars or historians can read it in German. They’re forced to read it when they travel.
    How much of what our cynical selves take for granted is common sense and how much is simply good old-fashioned censorship?

    If the DUS has but posed that question (involuntarily or not), I am prepared to give them some credit.