Skip to content

UKIP and the Fascist Tendency

UKIP are not welcome in any city, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English. The reasons are clear. I’m glad Nigel Farage realized he wasn’t welcome. This will happen every time he tries to campaign in Scotland, and it is right that it does.

Some don’t agree, so before we come to the problem of UKIP, we must strongly defend the use of street confrontation as a political method. There has been an unfortunate series of articles, from people who should know better, complaining that Farage was unduly harassed,  that violence was directed at him, and that he had his right to freedom of speech violated. There’s also been a conflation between anti-UKIP protests and anti-English protests.

Farage is continuing to attempt to identify himself as the embodiment of a sort of ‘common sense Englishness’, and therefore sees and presents any attack on him as an attack on an entire nation. If I was being charitable I would say the commentators above (as well as the BBC, Guardian, and other major media outlets) have simply fallen for this. If I was being mischievous  I would say that their dislike of the Scottish independence movement outweighs their dislike of UKIP’s British/English movement. One independence is simply not the same as the other. Mike Small and George Eaton have, at the very least, tried to point out the fallacy.

This is not to deny that there is a certain dynamic between English nationalism and Scottish nationalism – a dynamic which exists because Scotland is a different country. It is interesting how clearly polling seems to be showing that the prospect of leaving the EU will greatly increase the likelihood of Scotland voting for independencea fondness for Europe which has not been in recent display in England. However, despite some isolated cases of which much is made, the Scottish attitude to the English is, rather than xenophobic, a poorly understood mixture of rivalry, historic self-hatred, and contemporary self-confidence. The famous ‘Scottish Cringe‘ exists, but as it is being undone any new self-confidence will appear to some in the UK as an attack on their values. Its not surprising, being a small nation of just over 5million, within an economic and political union with a nation of over 53million, that Scottish citizens feel the need to assert themselves – in the main it seems to me that the values asserted here, anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-elitism, social democracy and robust political campaigning, are the right values to assert. Its telling that Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, proved yet again that he can spot a shyster better than most across the UK, basically telling Farage to get away and boil his heid.

Lets be clear:Kip_M_1729779a

  1. Harassment – there is a long tradition on the Royal Mile, and the streets of Scotland, of politicians getting some ‘rough music‘. A misplaced respect for politicians is, thankfully, absent. You only have to look at the video of the 1997 devolution debates, Question Time, or any of the dozen or more protests against right-wing politicians in recent years to see that this is a traditional way of greeting the great and the good. When our politicians believe they only have to meet those they agree with, in sanitized circumstances, behind gates, we have no real political debate.
    When you see a bawbag, you call it a bawbag. “UKIP are just bullshit” is possibly the best analysis so far.
  2. Violence – there has been a complete misuse of the term violence, a misuse which has been developing for some years1. During the student protests of 2010 property damage suddenly because ‘violence’, now heckling a semi-major politician seems to be ‘violence’. There is a violent aspect to this, as there is in all social relations – but there is violence everywhere in our society. Compared to the current economic violence inherent in schemes such as Workfare, the Bedroom Tax, wage freezes and inflationary monetary policies, this doesn’t rate.
  3. Freedom of speech – Farage was not simply speaking, he was not merely carrying out a conversation, or giving his opinion. He was a politician, giving his message to the press, and intending to campaign within an election. He was not here to debate, but to spread a message. We do not complain when people remove advertising hoardings, or turn down the sound on the TV. He was challenged robustly both verbally and physically. It is key to note that he certainly was not silenced – after the protest he had full access to the media to give his side of the story.

‘Freedom of speech’ is the sacred liberal value – its violation is invoked probably more often than the freedom to do business.

Robin McAlpine of the Reid Foundation has pointed out how this entire narrative risks crowding out and demonizing any form of radical politics: “what seems to be being argued is that only the political class have a right to be heard.” If press conferences are the only form of politics allowed, then those who can afford press conferences (and summon the media) will rule the country – as they do now.

It is always telling what people choose to find disgust in – is it the politics of UKIP, or the action of protesters? It seems that some within Labour and the wider political spectrum do not see UKIP as a threat – in fact they revel in the damage it is doing to the Conservatives, and the Coalition government. They would also rather attack anyone they see as pro-Independence than counter Farage. UKIP are indeed a threat to all political parties, not because of what they are currently, not simply because they can take votes (itself a crass instrumentalization of the idea of politics), but because of the effect they can have on the politics of the UK, and from what they can become.

The question we should be asking is not ‘why did Edinburgh behave this way’, but ‘why didn’t this happen before?’ What did those in Edinburgh, within the Scottish radical independence movement, see in UKIP which was not visible before? What did they make visible?

It seems it takes a few Scottish students to do what the Westminster establishment has been incapable of doing, namely to get Nigel Farage running.

Pre-Fascism

UKIP as currently constituted – both formally, and in terms of who and what they represent, and their political tactics - are not a fascist party. But then, there is no stable definition of fascism. The term itself is usually unhelpful, except as a slogan – it would be far more useful to suggest that there is a fascist tendency. UKIP tend towards fascism. There are many good reasons to refuse UKIP a platform, and to confront them on the streets – for the same reason you would confront the Conservatives: because they are socially regressive class warriors – even if they are not ‘formally’ fascist.

A concept of the fascist tendency (with a fascist imaginary) would mean that we no longer attempt to take the outward form of regimes that existed in 1945 as the model. We will never see the political movements of the 30s again: next time all will look different, and if we spend our time trying to sniff out Nazism, we will be sorely disappointed.

51QZ+N1frPLAll politics is filled with contradiction, with uneven developments – indeed, in most situations it is never clear ‘before the flood‘ exactly what is occurring – and once the flood is here everything becomes even more murky.

Some on the left are uncomfortable with noting that Fascism and Socialism are born in the same spaces opened up by economic uncertainty, and that historically some fascisms have been able to rule in the name of socialism. As an ideology of negation the fascist tendency is capable of picking up various economic, aesthetic, and ideological features and re-purposing them for its own means. All political systems find a unique way to resolve the currently existing contradictions in our social and political economy.

Some of the general features of a society which (traditional) fascist tendencies attempt to resolve are:

  1. A reactionary middle class: the populace has gone through a shock, and a decline in its living standards, and is uncertain of its future prosperity. There is an instability in the political and economic confidence of the middle and ‘petit bourgeoise’ classes.
  2. A fanatical, determined right-wing.
  3. A democratic structure which is no longer seen as legitimate by a large section of the populace.
  4. Finance capital (versus manufacture, merchants, or labour) attempts to wield the majority of economic power.
  5. A consolidation of economic power, where small businesses are collapsing and large organizations are able to grow.
  6. A defeated working class and a spineless ‘left’: the lack of non-fascist alternatives to the current ruling social and economic ideology2. Massive unemployment or underemployment.
  7. An identifiable ‘other’ group – who may be ‘other’ racially, politically, or via any other identifying feature.

A rise in ideologies of division and scapegoating require multiple crises. Simply, the fascist tendency resolves these crises by identifying and elaborating on a perceived threat (always with a certain truth to it) in order to consolidate power in the hands of a economic group which is able to quickly solve some symptoms of falling living standards. This would  be the effect of UKIP’s policies to decrease market regulations. Rather than ‘left’ or ‘right’, the solution is radically centrist. It is the apparent resolution, along regressive and totalitarian lines, of the contradictions of the whole of society via the tools of nationalism and radical pragmatism.

The key fault line of the fascist tendency is that it never fully resolves any of the problems it confronts. This creates a momentum towards increasing violence and extreme political positions. It defers their resolution, and solves an imaginary problem. E.g. the problem of stagnant wages is solved by ending immigration. This first stage resolution is never enough – exile must be escalated into eradication.

Nipping it in the bud

There are two key features that mark UKIP out as non-fascist. Firstly, they are not a street movement with a robust street politics (as Edinburgh demonstrated), but a movement of financiers (Farage was a stock-broker) and disillusioned social conservatives.

The tactics of the BNP, and the other new-Right street movements such as the EDL3 (in Scotland the SDL) are the missing component of a formation which would be able to begin a real escalation of the fascist tendency4.  During their brief period of success the BNP and EDL managed to confront anti-fascists regularly with reasonable numbers, but they are now at a low ebb due to complete electoral failure, and overwhelming confrontation on the streets. The worry is that any tacit or explicit alliance between the a disillusioned, anti-Europe middle-class and a working class abandoned by the mainstream political parties (the UKIP and the BNP tendency) could create a serious social and political threat.

“Only where there is reason to suspect that conditions could be changed and are not does rage arise.”

(Hannah Arendt, On Violence, p.63)

Secondly, UKIP doesn’t present an alternative structure outside the state which threatens the ‘legitimate’ state’s democratic processes. Ironically, its dominance of the European elections – which are almost totally absent from the common currency of UK discourse – presents itself as the closest attempt it has made yet for an alternative mode of political representation, albeit a completely negative one. There are plently of ways an alternative structure could arise – business groups and think-tanks, for example, are spaces which can claim to affect political discourse and organize different formations of power. The mostly likely mixture of ideologies is some mixture of fundamentalist individualist libertarianism, supporting a narrative of national sovereignty  very much like the American Tea Party movement, which made headway in the run-up to the 2010 American Presidential election by conflating liberal values with authoritarianism.

Pre-fascism

I suggest we are currently in a pre-fascist type moment. Things are likely to get worse, but we are nowhere near a point of no return. In a previous piece I argued that over the next few years a political choice will be made between laying blame on a minority, or on a totality. Does a society tend to find a group of workers (immigrants) responsible, or do we address a more complicated, less visible problem, the organization of our economic system and our wage system?

BNP Burnley protestUKIP, and racism, cannot be stopped solely on the streets. It is necessary, but not sufficient, to starve them of oxygen via protest. It is necessary  but not sufficient, to offer alternative explanations for social ills. What must be presented is a possible change, and a possible route to change – both of these narratives are still completely lacking from the left. Farage may have lost a skirmish in Edinburgh, but his tendency is winning the war.

During the last financial crisis of this scale – the 30s – both the fascist and the social democratic fixes were attempted, in sequence, and in different ways across the world. This occurred first at the ‘centre’, in the dominant Western powers, but the legacy of fascism lasted well into the 70s and beyond in many European countries and further abroad. The ‘Keynesian fix’ was only turned to once the combined efforts of late-imperialist European wars and the fascist regimes proved intolerable and, ultimately, simply incapable of resolving the contradictions of society.

As we have seen with the unravelling of the Keynesian consensus the social democratic fix did not survive either.

We either have various potential futures:

  • a new ‘Keynesian’ fix,
  • a new ‘fascist’ fix,
  • revolution.
  • A slow collapse into a worse world.

http://gettingworse.co.uk/ukip-and-the-fascist-tendency/

References

  1. ‘It is, I think, a rather sad reflection on the present state of political science that our terminology does not distinguish among such key words as “power,” “strength,” “force,” “authority” and… “violence”…’ Hannah Arendt, On Violence, p.43 []
  2. historically this has been communism []
  3. English Defence League []
  4. Such an alignment forms the basis of Golden Dawn in Greece. []
  • http://twitter.com/mhairi_mcalpine Mhairi McAlpine

    Useful reference here on the 14 defining characteristics of fascism (source is rightwing btw, but I cant find an alternative)

    http://rense.com/general37/char.htm

  • Kane Balintore

    insane drivel, faced with undeniable facts the author tries to redefine the English language.