A wobbly table appeared outside King’s college last week. Behind it was a woman and front of it was a man. The man was shouting things whilst holding a megaphone by his side. The table wobbled as he shouted, leaflets fell. Everyone walked by, bemused or unaffected. I was not one of them though, because, as usual, their sign caught my eye. “BASH THE FAR RIGHT BNP”, it suggested. It was not the rubbish scansion that caused me to stop in my tracks (BASH THE BNP, surely?), or the ironically fascist overtones (more on those later), but rather the total absence of research that had gone into making the sign. As most of you will know, it isn’t just this sign either. Every single anti-BNP rally sports these stupid placards. They are the flora and fauna of any gathering of people who do so for the purpose of letting you know that they do not support the BNP and you shouldn’t either, as if that were necessary. I wouldn’t mind so much if they knew their politics, because it only takes five minutes and some of the internet to work out that the BNP are not far right but far left.
Political views do not exist on a spectrum with Hitler at one end and Stalin at the other. The horseshoe theory is only a theory but, take it from me, it’s correct. In front of you is a horseshoe with the gap at the top. You can debate whom goes exactly where but by and large, opposite the gap you have the dead centre of politics. Let’s put the Labour Party just to the left of it and the Tories slightly further to the right. Just less than half way round on the right you might want to put Thatcher, and opposite her on the left you could put Helen Clarke maybe. Further round from her on the left we’ll pop in Hugo Chavez, and jumping across to the right, George Bush Jnr. These can all be debated. What is not debatable is what happens at the top of the horseshoe where the two sides almost meet. Here you have the far right, far left and the whole point of the horseshoe theory, which is, obviously, that they are not so far apart and not particularly different. Conventionally you’d have Hitler and Mussolini cosying up on the right, because they were fascists, with Stalin, Kim Jong Il and Pol Pot only a peasant’s throw from them on the communist left. Personally I would chuck them all in the gap, so similar are they in policy, but no matter. I said the BNP were left-wing, so I’d better make my case. Here is the evidence.
They are ethno-nationalists who call for, unsurprisingly, the nationalisation of industry and economic protectionism as well as subsistence farming. This would mean trade tariffs, import substitution and probably starvation, if history is anything to go by, which it is. Essentially they espouse a command and control centralised economy, a favourite of both fascism and communism. Going back to the ethno part of their nationalism, they are an a-historical and very confused bunch of closet racists, some of whom have fallen of the closet because it isn’t big enough. They hate Islam, gays, foreigners and would clearly suppress a great deal of individual freedoms given half a chance, not least because that’s the only way national centralisation could ever work. Nick Griffin might appear to muddy the waters by saying that they like Jews, don’t mind Hindus and want the economy to work for the people rather than the other way round; take absolutely no notice. If you want to organise your economy from the centre, nationalise the means of production, control the distribution of resources and do so for the purposes of your nation at the expense of others, you are a national socialist, or Nazi, if you prefer. Tweak that slightly – emphasise a classless society and take away the overtness of the racism – and you find yourself a communist.
But the Nazi’s were right-wing. We were taught it at school! Well, school lied. There really was very little policy difference between, say, Hitler and Stalin, hence the horseshoe. History does point out some differences between totalitarian regimes of the left and right. The far left have often claimed not to be racist but turn out to be just that, whereas the right tend to shout about it. In this sense one could argue the BNP, through Nick Griffin’s rhetoric, are trying to cross over from far right to far left. Also the extreme left have often pretended to be tolerant of ideas and difference whilst in fact being entirely intolerant and really pretty nasty towards any political dissenters. Again the right have been more overt. There is maybe a case for saying the far-right are more likely to initiate war, but really, I’m clutching at straws. Communists and fascists have always been cut from the same cloth. If you want a rock solid label for them it is that they both hate liberalism.
Given the superficial differences, maybe I’m wrong to say they’re not far-right. Going on the above, does it even matter? Can’t we just say we don’t like them? I suppose if I’m honest, yes. I do genuinely think they are more far left than right, but that’s not really what makes me angry about them being called far right. My problem actually lies with the people at the wobbly table. The reason they call the BNP far right and not far left is because they are socialists. Look carefully at every wobbly table and what do you find? Patchouli oil, yes, but more importantly, hundreds of copies of the Socialist Worker, piled up in the corner. It is this that I cannot stand. The horrendous, hubristic and supremely arrogant assertion that to hate the BNP you have to be a socialist. In fact I hate them even more than that, because they can hardly be bothered to disguise the fact that the BNP give them purpose. They receive publicity and support only because they serve as a counter-weight, as if politics were a ruler balancing on a rubber, socialists vs. fascists. It just isn’t, and the sooner they step aside and let people who have read enough books to understand this the sooner the BNP will be accurately identified for what they are. Why is this labelling important? Because only once you have identified what you’re up against can you begin to defeat it.
Nick Griffin is used to fielding questions about immigration. He has his answers prepared. (I know it doesn’t sound like it sometimes, but that’s because re-writing history and ignoring the ice age does make for quite a difficult argument.) If people were made more aware of what he wants to do to our food supply, our economy, our rights and freedoms, and what he would have to do to democracy in order to achieve any of these aims, the BNP would have no support. And here, therefore, is your takeaway for this evening: you will never hear these arguments from the people behind the wobbly table, because, whether they realise it or not, on those issues they are right behind him.