Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Bloggers Against Fascism

Debate at Harry's and Peter Cuthbertson's.

Two points

Firstly, what do we mean by fascism ? Is it a state of things where telling the truth can be a criminal offence, or where the State takes it upon itself to decide what truth is ? Is it a state of affairs where free speech is suppressed by the organs of the State ? Is it where thought crime exists in law ? Or where senior members of the Government meet at the House of Lords to be advised by someone who believes that supporters of some political parties should be beaten up in the street ?

If so it appears to have arrived early, with a caring liberal face. Yet not a dog barks on the Left, with the notable exception of Peter Tatchell. "Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear", says the admirable Harry's Place. Yet the case of Harry Hammond passed him by totally, as it's passed by Amnesty International and Liberty. The days of 'I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it' are long gone. It's a very bad portent when 'freedom of speech' becomes 'freedom of speech for some but not others'. The infrastructure is being built.

Secondly, the culture war waged over the last thirty years by the Left (I dissociate Old Labour from this - this is a phenomenon with its genesis in student politics) has objectively created conditions which make a form of fascism much more likely. The celebrated decline of deference cuts more than one way. Society is much less gentle, more violent, than it was fifty years ago. Political allegiance is much less deep-rooted, more volatile, than it was. Our children are being taught to identify themselves as members of a particular ethnic group (my older children were given a form at school to fill in) rather than as Britons. There is enormous cynicism about politics and a culture which demands instant gratification. Ancient institutions which have served to preserve liberty over centuries have been emasculated or abolished. It's possible that given such a cultural background, national self-confidence (something we currently don't have) could take unpleasant forms.

Though at the heart of the BNP are some very nasty ideas (I keep coming back to this document) I don't see a big BNP vote as directly bringing fascism nearer, though it may help tilt the cultural balance of forces a little in that direction. What it will do is unleash a long-overdue debate on the Left. If their website is any guide, the average BNP member/supporter is from 'the old school' - a remnant of the culture which the left are attacking. A typical example was the charming elderly BNP councillor who told Radio 5 that her most admired person was Nelson Mandela. These people just aren't natural fascists, unless you consider the England of Attlee or Harold Wilson was fascist. Elderly Englishmen and women - the Middle England of the Daily Mail - don't do fascism. For younger surfers, fascism isn't not being allowed to marry your gay partner in church, or being cold-shouldered at the PTA. It's being beaten in the street, sacked from your job, having your windows smashed or your property torched. Middle England ain't big on any of that.

A big BNP vote (and I'll be surprised if we don't see a couple of Euro-MPs elected) won't be a vote for fascism in the minds of their voters, any more than the million Stop the War marchers were supporters of Saddam or the SWP. It'll be a gigantic 'Not In My Name !' aimed at the mainstream political parties, who will need to look again at the vast swathe of political terrritory they've vacated and left to the BNP.

For those who read their history, fascism was always about youth. Currently the nearest thing to a fascist youth movement is the area where animal rights, anti-globalisation and environmentalism meet. The kind of people who will hit an elderly hunt follower in the face with a hammer, surround a house containing terrified children and smash all the windows, burn foreign-owned property (if it's American owned, that is), publish lists of enemies to be dealt with, or wear 'Hurry up and Die, Queen Mother' t-shirts. These movements all belong to the cultural Left.

I see no sign at all of any similar youth movement on the Right. When the coolest kids in school self-identify as nationalists, when their bands are in the charts and girls wear 'My Boyfriend Is An Englishman' shirts - that'll be where the kind of fascism the Left disapproves of begins.

So if you want to prevent fascism, stop creating the objective conditions for it. And roll back the existing manifestations.

It won't happen of course. We will continue down the broad and pleasant path, eyes wide shut, until the rough beast finally arrives, in whatever form, and we wonder like children what's gone wrong. In my worst visions my sons are on the streets, trying to stop people being attacked because of their race (and in danger of attack themselves), while in a thousand council offices ex-liberal careerists are hastily applying for the new Anglicisation Policy Co-ordinator posts ("under the Race Relations Act 2016, this post is only open to those of Anglo-Saxon cultural heritage") and the UN is wondering whether troops should be sent in.

Have a nice day.