Fascism – the Strategic Adversary?
From Prue Plumridge
‘The strategic adversary is fascism … the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour. The fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.’
Alex Andreou wrote in the New Statesman’ ‘The danger with extremism is that, when filtered through eyes and minds of reasonable people, it appears ridiculous. The reasonable assumption is that others will view it through the same filter and find it equally ridiculous. But, while The Reasonable laugh, support for extremist views creeps up. Because what The Reasonable fail to notice is that fear and insecurity have a way of robbing others of reason. Instead, if you find yourself nodding in agreement with a couple of items on Ukip’s long list of empty promises, remember all the other things you will also be signing up for. They represent a particularly insidious brand of extremist; Bigotry Light, if you will – all the hatred of normal bigotry, but none of the calories.’
In the days prior to the local elections there was a lot of media attention given to UKIP aiming at discrediting their ideas and policies. If I am cynical I imagine this attack originating in the corridors of power in the Conservative party and right wing media in an attempt to woo back wavering supporters. In the aftermath there are those who are saying that the subsequent swing towards UKIP in the elections is simply a protest vote against the coalition or, in these difficult times, as support for its policies on immigration and the EU which have become the whipping boys for all the country’s ailments. However, we would do well to look beyond UKIP’s rhetoric and dreams of a return to a glorious past, a time of empire, Judeo-Christian values and so called Britishness. Behind the fluffy and ill-thought out policies presented by Farage and his party hides something much more unpleasant which senior UKIP members take great pains to try and deny.
It is time that the public woke up to the problem of right wing extremism which is lurking underneath that very reasonableness. I imagine that in pre-war Germany Hitler’s economic promises seemed very reasonable to a people who had been crushed by the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles after the first world war, and those who were willing to turn a blind idea to some of his crazy ideas about the Jews and Roma peoples, the disabled and mentally sick and the creation of a pure Aryan race.
What is even more disturbing is that the Party is a member of the Europe Freedom and Democracy group which has links to far right parties. Nigel Farage is co-president of the group along with Francesco Speroni a member of the Lega Nord in Italy who described the multiple murderer Anders Breivik as someone whose ‘ideas are in defence of western civilisation. It matters not that sometimes the party has distanced itself from such comments. What matters is that there are such people within the party who have expressed such disgusting views at all within what seems to be becoming more than just the fringe ‘clowns and fruitcakes’ party described by David Cameron and Ken Clark.
It is shocking that following the local elections it seems that some people in their voting choices have moved even more to the right than the Conservatives. I ask myself whether they are aware of some of the extreme opinions that have been expressed by members of the party or indeed do they actually know what UKIP stands for (apart from their views on immigration and the EU)? They might be surprised. Just a brief look shows an ill thought out political agenda which has little substance and seems more like something jotted down on the back of a fag packet whilst in the pub. Even one of their own MEPs has suggested that it might be better to buy a set of ‘off the shelf’ policies to fill the manifesto vacuum.
How about their proposals for:
- A flat tax rate of 25% which would give a 14% tax cut to the wealthiest whilst costing the treasury billions
- An increase of 40% in defence spending including the purchase of new aircraft carriers, fighter jets and nuclear missiles.
- A prison building programme (to house a rising population of criminals) which again would cost billions (and the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.)
And where, in this age of austerity, is this money to be magicked up from – well apparently it will all be paid for when we leave the EU freeing up £8-9 billion but which, in actual fact, would barely cover half the proposed defence spending let alone fund the Party’s other crazy spending ideas.
And speaking of the EU, UKIP’s promise to exit the EU holds great attraction for those who ask the question ‘what did the Union ever do for us?’ So much rubbish has been spouted about bendy bananas, curved cucumbers and chunky carrots that we fail to see the wider picture. Apart from a wide ranging programme which includes regional economic funding, employment, public health, health and safety, equal opportunities and environmental legislation, over 50% of trade worth £450bn a year is done in Europe and 3.5 million jobs are reliant on the EU. Over 100,000 businesses export to the EU, 94,000 of which are SME’s . Over 80% believe that the market delivers significant benefits to them. A recent poll of British businesses showed that 90% of them favour continued membership. The UK has also benefited substantially from 45 free trade agreements with countries outside Europe which have been negotiated by the EU and if we were to exit the UK would have to renegotiate on a country by country basis. Over 50% of companies investing in the UK cite EU membership as a reason. Of course the EU is not perfect and reform must come if it is to have a future but UKIP harks back to a glorious Great Britain existing still in some other time warp ready to be re-invented, without even considering the effects of such an exit on our economy. On a more personal note Farage might well rejoice at what the Union has done for him since he openly boasts that he has claimed £2million in expenses whilst bemoaning the amount of tax-payers money going to the EU.
The party is sceptical about climate change, rejects scientific opinion on the issue and is inconsistent in its pronouncements. It opposes efforts to combat climate change, supports coal fired and nuclear energy along with shale gas extraction and fracking whilst opposing wind power and other renewables. Its intention will be to scrap all subsidies for renewable energy and cancel all wind farm developments. And yet, despite stressing the need for clean technology in coal fired power stations, it opposes the EU’s directive to close polluting coal fired stations claiming that ‘it won’t make a scrap of difference to global emissions of greenhouse gases’. As a party they have the worst attendance, voting and work performance of any political party across the EU according to figures for the last three years to July 2012. And despite lots of fine words and support for legislation against fishing discards, when it came to it Nigel Farage did not vote and the rest of the UKIP MEPs abstained. To end on a wacky note they also want to ban the showing of Al Gores ‘An Inconvenient Truth in schools. It seems that if they don’t believe in it then no-one else should hear about it and make up their own minds.
In education UKIP intend to bring back grammar schools and operate a voucher system which parents can spend in the state or private sector whilst in the NHS it plans to franchise out key services including hospitals and GP surgeries to companies and charities and create a voucher system to allow people to opt out of the NHS system entirely. It is also proposing to reduce employment rights, bring public expenditure down to 1997 levels by making cuts of £77 billion with a loss of 2 million jobs, scrap employers’ NI with the revenue to be recouped from Corporation Tax, VAT or reduced welfare. All of these policies can be seen as creating more division, reducing the safety net and further impoverishing some of the most vulnerable in society.
And yet more worryingly with their views on immigration (whilst refuting the charges of closet racism) they have nonetheless tapped into a reservoir of hate which appeals to some people’s fears about an uncertain future.
They ignore the valuable contribution made to the UK economy by immigrants and the fact that they are less likely to claim benefits than those who were born here. UKIP intend to end the active promotion of the doctrine of multi-culturalism which it claims has divided society and has also spoken of forced repatriation or assimilation – a policy which shadows that of the far right BNP. The idea that there is something that might be defined as a homogenous British culture is misleading – our culture has over centuries been an amalgam of influences from the Romans, Danes, Angles and Saxons, and Normans, to India and modern Europe more recently. It is not static but a fluid affair not to be defined by a bundle of old fashioned stereotypes which figures bulldogs, Winston Churchill, god, queen and country. Our ability to live together and respect each other has come a long way in the last few decades and whilst there is still much to do the idea that we can impose something defined as British culture or values is a mistaken one.
Some may say that these are reasonable policies and we may laugh on the other hand, as Alex Andreou says, at the open expression of such extreme ideas and put them aside as simply unwise.
But we should not forget Martin Luther King’s words ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter’. Fascism will creep up on us and when we least expect it, when our defences are down, it will pounce upon us with disastrous consequences.
- The Top Ten Benefits of British membership of the EU Newton Dunn.com
- UKIP Party Bigots : Let’s Look at the Evidence (New Statesman)
- UKIP: Coming in from the Cold (Guardian)
- BBC Local Elections : What does UKIP stand for?
- Nigel Farage and UKIP change British Politics: Guardian
- Where have UKIP’s MEPs really been? Independent
- Huffington Post: UKIP Nazi salute
- Think Left: Tomorrow Belongs to Me!
- Beppo Grillo: A Salutary Reminder of the Price of Freedom
- Fight Future Fascism -Together