2:03 pm - February 3rd 2009
Iain Dale and John Redwood represent the not-so-stupid face of the Stupid Party; the Thatcherite blogger and the Thatcherite former cabinet minister are clearly very intelligent blokes. Yet both display an uncharacteristic degree of political illiteracy today, founded on wilful misconstrual of what can be included under the general heading of ‘rightwing politics’.
Iain – yes, we are on first name terms – has authored a post under the headline ‘Why the BNP is Left Wing (and Fascist)’. His reasoning runs like this:
But the fact remains that BNP beliefs DO have more in common with Socialism than with Conservatism – centralised command control, trade tariffs, state owned businesses … I could go on. I struggle to think of a single issue which joins the BNP and mainstream conservatism. The Nazis were called National Socialists for a reason. Fascism is invariably described as a creed of the right. It isn’t. As with the BNP, fascism has far more in common with the left, at least in political theoretical terms.
That the word ‘Nazi’ is an abbreviation of National Socialist is frequently trumpeted by rightists as conclusive proof that Hitler was some kind of crypto-communist. But what’s in a name? Let’s give the matter a moment’s reflection.
Nick Clegg in Britain, Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Russia and Taro Aso in Japan are all leaders of parties that style themselves ‘Liberal Democrats’. Would Iain argue for one moment that they have some kind of common underlying political identity? Surely not.
Meanwhile, Redwood maintains on his website that ‘some socialists try to distinguish communism from fascism.’ The implication has to be that the two cannot be distinguished.
The origin of the nonsense peddled by Dale and Redwood can be located with some precision. If you want the fullest exposition, head for chapter 12 of Hayek’s ‘The Road to Serfdom’, tellingly called ‘The Socialist Roots of Nazism’.
That Hayek is the originator of the critique is itself significant. As the Austrian economist’s support for Pinochet’s Chile underlines, he openly preferred free market dictatorships to social market democracies. In his ideal polity, the full franchise would not be extended to anyone who worked for the public sector or to anyone under 45. In short, he was not a committed democrat.
But more importantly, his proposition that any variety of statism is ipso facto ‘socialist’ cannot be supported by any serious historical investigation. Socialism by definition involves working class control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. In both Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, the capitalist class retained beneficial ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, despite central direction.
That is how come IG Farben ended up running the chemical factories of Auschwitz as a private capitalist company, on a for-profit basis. No wonder the bourgeoisie funded the rise of fascism to power in both instances, with the full connivance of the parties of the mainstream right. Naturally, fascist governments make it their first task to smash the organisations of the working class, especially the socialist and communist parties and the trade unions.
Despite Redwood’s protestations that the right is inherently democratic, layers of the Conservative Party – from the January Club in the 1930s to the Monday Club of the 1970s and the Conservative Democratic Alliance of the current decade – have always been prepared to flirt with fascism.
To underline the point, let me conclude with two quotes from Winston Churchill, a former Tory prime minister. Both are sufficiently well-known for it to be certain that Redwood will be aware of them. The first was addressed by Churchill to Mussolini:
If I had been an Italian, I am sure that I should have been wholeheartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism … Externally, your movement has rendered service to the whole world.
The second – which dates from as late as 1939 – relates to Hitler’s rise to power:
I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war, I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among nations.
I suppose, on Hayek’s distorted logic, that is enough to make Churchill some kind of ‘socialist’ too. I doubt that either Dale or Redwood would want to go quite that far.
But in short, just as the anti-Stalinist left has to face up to the reality that Stalinism originated within Marxism, the anti-fascist right needs to recognise that fascism is the bastard offspring of their tradition. Simple denial of reality does not obviate that requirement.
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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