Why the BNP is right wing (and fascist)

2:03 pm - February 3rd 2009

by Dave Osler    

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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.

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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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Reader comments

Shameless self-plug: followed this up here.

Semantics are important. If the ultra-right is evil then the centre-right is moderately evil. Nobody labels the ultra-left as evil, even though Mao and Stalin killed more human beings between them than all fascist dictatorships combined (Castro killed far more than Pinochet, by the way).

The implication of calling the BNP far-right is that the BNP’s policies are just conservative policies taken to their logical extreme. This is absurd and false.

Reprinted from me elsewhere:

Where the *hell* does the belief that ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ are in any sense economic axes come from?

I mean, the historical derivation of the term is the French Estates-General 1789, where bourgeois merchants sat on the president’s left and feudal nobles sat on his right.

Do we think the main area of disagreement between the groups was a) the redistribution of wealth to the working classes; or b) the creation of legal, social and political rights for people outside the nobility?

(clue: b)

Socialism by definition involves working class control of the means of production, distribution and exchange

Only marxist/fabian inspired State socialism. Liberal socialism only wants to secure access to control of the means of production and distribution, and was completely right to assert that control of the means of exchange would lead to trouble. Meh, your socialism isn’t mine, arguing over semantics is, well, the whole point of the post. I’ll stop nit picking and get to substance.

The problem with this debate is no coherent definition of left/right wing.

Fascism and State Socialism are both illiberal and authoritarian methods ot organising the economy–fascism being an extreme form of corporatist capitalism favoured by many conservatives. That neither Redwood nor Dale seem to comprehend that not all those on the right are conservatives is another problem. Indeed, not all members of the Conservative and Unionist party were/are conservatives let alone Tories. Chruchill was a nationalist, but his background was right wing Liberal Constitutionalism after all.

The point though is about the policies of the BNP. Given that they call for nationalisation of a lot of industry, can they even be called fascist? Extreme nationalist xenophobic bigots, yes, but fascist? State control of industry is one of their polices, although the exact wording seems to change depending on audience.

The economic policies of the BNP are leftish authoritarian and anti liberal markets. It’s a shame that Redwood and Dale are cherry picking Hayek, his rejection of Conservatism is also worth quoting at them.

Trying to fit all issues on a simplistic left/right spectrum is stupid. As you highlight, not all those on the right are in favour of market competition (and most certainly not free and equal access to labour markets), and not all of us ont he left reject it, liberal economics did start as a very left wing anti-tory idea in this country after all.

Winston Churchill, a former Tory prime minister

Also a former Liberal Home Secretary.

Also, what John said. Economic leftism is one spectrum, political and social freedoms are two more.

Where the *hell* does the belief that ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ are in any sense economic axes come from?

The terms left and right come from the French revolution as you say. The defining characteristics of these views are secular utopian idealism on the left (progressivism if you like) and religious traditionalist conservatism on the right.

Marxism was just a convenient doctrine for the left to adopt in its pursuit of the perfect, rational and fair society. Arguably, liberal economics was a tool adopted by the right in the 20th century after feudalism collapsed.

I suppose it depends how you define different forms of statism. The Nazis privatised some industries but only to suck up to various special interest groups. Furthermore the Nazis regulated the German economy and indulged in Keynesian-style fiscal policy, both of which are alien to free-market right-wingers. They also upheld a welfare system and tried to win the workers over to the regime via various schemes such as Strength Through Joy etc.

Don’t forget also that the statism of Bismarck’s Germany (with its tariff barriers and relatively generous welfare state) was referred to be some as monarchical socialism.

That said, statism isn’t automatically left-wing. On the Continent right-wing regimes have often been very statist, influenced in many cases by social Catholicism that rejected both unbridled capitalism and socialism. Mussolini’s corporatism was such an attempt at a third way. In fact the early years of Mussolini were fairly orthodox when it came to economics, he only became more statist later on.

At the end of the day I suppose it depends on one’s ideological position and how you define different concepts. Also important is the weight you give to different beliefs and policies. Judged by their racialism alone the Nazis were right-wing. But judge them by the original 25 points (calling for nationalisation of chain stores, confiscation of war profits etc) they were left-wing.

To make things even confusing, the Nazis had a radical left-wing (the Strasserites) who wanted the nationalisation of all industry (but to be run on some sort of weird feudal lines) and co-operation with Russia. The NF in the mid-80s claimed to be adopting Strasserism but their policies didn’t involve mass-nationalisation. Instead they were confusing Strasserism with distributism (breaking up big business into small).

From a libertarian perspective, the “right-wing” Nazis were quite a bit to the left economically because of the control the state exercised over the economy (and there are disagreements over how much big business had any real influence over hitler) while the “left-wing” Nazis were basically racist communists.


This little spat comes around every few months doesn’t it? We can therefore predict with some confidence how it will go. Someone sensible will (and I think already has) pointed out that the ‘left-right’ is fairly useless at describing the political spectrum in this country. Someone else sensible will say that there is more common ground between ‘far-left’ communism and ‘far right’ fascism than either have with the centrist parties of left.

And that’s probably where we ought to leave it – by acknowledging that the BNP (and the Fascists, and the NAZIs and so on) fall outwith the scope of the traditional political spectrum. If you start trying to assert direct links between fascism and conservatism you start talking nonsense. Like:

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.

Well, so do Communist Governments don’t they? And that isn’t because they’re the tools of the bourgeois capitalist class (and isn’t nice to see the old-fashioned language back?) but because they were both authoritarian, totalitarian regimes that did not tolerate dissent or opposition.

So lets just say that the BNP espouse left-wing economic policies, and try to assert themselves as the inheritors of a working-class tradition (“we’re the Labour Party your parents voted for”), but are actually just a squalid little party of bigots and ignoramuses, who don’t belong to either side of the spectrum – fair enough?

Does David Milliband believe in “ working class control of the means of production, distribution and exchange “ he calls himself a socialist ( New Statesman) and is a contender ? By quoting a definition New Labour have so conspicuously jettisoned and one you would be desperate to disown at any other time we can see you are worried .This whole article has an air of protesting too much .
It is pretty clear that Marxism is the ideological well spring of both the Soviet Union and the Labour Party who only dumped clause four very recently which made that quite explicit .
Conservatism however is entirely opposed to fascism as much as socialism. Fascism requires a mystic belief in the Nation. Conservatism locates it in real institutions . Fascists , believe they have a mission to do something “ Action” is an important word .Conservatives are generally grateful, things are not worse and distrust anyone with any mission. The music of a Romantic and Fascistically inclined 19th century man would have been Wagner . The music of a Conservative would be Gilbert and Sullivan . Conservatism is a modest creed it emphises nationalism when other attack it unwisely it emphasise freedom when others wish to jettison it . It emphasises that the existing order has advantages , it values the past, experience pragmatism .

As a step on the way to fascism it’s a non starter . I would accep tthere are points of connection but these are a far cry from the close kinship of British labour and the Soviet Union . Meanwhile 30% of Labour voters say their second Party is the BNP whereas no Conservative voters do. The BNP is a lot like the Labour Party in many ways and appeals to precisely the Labour voter betrayed by the Fabian fellow traveller

PS Churchill

. Churchill was one of the first to see through Hitler and without his personal determination this country would almost certainly have reached an accommodation with him .Anything he might have said to any Italian would have no relevance to anything except the furtherance of British interests and the second quote refers to Hitler1s undoubted ability to lead and galvanise a Nation, the extent of his evil was yet to be known but Churchill would have been overridingly concerned with this country .
Churchill said many may things about Hitler thousands of quotes exists I have no doubt . He was the great fact and issue of the mid 20th century . If the point you are making is that you can prove anything by ignoring the context completely then you have made it well , but I don not like it much especially from people busily selling the country out to Brussels

Incidentally this popped up on my blog under a post called “Workers Against Internationalism”

BNP Warrior said…
This is a working-class reaction against the excesses of neoliberalism and Thatcherism as represented by Lib/Lab/Con. Your lot won’t benefit. You won’t be gloating when you see what the outcome of this really is.

3:24 PM

Newmania said…
Are you saying BNP warrior that the BNP is a socialist organisation?

3:28 PM

BNP Warrior said…
Yes, I am. I voted for the Labour party when there was one.

3:41 PM

Suggestive I think , I am indeed gloating the fraud perpetrated by the Bourgeois Liberal that their interest are one with British working people is starting to collapse. I see this in many ways but above all the fact that labour are following Conservative welfare reform , not ,as was Cameron’s hope , to solve the intractable problem of long term welfares but simply because Labour have run out of other people’s money . This is huge mistake the project was an expensive one not a cheap option , simply cutting benefits will be a disaster
This means ordinary working people have paid for the idle for years , EU immigrants take their jobs and prats like Mandelsohn tell them to go and pick grapes in Italy . When they need help form the state the money has all been wasted on public sector non jobs for midde-class parasite so called professionals and there is none left. even to borrow .
A trust has been broken and the BNP are quite right to say when we say “British Jobs for British Workers We Mean It”…they do …can you deny Brown lied and they do not ?
Subtract the racism and I m not exactly sure what is so wrong with it as a Party , it would still not be for me , I am not a socialist and its rather too stupid , but nationalist working class feeling has a right to expression perhaps the BNP will become that ?

Right wing or left wing seems fairly irrelevant here. Fascism can grow in either.

As I also said on Flying Rodent’s excellent post, to judge the BNP on their economic policies is like judging the Pope solely on what he says about climate change.

BNP policy is a mish-mash of what might be labelled “right wing”, “left wing”, naive, bonkers, racist, “idealism” (though not my ideals), populism, idiocy, self-delusion etc etc

Well, I said it was a mish-mash!

But it is certainly fascist !!!!!

15. Mike Killingworth

Did Hayek really believe that public sector workers shouldn’t have votes? It seems odd that anyone should want to deny the vote to soldiers, policemen, judges etc (and I don’t think even Hayek wanted to privatise them)?


“The majority of our policies… veer towards socialism… we probably are the old Labour party in essence”

From the horse’s mouth

I agree with this article entirely.

, the full franchise would not be extended to anyone who worked for the public sector …

Hmmm now theres a thought , it does seem unreasonable that people who live from taxes should be able to vote for them to be increased . For them its all gain whereas for tax payers there is a poltical descision to be made .Why should the gaping beaks have the same vote as the people who bring them worms ?

I `m not serious but its a thought …its certainly a thought ………

19. Shatterface

A good article but I’d dispute the claim that in socialism the ‘working class’ own the means of production on the basis that true socialism is a state under which the historical antagonisms of class have come to an end: there IS no working class.

In practice, no countries calling them socialist have been socialist any more than they have been soviet or democratic: they have been state capitalist.

The BNP will act like a “true conservative” party for now, and if they did get elected they would show their true colours, by first deporting all muslims and illegal immigrants, then discriminating against ethnic Britons to get them to leave. And the white working class (as call chavs, neets etc…) will be educated to act like the old working class of the pre-1950s or they too will be “DEAL WITH”.

21. Shatterface

Newmania, I work in the public sector and – like every other public sector worker – I pay tax, so why the fuck would I want to increase taxes when they already outstrip my measly pay increses?

But the thing is, we have to accept that just as it’s muddled thinking for Dale and Redwood to link the BNP with socialists, it’s also muddled thinking to think that the BNP are right-wing. As the well known quote goes, if Hitler and Stalin got together for a chinwag (I’m paraphrasing here), provided they kept clear of economics, they would discover that they had a lot in common. It’s possible to be left-wing and fascist (Stalin) and right-wing and liberal (Thomas Freidman springs to mind here, as his right-wing attitudes come from the economic idea of the free hand, not any particular social attitude). If we consider politics to be two-dimensional, not one-dimensional then both flavours of left and right are catered for, authoritarian left/right and liberal left/right.

To take this to its extreme, if Hitler was left-wing, then how come he locked up members of the Communist Party then? I find it troubling that even today, some political commentators still think that the opposite of communism is fascism. It’s not, it’s capitalism.

Dale is sort of right, but for the wrong reason. The BNP wants state control of the economy, only if it benefits white heterosexual males. Anyone else can go to hell as far as the BNP are concerned. If Dale argues that Hitler was a socialist because of the name of his party, then that means that the participants in the TV programme Watercolour Challenge were a load of jack-booted reactionaries.

One of the most air brushed periods in British history is the 1930’s. According to the Conservative re writing of this period the country was united against Hitler, and was ready to fight, except for the leftie appeasers who did not believe in war.

The reality is a less kind to the Tory party. To start with Churchill was seen as a pariah in the 1930s by most of his party. He was banished to the back benches where he made numerous speeches warning of the dangers of Hitler and fascism. These speeches were constantly attacked and shouted down by many of his own side. He was branded as a trouble maker who was not helping relations with Germany. It is often forgotten today that when Chamberlin resigned, The Tory party picked Lord Halifax to lead the country. Halifax was a known German appeaser. Now, it has to be said many Tory voters wanted Churchill, but not The Tory machine, The Westminster Tory party voted for Halifax. If it had been left to the Tory party and the aristocracy we might all be speaking German now. But it was the Labour party, the terrible leftie labour party who said NO. If we are going into a coalition govt we want someone who we trust, and someone who believes in fighting for are freedoms. Once the war at ended you would have found it impossible to find a Tory who ever voted against Churchill.

As recently as 10 years ago Alan Clark, a Tory of the fascist wing of his party, claimed that we should have agreed peace with Hitler in 1940, and then kept our Empire, and avoided war. The idea that anyone could even dream of trusting Hitler shows how weird some on the right are. But of course ,Hitler was a right wing wet dream. He was anti communist, anti union, anti Bolshevik, and. dare we say it. anti Jew. The Right of the Tory party has always had a flirtation with fascism.

“The Right of the Tory party has always had a flirtation with fascism.”

Remind me which political party Oswald Mosley came from? His idea of a corporate state did not chime with the free-market beliefs of the Tory Right.

Perhaps you would like to admit that many on the Left had a thing for Stalin? The Labour Party always had a far-left wing until relatively recently. Even Tony Benn lamented the fall of the USSR.

Yes, there was a fascist-sympathising fringe within the Tory Party of the 1930s but it was (a) very small and (b) believed that fascism was necessary for the Continent but not for England unless we faced a severe communist threat.

The Tory Right today, many of whom are from a generation that fought against fascism, would never wish to see it inflicted on this country.

“I mean, the historical derivation of the term is the French Estates-General 1789, where bourgeois merchants sat on the president’s left and feudal nobles sat on his right.

Do we think the main area of disagreement between the groups was a) the redistribution of wealth to the working classes; or b) the creation of legal, social and political rights for people outside the nobility?”

Well that puts one of my biggest heroes firmly on the left: http://www.fnf.org.za/Liberal_Thinkers/bastiat.htm

26. Genghis Cohen


1. The ‘tory right’ believe in so such thing, they like to think they do but they haven’t got the mental fortitude for it and last time I checked their raison d’etre was the severe regulation of the labour market (which Smith decided is the most important factor of production).

2. He came from the tory party initially and It wasn’t his idea, it was Mussolini’s, friend of Churchill and Rothermere, executed by commies.

“I am proud of the fact that The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in England, and in the world outside of Italy, to give the public the right estimate of the soundness and durability of Mussolini’s work.”

“Yes, there was a fascist-sympathising fringe within the Tory Party of the 1930s but it was (a) very small ”

wrong ,wrong , wrong.

But thank you for proving my point about how the 1930s has been re written by the Conservative party. Dale and his cronies seem to carry on the bullshit today. Why did the Tory party vote for Halifax when Chamberlin resigned if, as you claim it was just a few rotten apples? Why did they not vote for Churchill?

Oh, and don’t give me any old bull about how Halifax was not a Nazi. He knew perfectly well what he was going to appease.

Sally, it’s not my period, but how did the Tories vote for Halifax? They didn’t introduce elections for leaders until the 1950s (or was it early 60s? After Hume, anyway).

Not disagreeing with you at all—Tories have frequently been sympathetic to fascist style rulers, which is why I always make the distinction between Tories as a group within the C&U party that Churchill ended up leading (although IIRC even to the end he ran for office as a Constitutionalist or National Liberal, I forget which).

Well, you live and learn, and I got this one wrong. I was always told that the Labour party said no to Halifax, but according to wikipedia that is not the case. However, it does seem that he was well supported by the Conservative party over Churchill. So my main point remains.

“In May 1940, when the Chamberlain government fell and a coalition was to be formed there were two candidates for Prime Minister: Halifax and Winston Churchill. Halifax had the support of the great mass of the Conservative party, of the royal family, and was acceptable to the Labour party. His position as a peer was a merely technical barrier given the scale of the crisis. But at the fateful meeting with Churchill, Halifax did not press his claim.”………

“Winston Churchill continued Halifax as Foreign Secretary for nine months, but the two men had never enjoyed a close relationship. In the summer of 1940 Halifax in Cabinet energetically participated in the debates for and against a recourse to total war and lone opposition to Germany, whatever the cost to Britain’s long-term military and economic standing.
In January 1940 Halifax was packed off to Washington on the death in office there of the then Ambassador, the Marquess of Lothian; the last of the appeasers to leave the Cabinet, Chamberlain, Hoare and Simon having already departed.”

We’re now completely at a tangent, so here’s another little nugget anyway. The appeasers were split between two broad factions. Those who genuinely wanted to get on with Hitler and leave him to do what he wanted on the continent.

And those who knew Britain hadn’t got the capacity to fight yet. They started a re-armament plan in 1934 to take 5 years. When Chamberlain waved his little bit of paper, he knew it wasn’t going to last, it was all politics to hold Hitler off while rearmament finished. He was probably an appeaser and hoped to stop war, but he was also pretty sure that it wouldn’t work.

Can you tell I nearly went off to train to be a history teacher?

Sorry, what was the topic again? Oh yes—defining right/left in a way that tries to encompass everything. Won’t work. Everyone’s wrong.

Except me, of course. And maybe John B, but I’m not sure about him.

Sally . Labour opposed rearmament. Lansbury , the Labour Leader was totally opposed to confronting Hitler. The slaughter in WW1 was so horrendous that many people who had survived it did not want another war. One only has to look at any war memorial to see the carnage . I believe it was the battalion raised in Accrington who lost 600 men in an afternoon of the Somme . The best time to have stopped Hitler was when the German Army entered the de-militarised Rhine in 1936. With the Depression at it’s worst; a the time of the Jarrow Marchers; the prospect of raising taxes to pay for re-armament , increasing the size of the Armed Forces and going to war against Hitler was horrendous to many people. If I had survived 4 years of fighting in the trenches , I cannot imagine I would be particularly keen to join a war or see anyone I cared have to fight. Many women had lost sons, fathers, brothers in WW1 and were none to keen for a repeat of the ordeal. Apparently , the late Queen Mother was always affected by the death of her brothers in WW1. Kipling wrote these lines after his son was killed in WW1 ” If you asked why we died it was because our Fathers’ lied. ” By 1936 most people did not want to get dragged into a war by leaders who they suspected of jingoistic motives.

There was also the widespread sympathy for Germany due to the massive reparations ( demanded by the French)which she had to pay after WW1 and due to the inflation which had wiped out peoples savings. In fact the scale of the reparations were so great , that by 1922 Lloyd George and Churchill were predicting there would be another war with Germany.

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