New British Fascism – book review

Rise of the British National Party

Matthew J Goodwin


New British Fascism comes in the guise of an objective academic study, replete with tables and charts and a fair dollop of dry analysis.  But that is camouflage  for  the  author’s  liberal-left  prejudices, although it is probable that Goodwin, as with so many of the left,  is self-deluding enough to be unaware of his bias.

Goodwin   gives the ideological game away in the book’s title  by attaching  the arch pejorative “fascist”  to the BNP  without making any attempt to explain  what he means by this complex  word (hint: “far right extremist” does not equal fascist)  and  follows this up in the introduction  with “This book follows  political scientist Elizabeth Carter in considering  right-wing extremism as a particular form of political ideology  that is defined by two anti-constitutional and anti-democratic elements: first, right-wing extremists are extremist because they reject or undermine the values, procedures and institutions of the democratic state; and second, they are right wing because they reject the principle of fundamental human equality” (p6).

The author’s acceptance of Carter’s  definition taints the book. If you do not adopt  the liberal internationalist’s view that human beings are just one big happy indistinguishable and interchangeable family you are a right-wing extremist.  When Carter  writes of undermining the “values, procedures and institutions of the democratic state”,  she does not mean  that right wing parties refuse to play by the democratic rules as they are commonly understood – free elections, universal suffrage, parliaments  and governments being  accountable to the  law. Rather,  for her being democratic means that any person regardless of origin – in  principle the seven  billion people currently alive – must be treated equally  because to do otherwise would constitute the rejection of “ the principle of fundamental human equality “.  That means  any election which produced a decision that failed to accord  with the idea that all human beings everywhere should be treated equally, for example,   a government in favour of an end to all further mass immigration and the expulsion of all those without citizenship, would be classed as undemocratic .

Then there is the label of “extremist”.  By assiduous propaganda over decades, politicians of all the major mainstream British parties have assiduously been  placing in the public arena the idea that to  support  or advocate any political views which diverge seriously from those of liberal internationalism  is to be extreme . The erasing of the  traditional political vocabulary from mainstream British politics means that  any group or individuals outside the narrow ideological  confines of  what the British political class  now represent as being the only  legitimate democratic politics may be described as  extremists and hence dismissed as  of no account or dangerous and in need of suppression through laws such as the Race Relations Act.

It is also a very strange thing to define parties and individuals  as being right-wing  simply on the grounds of being opposed to immigration, which is what Goodwin effectively  does . The idea that being resistant to immigration is inherently right-wing is historically false. Not only is it a natural human response to territory being invaded,  political parties of the left and trade unions have until quite recently been opposed to mass immigration.   Unions in particular have a long history of opposing immigration primarily  on the ground that  it increases competition in the labour market  and reduces both wages and conditions.    The Labour Party   for most of its existence qualifies  as extreme right wing under Carter’s definition, because not only did it in practice stand against mass immigration because of union hostility towards it,  but it  also believed in the nation state. It is worth remembering  that  the Labour government of Harold Wilson passed an immigration Act in 1968 which considerably tightened immigration rules for  those from the new (non-white) Commonwealth after the Tories had done very little in 13 years to stem immigration.  It is also telling  that Goodwin himself mentions that only four out of ten BNP voters think of themselves as right wing (p107).

Goodwin acknowledges that  the BNP  has gone far beyond simply relating issues to immigration and have under Griffin developed a fully- fledged political agenda.  Indeed, much of its recent manifestoes could sit comfortably within the those of the mainstream political parties and even more in the manifestoes of twenty or thirty years ago.  He also spends considerable time examining how the  BNP have  in the past decade or so  greatly softened their rhetoric about race and immigration, more or less dropped  anti-Semitism, produced a broad political platform which deals with all the major areas of political debate and adopted the strategy of  building the party from local roots in much the same way that the LibDems have done.  Indeed, to look at the official literature of the BNP is to see a party which in many ways is aping the  political antics of the major British parties. But for Goodwin this is not a sincere  change of heart merely the BNP attempting to “rally Britons by downplaying its toxic brand”.  It is difficult to see how the BNP could ever, in Goodwin’s mind, escape from the locked cell of Carter’s definition because whatever they did or said Goodwin would still say they should be classified as  “extreme right-wingers” because the change was not genuine.

As for the BNP’s success or failure, Goodwin acknowledges that they  have done considerably better  than any other party he brackets with them, for example, the National Front,  but less well than similar European parties. This fact has little force because  the comparative BNP  failure  is readily  attributable to the widespread  use of electoral systems  on the continent  which contain some element of proportional representation while Britain retains first-past-the-post for Westminster elections.

There is a frequent  failure to query the overt message of statistics. For example Goodwin  looks at  Britons’ response to  poll questions about  who is British (chapters 3/ 5)  which show that a majority  say that race is immaterial in determining the question.  What he fails to do is consider whether the  polling results may significantly under-estimate  concern about racial and ethnic difference  because of the prevailing atmosphere of fear generated by the ever tightening grip of political correctness.   This type of omission is all the more visible  because  Goodwin is more than happy to speculate elsewhere in the book, so such a failure is not the result of some self-denying academic ordinance.

The same lack of imagination shows when Goodwin considers the social shape  of BNP voters. He compares them  with those who vote for the major political parties and UKIP (p102).  According to his statistics,  there are fewer BNP voters  in the professional AB category than those of  the other parties, but there are still 11 per cent of BNP voters who fall into that category as opposed to 18 per cent for Labour and UKIP.   Moreover, the general shape  of the entire voting population of BNP voters is not wildly  different from that of Labour which draws 57% of its voters from the  two lowest  social groups as against 70% for the BNP according to the figures Goodwin  cites.  Hence, there is nothing unreservedly abnormal about the BNP vote.

Goodwin also looks at the ages and sex structure of BNP Membership (p102). This shows most BNP members to be in the 34+ age group with a strong preponderance (69%) of male.  Goodwin  represents this as a sign of a failing party. The problem with this argument is that his own figures show that the major parties have a similar age profile.  The age profile of the BNP  is surely just a consequence  of the ageing British population and the much greater   propensity of older voters to vote.

Goodwin  argues  from  the age profile of the BNP  that  racial hostility is a phenomenon  of the older generations because  younger people have grown up with an ethnically mixed society.   This is contradicted by the  race riots in northern England  in the early years of the century and emergence of the English Defence League,   but Goodwin dismisses such behaviour  as a residual phenomenon  of the young who have elders with “far-right” beliefs or who live in places  with a “right wing tradition (p104)

As to motivation for supporting the BNP,  Goodwin  suggests that  the BNP client base is essentially that of the “angry  white male” who has had his security threatened by immigration and its ongoing consequences. . While this  has an element of truth because it is the white working class man who has suffered most from  competition from immigration,  you could argue the same of the Labour Party vote.

The  only stark difference between the BNP and the major parties is in sex.  But there is probably nothing  remarkable in that. To support the BNP requires a  personality which can handle conflict. Men are almost certainly better able to do that.  The fact that UKIP has only 40 per cent of female  voters  supports this interpretation .

Goodwin seems genuinely puzzled by the  “extreme right’s” concentration on Muslims.  The answer is that this is plausibly all part of the  re-branding  exercise such as that conducted by the BNP under Nick Griffin. Because of the  intense grip that political correctness has on western societies,   parties which wish to resist immigration and its consequences have been forced to play within the rules of political correctness. This means they take up causes such “Islamification”  because that avoids directly engaging in the question of race.

The marvel of Goodwin is that he cannot see his own bias even though he accepts the massive constraints placed on any minor party under the British political system and describes well the intimidatory  actions of  both  the political elite through laws such as the Race Relations Act (RRA)which prevents  free debate on pain of criminal sanction and the all too ready willingness of  politicians, public service organisations, unions, big business  and the mainstream media to harass and penalise those who express their political  views outside the permitted parameters of political correctness:

“The disadvantages of joining an extremist party might include official punishments, threats from rival movements and group reprisals for participating’ . In fact, those who have join have been shown to experience abuse, jeopardise employment prospects and damage relationships with friends and family. “ (p138)

Goodwin  also happily describes  the persistent harassment of the BNP by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission  (EHRC) over its membership qualifications (p122); admits  freely that the  British electoral system is heavily weighted against parties without an established  Westminster presence (p)  and draws attention to the limited ability of national governments to  govern because of their entanglement in international treaties and supra-national bodies such as the EU.

One might imagine that someone who understands the undemocratic restraints placed on unestablished parties in general and  the additional undemocratic  blocks placed before parties such as the BNP,  would conclude that they are placed in a position in which  they cannot meaningfully engage in the democratic process.  Not Goodwin.  He sees no discord between insisting that a party can only be considered democratic  if it plays by the democratic rules ,whilst showing absolutely no discomfort  when he acknowledges that  those who set the rules of the political game do so  in such a way as to preclude meaningful participation in the democratic process.

What Goodwin is saying can be  reduced to this:  any  party  (or person) standing  for something which the vast majority of human beings at all times and places  would consider normal and desirable, namely, defending the tribe, clan or nation against invasion by main force or stealth,  is, in Goodwin’s eyes, part of the far right  – he coyly implies (p178) that the BNP and UKIP are not a million miles apart on the political spectrum.

Can I recommend New British Fascism?  I can but not for the reason the author would want.  Read this book not to understand the BNP but that most curious of things  the modern liberal mind.

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  • Heil Hizzle Mein Nizzle  On October 9, 2012 at 6:52 am

    I think the problem is that in England, the liberals can still remain cosseted in your ‘shires’ far from the Muslim/ “Asians”/ African hordes who terrorize and displace your native sons.

    Here in America, the Obamessiah has begun a program of ‘regional equality’ where HUD housing (the equivalent of your council estates) will be placed in mixed communities of middle-class and even wealthier Americans. If Obama gets a second term, and his plan is fully implemented, many liberals with a policy of ‘diversity for thee, not for me,’ are going to be forced to confront their hypocrisy head-on, when the black and brown underclass they claim to love is living cheek-to-cheek with them.

    If you favor the ‘worse-is-better’ strategy, I’d push to have council estates for recent Muslim emigres all around the manses that Blair and all the other traitorous Labour functionaries lay their heads at night.

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