Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Ayres’

Tory MEP Hannan Describes French Front National as ‘Left-Wing’

March 31, 2014

Daniel Hannan

Tory MEP and supporter of NHS privatisation Daniel Hannan. In his view, the Front National are left-wing.

Following this morning’s post tracing the accusation that the National Front/ BNP are left-wing parties to the pamphlet by Stephen Ayres of the National Association For Freedom (NAFF), now the Freedom Association, The National Front are a Socialist Front, I received this comment from Buddyhell:

Hannan has today written a blog that describes le Front National as “far-left”. He will not be told. Even his stablemates attack him for the way he lazily draws lines between fascism and socialism. In essence, Hannan is smearing the Left with these assertions.
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100265536/france-has-given-up-on-its-politicians-with-good-reason/
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I’ve blogged before about the way Fascism included left-wing elements amongst a number of competing and contradictory ideologies and groups. Mussolini had started off as a radical Socialist, but broke with the party over his support for Italy joining the First World War. Jess has also commented on this morning’s post about the nature of Fascism, pointing to a report in the Guardian for the 13th October 2009 that Mussolini was being paid £100 a week by MI5 in 1917 for his continued vocal support for the Italian war effort. See http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/13/benito-mussolini-recruited-mi5-italy. ‘The name’s Mussolini. Benito Mussolini’, she remarks drily. Unfortunately, Mussolini was never that suave. According to Denis Mack Smith’s biography, he got thrown out of at least one school for spending all his time in the local cemetery drinking, using foul language and seducing the local girls. He also raped one young woman, who had the misfortune to catch his eye. He did like sharp suits, however. After haranguing the crowd dressed in the rough clothes of a worker, he used to go home and put on a smart suit and patent leather shoes. So, with the promiscuity and the suits, a bit like Bond, but only a really nasty, thuggish one.

Mussolini and the Corporate State

Mussolini seized power by promising to defend the middle classes and private property from the threat of Socialism and organised labour. The Fascist squadristi pursued a campaign of violence and terror against the Socialist and Communist parties and their supporters. In power, Mussolini created the corporate state, which presented Fascism as a radical alternative to laissez-faire capitalism. The corporations were industrial bodies consisting of the trade union and employers’ organisation for a particular industry or sector of the economy. Parliament was replaced by a Council of Corporations. Each corporation sent three delegates – one from the union, one from the employer’s organisation and one from the Fascist party to represent ‘the people’. It was partly based on Syndicalism, a form of Anarchism that seeks to replace the capitalist state by a system in which industry is owned and managed by the workers themselves through their trade unions. Mussolini called his system, ‘National Syndicalism’. Several of the architects of the corporative state were former syndicalists, like Pannunzio and Michele Bianchi.

A similar system had also already been advocated by Alfredo Rocco and the Italian Nationalist Association, representing the interests of the extreme Right-wing industrialists. Their programme included state-organised cartels, and single, state-controlled union, and the destruction of the political role of Socialist party. Under the Fascist regime, strikes were forbidden and a special system of Labour Courts was set up to settle industrial disputes. Although the Fascists claimed to have solved the conflict between capital and labour, the reality was that the unions were under the strict control of the state, which favoured the industrialists and employers. Pannunzio did argue for a more radical corporate system, in which the corporations would take over the direct running of the economy, which would lead to the erosion of the differences between capital and labour and transcend private industry. His plan was, however, attacked by the industrialists and the Fascist party as ‘Bolshevism’. Noel O’Sullivan, in his book, Fascism, suggests that the corporate state was never more than half-hearted, and had been set up by Mussolini to suggest that his regime was based on more than brute force.

Radical Anti-Capitalism and the Salo Republic

After he was ousted from power, Mussolini established a Fascist rump state, the Italian Social Republic, under German control around Salo in the north of Italy. In his constitution for the new state, il Duce declared that he was going to smash capitalist plutocracy, and make labour the ‘indestructible basis’ of the state. There were to be workers’ councils, profit-sharing, social housing and land reform. He also nationalised some of the larger industries. It’s questionable how serious these anti-capitalist measures were, as the Salo republic and its leader were nothing more than German puppets.

Fascism and the Right to Private Property

After the War, the British Fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, initially supported a pan-European corporate state. However, in his 1968 autobiography, My Life, he rejects the corporate state as too cumbersome. He advocated instead a form of the prices and incomes policy, while promising to protect and support private industry. Trade unions would still be permitted, but would be confined to managing the welfare system.

Despite advocating a strong and economically powerful state, Fascism has generally aimed to protect private industry and property, within certain limits. Article 8 of the Constitution of Fiume, the proto-Fascist state established by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, guaranteed ‘the enjoyment of property legitimately obtained’, as well as other features of liberal democracies, such as sickness and infirmity benefits, as well as assistance for the involuntarily unemployed. Mosley, in his answer to Question 42: Do you believe in Private Enterprise? in his book Mosley: Right or Wrong? (London: Lion Books 1961) made it very clearly that it had his full support:

Yes, certainly. Private enterprise must always be the main motive of the economy. Most men work for themselves and their families, and want to do so in freedom … All men and women should have freedom to live and work as they like, and to enjoy the fruits of their labour in freedom and peace without interference or robbery by the state or vested interest. We must reduce taxation in order to prevent the present interference and robbery by the state. But we must also have strong government to protect the individual against interference and robbery by vested interest, monopoly, etc. (pp. 58-9).

Fascism as Neither Socialism Nor Capitalism

Although they ally with the Right, Fascist regimes have also presented themselves as being a ‘Third World Alternative’ between Socialism and capitalism, in which private industry is retained but made to act socially in the interests of the state. One Fascist slogan was ‘neither left nor right, but forwards!’ In the 1980s there was a scandal in Germany when it was found that the German Liberal party, the Freie Demokraten, had been infiltrated by Neo-Nazis.

Origins of Fascism in Pre-WW I Conservative Elites

Despite this, historians such as Richard Thurlough in his Fascism in Britain, 1918-86, have seen the origin of Fascism in the radicalisation of agrarian elites against modernity and the threat of a radical working class. British Fascism had its roots in pre-First World War Die-Hard Conservatism, which wished to emulate some of the welfare successes of Bismarck’s Germany as part of an efficiency campaign to strengthen the British Empire, a policy which necessarily also included military expansion.

Thus, while Fascism does indeed contain genuinely revolutionary elements, it is not Socialist and in practice sides with the Right and traditional Conservatives against the Left.

Daniel Hannan and the ‘Left-Wing’ Front National

Daniel Hannan, however, sees the Fascism as a form of Socialism. In his column in today’s Telegraph covering the electoral gains made by Marine le Pen’s Front National, he describes the party as moving in a left-ward direction. He writes

It is important to understand that Marine Le Pen positioned herself to the Left of the UMP and, at least on economics, arguably to the Left of the Socialists. She railed against capitalism and globalisation, called for higher expenditure, and supported state-run energy, healthcare, education, transport and financial services. Where her father used to complain about welfare scroungers, she wants a more generous range of entitlements. Where he used to describe his party as being of the Right, she recently told Le Monde that it was “neither Right nor Left, but founded on the opposition of the current political class, on the defence of the nation, on the rejection of ultra-capitalism and of Europe”.

Front National Programme Fascist Anti-Capitalist, but not Left-Wing

While this approach certainly looks left-wing, and is almost certainly designed to win voters from the Socialists and the Left, it does not mean that the Front National are now a Left-wing party. Le Pen fille is merely stressing the anti-capitalist element of the Fascist tradition. In fact her statement that the Front is neither Right nor Left, but founded on the opposition of the current political class, on the defence of the nation, on the rejection of ultra-capitalism’ could be taken as a general statement of Fascist ideology, with the possible exception of opposition to Europe. And it’s important to note here that she rejects ‘ultra-capitalism’, not capitalism itself.

How serious the Front National actually is about this ostensibly left-wing programme is moot. Mussolini’s original Fascist programme was little different from that of the radical Socialists and Syndicalists, but he soon rejected it in order to gain Conservative support. Hitler also made little effort to implement the Socialist parts of the 1926 Fascist programme for the same tactical and ideological reasons. And the Tricolour Flame of Berlusconi’s former coalition, led by Gianfranco Fini, is a ‘post-Fascist’, centre Right party.

Front National Voters also Rejecting Neoliberalism, Not Just French Political Class

Apart from characterising the Front National as now rather left-wing, Hannan’s view of the victory is also flawed. He sees it as a rejection by the French people of the traditional political class due to the country’s economic problems – three million unemployed, high taxation and crippling strikes. But this doesn’t seem borne out by the Front’s tactics. If they were genuinely seeking to reject Socialism, rather than the Socialist party, then Le Pen would have no need to advance a Socialistic political programme. It instead looks like Le Pen is trying to win working class voters alienated by the political class’ support for the EU and its international, Neoliberal economic and social policies, as well as hostility to immigration. And if the French electorate were rejecting Socialism, then they could simply vote for the UMP, or simply give up voting and turn inwards into apathy and cynicism, as in Britain. The UMP have made some gains, but it looks like many of them are responding to Le Pen’s attack on the EU, its open borders and Neoliberalism.

Hannan is, however, a man of the Tory extreme Right. He’s also an opponent of the EU, but strongly supports Neoliberalism, including loudly calling for the privatisation of the NHS. He thus doesn’t want to admit that the Front’s gains may show a positive rejection of laissez-faire international capitalism, as well as the political class advocating it.

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The NAFF Origins of the Tory Claim the BNP are ‘Socialist’

March 31, 2014

Daniel Hannan

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan – claims BNP are Socialist, while wanting to privatise the NHS.

I’ve blogged before on the Tory claim that Fascism, Nazism and, in Britain, the BNP, are forms of Socialism. There is indeed a perfectly respectable academic debate about how revolutionary the various European Fascist movements were. Mussolini started out as an extreme Left-wing Socialist, who broke with the Italian Socialist party in his demands that Italy should enter the First World War. He then moved increasingly and opportunistically to join the Italian Right, and in the red scare following the invasion of the factories by radical Italian workers promoted Fascism was a force, which would defend private property and the middle class against the threat of socialist revolution. The Nazi party in Germany also contained several Socialist demands in its 1926 political programme, such as profit-sharing and the confiscation of excessive profits from the War. These were also ignored, with the exception of a half-hearted attempt by Hitler to nationalise the department stores, when the Nazis finally came to power. Again, this was partly achieved through Hitler appealing to the middle classes, offering to defend them from Socialism and the organised working class on the way hand, and big business on the other.

The allegation that Fascism is a form of Socialism re-emerged a few years ago with the Republicans in America at about the same time Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism was published. It’s an attempt to smear Socialism or an kind of progressive politics, which can be linked to socialism, like welfare provision or greater state regulation of the economy through a simple process of guilt by association and by suggesting some kind of equivalence. The argument is roughly that if Fascism is a form of Socialism, so, therefore, Socialism is also a threat to freedom and human life, like Fascism. Good American citizens should therefore reject Socialism, or anything that looks even remotely like it, such as Obamacare, and should vote for small-state Republicans instead. The most extreme example of this attitude was the extreme Right-wing American TV presenter, Glenn Beck. After Anders Breivik committed his horrific massacre of the children attending a summer camp run by the Norwegian Socialist party’s youth organisation, Beck went on to describe them as like the Hitler Youth in Germany. The reason for this vile accusation was that the Norwegian Socialists had criticised Israel for its policies towards the Palestinians. Beck saw this as demonstrating that the Socialists were anti-Semites, and therefore exactly like the Nazi party.

Over here the accusation that Fascism is a form of Socialism has been repeatedly made by the Tory MEP for Dorset and Telegraph columnist, Daniel Hannan. Guy Debord’s Cat has produced a detailed refutation of one of one of his columns making this argument, which I’ve also reblogged. As far as I’ve been able to make out so far, the accusation was first made in the context of modern Tory politics by the Libertarian wing of the Conservative party in 1977. The group Aims of Industry published an attack by Stephen Ayres with the title The National Front is a Socialist Front. Ayres was an activist for NAFF, the National Association For Freedom, which later became the Freedom Association. The National Front rejected the accusation, and in return criticised the NAFF in the pages of its journal, Spearhead, for ‘simply echoing the voice of the new Toryism by emphasising the freedoms and rights that the individual should possess vis-à-vis the state but is afraid to mention the duties that the individual should hold towards the State and Nation.’ (See Larry O’Hara, ‘Notes from the Underground: British Fascism 1974-92, Part 1, 1974-83’, in Lobster 23: 15-20 (16, n. 30, 19). lobster’s editor, Robin Ramsay, has suggested that Thatcherism was based on Libertarianism, rather than the authoritarian Fascism of the BNP/ NF Right, as it seemed at the time. This seems to be true. Thatcher was strongly influenced by von Hayek and the monetarism of the Chicago School. As this has now become the dominant ideology within British Conservatism and the Republicans in America, so the Libertarian accusation that Fascism is somehow a form of Socialism continues to be made.

In fact, Libertarians also have a history of backing extremely Right-wing, illiberal movements. Guy Debord’s Cat has pointed out that von Hayek himself served in the government of the Austro-Fascist, Vollmar Dollfuss. Dollfuss banned the Austrian Socialist party from the fear that they were organising a Revolution, and established a Corporate state like that of Mussolini’s Italy following the theories of Othmar Spann. Fascist Austria was more tolerant than Nazi Germany. A range of political opinions were permitted with the exception of Socialism. Nevertheless, it was still a Fascist state. After the War, von Hayek went to Chile to view the operation of the monetarist policies put in place by General Pinochet’s military dictatorship. And Libertarianism elsewhere also had a history of supporting murderous extreme Right-wing dictatorships. I distinctly remember the accusation that one of the Central American dictatorships and its death squads was also supported by the Freedom Association.

While Fascism did contain left-wing elements, in practice it allied itself with the Right as the defender of property and private industry. The accusation that it, and its British forms, the NF and now the BNP, is really a form of Socialism, was rejected by the NF itself, and comes from the Libertarians, who have themselves supported brutal Right-wing dictatorships. The claim has been made to present the Tory party as the only authentic party representing and defending freedom. As has been shown recently by the authoritarian stance of successive Conservative administrations, including Maggie Thatcher and her policy of the strong state, this simply isn’t the case. Moreover, it supports the economic freedoms of industry against the welfare of the working and lower middle class majority, leaving them exploited by their social and political superiors. They support freedom, but only for a very narrow, select, and extremely wealthy few. For everyone else, it’s wage slavery.