Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fascism? Or populist demagogues?

On the Telegraph's MP's expenses story, Dave Osler says:
"....the new anti-politics can only find expression in either further depoliticisation if we are lucky, or a surge in support for the far right if we are not."

(for some very weird reason, Blogger won't let me put a hyperlink in this post - wtf? It's this post I'm referring to: http://www.davidosler.com/2009/05/daily_telegraph_feeding_the_an.html )

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but haven't got around to it. He here's a quick summary:


Are the left obsessed with fighting the last war rather than the next? Is there really a realistic chance of a conventional far-right party succeeding in this country, either of the formally fascist variety such as the BNP, or one that is instinctively racist, xenophobic and socially regressive, such as UKIP?

I don't think that either the BNP or UKIP or any other such party are really a threat. Sure, a strong showing from the BNP has been shown to result in an increase in racist violence, and it slows down the speed of progress towards a less discriminatory society, but the chance of the BNP ever leaping the protest vote barrier is, to my mind, very slim.

But having said that, I'm at least as alarmed as Dave is about the anti-politics mood in the country. I think it presents a genuine threat - in so far as it can result in a new populist politics emerging. Populism of the Berlusconi, Putin or Pim Fortuyn variety.

Asking a few friends who are professional political scientists, when I ask them if the public really want their politicians to look like clerics, jurors or judges, the response is often that the public want none of that: They want story-tellers.

The place we're in at the moment, I suspect we may be a good deal more vulnerable to the emergence of a story teller than some wannabee führer.

Where I don't agree with Dave is that he claims that the public anger about expenses is both understandable and justified. The liberal left is quite happy to run with the trope that we live in a corrupt and undemocratic country. Corruption has not been eradicated, and our democracy could be improved. But corrupt / undemocratic?

And when people say otherwise, they can count themselves among a growing anti-politics movement that should worry us all.

6 comments:

Will said...

... "or one that is instinctively racist, xenophobic and socially regressive, such as UKIP?"

Or the conservative party even. Who tend to win UK wide elections more often than they don't.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect we may be a good deal more vulnerable to the emergence of a story teller than some wannabee führer."In what way were, for example, Mussolini or Lenin or even Robert Mugabe not "story tellers", with popular appeal amongst segments of their public, during their rise to power and dictatorship ?

Paulie said...

It's not really either / or is it? My point is that the anti-politics mood in the country is an ideal one for demagogues to emerge from. Berlusconi arose from the 'mani pulite' turmoil in the early 1990s. And this illustrates it perfectly: Anyone who thinks that the UK is comparable to Italy in terms of political corruption - either now or in the early 1990s is a knuckledragging cretin of the highest order.

It highlights the dangers here perfectly.

Dilbert said...
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Dilbert said...
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Dilbert said...

The modern and unseen prejudice is in the notion that politics should be restricted to the issues which the political mainstream parties say it should be. Increasingly democracy in the western world is being restricted to exclusively economic issues with cultural concerns and insecurities not only being ignored but consciously suppressed, this represents a restriction of democracy in my view which serves to protect the orthodoxy and power of the political mainstream and rootless cosmopolitan metropolitan ruling class from challenge.