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June 08, 2009

Comments

Clifford Singer

That is indeed a worrying comment by Burnham. Hugh Muir got it right in the Guardian: "The BNP is a shambles with ludicrous policies and poisonous intent, but it thrives where its malignancy has been allowed to grow. It has not succeeded; rather the mainstream parties have failed."

redpesto

I suspect buying off those voters is easier for New Labour (let alone the Tories) than actually producing policies that would get out the votes of everyone else who are against the BNP.

Leigh Caldwell

Although I do agree with this point, there's a reason it makes sense for Labour in particular to follow Burnham's advice: the BNP appears to be doing better in areas that Labour will need to win in the next general election. Seats in the North and Northwest which would previously have been reasonably clear Labour wins will now be critical marginals. And in these areas the 8-11% BNP vote matters a lot, electorally if not ideologically.

However it is dangerous to promote the BNP's views to the status of a national debate, as this runs the risk of legitimising them as much as any electoral achievements they make on their own. So perhaps Labour just needs to get on with combatting these views locally rather than making a nationwide issue out of it.

rockinred

Andy Burnham's remarks are just so-o-o-o NuLabour - brainless, knee-jerk, hollow, meaningless. And completely unaware of the fact that he's part of the problem and incapable of being part of the solution. It is the wholesale betrayal by NuLabour of any form of socialist principles that has led directly to Fascists becoming elected legislative representatives. Helluvanachievement Mr Burnham.

dearieme

Perhaps Mr Burnham might like to tell us why it was OK to support the warmonger Blair? He killed people whereas the BNP might, let us hope, be largely wind and piss.

Rob Spear

The BNP is a genuine grass roots working class movement. No wonder the middle class lefties are sweating bullets.

Scratch

The BNP is a pack of Oxbridge Tarquins, ballerinas, sour faced, semi detatched Terry and Junealikes and tax fiddling, self-employed Thatcherites who like a fight.

Bob B

"The BNP is a genuine grass roots working class movement."

But then much the same could be said of the Fascists in Italy in the 1920s, the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s, the Communists in Russia in 1917 and what followed or the Peronists in Agentina in the 1940s and 1950s.

Those precedents are hardly reassuring but then nor are other EU-wide indications about popular sentiments reflected in the EU election results: the historically low turnout and the EU-wide shift in the polls towards support for "centre-right" and extremist parties.

Support for "centre-left" parties was down virtually across the EU and that when the functioning of Free Market Capitalism has been shown to be seriously flawed. Anyone one who seriously supposes that the crisis in banking was due to migration flows is in urgent need of psychiatric attention at the very least.

It's an obvious mistake to interpret the election results exclusively in terms reflecting on GB's leadership of the Labour Party.

guthrie

BUrnham has been excised from that BBC report. Truly the BBC is the harbinger of big brother.

dearieme

"But then much the same could be said of the Fascists in Italy in the 1920s, the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s, the Communists in Russia in 1917 and what followed or the Peronists in Agentina in the 1940s and 1950s": really, the Bolsheviks? Really?

Bob B

"Really?"

Yup. Really. The official proper name of the Nazis shows the social elements the party aimed to attract: National Socialist German Workers' Party.

Of course it had middle class support as well from those who saw the Nazis as probably the best prospect of attracting popular support away from the Bolsheviks in Germany at the time.

The appeal in Britain of Oswald Mosley - who founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932 - was described thus by George Orwell after he attended a public meeting on 16 March 1936 in Barnsley at which Mosley spoke:

"Last night to hear Mosley speak at the Public Hall, which is in structure a theatre. It was quite full – about 700 people I should say. About 100 Blackshirts on duty, with two or three exceptions weedy looking specimens, and girls selling Action etc. Mosley spoke for an hour and a half and to my dismay seemed to have the meeting mainly with him. He was booed at the start but loudly clapped at the end. Several men who tried to interject with questions were thrown out . . . one with quite unnecessary violence. . . . M. is a very good speaker. His speech was the usual clap-trap – Empire free trade, down with the Jew and the foreigner, higher wages and shorter hours all round etc. After the preliminary booing the (mainly) working class audience was easily bamboozled by M speaking as it were from a Socialist angle, condemning the treachery of successive governments towards the workers. The blame for everything was put upon mysterious international gangs of Jews who were said to be financing, among other things the British Labour Party and the Soviet. . . . M. kept extolling Italy and Germany but when questioned about concentration camps etc always replied 'We have no foreign models; what happens in Germany need not happen here.' . . . "
[source: George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, Vol. 1 An Age Like This 1920-1940; Penguin Books, p. 230]

Note this key section: "the working class audience was easily bamboozled by M speaking as it were from a Socialist angle."

In case this escaped your attention, in America:

"George Bush's grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany. The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism. . . . "
http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1312540,00.html

Btw news update from The Times today:

"The BNP has a wide choice of neo-fascist bedfellows to team up with in the European Parliament after voters delivered the far Right extra seats in nine countries."
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/elections/article6455650.ece

dearieme

Bob, it was the Bolsheviks whose working class credentials I was suspicious of, not the Nazis.

BenP

Nonsense. Fascism is in the political manifestation of the petit bourgeoisie and lumpen proletariat. As can be seen by the BNP membership list.

"Among the more common professions listed by members are electrician, security consultant, former serviceman and IT specialist."

"As opposed to the 22 per cent of BNP members who live in areas with above-average deprivation, only 16 per cent live in the least-deprived areas"
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article5191424.ece

BenP

The working class kicked Mosley's arse all the way down Cable Street.

Bob B

Mosley and fellow fascists mostly attracted little support in Britain but the Nazis in Germany gained huge majorities in popular plebiscites in November 1934 and August 1935, the first endorsing the creation of a one-party state and the second endorsing the combination of the Reich Chancellorship and Presidency in the person of the Führer.

On the historic record, in Germany the Nazis were successful in curbing deflation and reducing unemployment by what were essentially large scale public works programmes: " . . from 6 million in October 1933 to 4.1 million a year later, 2.8 million in February 1935, 2.5 million in February 1936, and 1.2 million in February 1937." [CP Kindleberger: The World in Depression 1929-1939 (Allen Lane, 1973) p.240]

One strange but documented insight into support for fascism in Britain:

"The macho streetfighting image of Sir Oswald Mosley's 1930s Blackshirts has been challenged by new research that reveals the extensive involvement of women in Britain's Fascist movement.

"A quarter of Mosley's British Union of Fascists (BUF) were female and some of those were former suffragettes. Interviews with women members of the pre-war BUF reveal that many joined because they found Mosley - dubbed 'the Rudolph Valentino of Fascism' - charismatic, masculine and attractive. Typical was Gladys Walsh, women's district leader of the BUF's Limehouse branch in the mid-1930s. She said Mosley 'was one of the great leaders of our time, I think. Above all things, he was a man.'"
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sexy-mosley-lured-women-into-fascism-622274.html

Bob B

Correction before someone else points it out:

As above: "the Nazis in Germany gained huge majorities in popular plebiscites in November 1934 and August 1935"

That should read: "the Nazis in Germany gained huge majorities in popular plebiscites in November 1933 and August 1934"

My apologies. Always worth reading the cotemporary account by William Shirer in his book: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, on this period.

Martin Wisse

Sorry, but it's been pretty conclusively proven that the nazis' support came from the petit-bourgeois as well as impoverished farmers on marginal grounds, but not from the working classes or even the unemployed.

David Woodward

"And fewer than one in four voters supported either the BNP or UKIP, whose campaign also seemed to focus heavily on immigration."

Or to put it another way, almost a quarter of voters used that vote to register their dissatisfaction with the government's immigration policy, which I think is what Burnham was trying to say...

Bob B

"but it's been pretty conclusively proven . . "

Supporting citation, please. Btw how come then those large majorities for the Nazis in the popular plebiscites in Germany of 1933 and 1934?

The really worrying factor is that the economic policies enshrined in the fundamental programme of the Nazis of 1920 - which was never amended - come close to regular elements which feature(d) in the programmes and manifestoes of mainstream European socialist parties - checkout this from:
http://users.stlcc.edu/rkalfus/PDFs/026.pdf

- The abolition of all income obtained without labor or effort.

- We demand the nationalization of all enterprises (already) converted into corporations (trusts).

- We demand profit-sharing in large enterprises

- We demand the large-scale development of old-age pension schemes

As for the UKIP vote in the EU election in Britain, it's just silly to suppose that London's financial markets with their global reach won't be affected by proposed pan-European financial supervision by the EU even if - as UKIP intends - Britain leaves the EU.

"ON MAY 27th a 16-page bombshell from the European Commission, outlining a new framework for pan-European financial supervision, hit Whitehall. Not exactly unexpected, it foresees a supervisor with real executive power and the ability to force terms on disputing governments in a crisis. Moreover, it gives members of the euro zone a bigger say on questions of systemic risk than those who have clung to their own currency: through two members of the European Central Bank’s governing council, on which Britain has no seat. British regulators are unhappy."
http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13788852

We'll need to gear up for the forthcoming EU summit in Brussels on 18-19 June.

guthrie

Given that a direct comparison shows that, according to the BBC, the BNP vote in 2004 was 808,200, and that in 2009 was 943,598, I hardly think an increase of 135,398 is much of a resounding shout against immigration.

Far more worrying would be the labour votes going from 3.72 million to 2.38 million. If I didn't know any better, I would imagine that Burnham is trying desperately to avoid the obvious conclusion, which is that 1.34 million people (less than 10% of whom might have voted BNP) have decided that his party is a bunch of wankers not deserving of their vote.

Not that immigration isn't an issue, but I think that if you stopped people and asked them, you'd find that the word wanker comes up quicker than immigration.

Bob B

Least it be forgotten, between the general elections of 1997 and 2005, the Labour Party lost nearly 4 million votes and half its membership under the leadership of Tony Blair.

Martin Wisse

You can has citations:

Who Were the Fascists - Social Roots of European Fascism Stein Ugelvik Larsen, Bernt Hagtvet & Jan Petter Myklebust (editors) - Universiteitsforlaget 1980.

Page 79, discussing the electorial upswing of the NSDAP between 1928 - 1932: "After More than 40 years of debate, the consensus is groing that the Nazi electorial upsurge came disproportially from the liberal and conservative parties and that there was a close correlation between Nazi voting and white-collar groups, artisans, retailers, in short the petit bourgeoisie"

Same page: "What is remarkable and damaging to anby undifferentiating concept of mass is striking ability of the working-class and Catholic segments of the German voting population to persist in their class and confessional loyalties in the face of growing economic disintegration."

In the same chapter, various tables show the percentage of the leftwing vote to remain roughly the same between '28 and '32, with a steady leftward drift toward the communists in that vote. The same for the Catholic vote.

Page 81 discusses the appeal of the nazis in rural areas where there was little industrial unemployement, showing tha1t the voting districts with the largest NSDAP support were both protestant and rural, bar two.

And so on undsoweiter.


Martin Wisse

All speling mistakes in the above are my own btw.

The myth that the nazis had a specific appeal towards the unemployed or working classes is just that, a myth.

Bob B

"The myth that the nazis had a specific appeal towards the unemployed or working classes is just that, a myth."

The Nazis certainly set out their political stall to attract the support of the working classes and the political left - hence the leftist pitch on economic issues in the Nazi programme of 1920.

It's difficult to believe that the Nazis could have gained the huge majorities that they did in the popular plebiscites of November 1933 and August 1934 without attracting working class votes on a large scale so I remain sceptical about claims that the bulk of their political support came from the petit bourgeoisie.

One of the points made by Kershaw in his recent studies of Hitler is that there was essentially no significant internal security threat to the Nazi regime in Germany after early 1933 at least up to the bomb plot of 20 July 1944 - and that the personnel establishment of the Gestapo in Germany was relatively small. Sadly, there is no evidence of a problem with internal security up to the bomb plot.

Martin Wisse

You may be skeptical, but that doesn't really alter the facts I'm afraid. Nazi support came overwhelmingly from non-working class sources, including the p.b. and rural voters.

The supposedly leftist pitch of the nazis is exagerrated, part legacy of the party's origins in the DAP. There was a leftwing current in the SA under Ernst Rohm, but that was hacked to death in the night of the long knives. Hitler himself was never a treat to capitalism; quite a few companies made a tidy profit on the Holocaust.


Bob B

"Hitler himself was never a threat to capitalism; quite a few companies made a tidy profit on the Holocaust."

Hitler himself soon lost interest in economic issues and was preoccupied by foreign affairs, then by running the war and, of course, giving the nod to the holocaust - no one has so far managed to find a piece of paper authorising the holocaust with the signature of the Führer on it although passages in his book - Mein Kampf (1925/6) - are rabidly antisemitic.

Neither the Fascists in Italy nor the Nazis in Germany had a coherent economic doctrine but such such bits as became explicit certainly have a leftist resonance - such as the launch of the state owned VolksWagen in Germany to make a People's Car, the IRI (the Industrial Reconstruction Institute - a sort of national enterprise board) set up by Mussolini in Italy or political rhetoric in Germany:

"We must not reckon profit and loss according to the book, but only according to political needs. There must be no calculation of cost. I require that you do all that you can and to prove that part of the national fortune is in your hands. Whether new investment can be written off in every case is a matter of indifference."
Speech of Goering quoted in John Hiden: Republican and Fascist Germany (Longman 1996), p.128.

"The tax department chief of the Association of Industrialists (Reichsgruppe Industrie) emphasized that it was useless to attempt precise comparisons between the new and old tax regulations because the important issue was 'the new spirit of the reform, the spirit of national Socialism. The principle of the common good precedes the good of the individual stands above everything else. In the interests of the whole nation, everyone has to pay the taxes he owes according to the new tax law.'"
Avraham Barkai: Nazi Economics (Berg Publisher Ltd (1990)) p.183. Mr Barkai is a research fellow at the Institute of German History, Tel Aviv.

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