The Chairman of the British National Party (Nick Griffin) in his article published on this website and in the Third Way special edition Taking Liberties outlines his view that political freedom of expression must be universal. He argues this must include those whose viewpoint we don’t share (in this case themselves).
Apart from Natural Justice, he cites historical hindsight (pariahs of yesterday becoming part of modern orthodoxy), misunderstanding (of the BNP’s actual beliefs) and self-interest (threat to all dissidents). It is a powerful argument. Why then does it largely fall on deaf ears?
Although he hints that this is down to the manipulation of the Media and Parliament by shadowy ‘global corporatists’ I believe the answers are much closer to home.
There are three main reasons why the BNP are treated as ‘Beyond the Pale’, by the Establishment and many ordinary citizens and thus not deserving of certain ‘rights’: Social Stability; ‘Even-handedness’ and the Authoritarian Personality.
1. SOCIAL STABILITY
Few believe that the BNP could ever form a Government. In the short term they are hampered by a ‘first-past-the post’ electoral system. In the long-term demographic changes to the population, the strength of opposition and a ‘ghetto’ mentality (however imposed) that precludes building bridges/coalitions, set barriers to their growth. To some extent they recognise this by now claiming to represent a ‘British ethnicity’ within, rather than the whole, kingdom.
There is a fear, however, amongst the establishment or in Nick Griffin’s parlance ‘The Powers that Be’, that the BNP’s message might damage our fragile Multi-Ethnic State. In other words if ‘Ethnic Nationalists’ such as the BNP were able to mobilise large numbers of people to think as they do, this could result in more overt expressions of Separatism or ‘racism’, thus encouraging a similar reaction from ‘non-white’ communities. This could ultimately fragment the Multi-Ethnic State and undermine social stability. This would of course make the governance of such a state even more difficult than it already is. Many establishment thinkers believe that it is simply too late to disentangle the ethnic weave of the modern British state and that any attempt to do so will lead to civil strife.
Furthermore, ever since the Second World War, Racial Nationalism has become the Paedophilia of the political world and anyone preaching it or even touching upon it has become ‘Beyond the Pale’. Although some may disingenuously lay the actions of ‘social racists’ at the door of political ones (for instance blaming the BNP alone for ‘racist attacks’ when the causes are manifold) there are still some genuine concerns as to where political racism might lead.
The Political Establishment sees the BNP as a social threat whilst others see them as ‘immoral’ and/or dangerous.
The great debate about and amongst the ‘Muslim’ community as to what it means to be ‘Muslim/Asian British’ and how far they have or have not integrated is of great importance to the Political Elites. The social stability they require to facilitate their governance (and I believe for many their ‘mission’ is merely just that rather than some conspiratorial goal) is presently threatened by the political and social alienation many young Muslims express.
The impact of radical Islam and especially terrorist activity may polarise communities in much the same way the Establishment fear a growing BNP would. This is why there is much scrutiny of inter-community statistics, such as Hate crimes, tolerance surveys and the like. Whilst we are told that our tolerance is holding, the Authorities fear this may not last.
All societies under threat seem to turn to authoritarian measures. Curbing civil liberties, with the introduction of ID cards, stop and search, communication censorship and the suspension of habeas corpus, may make the job of those responsible for the ‘nations security’ easier. Of course it also results in the innocent suffering along with the guilty. The shooting of an innocent Brazilian citizen on the Underground is the price we pay for this so-called ‘Greater Security’. The Establishment also runs the risk that the implementation of these draconian measures might be seen as ‘discriminatory’ and deepen alienation whilst in the process of dealing with its consequences.
To show ‘even-handedness’, the Authorities are likely to use their newfound powers against groups perceived to be ‘anti-Islamic’. The Religious Hatred laws are a gesture towards those in the Muslim ‘Leadership’ who say the activities of the BNP help alienate members of their community. To make repression more palatable for their community they seek reassurance with a ‘sacrificial lamb’.
3. THE ‘AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY’
Nick Griffin claims that the BNP are no longer a fascist party and cites a ‘cleaned-up’ manifesto. Many have yet to be convinced.
It is very hard to change an established and deeply rooted perception. If they were fascist a decade ago what has happened to the membership? Has the ‘old guard’ sought out an alternative party closer to their opinions? If they have largely stayed put is this a result of a genuine change of opinion or because they believe that the manifesto is for ‘outside consumption’ and only cosmetic?
The ‘persecution’ of the BNP and even individual members has understandably provoked cries of anguish and victimisation from their ranks. Underneath it however has been talk of revenge when the ‘boot is on the other foot’. If given the power would the persecuted become the persecutor?
Whilst the language has become more polished sentiments die hard. In a letter published in the English Community magazine Steadfast (no.32 Spring 05) Nick Griffin states “I personally would much prefer to use paedophiles and murderers for testing essential medical developments, rather than innocent animals.” Whilst he might believe that view will go down well amongst his own supporters it sends shivers down the spines of others. If he can express such an attitude in public what, some opponents might ask, might he believe in private?
It is this fear that the BNP is an organisation that appeals to a base temperament or an Authoritarian Personality that puts doubts and concerns into the minds of many, regardless of any number of policy pronouncements and is I believe the most contentious for Civil Libertarians.
In other words, since one wouldn’t put a loaded gun or a sharpened scalpel into the hands of a madman, why would you give the BNP the reins of (or the opportunity to take) Government? Can we allow freedom for those who might take away our freedom and civil liberties?
Nick Griffin himself accepts some limitations of expression, such as that of incitement to violence or the use of force, so why not on the issue of those who seek to deny the rights of others?
POLITICAL DEBATE RATHER THAN REPRESSION
I would not wish to see a BNP Government (or any other) that would remove Civil Rights from the people and in particular its political opponents (including us!). I am not as convinced as some however that this would definitely be the case with the BNP although I am naturally wary. The jury is still out. Ironically if one believed that the BNP would not allow freedom of expression to its opponents the introduction of the proposed authoritarian measures and laws recently announced by our current Government would make that unlikely event all the more dangerous. We would have already given a future ‘Hitler’ his ’emergency powers’ or ‘Enabling Act’.
These measures and controls are not just a threat to our Civil Liberties today, therefore, as they could be used tomorrow by other more Authoritarian or unscrupulous Administrations without having to ‘move any goalposts’. Although an extreme example, much of Hitler’s repressive powers were based on previous laws enacted by the liberal Weimar Republic. Even the infamous Enabling Act, which allowed the Nazis to rule without recourse to the Reichstag (Parliament), was enshrined in their Constitution and Hitler ended up turning the very same weapon against its architects. In other words an Authoritarian Regime could only implement such a system if all the levers of government were in its hands.
On balance however, I believe that the best way to combat authoritarian ideas is through challenging them in political debate rather than repression.
The reasons cited as to why the BNP is treated as ‘Beyond the Pale’ do not in my mind justify the denial of civil liberties to them, as such ‘rights’ are not (or should not be) tied to political expediency i.e. so-called even-handedness or opposition to the political orthodoxy.
CIVIL FREEDOM NOT A LUXURY BUT AT THE CORE OF OUR CIVILSATION
The down grading of the ‘second chamber’, the growing rule by Cabinet, the various examples of PC legislation and moves towards a surveillance society are laying down the foundations for a more authoritarian regime.
There are no ‘benevolent’ dictators only more repressive ones waiting in the wings. If Civil Liberties are worth fighting for it must be from a universal approach – that is for all without exception. It is the ‘hard cases’ such as whether we will defend the rights of unpopular political or social minorities that test our resolve. Anything less creates precedents dangerous to us all. Anything less allows Civil Freedom to be portrayed only as a luxury in times of stability rather than a fundamental tenet of our civilisation.
Graham Williamson is a Member of the Third Way’s National Executive. He is also co-author of a recent book entitled A Declaration and Philosophy of Progressive Nationalism Copies can be obtained for £5 including postage from PO Box 4217, Hornchurch RM12 4PJ (cheques made out to G. Williamson) or from Amazon.co.uk on the link above.
Taking Liberties is available from Amazon.co.uk