It's up to the Greens to take down UKIP
In the next few years we shall either get that effective Socialist party that we need, or we shall not get it. If we do not get it, then Fascism is coming; probably a slimy Anglicized form of Fascism, with cultured policemen instead of Nazi gorillas and the lion and the unicorn instead of the swastika.”
George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937
On Friday, at the Oxfordshire election count, I asked a fresh faced UKIP member “how does a young person become a Fascist?”. That was fun. It is easy to hate them. It’s bonding to pour venom over our enemies. But it does nothing to help us understand the rise of this Anglicised form of Fascism.
If we are to get our heads round it, then it is useful to go back to the quote above, and the context in which it was written. The paragraph comes from Orwell’s book The Road to Wigan Pier – written after the forces of darkness had extended across Germany and Italy, but before he himself showed up in an office in Catalonia and declared ‘I’m here to fight fascism’.
It is as true today as it was then. UKIP itself is, of course, less a firmly fascist party and more a discordant rabble. It’s voters are by no means all racist, and its representatives range from those motivated by bigotry to those who see it as a useful tool to defend their wealth.
But the point isn’t who they are. The point is that, the more they persuade people that immigrants, not capitalists, are responsible for low wages and unemployment, the darker, colder and nastier our country becomes – the closer we tilt towards fascism… a slimy, Anglicised form of fascism.
And as Orwell recognised, Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberals will be useless in combating them. Because they are the parties of the status quo, and it is the status quo which needs to change, with which people are enraged. As UKIP tip the boat to starboard, these parties roll with the tilt until we all capsize.
The solution is that we need a party which explains, in clear terms, why wages are low, why there are no jobs, why there is a housing crisis – a party which can credibly do so from outside the establishment, a party which is steadfast in its commitment that they shall not pass.
For the Green Party, we have a choice. We can become this party – the effective Socialist party that Orwell demanded – or we can become irrelevant.
Of course, there are many socialisms, and the Road to Wigan Pier was written before Nineteen Eighty Four. Greens must learn the lessons of the 20th century, and accept that progressive movements today aren’t the democratic centralists. That way lies disempowerment and disenfranchisement and, ultimately, is at the core of the failure of the Labour party. Successful left movements are about decentralism and mass empowerment,
But that doesn’t change the point. People are, more than for a long time, angry with the establishment. And right now, that anger is being captured by the elite, and channeled at those who least deserve it. Whilst many Labour members will do great work in the coming struggle, their leadership have no place in the fight against an establishment of which they are a key pillar.
Unless we, Greens, can, along with a broad movement, organise ourselves against the establishment and for the people, the boat will one day capsize. Our country will become a colder, darker place. If you’re not a member yet, we’re going to need all the help we can get. Join this fight today.
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I think it would probably attract more voters to the Green Party if it didn’t talk about socialism – so much as fairness, social justice, etc – a better world. That kind of thing. I think there is a generation of people with good education and good morals who are just instinctively wary of the word socialism. We may be wrong in our understanding of the word, but from the marketing point of view I think its better just to use different language if you want to reach a wider audience – out beyond Bright Green. And especially if you want to reach the people who currently vote UKIP. People in this category may either think socialists are wolves in sheep’s clothing – or that they are naive people whose kind-hearted policies will lead to perverse unintended outcomes.
Ye are the Traffic Lights Tendency surely.
Greens who are too yellow to declare that they are really Reds. Reds in the sense of Stalin & Lenin. Tacitly agreeing with the population reduction tactics of the aforementioned, and seeing any kind of individualism as anathema.
Get ye back into History, where ye belong !
The Human Race MUST evolve, and in doing so must progress. The lesson of evolution so far is that the strongest survive and the weakest fall by the wayside. So why should we, follow your nutty green ideas, which involve draconian, Dickensian, even Malthusian practices, to make our Nation weak, and unable to compete in the World today.
We do not exist alone in a Utopian dream, as your idealised view would seem to suggest. and your ideas of “green” conflict with those of a true environmentalist, whose concern is for the environment, and not the vested interests of hokum and bogus “green schemes” that you seem to support. Human Beings ARE part of the environment too, you know.
An impoverished Nation can ill afford to feed its populace, let alone care for the environment, and the road your ill-advised ideas would take us down, would impoverish Nations, and actually cause more environmental problems than it would solve. The Environment is a Holistic system, and must be treated as such, but you would wish to pick and choose the parts to support, and the parts to reject.
You need to re-examine your actions, thoughts, and motives.
well, I guess what I mean is, some of us do this well, and those of us who do need to continue to, those of us who don’t should start.
Anyway, you also had a substantive question, which I ignored – sorry. First, I’m not pretending this is easy – having just spent a week ‘on holiday’ running an election campaign, I’m well aware that this is tricky and that there are no easy answers.
In particular, I totally agree that we can’t just tweak our message and ride to glory – infrastructure matters, etc, etc. Likewise, sometimes, it’s a matter of repeating until it gets through. Most voters I speak to outside small bubbles still think we’re just the party of recycling.
So, yes, lots of good things of the moment – more of that. beyond that… well, that’s another blog…
Apologies if I came across as a bit defensive, but you say things like:
“we need a party which explains…”
“For the Green Party, we have a choice. We can become this party – the effective Socialist party that Orwell demanded – or we can become irrelevant.”
It would be nice if you could instead say things like:
“we need to keep explaining that…”
“For the Green Party, we have a choice. We can keep working to become this party – the effective Socialist party that Orwell demanded – or we can become irrelevant.”
(though I don’t really agree with your socialist aim for the party!)
you seem to think I’m criticising the party. I don’t know where you get that impression – as you say, in many places, certainly in Oxford, we have been saying this. As it says at the end, I am encouraging people to join us.
you do seem to get very defensive very quickly sometimes.
Adam, you didn’t really answer Kevin’s question. It’s my question, too.
*How* do we get these messages across to lots of people?
*How* do we “build the movement”?
I don’t believe you imagine it is as simple as having the right message and – hey presto – millions hear it, as some seem to suggest. There are some intermediate steps there to do with getting the media to cover you, as you well know from your involvement with UK Uncut. They didn’t just say the right stuff, they used a well developed tactic to make headlines and get it across. What are the tactics we should use?
I also think you need to spend a bit more time studying the messages Greens up and down the country are putting across, and their impact. I don’t know about Scotland or indeed most of the country, but in London we have been consistently talking about “why wages are low, why there are no jobs, why there is a housing crisis” and how we could solve this for a number of years. We regularly get media coverage on this, and get good feedback when we do. But the profile is still modest for reasons that have nothing to do with messages and everything to do with the realities of PR – newsworthiness according to media owners and editors, the relatively small political clout we have (catch-22), the shrinking coverage of London politics among others.
The impact is also moderated by the fact that Labour put across quite similar messages, and they have a massive, well-funded, staffed political machine to do so. On the ground they are superbly organised and made up of ordinary activists who are far from the establishment image we might have in mind. Yes, we know why we are different, why they are at times disingenuous, and so on. But on the ground we are finding that takes an immense amount of work to get across.
“For the Green Party, we have a choice. We can become this party – the effective Socialist party that Orwell demanded – or we can become irrelevant”
Sorry to break this to you, but you ARE irrelevant. This is because you ARE Socialist.
As for the Greens ‘taking down’ UKIP, I haven’t laughed so much in a long while. Thank you!
My take on it, not dissimilar to yours Adam.
Well, I hope you don’t have to think again – perhaps I’ll write something longer at some point about what I mean by socialism, but I am certainly aware that it’s a label that many people aren’t happy with, and I wouldn’t want to force it on anyone.
My point (Orwell’s point really) is that unless we give radical, different and sufficiently empassioned explanations for people’s lives experiences – unemployment, declining wages, a housing crisis – we will face a continued rise in support for ukip.
Adam – I don’t disagree with your assessment of UKIP as a potential prelude to the rise of fascism in the UK. In fact I spent most of the day at the count in Oxford drawing parallels between the situation I saw there and events in 1933 Germany. I still think they’re valid, although I trust that in a more enlightened and, above all, better informed and connected society, we’re unlikely to let those sorts of events unfold again.
As for my socialist credentials, I’m still not comfortable with describing myself as such. I’ve certainly got socialist sympathies, but as a businessperson and a former behavioural psychologist I’ve never lost the conviction that human society always defaults to individuals looking after themselves and their families. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing, nor do I hold it up as an ideal. I just think that’s the way we are.
How we deal with that is something we’ve probably been trying to solve for millennia and we still haven’t found the answer.
In my opinion it takes a combination of pragmatism and idealism. As a relatively new Green Party member and a former political sceptic, I’m hoping to find those ideals in our campaigns and policies. But I fear if we head too far left I may have to think again about if this is really the party for me.
Hi George Grant,
You write that “free markets . . . allow people to get on with things themselves free from the state’s control” . . . ?!
The ‘free’ market you are referring to requires very strong state control to enforce contracts, etc. This ‘freedom’ of the market is the freedom of those with the wealth to make the laws which are the rules of the game, a game which makes them richer and richer and the poor poorer and poorer. All helped by control of a media so people end up believing that “free markets . . . allow people to get on with things themselves free from the state’s control”.
and hello to Ian Middleton,
I agree with the need for “a new form of politics”, and if Adam is advocating a socialism that takes us back to state control (which, as far as I can see, he’s not) then I agree that is no help.
A new sort of politics that “takes a humanitarian but pragmatic view on the problems in the world. One that leaves dogma out of the arguments and looks at issues on individual circumstance and merit rather than party lines” sounds good to me. Except that there are not just individual circumstances. These circumstances connect in patterns which form ways of thinking and doing which shape us and our world. We need to be responsive to each circumstance, but we need to also see the patterns become self-reinforcing. Orwell before, and Adam in this blog now, are pointing to a pattern of blaming the victims rather than standing up to the bully. There’s nothing dogmatic about saying bullying is always wrong and that we need to get together and stand up to it before it batters the world (ecologically and socially) to bits.
This particular bully is the insatiable greed of the powerful, who feel they have to maintain a system that produced them and protects them. But the irony is that it protects them from being able – as George Monbiot pointed out today (and the Spirit Level pointed out before) from being able to be happy: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/06/politics-envy-keenest-rich
. . . and just by the way: for those in Scotland, here’s the place to join the Greens up here! http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/join-and-donate
what an absurd accusation. I work for an environmental NGO, and many of the pieces I’ve written here and elsewhere have been about environmental problems – see, recently:
…and obviously citizens’ income is key – I argued to have it more strongly in our policy platform the last time it came up at conference and I will continue to.
thanks for the comments.
First, Ian, and others who question whether the Greens are socialists – I think that, if you take a read of our party policies, and look at some of the various definitions of socialism, then you will probably come to the conclusion that we are a kind of socialist party. You say that you aren’t socialist? but I suspect that you are – if you believe that democracy should extend to the economy, then you are a socialist.
George – the point I’m trying to make isn’t that UKIP are fascist, but that they facilitate fascism. I think some in UKIP are precisely the embodiment of that Anglicised for of fascism Orwell was worried about. But I think others clearly aren’t – they are a mixed bunch. My point is that they could end up being the prelude to fascism if we aren’t careful.
And it doesn’t confuse me at all why or that working class people support them – I spend a lot of my life canvassing, and I often meet working class people who support ukip – they have been persuaded that immigration is the cause of low wages, unemployment, and the shortage of social housing. UKIP are tough on immigrants, so people support them.
Kevin – we express anger about unemployment, low wages and the housing crisis to the people most effected, and we seek to give, in clear, simple language, explanations we agree with.
UKIP is Adam Ramsay’s latest pretext to pursue his purely anti-capitalist agenda. From its outset, the Green Party stressed that social justice and sustainability were interdependent. So it was never in favour of capitalism. But (ineffective)attacks on it have been tried for a very long time.
There is a burning issue now which is more relevant Adam’s wish to see social justice: Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms. My blog
explains how the Citizens’ Income could be the central feature of our attack on IDS. Adam has to my knowledge never mentioned it. But then he wouldn’t, if he read that in the medium term the CI could defuse the polarisation Adam is bent on ramping up. Of course in the long term the CI will underpin environmental sustainability, but it is not clear to me that Adam is really interested in that important side of Green politics.
I(t is a pity Adam’s agenda desn’tfocus
Very well written and a persuasive argument. But I don’t see much wrong with centred politics.
I might be left leaning but I don’t regard myself as a socialist. I don’t vote Labour because their policies don’t make sense and because they’re entrenched in the same establishment they claim to be fighting. I wouldn’t vote Tory because they stand for too many of the things I feel are corrosive to a fair society.
Isn’t it time we had a new form of politics. One that takes a humanitarian but pragmatic view on the problems in the world. One that leaves dogma out of the arguments and looks at issues on individual circumstance and merit rather than party lines.
I think/thought that’s what The Green Party was all about, as well of course as being the only party taking on board the serious point that everything we do in the future, politics included, will eventually need to be informed by an ecological agenda.
There’s a danger that all shades of political opinion use the rise of UKIP to harden rhetoric whilst inspiring a lurch to what they may see as safer ground. Personally I dread a post UKIP political landscape with the Tories heading for the far right hinterland and Labour getting out the flat caps.
Let’s try to remain true to our stated ideals and not be sidetracked by a bunch of opportunist nationalists who’ll probably fairly soon be outed for the thinly disguised neo-nazis that many of them are.
So how do we go about this?
Sorry George, but your comment is a load of cobswaddle. It’s fair enough to say (as Adam does in the piece) that UKIP isn’t a fascist party, but since when does fascism usually emerge from socialism?
Yes, both fascists and socialists do advocate the state interfering in the market, but for completely different aims – fascists used their influence to prop up a corporate elite that did their bidding, not to help the working class. And far from enforcing equality, fascists were completely against equality, arguing that equality was good for society!
Arguing that fascism and socialism are similar because neither of them are laissez-faire is like saying dogs are like kangaroos because neither of them are elephants.
But perhaps more importantly, since when was the defining feature of fascism their economic policies, rather than their nationalism and their hatred of immigrants and other outsiders? This is the key feature of UKIP!
I asked a fresh faced UKIP member “how does a young person become a Fascist?”.
As much as I hate UKIP, you do come across as a complete cnut.
I am no UKIP supporter, but I’m afraid I find your analysis simplistic and erroneous in the extreme. Simplistic because you have – as is becoming a worrying common tendency on the Green/Socialist left – to write off your opponents as simply evil and against the poor as opposed to trying to critically engage with their arguments, and erroneous because UKIP are about as far from Fascism as it’s possible to get in many respects.
The one thing UKIP do have in common with Fascists is that they appeal to large swathes of working people. Socialists never understand why this is the case, because they imagine that they are the guardians of the working class against the ravages of the capitalist right. Wrong.
But the similarities end there. As we all well know, fascism across Europe has usually originated as socialism, because the two ideologies have much more in common than they care to admit. Both claim to champion the poor against the ravages of the elite, both despise capitalism (yes, fascists are as hostile to the free market as socialists), but most of all because both are obsessed with forcing everyone to conform to their model and bossing them about. This is why free markets aren’t so popular with them, because they allow people to get on with things themselves free from the state’s control, and if the state cannot control, how can it police ‘equality’ and ‘justice’. Quelle horreur!
UKIP, for all of their many failings, are in most respects a profoundly free-market, and sometimes libertarian party. That may put them on the right, where even further afield fascists are to be found if you follow the simplistic left-right linear model of placing ideologies, but there’s little I can see that unites them beyond that.
UKIP are mostly to the right, though not on all things eg the NHS(or so they say) but are they really fascists?
Also not sure if they can deliver a non immigration and no to EC policy and please their backers. It appears to me that the east europeans are filling jobs and reducing the rights of the indiginous british.There is a survival logic to anti immigration by the working class who support UKIP that is not racist I think. So if UKIP achieved significant power and withdrew or forced the Tories to withdraw from europe would british workers fill those jobs as agricultural labourers, cleaners, and other unskilled low paid work as compliantly and for a minimum wage or less.
Two words. Brighton. Ireland. You’re already irrelevant to working people.
Rob – nothing wrong with Marxists. I think Adam is referring more to Stalinists to a lesser extent Trotskyists when he talks about democratic centralism. Many Green policies are very Marxist (citizens’ income, renationalising public services, support for cooperatives, etc). But importantly we believe in a decentralisation of power, which is incompatible with the likes of the SWP who use a very authoritarian model.
We are small, and weak. And, of course, distinctly left-ish in a freedom-loving kind of way. But just speaking hypothetically, how could we, the Greens, prevent a take-over by the Marxists – in the same way as Militant tried to take over the Labour Party and nearly succeeded: what plan would we have to prevent them trying to jump on a green bandwagon in order to subvert it?
Agree, spot on. And far more people need to be active, getting across the message. Young, old, in between, we are all responsible.
it’s writing like this that make you and the rabble you knock around with completely irrelevant.