Political parties are odd constructions, irrespective of where, when, how and by whom they have been built. “Broad Church” are two words most frequently used by the political class to describe the ideological dimensions of their party, perhaps the closest that politicians ever get to speaking the truth in this post-truth age, a time when the convenience of disposable dialogue is of greater value to those who seek office than any frank and sincere discussion might be.
Both the Labour and Conservative parties that dominate the political landscape of Great Britain, as well as the smaller parties that vie for the remaining third of votes in any election, proudly describe themselves as being “a broad church”. It makes them sound inclusive, diverse and open minded. The range of opinions that can be found among their elected officials is rather remarkable, being that these organisations have continued to exist as cohesive entities throughout the turbulent times that scarred the previous century. Social Democrats have coexisted with “hard left” ideologues in the British Labour Party throughout the twentieth century whether in or out of office and classical free market liberals and one nation Tories have amicably cohabited as Conservatives since the Great War. Even the modern day Liberals, who have struggled to define themselves since the General Strike of 1926 when they were electorally butchered and buried by the voters in the political graveyard that exists among the flowerbeds between Labour and Conservative churches, represent a significant spectrum of opinion. It is accepted by politicians, activists and electorates that parties are not and never have been, homogeneous ideological families.
It is strange that when we come to consider the parties eking out their existence on the far flung fringes of the right, they are commonly considered to be somehow different from all the others; uniquely monolithic and one dimensional. Parties occupying this territory are universally condemned as being uniformly racist, anti-Semitic and authoritarian. Can this really be the case? For example, the National Socialist Party of Germany that rose to power in the 1930’s are held up as the exemplification of extreme right wing ideology. Were there members really uniformly authoritarian, racist and anti-Semitic? Were they really right wing at all? The hard left is defined by itself and by it’s opponents in multitudinous words, sometimes as Marxist, Trotskyite, Leninist or Stalinist, sometimes even as being radical or progressive, implying that there are a variety of views being expressed there. What has come to be known as the “far right” is very rarely afforded this courtesy. The hard left, no matter how unpalatable it may be to it’s opponents, is thought of as being acceptable, in spite of it’s history of anti-semitism, racism and authoritarianism. The far right, not so. It is never considered to be an acceptable strand of opinion in the political discourse. Seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Invariably the left chooses to sling slurs and slanders at those whose politics are to the right of themselves, usually “Nazi” or “Fascist”, which is ironic considering that both of these rather recent ideological formulations are primarily socialist in their outlook, requiring the existence of a strong centralised authoritarian state that deliberately involves itself with private capital in many aspects of the national economy. Are these ideologies really an example of the politics of the right? The right wing has always been about less government, sometimes even no government. The sovereignty of the individual is paramount, irrespective of whether they be operating in the private or in the public sphere, in educational institutions or in economic endeavours, in military or policing organisations, in the arts or in the sciences. It is anti-authoritarian and non-statist, embracing libertarianism and personal responsibility over the collective.
Any governing party or cabinet of ministers will inevitably represent strands of opinion. It is inconceivable and against the nature of the human beast that all of them will reflect and advocate for the same viewpoints. It is simply not humanly possible. Citizens and subjects are aware of this, as are the political commentators, yet through their publications the scribes continue to pretend to the public that the far right is a monolithic ideological entity and they seem to have succeeded in convincing electorates that this is the case. Applying the same logic as the media one would conclude that the regime of the National Socialists that ran Germany through much of the 1930’s until 1945, did not represent a significant range of opinions. This is nonsense. They could not all have been fanatical ideologues like Mr Alfred Rosenberg, Martin Bormann, Heinrich Himmler or Dr Josef Goebbels. There were opportunists like Marshal Hermann Göring and Albert Speer; nationalists who were bound by a sense of duty to the nation, career military officers, sycophants like Wilhelm Keitel as well as pragmatists like the Führer Adolf Hitler and his deputy Rudolf Hess. Not unlike the cabinet of the British government that was also struggling to come to terms with the same unresolved problems that were dominating Europe at the time. Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill represented very different constituencies of opinion within the Conservative Party and no doubt in the country at large. This is something that is taken for granted by scholars and lay people alike. However, the same view is not taken of the Nazis; to a man they are considered to be anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic and rigidly authoritarian. Perhaps the only unifying factor among the leadership of the Third Reich was one that they shared with their adversaries in the British cabinet, that being a deep seated hatred of Bolshevism.
There is never uniformity in politics, neither on the left nor on the right. These days the extreme of the right wing is probably as fractious as it has ever been; white ethnocentric nationalists who advocate for monocultural states for people of European descent, akin to the state of Israel that was engineered for the Jews after WW2, social and economic libertarians of all creeds and colours who are thoroughly distrustful of the government, evangelical Christian groups, Catholic conservatives, those who define themselves by their dislike of blacks and Asians and those who express a hatred of the Jews. It takes all sorts on the far right these days. Thoroughly incoherent and often illogical. The leading figures may be white gay catholic Jews; young girls of Jewish origin, Scandinavian pagans, eastern European Catholic women or middle aged, white Anglo Saxon Protestants. Needless to say, with such a disparate group of egos, common ground is difficult to find. What it is not though is homogeneous. The right now represents true diversity of opinions, unlike almost everyone to their left who are increasingly coalescing around a very narrow collection of social and economic values. The strictly ordered, constitutionally constructed outfits of yesteryear, the Ku Klux Klan in the United States and the National Front in the United Kingdom have lost their footing in the anarchic public square of the twenty first century, being displaced by individual bloggers, YouTubers, journalists and publishers from independent media outlets. Unbound by the rules and regulations of political and cultural organisations, these modern right wingers are free to express their own ideas and compete for attention from amongst the watching world that is less black and white than it has ever been. What binds them together, as it did in the 1930’s, is a fear and loathing of collectivism and communism. On that score not much has changed, however, if it is diversity that you are looking for, or for tolerance of different opinions and ideas, then look to your right through your binoculars and there you will find it, far, far away on the fringes of the conversation.
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