The drift towards neo-fascism represented by UKIP isn’t dead – it’s become mainstream, argues Huw Williams…
“And there is for us a terrible warning. For when the regime of profit comes to a point where it can no longer be doctored, it shall easily fall upon us that we are facing a new period of fascist counter-revolution.
“Yes, even in Britain. Under new names and titles of course. Not the fascism of Jordan or Oswald Moseley, because we can recognise its tones and we will not be fooled by it, but some movement that will have to it enough socialist, folk-worshipping camouflage, hiding its malevolence to sufficient enough degree to blind the people once more.
“From this terrible fate the signs of the times warn us, against being pre-conditioned to the slaughter, softened up and nullified, sucked from our veins all vestiges of nonconformity and protest.”
These are the words of philosopher JR Jones in his renowned essay, Yr Argyfwng Gwacter Ystyr from 1963 – The Crisis of Meaninglessness.
They are words I have quoted ad infinitum over the past year in various pieces railing against our collective acquiescence to UKIP and their politics.
For there is no doubt that UKIP’s rise over the past few years represented the fascist counter-revolution that Jones warned us of all those years ago.
Let us remind ourselves of the characteristics of this ‘camouflaged’ movement:
- it has taken advantage of economic deprivation to promote populist politics with a socialist hue, whilst being at the behest of capitalists;
- it advocates arch-nationalism, claiming an almost divine status for the British state as the core of our identity and community, buttressed by xenophobia and racism, with a virulent anti-liberal and anti-enlightenment streak expressed through skepticism of human rights and ‘experts’;
- an undercurrent of violence has also emerged at key points, from attempts to rouse the mob against the Supreme Court ruling, to claim this week that we are ‘at war’ against Islam.
With the albeit key exception of a rejection of overt militarism (a tendency that would have exposed them from the outset) this is textbook fascism (I recommend Hoffman & Graham, if you’re looking for one for reference).
If you’re not happy with the moniker, I suggest you try neo-fascism instead. A suited, but not booted fascism for our new age.
Fascism on the Home Front
These characteristics were not unknown to us before the 2016 Assembly campaign, or when seven of their representatives were sworn into the Senedd.
The most notable attempt to address their rise came from a few good men who advocated tactical voting on the regional list to keep them out.
Tribalism and intransigence got in the way of course – as always seems to be the case when politicians are asked to look beyond their party interests.
This mindlessness was then exacerbated when UKIP’s role in the Senedd was immediately legitimized in the post-election wrangling.
Here is not the place to rehearse the arguments, but there is no denying that UKIP, even within the strictures of democratic politics and the Senedd’s standing orders, did not have to be treated as any other party.
Somewhat ironically – given her tilt at the position of First Minister with UKIP support – it is Leanne Wood who has since stood head and shoulders above all other politicians in recognizing them for what they are, and responding with the appropriate language and moral fortitude.
During the current election debates, she has continued to question immigration and tried to frame it as the issue of misinformation that it is – whilst successfully heckling Paul Nuttall on any number of occasions.
The Fall of Neo-Fascism?
You may well be asking why I should choose to raise this issue now that UKIP have been obliterated in the council elections, and their polling has gone through the floor.
Is this not the fascist counter-revolution in the midst of its death throws?
The answer, of course, is no – rather it has mutated into a different form. Last December, in an article for O’r Pedwar Gwynt, one of my numerous musings on UKIP was that ‘possibly the greatest threat is the manner in which their ideas, values and poison is running into the mainstream.’
Developments since have only hardened the conviction that Theresa May’s Tories have simply assimilated UKIP’s politics and taken on the neo-fascist mantle.
This suspicion was most succinctly confirmed by Craig Murray’s comparison of May’s policies with a National Party Manifesto from 2005.
However, it was not even that of UKIP – rather it was the manifesto of the BNP. This coalescing of the far right has only been confirmed by the fact that UKIP have since been happy to enter into a regressive alliance with the Tories, and pull their candidates from many marginals where they believe such a move will secure a victory for their policies.
Let us not fool ourselves about the nature of this Tory Party, which according to the polls is about to win an election in the UK.
You are right to feel a shiver down your spine, about what could be in store for us in Brexit Britain.
We must hope that since that first, shocking YouGov poll that warned of a Tory majority, we will be saved from drowning under the blue bile in Wales.
But whilst there are glimmers of optimism to be found, the growing consensus around a comfortable Conservative victory on the UK level is telling.
It’s worth remembering that this is not only a Tory Party that has allowed its neo-fascist strain to predominate – it is one that is openly destroying the NHS, the one institution that carries with it majority support.
For us to be facing the prospect of an electorate that wishes to sacrifice its health service on the altar of xenophobia and prejudice, illustrates just how far gone we are.
Perhaps the situation isn’t as bad as we fear and electorally the UKIP collapse could have some positives – the “coalition of chaos” is still a possibility (and what wonderful ‘chaos’ it would be).
The latest figures from ComRes suggest 48% of the UKIP vote falling to the Tories, which although hugely significant, may not be quite such a decisive factor if a Labour-favourable turnout prevails in England.
Here at home we might anticipate that the percentage could be somewhat lower, with a more inherent anti-Conservatism leading many back to the Labour fold.
The crumbling of the UKIP vote could also be decisive in other ways – what happens to the significant protest vote could be interesting, and one which may benefit Plaid in those seats where they are in competition with Labour.
Ultimately, however, even if a progressive alliance prevails in Westminster, with Brexit on the horizon, and the collective shift of values that has taken place, there are massive challenges to be faced.
My Dad isn’t one for talking about the past; he prefers to look forward. However, he has had cause in the past week to reflect on our recent history, in writing a piece on Rhodri Morgan for Planet Magazine (if you do not already subscribe, I urge you to do so and support this mainstay of our public sphere).
Without issuing a spoiler, one of the most striking passages is his description of 1979 as ‘zero hour’ for the progressive project in Wales.
Given devolution, it seems in many ways we are in a stronger position today. However, I cannot help but feel that we face equal challenges in today’s Wales – in view of the oncoming Brexit crisis, the environmental challenge, and of course the prevailing political climate borne of the fascist counter-revolution.
Whatever kind of UK government we are left with, we face uncertainty, unrest and regressive forces unleashed by an unrelenting, increasingly authoritarian British establishment and media.
For our generation, this is our zero hour. The progressive counter-revolution must now begin in earnest, for we have no other choice.