The British National Party (BNP) causes much anxiety to today’s mainstream politicians. Almost entirely unable to take the immigration debate head on, Britain’s parties have, for the last few years been wholly mealy-mouthed about their policies. The juggling act between not wanting to be seen to be ‘letting everybody in’ on the one hand, but on the other, not wanting to be seen as illiberal, means that life is made pretty nasty for many people hoping to make a better life here (for whatever reason), while the concerns which express themselves as support for the BNP have gone unaddressed in the hope that they will just wither away.
The BNP isn’t the kind of party we have an iota of sympathy with. But neither do we buy into the idea that its recent apparent increase in popularity is quite as meaningful as it has been portrayed. Its members have been banned from speaking on University campuses, and loud, pointless protests follow wherever they get the chance to speak. The ‘no platform for fascists’ policy of Student Unions and liberal left activists has the unfortunate consequence of closing down free speech and debate. Hmm. Rather like… erm… fascism in the 1930s? (Funny how today’s ‘liberal’ values… aren’t.)
Recently, the party’s membership list was leaked and published on the internet. This has caused problems for people on the list who work in the public sector, such as policemen, who are not allowed to be members of the BNP. More illiberal liberal ‘democratic’ values in operation.
As a Times article last week revealed, several prominent ex-members of the Green Party were on the list.
The party conceded this morning that Keith Bessant, a two-time parliamentary candidate, and Rev John Stanton, a former local party chairman, had defected to the far-right nationalist organisation.
This ought to be surprising, because the Greens have been positioning themselves as the super-liberal’s party of choice. Caroline Lucas, for example, wrote recently that, following the growing disinterest in the main parties,
… the Greens have continued to make progress, but so have the BNP. Our politics of hope are being pitted against their politics of hate and ignorance … the onus is on the Greens to grow faster and ensure positive politics and the opportunity for real change leaves the BNP where they should remain – out in the political cold. To do that, we will need to beat them in every region where they pose a threat, including London, where the BNP won an Assembly seat this year, and the North West region, where Nick Griffin has installed himself as the BNP’s lead candidate.
Greens are supposed to be some kind of opposition to the BNP. But as Rob Johnston at Bad Ecology points out, the distinction between the two parties isn’t as clear as it seems.
Greens agree with the BNP about migration and the green belt. They promise to: minimise the environmental degradation caused by migration; not allow increased net migration; and end the pressure on the Green Belt by reducing population and stopping growth-oriented development.  Reduction in non-white tourism and immigration would be an inevitable consequence of government restrictions on air travel. Few refugees from Iraq, Darfur, Zimbabwe manage to get all the way to Britain without a large carbon footprint, neither can tourists from beyond Europe.
We’ve noted before that Green is the colour assumed by parties of all colours that are unable to make a robust argument for their political ideas, Left or Right, Liberal, Conservative, Socialist, Anarchist, or Marxist. It is a curious thing that contemporary Nazis can be found making environmental arguments to support their case in the same way as mainstream politicians. For instance, if you were to type www[dot]nazi[dot]org into your browser, you would find yourself at the website of the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, whose swastika emblem appears in a white circle, on green, not, as was once the case, red. The website declares that
Green is a fraction of the National Socialist view on land. “Blood and Soil” is our doctrine of homeland, or origin to each person, and thus which ground is sacred to them and they upkeep for generations. Each ethnic group should have a homeland, because in a consensus group one can declare poisoning the earth to be a great offense.
The deep ecology movement restated what the NSDAP believed: that in order for humans to exist without destroying their environment, it had to be placed on equal footing with humans, recognizing in addition that its space requirements were greater as while humans are one species, nature is uncountable interlocked species, creating a codependent, eternal whole.
As the Times article continues,
Mr Bessant, who ran for MP as a Green Party candidate in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in 2001 and 2005, claims to have left the BNP soon after joining.
A spokesman for the Green Party claimed today that Mr Bessant was in the BNP not because he was a racist but because he felt they had better environmental policies. “He formed the opinion that the BNP climate change policy was more radical than ours,” he said.
The claim that Bessant “didn’t hold any racist or bigoted views” is interesting. If you hold that the BNP is wrong because it is racist, then to join it, in spite of its racism is at least as bad as joining it for its racist policies. He might not be a racist, but he nonetheless joined a party that the G-P spokesman believes to be racist, indicating that he didn’t see racism as a reason not to join. The point being that humans, in this view, take second place to the interests of ‘the environment’.
The party also confirmed that a church minister, the Rev John Stanton, from Rochford, Essex, whose name also appeared on the membership list, was once a local Green Party chairman.
Rev Stanton, 76, said he joined the BNP because of immigration concerns. “I am not a racist,” he said. “It’s Islam I don’t like, not Muslims. If a Muslim family moved next door, I would treat them like any other family.”
Mr Stanton, who heads the Rock Dene Christian Fellowship, a house church, at his home with a congregation of 22, also spent four years as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Rochford in the 1990s and five years as a Conservative in the 1970s.
The father-of-four also spent some time as a UKIP member before joining the BNP in 2007.
“I’m dismayed that the list got into the public domain, but these things happen when people get disgruntled,” he said.
The Reverend’s movement from the conservatives, to the Liberals, to the Greens, to the BNP indicates some reluctance to commit himself to a party.
Or is it more the case that green – being the colour of reinvention – is the colour chosen by parties who fail to make arguments for change without the drama provided to them by the idea of environmental catastrophe? The Reverend failed to find a home, perhaps, because the parties he experimented with failed to identify themselves politically. The Green Party, which began life as PEOPLE, formed by disgruntled conservatives in the 1970s, has attracted a rag-bag of misfits in search of a cause, many, if not most of them from the wreckage of the UK radical Left. Disoriented Reds and Blues alike have found refuge in the certainty offered by the prospect of the imminent collapse of the ecosphere.
The way to challenge environmentalism is not to trace its origins back to Nazi Germany (though it is interesting to do so in its own right and it’s also a fun way of annoying Greens). Neither is it productive to cast environmentalism as the re-emergence of the Left. Contemporary environmentalism exists on a new axis. The values they espouse belong neither to the Left, nor Right, but Down.
Now that we can locate Green politics as separate to the Left-Right axis, some self-reflection is called for. Why is it that the parties representing these positions have been unable to sustain their positions? Left or Right, environmental sceptics ought to start taking responsibility for the influence that environmentalism has achieved, and to create political ideas that place humans at the centre of political discussions. Perhaps this new direction should be called ‘Up’.