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’.
I agee entirely with your defence of free speech for fascists – an unpopular policy in Europe, better defended in the arch-capitalist USA. The American Civil Liberties Union defends the right of the KuKlux Klan to march through (or thru) Harlem. Crazy, but correct.
The founder of the British Union of Fascists, Oswald Moseley (Ironcrossdresser the First, father of the other) was a former Labour Minister. That’s no reflection on Gordon Brown. So the fact that some greens have migrated to the BNP is no reflection on the environmentalist movement.
Judge them by their fruits. They want to bring us down. But who will lift us up? Jeremy Clarkson? OK, I don’t drive, but I like the way he writes about cars. I wish the writers in my field (art history) had as much aesthetic punch. If you’re going to topple the Greens from their preferred perch on the far left and create a new dimension in political space-time you must define the co-ordinates. The Greens are down, but who’s up? UKIP? Booker at the Sunday Telegraph? We sceptics aren’t a movement, simply a tiny number of malcontents. What is to be done?
…very good analysis. Our free speech /civil rights / privacy lobby have ideological blinkers on here in NZ, and need to be continually called to account. Have unashamedly linked this post to mickysmuses.blogspot.com. Thanks.
However, I disagree that “The way to challenge environmentalism is not to trace its origins back to Nazi Germany”
It could be a very good way to challenge it. The vast majority of concerned citizens believe they are supporting a left wing cause and they certainly aren’t. The Nazis are also the biggest bogey men in history !!
The Nazis wanted to de-industrialise Europe and return to a romanticised pagan past. They started WWII to expand Germany to allow German workers to have their own land in the east. Their Eugenics and racism came from their environmentally based ‘blood and soil’ local tribalism. It lead to the barbarism of total war against inferior races and a Darwinian ethic of destroying the weak.
It is the return to a fictional superior past that should be challenged.
This page shows the people behind the environmental movement are from the financial elite. The relationship to the extreme right becomes clearer.
You make some interesting points, here and on your website. Of course, the historical development and roots of environmentalism are important things to study and understand.
But our argument here is that environmentalism is appealing to political elites because of their political exhaustion. In other words, we’d question whether understanding environmentalism as a political philosophy – as necessary as it is – is sufficient to understand its ascent in order to challenge it.
Thanks for the reply.
The attraction of the elite is investment and an opportunity to put the peasants back in the place they were 100 years ago. This is the biggest investment opportunity in history(along with industrialising China and India)
Following the awesome coincidence of the biggest financial crash in history landing at the exact time of the presidential election, I very confidently predict Mr Obama is going to create a green ‘new deal’ based not on left wing government funded projects but on fascist public private finance initiatives.
I think Eric Smith has a good point. The environmental movement has greatest traction amongst the middle and upper classes particularly those with some education. I think it is best understood as an elitist movement dedicated to reforming mankind. And by that reform I mean that it intends to stop activities which it regards as unvirtuous such as consumerism and tourism.
Of course its advocates do not assume that the prescriptions apply to themselves. I’m sure the multiple home owners can drum up some rationale. Their purchases are somehow different. They are “travellers” or “researchers” not tourists.
This is not a new movement. It is a reformulation of Plato’s philosopher kings, which has sometimes emerged as “left” and sometimes “right”. It shares his assumption that we are fallen from the ideal.
Good point TDK.
This may be lower brow than Plato, but Batman’s original enemy was an environmentalist called Ra’s al Ghul who believed humans were a stain on nature which had to be removed.
The reason why the financially secure upper classes and academics who control the green movement support GW theory is that they despise the tasteless, polluting Walm Mart peasants and want to put them in their place. They want a pure, empty and clean environment in which they can freely roam without tripping over the lower orders. They are dirty.
Ra’s al Ghul is an international terrorist and assassin whose ultimate goal is a world in perfect environmental balance. He believes that the best way to achieve this balance is to eliminate most of humanity. Ra’s usually tries to assault the world’s human populace with a biological weapon, such as a genetically-engineered virus.
I don’t think it is helpful to overstate the influence of environmentalism as a coherent set of ideas, used to achieve anything in particular.
As we have said here, we agree that environmentalism is ideological. But there are many differences – substantial contradictions – within the movement as a whole. For example, it is split over issues such as population control, atomic energy, and capitalism. That creates some significant problems for understanding it, and what underpins it, on its own terms. In many senses, environmentalism is merely a kind of reaction to the world, rather than an idea for it.
Even if we could identify what environmentalism is, this wouldn’t explain its predominance. While it is useful to show how the political establishment has embraced environmentalism and sought to capitalise from it, it is more revealing to look at this as a broader phenomenon, of which environmentalism is just one expression.
For example, arguments for action to mitigate climate change almost always begin with appeals to scientific authority. In reply, a great deal of energy has been spent by various sceptics to point out that the scientific case isn’t as strong as has been claimed. We would suggest that many political arguments today seek moral authority in the objective language of ‘science’, whereas in the past, political arguments were better able to make their case on their own terms. The abortion debate, for example, today seems centred on the ‘scientific’ matters, such as when a foetus becomes ‘viable’, where it used to be a moral question. Similarly, the drugs debate today is framed in terms of the relative risks of one drug over another, or what the consequences for society of legalisation/decriminalisation versus prohibition are. In the past, however, positions were more likely (but not absolutely) to be assumed, not on the basis of ‘evidence’, but on principle. Not ‘will it work’, but ‘is it right’ to allow/prohibit people to/from taking drugs. What this points to is an inability of the political establishment – in a very broad sense – to make moral arguments. That says as much about us, the sceptics, Left or Right, as it does about environmentalists. We need to take responsibility for the rise of environmentalism.
None of this is intended to diminish the importance of subjecting the scientific claims of environmentalists to scientific scrutiny, nor the importance of understanding the continuity between the development of environmental ideas in the past into today’s manifestation of environmentalism. They are essential.
I’m not sure that its the appeals to scientific authority that is the significant detail. I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon and in the short term it won’t be the way to defeat AGW alarmism.
I think we’ve entered an era when certain political positions have captured the high ground and any opposition to it is deemed wicked. That doesn’t apply so much descriptions of the problems so much as the descriptions of the solution. Bjørn Lomborg believes in AGW yet his solutions differ and hence he is seen as bad.
You give the example of abortion. In the UK the right to abortion became law after a debate on the evidence of back street abortions. It was said that given that women would attempt an abortion anyway it was a lesser evil to allow them via the health service. It was said that abortions would decline in number as contraceptives and better education became more available. (Also that wealthier women were able to gain Harley Street solutions).
Now I grant that this is more evidence based whilst than science. The Eugenics debate was overtly controlled from the science aspect. Policies prescriptions came from extensions of the science. [I presume you are aware of this so I won’t go on at length].
The hegemony in polite society at the moment is that few dare admit their doubts about AGW or question the putative solutions. It is much like the debate on immigration. There is no way to doubt the received wisdom without being seen as a deliberate contrarian, a fool or in the pay of shady “interests”.
In that situation the only way back is to chip at the standard narrative, reinforce the doubts where they exist, and point out the absurdities.
An example being today where you cover the Stansted protest. It is inconceivable that protesters called Joss, Tamzin, and Lily have not flown. (I might buy Sharon and Gary but that’s a stretch.) I think you rightly pick up this story because (a) they are not protesting against prevailing opinion or even the government but with it (b) they are in all probability elitist hypocrites lecturing their social inferiors. Joss, Tamzin, and Lily desire to be philosopher kings. I don’t think it does harm to point this out. The mass of people in the country realise this already.
As far as the science goes, we have a long haul. The science in favour of AGW is already very weak. The vast majority of sceptics accept that CO2 is a global warming gas and that in lab conditions it will increase warming. The advocates use misdirection to claim that this settled bit is the one being challenged. The science concerning the feedbacks and impacts of GW are far less certain. It’s logically impossible for the feedback to be as severe as Hansen et al claim because if that were so then natural variation in the past would have long ago tipped us into “uncontrollable global warming”. To add to uncertainty over feedback we have doubts about the quality of the temperature record, and doubts about the hockey stick. The failure at the moment is not that of science to challenge the orthodoxy, but for the media to give it space.
That’s not to say I disagree that part of the problem is inability of the political establishment – in a very broad sense – to make moral arguments.
My 4th para got mangled. I cut out some lines but I hope the sense is clear: Eugenics was a political movement driven by scientific evidence.