Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Friday, June 27, 2008

Is the white upper class going fascist?

Punters at the Henley Royal Regatta

[The results of the Henley by-election in Oxfordshire were overall quite unremarkable. It is a quintessential ruling class area - home of the Henley Royal Regatta - and so the vast bulk of the votes went to the historic party of the ruling class - the Tories. The classic party of the petit-bourgeoisie - the Liberal Democrats - came second, and the party of the progressive petit bourgeoisie - the Greens - came third. But what was surprising about the election result was the results for the minor fringe parties in British politics. I am not really thinking here about the small extremist pro-big business sect 'New Labour', but rather another small extremist party - the fascist BNP - a party of the reactionary petit bourgeoisie - that beat them]

The current debate raging on the blogosphere and on the likes of the Guardian's Comment is Free is the key question: why are such significant numbers of the white upper class voting for the British Nazi Party? Histomat therefore contacted some leading experts who have studied the white upper class for their insights, and these are some of the responses we got...

Commentator A: As early as the nineteenth century, Matthew Arnold declared that the English aristocracy were simply 'Barbarians' without any culture whatsoever. What has to be remembered and understood about the British upper class in particular was that since the 1920s there was never really a time when they were 'anti-fascist' or even 'anti-racist', as it were. If one thinks about the admiration for Mussolini and Hitler during the 1920s and 1930s, a lot of it came from the old English aristocracy. And of course the leaders of British fascist movements have historically often come from the landed gentry - from Sir Oswald Mosley to Nick Griffin and so on. Fascist regimes have always managed to gain the support of sections of the upper class when in power and so we should not be surprised by the Henley result.

Commentator B: The upper class feel disenfranchised and unrepresented by any of the major parties in British politics - their traditional party - the Conservatives - have gone on a major march left to the centre of British politics, and that has created a political vacuum that the fascists are beginning to fill. Unless a 'new aristocrats' party' fundamentally committed to the class interests of the aristocracy is formed, then fascists will always find a hearing as fascists will always lie to say whatever it is they think that their particular audience wants to hear.

Commentator C: Lets be blunt about this - the upper class are fundamentally ignorant about society, even though many of them have had the best education money can buy. All they do is live off their inheritance and sit around watching Wimbledon on TV and drinking Pimms all day and so when some racist scumbag comes round blaming 'the crisis in housing' on 'migrant workers', they simply agree, thinking he is referring to the difficulties they find hiring cleaners and nannies willing to work for them all day for next to no pay. All we can be thankful for is that so few of this class of people vote - I still don't think they really understand the system of democracy and how it works through elections - otherwise we really would have a problem on our hands.

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At 7:49 pm, Anonymous john rook said...

I'm with commentator A

At 4:39 pm, Blogger Kapitano said...

The term "upper class" seems rather elusive here.

In A and C it's the aristocracy, the old money, the descendants of those who had major political power 200 years ago. In B it's the upper middle class, and in the text above the commentators it's the "ruling class" but seemingly not the owners of industry.

At 6:05 pm, Anonymous Johnny Heartfield said...

A lot of things are elusive once warped by totally obsolete hyperbole.

The BNP septic tank of racist nationalism seems more David Duke than Hitler, lacking the completely anticapitalist racially concived populist redistributionism and organizational sophistication necessary to qualify as a fascist movement.

Unlike true facists, BNP scum serve that most dispicible function of fooling people into a self-destructive alignment with the privlidged, much akin to Reganite/falangist siren calls.

At 8:54 pm, Anonymous Stephen said...

Does it matter at all how real upper-class people vote? Surely there aren't enough of them, relative to the population, to make a very big difference in a national election.

That is, unless a large majority of the rest stay home. In practice, to stay in political power the "owners" have to leverage their wealth to influence large demographics to vote contrary to interests of the latter, by more or less misleading or manipulating them in one way or another - e.g. by degrading education for the majority and preventing campaigns from being rational appeals rather than theater and slogans.

At 11:30 am, Anonymous Yusuf Smith said...

Your list of who came first and second, etc, doesn't acknowledge the fact that the Tory candidate came first with over 56%, with the Lib Dem getting 27.85%, which between them accounts for 85% of the vote. The other parties got 3% or thereabouts or less. Surely, not everyone in Henley is upper class, although a fair amount of them are upper middle class. Who would vote BNP in Henley and the surrounding areas? Probably the minority of rich ex-working class types who had relocated westwards rather than east in the 1980s, but retain a lot of the sensibilities of the white working-class and the Essex Man brigade. I cannot imagine that many genuine upper middle-class, let alone upper class, voting BNP, particularly when the Tories are resurgent (and their think tanks have been making threatening noises at Muslims, the BNP's current main enemy), and because they lack the insecurity which leads people to vote fascist.

At 8:11 pm, Blogger Phil said...

In the days of Mosley, the upper middle classes were active in the BUF and successor bodies. From the late middle 1960s, they switched allegiance to the Monday Club and the various anti-communist/anti- trades union "counterfront" organisations. Exceptions include the notably filthy Lady Jane Birdwood, but she was in a minority.

A few upper middle class Henley voters may have opted for the BNP. But the numbers suggest that amongst former Labour voters, 20% of the ones who turned out switched to the BNP.

At 12:39 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Thanks for the comments people.

Some people ought perhaps to know that this blog often tries to be satirical - i.e. taking things to their extreme conclusion in order to try and be funny. So in Henley, many of the people who voted BNP probably were among former Labour voters who were/are not upper middle class. But there undoubtedly would have been some very posh people voting BNP as well given the sort of area Henley is and the rampant Islamophobia and racism in society in general - and so, given this, I hammered out a quick post about the potential support for the BNP among the 'white upper class' in the style of the relentless tide of hysterical liberal commentary about the 'white working class' and the BNP.

Therefore people are absolutely right in that I failed to accurately describe either the reality of Henley or even give an accurate description of the upper class. Apologies.

I do want to take issue with 'johnny heartfield' though about the BNP. Just because they are not that organisationally sophisticated or explicitly anticapitalist at the moment, doesn't mean that they might get more organised in the future or exploit anticapitalist rhetoric in the midst of an deep economic crisis. They are therefore best understood as 'true fascists' whose leadership worship Hitler rather than Ronald Reagan.

At 9:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...









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