Why the BNP do better than the Greens on Radio 4

This post was written by Richard on April 30, 2010
Posted Under: Green Party

Radio 4 keep blurting out interviews with various smaller party leaders – UKIP, the Greens, the BNP – I think just to keep people’s interest up in what is other wise a surreal but not particularly interesting special edition of Strictly Come Bullshitting.

John Humphrys as God of Liberalism

What struck me was the total difference in the way Caroline Lucas (Green Party leader) and Nick Griffin (BNP) were treated in interview. John Humphrys, the bulldog of broadcasting, completely grilled Caroline Lucas last week. He asked her if she would be a ‘responsible’ leader, and if the Greens were a responsible party. When she said yes, he denied this was the case, asking whether a self-defining anti-capitalist could be trusted in charge of the UK economy. He continually brought up this point: you’re an anti-capitalist, aren’t you, aren’t you. Yes, as a leader of a party, she should be able to take the heat. But as someone who’s done a fair bit of media work for anti-capitalist groups, I really sympathised with her position. Humphrys spent the most part of the interview not talking about or attacking her policies, but using anti-capitalist as a curse word against her. He felt this was insult and exposé enough.

Jump forward a week to yesterday’s interview: Nick Griffin. No Mr Humphrys here, and all round a far more peaceful, amenable bit of radio. The interviewer felt that the correct tactic to deal with the BNP leader wasn’t to call him a fascist, a racist, a pseudo-Nazi. No, the correct tactic apparently was to just let him talk through his policies. The closest she got to criticizing him was asking a leading question over the legitimacy of internationally binding treaties.

And here’s why: the BNP are extremists, the Greens are not. The BNP could say what they wanted to about race, immigration and borders because they’re views are an extreme of what we have already. Their fascism is no more than an exaggeration of what Clegg, Cameron and Gordo already say and want.

The Greens however (along with others like TUSC and Animals Count), put forward a genuinely different ideal. Our politics are ridiculous and we’re ridiculed, because Anti-Capitalism is not an extremism, it’s a total non-conformism. It’s not some magnification of what already exists. When push comes to shove it’s not the police that are protecting the fascists: it’s the right-wing appeasement by self agrandizing liberals in the political class and the media.

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Reader Comments

Edgar Johnson

The BNP could say what they wanted to about race, immigration and borders because they’re views are an extreme of what we have already.

What a ridiculous thing to say. How does repatriating British-born people on the basis of ethnicity constitute an “extreme” of anything we have at the moment? You might as well say that Fascism is an extreme of any form of government, insofar as the latter requires some degree of order.

This kind of nonsense is why the Greens, regardless of how well they are treated by Radio 4, will never run anything bigger than a local council.

Written By Edgar Johnson on April 30th, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

In Humphrey’s defence, being anti-capitalist is fairly stupid and it’s not entirely unreasonable to point out that a supposed leading politician is, insofar as she is “anti-capitalis”, is stupid.

Being “anti-capitalist” is a lot like being “anti-sunlight”. We know that too much exposure to sunlight gives you cancer. So, we don’t want that. But we don’t want to go the otherway, and have no exposure to sunlight – for that leads to vitamin D deficiency and rickets.

It’s quite similar with capitalism, which at root is a system of resource-allocation via market mechanisms predicated upon the relatively free movement of goods, services and peoples.

Yes, too much unchecked capitalism leads to lots of Bad Things. Vast inequalities, poverty for many, power in the hands of those who own and control the means of production, the warping of democratic politics under the impact of concentrated wealth leading to plutocracy and a whole other host of evils.

But too little capitalism and you get variations on mercantalism and feudalism if you’re relatively lucky, and state-controlled authoritarian Soviet centralism if you’re not.

Capitalism, you might like to notice, has been far better for everyone concerned in the relevant societies than any of the other systems ever tried or devised. Now that really matters, because we are after all putting people’s lives on the line when we do economics and politics and especially when we put the two together.

Capitalism is far from perfect. But to be “anti-capitalist” is to either be vastly ignorant of the complexity of capitalism and the benefits it can bring if constructed and regulated in certain ways, or to be a wholesale apologist for the disastrous failed alternatives of, for example, the 20th Century.

I.e. it’s a bit like being “anti-Sunlight”: concluding that because of cancer, best to have none – and ending up with rickets. (Although actually the severity of ailments needs to be reversed: waht we find in experience is that too much capitalism gives you the equivalent of rickets, and having none at all the equivalent of cancer).

Oh, and before you jump to conclusions I very much consider myself on the left. I just have a basic working knowledge of what a market is and of the history of political economy over the past 250 odd years.

Written By Paul on April 30th, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

@Paul: I like the joke about sunlight, even if the point is kinda lame. Seriously though, I think the (bigges) problem with your stance is that you miss the basic function of capitalism: it’s not a system of distribution, but of production. Unchecked, capitalism can distribute badly, but what it can never do is produce in a controlled manner: if it did, it wouldn’t be capitalism anymore.

Written By Richard B on April 30th, 2010 @ 6:14 pm
David M

Be wary calling the BNP fascist or neo-Nazi. Racist no doubt, and many of their members thugs, but we should judge a party primarily on its manifesto, not its membership. Looking at their manifesto it’s just merely idiotic populism that appears to impulse political thinking. Nick Griffin is no modern day Hitler, or even Oswald Mosley. Fascism is no doubt ultra-nationalist like the BNP, which is bad enough in itself, but it’s also based on the embodiment of the nation in a strong government/dictator with mythical justification and the like. The BNP are too idiotic really to be like that.

Written By David M on April 30th, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

David M: You should always judge a party on its membership rather than its manifesto. If a party belongs to a neo nazi tradition and maintains a neo nazi membership then tactical descisions they make about thier manifesto are almost irrelevant. Also, fascism may tend to result in strong dictators, or at least the illusion of strong dictators, but it’s fundamental characteristics are a dynamic of social forces. One which the BNP follow quite closely and which would render them fascist even if they started afresh with a completely new membership.

Paul: Please explain the period of human existance prior to capitalism. Not that any of the pre capitalist systems particularly appeal to me (at least the ones that can be applied to an industrial economy), but their existance, and the fact that they ceased existing having been just as apparently unquestionable as capitalism is to most of us now, does make your claim seem slightly bold (although I admit it is not a direct counterexample).

Written By Michael on May 1st, 2010 @ 2:19 am
Sam M

“Capitalism, you might like to notice, has been far better for everyone concerned in the relevant societies than any of the other systems ever tried or devised.”

In defence of anti-capitalism, really this argument doesn’t hold water. If you regard capitalism as a system that exists inside a nation – looking at Britain, USA, Germany etc – no dispute there.

But it’s not: capitalism is a worldwide system, with the sweatshop labour in Chinese cities (and many other places) as an integral part of it. Our prosperity would be impossible without them. In that context, the idea that capitalism is universally beneficial for all is really a proposition with a lot of holes. I find it really hard to believe that someone bashing buttons onto clothes in an insanitary factory with only enough time off to sleep and barely money to eat really sees this as an ‘improvement’ on his grandfather’s life as a farm labourer, hard though it would have been.

True, under another system life might have been authoritarian and oppressive. But then, that’s not a problem capitalism solves in itself. Try having a dispute with your employer in China.

Written By Sam M on May 1st, 2010 @ 10:07 am

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