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Has democracy gone a step too far?

Voter apathy may allow dangerous and obscure minority parties to secure more power than ever before in the upcoming 2009 European Election.

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Voter apathy may allow dangerous and obscure minority parties to secure more power than ever before in the upcoming 2009 European Election.

On Thursday, voting will begin across 27 countries, most of which have bizarre and frankly dangerous parties running candidates hoping to take advantage of voter disillusionment with mainstream political parties.

This is the hope with the Pirate Party of Sweden. Their stump speech includes reforming copyright law to make it easier to share films and improve private downloading. The Anti-Capitalist Party of France believes that having a single retail bank is a sure-fire way to improve the economy. Back home, the Jury Team has 59 candidates up for election, running solely on the basis that the current bureaucracy involved in government leads to inefficiency. While this is noble, it's not exactly a well-rounded manifesto. Elena Basescu, daughter
of Romania's President is running a political party on the basis that she is the "Paris Hilton of the Carpathians." Her campaign, in contrast to more conventional politicians, involves online photographs of her sprawling across car seats and sitting seductively astride horses.

Of the 375 million people entitled to vote, fewer than 150 million are expected to. Sadly, these are likely to be those with extreme views who feel motivated enough to vote. The current voting system of proportional representation is expected to have a combined turn-out of around 40%, which means that political scientists are concerned that fringe parties will gain more seats than ever.

Logically, this shouldn't be a problem. Democracy is designed to represent the interests of those who turn up. However, if the European Parliament consists of parties with extremist and narrow views that most would view as unelectable, we could have a problem.

Indeed, far right parties are expected to benefit from the current economic discomfort. The BNP has recieved plenty of publicity while the National Party of the Czech Republic has broadcasted an advert promising a sinister "final solution to the Gipsy issue."

However, most remain skeptical as to whether these extremist parties will steal seats from mainstream parties or just from each other. Either way, the expected low turnout will reinforce their agenda that MEPs should not increase their power because they lack a mandate from the majority of the population. Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP for South East England believes: "The more powerful MEPs become, the less
legitimate they appear in the eyes of their constituents."

Voter turnout matters. Instead of protesting the EU's inefficiency by not voting, citizens need to realise how much control the institution has over our lives. While Iceland's economic and political collapse was not solely because it was not a member of the EU, it was definitely a factor. Ireland may have suffered the same fate if not for the stabilizing influence of the Euro. Indeed, the altered Treaty of Lisbon will allow Parliament to have the same law-making powers as the Council of the European Union. The Council consists of ministers
from national governments. These decisions will override national law across the EU.

The Treaty will allow an EU president, create an EU diplomatic corps under the control of a European 'foreign minister' and substantially expand the EU's judicial powers.

This election matters. Cast your vote on 4 June.

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44 Comments

P. A. Giannaros Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

You say that "sadly, [voters will be] those with extreme views who feel motivated enough to vote". If 100 million people vote then around 40% of those eligible to vote will do so - an enormous figure you will allow. Your suggestion that this huge body of people will mostly consist of those with sufficient zeal to vote for a "bizarre and frankly dangerous" party is comical.

You assert that the Pirate Party of Sweden hopes to capitalise on apathy with the main parties in the European elections. This is true to a certain extent, but it is the party's liberal view on digital rights that makes them most appeal to voters, not any particular disillusionment with established politics. They profess no political views other than those related to digital rights to allow them to work with traditional parties; they do not advertise themselves as an alternative. The fact that their youth branch is the largest in Sweden seems to help indicate that they are less the product of apathy
than you imply.

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Simon Whitten Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

You list the Pirate Party, the Jury Team and the Anti-capitalist party as "dangerous" minority parties who may gain influence in a PR system (although only the latter has a chance of getting seats) due to current apathy (people aren't apathetic, they're pissed off and feel unrepresented. If the result is a low turn out it will be willfull non-participation, not apathy).

No BNP, seriously?

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"The Anti-Capitalist Party of France believes that having a single retail bank is a sure-fire way to improve the economy"

Olivier Besancenot's opinion on the economy is in fact much more complicated than that. And in any case the Anti-Capitalist Party does not automatically qualify as a "dangerous and obscure minority party" just because you may not agree with it.

Personally, I find nothing inherently wrong with a political organisation being "anticapitalist, internationalist, antiracist, ecologist, feminist, and opposing all forms of discrimination."

One may agree or disagree with its proposals, but I think that it is far more dangerous to believe that democracy is all about choosing between two mainstream parties, that most people recognise to have no real ideological difference between each other.

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Tim Wallace Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Its not always apathy that means people don't vote - how about general disgust with the performance of politicians? It certainly made me spoil my ballot.

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Simon Whitten Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"Olivier Besancenot's opinion on the economy is in fact much more complicated than that. And in any case the Anti-Capitalist Party does not automatically qualify as a "dangerous and obscure minority party" just because you may not agree with it.

Personally, I find nothing inherently wrong with a political organisation being "anticapitalist, internationalist, antiracist, ecologist, feminist, and opposing all forms of discrimination."

One may agree or disagree with its proposals, but I think that it is far more dangerous to believe that democracy is all about choosing between two mainstream parties, that most people recognise to have no real ideological difference between each other."

Presumably this "step too far" that democracy has taken was working class suffrage.

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A. Democrat Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

The greens are seen as a bit of a loony party by a lot of people, but here on campus i'll imagine they'll do quite well out of us students.

Democracy means anyone can stand for office, and anyone can vote for whoever they like. The pirate party is no different to the UKIP or Kidderminster Hospital party - they fight elections on a single issue. This isn't necessarily 'dangerous' to those who believe in these particular causes, but it's certainly dangerous to the big 2 parties.

The only 'dangerous' parties from my point of view are the extreme nationalists, but even if they do win a few seats, they'll have little influence and few friends in the European Parliament, and judging by the BNP's record in councils, half of them won't turn up to meetings and votes anyway.

Everyone likes to talk about apathy, but we have never been more political. Millions marched against the war, thousands have written to the telegraph about expenses, pressure group membership is very high (countryside alliance's membership skyrocketed when they fought the hunting ban) and public meetings are drawing large crowds. Apathy isn't the problem - the parties themselves are. It's very easy to know what you stand against, but harder to find a party that stand FOR what you believe. It is precisely the opposite of apathy that will propel fringe parties into 'power' - it's anger and despair in areas which labour has abandoned as they've courted the 'middle england' vote.

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Apathetic (generally) Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

I'm usually completely apathetic in most voting situations, one mainstream political party to me is pretty much the same as the next mainstream political party. However, I will be voting in these elections and that is only because I also believe the more extreme parties such as the BNP will have a larger proportional representation due to the sane people not voting for reasons such as apathy or because they feel the mainstream parties have let them down. I will only be voting so the extremist parties do not get my vote.

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Dan Taylor Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

I have always been of the belief that both currently and historically, fringe parties make gains when the mainstream political groups fail to address politicaly voatile problems. The example of Weimar Germany is helpful, where a (relatively) moderate government failed to address serious economic concerns resulting in the use of scapegoats (Jews) by the Nazi party. We all know what followed.

There are certainly parallells with the current situation in the UK. The 'left' (Simon Whitten et. al.) are concerned with the makeup of the capitalist system and may vote accordingly. The right are concerned with immigration at a time of economic crisis and make vote for racist/sectarian parties such as the BNP/UKIP etc. I think this is as a result of governments continued failure to address politically volatile issues, the consequences of which may just be more serious as they imagined.

I don't think this is 'democracy going too far', but I do think we should learn the lessons that history has provided us with. Failure by government(s) to address concerns that are genuine for people with a strong political ideological belief, leads to situations like this at election time. Unpaletable as they may be, this is democracy and at times, governments need a kick in the teeth and this might just be it.

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Dan Taylor Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Incidentally, I dont think UKIP are racist or sectarian. They are on the right of politics and I mentioned them because they got my vote today!

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David Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Dan, I agree that extremist parties tend to make gains when political situations are volatile. However in both the analogy you draw with 1930s Germany and the current reality, we have to recognise that there are limits to what mainstream parties can do. Yes the Weimar government was corrupt and useless, and yes the same could probably be said of some of our current MPs, but we can't fail to acknowledge that some of the economic problems in 30s Germany and the present day are outside of the control of our politicians. The economic difficulties are the common problem that links these situations (though obviously these difficulties were far more extreme in the Germany case) so I take it that this is the volatile issue you mention. Though I'm not a fan of many mainstream politicians I don't think they can be held completely to blame for what has happened.

The rational act upon believing (whether correctly or incorrectly) that a government is responsible for failing to deal with economic problems is to vote for a party that you genuinely believe will do a better job of managing the economy. Whatever the outcome, such a thought process represents rational adversarial democracy at its best. The problem is when people react irrationally by voting, partly to spite the mainstream parties they blame and sometimes partly because of their own prejudices, for extremist parties who offer no economic solutions but aim to redirect people's anger against scapegoats, the Jews (and other groups) in 30s Germany and (most commonly) immigrants and religious and racial minorities in the present day. The lesson mainstream parties need to learn is to treat the public like the rational adults they are, most obviousy by not abusing the expenses system and public money, but also by not shying away from considered defences of their own positions in more rational debate and not dodging important questions, whether in Parliament or on television

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Sami Rose Sterjon Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

I think both Dan and David said key things. People feel that the major parties let them down so vote for minor parties instead. But the problem is that people often vote for more immoral or less competent parties and members without thinking it through. I don't even know what any of the parties have been doing in the EU Parliament but I tried to think about who will be the best not who was the worst. I hope that made sense!

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JM Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"But the problem is that people often vote for more immoral or less competent parties and members without thinking it through."

That is very true - someone I know from home voted for the BNP today on the basis of a leaflet they received through their letterbox. When I asked them the nationality of the surgeon who recently performed an important operation on a member of their family, they quickly realised that they had made a decision that was neither rational nor considered.

I just hope this has not been replicated on a mass scale across the country. I'm a disillusioned Labour voter, so I transferred my vote today to the Lib Dems in the hope that it will help shock Labour into at least putting up some sort of fight to stay in office.

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Macguyver Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Smug codswallop from Nouse as usual. "democracy going too far" indeed! The wide range of views expressed in the european political system is a far cry from our own staid political system in which one has the "choice" between three bland centre right parties and their identikit candidates. As odious as parties like the BNP are it's ridiculous to say they shouldn't have a place in the political process, their rise shows the horrific inadequacy of our moribund political climate. The establishment has to adress the resentment, poverty and bitterness that leads people to vote for deluded populists rather than simply dismissing this as the work of extremists. The reason these horrid parties suceed is they capitalise on the anger brought about by years of neglect and contempt. Mind you i wouldnt expect better from a media source that epitomises the tedious conformity of the current british political culture.

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Ragdrazi Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Really, I think you guys are imposing your own biased definition of immorality in this article.

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David Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

What unbiased definition of immorality could there be? Unless you mean a more objective definition of morality, in which case you need to explain why you don't think the understanding of morality being offered is sufficiently objective.

Though I certainly don't believe that immorality is determined by popular opinion, I think it can be a good indicator and I think that pretty much any reasonable-minded person would say that selfishness, hatred and unjustified aggression towards minority groups are immoral. From here it's not too much of a logical step to say that parties and policies that are based upon these fundamentally immoral traits are also immoral. This reflects only my own beliefs about morality and you are welcome to disagree, but if you are searching for an understanding of morality that is not only objective but does not reflect the speaker's own beliefs (at the very least their empirical ones, if not their moral beliefs), I think your search will be in vain.

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Mike Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

In reply to MacGuyver, it's not at all ridiculous to say the BNP shouldnt have a place in our political system. A party which "affirm[s] that non-Whites have no place here at all and will not rest until every last one has left our land" (Nick Griffin) should be banned. However, one does not need an "unbiased definition of immorality", or a definition of extremism to do this. One instead needs to look at the role of democracy. In a society such as ours, supposedly built on the idea that power is derived from the people, it is to determine who exercises power in that society. A party which would necessarily exclude part of that very society should not be tolerated - it is incompatible with any form of democracy.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

On the other hand, as Rosa Luxemburg put it:

"When 'freedom' becomes 'privilege', the workings of democratic politics are broken. Freedom only for those who think the same is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively the freedom of the dissident."

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The Democratic Deficit Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

You correctly state that the European Union has a huge impact on our lives, however, the European Parliament is entirely different. They have no power to propose legislation, only to ammend it and even at that, their opinion is barely noted. Therefore, even if 'extremist parties' do get in as you say, they will have little power to influence European policy - an unelected Brussels based pressure group has far more influence than one MEP.

If anything, democracy has not gone far enough!

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Dan Taylor Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Mike, then surey by excluding them, you are merely repicating their own undemocratic characteristics that you yourself chastise.

"A party which would necessarily exclude part of that very society should not be tolerated."

Again, accusing one group of intolerance and replicating it yourself? I'm afraid that you cant have one rule for one and one rule for another based on what you find politicaly acceptable or not.

I think this debate comes round to ideas on free-speech. Whilst Nick Griffin's views are not particulary palletable, he doesn't incite violence and was cleared of such charges when answering to English justice. The party also appears to represent a large minority of the population. Once again, when we go down the road of banning parties who we find intolerable, we start to slide down a very slippery slope. As long as BNP policy does not incite violence such as Islamist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahir do, then they should remain legal.

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Simon Whitten Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"On the other hand, as Rosa Luxemburg put it:

"When 'freedom' becomes 'privilege', the workings of democratic politics are broken. Freedom only for those who think the same is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively the freedom of the dissident.""

Considering what happened in Germany a few years later that's a pretty bad example.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Considering what happened in the USSR even earlier, it is not.

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David Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"As long as BNP policy does not incite violence such as Islamist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahir do, then they should remain legal."
Some Hizb-ut-Tahrir members would deny the organisation incites violence. In their leaflet condemning the September 11th attacks the organisation explicitly states that aggression against civilian non-combatants is forbidden. I do not agree with Hizb-ut-Tahrir for many reasons and neither do I necessarily take their condemnations of violence at face-value but I do not think that there is any more of a link between Hizb-ut-Tahrir and violence than between the BNP and violence. In both cases the organisations and their leadership deny that they engage in or incite violence but at the same time each have members who certainly do commit, endorse and incite violent acts. Each are also alleged to have links with other even more extreme groups who are openly violent. Both with the case of individual members commiting violent acts and with links to openly violent organisations, the BNP are as demonstrably guilty as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. There is a significant question about freedom of expression and whether it exteds to permitting these two groups to air their apalling views and inciting others to hatred and prejudice, if not actual violence (though they may well do) but I do not think it is a tenable position to conclude that one should be legal and the other illegal.

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A. Democrat Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

'The democratic deficit' - indeed, democracy can, and must, go further.

The fear about 'fascism' isn't necessary, it only encourages those on the fringes to go even more 'anti-establishment'. How can people possibly dismiss the far left, protectionist, authoritarian BNP if they aren't allowed to express their views?

The 10% or so of BNP council votes is partly responsibilty of the so-called 'left' - for 'no platforming' the BNP and effectively throwing them the 'workers' vote - "We wont stand up for you and we won't let these guys say how they'd do it". The establishment needs a shock, but it's sad that it'll probably come in the form of a BNP MEP. You don't combat illiberalism with illiberalism. Labour and its supporters (including YUSU and NUS, a puppet of the labour party) have made a grave error here.

Freedom is a difficult concept to define, I use John Stuart Mill's harm principle, yet i've had arguments about the smoking ban (i'm pro-ban) where myself and the opponent have both cited Mill for each of our arguments! But certain freedoms are given to us unconditionally by European Law. Freedom of speech is an absolute freedom, guaranteed by the ECHR. Which is why labour failed to get the BNP prosecuted and only gave them more ammunition.

Labour don't get it. The BNP love the cries of fascism and the abuse and the no-platforming. Those angry with 'the system' will vote for the party which 'the system' hates.

The answer to our democracy conundrum isn't in banning anyone. Let the people speak. Rather, the answer lies in an entirely elected parliament, a representitive parliament and more power for parliament instead of the government's royal prerogative powers.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"How can people possibly dismiss the far left, protectionist, authoritarian BNP if they aren't allowed to express their views?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_National_Party

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_right_in_the_United_Kingdom

You could call them radical statists if you want, but far-left is completely out of order. You seem to ignore everything that the left stands for, as well as provocatively disrespect its anti-fascist struggles throught the course of an entire century.

The BNP is a reactionist party, and as such is extremist right wing by default. It is a party of the nationalist far-right in every sense of the term.

Your attempt to link the right with liberalism and the left with authoritarianism is just pathetic, grossly offensive mud-slinging.

Granted, some extreme parts of the left are radically statist (take the SWP for example), in exactly the same way that some extreme parts of the right are radically statist (a.k.a. the BNP)

But what you are trying to do here is score some cheap political points by calling the two opposite extremes by the same name - 'the left'. Your motivation is all too obvious - this is the new propaganda tool of the right intended to create guilt by association.

I am sure you would also argue that the Nazis were socialists (despite the fact that they exterminated the left and had the German industrialists), as they were called 'National Socialists'. Equivalently, of course, one could also argue that the 'German Democratic Republic' was in fact democratic.

You are all too keen to forget that what the term 'right wing' stands for is not necessarily free-market, as you'd have us believe, but rather a political position focused on "restoring or upholding traditional values and customs which sometimes includes maintaining a form of social hierarchy."

This is to be contrasted with the social progressivism and egalitarianism of the left, in which racism (by definition) can not be a part of.

You are also all too keen to forget that the BNP is blaming Britain's current state on the 'far-left' Labour party and the 'Marxist junta' they've imposed.

Let us leave it at that please.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

*the support of the German industrialists

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A. Catsambas Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

George, for the last time, there's economic right and left, and there's social right and left. Hitler and the BNP are extremely right-wing on the social scale. Likewise, the definition you provide for the right refers to that.
However, in the economic scale, left means statist. This is a fact. Wikipedia:
"Leftists disagree about economics, thought most favor some form of government or social intervention in the economy."
Most definitions of the term left wing on the web and elsewhere contain the phrase "advocation of government intervention".

Right wingers on the other hand advocate free market mechanisms. Under this definition, Hitler and the BNP, who propose interventions are clearly left wing.

Your problem is that you refuse any link between the words 'Hitler' and 'left wing', and in order to do so, you just do not consider the actual definitions of the words, and come up with definitions of your own. Now, please, do not provide a list of definitions from web pages to support your case, because you are likely to choose ones that discuss the social spectrum only. Again: left wing, when discussing economics, is strongly linked to statism (and not just because of the way history has evolved, but because this is the DEFINITION of the term).

A.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"Most definitions of the term left wing on the web and elsewhere contain the phrase "advocation of government intervention"

Most, not all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_socialism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchosyndicalism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_libertarianism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_liberalism

In other words, the fact that the word is used in a specific way does not mean that it is applied correctly. Also, the word 'intervention' is not a synonym of totalitarian control. I am sure you understand these differences.

You may also need to read some Marx and find out that he was in fact proposing the gradual devolvement of the state, very much unlike Lenin's view of 'democratic centralism' as appearing in the The State and Revolution.

So, your assertion that this is the 'definition' of the term is simply wrong; this is just its popular use. And the reason it is the popular use is quite simple too; the Soviets used the word socialist to justify a brutal dictatorship, and the West used that brutal dictatorship to prevent thinking about what socialism was supposed to stand for.

This whole discussion is a very fine illustration of that point.

"Right wingers on the other hand advocate free market mechanisms."

Most, not all.

I repeat, the Nazis had the full support of the German industrialists and one of the reasons why they took power was to eliminate the 'socialist threat'. This is what right-wing reactionism is all about; violently preventing change in order to preserve the interests of those at the top of the hierarchy.

"and come up with definitions of your own."

I did not come up with anything, I provided quotes. This is my reference.

Left and right: the significance of a political distinction, Norberto Bobbio and Allan Cameron, pg. 37, University of Chicago Press, 1997.

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Simon Whitten Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

As the terms have historically evolved, fascists such as the BNP have traditionally been viewed as far-right, while communists (who advocate neither a state nor a free market, completly exposing your "economic left-right" false dichotomy for what it is) are viewed as far left. Those endorsing pro-labour politico-economic stances (social-democracy, trade unionism etc) are considered left wing, those endorsing pro-capital policies (having historically included both "free-market" and "protectionist" approaches) have been considered right wing.

The idea of an economic left-right with the left constituting "interventionist" stances and the right "free-market" policies is a modern invention and one which ignores the BNP's anti-union politics.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Additionally:

"Conservative authoritarians and those on the far-right traditionally support state corporatism, while several right-wing movements and parties have supported and support protectionism.

Right radicals and conservative authoritarians are almost without exception state corporatists in formal doctrines of political economy, but the Italian fascists were less explicit and in general less schematic."

Fascism, Comparison and Definition, Stanley Payne, University of Wisconsin Press, ISBN 0299080641, 9780299080648, pg 19

Finally:

"The Corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation."

Benito Mussolini, 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, Rome: 'Ardita' Publishers (pp. 135-136)

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

To close this pointless debate, it is ridiculous to argue that all forms of statism and authoritarianism are products of the left.

Yes, all statist radicals have much in common (no matter if they'd like to be called left, right, communists or nazis) but arguing that they are all actually left-wing is incredibly biased and only serves to reveal the presence of ulterior motives.

In summary, there are left wing authoritarians and there are right wing authoritarians. And clearly they sometimes support different things by proposing some similar measures.

It is as simple as that, so let us stop this grossly disrespectful mud-slinging.

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Simon Whitten Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"You may also need to read some Marx and find out that he was in fact proposing the gradual devolvement of the state, very much unlike Lenin's view of 'democratic centralism' as appearing in the The State and Revolution."

The State and Revolution is not about Democratic Centralism, it's a book about the class nature of the state and a polemic against both social-democrats who opposed to abolishment and the state and anarchists who demanded revolutionaries should play no role in any state and demand the immediate elimination of all states. It is probably one of Lenin's most libertarian works, as it happens.

Democratic Centalism was Lenin's suggestion for how social-democrats in Russia should organise themselves, based on analysing successful modes of organisation in the German social-democratic movement. Drawing any parallels between it and the evolution of the Soviet state was an idea of western academics, not to be found in Lenin himself (although hints are certainly present in Trotsky).

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A. Catsambas Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"So, your assertion that this is the 'definition' of the term is simply wrong; this is just its popular use. " Popular use is effectively the definition of a word. This is how words evolve. Otherwise, words would never change - ass would mean donkey, and jealous would mean zealous (it actually comes from the Greek word zelos).

"Also, the word 'intervention' is not a synonym of totalitarian control."

No, but I never said that left-wing implies totalitarian control. I said it implies generally interventions in the market, an idea on which right-wingers are not so keen on.

The fact that industrialists supported Hitler does not mean anything either. Who said that industrialists are always economically right wing? Of course they want the government to assist them. This is against the principles of free market, and thus against the right.

All of your quotes again mistake the two spectra: they claim that SOCIALLY right wing persons support statism. Like I said, this is perfectly understandable and feasible.

Whether you like it or not, George, the term 'left' indicates government intervention in the markets. And under this definition, it is perfectly legitimate to claim that Hitler (or the BNP) are left wing. This is not to say that they are socially left wing, and that whoever belongs to the left supports their opinions on society; quite the opposite.
A.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Lenin did not use the term in the State and Revolution (he first defined it 15 years before that if I'm not mistaken) but, as you've said, this has effectively become the name for the principles of organisation that he described and later implemented.

"a polemic against both social-democrats who opposed to abolishment and the state and anarchists who demanded revolutionaries should play no role in any state and demand the immediate elimination of all states."

This is the part I am referring to. Many among those believed and believe that Lenin's idea of a 'vanguard of the proletariat' establishing a one-party state (organised along those lines, and whose total control would then miraculously 'wither away') was inevitably going to lead to the establishment of a new form of oppression.

In fact, you'll find that little of this opposition comes from Trotskyists, it's either anarchists or Luxemburgist's who completely denounce the idea.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Ari, you completely ignored the vast majority of the points I made before and only made some minor remarks that essentially re-iterated what you said earlier.

Read the articles I posted. Read the quotes I posted. They all clearly explain why not all of the left is economically statist. They also clearly illustrate why not all of the right is pro free-market.

If you can't challenge the above points, then accept that there is no case to be made.

Your belief that something is right-wing only if it supports the free-market is entirely arbitrary and historically wrong. Reactionism and nationalism (often coming together with protectionist policies) have historically been part of the right, along with corporatism, monarchism and yes (as of the latter part of this century) increasingly free-markets.

The fundemantal distinction between the left and right is the kind of society they are (at least in theory) trying to achieve; egalitarian or maintaining a certain social hierarchy. This is why industrialists have frequently (I am not saying always) supported right wing regimes (be them liberal or authoritarian), this is why Franco fought the socialists, this is why Hitler exterminated them and this is why our own dictators sent most of them to Makronisos. Again, I am not speaking in absolute terms.

In the same way though, not all of the left is pro state-control. Left wing libertarianism (an umbrella term for a number of significant left wing movements strongly opposing all forms of state control) is in fact a much much older movement than right wing libertarianism, and one that you can't just ignore like that just because it doesn't suit your own worldview.

Don't be stubborn on that issue, you know there is no case here. The left can be statist and extremist in exactly the same way as the right can be statist and extremist.

(And in any case, what is the dominant characteristic of the BNP; their extreme racist views, or their populist economic views? Even if you insist that they are only socially right-wing, then surely this is still what makes them stand out? Can you really not see that this is just a cheap politically motivated point?)

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Simon Whitten Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"This is the part I am referring to. Many among those believed and believe that Lenin's idea of a 'vanguard of the proletariat' establishing a one-party state (organised along those lines, and whose total control would then miraculously 'wither away') was inevitably going to lead to the establishment of a new form of oppression."

I highly recomend you read the book. It did not advocate a one-party rule and you are really setting up a stawman representation of the "withering-away" concept (which is a concept developed by Marx and Engles).

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A. Catsambas Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

I have not missed the point. The reason I ignored the rest of your sources is because you keep mixing "socially right wing" with "economically right wing". I will not deny that some SOCIALLY right wing persons are statist; you can be SOCIALLY right wing and ECONOMICALLY left wing, just as you can be economically right wing, and socially left wing (i.e. libertarian).

The reason there can be no debate here is because you will not accept this definition, just because you hate the idea of Hitler being called left-wing. But you have to, because that's what most people, institutions and dictionaries define as economically left-wing: intervention in the market.

Once again, I point out that the motivation behind any claim is completely, 100% irrelevant to its validity. Also, I agree, I would call the BNP an extreme right wing party, because their social agenda dominates their political.
A.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Marx argued that the "emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves." Throughout his work, Lenin opposed this idea, supporting the concept of a 'vanguard' revolutionary party taking control. In my opinion (and I am not alone there), this concept as well as the way that this party was 'democratically' organised led to the USSR we all know. This is my point in a few sentences; you can disagree with it if you wish.

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Simon Whitten Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"Throughout his work, Lenin opposed this idea, supporting the concept of a 'vanguard' revolutionary party taking control."

Again I suggest you read the works in question, particuarly The State and Revolution, because that's definatly not the case Lenin puts forward.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Aris, it is you who fails to grasp this very simple truth; the left is not a synonym of state intervention, and I've provided several examples of infuential left wing movements that oppose economic state intervention, in the same way that they oppose every other form of state control.

You can either prove that those do not exist or accept that your definition is lacking.

Your only argument here is that this is not the definition that dictionaries contain. But, as I've said, popular use is not enough to change the intended meaning of a term. If I am a libertarian socialist or an anarchosyndicalist, I don't have to believe in state interevention just because a dictionary tells me to, do I?

(Also, many if not most definitions of socialism actually cite 'a classless egalitarian society' as opposed to 'state interevention'. If your feeble argument is true, which of the two should we choose in this controversy and with what criteria? Also, the BNP is cited as a far-right party in most encyclopedias, if you still think that this is an accurate criterion.)

If that was the case, then the word 'fascist' would no longer describe a supporter of Mussolini, but it should officially be changed into a synonym of 'anyone we dislike'. That's how the word is used, but that clearly doesn't change its real political meaning.

Additionally, I've given you examples of openly right-wing movements which have proposed and implemented protectionist policies and I've explained the startingly obvious fact that free-market capitalism is not the only right wing movement that has ever existed. In fact, I've also explained that its ideological dominance over the right spans for only the latter half of this century.

You never addressed those points, and I can't blame you for that - there is no coherent counter-argument, unless you are able to prove that none of the movements I've mentioned exist.

Most of the world accepts that statism can be a product of both left wing and right wing extremism so, instead of playing games with semantics and providing subjective and historically arbitrary definitions, I suggest you do too.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

"that's definatly not the case Lenin puts forward."

Then his actions spoke more clearly.

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Simon Whitten Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Perhaps, but that's not the point you originally made.

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Jason Rose Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Aris makes a valid point in some respects. Interference in the market system is generally seen as a left-wing thing as the free market is generally seen as a right-wing thing. Whether it's Leninism with state interference or anarchosyndicalism with social ownership, there's still a level of public control.


I'd suggest that the BNP were authoritarian in their economic attitude, though, and not simply left-wing. And their social stance is likewise one of authoritarianism and racialism synonymous with the right. To sum up: their racist and authoritarian.... and that's virtually the definition of FASCIST (which is generally considered right-wing).


To call them left-wing is inaccurate. To call them *solely* right-wing is likewise inaccurate. To call them facist seems pretty fair to me and since they just won a seat in Yorkshire then it's pretty good timing on this post (happened to be typing as the results came through!)

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

Jason, the point of this discussion is the fact that what is 'generally seen' as something is not necessarily true. Yes, the BNP has very little in common with today's liberal right, and yes the liberal right is indeed the predominant movement today among people to the right of center (within the UK at least).

But this does not mean that there has never been an openly right wing movement that has espoused protectionism, it does not mean that all of the left promotes economic state-control, and it certainly does not mean that every 'alternative' to lessaiz-faire can be automatically labelled as 'left wing'. I've already said all those things, I've already provided numerous counter examples for both sides and I've already made my case, so let us please just put an end to this discussion as it has started to move in circles.

To sum up, the BNP has nothing in common with the liberal right or with the liberal left. I imagine that all of us here find its values to be morally abhorent - it is a party of extremists, with a neo-Nazi agenda on most social issues and with a populist, statist approach to economics. Statism, however, is neither the exclusive province of the left nor the exclusive province of the right - it is the province of mindless extremism in general.

As we now have a BNP member 'representing' us, let us leave the mud-slinging aside, let us stop resorting to 'reductio ad Hitlerum' and let us start thinking how to best deal with this threat.

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George Posted on Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

*laissez-faire

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