There isn’t any inherent problem with the existence of Godwin’s Law, but the way it gets overused makes it clunky and not very useful. For instance, there are many Greeks who are currently comparing Merkel to Hitler. I mean, she’s German, she’s a baddie, it makes sense; but it’s still a bit too cheap to be taken seriously. If you wanted to make a more weighty Nazi comparison for Greece, you could say that present day Germany is like the Treaty of Versailles, and Greece is like the Weimar Republic: the one is, for entirely stupid and selfish reasons, using imperialist tools to trap the other into crippling and unpayable debts and in so doing is eroding the security on which its democracy depends.
The same is true when you want to describe a UKIP voter. You can say that their petty nationalism, their ignorance about how the world works and their unassailable fear of the Other is pretty comparable to the Nazis, but again, this is a bit of a crap analogy. The average UKIP supporter doesn’t subscribe to many of the core tenets of actual fascism like absolute power of the state, corporatism, protectionism, and so on. Then there’s the fact that they’re happy to pick and choose between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ethnic minorities, whereas the Nazis were less discriminating in their discrimination.
The Vichy regime believed that stability of collaborating with Nazis was preferable to the horrors of war and defeat
Let’s be fair to the poor misunderstood bastards. The bog standard UKIP voter in the street isn’t a Nazi. They’re a Vichy collaborationist.
The Vichy Regime, the puppet government which ran the south of France on behalf of their Nazi overlords between 1940 and 1944, was not ideologically fascist. Broadly conservative, they were an umbrella coalition of interests that ranged from moderate liberals to a small handful of actual fascists, who occupied only minor roles (with glee, presumably).
What united them in general was the belief that the stability afforded by collaborating with the Nazis politically and economically was preferable to the horrors of war and defeat that they would otherwise face if they misbehaved. It was broadly anti-communist, royalist (the Revolution and the foundation of the Republic still rankled among a certain class of Catholic aristocrats), and economically technocratic.
In terms of policy, then, while they weren’t fascists in spirit they took their cues from them in reality. If the Nazis told them to demilitarize, they would do so. If the Nazis told them to hunt down Jews and hand them over, they would do so. Their policy enactments weren’t based on corporatist ideology or eugenics, they were simply following orders, and these were carried out on the basis of practical necessity.
UKIP spends a lot of energy trying to tell people that it is not a racist party
Consider post-crash Europe and the drive for austerity that is being imposed on all of us in the name of economic expediency. We are being repeatedly told by the global financial sector’s favorite institutions – the IMF, the ECB, and the entire corporate media – that we need to cut our public services out of necessity, and pay down our debts and whatnot. The economic logic behind it is largely bullshit that serves the function of handing over more control of our economies and political systems to the banking sector that caused the crisis in the first place.
What’s interesting within that logic is the variation of interpretations. You have the conservative argument, that it is morally right to reduce the state and let people fend for themselves (or that it helps Tory donors, whatever). You have the social democrat argument, that it’s all a terrible shame how naughty the banks have been but we have to keep The Markets happy. And then you have the hysterical anti-immigrant loon argument, which doesn’t like to think about difficult things like financialization or fiscal multipliers and prefers to blame easier targets for all their woes, whether it works or not.
UKIP spends a lot of energy trying to tell people that it is not a racist party, and despite the hundreds of little gaffes from candidates and supporters, they insist that their purpose is not white supremacy. Even if we take them at their word, however, what we find is that by blaming immigration for problems that are in truth caused by finance, they are collaborating with the economic regime that is hurting millions of people across Europe.
The Kippers’ emphasis on immigration as the ‘real’ problem is directly helping our economic elites
Take hospitals, for instance. There is a huge amount of debt in the NHS at the moment, with £80bn of it being owed to financial institutions thanks to Labour and Conservative governments writing out hideous PFI contracts to temporarily cook their books. Another obvious problem is our estimated £85bn tax evasion gap, which, if properly combated, could easily close the deficit and pay for a huge amount of public investment.
Meanwhile UKIP’s main focus? In a nutshell: it’s them foreigners, it is, with their dirty HIV, using our healthcare system and costing us a fortune. Oh, that tax evasion thing is a terrible shame, yes, and I heard the banks did this immoral thing a few years back, but that’s just the way of things really, and we’ve got to be practical and stop helping them immigrants because that’s where it’s easy to find some money.
Let’s not beat around the bush: the Kippers’ emphasis on immigration as the ‘real’ problem is directly helping our economic elites to not pay their fair share. This is quite plainly feeding migrants to the big nasty crocodile eating the system, in the hopes of being eaten last. Aside from the fact that it is economically illiterate, it is also a vehicle for racial nastiness that still insists it is rooted in practical concerns.
They’re not out-and-out white supremacists, just perfectly happy to throw some foreigners under the bus
This is true for their entire ridiculous attitude to the austericide project. Too much traffic? It’s not a problem of public investment, it’s because the immigrants are clogging up the roads. On housing, youth unemployment, crime, whatever, the story is never down to inequality, financialization, corrupt banking, tax evasion or any of the actual bad things that actual bad people do – it’s immigrants.
The recurring theme in all of this is that UKIP’s actual voters, if not some of their candidates, are not emphasizing out loud an argument for white supremacy. Their heavy Islamophobia, for instance, is based not on eugenics but on stereotyping and authoritarian security discourses. Once again, the stupidity of it is neither here nor there as long as it sounds practical.
They’re not out-and-out white supremacists, then, just perfectly happy to throw some foreigners under the bus to feed their delusion that they’re making hard-nosed practical choices to just make everything work. Making the trains run on time, if you will. It accepts the blatant authoritarianism of our rampant financial markets as a fact of life, and chooses to do its bidding rather than question its awful power.
Financialization is a monster which will never be sated through appeasement
So, too, the Vichy Regime. By and large they didn’t hand over Jews because they were themselves anti-Semitic, they did so because it made political and economic sense not to upset the Nazis. Let’s not actually pay for our hospitals, let’s let fewer people use them, and keep The Markets happy. In fact, the threat of Nazi reprisals at the time was real, so you could argue that in their ritual idiocy UKIP are worse than the Vichy collaborators, because they still have the choice of resisting financial feudalism and simply choose not to.
And like the spread of German nationalism, financialization is a monster which will never be sated through appeasement. One of the great open secrets of our age is that the West is in terminal decline, and to borrow from Charles Kupchan’s criticism of the deluded old guard of America, “there is no need to debate the management of change when one denies it is taking place”. The proliferation of financialization is not taking place as this unfortunate sideshow roughly connected to the whims of the capitalist class; it is a clear sign of a long-term structural decline in the power of real production in Europe and America.
Banks can bet your mortgage in a giant, impossibly complex casino
A great deal of profit in post-Thatcherite capitalism is not made through making the best product or investing in innovative enterprise. It is cornered through rent-seeking, by using your power to manipulate existing markets (rather than creating new ones) in order to increase your share of the pie without having to bake anything. A credit card company is rent-seeking – literally betting on your falling wage (which is a pretty safe bet nowadays) in order to take your money out of your local economy through the medium of extracting debts off you.
Financialization is the same process whereby Wall Street firms profit from leveraged buyouts, where a productive company looking to save some cash gets a vulture firm like Bain Capital to come in and consult on how to load the company up with toxic debts and sweat all of the value out of it before closing it down and shipping all the jobs to China. This profit is being reinvested in actual things less and less, because there is throughout Western capitalism a falling rate of return on productive investments. Inequality, which the banks have no short-term interest in solving, is causing returns on capital to outpace growth.
The answer? Get everyone into more debt to paper it over for the time being. And in so doing, in the long run, make it all worse. It’s why there’s less money in starting a small business now – the banks don’t want to pay for your enterprise when they can get away with betting your mortgage in a giant, impossibly complex casino that even their mathematics-PhD-wielding analysts don’t understand. It’s why wages aren’t keeping pace with production – you can’t scare the banks off by giving workers a fair deal. And it’s why we bailed them out without being able to control them in the slightest – because they have their hooks so deep into our households, our political systems, and our economies, that even throwing a few trillion at the bastards just to stay alive was not enough to assert any control over them.
They might be too big to fail, but Western social democracy, no matter how big it is, is going to fail no matter what, while they’re calling the shots. There is no point pretending that they don’t profit from austerity – they’re making a killing.
You will be next, and it is only your privilege that means that you are not first
So when you get a “people’s army” declaring that they’re going to “save” your NHS by bullying foreigners, they’re not just being stupid or unpleasant. They are saying that rather than challenge or even recognize this awful hegemony that is sucking all of the wealth out of Europe, the Great LBO in the Sky come to punish you for thinking you deserve to be happy, that you should merely delay that inevitable decline in the meantime by ‘sending them back’.
Not only does that make you a nasty, stupid little coward who would rather blindly feed the bully than have any backbone or any brain, it also will not save you from the things you fear: austerity, privatization, falling wages, unemployment, lack of security. You will be next, and it is only your privilege that means that you are not first.
I see enough of these obscene misnomers on my Facebook feed; a handful of old family friends, from my parents’ generation, who support UKIP and like to share memes about how “we’re full” and so on. I am not going to cheapen my seriously held political views, or my lingering affection from childhood, to compare them to Nazis; but that doesn’t mean that I have to hold their political views in anything but contempt for their gullible servility to the banks, or to the poisonous narratives of the racist thugs that set UKIP’s agenda. Calling them the Vichy collaborationists of financial feudalism is no compliment.
UKIP just happens to be stuffed with a diverse bunch of authoritarian bastards who like the idea of locking up dissenters
This of course only really holds up if we take the party at their word that they are a non-racist organization. My own belief is that the type of Britain they imagine is one whose very DNA is dripping with white supremacy. They think that the glory and riches of this nation were not founded on the plundering and abuse of others, and that they only own as much as they deserve – if that were true they’d have nothing. Their attitudes towards the Human Rights Act and the ECHR are pretty much purely premised on a desire to commit crimes against minorities that they don’t like. But for the sake of this argument I am simply following their own narrative, a generosity they do not deserve, because that alone makes them bad enough.
Crumbling economic superstructures aside, there are the activities of the party itself, which bear a few historical comparisons of their own. UKIP is a libertarian party, so naturally they believe in a free press, but this has not stopped them from on numerous occasions calling the cops on bloggers who disagree with them, having cop friends harass and arrest a former party worker after she blew the whistle on their expenses and links to the far right, or even having Farage himself call the cops on the BBC after someone made light of his sincerity on a comedy panel. Nothing immanent to the party philosophy of course – it just happens to be stuffed with a diverse bunch of authoritarian bastards who like the idea of locking up dissenters.
Then there’s the material they take from the extreme right itself, a link that cannot be ignored. Farage’s obnoxious commentary on Paris for Fox News after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, that ‘multiculturalism’ was to blame in a fiercely assimilationist nation-state, comes straight from the playbook of Europe’s many far right organisations, who chip away at public solidarity for ethnic minorities through targeted innuendo and slurs. It is why, to return to the HIV patients, the Vichy government’s handing over of Jews to the Germans in the name of ‘practicality’ rather than purity is of little consequence – when racism is your master, you are a racist, even if you are utterly convinced that you are not.
Since I began this piece by bastardizing a Churchill quote, it’s appropriate that I borrow another one from the average Kipper’s historical leader of choice: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others”. I say this because the UKIP voter has none. They are not the modern day Nazis, with evil intentions and the will to carry them out; merely their enablers, whose idiotic cowardice, far from the ‘common sense bravery’ they so pathetically pretend to have, merely wants the next person to be eaten by the monster to give themselves a few more minutes cringing in the corner, draped in the Union Jack.