Daragh O’Neill considers Nigel Farage’s latest venture following on from the Brexit Party and what it means for politics in Britain.
The latest incarnation of the Nigel Farage platform has seen it change its name yet again, now to the Reform Party. Since the EU can no longer act as his bogeyman it is instead positioning itself as an anti-lockdown party. Citing Sweden’s “considerable success” and attaching itself to the so-called “Great Barrington Declaration”, a Koch brothers funded Libertarian think tank, as evidence for the failure of lockdown.
These talking points have become common already amongst right-wingers in the press, and the new party will likely further amplify these talking points to put more pressure on their sympathetic Tory MPs.
As Novara Media noted the only place where lockdown scepticism is anything but fringe in within the Conservative Party grass roots shared with sections of the capitalist class. Farage, while positioning himself as if in opposition to the government, is once again acting as an effective outrider for the very same ideas they and their establishment friends have already adopted. He is given a platform by the press to make political statements that often serve as a test of public opinion. Like his previous projects, this ‘opposition’ is another billionaire backed and supported political project.
Across the world, especially the English-speaking parts, vague ideas about ‘freedom’ are now a central message of fascists. This is often the rallying cry amongst the alt-right in the USA, but we need to acknowledge this ‘libertarian-fascism’ certainly exists in Britain. While on the surface such a position may seem odd, there is no contradiction due to the same underlying assumptions, the most fundamental being that people deserve to be ‘winners’ or ‘losers’, either through poor personal choices or being ‘lesser’ others.
This viewpoint stems from the class position of the wealthy and powerful who feel insecure and threatened. So to improve their own freedom to carry on their exploitation and wealth-grabs, they emphasise the very hierarchies from which they benefit while demonising outsiders and seeking to crush socialistic ideas because socialism represents an existential threat to their control.
Indeed the freedom of capital and the rich today has required the crushing of the minimal freedoms of workers, with Britain boasting some heavily authoritarian legislation, such as the anti-trade union laws. In reality the freedom talked about by the right is freedom for the powerful to act without restraint or hinderance. The cooperation between fascists and those advocating market freedoms have long roots. The Nazi regime was responsible for the term privatisation being coined, while Pinochet’s murderous regime in Chile served as the test bed for the neo-liberal policies of Thatcher and Reagan. Imperialism is tied deeply to how fascism operates, with some going as far to say fascism is merely colonialism applied domestically.
With Farage now warning of a “Hard globalist left”, which won’t accept democratic results and will use violence to achieve its aims, it seems the self- professed libertarian has moved further down the line from attacking immigrants to warning of internal fifth columns. Such a development seems influenced by his time in the USA working with and raising funds from Republicans there. This political project will see more dodgy American money being invested in to British politics so Farage can act as a talking head to further normalise and amplify far-right ideology. The right wing press have given him many opportunities to make himself known over the years.
Murdoch, especially, with his projects of Times Radio and Talk Radio, has done much to keep Farage in the limelight, due to his sympathies with Farage’s views. Of course Murdoch sponsors many more ‘mainstream’ right wing politicians too, notably Gove and even some Labour politicians, such as Jess Philips. The point is that those like Farage, wrapping themselves in the cloak of vague “freedoms” and positioning themselves as outsiders, all share the same background, beliefs, and goals. The right-wing can operate effectively because they’re a small section of the population with disproportionate influence over resources and levers of power, and communication platforms. It is financed by a small coterie of the very wealthy and given greater access to media platforms to peddle fascistic views. This latest project will be a way of further entrenching this false spectacle.
For what would be a matter of a few phone calls for the ruling class within their networks to mobilise would take a comparative left-wing movement of millions. We cannot win by replicating this, even if we did have that option (which we don’t), but by building our own institutions of power. With the millions being poured in to the far right in the UK we must stand together more than ever to protect ourselves from increasingly violent rhetoric. We must be ready to take apart the lie of far-right “freedoms”, while fighting for freedom of exploitation for working people from the ruling class and their hangers-on.