|Throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries politicians and commentators have searched for an overriding theory that labels people and grades them into convenient packages which makes for easy messaging through the traditional channels of the spoken or written word.
The primacy of the academics, who relied on the synthesis of ideas and the consensus of peers to validate fresh political constructs started to be diluted in the late twentieth century, when visual media came into the fore and image became as important to convey a message as words. Then from about 1994 to the present day the internet and with it, instant twenty-four-hour a day access to almost any form of information, has created an avalanche of unfiltered and unverified material used to promulgate political ideas.
In that atmosphere, new political commentators – and I would put Luke into that bracket – are again searching for new overriding theories which make sense for those without the time, inclination or intellectual horsepower to sift through this mass of uncorroborated information and data that confronts them, nearly all the time, through the communications technology of the modern era.
In short, labels help. It’s why we say ‘right’ or ‘left’, but there is more, a third dimension beyond what we tend to regard as the foggy middle ground of politics. Where in, say, the early ‘twenties and ‘thirties we had the polarisation of extreme politics into the fascist camp on one side and the communists on the other, today the distinctions are blurred. Blurred distinctions of course allow for misinterpretation. I can’t quite label the movement Luke is representing, so for the sake of this argument let’s call it ‘The New Movement’. New Movements of course are not new. But they all aim for that elusive third dimension.
Most of us will have heard of Sir Oswald Mosley. Frustrated with inertia, he resigned his seat in 1930 on account of Government’s refusal either to deal with terrible unemployment or accept his radical plans for a solution. Where Conservatism represented inertia, he regarded Socialists – my simplistic precis here – as apparatchiks and ne’er do wells climbing over the shoulders of fellow workers out of self-interest.
So he grasped, in my opinion erroneously, on that seemingly robust but ultimately fragile bundle of sticks that gave the Fascist movement its name.Mosley was, by following the doctrines of Mussolini, and (only partially) Hitler, making the great mistake of believing that “Dictatorship With Freedom” and all that came with it, such as political uniform, the symbolism of a flag, the notion of a single national identity and so on, would be embraced and followed by the British people.
As history tells us, the BUF failed, with a peak membership never exceeding about 50,000, equivalent to about 75,000 today. It collapsed partly as it’s identity was shattered by the 1966 Public Order Act which removed Mosley’s ability to march at will in faux military garb, partly because his party was racked by infighting and was hopelessly organised, but also because the moderate National Government in power managed to retain a remarkable fifty-percent-plus share of the polls. And people scared of extremism go safe. It’s not hard to see parallels today.
This is counter-intuitive perhaps to those modern identity-politics advocates who believe that a ‘strong, charismatic’ leader trumps all. Mosley, very charismatic and highly intelligent, couldn’t pull it off then and I believe nobody today could – unless backed by policies and structures that back up the leadership. (Rees-Mogg or Johnson perhaps).
UKIP have never really had the whole package. With Bolton and with the current financial crisis they have very little indeed. Across the Atlantic, Trump has been successful, for the time being. However, a British Trump espousing pure populist rhetoric would probably fail as the British public on the whole are a far more sophisticated lot than the Americans.
Without (and I mean this sincerely) meaning to denigrate Luke or ‘The New Movement’, I would ask them to take heed from these lessons from history. The ‘satiric symbolism’ of Pepe the Frog for instance is not considered universally as satirical. To many it’s too offensive. The term ‘Cultural Marxism’, used by so many on the new right, is too simplistic but in any case too much reliant on believing that the synthesis of Marxian and Gramscian philosophy is actually grasped by the majority of the population and that it can be promulgated by a conspiracy of eager academics and less- than-brilliant students into destabilising ‘traditional society.
I am just not convinced. Political uniform, Blackshirts and the ‘Flash and Circle’ flag are not actually aped, but a similar symbolism is followed – without really grasping how silly it looks – by ‘New Movement’ followers in their covert coats, sharp suits and fade or floppy haircuts. It’s all been done before. Keep away from divisive identity politics or be laughed at. Ridicule kills faster than scandal.
That all said, this is not meant to be knocking copy at all, but it’s important that the well-meaning modernism of Luke’s Movement is really distinct from the failed counter-establishment movements of eight decades ago. They can bring very good ideas, particularly in the sophisticated use of mobile phone technology and the internet, in thoroughly modernising the quite dreadful methods UKIP uses today.
That way, they can, by adding fresh blood and ideas to parties like UKIP, make significant contributions for change that are not only welcomed, but essential.I wish them well.