Apparently there’s only so much nationalism one nation can take. UKIP’s lovably demented leader Nigel Farage found himself the wrong end of a small but vocal protest, which gathered 50 or so Scottish left nationalists around some, for the most part, whimsical chants (“Nigel, you’re a bawbag, Nigel you’re a bawbag, na, na, na, hey!”). All too much for our Nigel, who was clearly put out of sorts by the experience. He said:
If anybody from Ukip says anything on Facebook that is in any way homophobic or mildly racist you guys jump down my throat and demand that I condemn them and expel them from the party, which of course I do. It is about time Scottish nationalism was put under the same level of scrutiny. It has long been known in Scotland that there are some elements of Scottish nationalism and the SNP that are deeply unpleasant. This needs to be talked about.
He is perhaps being ignorant, or perhaps a little cheeky, to blame this altercation on the SNP – who are, after all, a very sensible bourgeois party of devolved government, whose fairly workable (as these things go) plan for Scottish independence consists effectively of turning Scotland into a cosmopolitan corporate tax haven on the model of pre-crash Ireland (but do try to avoid those dastardly housing bubbles, Alex). Add in the pseudo-social democratic guff, and you have what amounts to tartan Blairism. No, this is almost certainly the work of the SNP’s decrepit left bag-carriers, the splintered and mutually biliously hostile remnants of what was once a thriving Scottish far-left.
Or, as Farage seems to believe, ‘fascist scum’. I have no love for the Scottish left (after all, how can I love you if you don’t love yourself?); and we in the CPGB had a long running habit of referring to the Scottish Socialist Party as ‘national socialist’ in a deliberately provocative way (for anyone still labouring under any illusions – no, we didn’t consider Sheridan and McCombes to be a Hitler/Goebbels double act in waiting; Hoxha’s Albania would be a more likely model for an ‘independent socialist Scotland’), but accusations of fascism are pushing the boat out just a little. Farage’s outburst looks more like the famous Nazi Tourette’s of fruitcake American rabble-rouser Glenn Beck; or former arch-bigot of Canterbury George Carey’s comparison of himself and other homophobic clergymen to the victims of the Nazi genocide.
Nazi comparisons are a useful indicator of how degraded political discourse has become. Godwin’s law has spread outwards from Usenet to the web, and finally to ‘real life’ (although the paranoid delusions of a Glenn Beck stretch the word ‘real’ beyond all reason). What used to be the last resort of those on the wrong side of a debate – indeed, on the wrong side of history – has become the first. Welcome to the club, Nige – you old bawbag.
Still, it has to be said that if there is one force that eased the transition of Nazi comparisons from the net to the flesh-and-blood interactions of political actors, it is the far left. The Socialist Workers Party’s insistence on labeling every gang of far-rightists as “Nazis” has long stretched beyond parody – the NF, the BNP, the French National Front, the Austrian Freedom Party, David Irving: all are supposedly Nazis. Except UKIP, for some reason, to whom different rules apply (God only knows what they are, if every other far-right populist party in Europe qualifies for the brownshirt slur). We note another of the chants employed by the Scottish demonstrators – “UKIP scum, off our streets” – is a barely rephrased Anti-Nazi League/Unite Against Fascism shriek of rage.
There are two models for contemporary politics. One is exemplified by the typical parliamentary debate which sees David Cameron and Ed Miliband pretend to disagree about things. The other would be a putative debate between, say, Weyman Bennett and Nigel Farage, in which each can accuse the other of leading the country down the road to Auschwitz. Perhaps there is a helpful book that the combatants could read, in order to land a few genuinely killer blows instead of just screaming at each other? Hmmm…