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The First Time as Tragedy, the Second Time as Farage

11/06/2014 14:53 BST | Updated 09/08/2014 10:59 BST

The first time as tragedy, the second time as Farage

It may be that we have seen the high point of UKIP already come and go, but somehow I doubt it. The potential for a populist, right-wing, xenophobic and essentially racist movement in the United Kingdom has always been there. Lots of factors have contributed to its lack of success over the years, not least the electoral system, which -- whatever one thinks of it, and I don't think much of it -- effectively scuppers any political representation for those who stand outside of the consensus. Of course this is also what has hindered the development of a left-wing opposition to the consensus, but they were in any case not that bothered by the fact that they couldn't get Parliamentary representation precisely because they are not that bothered about Parliamentary representation. The Greens, of course, have managed to chip away at a little at that first-past-the-post edifice, but their apparent esoteric concerns have made little headway with those whose worries are far more to do with everyday rather than planetary existence.

This is where the brilliance of the strategy pursued by UKIP recently comes to the fore. They have managed to convince ordinary "hard-working" people all over the country that they understand their concerns and will do something about them. The fact that the party is objectively one that will strengthen the hands of those who have done the damage to the economy and society -- namely; the city and the ruling elite in general -- has escaped the population at large. That a party like this has managed to present itself as the party of the common man and woman (although their performance shows that they are not that interested in women as a political group) is a wonder to behold.

But is this a fascist movement? Clearly there are fascist elements -- to the extent that they have any idea about political ideology at all --within the party but the party itself cannot be described as fascist. This is both because of its own internal composition, but also because the sociopolitical conditions which prepared the ground for fascism in the 1930s is no longer present. Back then our masters were confronted with a mass industrial working class which was organised within mass industrial working class parties. The priority then was to smash these movements. The first targets of the Nazi and fascist parties in Germany and Italy were not racial minorities but Communists, Social Democrats and other leftists. The fact that the Left was as tactically and strategically inept and self-destructive back then as it is today should not blind us to the fact of its social weight. This is not to say that racism did not play an essential role in the fascists' ability to mobilise workers behind their cause, but it was largely a tactic within the strategy of smashing the left. Once that was done the genocidal madness of the Nazis could be given full rein.

This, of course, is why so many of our current rulers, those who are so keen to commemorate the Normandy landings and the sacrifices made to defeat fascism, keep quiet about the fact that they were quite happy to acquiesce in the rise of fascism in the 1930s as they thought it might be useful in their own struggle against the organised working class. This is what lay behind Lord Rothermere's infamous Daily Mail headline "Hurrah for the Blackshirts!" from 1937.

The difference today is that in Britain at least there is no organised working class to smash. Labour is even more integrated into the structures of economic domination by the forces of Capital than it was in the 1930s and any political movement to the left of Labour is even more insignificant than the Communists were back then. But then this is why fascism arose as a powerful movement on the continent and not here in the UK in the first place. The German and Italian Communist and even the Social Democratic parties posed a real threat to Capital. Likewise today, the euro-scepticism on the continent, from Golden Dawn in Greece through to the National Front in France are far more virulently fascist than our own home-grown tinpot xenophobes, with their laughable fantasies of Spitfires on the village green and a country reclaimed from Johnny foreigner.

No, the real danger in Britain today is not full-blooded fascism, but a clown-esque movement -- which stretches from Boris Johnson to UKIP -- that presents simpleminded and simplistic solutions to complex problems with a smirk, a nod and rotating bowtie.

To misquote Marx's 18th Brumaire -- his excoriating attack on the grotesque mediocrity that was Louis Bonaparte -- history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as Farage.