1970s >> 1977 >> no-876-august-1977

The Other Policies of the National Front

Everybody knows that the National Front opposes coloured immigration and seeks the repatriation of immigrants already here; but what about the other things the Front will try to do if ever it becomes powerful enough to influence or determine government policies?

To get a full answer to this question it would be necessary to consider a number of factors—why the Front was formed, the interests it represents or hopes to represent, its internal upheavals and struggles for leadership, the outlook of the present leaders and their view of British capitalism and its place in the world. Much information on these questions can be found in Martin Walker’s The National Front (Fontana/Collins paperback). On a more limited scale, a useful guide is the Statement of Policy the Front issued for the General Election in February 1974 when John Tyndall was Chairman, a post he has again occupied since 1975: remembering, however, that what vote-catching politicians set out in the prospectus is at best only an individual indication of what they are after.

A first question relates to the “image” the Front is trying to present of itself: a future government standing for patriotism, monarchy and national unity (only “trade union extremists and cosmopolitan finance” will be banned) and committed to democracy and the ballot-box. They stress their “newness” and how they differ from the Tory and Labour politicians who have brought politics into disrepute and failed to produce “national prosperity”. One interesting point is the Front’s indignation with the press and television for their “downright and deliberately false reporting”.

So how new is the Front’s programme, apart from its obsession with immigration? The answer is that it is mostly a ragbag of odds and ends adapted from the other vote-catching parties.

Don’t bank on it
Of course the Front had to say something about capitalism and socialism, or rather pretend to say something.

The National Front is neither capitalist nor socialist in the sense in which those terms are usually understood. It takes a non-doctrinaire attitude towards all questions of private or public ownership, looking at each on its merits and purely from the standpoint of the national interest and utility.

It will be noticed that this deals only with the sham fight between state and private capitalism, and even on that issue it nimbly avoids committing the Front to either. It is designed obviously to attract voters from other parties without antagonizing anybody. But it inadvertently betrays one fact about the writer of it. Those words “usually understood” show that he was aware that Socialists repudiate the conception as a misrepresentation of the real issue between capitalism and Socialism. So what about the Front’s protest at misrepresentation?

The Front has something—or rather, two conflicting things—to say about inflation. John Clifton was their parliamentary candidate at Battersea South. In his election address he knew precisely what causes inflation: “Control the issue of currency—stop inflation.” But the Front will have none of this. It says that the greatest single cause of inflation is the actions of “private financial interests”. Perhaps John Clifton could explain to his party chiefs that the printing and issue of currency (excess of which is the cause of inflation) is solely in the hands of the Bank of England, not the commercial banks.

The Front has other proposals on finance. “The firmest public control of finance and banking” (nationalization of the banks?); only the Bank of England to have “the right to create new credit”; and the banks to be prohibited from “issuing loans in excess of money on deposit”. The only thing which is clear about this lot is that the Front (except perhaps John Clifton) shares with the Tory and Labour “experts” a belief in the supposed mystical power of banks to “create credit”.

Just to add to the confusion, it also envisages a “state bank” other than the Bank of England, which is to finance local government housing expenditure with loans “free of interest”. It is not explained how this bank will pay its way and how it will induce depositors to lend it money, since these deposits too will presumably have to be “free of interest”.

Reform Parade
The Front is anxious to remove any impression that it is anti-trade-union. It rejects the Tory belief that “inflation is caused primarily by wage-earners”; advocates fewer and stronger unions, upholds the principle of “the right to work”, wants profit-sharing, workers’ participation schemes and consultation between workers and management “on profits as well as wages”. It supported the miners’ wage claim in 1973, and the workers on strike in London sugar refineries (The National Front p. 147). It does, however, promise legislation against unofficial strikes.

Though the Front, like the Tory and Labour Parties, is fully committed to the perpetuation of capitalism, which means continuous unemployment rising in the inescapable depressions to peak levels, it promises Full Employment. This is to be achieved by leaving the EEC, keeping out most manufactured imports, and expanding farming “so as to enable Britain to supply the greatest possible proportion of her own food”.

 

The Front also proposes the creation of a new “white” Commonwealth as a “super-power”, to include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa, but does not explain what those governments will find attractive in the limitation of their exports of wheat, wool and butter to this country through the expansion of home food production.

 

The Front is going to repudiate part of the National Debt, but not so as to harm “the ordinary small saver and bond-holder”. (Without a word of thanks to the Communist Party, from one of whose old programmes this appears to have been lifted.) There is to be a big build-up of armaments “adequate . . . to deter attack by any other power”, and with a cautionary word about the impossibility of knowing “who might be Britain’s friends and enemies”. One enemy the Front does identify is “International Communism”. Do the leaders really believe that the expansion of state-capitalist Russia has anything to do with communism? It seems from the Statement of Policy that they may at least be wondering about this, because they go on to say that “international monopoly capitalism is as great a menace to the freedom of the nations as International Communism”.
Education is to be looked after, taking account of “innate differences in intelligence between children”. Housing and local welfare will be adequately provided but an end is to be put to “Britain as a loafer’s paradise”. Criminals will have a tougher time and capital punishment will be restored for certain offences.

 

What of the Future
Almost all possible fields for vote-catching are catered for; which prompts the question whether such a programme will give the Front the leading position it hopes for. The answer is that, on its own, it won’t do so—and the leaders of the Front know this quite well. What they count on is that they will pick up massive support from disillusioned voters deserting the two main parties. At the moment their hopes from the Tory Party are small, but they have made some inroads in supposedly safe Labour constituencies. It recalls the way the Nazi Party became Germany’s largest party in the years leading up to 1932. It was largely at the expense of the German Social Democrats. They, like the British Labour Party, had been trying to make a success of capitalism and got submerged in the industrial depressions they could not do anything about. Not forgetting that the German SDP shared the idiocy of the British Labour Party in supposing that they could guarantee full employment through inflation.

 

In conclusion, an apposite observation made by the late Harold Laski nearly forty years ago, in Where Do We Go From Here?, about the way Fascism had grown in Italy and Germany :

 

Its influence grows because it is able to exploit every grievance of a diseased society. It is careful to have no coherent policy. It is luxuriant in its promises. It offers the assurance of a renewal of that national pride which has been humiliated.

 

Edgar Hardcastle