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”.
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.
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.