Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Enforcement of orthodoxy in the BNP

In Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell described Newspeak as "the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year," with the aim of controlling thought. He tells us that "by 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared." Moreover, "the whole literature of the past will have been destroyed" and will "exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be."

The British National Party, in their efforts to portray themselves as "respectable" and "legitimate," have readily applied these principles towards their members. The recent media scrutiny regarding the contents of their handbooks for members and organisers focused very narrowly on the defintions of race and nationality the manual offered. The manual presents us with the much more pertinent issue of the structure and running of the BNP, particularly in relation to its claims to be a "legitimate," "democratic" party. The following passage from Orwell is particularly relevant;
Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.
The introduction to the revised version of the Language & Concepts Discipline Manual is startlingly honest about this basic Orwellian principle of orthodoxy and thought control through language;
Politics requires propaganda, and propaganda requires self-discipline. It is essential that all official (and preferably unofficial, i.e. public comments by party members) BNP communications stick to the party's true message and convey it to the voting public in a clear and consistent way.
Thus, in their efforts to radically alter "the climate of thought" and enforce orthodoxy, the manual presents members with rigid "rules of language and concepts discipline." Throughout, members are advised on how to "couch our agenda" in "language calculated to be relevant" to the interests of whomever they are speaking to.

In this way, the spectrum of authorised debate is narrowed considerably, as is the potential for independent thought amongst members. The "language" manual is just one of the documents that sets rigid limits on what party members can say.

In the party's constitution, the leadership sets out in very explicit terms its intent to rigidly enforce orthodoxy. Despite the party's proclamations that it is "Britain's Most Democratic Party" because it believes "power should be devolved to the lowest level possible" and that "local communities can make decisions which affect them," party structure belies such professed democratic ideals. The constitution declares that "no local branch or group of the party may undertake to contest any election" unless they have the "prior consent of the National Chairman or National official or Regional Organiser authorised by him," drastically undercutting local autonomy. Moreover, "the national chairman may proscribe individuals, organisations or publications which are so hostile to the party," by insisting that members "should have no contact with them," so protecting members from dissent and independent thought and the risk it poses of "contaminating" loyal devotees of the party. Such loyal members are of course barred from being "interviewed by," or giving "any statement to, the news media" without "prior authorisation" by those higher up, tightly controlling the limited but vibrant democratic dissent we witness within other parties.

One could go on endlessly combing through the constitution, providing ever more examples of the rigid centralised control of members. An adequate summation, however, is provided in the observation that "non-compliance with any part of this Constitution is an offence against th[e party's] Code of Conduct" and that "members (including those who have been disciplined or expelled) legally affirm and agree that they will not seek any external legal (or non legal) review of any disciplinary tribunal decision or its procedures" as the diktats of the central party are "final and binding." Democracy, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder.

I have argued in depth elsewhere as to why the BNP's policies are fascist even by the most specific definitions, but the rigid enforcement of orthodoxy on members illustrated here adds another layer. The ruling party of Orwell's magnum opus, and the central politburo of any past Soviet dictatorship, not to mention the regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, Pinochet, and other despots would be extremely impressed with the control Griffin asserts over his followers. It provides a useful illustartion of the control he would assert over the country if in power.