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Farage’s CPAC Speech, War and the Modern Far Right

Sian Norris analyses the rhetoric of war in Nigel Farage’s performance at CPAC, and explores its links to fascist theory

Farage’s CPAC Speech, War & the Modern Far Right

Sian Norris analyses the rhetoric of war in Nigel Farage’s performance at CPAC, and explores its links to fascist theory

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There are dog whistles and then there are fog horns – and Nigel Farage’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Texas was certainly the latter. 

Dubbed a gathering of the “best and brightest leaders in the world”, the former UKIP and Brexit Party leader joined Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, Republican politicians such as Ted Cruz and Matt Gaetz, Fox news alumni Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, and unashamed far-right activists Steve Bannon and Jack Posobiec. 

Other speakers represented think-tanks and campaigning groups which have promoted conspiracies around voter fraud, as well as those which are anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ and pro-fossil fuels. They include the Heritage Foundation, Moms for America, and Concerned Women of America, 

Oh, and Papa John. You know, the pizza guy. 

Tempting though it is to ignore the ‘bad boy of Brexit’ as he tries to break America, Farage’s speech – and his presence in Texas – tells us a lot about the direction of the modern far-right, and it’s roots in fascist ideology. 


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Reds Under the Bed

However carefully he tried to hide it in the run-up and immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, Farage’s CPAC speech exposes his true far-right ideology which, in turn, exposes that his version of Brexit was always a far-right project. 

That’s not to say that everyone who voted for Brexit is on the far-right – although everyone who is far-right voted for Brexit. But no-one looking at Farage’s career now can deny how deep in the rabbit hole he is and, let’s be frank, always was. 

The speech was a bingo-card of culture war issues, from a dig at lockdown restrictions to references to transgender women competing in swimming contests. Farage defended the right to say pregnant woman, not person – women, after all, being the class of people who the host state believes are undeserving of their human rights. 

He railed against schools and universities “indoctrinating” children around issues of race and gender, claiming that educational institutions no longer taught critical thinking – when in fact conversations about white privilege, the history of empire and challenging dominant (white) views of history are, in fact, encouraging of critical thinking. 

But what stood out – and what helps to understand the direction the far-right is moving in – was  the laser focus on war. 

The speech referenced “war”; “attack”; “foot soldiers”; “fifth column” and other martial terms 10 times, with conservatives positioned as the frontline in a battle to “save Western civilisation” from enemies that are positioned as “Marxist”. 

The term no longer necessarily refers to people who follow Marxist theory, or even communists: in the far-right mind, Marxists and “cultural Marxists” represent feminists, left-wingers, anti-racists, civil rights activists such as Black Lives Matter, LGBTIQ people and Jewish people. 

According to Farage, Western civilisation is “under attack as never before”, with a “fifth column” of Marxists, left-leaning lecturers and anti-racist activists trying to “destroy our Judeo-Christian culture”. He called it a virus, but the not so subtle subtext is that this is war, and it’s one that “English-speaking countries” are suffering the “worst” effects of. Luckily, Farage has the answer: CPAC attendees are the “foot soldiers” who are “going to fight hard against this stuff, aren’t we?”

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The Eternal War

War is a foundational feature of modern fascist ideology. It demands perpetual war and the destruction of reason: fascism wants to wage a permanent war against humanity, the values of the Enlightenment, and rationality. This was the philosophy of Mussolini and Hitler – now it’s the philosophy of Aleksandr Dugin in Russia, of Alain de Benoist of the European New Right, of eco-fascist thinker the late Pentti Linkola. 

According to Mark Neocleous, a politics lecturer who’s book Fascism explores the ideology that underpins the far-right, fascism “conceptualises politics and society as a realm of permanent struggle and war”. 

He continues that “there is only one war for fascism, the universal ‘war’ of which all particular wars – the world war, the race war, the war against communism – are but momentary and limited parts”. The point is permanent war.

That’s the theory – in practice the modern far-right put this into practice through discussions about Day X and “boogaloo” – codename for a relaunched civil war that will create pure ethno-states of white people. On their dischords and telegram channels they obsess over genocide, spread conspiracy theories about “white genocide” and talk about the “Jewish Question” which, they believe, only has one, horrifying and violent, answer. 

In this war, for which 6 January 2021 appeared to be a derailed dress rehearsal, the role of men is to fight on the battlefield; the role of women is to have babies to one day send to battle. 

While such conversations used to be confined to dark and dingy corners of the internet, they have become increasingly mainstream. Trump supporters on Twitter are already calling for civil war in the wake of the FBI searching his Florida home. The rhetoric and threat of war has become the currency of the modern far-right.

Farage’s foghorns are not the starting gun for civil war. He’s a man, to coin the old Punch joke about politicians, of all froth and no beer, telling the peanut-munching crowd the words they want to hear. But as the writer Paul Mason has argued, fascist ideology has begun to structure the thinking of politicians who would be categorised as far right.

This speech proved it.

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