A horrifying manifestation of the rightward shift in European politics is the election to the European Parliament of two members of the fascist British National Party in Sunday’s elections. The BNP is dedicated to blocking immigration, denying the Holocaust, and maintaining the white racial “purity” of the sceptr’d isle. “I am well aware that orthodox opinion is that six million Jews were gassed and cremated or turned into soup and lampshades,” one of its new parliamentarians, BNP leader Nick Griffin, once wrote. “I have reached the conclusion that the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter witch-hysteria.” The other is Andrew Brons, 61, who in a sordid political career has learned to smile and goosestep at the same time. He’s a former member of the National Socialist Movement, a group founded on Hitler’s birthday, which upheld the Fuhrer’s spirit by perpetrating a spate of firebombings of synagogues and Jewish properties in the late 1960s. “I feel that our public image may suffer considerable damage as a result of these activities,” he once said. “I am however open to correction on this point.”

Brits are divided on how the BNP, which was hitherto relegated to occasional victories in local elections, managed to send two of their riffraff to the European legislature. One theory holds that Gordon Brown’s Labour Party is in such a state of ruin (it won a mere 13 percent of the vote, the first time since World War II that it won less than 20 percent) that working-class districts, particularly in the North, voted for fascists out of spite (because really, comrade, who could ever cast for a Tory?). That would be one way to piss off the bourgeois city-dwellers who plundered the economy, brought the country under the yoke of the European Union, and acquiesced—this is the uncomfortable part—to the influx of so many unassimilable immigrants. But there is also the creeping specter of anti-Semitism in Britain, which has been well sniffed in the air and documented on the page by lifelong Labourites such as Nick Cohen and Howard Jacobson. “Once again the English working class has disgraced itself,” Marx wrote to Engels after surveying the results of the 1867 British election, which saw a stunning victory for the Conservatives. How much worse a disgrace in 2009.

BNP Wins Its First Seats in European Parliament [London Times]