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Should extremist parties be allowed in democracies?

Well at present the political climate in the United Kingdom sucks (and that's an understatement) -- the Prime Minister has become a figurehead for uselessness such that it's irredeemable, a significant proportion of ministers in important positions have resigned, there's been the MP expenses scandal (basically many ministers were making illegal claims for expenses, such as one who claimed £1600 for his duckpond...) and since the economic crash, the government has lost both the faith of much of the population and also ability to coordinate.

Anyway, the point in me explaining that is that, as a consequence of all this turmoil, the outcome of the recent elections for the European Parliament was unfavourable. Although the current ruling party (the mid-left party 'Labour') lost a massive percentage of its votes, this was not reflected in votes for other mainstream parties. The Conservatives (mid-right) and Liberal Democrats (god knows) didn't make any gains votes-wise. All of the extra votes and the 'protest votes' (basically people angered by the expenses scandal) went to smaller parties, most notably UKIP, the Green Party and the BNP.

The BNP is an extremely right-wing neo-fascist party, and they won 2 seats in the European Parliament along with all of the money granted to them as members of the parliament. I got a leaflet through my door from the BNP, encouraging me to "PROTECT BRITAIN FROM ... BARBARIAN MUSLIM TURKS". Apparently this is the second Battle of Britain and ranks up there with the Battle of Trafalgar etc.

Hopefully it's obvious that their levels of normality and sanity can't be measured by any earthly standard.

Anyway, the other day, the leader of the BNP (British National Party, by the way) stood in Westminster (area of London with Parliament in it) and tried to give a news conference. Some activists heard about it, polished up their placards, put their anti-fascist t-shirts on and promptly mobbed him, egged him and chased him away.

Their argument, when challenged, was that democracy is no place for fascism. Yet, it must also be agreed that democracy is the place for freedom of speech, and that these 2 BNP individuals were democratically elected (even if they do deny the holocaust, support racism and homophobia, want to drive all non-whites out of the UK and leave Europe).

So, this brings me to my point of discussion!

Should extremist parties be allowed in democracies? If so, why? And if not, why?

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Honestly, I think they should. Isn't that the basis of democracy - that any and all opinions have the chance to be brought out and explained to the people? That's the impression I get, anyways. Preventing an 'extremist' party ('extremist' by who's definition?) is .. censorship? As long as their not preaching hate, it should be fine. Although, does extremist mean hateful? Or just .. different from everyone else? I never understood the difference.

I think, for the most part, the voting public have the brains not to choose hateful people as their leaders (although, apparently, your example proves me wrong, already?) Like I said, I guess your example kind of proves me wrong, but in my opinion they should be given the opportunity to express themselves. Its what makes a democracy a democracy, and not a dictatorship.

Isn't there a quote that says "I may not agree with your opinion, but I will fight to my death for your right to express it" or something to that effect? If we're going to maintain the farce of running democracies around the world, we can't possibly keep people out of the debate just because we think their ideas are extreme..

I'm still not sure, though.

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"Limited Freedom" makes no sense.

I don't think you can put any sort of moratorium on parties which are extremist, because first of all, "extremist" is simply a opinion. Although unlikely, there may be other people out there which feel that it's not extremist.

Since extremist is just a matter of opinion, and therefore pretty much any party could be deemed extremist. If that were the case, then I don't think anything would ever be able to get done due to disagreement.

I think when the founders of any country opted for democracy, they understood that there would potentially be parties which would be considered wayyy off morally, politically and ethically, but it's a necessary sacrifice. In order to truly embrace democracy, you have to allow things like this, not cut it out, EVEN if it may wind up doing more harm than good. In a democratic society, you have to allow these kind of things to truly be considered fair.

While I obviously don't think that this BNP or whatever is right, I'm sure that there are a certain group of people who's views they are advocating. If this weren't true, then there would be no need for the party.

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Extremist parties should be allowed, if only for the reason that throughout History they managed to put into the light some promblems and some underlying current of thought. (Hitler was elected)

If people actually voted for a party that denies the holocaust, that promotes racism and homophobia, it shows that these people are actually scared of immigrants, of different religions and of different sexualities. In my opinion, it should be a wake up call for the UK. The country (althought unstable at the moment) should try to pinpoint the potential reasons why these two candidates were elected and then, try to see how this thread of thought could be reversed in a politically correct manner (for example, through ad campaigns and education). Repression will only fuel hate and anger. (V for Vendetta anyone?)

I believe facism is often used as a security blanket by voters and I also believe that through education, extremist parties would eventually die out for lack of voters and funding, so yes, they should be allowed in democracies.

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We have a similar situation in Sweden. The Swedish democrats (they want to preserve the Swedishness) got scary many votes last election and there's been a lot of discussion whether the parties should debate with them or just ignire them.

But the point of democracy is to let everybody have a say, so I think they should be allowed, even though I hope that they lose all their mandates next year.

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I just thought I'd say what I think which is largely that, although I agree with free speech, I believe that any party within a democracy which does not itself support a democracy (i.e. if they were to ever come to power, the country would no longer be a democracy) should not be allowed.

Although I agree with all the democratic principles, I believe a line ought to be drawn when we reach the point at which the success of a particular party would require the dumping of those initial democratic principles.

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I think that once a country reaches the point that parties such as the BNP are starting to gain votes, it would be time to leave the country.

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Well at present the political climate in the United Kingdom [...]

--snip--

In my opinion, (not bothered with arguing semantics here) democracy should allow anyone who represents the public be elected—to the point where the law allows. Extremism is subjective—and while that may be, there is a line; the law. So long as that party and it's stance is legal, I'd say yes. If it goes to the point where the party exhibits traits that may lead to unlawfulness, ie. racism, sexism etc., they should be banned like any other organization.

Edited by wikinerd

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...I believe that any party within a democracy which does not itself support a democracy (i.e. if they were to ever come to power, the country would no longer be a democracy) should not be allowed...

...Although I agree with all the democratic principles, I believe a line ought to be drawn when we reach the point at which the success of a particular party would require the dumping of those initial democratic principles....

No, because the voters would have voted for the dumping of those intital democratic principals. Those people would be supporting restricting their own freedom, but if they want to, then why would you not let them? You can't have a watered down democracy - because then it becomes an oligarchy. It must be all or nothing.

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You have to take into consideration that it was the lowest turn out in history for this EU parliamentary elections. There is a lot of skepticism about the EU in most of the member states for different reasons. In the UK it is mainly immigration as most Europeans are traveling to the UK and less are traveling out of making it the most populated country in the EU.

with its history with the commonwealth countries, it's just a cherry on top regarding immigration.

In my opinion, it should be a wake up call for the UK. The country (althought unstable at the moment) should try to pinpoint the potential reasons why these two candidates were elected and then, try to see how this thread of thought could be reversed in a politically correct manner (for example, through ad campaigns and education).

Basically, use Propaganda? really?

Here's the thing people need to understand about politics. There is no correct opinion. Ever, there is no way that you can ensure you are doing the correct thing, what happens in politics is that people try to act the way the majourity of the people would be satisfied by. Right now in the UK it is closing the borders. People want jobs, and the first person to blame the lack of jobs is the other, and the other is being the different. I'd just wait it out until the country needs something else and comes to their senses. Best example of this is Obama's election! it is good for a nation to experience both sides of politics..

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I agree to point in democracy is that the people get to express their views, whatever those views may be. As long as they aren't breaking any laws they should be allowed to stand. The BNP are god damn awful, but if we try ban them, we're only giving them more publicity. That's exactly what they want.

The problem wasn't so much that the number of votes for BNP went up, it was the turn out was down. Proportional representation like in European elections means that it's all on a percentage. Getting 10 votes out of 100 one year may be 10%, but if the next year those same 10 people vote and the turn out is only 50, it's now 20%. I was looking at the figures, and the votes didn't actually go up, only the share, which is down to the collapse in labour vote and poor turn out.

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In my opinion, it should be a wake up call for the UK. The country (althought unstable at the moment) should try to pinpoint the potential reasons why these two candidates were elected and then, try to see how this thread of thought could be reversed in a politically correct manner (for example, through ad campaigns and education).

Basically, use Propaganda? really?

[...]

I'd just wait it out until the country needs something else and comes to their senses. Best example of this is Obama's election! it is good for a nation to experience both sides of politics..

No, it's not propaganda. When community messages are for the development of "good" social behaviours, it cannot be considered propaganda. When the government asks the public through ad campagnains to drive to the speed limit or to go out and vote, or to be kind to our elders... it's not propaganda.

Education: it can be better oriented as to encourage the development of social behaviours that can be beneficial towards society. For example, the IB asks us to do some form of community service through CAS, therefore it helps kids reach out to their communities and better understand them, their different realities and different aspects, problems, needs, etc. Education can also help develop critical thinking and an open mind, especially towards differences (hmm... like the IB does in a way). In the long run an education like this one could turn the potential threat (in most cases the unknown and weird immigrant) into a friend (or a less scary thing). I do not believe it's propaganda (unless the IB uses it, and we all know it does not).

Education is a tricky subject because it could go both ways when the governement is involved. For example, Quebec's conquest is taught very differently whether you are in Quebec, the rest of Canada or the UK. In Quebec, it's usually taught like "The Bad English conquered us, while the snobby French did nothing". This doesn't help to promote good relations between anglophones and francophones in Quebec. If it was taught differently like "The English conquered the land with the help of the Quebecers, while the French were too busy with another war", we might not have a rivality between the two cultural groups. Isn't it the government's job to make sure the curriculum is right and doesn't promote such rivality, no ? (or in some other cases, such hate of the immigrant?)

Furthermore, I do not think a country can suddenly come to its senses. Even though I believe mistakes along the way can be good for democracy or for a country (like George W. Bush was good in a way for the USA, because people voted for Obama afterwards...), I don't think mistakes should be made on purpose, when they can be avoided through the two means discussed above.

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I just thought I'd say what I think which is largely that, although I agree with free speech, I believe that any party within a democracy which does not itself support a democracy (i.e. if they were to ever come to power, the country would no longer be a democracy) should not be allowed.

Although I agree with all the democratic principles, I believe a line ought to be drawn when we reach the point at which the success of a particular party would require the dumping of those initial democratic principles.

But couldn't this be seen as a bit hypocritical? "We're democratic, which means that everyone has a say, except those who don't support democracy". Maybe I'm getting a bit too influenced by the political philosophy we've been doing, but that doesn't seem quite democratic to me.

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By definition democracy implies the majority ruling over the minority

Websters-

1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

Therefore don't you find it strange that these radical parties can even exist yet alone be allowed to spout there demented levels of bigotry and hatred? Humans are inherently attracted to such elements and are always looking for a scapegoat to blame their problems on; witness the illegal immigrants in the United States and the religious minorities in England. Therefore societies and especially democracies should not tolerate ideas that can empower those who seek to use hatred to their benefit. Did we not learn from the lessons Hitler taught us? Hitler nearly won his election which means that his radical ideas were madly popular. In the United States we have hate speech laws in effect for a specific reason and that is to limit radical ideas from becoming popularized. Also it is illegal to discriminate in most countries. Therefore I find it intriguing that the BNP has not been stopped. Perhaps most of the politicians there secretly agree with such concepts.

While it is good to be open minded and accepting of ideas to a certain extent, there comes a point when one can become so open minded that their brain falls out.

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I just thought I'd say what I think which is largely that, although I agree with free speech, I believe that any party within a democracy which does not itself support a democracy (i.e. if they were to ever come to power, the country would no longer be a democracy) should not be allowed.

Although I agree with all the democratic principles, I believe a line ought to be drawn when we reach the point at which the success of a particular party would require the dumping of those initial democratic principles.

But couldn't this be seen as a bit hypocritical? "We're democratic, which means that everyone has a say, except those who don't support democracy". Maybe I'm getting a bit too influenced by the political philosophy we've been doing, but that doesn't seem quite democratic to me.

I think it was Churchill who said "Democracy is the worst form of government except all of the other forms of government." Something like that anyway. We live and learn and try to adapt. It's an arduous process when it comes to politics. It takes so much time for something good to come out, while haste often leads to terrifying mistakes.

We can hold on to our principles all day long and expect perfection, but that does reality no good. About BNP. I think it should be allowed its say. It most definitely shouldn't be ignored and dusted under the rug, for it'll transform into something much worse. But I really think we should redefine what 'majority' is. [see below]

By definition democracy implies the majority ruling over the minority

Websters-

1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

Therefore don't you find it strange that these radical parties can even exist yet alone be allowed to spout there demented levels of bigotry and hatred? Humans are inherently attracted to such elements and are always looking for a scapegoat to blame their problems on; witness the illegal immigrants in the United States and the religious minorities in England. Therefore societies and especially democracies should not tolerate ideas that can empower those who seek to use hatred to their benefit. Did we not learn from the lessons Hitler taught us? Hitler nearly won his election which means that his radical ideas were madly popular. In the United States we have hate speech laws in effect for a specific reason and that is to limit radical ideas from becoming popularized. Also it is illegal to discriminate in most countries. Therefore I find it intriguing that the BNP has not been stopped. Perhaps most of the politicians there secretly agree with such concepts.

While it is good to be open minded and accepting of ideas to a certain extent, there comes a point when one can become so open minded that their brain falls out.

If you start limiting the rights of BNP, it'll blur the already hazy line. Someone quoted Voltaire above. 'I may disagree with what you have to say but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.' It's selfish, but I don't want those rights to be gone when I have something to say.

Also, this famous poem by Martin Niemöller should be taken into account:

When the Nazis came for the communists,

I remained silent;

I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,

I remained silent;

I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,

I did not speak out;

I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,

I remained silent;

I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,

there was no one left to speak out.

As for democracy, my 10th grade teacher often said "majority rule, minority aware." However, I think the whole concept of majority is a bit out-of-whack. If someone wins with 51% of the votes and the other has 49%, it seems like problems are sure to arise when almost half of the population doesn't like the results. Yes, we signed up for this. We've agreed to live by this majority rule. But it'd be more sound to bump up majority to a bigger number. 3/4 of the population, maybe. Yes, it'll be more of a hassle and require more time and resources, but like I said earlier, haste can lead to terrible consequences. Now if 75% of the population voted for something, like the gay marriage act [that made gay marriages illegal] in California, then there'd be less dissent. However, I don't believe that law would ever have passed. Increasing the percent for majority would lengthen the process and allow time to cool down. I believe many laws are made in reaction to events that scare us. We need the buffer of time.

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They should, definitely. What seems extremist and ridiculous to us now may be normality a couple of hundred years later. A couple of hundred years ago, democracy was definitely considered insane. Things change, the people's views change; nothing is ever "right", so who are we to stop groups from running for governmental positions, even if they sound crazy? If everyone thinks they're crazy, then they won't get voted in. If they do, then it's saying something about the people. If we refuse to accept new ideas - even if we consider them to be "wrong" or "unethical" or whatever - then we run the risk of suppressing the less influential voices who don't think the same way as we do, and maybe another bloody revolution will occur. No one wants that. Let them partake.

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