As Brexit Party MEPs turned their backs during the EU anthem in the European Parliament, can they really be compared to the 1930s Nazi Party, as some suggest?

So, Brexit Party MEPs turned their backs during the European Union’s Ode To Joy anthem yesterday morning in the European Parliament. Nigel Farage called his 29 colleagues “cheerfully defiant” and said they made their “presence felt”. A political stand that UKIP already performed at the start of the 2014 session of the European Parliament.

“Rising to your feet is a matter of respect,” the EU Parliament Antonio Tajani told them. “It does not mean that you necessarily share the views of the European Union. Even when you listen to the anthem of another country you rise to your feet.”

Brexit Party MEPs turning their back in the EU Parliament, 2 July 2019. / EbS

Many observers and commentators have quickly pointed out the similarities between the Brexit Party MEPs turning their back in the European Parliament this Tuesday and the Nazi Party turning their back in the German Parliament in the 1930s.

But is there anything more to it than such easy comparisons to the pre-WW2 Nazi Party by using images from the past to make a political point? Are there any particular arguments that should get our attention?


Let’s start with last weekend’s video of the Brexit Party rally in Birmingham with some weird WW2 air raid sirens and glow sticks (deliberate modern day torches). It was not only about nostalgia, but also about strategic propaganda and mass psychology.

It was all about triggering something deep inside their supporters’ mind, the type of conditioning that automatically creates an emotional response, the most basic human instinct: the herding instinct.

Point at an enemy. Label them. Generate hate. Make the herd feel the danger. Make the herd believe its very survival depends on the Brexit Party only. Their life depends on the only person who can save them: the leader.

Brexit Party rally, 1 July 2019. / Twitter @MartinDaubney

Normal, sensible reactions to hearing the sirens in the video are those of a ten-year old who recently studied WWI at school and says, “I feel scared!”, or Sarah who tweeted: “My blood runs cold just hearing it.”

The courageous generation we celebrated just a few weeks ago on the 75 anniversary of the D-Day didn’t fight and die on the beach of Normandy so that their spoilt baby-boomer offspring one day have a sick fascination and a morbid nostalgia for a war they haven’t even known... Has anyone in the Brexit Party watch the D-Day Remembrance and most importantly what the survivors said?


The Red Series, a collection of documentary evidence and guide materials prepared by the US and UK prosecuting staffs for presentation before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946, informs us on the Nazi Party’s strategic parliamentary behaviour both before and after reaching power in Germany.

Until 1930, the NSDAP (Nationalsozistishe Deutsche arbeiterpartei, National Socialist German Workers Party – Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party) had only 12 seats in the Reichstag, the German parliament during the 1928-1930 session. However small, they were highly disruptive. Of 391 calls to order during the two-year session, Paul Löbe, the President of the Reichstag, no less than 102 were directed at Hitler’s MPs.

At the September 1930 General Election, Hitler’s party won 107 seats, making it the second party in the German parliament behind the Social Democrats. Parliamentary sessions immediately became chaotic.

Whenever representatives of the government or the democratic parties spoke, for instance, the Nazi MPs would march out in contempt of the speaker, or entered to interrupt the speaker. They made it physically impossible for the Reichstag President to maintain order inside the chamber. The Nazi members constantly interrupted speakers of opposition parties, “often resorting to lengthy and spurious parliamentary maneuvers, with the result that the schedule of the session was thrown out of order. The tactics finally culminated in physical attacks by the Nazis upon members of the house as well as upon visitors.” (Library of Congress)

At the parliament opening on 13 October, Nazi MPs enter the chamber with ‘brownshirts’, the uniform of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary, a symbolic shift from the parliamentary order.

Members of the NSDAP in the Reichstag in 'brownshirts', 13 October 1930. / Alamy

On 10 December 1930, during a debate on the reform of the German criminal law, the Communist MP Dr Fritz Löwenthal talks about the bloodshed crimes that took place at the beginning of the Weimar Republic which were largely attributed to the far-right. The Nazis react with a series of loud noises, laughs and interruptions, as well as very anti-Semitic comments – Löwenthal was the son of the Jewish merchant.

Eventually, the Nazi MPs stood up and turned their back to the speaker. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945 can be seen writing something on the bench of the person sitting behind him (circled in the photograph).

Members of the NSDAP in the Reichstag turning their back to the speaker, 10 December 1930. / Alamy


It is interesting to note the number of similarities in language between the far-right of 1930s and today. Different times, different societies, yet the same approach to politics and democracy.

Adolf Hitler, for instance, was very much of the opinion that undermining the system of government was an objective in itself. In a letter he wrote to Alfred Rosenberg, his Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories and influential ideologue of the Nazi Party, on 24 August 1931, Hitler deplored the tone of an article in the Voelkscher Beobachter (the newspaper of the Nazi Party) which he thought was to prevent the party from taking part in the undermining of the existing government, and told him:

“I myself am travelling all over Germany to achieve exactly the opposite (i.e. to undermine the then system of government).” (Library of Congress)

Wilhelm Frick, who served as Hitler’s Reich Minister of the Interior from 1933 to 1943, wrote in 1927:

“Our participation in the parliament does not indicate a support, but rather an undermining of the parliamentarian system. It does not indicate that we renounce our anti-parliamentarian attitude, but that we are fighting the enemy with his own weapons and that we are fighting for our National Socialist goal from the parliamentary platform.” (Library of Congress)

“The Brexit party has been set up to use the European elections as the first stepping-stone towards attempting to completely change the political system in this country. This is now much more about taking on the entire political establishment.”
— Nigel Farage (Spiegel, 16 May 2019.)

Before entering the Reichstag, Joseph Goebbels also nailed his party’s colours to the mast in an article published on 30 April 1928 in his newspaper Der Angriff. In “Aufsätze aus der Kampfzeit” (“Why do we want to join the Reichstag?”), Goebbels explained why the Nazis were then running for elective office:

“We enter parliament in order to supply ourselves, in the arsenal of democracy, with its own weapons. We become members of the Reichstag in order to paralyze the Weimar sentiment with its own assistance. If democracy is so stupid as to give us free tickets and per diem, that is its own affair.

Brexit MEP Brian Monteith, 2 July 2019. / BBC Two - Newsnight

“If we succeed in getting sixty or seventy of our party’s agitators and organizers elected to the various parliaments, the state itself will pay for our fighting organization.

“The EU Parliament is everything you expected but far worse. I can’t even begin to verbalise the waste, bureaucracy & non-sensical procedures plus limos. And why two parliaments?”
— Dr David Bull MEP (Twitter, 23 June 2019.)

“He who enters parliament perishes! Well, that is true if he enters parliament to become a parliamentarian. But if he enters with a tough and driving will to carry on an uncompromising battle against the growing corruption of our public life, he will not become a parliamentarian, rather will remain what he is: a revolutionary.

“Our whole system has been corrupted. We want fundamental political change.”
— Nigel Farage (Spiegel, 16 May 2019.)

“It is about a system that is wide open to corruption, to intimidation, to bribery, to abuse on a whole number of levels. I have mentioned this a number of times in the past.”
— Nigel Farage (The Guardian, 24 June 2019.)

“When democracy is near its end it will resort openly to the terror of capitalistic dictatorship that it ordinarily uses covertly. But that will not happen for some time, and in the meanwhile the fighters for our faith will enjoy parliamentary immunity long enough to broaden our fighting front such that shutting them up will not be as easy as democracy would like it to be.

“These two parties, filled with career politicians, influenced by big money and the politicians, simply won’t ever deliver it to us. They are trying to build a coalition of the politicians against the people.”
— Nigel Farage (The Guardian, 19 May 2019.)

“We will march into the marble halls of parliament, bringing with us the revolutionary will of the broad masses from which we came, called by fate and forming fate. We do not want to join this pile of manure. We are coming to shovel it out.

“We’re the people. The Brexit Party are the people.”
— Nigel Farage (The Guardian, 19 May 2019.)

“We’ve got to sweep out of Westminster so many of those MPs who have wilfully defied the democratic will of the people of our country! We’ve got to change politics for good! We need a democratic revolution! Let’s go do it!”
— Nigel Farage (Unherd, 22 May 2019.)

“Do not believe that parliament is our goal. We have shown the enemy our nature from the podiums of our mass meetings.

“Over 5,000 dedicated Brexiteers attended our #BigVisionRally today!”
— Brexit Party (Twitter, 30 June 2019.)

“We do not come as friend nor even as neutrals. we come as enemies: As the wolf bursts into the flock, so we come. You are not among your friends any longer! You will not enjoy having us among you!” (Library of Congress)

“The reality of the Brexit Party is: Our enemy is not Brussels, our enemy is not Mr. Juncker, our enemy is Downing Street and Westminster. Our enemy is the civil service, our enemy is the people that have denied us the conclusion of the referendum result.”
— Nigel Farage (Spiegel, 16 May 2019.)

Masthead of Goebbels' newspaper, Der Angriff - 30 January 1933. / Wikimedia

In a pamphlet published in 1935, “Nature and form of National Socialism” – once Hitler had seized power in Germany, Goebbels wrote in the clearest of manners that Democracy in Germany had died and what it meant for the opposition to the Nazis:

“When democracy granted democratic methods for us in the times of opposition, this was bound to happen in a democratic system. However, we National Socialists never asserted that we represented a democratic point of view, but we have declared openly that we used democratic methods only in order to gain the power and that, after assuming the power, we would deny to our adversaries without any consideration the means which were granted to us in the times of opposition.” (Library of Congress)

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945. / Pathe

Ernst Rudolf Huber, a former Nazi jurist who attempted to legitimize Hitler’s dictatorship, also wrote of those parliamentary days:

“The parliamentary battle of the NSDAP (Nazi Party) had the single purpose of destroying the parliamentary system from within through its own methods. It was necessary above all to make formal use of the possibilities of the party-state system but to refuse real cooperation and thereby to render the parliamentary system, which is by nature dependent upon the responsible cooperation of the opposition, incapable of action.” (Library of Congress)

“It’s about breaking the two-party system.”
— Nigel Farage (Spiegel, 16 May 2019.)

In a recent piece written for The Guardian, Tom Kibasi, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, explains:

"Nigel Farage’s victory gives him the whip hand over British politics", 27 May 2019. / The Guardian


There are plenty of good argument for a proportional representation (PR) electoral system – where each citizen voter is being represented proportionately – and how more democratic it is compared to the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system.

However, when it allow more exposure and more seats in the House of Commons to small parties like the Greens, changing FPTP for PR could also greatly benefit populist and nationalist political parties like Farage’s. Therefore, the question is: is FPTP safer for Democracy, or is it really worth taking the risk to let the wolfs in with PR?🔷

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Gif of Brexit Party MEP turning their back in the EU Parliament.)