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Nigel Farage to Britain's Youth: Fight the Power Like the French Communists of May '68

We spoke to UKIP's former leader at The European Freedom Awards, where he threatened to return "with a pitchfork" if Brexit doesn't happen.

by Jakob Åhl
08 November 2016, 12:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

On Friday night, Nigel Farage cranked his apocalyptic post-Brexit rhetoric another notch, telling VICE: "I would like something perhaps of 1968 to come out again in our young people, where they stand up and fight for democratic control over their own futures."

The "1968" here refers to May of 1968, a period of mass civil unrest that brought France to the brink of revolution.

He was speaking at the European Freedom Awards, a meeting of Eurosceptics and neo-fascists from across Europe. In his speech to the award ceremony he said, "If Brexit doesn't mean Brexit, I'll be back in 2019 – and probably with a pitchfork."

May, 1968 in France saw riots, pitched street battles between tear gas-throwing police and Molotov-wielding protesters, and millions of workers taking part in the largest general strike France has ever seen.

At its peak, 10 million workers were on strike – roughly two-thirds of the entire workforce. The government almost fell, President Charles de Gaulle briefly went into hiding. A socialist revolution was only averted after de Gaulle offered new elections and threatened to impose a state of emergency. The uprising is remembered for its radical slogans and art, with graffiti such as "Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible!" and "The most beautiful sculpture is a paving stone thrown at a cop's head!"

It's weird that right-winger Farage would reference a large-scale workers' revolt with heavy influence from communists, anarchists and socialists. Said with a wry smile, the statement could be seen as historically illiterate mischief making. But along with the pitchfork comment, it fits into a pattern of increasingly hysterical rhetoric. After judges in the High Court declared last week that Parliament must have a say on Article 50, Farage tweeted, "They have no idea [of the] level of public anger they will provoke." On Monday it emerged that Farage will lead a 100,000-strong march against the decision.

At the event on Friday, populist leaders from around the world gathered at Stockholm's Grand Hôtel to sign the Stockholm Declaration and celebrate the European Freedom Awards. It was organised by Sweden's populist party Sweden Democrats (SD) and UKIP. SD dubbed the event an "alternative Nobel Prize". The Stockholm Declaration is a contract of the European anti-immigration parties' newly established Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, ADDE.

As well as Farage, in attendance were the Belgian People's Party's Mischaël Modrikamen; Lithuania's former president Rolandas Paksas; Petr Mach from the Czech Republic's Free Citizens' Party's; and UKIP representative Roger Helmer, to name a few. In total, around 400 EU critics and anti-immigration leaders celebrated the European Freedom Awards, along with a whole load of press.

ADDE's gala began with a press conference at 2:30 PM on Friday, when a bunch of populist leaders held speeches and were photographed. Most of the speakers talked about the importance of direct democracy, freedom, the removal of centralised leadership, the threat of radical Islam and the dangers of immigration.

"I would like something perhaps of 1968 to come out again in our young people, where they stand up and fight for democratic control over their own futures," Farage told VICE. "The idea that in the 21st century, modern global economy that Europe can prosper being run by a group of unelected old men in Brussels, who are frankly more protectionist globally than free trade, that is not the future for young people."

The European Freedom Award was handed to the Czech Republic's former president, Václav Klaus, who thinks that terrorist Anders Behring Breivik's attack on Norway in July 2011 is the fault of postmodern society. Breivik quoted Klaus in his manifesto. Farage hailed Klaus during the press conference as an "extraordinary bloke", adding, "For me, he's a bit of a hero."

The Grand Hôtel is famous for hosting the biggest stars and richest tourists visiting Stockholm. It hosted the first ever Nobel Prize Banquet in 1901, and since 1968 the Wallenberg family has owned the hotel. Raoul Wallenberg is one of Sweden's most famous freedom fighters. He saved thousands of Jewish people from the holocaust in Hungary during the Second World War.

When the public found out that the Grand Hôtel was going to host the event, thousands of protesters turned to Facebook and attacked the hotel's Facebook page. As a result, the five-star hotel turned into a two-star hotel online, which eventually caused it to turn off its online rating option.

When asked about the massive criticism the hotel had received for hosting the event, Farage said, "What good, fine young democrats these people must be, how wonderful. Why don't we try and suppress freedom of speech and stop people from having an alternative point of view [...] [If] we look back at 20th century history, people who have that mindset are more dangerous themselves than those who they perceive to be dangerous."

The protests didn't only take place on the internet; a small demonstration – made up of about 25 people and a sound system – gathered outside the hotel at 7PM. Protesters danced to world music, which they said was "the kind of music [ADDE] can't listen to". One of the organisers, a guy called Lucien, told VICE that the point of the demonstration was to spread "good tunes and love instead of hatred". There were about eight police officers milling around.

The guests of the European Freedom Awards didn't seem to care much about the protesters. When a few guests went outside to smoke a cigarette or two, they pretty much ignored the demonstration, before going inside to party.

Over the weekend, people opposed to the SD were calling on others to boycott the Grand Hôtel. At least one other event that was supposed to take place there was cancelled. Then, when the hotel's press person apologised and said they regretted the decision to host an xenophobic gala, SD called for a boycott too.

"If Grand Hôtel think they will gain financially from [offering an apology], they're mistaken. The organisations that attended the gala represent tens of millions of people. There were guests attending from the US and Israel, too. [The apology] will obviously have financial consequences," Mattias Karlsson of SD told Aftonbladet.

@jakobaahl

Addintional reporting by Simon Childs. Scroll down for more photos from the protest.