A couple of days ago I re-posted a list of reasons why David Morton says he is a Liberal Democrat. I thought it a gently humorous list and thought others would get the joke. At some point I will post my own list, but I liked the general thrust of David's comments.
To my surprise it evoked a series of furious responses from one Neil Craig- see comments under the relevant post. Usually when people throw around words like "Fascist" and Nazi" they tend to be foam flecked lunatics who typically post anonymously. Most often I would tend to delete these posts, since they are unpleasant for me and my readers and quite often libellous. Neil posted under his own name and left an e-mail, and yet his comments were the epitome of bilious rage. It is almost always the case that when people accuse you of being a Nazi or some other thing that you clearly are not, they either don't understand the argument or they have already lost it. Given the massive errors in fact that Neil Craig made in his highly inflammatory and offensive comments, in his case I think it is probably both.
However, his gratuitous use of the words Fascist and Nazi in attacking the Liberal Democrats made me think a little about the current state of health of British and indeed European politics more widely.
We are going through the largest economic upheaval that virtually any of us has ever seen. The financial crisis has lead to a wider economic crisis and in several countries it is leading to a political crisis. Many have focused on the political crisis in Central and Eastern Europe, noting the fall of the governments in Latvia, Lithuania and now the Prime Minister of Hungary has resigned. Yet the political situation in Ireland, Italy, France and even the UK could best be described as fluid, the political crisis is a general European affair, not limited to one specific area of the continent.
In several countries authoritarian and racist political parties are active- in the UK it is the various far-right groups that came out of the thuggish National Front, now called the BNP, that pose the most public threat. In other countries, there are more powerful groups than our own, rather milksop Fascists. In Bulgaria the Ataka Party, led by an out and out racist and anti-Semite, Volen Sidorov, has won close to 10% of the vote, and there are individual figures on the right in various countries whose political positions could best be described as racial-based populism.
In June there will be elections for the European Parliament. I think it is quite possible that several countries, potentially even the UK, could elect far-right MEPs. These figures are currently more an embarrassment than a genuine threat to democracy, but as Edmund Burke wrote, "There is no safety for honest men except in believing all possible evil of evil men".
In the face of the renewed authoritarian challenge from reactionary forces in Russia and overtly Fascist figures inside our own body politic, it is as well to remember that not all political opponents are enemies. There is a political, democratic legitimacy in Liberalism, Conservatism, Libertarianism, Social Democracy, and even Democratic Socialist points of view. The vituperation of the kind that Mr. Craig throws around so easily is best reserved for those who genuinely deserve it. The threat of Soviet Socialism has transmuted into a kind of National Socialism and both forms of authoritarianism must be resisted by Democrats of all stripes.
As the economic crisis continues to deepen, the next few months could well see the resurgence of a political ideology that many thought long dead- and we may need all our collective strength to deal with the challenge of 21st century Fascism.