Monday, March 23, 2009

The real threat of Fascism

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.

8 comments:

Caron said...

What worries me most about this posting is that you are so often right.

Tristan said...

The term fascist is much abused - it is a frightening political philosophy, but one which has features which are accepted without question by most people, but most use it as a term of abuse for ideas they dislike.

As David Ramsay Steele concludes in his essay about Mussolini:
most of the world's people in the second half of the twentieth century were ruled by governments which were closer in practice to Fascism than they were either to liberalism or to Marxism-Leninism.
(this includes in my mind the current government)

What we are now starting to see (accelerated due to the economic turmoil) is the emergence of more strident nationalism and with it racism and xenophobia (and I'm sure anti-semitism will rear its ugly head again).
I wouldn't be surprised to see more overtly fascist positions being taken by members of all parties...

Matthew Huntbach said...

We are mistaken if we think fascism is primarily about racism. Mussolini's fascism wasn't racist until it came under the influence of Hitler's National Socialism.

What fascism was about was the idea that politics and debate, leading to compromise solutions was a bad thing. Rather, it would be better if the state were run by a strong charismatic leader who, not having to get agreement from some squabbling assembly of politicians, could "get things done".

It is these sorts of ideas we should beware of if we want to stop fascism re-arising, we should not be distracted by thinking that it's only fascism if it's racist.

That is why I believe the clamour for directly elected executive mayor is the most fascist thing in current UK politics. The arguments made for this idea are pure fascism, and they remain pure fascism even when they are made by leading political commentators and politicians in all three of the major UK political parties.

When I have said this - and I started saying it when the local authority where I was Leader of the Opposition wished to pioneer the idea - I have been accused of being one of those who is just throwing the word "fascism" around just as an insult. No, that is precisely NOT what I am doing when I say that directly elected executive mayors are fascist. I am using the word in its proper technical sense.

Cicero said...

Yes, I agree with Tristan and Matthew- Fascism is much abused and there is more to it than just the issues of racism. there is also an irrational cult of leadership and a general rejection of discourse and intellect in favour of a "triumph of the will". I would not go so far as to say that the policies of the current Labour government are fascist- but I would certainly say that they are authoritarian.

I oppose authoritarianism, I defy Fascism.

Cicero said...

Hello Caron, Thank you for the kind words- sorry to miss you at Perth

agentmancuso said...

I believe that Mr Craig was thrown out of the Liberal Democrats for refusing to recant his unstinting support for a Greater Serbia. He also has a bit of a thing about what he refers to as 'windmills'. All very colourful.

Newmania said...

I think here I can truly say, you started it . For years every Conservative expressing concern about immigration cultural coherence, moral standards or indeed anything that is not flying in with the prevailing Liberal wind has been referred to as a Nazi.
Fortunately this childish rubbish has so devalued the word that it can now be tossed about in the direction of the merely unpleasantly authoritarian .
In this sense Liberals are Nazis as they believe they have a unique access to knowledge and a formula for such unlikely outcomes as curing world poverty and goodness knows what else. Also because of tjeir greatyer will9ongness to use coercion whether over Europe smoking or their various Politically correct objectives . They are thre swftest to impose as they are the least aware that others disagree . Coercion is unavoidable as they are a minority exercising power over a majority.
The Liberal Party also have some characteristics of a terrorist organisation. It is in fact an outlet for wide ranging dissatisfaction ranging from quasi puritan anti technologists , animal rights New Ageists as well as Socialists sitting bewilderingly with Classical Liberals . Above this is a contrastingly disciplined officer class from the usual Public School elite and a viciously dishonest local campaigning machine loathed for their personal attacks and willingness to use anything to hand . It is less a Party and more a Franchise

The Liberals feels himself to be a lonely voice of genius in a stupid world and therefore the ends for him justifies the means . Meanwhile the larger Liberal Constituency exercises its real power through the state sector as the professional class of the government.

So I think using the modern weak usage of the world Nazi Liberals can be said to be Nazis with some fairness

Cicero said...

Newmania- you must truly be an exceptional stupid man if you can not tell the difference between a Liberal Democrat and a Nazi.

Frankly I did not start it- I have never disparaged the Conservatives in that way- indeed I engage in a debate which I though was based on some kind of respect.

Unfortunately you just can't do that can you, Newmania? Sooner or later out comes the shouty nut case who thinks that the Liberal Democrats, just because they disagree with him, are therefore some kind of criminal, "terrorist" sect.

Kindly retract that remark and behave- just for once- like a grown up will you.

I don't see why I should tolerate such ridiculous brain-dead abuse. A civilised debate means mutual respect- if you don't want to behave like that, then you are most welcome to get lost.