We are living in increasingly dangerous times, especially in the light of US President Trump’s moves towards nuclear proliferation and a new nuclear arms race, his continual undermining of international law, his escalatory rhetoric and his promotion of intolerance.
At the same time, we see the biggest rise in support for fascism and the far-right since the 1930s, a greater internationalisation of their movements and their presence in governments. Hate crime has spiked to unprecedented levels. Racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the increase.
Gaining succour from the Trump White House and his pronouncements that validate and ‘normalise’ racism and white supremacism, the far-right is increasingly well-funded and well-organised. Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in the presidential elections in Brazil extends this wave into Latin America, opening the door not only for the brutal suppression of the left and progressive forces, but for greater militarisation and US intervention on that continent.
If we learn anything from the twentieth century, it must be that fascism means not only racism, and dictatorship, but also the cult of violence and brutality, as political tools to be admired and used, which together led in the 1930s and 40s to policies of genocide and mass extermination.
For decades after the Second World War, in which tens of millions of lives were lost, we thought these forces absolutely defeated, so reduced to the margins as to be irrecoverable. But we were wrong. The rapidity with which far-right ideology has re-emerged and entered the political mainstream is profoundly shocking. So too is the way that elements of its pernicious ideology are incorporated and accepted into the narrative of the media and wider political debate.
Britain is not immune to these dangers: in recent years we have seen the scapegoating of refugees and migrants, falsely blamed for the social and economic problems that have actually been brought about by decades of neoliberalism, embraced by our own governments and exacerbated by austerity since the crisis of 2008. We have seen the headlong rush to exclude European workers – to the detriment of our economy and our inclusive, multicultural society, and we have seen the scandalous treatment of the Windrush generation.
I know I am not alone in wondering why the BBC – a publicly-funded broadcaster – gives considerable airtime to political representatives of the far-right and extensive coverage to their causes. All this at a time when far-right street mobilisations and violence are accelerating; they should be exposed and opposed not given the oxygen of publicity and treated as if their vile words and deeds require a ‘fair’ hearing. That is not democracy – it is aiding and abetting a new wave of reactionary politics which could shatter everything we hold dear: lives, liberty, justice, equality and peace.
Fascism and war are intrinsically linked, as history has shown. From the onslaught on Spain in the 1930s, which destroyed the democratic republic and ushered in almost four decades of dictatorship, to the military expansionism of the Nazi Third Reich driven by its racist and genocidal ideology, the lessons are clear. We see parallels today: violence, anti-democratic practices, attacks on civil liberties, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, attacks on women’s rights and on disabled people. We see the rejection of the norms of international law, of multilateral treaties, and an escalation of rhetoric – and detailed policies and planning – towards increasing militarisation, a new arms race and a greater likelihood of nuclear war. This slide towards catastrophe must be opposed and stopped.