David Lammy: Why I don’t regret calling out the far-right on Andrew Marr

David Lammy: Why I don't regret calling out the far-right on Andrew Marr

As Hannah Arendt warned, fascism relies on “more respectable forms, until the whole atmosphere is poisoned with totalitarian elements which are hardly recognisable as such but appear to be normal political reactions or opinions”.

It is easy to be complacent about the threat of a resurgent far right. The most bloody and grotesque examples of fascism have not been found in Western Europe for more than seven decades now. The advance of liberal democracy, tolerance, racial, gender, sexual and religious equality has been real and awesome. Today important decisions in Europe are made by national leaders over warm scallop salad at the European Council table, not drawn up in force after years of violence.

However, much of the progress we made in the second half of the 20th century, and in the early part of the 21st, is under threat. In Britain, Europe, the United States and elsewhere, an extreme, populist right is gaining currency and, increasingly, power. Extreme right parties are polling at 10 per cent in Spain, 20 per cent in France, and – if you combine UKIP and the Brexit Party – 25 per cent in the UK. In Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States, the populist right already have the keys to power.

These movements are not calling for genocide, the imprisonment of their political enemies, or expansion into foreign territory. However, they are demanding politicians obey a vague, undefinable “will of the people”. They are creating the false narrative of a betrayal by foreign “elites” (cue Brussels bureaucrats). At home, they are scapegoating and demonising migrants (think of Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster), while harking bark to a deeply nostalgic vision of ethnically hierarchical past, with calls for “Empire 2.0”. They are attacking the truth, while denying the authority of experts and intellectuals (“people in this country have had enough of experts,” in the words of Michael Gove). They are using the demagogic tactic of repeating lies so often that people believe they are – or at least could be – true (“No deal is better than a bad deal”). At their worst they even threaten violence and unrest (“I will be forced don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines,” Nigel Farage).

Even if we do not yet have full-blown fascism, all are tactics that Madeleine Albright and other scholars have identified as deeply fascistic. In the United Kingdom, those pushing this agenda range from street thugs at Tommy Robinson protests, to an overtly Islamophobic UKIP, to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. As Paul Mason has written, these political groups share out their work at different levels. And while the ERG pulls the Conservative Party to the right from within, the Brexit Party does the same from the outside. Boris Johnson’s transition from liberal Tory, to someone who has had private talks with white supremacist Steve Bannon and is happy to demonise Muslim women as “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” for electoral gain, shows how successful these …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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