The rise of fascism in the UK
January 8, 2012 4 Comments
There is a distinct change in the air of late. It is the anticipation that something big is around the corner. The last two years has brought about significant change in the world. The Arab Spring of 2011 and the continuation of the waves of protest across the world – to the UK, the US, Australia – these signs that ‘the people’ will not stand for it; that the proletariat will not be oppressed by the rich and the powerful anymore, are tangibly felt. Austerity packages are being handed out to unwilling populations across the western world – in Europe under the increasingly concerned watchful eye of the Germans, particularly. It is they, after all, who stand to lose the most.
Austerity, they say, will get us out of this mess. Tightening budgets will encourage economic growth. Trickle-down economics will redistribute wealth across the nation. Getting rid of health and safety ‘red tape’ is the solution to the problem of unemployment. It is assumed that the private sector will mop up the excess labour from the public sector – this has yet to happen.
Since when did giving more money to the rich ever have an effect on those very people it is supposed to help? It doesn’t.
Why would health and safety red tape be such a significant issue for employers when looking to employ people? A cynic would say this is a move to weaken the rights of employees, and give leeway to big business – to not only allow the status quo to continue unhampered, but to actively encourage the exploitation of the working classes.
We’re in a period of serious crisis. The Euro is wobbling and has an uncertain future. Capitalism seems to be on its last legs, as ‘the people’ demand that they come before profit. It is against this background of genuine crisis that change can – and will – happen. Revolutionary wannabes, who have waited for years for this moment, assume that the replacement to a failing capitalism is socialism, communism, or even perhaps just something “nicer”. This is naive and mistaken. While there is opportunity for change, the most likely outcome is fascism:
“The primary immediate effect of the crisis will not be the rise of a radical emancipatory politics, but rather the rise of racist populism, further wars, increased poverty in the poorest 3rd world countries, & greater divisions between the rich & the poor within all societies.” Slavoj Žižek, First As Tragedy, Then As Farce (2009)
The truth is, we all know that the things I outlined above are not effective problem-solvers – they won’t work, and they are likely, in fact, to lead to bigger problems. These solutions are not solutions, they are merely distractions from the real problems – puppet-show politics distracting us from the fact that we are slowly losing our rights. We are being distracted from the reality that we are heading somewhere much darker than we have been for a long, long time.
Diane Abbott was not wrong when she said that white people like to play ‘divide and rule’ – it may have been in reference to colonialist attitudes and tactics, but it is just as true, and just as relevant, today. We are being divided, sugary-rhetoric-coated austerity forced down our throats, and civil liberties eroded under our very noses.
Just look at the way that the disabled people in this country are being demonised – by both the supposed left and the right. That has had a measurable affect on public attitudes – the national charity Scope examined the rise in public abuse of disabled people last year. Look at the rhetoric around immigrants and jobs. No wonder we have seen a spate of racist attacks in recent times. On a tram, or in football matches. And those on JSA are being forced to work for free, under the ‘WorkFare’ scheme. This is only the beginning.
It is okay for us to support protests in other countries. This is noble. But when our own people revolt, we must criticise, suppress and use more extreme policing tactics. They are not so different after all, but the rhetoric changes when we are discussing issues in our own back yard. And we give ourselves permission to intervene in Libya – but not Bahrain or Syria, where similar or even worse atrocities are being committed. In years to come, Britain won’t be seen as the saviour of the world, but an active destroyer of it.
The ever-narrowing national political discourse is, obviously, exactly what Naomi Klein wrote about in her book Shock Doctrine. Where there is crisis, there is opportunity for positive change, but also a huge opportunity for the powerful to tighten the grip on those who are oppressed. The crisis is the shock, and the ‘medicine’ is the swallowing of austerity packages, the reduction of civil liberties in the name of ‘national security’ or ‘we are all in this together’ rhetoric, and the acceptance of extreme policies.
Historically, we know this happens. It is how Hitler came to power in Germany in the 30s. It is how anyone clever would seek to obtain and retain power. We know this. Why are we allowing it to happen again?
Capitalism is in crisis. Our collective response, spurred on by mainstream media and political rhetoric, is to shift further to the right. The US has already begun its transition, with the signing off of the NDAA. First it happens as tragedy. Then we allow it to happen again, and it is farce.
We are in the farcical stage. People are swallowing the bitter pill of injustice in the mistaken belief that “we’re all in it together”, that it is “necessary” and that it is a “worthwhile sacrifice”. With the people stunned into obedience, it is only a matter of time before fascism tightens its grip on the UK. I predict in the next year or two that we will see the following:
- Removal of the right to protest, or more severe limitations to that right.
- A rise in riots, similar to those across the UK in August 2010
- More politically-motivated arrests
- Removal of benefits unless working under WorkFare scheme
- Crack-down on ‘benefit cheats’ to the extent where people are encouraged to grass up neighbours, family members etc
- “Othering” of other strata of society. Divisions across class, particularly.
- The loss of worker rights (‘red tape’ war)
- National service for young people
We should keep in mind that this is an ongoing and slow process – fascism doesn’t take hold overnight. Perhaps not every move the coalition make is one worth shouting about. We need to pick and choose the ones that will lead to restrictions on personal freedoms. We need to shout about the Americans’ ability to detain anyone in the world for an indeterminable amount of time. We need to ask why we are trading our civil rights to ensure the survival of capitalism, because we shouldn’t allow this to happen.