The rise of fascism in the UK

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.

About A Girl
Mostly writes on Half The World Is Watching. She is interested in and writes about feminist issues, politics and activism. An 80s child at heart, she loves old things, computer games, and keeping up with the development of social media.

4 Responses to The rise of fascism in the UK

  1. Apparently this is typical Tory practice though. They’ve used the opportunity of the protests in London and then finally the August riots to re-state how the ‘unwashed masses’ need to be kept in line, bringing in more stringent police powers to suit. The ‘middle class’ applauds these notions, whilst ignoring that the austerity measures they essentially voted for is a thinly veiled excuse to let the banks get away with the crisis they gleefully helped kick up. At the same time, the austerity measures are slowly removing the ladder of social mobility, preventing people leaving the working classes and slowly squeezing the middle class downwards to increase the padding in the lining of the rich people’s pockets.

    The Occupy protests kicked off to (sort of) highlight this issue. The problem they faced in the US was that the police willingly met them with violence. The problem with the movement in the UK was that it was somewhat headless from the start. They had no plan to really force any changes to be made to the system and worse they ended up encamped around St. Pauls, which doesn’t really represent the finance industries.

  2. Ellie says:

    The march down this road began before this latest government came into power. What we see now is an acceleration.

    People must take responsibility for their actions. If they want to join the tabloids in their demonising of the poor, disabled etc, then they are as culpable as the politicians. Similarly, the people of this country voted for neoliberal, shock doctrine politicians while others refused to vote at all. Those that say there is no point in voting because they are all the same,are telling truth to power in their own way. What they have failed to do is to organise, create their own politics, their own political parties and failed to stand, even as Independents. And those who valued baubles of consumerism over and above their neighbours quality of life (money on baubles or taxes, can’t have both) helped create this society by joining in the never-ending grab for things, for property they never really needed.

    The Media must take responsibility too. They aren’t the lest educated in our society after all. they primary task is to tell truth to power and in so doing, informing the public of the truth. They have been failing to do this for years.

    Just as in Germany enough people willingly walked down the road to hell. It happens all the time. In any country where there is oppression the politicians need to be able to create or find willing citizens to participate in that oppression, willing to accept the oppression of others. Those citizens are adults. They have the responsibility of adults to inform themselves and make their decisions accordingly.

    Many of the poorest in this country have little or no access to the internet, making access to information, to the turth exceptionally difficult. Those with the baubles do have easy access to the internet. Will they use the internet to understand the world or order yet more cheap baubles? Their decision is their responnsibility.

    The unions who claim to fight for workers are responsible for their actions too. Throughout the ongoing neoliberal period we’ve had, did they respond by membership drives? No. They sat their like they always do, calling their members ‘comrade’ and patting each other proudly on the back. And as each worker lost their job and was unable to contine their union membership, what did they unions do? The continued to appreciate their members, the redundant worker forgotten by clocking on time te following Monday morning.

    Civil Society too? Who are they? Where are they? Where have they been over the last few decades?

    The churches? Well, they had a jolly good time as far as I can tell. Not once during the Labour government did they feel the need to defend the working poor, the unemployed by challenging the government. I didn’t see them? Did you?

    And finally, the opposition are responsible for their decisions too. Do they want to challenge this government, our economy or do they want to swarm over Diane Abbott? Each person who identifies themselves as in opposition is responsible for their behaviour, their prioritising of what is the best use of their time. Every week this government expertly provides something to generate ‘opposition hysteria’ leaving the government to carry on destroying our society and our values. And every week the opposition dutifly adopt the convenient ‘hysteria’ faithfully, like little puppy dogs.

    The truth is, many many people took what they wanted and ignored the rest, were more than happy to blame the poor, the unfortunate. This road is the road they were happy to walk along.

    How many of you gladly paid for your education? Gladly played the property game? How many of you muttered about interns yet did nothing to stop it? How many of you have sat there taking money to work for a company you knew was incompetent, cheating or had no morals? How many excused themselves by saying well, the bills have to be paid and so went along with it, didn’t walk out, didn’t blow the whistle or at least attempt to?

    How many sat for hours on end watching trash TV and complained about it, yet not having the gumption to turn it off? Yes, well everyone was watching it, so you had to too, right?

    We are all responsible for this in a million different ways. All of us.

  3. G Wilson says:

    I predict we’ll see:

    – removal of the right to protest within half a mile of Westminster

    – arbitrary use of “anti-terrorist” powers to suppress protest against the government

    – harrassment of journalists who expose government dishonesty in its campaign for war

    – a massive rise in routine state surveillance, often for petty matters

    – more agencies empowered with a right of entry to private homes

    – a drive for compulsory carrying of identity papers

    – government attempting to seize the power to imprison citizens without trial for three months

    – growth of stop-and-search by police, with increased powers

    – the introduction of ever more restrictive “obscenity” laws that will be used to harrass lgbt people

    – increase in direct control by the state of management of private industry

    – attempts to restrict the right to speech found offensive by the religious

    Easy “predictions”, obviously, because that all happened under the last government. No-one should kid themselves that “fascism” is a characteristic of the last two years, or of austerity ecocomics. What we need to ask is why people have been tolerating this erosion for so long, and how it can be reversed – because no political party is talking convincingly about liberty.

  4. Both the Olympics and Jubilee this year offer fertile ground for a Reichstag fire moment.

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