This evening, Nick Griffin, the leader of Britain’s neofascist British National Party, makes his debut on the BBC’s flagship panel discussion show, Question Time. A former Cabinet Minister (and longtime anti-apartheid campaigner), Peter Hain, is leading the charge against providing Griffin with such a platform. Others (including me) think that in a society based on free speech, the best approach to the BNP is to shine a bright light on it and expose its shameful policies for what they are – but worry that the format, presenter and panellists on tonight’s show will provide the party with a platform without managing to dissect and rebut its policies effectively.
Either way, the one must-read I’ve seen this week on emerging fascism comes from John Michael Greer on the other side of the Atlantic. Greer expresses fury at “the insistence, so often heard from radicals of the left and right alike, that America is a fascist state”. None of the wingnuts who make these wild claims really need fear being dragged out of their beds at night to ‘disappear’ into a mass grave, he observes – “and for today’s smug and pampered American radicals to wrap themselves in the mantle of victims of fascism, while relying on civil rights no fascist system grants its citizens, displays a profound disrespect for those who have actually suffered under totalitarian regimes”.
Imagine, he suggests, what fascism might really look like in America. Imagine:
that sometime in the next year or so you start hearing media reports about a rising new figure in American politics. He’s young and charismatic, a military veteran who won the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery under fire, and heads a vigorous new third party that looks as though it might just be able to break the stranglehold of the established parties on the political system. Some of his ideas come straight from the fringes, and he’s been reported to have said very negative things about Arabs and Islam, but he’s nearly the only person in American public life willing to talk frankly about the difficulties Americans are facing in an era of economic collapse, and his party platform embodies many of the most innovative ideas of the left and right. Like him or not, he offers the one convincing alternative to business as usual in an increasingly troubled and corrupt system.
Would you vote for him?
One of the problems with the continual use of fascism as a bogeyman by political extremists is that it becomes far too easy to forget how promising fascism looked in the 1920s and 1930s to many good people disgusted with the failings of their democratic governments.
But what really stands out in his piece is the observation that “such a figure could as easily emerge from the left as from the right” – perhaps even, he suggests, from communities like the peak oil or anti-globalisation scenes, which are rapidly losing faith in the capacity of mainstream politics to achieve results. Continue reading