I have a problem. OK, not personally, but I have a problem with the word fascism and calling people fascists. It occurred to me during the anti-EDL march at the start of the month. I found myself in a group of people carrying placards and shouting “EDL, fascist scum!” And perhaps controversially, I don't think the EDL are fascists.
And I'm not alone. The Hope not Hate website EDL article has this:
“The English Defence League (EDL) is a racist organisation whose main activity is street demonstrations against the Muslim community”, and, “the EDL is not a national socialist or a fascist organisation but that certainly does not mean it is not a right-wing extremist organisation”.
So what does fascism actually mean? Sorry to use Wikipedia, but here we go:
“Fascism is a radical, authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists advocate the creation of a totalitarian single-party state that seeks the mass mobilization of a nation through indoctrination, physical education, and family policy including eugenics. Fascists seek to purge forces, ideas, and systems deemed to be the cause of decadence and degeneration and produce their nation's rebirth based on commitment to the national community based on organic unity where individuals are bound together by supra-personal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood. Fascists believe that a nation requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong”.
Now, while many members of the EDL may hold some, or all, of these views, the EDL does not have an over-arching ideology that makes it fascist. I'd argue that it doesn't have an over-arching ideology at all. The EDL is an extreme reactionary organisation – it protests against things, but very rarely for things. The EDL does not offer a program for the future, just a rose tinted view of the past.
And that rose tinted view of the past is shared, promoted and mourned for by many sectors of British society.
So what about neo-fascism? Again, to go to Wikipedia:
“Neo-fascism usually includes nationalism, anti-immigration policies or, where relevant, nativism, anti-communism, and opposition to the parliamentary system and liberal democracy”.
That gets us somewhat closer. But again, we come up against the non-ideology of the EDL. Personally, neo-fascism seems a fitting description of the BNP. This is particularly true when we look at the “anti-liberal democracy” charge, as by liberal democracy the neo-fascist is (generally speaking) against the sort of democracy and liberalism that your average Guardian reader would be signed up to.
So if the EDL is a racist, nationalist, Islamaphobic, reactionary, hooligan, violent, drunken, misguided, moronic, single issue group of badly educated idiots; and the BNP is a defunct, mixed up, racist, neo-fascist, nationalist electoral version of the former; what do I mean by “nouveau fascist”?
Nouveau fascism: a real threat
Let us never forget that the Nazi Party in Germany drew the majority of its membership from the German middle classes. (And, by the way, I'm not going to define here the difference between Nazis and fascists)
In Britain today, especially given the “economic situation” and the anti-European, anti-immigration and general demonisation of anyone claiming anything from the state, whether unemployed, disabled or receiving housing benefit or other tax relief; there is a worrying trend in the media and public opinion towards what can be described as fascist tendencies.
Maybe it's because we live on a relatively small island. Maybe its because we are a washed up imperial power with an over-inflated opinion of our own history. Maybe our rose tinted “all in it together” spirit of the blitz and 1950's nostalgia, where men went to work and women were good housewives and mothers, has brainwashed us all.
Britain could find itself in a difficult situation. Labour's “squeezed middle” lends itself to nouveau fascism. Conservative “little Englander” Big Society lends itself to nouveau fascism. 90% of the media would jump on the nouveau fascist bandwagon and take the public along with it.
And what do I mean by “nouveau” fascism?
It's that respectable Daily Mail/Express blame everyone and everything apart from capitalism and me mentality. It's the “make Britain Great again” nonsense. It's the pro-cuts, pro-big business, get Britain working again rubbish. It's the “Help for Heroes” mentality.
And I suppose it can be summed up in that truly chilling phrase “British jobs for British workers”.