As loud as the liberal commentariat is crying wolf, should we really be making any kind of qualitative comparison between western democracy’s ongoing rightward lurch and the rise of Fascism? Let’s take a deep breath and look closer before we start gatecrashing UKIP meetings shouting ‘never again’.
Take Donald Trump. With the campaign slogan ‘Make America great again’, the deliberate fanning of ethnic tension and strident statements about strengthening the military, there is more than a faint whiff of nazism hanging around his candidacy. But todays US is not post WW1 Germany and to compare an economically, socially challenged America with the pre-Hitler basket case that was the Wiemar Republic is like comparing decomposing sauerkraut and freshly prepared coleslaw. For all Donald Trump’s alarmism the USA is still the planet’s most powerful economic and political entity and, for all its electoral shortcomings, fiercely, unshakably democratic. The xenophobia embodied in Trump will never metamorphose into a Third Reich even in the unlikely event of a Trump presidency.
Despite the rhetoric, France’s Front National; Germany’s anti-immigration AfD and our own UKIP represent a worrying reactionary trend rather than a revolution. This scapegoating populism, so convincingly furthered by the likes of Trump, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage and most recently Frauke Petry in Germany, need to be countered rather than demonised. They are as symptomatic of uncertainty and the World’s econo-political imbalances as Occupy Wall Street, Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain.
Most people, let’s be brutal, have little interest in, nor the time to fully analyse, contemporary politics. If there’s a perceived problem, be it mass migration; social exclusion; a failing NHS; the threats associated with climate change or the latest cuts to the welfare budget they just want to put their name to the simplest solution, their cross on a ballot paper and get on with their lives. This being the case those of us who think of ourselves as progressives must be secure in our own understanding of how the World needs to change and not be afraid to promote that understanding (and, yes, at times to question it) amongst our friends and contemporaries.
The politics of blame is seductive. Let’s not pretend all of us haven’t indulged at some point. Immigrants, Conservatives, religion, the bankers, rap music, the media. All have appeared in the dock. Not believing in magic means not believing in magic bullets. Solutions will be incremental, slow to materialise, sometimes tortuous, involve compromise and must be inclusive by necessity. The politics of us and them serves only the Trumps, the Farages and the Le Pens and their ambitions to wield power. Until we can reconcile ourselves to the idea that us must mean all of us then they’ll continue to dominate the political agenda risking turning uncertainty into real jeopardy.