“ It hardly needs pointing out that at this moment we are in a very serious mess, so serious that even the dullest-witted people find it difficult to remain unaware of it ” - George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
Orwell writing in 1937 was concerned about the prospect of Fascism coming to the UK. At the time, the continent of Europe was dominated by Fascists in Germany, Italy, Spain and a number of smaller countries.
As I write in 2017, there is a Fascist in the White House and across the Channel another Fascist is in the run-off to become president of France.
It is not necessary to carry out mass murder as Hitler did to qualify as a Fascist.
There is no single accepted definition of Fascism. This five part test can be helpful.
A Fascist leader:-
1. is contemptuous of the democratic process.
2. is contemptuous of the rule of law.
3. stigmatises and persecutes minorities.
4. lies and fabricates; undermines and threatens those who tell the truth; uses hyper-nationalistic language.
5. regards himself or herself as the source of all “legitimate power”.
Orwell warned that if Fascism came to the UK it might not at first look or feel like Fascism at all - although he expected it to become more recognisable as time went on.
“English Fascism, when it arrives, is likely to be of a sedate and subtle kind (presumably, at any rate at first, it won’t be called Fascism)…”
“…Fascism is coming; probably a slimy Anglicised form of Fascism, with cultured policemen instead of Nazi gorillas and the lion and the unicorn instead of the swastika.”
In 1937 the British Establishment with a few exceptions - like Orwell and Winston Churchill - far from opposing Fascism, favoured appeasement of Nazi Germany. The press and the BBC duly reflected that Establishment opinion. (Churchill complained in 1938 that he had been “muzzled by the BBC”.)
In 2017, the UK faces another threat of Fascism. The Establishment - which largely retains control over the media and the narrative heard by the British people - does not even recognise such a threat. It is preoccupied with the danger (to itself) of Socialism.
The Establishment have been attacking the Socialist Jeremy Corbyn with an extraordinary intensity for the last two years. He has been vilified, traduced and misrepresented daily in almost the entire media. All this has been done by the finest minds in journalism, PR and advertising and, unsurprisingly, he will probably be crushed.
Meanwhile, the Tory party has adopted the policies and the rhetoric of the once-fringe racist UKIP.
Theresa May is clearly comfortable with Fascists. She can be expected to embrace Marine Le Pen warmly, in the event that she is elected president of France today. She famously held hands with Trump and she then flew straight from the USA to meet Erdogan who has locked up record numbers of Turkish journalists and lawyers who have had the temerity to oppose him.
It is likely that the British people will be subject to huge turmoil in the years after the current election. Scotland - and even Northern Ireland - may leave the Union. Brexit - and the likely failure of the negotiations - will probably mean that the rump of the UK will face a severe economic crisis for the many (while the few at the top continue to prosper).
The people who will have caused the crisis - the Tories, the press-barons and the rest - will naturally cast around for scapegoats to blame. The likely targets will be Muslims, foreigners, and the poor.
The Tories under May have crushed opposition. Not only political opposition but also other types which are essential for a properly functioning democracy.
The British media’s performance during this election campaign is evidence of just how far it has become subservient to the Establishment. Incredibly, it seems likely May will win this election without facing any real scrutiny. She has refused to take part in TV debates or to take questions from the public or from anyone except for a few favoured interviewers. The media is hardly challenging this insult to democracy and is failing shamefully in its democratic duty of holding the powerful to account.
Meanwhile, in the legal system, the Tories have made it more difficult to challenge them in the courts and have targeted law firms which have been at the forefront of bringing such challenges. And when judges, doing their job and interpreting the law, were vilified as “enemies of the people” in the press, the government said nothing.
And - chillingly - a year or two ago, the Tories passed the most invasive legislation on mass surveillance in the Western world.
The temptation for the Tories to slide into Orwell’s “sedate and subtle” Fascism, when faced with unrest, will be great. Power corrupts, let alone absolute power.
Of course, there is also another different danger of Fascism in the UK. A demagogue may arise and say that the “hope” that the likes of Corbyn offered failed and instead they will offer the far more intoxicating brew of “hate”.
I am scared where this will all end.