We Can Learn Something from the Fascists…

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In light of recent events in the UK Government this week, particularly Theresa May’s speech and the issue of fracking in Lancashire, there are two groups of people I feel the most sorry for.

First, my grandparents’ generation because they sacrificed so much in fighting fascists in Europe now only to find themselves in a country that is showing early signs of following the very policies that created totalitarian states in the early 20th Century. Secondly, I feel sorry for my children’s generation who have inherited a world not of their making. A world created by the narrow mindedness, bigotry and lack of intelligence shown by my generation.
If you don’t believe me or think I am overreacting, consider this. Nazism flourished through a process of demonizing outsiders through propaganda, restricting their rights within Germany,  then forcing them to be identified as something different. Nazism was made more powerful by shutting down local governments and moving to a more centralised model so it could control all policies. It changed its school curriculum to reflect it’s own values. It shut down workers who wanted better pay and conditions.
Have I mentioned anything here that the current Tory Government are NOT doing right now?
The most alarming part of this is the fact that the Nazi government took power because a large bunch of people supported them,  but an equally large bunch of people did nothing to stop them.
That’s how dictatorships evolve. Not through evil people taking control of a country by force, but through a slow erosion of the principles we used to hold up as valuable while people stand by and watch and just say “Oh, well, that’s just the way it is.”
If we can learn anything from the Nazis it is this… IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS. THIS IS NOT THE WAY IT IS.

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35 responses to “We Can Learn Something from the Fascists…

  1. It’s really tiring when people’s comments are three times the length of the original blog ;-), so I’ll just say this…
    There are some clear parallels between the rise of German fascism in the 1920s and 30s and the rhetoric being used by the likes of the Leave campaign and the current government. For example, the scapegoating of immigrants as being the main cause of economic and social problems when the reality was the political and economic mismanagement of previous governments. Also, the simplistic appeal that we must take back control in order to restore national dignity and economic prosperity.
    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the Tories are about to embark on a holocaust, but to deny that there are echoes of fascist propaganda is to bury one’s head in the sand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I see bigotry……on all sides. I see those that have and those that don’t. I brushes and tar. I see attempts to curtail free speech……I see virtual book burning. I see that some lives matter more than others. I see a world inside a world, insulated from perspective. Crawling up its own arse.

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  3. I am not sure how this could be any more simplistic and propagandist an analysis. It’s the last refuge of someone without a real counter-argument to conflate what is happening in the UK right now with Nazi Germany.

    “First, my grandparents’ generation because they sacrificed so much in fighting fascists in Europe now only to find themselves in a country that is showing early signs of following the very policies that created totalitarian states in the early 20th Century.”

    There was plenty of bigotry in the generation that you were referring to, including suport for Hitler and his policies. As for policies creating totalitarian states, the only example I see is from the anti-Brexit people trying to overturn the decision to leave the EU by insisting on minority rule. This flirting with democracy and undermining it is more typical of what led to move toward totalitarian regimes of the early 20th Century than any poicy the government has chosen to enact or proposed.

    “Secondly, I feel sorry for my children’s generation who have inherited a world not of their making. A world created by the narrow mindedness, bigotry and lack of intelligence shown by my generation.”

    Talk for yourself on all counts, I don’t accept that I or the majority of people in this country are any of those things simply because of the opinions of one person or in fact a self-righteous minority who believe themselves to be in the right despite not being able to win the argument in general elections or referenda. The failure of the left at the moment is not the failure of a generation.

    “Nazism flourished through a process of demonizing outsiders through propaganda, restricting their rights within Germany, then forcing them to be identified as something different.”

    So demonising anyone who disagrees with unrestricted immigration is what then? Just the simple truth? This is not one group pitched against another in the sense you are referring to. Go back to the polling data and look at how every group in society was split on the issue of Brexit, every one of them. My parents are immigrants but that doesn’t mean they or indeed I think that unrestricted immigration is a good thing. There is a world of difference between having a work permit for a specific job and free movement of people. What people like yourself seem to gloss over in your romantic view of this is that free movement also allows people who have committed some fairly heinous crimes to travel around from place to place with impunity. Free movement is great – what even when it allows peodophiles to travel and live in other countries a la Gary Glitter? The EU of course, didn’t differentiate between different groups re: immigration at all… wait it did and even more explicitly on colour as a result of being a European club. We can actually make the laws less racist in this regard.

    What rights have been restricted for which group of people? My partner is Irish and so I do have a stake in how foreign-born people are treated in this country. Nothing has happened in this regard. Again, rights of non-EU citizens were restricted by being part of the EU, leaving the EU extends this to non-British. What is the difference here really is whether we do it at nation level or at a supranational level.

    Having a list of foreign employees and collecting data on this would a not be much of a call for most firms – press filter on the excel sheet containing their employees is as much as most HR departments would have to do. It’s not like they don’t know or don’t have to have the details when making visa applications for example. How is this in anyway shape or form the same as asking individuals to wear identification on their clothing?

    “Nazism was made more powerful by shutting down local governments and moving to a more centralised model so it could control all policies. It changed its school curriculum to reflect it’s own values. It shut down workers who wanted better pay and conditions.”

    Local governments are not being shut down, just because some of the powers have been centralised. By a party who won the election outright in a free and fair election in a first past the post system that was chosen rather than a PR system only a few years ago in another referedum that met the criteria, like the election, of being free and fair. Did I miss the Conservative Brownshirts intimidating people to voting for them or the daily violence and intimidation this paramilitary group exert on the population as a whole?

    The government is trying to reflect the values of society as a whole. I await your objection to the way that teacher training institutions have imposed their quasi-Marxist values on the education system with bated breath. Not a single election has been won by a group that espouses those values and ideas and yet they imbue the education system – that isn’t totalitarian?

    Shutting down which workers? Restricting the right to strike is not the same as eliminatng it. Why should a union be able to strike, as the NUT did, when only 10% of it’s members voted in the first place?

    “Nazi government took power because a large bunch of people supported them, but an equally large bunch of people did nothing to stop them. That’s how dictatorships evolve. Not through evil people taking control of a country by force, but through a slow erosion of the principles we used to hold up as valuable while people stand by and watch and just say “Oh, well, that’s just the way it is.”

    Again this is ignorance of the political system in Germany in the 1930s, the UK right now and what constitutes a free and fair election.

    The only person advocating minority rule based on self-righteousness – which is what the Nazi’s were all about – is you. So who is really behaving like a fascist in this scenario and underminining the democratic system?

    If you want to make this argument then please ensure that it is restricted to those who have never studied Europe in the 1930s. Only ignorance of this period could lead to any acceptance or agreement with your point of view on this matter.

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    • I agree that my approach is quite simplistic and emotive. I have studies the 1930s in a lot of depth and I understand that the rise of Nazism is a very complex issue… far more complex than the points I have made. However, in saying that, there are huge elements of government action which are very worrying. Brexit aside (I did not mention Brexit at all in my article) the rhetoric which is coming out of the Tory Party is extremely worrying. The idea of businesses registering foreign workers? The complete disregard of the decisions made by a local council on environmental issues? This is the party that claims it is trying to do the right thing. I doubt that very much. Their agenda is more right wing than Thatcher! And if you don’t recognise that workers are NOT being shut down then you are totally blind to what is happening to the public services in the UK. The context today is very different but the pattern of rhetoric remains the same. I have no idea how you can accuse my views as being anything like the Nazis. If you cannot see bigotry in the UK then you are very blinded by what is happening right now and the reputation Britain is getting from abroad.

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      • I studied the 1930s too hence the fact that I made the points that I did and would not conflate the UK right now with the Nazi regime.

        Businesses register all their employees and have details including their nationality. There is nothing dodgy about this. I am not sure why the government wants the companies to have a list given that they have data from national insurance anyway. There is a criticism to be made but not the one you are making.

        Fracking and placing boundaries on when strikes can happen (and why should they with less than 50% of the workers actually calling it in the first place?) are perfectly legitimate policies to put in place. You can disagree with them without invoking the dead of the concentration camps.

        I am from an ethnic minority – I am hardly blind to the prejudice in this country but dealing with it involves a lot more understanding of the country as it is in to tackle these problems.

        It’s shameful to invoke the dead of the concentration camps when what you need is an well-thought out, considered argument against policies you disagree with. You live in a free country where you can argue openly – use the freedom wisely if you want to change things.

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      • Thanks for your response. I think you are mistaking what might be legitimate policy with policy that is ethically and morally right. The fracking issue is a good example of how the Government have completely over ruled that will of a local community for their own ends. That should not be the actions of a democratic or a free country. Secondly, my comparison with Nazism does not hinge on the Holocaust as you suggest. I have never suggested for a moment that the Tory Government would do something like this and I think you lack some understanding of my argument if you accuse moment of using the dead of the Holocaust to highlight my example. I have much more respect for humanity than that. What I am standing by here is the fact that the rhetoric used by the current government is dangerous and worrying for the future and that we should learn from the past when governments throughout history used a similar rhetoric to justify their positions.

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      • What is ethically and morally right according to you is not necessarily what is ethically and morally right. That’s an opinion.

        Politicians using rhetoric is nothing new and to jump to the comparison with the Nazi’s is going to invoke all the of the horrors that they committed. You know that – that’s you using rhetoric yourself to make a point!

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      • Yes, it is an opinion. You’re right. But it is an opinion based on what a free and just society is built upon. Just recently we now have our government rejecting any Brexit advice from foreign academics. The rhetoric of this suggests that the expertise of a foreigner should be dismissed on the grounds that they are simply foreign? If that doesn’t sniff of fascist leanings, then you are truly blind to what is going on here. Secondly, you accused me of taking a simplistic approach in my first commentary, but it seems for you that everything with a discussion about Nazi policy comes down to the Holocaust, which it does not. It is possible to make comparisons to the rise of a particular right wing party without centering the discussion on a policy they enacted towards the end of their reign. What worries me more here is the normalization of such right wing policies which the Tories have been developing for some time. Reducing the voices of ‘outsider’ academics. Suggesting research is reviewed by government before it is published. Adopting a more jingoistic approach to the school curriculum. Blaming economic failings on immigrants or outsiders. All these things smell of an extreme right wing policies which I believe are morally wrong. History would probably agree with me on that count.

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      • While I accept not all opinions are equal, they are still just that opinions.

        There are already jobs within the civil service that are for UK nationals only and I can’t think of a country in the world that does not have similar rules for certain roles in the Foreign Office in particular and the intelligence services specifically. So if that is one of your criteria for fascism then please panic more as the whole world is fascist.

        The comparison with the Nazi’s is false at every level, the Conservatives are not a new party, they are not a minority government which has turned into a dictatorship “normalising” right wing policies. They are elected representatives and members of the party that won power outright.

        In terms of Brexit there is no need to normalise anything, the majority voted for it, after also voting for the party that offered the referendum for it in the first place. You have not indicated how any of those elections were less than free and fair. So now a party representing who won a majority enacting the the decision of the majority is illegitimate because it doesn’t meet your moral criteria? Do you think it is similarly legitimate for a Christian to adopt your attitudes on the issue of gay marriage because they find it morally objectionable? Or do they have to respect the decision of the majority of the country?

        The idea that immigration is only an issue for racists is ridiculous. Ethnic minorities, including people who had immigrated themselves, were split on the issue and for many immigration was an issue as far as their local communities are concerned. The idea that unless you are for open borders, you are a fascist is extreme. My parents came here on work permits for specific jobs, why should I or they support limitless immigration? How does that even make sense? Where I live is a non-white majority city and even though it voted to remain, the percentage of those voting to leave could not have been made up of white British people alone. It had to consist of different ethnic groups too.

        They have not asked to review research, they asked to be informed about it. As for a more jingoistic approach to the school curriculum – I spent a year of my life implementing the new curriculum in my previous school – I don’t consider it jingoistic at all and if it is being taught in that way then that is a failure of subject knowledge. If you are including British Values in this – again I would argue the same – I am more than happy to teach it as I don’t think it is necessary to ignore either the good or the bad aspects of British history.

        You seem to be lumping a range of policies together and coming up with a conspiracy theory. You are welcome to it.

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      • Again… I think you miss the point. I was not talking about jobs in the foreign office or the intel community, I’m talking about people who have lived and worked in universities in the uk for years who are now being shut down by government. In addition, I do feel you need correcting on your facts of jobs in British intelligence only being open for British people, which is just plain wrong. Foreign born people have thrived in these jobs for decades.

        But all in all I really think you miss my point. I’m not talking about conspiracy theories, or the slaughter of millions of innocent people… I’m talking about rhetoric which is used to demonize groups of people, make it difficult for credible voices of opposition to be heard, all for the purpose of securing more power to continue this trend. The fact you don’t see this is evidence in itself that it’s working pretty well for them… and they will continue… and only time will tell whether or not it is for the better, but I seriously doubt it will be.

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      • If voices of opposition wish to be credible then they need to make credible arguments.

        The restrictions on applications for certain jobs are real enough – I didn’t say all jobs in those areas just that some of them are. This is the norm in all countries I know about.

        My partner works as a university lecturer and is foreign born, as are many of his colleagues. I find no evidence for your assertions thus far either from his university or the ones he collaborates with.

        There are a lot of assertions here none of which are backed by any evidence. Which foreign born university workers? Which unversities? When have they been shut down?

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      • Thanks for the link. So the fact that this decision was taken by a different prime minister, with a different cabinet earlier this year means that it can be linked directly to a new prime minister who is making a break with that legacy? Not reading every single article as you or indeed even caring about the same issues does not mean I am in a bubble.

        I don’t have to find anything. The person making the argument provides the evidence (if there is any). End of.

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      • There’s a whole range of evidence out there and it’s not entirely my responsibility to present it to those who really don’t want to listen or would just disregard it anyway. I just think that many of us will look back on this period in years to come with an overwhelming sense of shame. How we treat other human beings… how social equality and justice should prevail… these are the things that are under attack right now with the rhetoric being used by our current government. For the first time in my life I am ashamed to be British. Our global reputation is the laughing stock of much of the world. We are securing a reputation as being unkind and xenophobic… none of this can be good. The evidence of this, again, is far to abundant to cite in a blog comments box, but suffice to say that I was involved in a global education project in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and in a survey of attitudes towards British people and British society, the results were shocking. I just think shifting further to the right, which is what Britain and America are seemingly doing right now, is a move that in the long run will be seen as a very negative response to current political, economic and social issues, which goes back to my original point that, despite your rejection of my ideas, as a historian I’m stand firm on the comparisons I have made with the rise of Fascism in the 1920s and 30s.

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      • It is your responsibility to produce the evidence for your arguments. The only reason to shy away from this is because you don’t have it. In which case the honest thing to do is to simply state it’s an opinion.

        All you do is go back to supporting your opinions with other opinions (still not evidence). Except for the fracking issue, which seems fair enough but is hardly directly linked to everything else that is going on. I notice that you haven’t rebutted a single point I made about that it’s link to the current government.

        “As a historian…” really is that your trump card on this? So am I. Now what? You can stand firm all you like, it doesn’t change the fact that I also studied that period in history and British politics.

        As a historian – you should know to back your arguments with evidence and not conjecture. Do better.

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      • Of course it is my opinion… I have always maintained this and I have never said that any disagreement of my opinion is invalid. You seem to think that in order to express my opinion I need to produce a multitude of evidence to support it. As I have said before, the evidence upon which my opinion is based is out there for all to see… many academics and commentators are using it themselves… and the small amount of evidence I have produced, you have dismissed as irrelevant or rejected outright because it is biased. You as a historian should know that all evidence is biased to some extent but that doesn’t render it meaningless. Therefore, as I said before, it seems to be a waste of time producing an abundance of evidence for an audience that simply doesn’t want to listen. How is the fracking issue not directly linked to everything that is going on? It’s a perfect example of how a government totally dismisses the will of the people. You obviously don’t see that. Try talking to the people who campaigned for months on end to fight that issue… that felt they won… only to have this thrown back in their faces with the announcement by the government that theyre going ahead with it anyway. Ask them how they view the actions of government in this context. I think you’d find the evidence there. In addition, you obviously don’t recognise the evidence out there from speeches and policies which all serve to feather the nests of the political elite in the UK. You seem to have strong opinions on this matter and in essence all you have ever done is pick fault with mine. Most of your views are very baseless and I’m quite shocked that a historian of your calibre is swallowing the messages of the political elite at face value. I’m not here to refute every point you make because you’re entitled to them. I just think that you should probably try to understand what is really going on in the western world during this shift to the right and recognise, as many already have, the parallels between the rhetoric of today against the dangerous rhetoric of the past. I express concern with this because it’s not really the way I like to see our world develop. I think my kids deserve better.

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      • There is no point in you producing evidence because I reject it so you don’t have to produce it. How convenient.

        You don’t have to rebut any points I have made, you just would have done if you have had an an argument to make which wasn’t base on shaky ground in the first place.

        It’s a whole massive assumption that I am swallowing what the “elite” have to say and do at face value. You don’t seem to have noticed that the Prime Minister has changed gender nevermind the rest of it.

        If you are going to compare the rhetoric of the past and today, then it is helpful if you actually compare it based on what we know rather than a vague comparison based on your gist of understanding the 1930s and a similar gist of right now. Specifics matter.

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      • Not really. You’re the one that brought in the issue of the PMs gender, which I don’t see a relevant to this discussion at all. Furthermore, to suggest that appointing her was some shift in the right direction for gender politics is to forget something quite significant… May won the position by default because she was the only one barely left standing after the other candidates ate each other alive!!

        We are going around in circles though… at least we agree on that. You seem to want to dismiss my views every step of the way. Even after acknowledging my point about nationality you then accused me of wanting drama. I think any decent person would argue that shutting down the expert opinions of academics based on nationality is extremely bad practice. And I do not think it is dramatic to suggest that doing this systematically is sinister because it fits into a wider narrative of reducing any voice of opposition towards policy and attitude. This is a dangerous path to tread for any society. But again… you’ll dismiss what I say because you reject it all.

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      • It’s relevant insofar as the PM has changed – it’s literally someone of a different gender and therefore would be easy to spot that a different person is in charge. It’s called sarcasm.

        I never said anything about gender politics – not sure where that is coming from.

        Saying that I have accepted points and then conflating that with other comments about that I don’t accept is a choice you are making. I won’t have things attributed to me that I have not said or done. I have not rejected a single thing you have said for the sake of it. I conceded on the point about fracking ages ago in this conversation. It seems to me that you are not willing to believe that any of this can be in good faith. Which is a shame.

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      • In reality none of us really know how all of this will pan out. For the good of my friends, family and everyone in the uk I hope it works out for the better. I think we are probably also influenced by our experiences as well as our academic knowledge on the issues we have discussed. I do welcome all debate… and as much as I struggle to agree with your interpretation of things… I enjoy the discussion.

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      • And I thought I was comparing the rhetoric based on what we know… we know what is being said today just as we know what was said in the 1930s which actually makes a comparison quite easy.

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      • I don’t find the SNP credible on this issue – do you think maybe her desire for an independent Scotland affects her opinions? As a historian you should be evaluating for bias.

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      • We are going round in circles – the government always has selected some people for jobs based on nationality. Whether it is appropriate here is a fair point but to argue that it’s new or sinister misses this issue.

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      • And I thought I was comparing the rhetoric based on what we know… we know what is being said today just as we know what was said in the 1930s which actually makes a comparison quite easy.

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      • People’s nationalities can be an issue it depends on the situation. I would agree with you that it shouldn’t be in this case.

        As for it being sinister – you want the drama here. The British have never veered for extreme political parties on mass – I see no evidence they are doing so now. Should that change I will change my opinion. What I won’t do is blindly accept a comparison with the Nazi’s or rise of fascism. Anymore than I imagine we are heading towards a communist state because Labour have taken a far more leftward turn. Stances can be argued against without the hyperbole.

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