inequality
‘He’s taught in his school from the start by the rule / that the laws are with him to protect his white skin. / To keep up his hate so he never thinks straight / about the shape that he’s in. / But it ain’t him to blame / he’s only a pawn in their game.’ 

 
This column has consistently warned that we are returning to the politics of the 1930’s. The dominant theme of that era was the rise of Fascism in Europe, notably in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and an extreme version in Germany. In addition, both France and GB flirted with the idea before seeing the error of their ways. 

Fascism, populism, call it what you wish flourishes in times of economic crisis and, post 2008, nationalist parties in Europe have become more prominent due to issues such as austerity and immigration. 

Linguist Ruth Wodak (1), in an article published in March 2014 found that European populists were succeeding for different reasons in different countries. She divided these political parties into 4- groups: 
 

  • Those which gain support in countries with  fascist and Nazi pasts,  e.g., Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Romania 
  • Parties which ‘focus primarily on a perceived threat from Islam, e.g., the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland 
  • Parties which restrict their propaganda to a perceived threat to their national identities from ethnic minorities, e.g., Hungary, Greece, Italy, and the UK. 
  • Parties which endorse a fundamentalist Christian conservative-reactionary agenda, e.g., Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria 

 
There are several recent examples of extreme right-wing parties finding electoral success: 
 

  • Slovenia, June 2018; of the 90 members elected, the country’s two nationalist, far-rightist parties, The Slovenian National Party won 25-seats and Slovenian Democratic Party won 4, a total of 29 seats an increase of 8 in 2014.  
  • Estonia, March 2019; The Conservative People’s Party of Estonia had the largest overall gain winning 19 seats up from 7 previously. Its public support is on the rise, according to opinion polls. 
  • Spain, 2019; Vox won 24-seats in the April election, this rose to 52 in the November election. Its public support is on the rise, according to results of subsequent regional elections, and opinion polls. 

 
Writing in El Pais, the Spanish philosopher Josep Ramoneda described the endorsement as a sign that ‘we are in a regressive phase of European democracy.’  
 

  • Hungary, April 2022; of the 199 seats in the National Assembly, two nationalist parties, the Fidesz-Christian Democratic People’s Party of PM Viktor Orban won 135-seats, and the Our Homeland Movement won 7. 142 out of 199 seats are now held by nationalist parties. 

 

  • Sweden, September 2022; the leader of Sweden’s incumbent Social Democrats resigned as ceding power to a loose bloc of right-wing parties including the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) which is now Sweden’s second-largest party, winning more than 20% of the poll. 

 
The SD leader, Jimmie Åkesson, wrote on Facebook; ‘We have had enough of failed social democratic policies that for eight years have continued to lead the country in the wrong direction. It is time to start rebuilding security, welfare and cohesion. It is time to put Sweden first.’  

The SD emerged from Sweden’s violent neo-Nazi groups in the late 1980s, and present themselves as a socially conservative party aiming to defend Swedish national traditions and culture. Stopping immigration from non-European countries is one of their main policy’ and was key to their electoral success.  
 
net zero esg investing
 
Source: https://www.statista.com/chart/6852/right-wing-populisms-enormous-potential-across-europe/ 
 
Italy goes to the polls on the 25th of this month, and Giorgia Meloni, a former minister in a centre-right government, is likely to become the country’s first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini. Her coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi is an old and loyal friend of Vladimir Putin; another of her electoral allies, Matteo Salvini, also admires the Russian demagogue and fulminates against immigrants and the European Union. Together, this coalition is currently polling with 48% of the expected vote 

Meloni opposes gay marriage and abortion rights for women, and like her far-right contemporaries, she is obsessed with eradicating ‘wokeness, saying, ‘I see cancel culture fanatics in our institutions tearing down statues, tampering with books and comics, changing street names, accusing a shared history that they would like to rewrite.’ 

Across the Atlantic Trump’s malign influence still dominates the Republican party. On the 6 January, the first anniversary of the attack on the US Capitol, President Biden, without naming names, said, ‘We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie. 

Polls show a country still divided, with > 40% of Americans believing that civil war is at least somewhat likely in the next decade. This increases to > 50% among self-identified ‘strong Republicans’, according to research by YouGov and the Economist. 

Biden used a primetime ‘soul of the nation’ speech earlier this month to deliver the starkest warning of his long career about the danger of Trump – whom he did name this time, – extremist ‘Maga’ (Make America great again) Republicans and political violence. 

This is a nation that rejects violence as a political tool. We are still, at our core, a democracy. Yet history tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and the willingness to engage in political violence is fatal in a democracy.’ 

The speech was part of a new, aggressive line of attack undertaken by Biden on Republicans ahead of the midterm elections, as his party enjoys a brightening political outlook helped by a string of significant legislative wins and building public backlash to the supreme court’s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion. 

Polls suggest that a majority of Republicans do not believe Biden is the legitimately elected president. Election deniers are running for office, securing the nominations for crucial posts with power over how future elections will be conducted. State and local elections officials have become targets of harassment and threats. 

The speech did err on the side of optimism as Biden drew a distinct line between Maga and mainstream Republicans. The former he cast as a weird rebel sect that opposes the rule of law, seeks to overturn elections and revels in violence, saying: 

Donald Trump and the Maga Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic. Now, I want to be very clear up front: not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans, are Maga Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know, because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.’ 

‘But there’s no question that the Republican party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the Maga Republicans and that is a threat to this country.’ 

Like Johnson and Truss, the Republicans have been purging the party of naysayers. Trump and the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, both extremists, are the two leading contenders for the party nomination in 2024. There is no moderate alternative with any reasonable chance. 

Although Biden still seems to believe that Maga is being enforced from the top down, there are  millions of grassroots Republicans who believe the false conspiracy theories and vote for extremist midterm candidates. 

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News network did not show the full speech and, far-right host Tucker Carlson, the most watched primetime figure on cable news, said: ‘This is by far Biden’s most shameful moment.’ 

The network’s 9pm bulletin added, ‘Biden vilifies millions of Americans. 

Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader and  Trump ally, delivered a ‘pre-buttal’ to the president’s address from Biden’s birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in which he accused Biden of ‘doing everything in his power to crush America’s soul‘ and demanded an apology from the president for accusing Republicans of being beholden to a philosophy of ‘semi-fascism‘. 

Looking at the UK where we now have the most right-wing government in my lifetime, it is interesting to read what people in the US think of us. 

Firstly, our influence continues to fall. Their media summarised Truss’s task as: 
 

  • New York Times; one of reckoning with ‘a time of crisis for Britain‘  
  • CNN; ‘a country in crisis‘, 

 

  • NBC; Britain’s ‘deepening crisis‘, 
  • On NPR, analysts asked: ‘what broke Britain’s economy?’ 

 
Aside from our economy the broader opinion of Truss wasn’t great: 

In the New York Times, Truss was described as ‘a party stalwart, hawkish diplomat and free-market champion’ with a ‘practical, unfussy style [that] could appeal to Britons after the circuslike atmosphere of the Johnson years‘.  

The Washington Post sought cheerfully to present her as a step-up from Johnson, ‘a prime minister known for colourful metaphors and a loose relationship with the truth‘ to ‘one who offered unadorned bullet points for dealing with the country’s looming economic crisis’.  

In the Wall Street Journal, John Bolton, former national security adviser to Trump offered the opinion that ‘Liz Truss may be just the prime minister America needs.’ 

One area that we do trail the US on is their police treatment of black people. 

Black people, who account for 13 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 27 percent of those fatally shot and killed by police in 2021, according to Mapping Police Violence, a non-profit group that tracks police shootings. That means Black people are twice as likely as white people to be shot and killed by police officers. (2) 

Whereas, in the UK 35 Black men who have been killed either while in police custody or after contact with the police since Mark Duggan’s death in 2011. Many of these men died after the ‘use of force’. 

Immigration and race are still contentious issues in the UK. Brexit was partly driven by this and nationalistic behaviour is rife. 

Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll of 12,369 voters found that ‘33% [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving ‘offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.’ (3) 

According to The Economist, areas that saw increases of over 200% in foreign-born population between 2001 and 2014 saw a majority of voters back leave in 94% of case. (4) 

In addition to immigration, there was a feeling of ‘being left behind’ among ‘Leave’ voters, not just economically, but socially with policies such as gay marriage offending them. 

This led to the Brexiters champion, Boris Johnson, becoming PM. He will be remembered for trying to illegally prorogue parliament, tearing up an international treaty over Northern Ireland, and his general contempt for democracy norms and the rule of law. However, some of our most prominent politicians and journalists continue to sing his praises. 

Truss may not quite sink to Johnson’s level, but she is hard-right and has already attacked ‘wokeness’ in the British Civil Service and the police, to the delight of the press. 

Also, the wealth gap that first started to expand under Thatcher in the 1980’s was turbo-charged by the twin policies of austerity and quantitative easing. 

Unfortunately the Tory’s seem hell bent on pursuing policies that will ensure the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. 

Our new Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, has been described as ‘a man so fond of his own voice that his ears have been given a redundancy notice.’ 

Evidence of just how deaf he is came in this week proposal to scrap the Banker Bonus Cap imposed by the EU following the GFC. He argues it will make London a more attractive place to base financial businesses.  

Unite leader Sharon Graham, wrote on Twitter: ‘Workers will be appalled and angry at these plans. When millions are struggling to feed their families and keep the lights on, the @GOVUK’s priority appears to be boosting the telephone number salaries of their friends in the city. Britain’s economy is now dominated by rampant profiteering. Removing the cap on bankers’ bonuses will make that worse. Last year Britain’s banks made £45.6 billion of profits. So the Chancellor’s signal to the city is ‘let it rip’ further and further, while the Bank of England lectures workers about pay restraint. You could not make it up.’ 

In conclusion the political and economic outlook provides plenty of ammunition for the hard-right. As growth slows, inflation rises, heat waves and floods become routine, energy shortages loom, and more and more citizens feel helpless before such changes, right-wing parties in western Europe and the US are likely to become more prevalent. 

They may offer few new solutions for the destructive economic and environmental crises, however they will continue to stoke the fires of channel social by revisiting their traditional playbook of racism, religion and ethnicity, and retailing myths of national greatness. 
 

‘Come quietly to the camp
You’d look nice as a drawstring lamp
Don’t you worry, it’s only a shower
For your clothes, here’s a pretty flower’

 
Notes: 

  1. Ruth Wodak FAcSS (born 12 July 1950 in London) is an Austrian linguist, who is Emeritus Distinguished Professor and Chair in Discourse Studies in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University and Professor in Linguistics at the University of Vienna. 
  2. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/report-black-people-are-still-killed-police-higher-rate-groups-rcna17169
  3. How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and why – Lord Ashcroft Polls’. lordashcroftpolls.com. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2016. 
  4. ‘Explaining the Brexit vote’. The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 

 
 
Wow, it’s BOG OFF this week from Philip, as he reats us to a one-off he ‘had been planning to write for the last 3-weeks but events kept overtaking me’.

The rise of Fascism post the GFC, and a return to the politics of the 1930’s are themes that have been consistent throughout the life of Philip’s column, and he brings things up to date in the most brutal fashion; its not pretty, but it’s well argued, and totally recognisable:

‘Now, with Trump still making headlines, we have Sweden already turning right and Italy seems set to follow. People may dismiss some of the Balkan and Eastern European countries I feature in the article, but fascism continues to find favour.

The conditions, such as economic and environmental crises, are ideal for hard-right parties to prevail. They give the lowest common denominator what they want; something, or someone to blame.

This is no different to previous and we are heading down the same path with our eyes wide shut; if there is an “X” factor in all of this it could be China.

Irrespective it isn’t going to be pretty.

Lyrically, we start with Bob Dylan, “Only A Pawn in Their Game” from 1964, and play out with the scary “California Über Alles” by the Dead Kennedys.

Enjoy, if you can!

 
@coldwarsteve
 

 
Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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