My relationship with fascism is lifelong and till now nothing to do with milkshakes. My father came of age in Hungary during the Second World War. He remembered the Nazis taking over in 1944. Jewish families in his village were rounded up. My grandfather looked after items of value belonging to them so they had something to come back to when they returned. Not all of them did.
Fast forward to me coming of age during the 1980s in the liberal “First World.” The idea of fascism was just plain daft as far as I saw it. Ridiculous. As I got drawn to the left, I noticed people would say things like: “Never again!” I saw it merely as a nod to tradition, nothing more. Why would it be otherwise?
(Naive, I know!)
Fast forward again to the mid-2000s I was living in a communal dank basin in Splott that Eggsy from the Goldie Lookin Chain likened to a Taliban spy hole when he came to get interviewed there by a mate. This dank cellar was where I started to find out about this weird thing called the Interweb. It was an exciting time to be a musician. The idea that you could record and release your own stuff without record labels had started to become a reality. Then MySpace happened, hastening the process on.
The dark side of all this became apparent, however, in the said cellar one night when I clicked on what looked to my like a fascist profile. I then scrolled through one profile after another of fascist claptrap on this early social network. I was blown away. I was scared. And I felt sick. What’s wrong with these people? Where did all that come from? Did it ever go away?
A few years later and I ended up sufficiently motivated to help organise against the upcoming BNP. A satirical song about them followed on one of my albums together with an accompanying daft video. The BNP were wiped off the map, but were quickly followed by the EDL. Again, I was out in earnest with antifascists mobilising. Another daft satirical song and video followed about that lot.
Out went the EDL and in came UKIP. Couldn’t be arsed with dealing with them and therefore no daft song. And now they’ve been overtaken somewhat by the Brexit party. But what I’ve noticed is that while I’m still singing my plinky-plonky anti-fascist songs somewhat inconsequentially into the Interweb, people like Tommy Robinson, formerly of the EDL, and Nigel Farage are now household names. As each of these monstrosities rises and falls, another takes its place leaving poisonous trails in their wake, seasoned by sections of the media who’ve been drip feeding racism into the country’s body politic like – forever. It’s like an endless game of far-right whack-a-mole.
Not so funny now, eh?
But I know what some of you are saying. UKIP and the Brexit party may be many things, but fascist?? Even I’m too much of a political nerd to call them that. Yet. But let’s go back to my father.
In the early 1990s, he and my mother went out of curiosity to see an up-and-coming Hungarian politician called Viktor Orban speak in London. He was the fresh face of the new, liberal Hungary that was going to rise from the ashes of Communism, which had been laid to rest there in 1989. Oh, but hang on. That’s the same Viktor Orban who is in charge in Hungary now, systematically taking down democracy bit by bit. What happened there?
Is it too much to bring Morrissey at this point? Fuck it, I’m on a roll.
In the ‘90s, Mozzer would flirt with fascist and racist positions in such a way that if you didn’t look closely, you’d think: “No! Morrissey, a racist? A fascist? That cannot be!” And now look. He’s openly backing Britain First. Hmmm.
Can you are the pattern emerging here?
(At this point I have to mention my mate Ashli who runs Spillers record here in Cardiff, the oldest record store in the world. She’s a hero to me as she’s refused to stock Morrissey’s new album. Cue the whinging about free speech in some quarters now – zzzz!)
I’ve never wanted to be the kind of stupid lefty who shouts “FASCIST” at the parkie trying to shoo everyone out the park at closing time. Or go on about a police state when a traffic warden writes me a ticket.
But, let’s face it, this the calm before the storm. Sunday is results day for the European elections. The news coming in about EU nationals being turned away from polling booths should sharpen the mind of switched-on people like a canary in a mine. All I can think about when I look around is frogs in hot water. Aren’t animal metaphors wonderful?
Let me be clear. I’m not saying that there will be jackboots on the street and democracy will be shut down on Monday. And if we want to get nerdy, fascism may not be the actual endgame. But the water is slowly heating and as far as I can make out the gas is just about to put up discernibly higher.
Right, I’m going to sign off now, but before you accuse me of being too grim (or indeed unhinged), I’ll let you know that I’m sharing with you some extensive quotes. Not from me, I hasten to add, but from a Turkish journalist called Ece Temelkuran. Her books about the populist right are scary but also inspiring in that they can help us make sense of what is going on right now. And right now naming and explaining is the first step in understanding what is in store, and what we can do about it. Go and check her out if you haven’t already.
“…fascism isn’t when the bad guys suddenly materialise and kick the living daylights out of the good guys. Fascism is the gradual loss of humanity. The progression is so slow and slight as to be invisible to the naked eye.
Of all the disasters, fascism is the most adept shape-shifter. Although the appearance and character of this old acquaintance have been described to us thousands of times over, whenever it approaches we fail to recognise it at a distance. By the time it draws near and introduces itself, it’s too late. For it harbours a secret that corrupts everything it touches. Not kills, corrupts …like mildew and humidity.
Fascism spreads out over time. It does this by creating a hesitation reminiscent of a hypothermia-induced sleep. Phrases such as “Could it be?”, “Let’s just wait it out”, “Maybe it won’t be as bad as we think” slowly numb us. It is the greatest illusionist of our times. It has the ability to make the bad look like the good. At certain points in history, this ability combines with a veneer that makes invisible the unbearably awful elements of its constitution. Although justice is invariably sought, and a few scapegoats are rounded up after enough time has passed, the malevolent ghost of fascism is never completely banished from our planet.
Fascism doesn’t kill people from the outset; it transforms them. Its victory is in its facility to change what people are made of. Respect for one’s fellow man is the first thing to go. The game begins when the process of legitimisation that engenders compliance and renders cruelty acceptable is initiated in the minds of the majority. For compliance, the nation’s people must already be on the road to madness. World history has shown is that when the character of humanity is in disarray, entire societies can fall ill and take to their beds, never to get up again.”
‘ “The ideological victory of [sacred victimhood] lies in its ability to mobilise the negative energy of the masses…into a higher level of politics, to propagate the optimistic belief that societal negativity will find its solution in a greater cause [e.g. Brexit]…through the promise of victory in the future…transforming dissident energy in favour of the great ideal…that they can internalise on a spiritual level…’ (Fethi Açikel)
Prior to his rise to power, and following it, the Prime Minister also kept mentioning a historical victimisation, the state of collective victimisation. “THEY,” he would begin, “didn’t take us seriously..they held us back…they scorned and degraded us.”
..[J]ust as in the article above, he postponed that bright day …And at the same time …he impoverished already bereft masses through the most savage capitalist policies…’
Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy