“We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world, there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way”
~ Charlie Chaplin, from “The Great Dictator”, 1940.
This was Chaplin’s first speaking role, after years of being a silent movie star. It focuses on the plight of the Jewish people in the face of fascism, with a fascist regime headed up by Hynkel, the leader of the fictional land of Tomainia. The premise for the majority highlights the humanity of the Jewish people, compared to the buffoonery and selfishness of the ruling fascists.
The film’s closing speech, partly quoted above is regarded as one of the best speeches in film history, a call for peace and anti-fascism at a time when fascism was rife across Europe.
It is a shame, then, that this speech is more applicable to the modern-day UK than ever.
SNP MP Mhairi Black recently spoke in parliament, where she stated that we must be aware of the country’s move towards “the f-word” – fascism.
I am inclined to agree:
Asylum seekers are being deported to Rwanda. The Human Rights Act is set to be scrapped. The rights to freely vote and protest have been infringed.
DWP civil servants have been given police-like powers to deliver fines upon suspected benefit cheats, no matter whether the person in question has been found to break the law.
The electoral commission is no longer independent and will be brought under government control.
Trans people are not protected under the conversion therapy ban.
The Prime Minister, despite having broken the law during the Covid lockdown period, remains in power.
The Culture Secretary is selling-off Channel 4, on the grounds of “being too high a cost for the taxpayer”, despite not knowing that Channel 4 doesn’t receive public funding.
The Home Secretary wants to reform the Official Secrets Act, to imprison journalists for up to 14 years for “embarrassing the government”.
These only cover some of the worrying decisions made by the current Conservative government – this rap sheet can stretch back 12 years.
I would disagree with Mhairi Black on one point though: we are not sleepwalking into fascism. We are welcoming it with open arms.
Whenever we say “never again”, we are supposed to mean it.
Instead, it’s become a meaningless phrase that we throw about on social media, along with a load of hashtags that are only included to differentiate ourselves as “one of the good ones”.
As I write this, I’m all of 2 minutes through my front door after attending the kill the bill protest.
I’m already under the covers- everything is cold, the flat is cold, I’m cold. The only warmth is the fire in my belly from the huge display of solidarity I just witnessed. People of all ages, classes, ethnicities, genders, sexualities stood on the main street in Leeds (and are doing so around the country in other cities) marching. Not just for ourselves, but for everyone.
One could argue that the roots of patriotism are nourished by the pitter patter rain drops of the individual turning to the storm of people coming together in making our voices heard, and in protesting against our country moving in a direction we do not like. Some would disagree. Those who do have likely never had to protest against a single thing, either happy to let others do it for them or that forefront demographic who will never need to protest against censure because the world is their platform.
The Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing bill is another bill which carries fascist tropes, designed to instil dogged obedience in the nation by removing or curtailing one of our fundamental rights- not, of course, outright criminalising protest but forcing bureaucracy and redundancy into it- those roots we just spoke of, throttled of nourishment by strangulation. Imagine the irony of having to apply to the police to protest against… the police? Imagine being arrested and charged for being a nuisance. Imagine facing years in prison because you blocked a road, shouted too loudly… This legislation is hand stitched by the fascist fingers of Priti Patel to sow discord amongst those who desperately need to protest to be heard and those whose cosseted lives make protest only something to watch, glossy eyed, on the TV.
The biggest irony known at present is that those who have spent two years of pandemia decrying their right to free speech, free faces, free bodies, are nowhere to be seen as our actual rights to live in democracy are threatened.
Standing surrounded by those who also feel the threat of this bill I encountered well spoken older people, students, foreign nationals, trans women, gay men, people of colour – all angry that their ability to speak out critically against a literally criminally inept government seeks to rip away our right to be heard in their flawed system.
I was also surrounded by those who I too often disparage as privileged- the everyman. Many of those at today’s protest were furious at the prospect of more rights being curtailed under the- not so much iron, but) wooden hand of Boris Johnson’s conservatives. He’s taken so much from us in his short tenure with his attack ready home secretary ready to whip out more dangerous legislation.
Ask yourself, regardless of your political alignment, why you would ever happily sign rights that you’re entitled to away.
…and it’s not the first time
It’s mere weeks since the nationality and borders bill slugged through parliament. This bill has disenfranchised a disturbingly enormous proportion of the British populace. Some would say it’s divine right to be born and be a citizen of a realm- but others put in work to become, to naturalise, and to assimilate- and those people who have done so have had an abject lesson presented to them: that the tories will remove that from you at their whim. Even today I read a tweet from a man who has served the UK in his position as a soldier for 22 years- who faces deportation in 28 days.
Now we stand in the face of another bill, draconian in nature but more frankly just wrong.
The tories will continue to take, take, take from us- because we let them.
Stand up and kill the bill together. Or the only thing that dies is democracy.
Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.
It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. The idea that our nation could give in to fascism. But that’s the insidious reality. We aren’t “giving in” to it- some Britons accept it, condone it, and think it’s a good thing because fascism, the politics of discord, division and elitism reinforces the bone deep conviction that to be British is to be superior, as surely as white supremacy is the conviction that skin colour is equivalent to superiority. Do you think the citizens of Germany in the 30’s thought things would escalate to their heights? Some knew, cried out, shook their fellow citizens with the dire need for action and were ignored- are we headed down the same political path as the literal Nazis?
It’s almost comically ridiculous to think of the UK as a fascist nation. A great many things lined up politically to allow Germany to slip into such horrific politics. And it’s only yesterday I was talking about totalitarianism- I know, which is it?
But when you stop to examine the state of affairs in the UK, the desperation with which I push my anti-tory agenda becomes clear.
People will tell you that “all politicians are the same- labour are as bad as the tories”. It’s nonsense, pushed by a gleeful tory party who thank people for endorsing the quiet humdrum that’s allowing creeping fascism to take hold.
Look at today- Johnson’s party is in deep trouble. A party at number 10 in December 2020- as we all followed the rules put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Horrendous behaviour from selfish and disgusting individuals.
This must be punished- but to overlook the horrendous actions of the tory party outside of the headline grabbing bluster of their disregard for life is to miss the overarching theme of a government up to their necks in corruption, desperate to hide the stench and to extend their powers to being held beyond reproach.
Is fascism the right word?
Looking at policy implementation and general political output from the conservatives over the last 11 years, a slow burn into an explosion appears to have allowed this strange slip towards the far right.
Fascism relies on nationalism, firstly, and the weaponization of the Union Jack as a symbol of imagined freedoms. The aggressive push- not just for Brexit, but for a total severing and complete dissolution of the relationship between the UK and the EU- the spinning of EU officials as unelected officials muddling into UK business and stirring the pot instead of conglomerate sensibility and safeguarding. The sickening stories of migrant “incursions”, open glee or indifference to refugees drowning at sea, the mentality that any and all from outside are evil and coming to steal jobs, money, women, land. The idea that there is the “right” type of British- from gender identity as one of the most hotly debated and pointless (trans people will exist regardless of their access to clothes, toilets, prisons, healthcare…) tropes. The disregarding of our true history, linked intrinsically to colonialism and the slave trade in favour of the mealy mouthed notion that we just happened to be there. The embrace of a fictional history where Britain were always the heroes instead of a nation aggressively pushing it’s agenda. Nationalism is one of the key tenets of fascism and nationalism is as deeply rooted into British culture at the moment as it has ever been.
Look also to the fact that fascism opposes liberalism – explain to me why else this constant, laughable “war on woke” is being thrust to the front of every red topped newspaper, every magazine wrapped in salaciousness, every bottom drawer chat show.
Woke is simply defined as aware of social injustices involving systemic racism, but has swollen under the half lidded stare of those fed up of hearing about how their behaviour contributes to other people’s oppression at worst, unhappiness at best. And before I was referred to as a woke liberal on the daily, I was often called a marxist- often by people who, when I requested if they could define marxism, would hurl abuse and block me or, if in person, give me the look of someone recently concussed.
The press gag
Looking at accountability for the government also, we see concerted effort to expatriate them from the regular flow of accountability – firstly, open plans to prevent the government to be reported on negatively by the media, as seen in these headlines:
The curtailment of freedom of the press is an irony and embellishment at best- as seen in the footage of Allegra Stratton gleefully mocking the public with journos, the Christmas party at Downing St was already known in journalistic circles, kept in the dark until a time where the headline would be most salacious. Nevertheless, the freedom of the press to report on the government honestly and allow genuine public reaction has always been both vital, and increasingly distorted in the UK. The BBC, long reported as a paragon of journalistic integrity is now seen by many as state sponsored propaganda- on both sides of the political aisle. Many say this means it’s doing it’s job well. But when one side says “this is far right propagandism” (stories of trans people as sexual deviants, migrants as criminals and more), and the other side says “it’s not far right ENOUGH”, you begin to realise this is a misnomer- and intentional. The BBC’s funding comes from the government, so any implication that bias cannot apply to the BBC is wrong- especially under a government desperate to throttle press freedoms, and who has installed ex donors to highest office at the BBC.
Again, the pushing of the fight for trans equality – ridiculously framed as a “debate” – would you call it the “black rights debate?!”- is clear evidence that this manufactured culture war is being fed to blinkered people, desperate to assign their difficult lives to a physical, to a person, to a group- and trans people fit that bill, ironically, to a T. If you weigh in to the anti trans side you are an enabler of fascism, but this time it’s a different group in the crosshairs. If you genuinely believe a small group of people who identify AS WOMEN want to take away women’s rights or stop the use of the word woman you are both stuck in an echo chamber and hopelessly misdirected to fight against women you should be calling ally.
The public’s handcuffing
But it’s not just the press whose freedom to report honestly about the actions of the government has been throttled. We as individuals are seeing our rights removed, throttled, oppressed. When we, as a large group are dissatisfied with something, one of our most basic, fundamental, vital rights is to gather in numbers and stand in solidarity- so when the police, crime, courts and sentencing bill was introduced after the BLM protests, most of us knew it for what it was: not just a lazy attempt to stop the police from being held accountable for a poor job and seeping corruption (see the murder of Sarah Everard and the met’s predictably ludicrous response). It was a co-ordinated push to prevent the British public from uniting together under issues so vital that we co-ordinated to speak out against the government. Notice the reaction to women gathered at a vigil for a fallen woman, murdered by a policeman- violence, cruelty, arrests. Notice the reaction to peaceful protests- police hitting sitting protesters with shields, batons, provoking a violent reaction to justify this legislation’s supposed urgency. And the British public endorsed it! Then suddenly up arises Insulate Britain, a group set on solidifying it’s uselessness with gestures designed to frustrate the public- not actually fix the problems it complained about- and magically this already insidious legislation is amended to prevent us from blocking roadways, ports, etc, etc with mandatory sentences and uncapped fines. Coincidence? Hardly. I don’t believe Insulate Britain are tory stooges, but I believe they were manipulated into thinking their mission would do anything but allow condoning of this disgusting government pushing restrictive policies.
Everyone else as “the other”
Even the refractive divisions amongst British politics viewed with a wider lens than tory trouble has allowed for fascism to bubble and boil under the surface- hyper right groups like the BNP, Britain First, Farage’s UKIP party- and indeed pundits like Farage, like Julia Hartley-Brewer, Katie Hopkins, Darren Grimes- all designed to package up another step, another step, another step to the right, further, further- and normalising it. Cheap slogans like “taking OUR country back”, “building back better” and every other ridiculous daubing you can think of, all designed to promote separatism and create the mythological “other” who wants to come here, steal our jobs, change our laws, kill our women folk. Take away the politely indignant bluster of these individuals and lay bear their deepest agenda- Britain First- The literal name of one of the fascist parties.
But putting Britain first isn’t a sin or a crime, it’s what should be a necessity for those of us, whether nascent Brits or not – working for the common good is not a sin or a crime, and framing it as such has created a wave of rage against… nothing. The memo that none of the angry supporters of these supposed revolutionaries gets: everyone wants to work for the common good- or do they?
Look back at these social commentariats- who among them pushed sacrifice for the common good of all Brits? Or did they all, to a man, spend the entire time telling you to be selfish? Throw off restrictions, look after your own needs, wants, requirements? That’s the true face of the nationalism they pushed, it’s not about inclusion of your own, it’s about exclusion of the other- now no longer presented as some mythical foreigner or trans woman- now the other is your fellow countryman, the sheep in the aisle with you wearing a mask.
Platformed to present outrageous- but not TOO outrageous views, always just enough to provoke reaction without backlash, we became numb to it. We allowed these shills to push the painkiller that let the government inject increasing fascism into the country.
Who is the other now? Is it the refugee clinging to a dinghy on the offchance they make it to shore, the trans woman working in the coffee shop, the fellow Brit who thinks brexit didn’t work out well? Is the other everyone? Or is it no one.
Nationality as status
Furthering nationalist agendas, let’s look at the removal of foreign people’s ability to move and settle in the UK without specific reasoning a la the visa system. This gives British nationality a “status” of attainment- an attainment that could only be revoked in the minds of foolish people who believed your deep ancestry instead of location creates nationality. We’ve all seen the radio clip of David Lammy being told he’s not a “proper” Briton because he’s not white by an ignorant caller on LBC. That’s not a rare mindset- it’s common. People who are born here but born with dark skin are seen as “tolerated” Britons- disgusting as that mindset is, it’s frighteningly prevalent. And those, like the doctors who work for the agency I work for, who attain citizenship through hard work do a damn sight more to be able to call themselves Britons than those of us who simply were born here- and yet their citizenship is seen as not real by those who think it’s a status, instead of an accident of birth or a transactional relationship. And now, to add credence to this flawed view, Patel creates legislation to strip citizenship of those she and her fellows do not agree “should be” British. Nationality is a flawed and foolish concept.
The nationality and borders bill further separates those from abroad from us- another nationalist pandering legislation.
An attack on legal protections
Legislation tabled by the tories recently has been so fascistic as to create terror in the eyes of those who understand the implications.
If the government creates legislation which contravenes human rights, judges can rule against it, forcing the legislation to be reviewed until it does not do so. But not only do we have a Justice Minister in Raab who wants to repeal the human rights act and “create their own”, we have a government actively pushing legislation which would allow them to overturn, overlook or outright ignore the rulings of judges in cases of judicial malfeasance. Any rulings would therefore become advisory and would allow the culpability of the government for transgressions against law, land and the public to continue unabated.
This is quite literally one of the steps that the Nazis took before the beginning of World War 2- the unbinding of judiciary scrutiny from government action.
This unshackling of the government is a terrifying move to allow a government we cannot trust to access their full potential in authoritarianism. They must be stopped from instituting this bill.
Brexit’s “benefits” only benefit the far right
The rise of nationalism came when the EU was cast in the light of legislative oppressors, meddlers and more towards the UK, infringers of a sovereignty we already had.
The severing of oversight from a larger body who could sanction or impose legislative challenges of members is, was and would always be the goal for a government aware that they could seize and maintain power so long as they stirred the issues aforementioned. The cataclysm of brexit came in legislation – with the damnation of the NI protocol as a hinderance and the reason brexit has caused issues, and with the in your face horrors of very real goods, medicine and food shortages. But the true damage was the breaking of long placed bonds on a corrupt government now free to ramp up their power- at the expense of a populace battered by fighting for union and fighting against a virus. Our resilience has been worn out, fighting figmentary culture wars and this exhaustion has allowed this horrific situation to sweep forth.
Equally brexit benefited the rich- and we all know which side of the bench the rich usually sit. Relocation of businesses and evasion of scrutiny of taxation and ill gotten gains is a core tenet of this current tory government. Let those subject to the law be damned in the face of those above it- the law of the EU, the law of the land, and the laws of the time.
The overt denial of systemic racism from a report claiming contributions from experts who didn’t even know they were being consulted and the almost immediate drafting and imlementation of legislation criminalising aiding “immigrants”- note, not refugees, plus the regularly falsely pushed line – pushed in fact, on the 6th December by Scott Benton on the news, that you can be an “illegal” immigrant (again- refugee) has allowed the British public’s most dense subset to imbibe an automatically negative perception of anyone who challenges their rigorously structured fiction of “the unwashed dangerous foreigner”.
The strangulation of the unheard voter
I’ve written a piece on my blog before about voter disenfranchisement- I urge you to read this piece, as the dangers of creating difficulty in votership are impossible to understate. Mandating voter ID will, intrinsically, affect the voting eligibility of the poorest in society. Passing legislation to remove ID documents from voters is a terrifying step towards fascistic restrictions on votership- if the cornerstone of democracy is the allowance to partake, then any efforts to restrict access to this even under the guise of “preventing fraud” is the dismantling of a democratic right. And please remember the 2019 election resulted in less than 50 accusations of voter fraud and six proven cases- out of tens of millions of voters.
Ultimately, I am terrified that we are past the threshold, through the looking glass. We have borne so much under a party so clearly bent on self preservation that they have resorted to actual fascist implementation of policy.
The question now is two fold and simply: What next? And what else?