the engine of fascism

This is getting tricky.  I read tonight on Labour List that:

A poll conducted by ComRes for The Independent has found that there isn’t substantial support for George Osborne’s economic plan to cut public spending faster.

Only 30% of those asked thought Osborne’s plan – to reduce government spending until the deficit is cleared and the budget in surplus – was the right approach, while 66% disagreed with his proposals.

Reading this, I then tweeted:

So what’ll happen if after the next general election a govt wins which then implements policies 70 percent of voters disagree with? What? >>

<< Wouldn’t that be a very fair definition of fascism?

It’s a possibility.  Meanwhile, a country I love dearly – Spain (where my wife and children were born, where I lived for sixteen fascinating years, where a miracle of democratic change was once forged with considerable persistence and where life is currently challenging on practically all fronts) – looks to pass this kind of legislation:

But in addition to these general measures, there are some aimed specifically at ending the use of the Internet to organize protests:

Those who call for demonstrations through the Internet, social networks, or another other means may also be penalized for having committed a very serious offense.

The circulation of riot images during demonstrations can also constitute a very serious offense, punishable by 600,000€.

Circulating information on the Internet that is understood to be an attack on an individual’s privacy or that of a person’s family, or that contributes to disrupting an operation, will be punished equally with fines up to 600,000€.

The chilling effect that those last three will have on protests is clear. People will be reluctant to express any view that might be interpreted as calling for a demonstration, however vague. Forbidding riot images from being posted will, of course, mean that images of any police brutality against demonstrators are less likely to be circulated widely, removing one of the few brakes on violent police responses. And the last one concerning an “attack on privacy” is so vague that any mention of an individual might well be caught by it. In addition, anyone “insulting” Spain, its symbols or emblems, may be punished with up to a year’s imprisonment.

This, as the techdirt article suggests, is clearly an example some other governments would be only to happy to follow.  Which leads me to ask myself not only whether this would be bad for democracy – it obviously would – but also if it wouldn’t be bad medium-term for the governments themselves.

You can push people only so far.  The question is: when does the passive democracy of the kind we’re experiencing everywhere – where voters kowtow to unemployment levels of up to fifty percent; where governments consistently blame the poorest for a country’s ills; and where the pursuit of a better standard of living becomes the privilege of the wealthy – become the engine of a far deeper fascism than simply that of the elites?

After all, our 20th century outings with the beast showed us only one side: that of Hitlers, Mussolinis and Francos sat atop undemocratic hierarchies which, eventually, in one way or another, imploded, were vanquished or fell apart under their own contradictions.  And those contradictions existed because the ordinary people, whilst under the beck and call of the oppressors’ cronyism, never quite lost their attachment to a wider solidarity.

A solidarity which went hand-in-hand with a broader efficiency.

We could argue, if you like, that the repository of recovery lay in the political and sociocultural souls of the peasants.  A repository which in better times didn’t half end up benefiting the classes that maintained their rule through thick and thin.

Let’s now fast-forward to today.  We live in a world, mightily splintered – mightily distracted too.  Let’s say governments like the Spanish, for the reasons they adduce (they may after all know their own country better than I do), manage to bring in the kind of legislation already described, and more in the medium-term future.  Some will argue, of course, that such legislation is the engine of fascism.  But I wonder, myself, if it’s not more a symptom.  The engine itself being that severe austerity which people like Krugman criticise.

However, whilst the rigid and incompetent governments he describes do their damage, at the same time, in this 21st century fascist reboot, the fascism reaches much deeper into our society.  The repository of the ordinary folk which saved us from previous bouts of fascism is ground into a virtual dust by the persistent barrage of distractions that a latterday world generates.  This is different from before; different from the 20th century.  We lose sight not only of our day-to-day responsibilities but also our longer-term sociocultural fixtures and fittings.  As the information streams scream at us, so we forget who we used to be.  Indeed, the historical re-imagining of that being we once were becomes complete.

What I’m saying, really, is that the engine of 21st century fascism is probably the same as any that came before: severe societal trauma as a result of economic fracture.  But the result will be quite different.

When it’s time for our elite to recover from the economic implosion fascism’s inefficiency always leads to – an implosion which always ultimately affects even the elite itself (serving both as the real driver for recovery as well as the main motivator for a return to political and social justice) – there will be no coherently hard-won citizen-based memory of what we were before the fracture.  The distracted economy will have made sure of that.  Our distracted attention spans will have broken our ability to remain focussed.  The elite will be as lost as the peasants whilst fascism reigned.  They (the elites I mean) really won’t know where to turn.

It is for this reason that unleashing fascism in the 21st century will be treading a path as yet totally untrodden.

And it is for this reason that there may, eventually, be no turning back.


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