Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Don't Mention the War, Brown

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in his talk to the United States Congress is 'expected to compare the battle against the global recession to the fight against fascism in the 1940s.' (Telegraph).

There are not so much pitfalls as yawning chasms lying in front of him if he does. Fascism is not just a socio-economic and political movement. It is an ideology that transorms itself appropriately to any culture it roots in. Its essence is authoritarian statism, the imposition of an ethical stance and comcomitant structures onto all citizens by using the powers of the state, and of propaganda, kept in the hands of a permanent, closed ruling group. Different cultures produce different ethical stances, depending on their history and constrained by the needs and circumstances of the present. Italian fascism is very different in its objectives for the Italian state, from German fascism, although both display the classic and fundamental privatisation of reward and socialisation of effort and failure.

Realised fascism invariably displays populist social characteristics and the clientilisation of large sectors of the population by the extant fascist regime. It is often imperialist, engaging in aggressive wars on other states to secure resources and trade routes. It uses repressive and intrusive regulation backed by paramilitary force and civil social sanction (denial of work, access to office or social statuses, welfare provision in housing, health, education...) towards an internal, defined 'other' to reinforce idealised fascist unity.

Fascism was not confined to the 1940s, nor was the second War concerned specifically with its defeat. Which is why it is still with us in its present-day guise. The cataclysms and the tragedies that engulfed Europe in the first half of the last century have as many meanings and reasons as there are people.

We cannot hope that Brown will avoid Basil Fawlty-levels of mannerisms, but he might at least try to avoid giving offence by abiding by Basil's most famous piece of advice.

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