Fascism and the art of appeasement
By failing to secure its constitutional right to reinstate autonomy, forfeited in 2014, Scotland is confronted by the predictable backlash from the British state, administered by the most far-right English administration in living memory. Scotland’s elected representatives made the grave error of banking on a hung parliament at Westminster as a means of leverage. They lost heavily. With a majority of 80 MPs, English voters gave the Tory party absolute power to do as it pleases. They have the power to be vengeful and tyrannical in the extreme, and from current events, they intend to be both.
Indications are England is acquiring the hallmarks of an authoritarian state. Liberalism is under fierce attack. I argue, if Enoch Powell had made his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech today, he would be widely praised by Tory and media alike.
On the plus side
Scotland has moved indisputably in the polar opposite direction to England. We have experienced a massive upsurge in popular democracy since the first independence referendum, of a kind that does not suit the agenda of the governing classes, open, tolerant, civic. Westminster wants that curbed – at all costs.
Voters of Scotland have given the SNP another strong majority to govern. They see the party protecting the best in Scotland, the SHS, education system, welfare, industry, jobs, even though a few of their policies are badly thought through and clunky.
The Scottish branch of Labour is all but wiped out, Tories reduced to Laurel and Hardy, Labour to Dumb and Dumber. Labour could not drag its collective conscience to back Scotland’s political ambitions but instead backed its worst enemy, the Tories. The Tories want Scotland nailed down.
As far as a shared humanity is concerned, that diversionary term, there is little if any trace left of commonality with England, in politics, cultural ethics, or economics.
Nothing in common
The last thing Boris Johnson wants is a rise in popular republican democracy that is not his sort, right-wing in affection tinged with Faragism. In that he is advised by his unelected underboss, Dominic ‘Chaos’ Cummings, the man behind the ‘Leave’ campaign that took Scotland out of the EU.
Cummings admires the ideas of Otto von Bismark, German Chancellor, the man who provoked three wars, masterminded unification of Germany in the late 1800s, and who built an overseas empire to the benefit of the German elite. Cumming’s love of German nationalism is at odds with Leave’s supposed detestation of modern Germany, the Germany that “runs Europe”.
Like Bismark, Cummings knows where the gaps are in the English constitution, he knows how to drive a coach and horses through it. Unlike Boris his employer, who has not a single idea in his head, the Lord of Chaos has plans for radical change in any number of UK institutions, starting with a deconstruction of the civil service and certain to end with the blocking of Scotland’s independence.
The man most credited for the fraud of the Brexit, Dominic Cummings, architect of the Leave vote, has access to more power that all the politicians in Scotland combined.
Before your very eyes
Boris heads a party that has attracted misfits and refuges from the BNP, ENF, UKip and now the redundant Brexit party. With those types minding his back he fears no one. His actions are evidence.
His own little Adolf, complete with explosive rages of ego, he lies openly on any subject. He has his own jack booting history: the expulsion of twenty-one moderate MPs from his party (the Night of the Long Knives), proroguing the English parliament, acting in contempt of Supreme Court judgement, belittling judges to soften them into accepting his party will choose judges, refusing to be accountable to parliament for anything, calling key opponents ‘commies’, resurrecting the false spectre of ‘the enemy without’ and the ‘enemy within’ as a means of control, treating Scotland as an undisciplined puppy.
Déjà vu – next comes beating up opponents in the street. Ugly politicians have rekindled the worst of English traits, antipathy to foreigners and intellectuals. We read of physical attacks on Muslims, on Jewish shops, memorials desecrated. Who didn’t shiver when secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, proclaimed Tories will make the trains “run on time”? And then there’s the murder of MP Jo Cox.
The hideous rise of democracy
It is worth recalling that after the Second World War there was a tremendous upsurge in popular democracy. It happened in different ways and in different forms throughout Europe, soon crushed by force in Greece – CIA-led assassinations of far-left figures, and then Italy in 1943, by the imperialist army of USA out to disarm anti-German partisans.
Here in the UK, informed readers will be familiar with the history of Sir Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirt fascist brigades. They will also have seen photographs of members of the Royal family practicing their Hitler salute, not in derision at the strutting dictator, but in respect of the way he disciplined his nation.
However, it is unwise to assume adulation of fascist methods stopped at the British aristocracy. English veneration of unquestioning obedience runs deep.
The bad guys
A great deal of the British cabinet and parliament, and the British press, media baron and proprietor of the Daily Mail Viscount Rothermere a great fan, were either relaxed about Hitler’s expansionist plans – laid out in full in his infamous ‘Mein Kampf’, or ready and willing to indulge in appeasement.
When Adolf Hitler entered the Reich Chancellery on January 30, 1933, the cheers of the Nazi storm troopers in Berlin were echoed in Northcliffe House. The home of Britain’s then highest-selling newspaper. The Daily Mail was not the only national daily to adopt an overly tolerant attitude towards Hitler during the 1930s, but its a position reflected widespread public support for the government’s appeasement policy.
Shortly after Mussolini came to power, Rothermere laid his cards on the table. In an article in the Mail entitled “What Europe Owes to Mussolini,” he expressed his “profound admiration” for Italy’s new leader. Rothermere was still smarting after the General Strike of 1926, and “Hitler and Mussolini were helping to stem the rise of Bolsheviks and socialist troublemakers”. Worse, Rothermere’s love of fascism extend to a hatred of Jews, especially that “German Jew Karl Marx”.
“In saving Italy Mussolini stopped the inroads of Bolshevism which would have left Europe in ruins… in my judgment he saved the whole Western world.” Viscount Rothermere
Rothermere’s other newspapers also threw their support behind the effort. The Mirror urged its readers to “Give the Blackshirts a helping hand,” and printed the addresses of Mosley’s local recruiting offices. A visit to Germany or Italy, Rothermere assured readers, showed that “the mood of the vast majority of the inhabitants was not cowed submission, but confident enthusiasm.” With few exceptions, he was bang on the money.
The good guys
After the First World War Germany was not allowed to expand its small army. Hitler took no notice. His nation had been humiliated, he was going to make Germany ‘great again’. British politicians were aware of what he was doing, and a good many prepared to allow Austria to be annexed for the sake of peace in Europe. England has a long history of sacrificing others nations for short-term gain.
At this point I should mention the few Brits who didn’t trust Hitler as far as they could throw a glass of beer at him. Winston Churchill was the obvious one, looking for his Boris moment to grab the party leadership and show the way forward. The vain and dapper lady’s man Sir Anthony Eden was another, a man who resigned his office rather than face reality and fix it.
A third is more interesting, not for who he was, but for how he was treated by the then power elite. Appalled by his governments jollies with Hitler in his Berghof mountain lair, convinced of Nazism hell-bent on European conquest and the annexation of Austria, Sir Frederick Marquis, the managing director of John Lewis’s stores decided to act. He summoned all his buyers home from Germany and made a speech condemning Hitler’s ambitions and advocated consumers boycott German goods.
Marquis was summoned to 10 Downing Street and given a dressing down for “interfering in the foreign policy of the country”.
Fascists externalise our worst thoughts
English understatement was everywhere. The British elite was certain Hitler was a reasonable chap not given to attacking his neighbours without reason. In this, and a respect for Mussolini’s ability to tame unions, British politicians were backed by their American counterparts. Mussolini was “a man who knew how to discipline the masses”.
Fascism was an ideology much to be admired. Prime minister Neville Chamberlain knew that if Austria fell Czechoslovakia would be next, but that did not stop him and his ambassadors choosing to ignore verified reports of an orgy of Nazi sadism against Austrian Jews, violence exploiting the proclamation of Anschluss. Violent incidents were described as ‘aberrations greatly exaggerated’. Even at that time, British elite were keen to invite German ministers to visit Britain and take the tour. Lord Londonderry, for example, invited Göring to stay at his palatial mansion.
The Foreign Office saw no real issue in Lord Derby’s invitation to Göring to join him on an approved tour and watch the Grand National. Hansard shows some Labour MPs were a little concerned about a German minister asked to inspect air raid precautions as part of his official tour. The cocktail chat was around the benefits of a bucolic visit to the countryside; it might reassure the general that Britain was a friendly country, and so mollify any suspicions he had of the British state as hostile to Hitler’s ambitions. Only Paisley’s own William Gallagher, Westminster’s sole communist MP, was courageous enough to stand up and voice the fact that Göring was “soaked in blood and a butcher”.
Another instance of the Englishman’s ability to accommodate dictators – see Thatcher and the mass murderer General Pinochet – was Lord Halifax’s visit to Goebbels to ask him to modify Hitlers ‘outbursts’, only to be charmed by Goebbels counter request that the self-taught cartoonist David Low reconsider his cartoons of a goose strutting Hitler. Low duly agreed though with reluctance. Halifax had no scruples. He was happy to do Chamberlain’s bidding, that is, reach agreeable terms with dictators.
BBC: Nazism is good
Back in Blighty, Scotland’s own son of the manse was hard at work stamping his ideals on the BBC as its first Director General. Puritanical crusader and fascist fanatic, admirer of the Nazis and Mussolini, John Reith, was musing on how as head of the Corporation his institution should respond to events in Europe.
Reith had the answer. He asked the German foreign minister Ribbentrop to “assure Hitler the BBC was not anti-Nazi”. He added, “If he sent over his broadcasting opposite number for a visit to the BBC, I will fly the swastika from the top of Broadcasting House”.
For that invitation, Reith was never forgiven by Churchill, who when he became prime minister, refused Reith promotion to high government office. BBC staff dutifully pumped out pro-Nazi news items. (Reith became Lord Reith. The British state always rewards loyalty no matter how repugnant the views – ask Lord Darling.)
Where is Scotland now?
There are any number of such instances I could relate, but I hope my point is made. After the carnage of the First World War, the “war to end all wars”, the British population was in no mood to fight another. In any event, many admired the Nazi ideology. There were no anti-Hitler marches in merry England.
In 2020, we are faced by an upsurge in fascism across Europe and in England. It is stoked by the demonic Farages of each nation, exploiting unemployment and inequality, voters long disenfranchised. England is no different. The common man and women tell us the kind of politics they want for the next decade, and it is embodied in Farage and Boris.
Destiny in our hands
The presumption among Scots is that Scotland’s party for autonomy, constantly winning victory at the ballot box, will protect the populace against anti-democratic forces. Over 300 years of resistance to Westminster’s tyranny has shown this a lethal falsehood. Tories tell us so in so many ways.
“If the people want independence they can vote for the party of independence. If they decline to do so the irrefutable logic is that they accept the outcome of the UK election … as the legitimate mandate for the winners to govern Scotland.” David McLetchie, Tory MSP, February 2010
Even after a Tory politician claims voting for the party of autonomy en masse guarantees independence, as MSP David McLetchie did in the quotation above, Westminster will disassociate itself from past declarations in a heartbeat and any promises attached.
The primary aim of an agent of the British state is to kill hope. The Tory majority feels emboldened to do just that. They know optimism is the motivation that creates a better future. Unless you believe the future can be bright, you’re unlikely to agitate for change.
Scotland is confronted by an all-Farage government it can appease or resist. Nicola Sturgeon says she will never do a deal with the Tories. She has no choice now. Then again, you negotiate with your enemies, not your friends.
Hansard March – October 1934 and 1938. Age of Extremes, Eric Hobsbaum. The Origins of the Second World War, AJP Taylor. In Front of Your Nose, George Orwell. Appeasing Hitler, Tim Bouverie. Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer. The Life of John Reith, Ian McIntyre. The Scottish Nation – (The War Years), Tom Devine.