The Fascists Are (Probably Not) Coming!

24 January 2024

The Fascists Are (Probably Not) Coming!

By Gwynne Dyer

‘Fascism is on the march everywhere!’ shrieked the headline on a recent think-piece by my least favourite foreign affairs commentator (who must remain nameless because I don’t want to give him any publicity). But articles and op-eds about the fascist threat are certainly on the march, and occasionally a real fascist pops up in public.

“We will send foreigners back to their homelands. Millions of them. That is not a secret plan. That is a promise,” snarled René Springer on X (formerly known as Twitter). Springer sits in Germany’s parliament as a deputy for the extreme right ‘Alternative for Germany’ party (AfD) – but his own party is rapidly moving away from his position.

The current tempest in a teapot began with a secret meeting two months ago in Potsdam of German right-wing politicians, some neo-Nazis and some wealthy businessmen who discussed a ‘master-plan’ for the mass deportation of asylum seekers and German citizens of foreign origin.

Ethnic cleansing is an ugly subject anywhere, but for obvious reasons even the slightest hint of it sets the alarms ringing in Germany. The inherited guilt of the Holocaust enforces a special caution in any discussion of human rights, and the fact that there has been a recent surge in support for the AfD makes people especially nervous.

For example, Wolfgang Thierse, a former president of the Bundestag (parliament), proposed publicly that the AfD should be banned on the grounds that it was against the constitution even to consider such measures. He also suggested that certain prominent party members should have their basic rights revoked as they were enemies of the constitution.

“Our democracy is in a critical state,” Thierse said. “Some of this reminds us of events 90 years ago. In 1930 the Nazi party stood at 14% or 15% (popular support). Three years later it was in power and had done away with democracy.”

Well, there you are. The AfD is already polling 20%, so the Nazis will be back in power by late 2026 unless Germany starts locking people up right away. The Apocalypse is at hand, or at the very least the return of the death camps. And the rest of the world is almost as bad.

There was a video recently that purported to show several hundred Italian men making fascist salutes in Rome, and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni didn’t publicly condemn it! “Why has Meloni chosen silence,” demanded a member of the European parliament. “Why has she not condemned these disturbing images?”

Oh, maybe because she’s on the semi-hard right herself, but maybe just because she had better things to do. She certainly hasn’t put a foot wrong yet in terms of doing everything by the constitutional book. She got there by winning an election, and there’s no good reason to think that she’d refuse to leave if she lost one.

What about the sectarian prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, poised to win a third consecutive term in next spring’s election? What about Donald Trump’s comeback campaign? Sounds pretty fascist to me: “I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”

What about Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine, and Xi Jinping maybe thinking about invading Taiwan, and the collapse of democracy in Ecuador, and North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un planning to make his 10-year-old daughter his successor (with her own fluffy pink button for the nukes), and the whole career of Binyamin Netanyahu?

And on and on it goes, with anything that can be represented as evidence for the imminent collapse of democracy – indeed of civilisation – piled up higgledy-piggledy to make the case.

Yes, it’s a mess, but it has always been a mess. We’re only around five thousand years into this experiment with mass civilisation and the learning curve is still pretty steep. The glass is both half-full and half-empty, but what did you expect?

The constant journalistic prattle about how everything is going wrong is driven partly by the advancing age of the journalists concerned, and partly by the constant need to feed the media beast, and only a little bit by a sober assessment of objective reality (if such a thing is even possible).

As for dear old Germany, where I began this rant, it may be over-reacting, but at least it’s reacting in the right direction. A million Germans came out in the midwinter cold last weekend to protest against any mass expulsion of foreigners, and the AfD’s leader, Alice Weidel, fired her own personal adviser for having attended the meeting.

And if anybody asks you Yeats’s question – “What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” – tell them that it might be Paddington Bear.

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To shorten to 700 words, omit paragraphs 8 and 9. (“There was…one”)