Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State, has written a great wee book about fascism, and especially about how we recognise and stop it.
She discusses a large number of politicians with one or more fascist traits, including Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, McCarthy, Milošević, Chávez, Erdoğan, Putin, Kim Jong-il and Trump.
Oddly, she doesn’t discuss Brexit in any detail. All she has to say about it is this (p. 181):
The impact of the crisis was felt in the United Kingdom, where wariness toward migrants almost certainly spelled the difference between success and failure for the 2016 Brexit referendum, an exercise in economic masochism that Britons will long regret. Grumbling about their marriage to the EU and threatening to leave gave the British leverage at the bargaining table; calling their own bluff and filing for divorce has left them with none.
This is rather odd, because the Brexiteers tick all her boxes for recognising fascism (p. 253), as far as I can tell:
- Do they cater to our prejudices by suggesting that we treat people outside our ethnicity, race, creed, or party as unworthy of dignity and respect?
- Do they want us to nurture our anger toward those who we believe have done us wrong, rub raw our grievances, and set our sights on revenge?
- Do they encourage us to have contempt for our governing institutions and the electoral process?
- Do they seek to destroy our faith in essential contributors to democracy such as an independent press and a professional judiciary?
- Do they exploit the symbols of patriotism – the flag, the pledge – in a conscious effort to turn us against one another?
- If defeated at the polls, will they accept the verdict or insist without evidence that they have won?
- Do they go beyond asking for our votes to brag about their ability to solve all problems, put to rest all anxieties, and satisfy every desire?
- Do they solicit our cheers by speaking casually and with pumped-up machismo about using violence to blow enemies away?
- Do they echo the attitude of Mussolini: “The crowd doesn’t have to know,” all it has to do is believe and “submit to being shaped”?
The only explanation I can think of is that she must have been afraid of upsetting old British friends from Labour, who probably told her that it had nothing to do with fascism. If there’s ever a second edition, I think she should have another look at it.
That said, it’s a very good book, and I highly recommend it. I especially like the fact that she doesn’t opt for oversimplified descriptions of fascism – for instance she explicitly says it’s not the same as populism.
PS: My edition of the book has some rather strange typographic errors. For instance, in the first quote above the last bit actually says “calling their own bluff nd filing for divorce has left hem with none.” Hopefully that will soon be corrected, but do check before you buy it.