Fascism is revealing itself in 2014 Britain. On a Saturday morning on Cricklewood Broadway, I saw a group called South East Alliance, protesting against the Muslim Brotherhood. The reason for their protest outside a disused kebab shop will become all-too-clear presently, or perhaps you already know. This protest was an actual stone’s throw from my home and, like almost everyone else, you only pay attention to things when they are in your backyard. For example, when the EDL were in Tower Hamlets, the other side of London, I was concerned about the violence, horrified, but more along the lines of a ‘concerned parent’ at a school governors’ meeting: a typical liberal-minded empathy for the situation but very little action, and certainly no change to my daily routine. But here, on the Broadway, in my ends, it struck a far louder chord.
One man stood arms outstretched, his full wingspan, Christ-like; holding the Union Jack. His stillness, his unwavering limbs, recalled the disciplined solitude of the military, at odds with the movement of capital accumulation here at the very top of the Edgware Road. Another two held a larger flag, SOUTH EAST ALLIANCE, with the slogans ‘ONE NATION. ONE AIM. ONE FUTURE. UNITY IS OUR STRENGTH.’ Collectively, a real shady looking bunch.
A cursory glance at SEA’s Facebook page shows Die Volke-ist language such as: ‘We Are The People’ and ‘British and Proud’. But what is important to focus on here, more than the sectarian return of the Union Jack, held back by millions of yards of state-sponsored bunting and buried under layers of John Lewis icing in 2012, lies a swelling, a tumescent violence in 2014 Britain that, to my mind, cannot be accounted for in any other way other than a creeping fascism. It is probably worth recalling that if you picked up the stone I had thrown to measure the distance from my house, and tossed it further down the Broadway, you’d arrive at a Halal butchers, the very same butchers that begins Zadie Smith’s 2000 multicultural-celebration novel White Teeth. Fourteen years starts to feel like a really long time.
Walking past the SEA demonstration on my way to buy some bread, I instinctively felt that, to point out to members of SEA that there are three nations in the Union Jack, hence the whole Union bit, and that therefore the SEA’s original claim of ONE NATION is, taxonomically speaking, incorrect, would be a really, black-eye-requesting-level bad idea. But the a priori assumption that there is an implicit or latent violence in fascist, racist organizations is interesting. It speaks to the Freudian idea that there is somehow more primordial, barbaric, ancient stuff deep-down inside us that Civilization has successfully repressed, but remains locked in a dead-eyed tango with. This in turn would explain why fascist organizations tend to be nationalists and really into war. But something else has happened to fascist discourse post-2001 as J.G. Ballard points out in an interview in 2006:
‘I know there’s nothing quite comparable (to the Falklands War) in Iraq and Afghanistan, but you don’t feel any pride in what our soldiers are doing out there. That’s why the bereaved relatives are so indignant. Their sons and husbands are dying for nothing— dying for some PR whim of Tony Blair. No pride in the armed forces. No pride in the monarchy. And politics totally discredited.’
What Ballard delineates here makes the re-appearance of this strain of fascism way sadder and more embittered than perhaps its 20th Century counterparts, and thus more explosive. There is no real honour or glory in going to war for politicians. Take the most recent expenses fart from Westminster - Culture Secretary Maria Miller’s 90k over-claim. The impudence seriously jarred with the population ruled by UK Parliament, (not least the SEA who posted an unflattering photograph of a cackling Miller, with the caption: ‘Conservatives, Having A Laugh At Your Expense’). To use Ballard again, remarking in 2003 that all it would take is someone offering a more exciting ideology than consumerism for the country to slip into fascism: ‘People resent the fact that the most moral decision in their lives is choosing what colour their next car will be.’ The sheer, pathological banality of post-2008 financial crash consumerism goes hand in glove with the appeal of a soft fascism. Capital has run out of exciting ideas for the future and like the playground chant of ‘fight fight fight’, what the violence represents is the thrill of the Hobbesian state of nature reappearing. All bets are off.
Nigel Farage then, was well-whooped in his televised debate with Nick Clegg, the glee of the audience in response to his (again) Volke-ist ‘Peoples’ Army’ perhaps the most ominous. Farage, with his oil-slick, car-salesmanship, frog of the people schtick, emerges as the most likely personality to unite this over-spilling psychopathlogy into a frightening whole, even if the real, bad-man part of SEA describe him as a ‘Muslim-loving p****’.
Perhaps what best synthesizes the SEA demo, the austerity consumerist complex of 2014 Britain and Farage’s victory over Clegg is found in George Orwell’s 1984. The book has been pulped into misguided metaphor and appalling cliché but some remain insightful. In particular, the instance of the daily, 11am Two-Minutes of Hate, is most prescient. What is understood in the book, through Freud, Wilhelm Reich and Hebert Marcuse, is that the sea of discontent needs an outlet, and the outlet seems to be coalescing in fascist practice. The Party aimed to abolish the orgasm, but its interim measure – misdirection onto the enemy Goldstein – is now the de facto measure of 2014 Britain. Think of the headlines, ‘Stop these vile —’ insert what you like from the following: paedophiles, fat and/or drugged celebrities, celebrities-cum-paedophiles, immigrants, asylum-seekers, any kind of enemy within or without will do. These media frenzies – our own two-minutes of hate – are now finding their physical form in SEA’s brand of hate’n’violence. What this speaks to is an empire-melancholia and nostalgic retro-fascism in Britain that is finding its target more readily now in Islamophobia.
It turns out ‘the Muslim Brotherhood HQ in Cricklewood’ were four men who ran a blog called ikhwanpress.org and are ‘affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood through ideas and thinking, but are not part of the organization’. The governing party of the UK recently launched an investigation into the Brotherhood to see if Egypt’s former governing party are interested in “extremist action”. It is not too difficult to see Cameron’s call as a pale echo of the SEA-ers’ ONE NATION aggression. What the incidences of fascist demonstrations in Cricklewood really tells us is a psychopathology of Britain, a kind of high-octane nuclear emotional fuel, is cooking; violence steaming to the surface is taking shape and now solidifying.