A friend suggested to me recently that The Left have the best comedians and I agreed though we then had difficulty identifying any right wing comedians. We settleed on Stewart Lee, representing the left, and Jeremy Clarkson, representing the right. It’s debatable whether Clarkson is right wing but then it’s debatable whether Clarkson is a comedian. He is a figure of fun, which might make him a comedian, and he’s sceptical about climate change, owns lots of cars and probably votes Tory which are attributes usually associated with The Right.
Stewart Lee performs material excoriating Jeremy Clarkson for his “politically incorrect opinions which he has for money”. On the Indymedia web site Clarkson is even accused of having a “fascist agenda” though you wouldn’t think it from his dress style. I don’t recall Franco, Mussolini or Hitler sporting brown corduroy trousers.
So (I got here in the end), Clarkson is condemned by The Left as a fascist.
It’s interesting that the left feel it acceptable to brand all and sundry as fascist. Often the reason for branding someone as fascist is that they believe in free markets and small government but it’s worth remembering that the Nazis called themselves National Socialists, which seems almost the antithesis of an ideology based on free markets and small government.
It’s also interesting that we go along with the label fascist as derogatory while we never think to yell Commie at those on the left and, if we did, the left would probably not consider it an insult.
Why? European fascism has an appalling reputation due to it’s racist and genocidal activities in the 1930s and 40s but Soviet Communism carried out acts which, if not identical in intent, were equal in ghastliness. One can, of course, argue that the Soviet regime was a corruption of true communism but this is all very well unless you’re one of the poor bastards who suffered under its rule. One may as well argue that Nazism was a corruption of Fascism.
There is a saying in Britain: People in glass houses should not throw stones, and you’d think that the left wing would be more reticent about dragging up the crimes of the second world war yet the communist movement seems to have just shrugged this off.
Why is this? Why is the term fascist used so freely and effectively to abuse those on the right while those on the left act like they hold the moral high ground?
I have been following Real Time World War 2 on twitter and am finding that the day by day reporting has the effect of placing the events in some kind of context.
At the beginning of World War 2 in 1939 (as counted by the British and the French) the Nazis were rounding up Jews and herding them into ghettos or off to concentration camps. Around the same time the Soviets were murdering thousands of captured Polish soldiers and the Soviet regime was paying bonuses to Soviet soldiers who succeeded in murdering the most Polish prisoners.
In the 1930s and 40s in Europe a clash of ideologies took place. Communism on one side and Fascism on the other. Both were totalitarian, ruthless and evil. In reality both were probably a reaction against free market capitalism which had brought about The Wall Street Crash a few years earlier. I’m making this up as I go along but it is starting to fit together. We are even seeing a resurgence of Fascism and Socialism in Greece which is suffering more than most from the failings of free market capitalism.
The inheritance of the Communist/Fascist clash in British politics is a false left/right dichotomy. A dichotomy that never really existed in British politics because Fascism never gained a real foothold in the UK thanks partly to the Communist Party of Great Britain.
In British politics Labour are portrayed as a supporting policies such as redistribution of wealth and state ownership of industry though Labour have now abandoned the latter. The tories are portrayed as advocating capitalism and a meritocracy. But the Tories have also inherited an association with fascism which may be unfair. It’s pointless arguing that many toffs were Fascists because many working class were too. I wonder if the Tories have much in common with Fascism at all.
This is not to say that the British right is beyond criticism but by branding them fascist we incorrectly identify their failings. The failings of Tory policies is not a dislike of immigration. The Tories represent big business and big business loves immigration because it provides cheap labour. To brand the Tories as fascist is a stupid distraction.
The real criticism of the right wing should be it’s economic race to the bottom. It’s survival of the fittest mentality which leaves those less well able to look after themselves behind. It’s constant drive for profit which turns all human interaction into that of producer/consumer. Seller/Customer. An ideology which gradually erodes any gains we may have made under Labour. None of these things have much relationship with Fascism.
Screaming Fascist at a Tory misses the point. The British Tories are not about to don black uniforms and start marching around with flaming torches and they are absolutely opposed to the Fascist ideal of a strong state.
BBC Radio 4 has been retransmitting old episodes of the famous “Desert Island Discs” program where a famous and esteemed person talks to a presenter and, with the conceit of presenting their favourite music, tells something of their lives, frequently revealing some personal aspects of themselves.
Professor Hobsbawn is a confirmed Marxist and was so during the 30s and 40s. In his own words he stated that he was deeply and profoundly committed to the great cause (of bringing about a world wide communist utopia) and that there was not anything that was more important in life than the great cause. When asked if he thought it was worth any sacrifice he answered yes. When asked if all the innocents who had been killed by the soviets were justified he replied yes.
I too have left wing sympathies but listened to this man with mounting horror. It strikes me as an example of our deranged political culture that, while irreverent (and irrelevant) TV entertainers like Clarkson are castigated as fascists, men like Professor Hobsbawn are honoured by appearances on Radio 4.
Even after the horrors of the Soviet Union have been revealed to Professor Hobsbawn he was too arrogant to have any empathy with those who suffered under the Soviets. Men like this do not stand out like Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin or Muama Ghadafi. They sit in institutions quietly following their ideologies without thought for the people who may disagree with their over intellectual claptrap. Today these people may be in universities, in banks or in governments. They may be in the police force or in political parties. In Germany in the 1940s they were operating the gas chambers or compiling monthly statistics at Auchwitz.
There is a beautiful scene in the 1983 film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence directed by Nagisa Oshima where an English officer visits a Japanese soldier in prison after the allies have occupied mainland Japan. The Japanese soldier has been tried for war crimes and condemned to death.
Sergeant Hara: “I am ready to die, but I don’t understand, my crime were no different from any other soldiers.”
Lawrence: “You are the victim of men who think that they’re right. Just as one day, you and Captain Yonoi believed absolutely that you were right; and the truth is, of course, that nobody’s right.”
“Men who think that they’re right.” – It’s a good phrase. Yes, it’s applicable to Hitler but, more than that, it’s applicable to the Hobsbawnes of this world. It’s applicable to the English Defence League shouting abuse at immigrants and it’s applicable to the ignorant left wing zealot screaming “Fascist” at people with whom he disagrees.
The following is a partial transcript from the March 1995 episode of Desert Island Discs with Professor Eric Hobsbawm.
Sue Lawley (SL): So your saying that such was your commitment and your dedication that if there was a chance of bring about this communist utopia, which was your dream, it was worth any kind of sacrifice?
Eric Hobsbawm (EH): Yes I think so.
SL: Even the sacrifice of millions of lives?
EH: Well that’s what we felt when we fought world war 2 didn’t we?
SL: Isn’t there a difference between killing someone in war and killing your own?
EH: We didn’t know that, dead is dead.
SL: Let’s have record number 3