Sunday, 18 December 2016

Playing the Nazi card - the Tories and British values

Surprisingly, Sajid Javid has not gone the whole hog and proposed that his loyalty oath is couched under the banner of a Law for the Restoration of a Professional Civil Service.  The entire sensation-driven trope smacks of a regime aware of its own illegitimacy and its constant backside-sniffing towards its paymasters.  The suggestion that civil servants and holders of public office should, in effect, be purged unless they are prepared to declare fealty to a set of "British Values" defined by the ruling caste is a parallel to the Nazi seizure of power.

In both cases, a swivel-eyed set of lunatics was elected through at least a veneer of legitimacy, in the belief that they could be held in check by those who believed that keeping their enemies in plain sight and within the confines of law would be sufficient.  It took the Nazis less than six months to consolidate power, through the Enabling Act of March 1933 and measures such as the Civil Service law.  May is either colossally ignorant of history or preparing a deliberate coup - the disdain for Parliamentary process and the established constitutional contempt which she demonstrates towards other nations than the English seem to point to the latter.

One of the disadvantages to a study of history is that even if the ideology has limited parallels, the methods of the pursuit of power are often frighteningly similar.  I am not suggesting that the vast majority of the Tory party are pursuing an overtly-authoritarian agenda, but that there are those in the wings for whom this is a desirable outcome.  Cameron may have thought that he might have isolated most of the bacillus (apart from Jamiroquai-lookalike Peter Bone) into the saloon-bar Klan of the Kippers, but they have never gone away.  This time, instead of the intense monomania of Keith Joseph, the far right dribble through buffoonery.  For every Rees-Mogg, there is a Breitbart clone beavering away, feeding vileness that is apparently spoon-fed.

The only "British values" worth subscribing to are those that are universal hallmarks of civilisation - not defined by the pseudo-patriotic card.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a benchmark, not some sort of cobbled-together Empire Loyalism that Javid will be pursuing as a saccharine frontman.  Indeed, if holders of office and paid employment cannot subscribe to the rule of law and the rights of others, then they should be drummed out - without some kind of spurious loyalty test.  It sets the state on a collision course with reality, and the fall-out can be ugly.  It is worth extending the mid-20th century parallels, the shifting of German loyalties to the Fuhrer rather the state, as the embodiment of the "will of the people", sends shivers down the spine.

The Tories are not Nazis, but their logic of having secured power through a dubious process and without the deep roots in either the machinery of government or popular support that would legitimise an open state is worryingly similar.  Rudderless, without principles and without the constant challenge from opposition, they should be an easy target.  Instead apathy and impotence, coupled with targeted attacks on the more articulate advocates of an alternative vision, will be their preferred medium of social control, dressed up in the language of values.

How long this lasts for is more moot.  The run up to Christmas is marked by an upswing in strikes and disgruntlement, fuelled even more by the clear signs that the economy is teetering on the brink of a Depression that will make the 2008 crash look like a picnic, and inflation rising.  The response of the outright fascists in the media, for example the tax-aboding Telegraph and the pornography-bankrolled Express, is to call for the barriers to any form of collective action to be raised to the level of the unattainable, forgetting in their vile contempt for the rights of workers that they are, without irony, denying one side of the labour market any right to express grievances individually or collectively.  Doubtless they will want the return of the forelock and due deference to form part of Javid's "British" values.

Piling irony on top of dictatorship, the hoops through which unions and their members have to jump through before taking action are much greater than Parliamentary election or idiotic plebiscite would require.  We have an ideologically-charged cretin as Transport Secretary in Great Britain, who when not apparently committing hit-and-run offences in his ministerial car (whatever happened to using public transport, as he would insist for his civil servants?), is speaking with forked tongue from one of his many faces.  It is so transparent, but the Tories feel that they can get away with peddling lies and delusion.

Where the 1930s parallel breaks down - I'm sure that Grayling would be quite happy, though, to merge and castrate the trade unions into a British Labour front - is that the catastrophic crisis into which May and her cronies are leading us is not one which ends well with short-term fixes.  The Autumn Statement demonstrated the hole in which the government has found itself - and, rather than throwing its toys out of the pram, it has not merely abandoned the spade and the tools by which it could escape but it has made a public declaration that it will eschew all sanity in pursuit of a snarling hatred of its European lifeline.  The Just About Managing rhetoric is a windy hypocrisy that distracts from cronyism and venality at the centre of government.

People will wake up to the fact that they have been played.  Hilariously, as predicted, some of the monobrowed right are now blaming those of us who warned of the risks and consequences of a toddler tantrum, egged on by the scum like Arron Banks who will be unaffected at worst, profiting most likely from the manipulation of the angry and gullible.  It is not our fault that the rational analysis that was decried as "Project Fear" is emerging.

Where the Tories have their trump card is that they have a gerrymandered, usurped polity with no coherence in opposing them.  This is not necessarily sustainable, but it will need both a clear ability to identify their failings and to ensure that blame does not land where it does not belong.  Turning on the "cosmopolitan" and the "metropolitan" elites is the current preferred tactic of the right-wing propagandists who know that their position is not as secure as they make it out to be.  This is dangerous, as the "enemy within" rhetoric is already spilling out into abuse both verbal and physical, but it needs leadership and a recognition that the crisis engulfing the British Isles is as great an existential threat as Nazi aggression was in the 1930s, but that this degeneracy is now embedded in our own politics to a greater extent than it was then.

Burke's axiom that for evil to prevail, it is only necessary for good people to do nothing remains valid today.  This is a long-haul, and it will be both a process of defining the ridiculousness of the parallel idiocies of upholding democracy while attacking the right to dissent, while keeping a weather eye on the larger forces of evil that the Tories are still, just about, damming up.  The state relies on its legitimacy through consent, rather than coercion.  May and her inadequates will try to establish that the motivation for crushing dissent is to uphold their values - but this is not a mark of strength but the fundamental weakness of a seditious government.

As they destroy all they claim to support - the Union, the economy, the rule of law - a gimmick dreamed up by the public relations spivs to promote "Britishness" could be another ratchet in the spiral towards an upheaval that upends the certainties of their paymasters.  That would be ironic, but dangerous.  Drifting into authoritarian territory does not delegitimise opposition - but it needs to be articulated with care, sympathy and with a recognition that one's fellow subversives are in need of support and engagement across the current political boundaries.

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