Something happens in a country, and it is never the same again. That arch-reactionary Philip Larkin spoke about it in Homage to a Government, a kind of post Kipling poem about the folding away of empire and of a sense of loss that is half felt.
Next year we are to bring all the soldiers home
For lack of money, and it is all right.
Places they guarded, or kept orderly,
We want the money for ourselves at home
Instead of working. And this is all right.
Next year we shall be living in a country
That brought its soldiers home for lack of money.
The statues will be standing in the same
Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.
Our children will not know it's a different country.
All we can hope to leave them now is money.
So last Sunday night I heard that a fascist party, for the first time in the history of the UK, had won seats in a national vote.
Homage to an Electorate
This year British electors voted for fascism,
For some reason, and it is all right.
At least people tell me it’s all right. It wasn’t a vote for the Westminster government. It was for the European Parliament and only a protest vote. There had been the expenses scandal, which means most of the electorate was completely disillusioned with government and didn’t vote anyway. It could have been a lot worse. You can’t compare the BNP with the British Union of Fascists of the 1930s and our times with their times. The overt racism of that time is nothing like it is today.
I was appalled, ashamed, outraged, disgusted and furious. Larkin had the idea of his country as an imperial power. I had an idea of this country as one where people don’t vote fascist or for extremist parties generally. 950,000 voters proved me wrong.
An essay by J Sakai written in about 2002 has some worryingly relevant things to say about the revival of fascism, mostly in the usa (as he calls it) but also here:-
In many countries the far right has replaced the left as the main political opposition.
Not Depression but change propelled by the development of the world capitalist economy. In the industrial North of England, for example, the entire blue-collar culture of the British working class was transformed as factories, mines and shipyards steadily kept closing year after year. A new white-collar yuppie boom economy produced the Americanized England of Tony Blair just as marginal employment and three generation welfare families living in public housing came to characterize many in the former industrial working classes.
Remember that despite well publicized fringe activity, fascism never sank roots in 1930s working class Britain. The British working class back then remained loyal to their colonial empire and their own social democratic Labour Party despite the misery of the Depression. But it's a different world now, of classes feeling abandoned by empire. Widespread "Paki-bashing", fascist marches and now a successful neo-fascist electoral protest party are only small signs of things to come. In a chain reaction, the British town of Tipton that was surprised to find four of its Muslim youth fighting in Afghanistan with Al-Qaeda had given 24% of its vote in the 2000 local elections to the neo-fascist British National Party. And Britain is only playing catchup, lagging behind as all of Europe is being tugged, pulled by the political shift towards the right in all its forms. Despite historic prosperity.
The colonial empire went long ago, the social democratic Labour Party no longer represents their old working class base and now the historic prosperity has gone as well.