Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

Fascism is alive in Britain – on both the left and the right

At the time of writing, no one knows the result of Britain’s European Union referendum. But everyone has learned in the hardest manner imaginable that Britain has a fascist movement.

A real fascist movement, that is. Not what students with incontinent tongues call ‘fascism’, which turns out to be the beliefs of anyone who disagrees with them. But actual fascism that legitimises racial hatred, conspiracy theory, ethnic cleansing and the assassination of left-wing politicians.

Since the murder of Jo Cox we have learned another truth, which ought to be uncontroversial but is everywhere resisted. The far right and the far left are essentially the same. For all their voluble differences, for all that they claim to oppose each other, what unites is more important that what divides them.

The larger armies of camp followers and apologists, who woozily trawl in their wake, never quite joining the real extremists but never quite condemning them either, have as much in common and are as pernicious. For they suck all honesty and principle out of public life, until all that is left is to choose your side, and you pick your hypocrisy.

I’ll take my tribe first. Leftwingers use ‘fascist’ as their worst insult and say they believe in human rights and even women’s rights. But they will drop all that baggage if it encumbers them in the fight against their real enemy: the West’s conservatives.

Perhaps one day a historian will calculate the damage they have caused. My rough estimate includes doing little or nothing to fight misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism in western immigrant communities, and endorsing the conspiratorial apologias of radical Islam by holding that the West must be the ‘root cause’ of a global wave of violence and oppression.

Right wingers can denounce them so loudly and expertly one can make the mistake of believing that they, at least, are true anti-fascists; dependable men and women, who will defend liberal freedoms against all comers.

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