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The Brexit Weimar Apocalypse.


SULLEN EUROPHILES MAY have given up proclaiming the imminent arrival of World War Three as a result of Brexit but they’ve simply moved back a few years into the antechamber of war. Britain, they now claim, is like Germany during the Weimar Republic and just after, ripe for fascism, demagoguery, violence and chaos.

Paddy Ashdown, ex-leader of the almost-defunct Liberal Democrats, couldn’t hold back his own unreceding tide of resentment, denouncing “Tory Brexit brownshirts” on Twitter. Later, he moaned at length to the Guardian about his “sense of personal bereavement” at the vote. “It’s not our country any more,” he said, going on to conjure up the nightmare of Britain as a nascent Nazi state: “everything,” he said, “reminds me of the 1930s. The fracture, the disrespect for the business of government, the hatred of the establishment. You see a retreat into isolationism, you see the rise of ugly forces, you see those who lie and make a pattern of lying.”

Let’s put aside the contradiction between isolationism and the rise of aggressive nationalism and say, yes, Paddy, thank you for your profound grasp of modern history and the elevation of yourself into one of those who does learn from it. Luckily, you’re in good company because this analogy is now a consensus in the anti-Brexit camp. You’re not alone, mate.

Avinash Persaud lays out the economic case regarding the fearful “harbingers of a return to the 1930s” in a post on the LSE blog. He says that writing off the Brexit vote as just a result of ignorance is wrong, because there are other serious factors at work: namely that “denial of powerful forces that, left unchecked, will plunge us into the same economic hole that Europe and the US fell into in the 1930s, which in turn led inextricably to the horrors of WWII.” Attempts to alleviate the deprivations caused to the losers in a globalised world, he thinks, may lead politicians in both Europe and the US to make the wrong decisions, eg, “easy monetary policy” that worsen the situation. The discontent produced by this economic uncertainty, the argument goes, invites the growth of nationalism. Nationalism, as everyone and their dog is unanimous in telling us, is most definitely a Bad Thing because it always ends with Hitler.

We have yet to see the brownshirts parading up and down our streets or bonfires of burning books…Britain in the 2010s is not Nazi Germany.

But we have yet to see the brownshirts parading up and down our streets or bonfires of burning books (Paddy ashdown’s unsellable memoirs would be a good start if that were to happen, however). Nor have we seen the stream of battered bodies of immigrants (“bruised Polish face by bruised Polish face”) promised by the fearful. And that’s another piece of propaganda the anti-Brexit brigade has fallen for – the “spike” in attacks on immigrants after June 23rd. It’s a nonsense. It always was, but many people were so desperate they were, and still are, willing to believe it.

THE IDEA THAT your fellow countrymen are at heart a bunch of violent fascist thugs, ready at the signal from some phantom far right to turn on immigrants is a pretty insulting one. Britain in the 1930s was not Nazi Germany. Britain in the 2010s is not Nazi Germany. We are not hungry for an empire, we are not a Reich preparing to invade the lands of our neighbours. Germany, France and other European countries, on the other hand, who knows how they will act in the near future?

AshdownAshdown is right when he says “It’s not our country any more,” — but not for the reason he thinks. “Our country” for him is the country of the political and media establishment, not that of the majority of people in Britain. For the moment at least, the people have shaken that establishment by demanding their country back. And they have made this desire plain in the most peaceable way. Many people in the other EU states are feeling similar impulses but the tensions they are experiencing may not be so peaceably expressed.

Ashdown trots out the much-used quotation from “The Second Coming” by Yeats, about the worst being full of passionate intensity, the “worst” being Brexit voters in this case. He didn’t get as far as mentioning the “rough beast” slouching its way to some apocalypse, but that’s what he’s suggesting: “there is a monster below the placid surface of British politics, and it has bloody well emerged.”

I didn’t see anything monstrous from the electorate during the campaign, despite some of the rhetoric from the politicians. On the contrary, what I saw was the majority of the population staying calm and quiet till they delivered the blow with a simple tick of a pencil at the ballot box.

That’s some monster. But it’s enough to make Ashdown and his ilk “very, very frightened.” I’m glad. Anything that frightens pretentious Paddy gets my vote.

suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.

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