Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Fascism Alert

The recent attack by far-right thugs on London’s socialist bookshop Bookmarks is a measure of how emboldened Fascist groups have become in the wake of Donald Trump’s Presidential victory in the United States and the Brexit vote here.  If their renewed activity requires, politically speaking, some new wave of anti-Fascist mobilisation along the lines of Rock Against Racism in the late 1970s, it also poses, in more historico-scholarly vein, the question: did William Morris predict or foresee Fascism?

Well, there are those alarming ‘Friends of Order’ in chapter XVII of News from Nowhere, counter-revolutionary para-militaries who ‘had some successes at first, and grew bolder … got many officers of the regular army to help them, and by their means laid hold of munitions of war of all kinds’.  Some editors of Morris’s utopia don’t footnote this group at all, while others, like David Leopold, are dutifully historical about it: ‘possibly an allusion to the “party of order”, the counter-revolutionary groups that Admiral Saisset (1810-79) tried to unite in opposition to the Paris Commune’.  Bolder commentators, such as Jack Lindsay, have seen Morris’s Friends of Order as forward- rather than backward-looking: ‘his insight into the middle class which already by the 1870s he had seen as “a most terrible and implacable force”, enabled him to prophesy the rise of Fascism in the epoch of imperialist decay, the counter-revolution of the Friends of Order’.

At a support event for Bookmarks on Saturday, former Morris Society chairperson Ruth Levitas read out a letter from her 103-year-old Uncle Max, who fought against Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts at the famous battle of Cable Street in 1936.  The struggle against Fascism goes on across the generations, and clearly, with an attack on a socialist bookshop, the Friends of Order are on the move again.  For, as we know from the mid-twentieth century, first you burn books, then you burn people.


Kotick said...

Thanks for flagging this up, Tony. It's a worrying development, and I think that if far-right attacks on Left cultural institutions were to become a trend, then the William Morris sites might need to review their own security - Morris being such an important cultural icon of the Left.

Saira said...

This is alarming but i'd like to take the opportunity to ask why the left has little interest in such equivalent behaviour in someof our minority communities;particularly in relation to females i'm talking about extreme emotional aggression and control as well as violence are a common theme. I've spoken to some journalists on the left about this but no response.And now we even have such ideologies inculcated within education policy re. minority schooling.As a woman of colour who has faced a great deal of violence from within I find no allies on the left,, they tend to be on the right.

Tony Pinkney said...

Dear both, thanks for your comments. The recent far right violence in Chemnitz in former east Germany is a shocking reminder of how real the neo-Nazi threat now is. For a good analysis, see I remember, on my own visits to Dresden a decade or so ago, that the synogogue there was built like a bunker and was under 24-hour police guard because of the danger to it even then. Clearly the far right threat out there is even more alarming now, though its immediate target is recent Muslim immigrants rather than German Jews. When right-wing thugs rampage through the city chasing and attacking "foreigners", it's hard to see how any person of colour could find "allies" there.

Tony Pinkney said...

More on the Chemnitz neo-Nazi situation: