Recession=austerity=extremist politics=the rise of fascism…

di canioIs

Is he or isn’t he?

The Sunderland football team manager, Italian former international Paolo Di Canio, caused a storm recently because of his views on Fascism, and his description of Benito Mussolini as a ‘principled man’. He later retrenched, describing many of his friends as black and all appears forgiven at the club- where results are more important than politics.

Di Canio’s views emerged out of a particular socio-ecomomic context. This from here;

Paolo Di Canio’s Roman upbringing may not excuse any fascistic beliefs he once held but it does help to contextualise them. Born in 1968, Di Canio grew up in a country that was violent and divided, as it had been since Mussolini’s rise to power. The 1945 liberation had failed to stimulate the national unity that fascism had claimed it would build and a vicious settling of scores left around 15,000 Italians dead in the three months that followed. There were no trials, no coming to terms with the past and, consequently, no definitive end to the ideological conflict in Italian society.

After students revolted in 1968, northern factory workers joined the fray in the“hot autumn” of 1969, car industry operatives pitched battles with the forces of order on the streets of Turin. Tacitly supported by the police, secret services and more openly by conservative society, rightwing violence erupted in response. The 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan left 16 dead and more than 80 wounded. Hastily blamed on anarchists, it was eventually traced to a neo-fascist group based in the Veneto region.

All of which is further evidence of these things;

  • Violence leads to violence
  • Divided splintered societies in which there is a huge wealth imbalance become polarised and breed violence
  • It takes generations to change the political mindset of a particular population
  • Economic turmoil leads to extremism

If this is true, it should be no surprise that we see a rise in hate politics across Europe as austerity bites. In the UK we have seen success for the dreadful British National Party, and the prominence of the English Defence League. Both target immigrants as the source of our nations ills- exploiting the baser and most ignoble part of our British isolationist psyche.

In France, Marine Le Pen and her National front seem to be more popular than ever, despite brushes with the law.

In Greece Golden Dawn is on the rise.

Man in camo trousers stands to attention in front of sea of Greek flag-wavers


The mechanisms by which Neo Fascism is finding popularity again are of course complex. In times when people feel desperate and under threat the appeal of someone to blame and an easy fix are always going to be attractive.

There are darker deeper forces at work too – after all, how is it that we do not see the wood for the trees? The cause of our current economic woes has nothing whatsoever to do with inflation or Muslims, and everything to do with the greed of the richest in our economies- who in the UK appear to be doing better than ever. What stops us seeing this so clearly?

I suspect that this is a combination of distraction, aspiration, envy, celebrity worship, and clever manipulation by the ruling elite to maintain the status quo, either by accident or design.

Violent politics flourish in the mess made by capitalism. It has to be resisted…


How to deal with extremists…


Invite them in for a cup of tea of course.

There are scary things happening at the moment- in the wake of the brutal murder of a young man on the streets of Woolwich  in broad daylight, something is being unleashed.

In many ways it feels like the time is right for scapegoats. They are always a useful release or distraction at times of economic trouble. The 1926 great depression led to the great purges in Europe of the Jews. In more recent times Thatcher had a series of social groups to blame- the miners, New Age Travelers, benefits scroungers,

Currently there is a real danger that the next scapegoats will be Muslim.

Politicians start to talk about dealing with radical preachers. Fear is stoked. ‘The other’ is cartoonised and selectively described. The nuances, the complexity of it all is stripped away- there are the good guys (us) and them; the evil, half human terrorists who want to kill us all whilst shouting Allahu Akbar.

How do you deal with extremism? Surely the first thing we have to do is to set aside the dehumanising stereotype and talk. Meet real people and hear stories. Listen to each others world view and seek understanding.

I read a great example of exactly that today; The English Defence League  organised one of their protests outside a Mosque in York. The EDL is a scary far right organisation, with roots in the old British National Party and football hooliganism.  These are not people who like to talk- they would rather throw insults and broken bottles. The people in the Mosque had every reason to feel afraid. However, according to the Guardian, this is what happened;

York mosque dealt with a potentially volatile situation after reports that it was going to be the focus of a demonstration organised by a far-right street protest movement – by inviting those taking part in the protest in for tea and biscuits.

Around half a dozen people arrived for the protest, promoted online by supporters of the EDL. A St George’s flag was nailed to the wooden fence in front of the mosque.

However, after members of the group accepted an invitation into the mosque, tensions were rapidly defused over tea and plates of custard creams, followed by an impromptu game of football.

A young member of York mosque displays his message.

A young member of York mosque displays his message. Photograph: Anne Czernik

Leanne Staven, who had come for the protest, said that she had not come to the mosque to cause trouble but because “We need a voice”. “I think white British who have any concerns feel we can’t speak freely,” she said.

“Change has been coming for a long time and in light of what happened to that soldier in Woolwich there have to be restrictions on people learning extremist behaviour and it has to stop.”

Mohammed el-Gomati, a lecturer at the University of York, said: “There is the possibility of having dialogue. Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong.

“We have to start there. Who knows, perhaps the EDL will invite us to an event and the Muslim community will be generous in accepting that invitation?”

Ismail Miah, president of York mosque, added: “Under the banner of Islamthere are very different politics: democratic politics, the far right, left, central, all over. You can’t target a whole community for what one or two people have done.

“What they’ve done in London is for their own reasons but there’s no reasoning behind it from an Islamic point of view.”