We should beware reaction on the right

Brexit protests: Two arrested as ‘yellow vest’ activists block Westminster Bridge

As the prospects of either a general election – unlikely as Tories fear decimation – or referendum loom closer if May cannot wangle enough support for a 4th brexit effort and if the House won’t sanction a no-deal brexit, delay seems all but inevitable at this point. This means the EU Parliament elections in May would have to go ahead. The EU has indicated it would approve delays under either set of circumstances.

If this pans out, look out for trouble, for the yellow-jackets* are coming.

Now these yellow jackets are not working class folk alarmed for their jobs. They are English nationalists or their dupes who have understandable resentments about adverse economic and social conditions in the UK – conditions, I might add, that have be exacerbated by the tone-deafness of the Tory regime. As a result, they look for someone or something to blame, and are taken advantage of by English nationalist demagogues like Tommy Robinson, and Nigel Farage. They are encouraged to blame the EU and the free movement of Europeans throughout the EU. They may be goaded by nationalists who are taking advantage of economic distress, but let’s not turn a blind eye to what is causing that distress – Tory austerity.

Not to exaggerate, but this is reminiscent of the later years of the Weimar Republic in Germany leading up to events from 1933 to 1939, where another demagogue unleashed a holocaust across Europe. We’re nowhere near that tipping point yet, but we should be careful not to repeat history. The entire point of the EU, from its humbler yet historic post-war beginnings as the European Coal and Steel Community that evolved into the Common Market, is to keep the European peace, and to a large extent, the experiment has succeeded.

The nationalistic yahoos would like to reverse it. The article above refers to harassment of journalists from Channel 4 and CNN at that demonstration. Now why would yellow jackets be harassing journalists? Surely, one asks, they would like the publicity? Ah, but Channel 4 and CNN are on the “wrong” side of politics. CNN is a known critic of would-be Dictator Donald Trump, who is friendly towards white supremacists and far right nationalists in the US. Channel 4’s reporter Jon Snow had commented on observing the protests on Friday that he had “never seen so many white people in one place”  – an oblique way of pointing out the inherent racism of this movement.

Let’s make no mistakes. The far right forces behind the yellow jacket demonstrations are no friends to to a peaceful, democratic and integrated society. They want to foment racism, discord and strife. They want to widen rifts and disagreements. And they want to split up Europe into nationalistic camps. Again. I have no insight into their motivations, which could be diverse, from simmering rage and resentment to a desire to wield power and authority. (And they won’t stop even if brexit is prevented. EU spokespeople have remarked that they have seen commentary in the British rightwing press about trying to break up Europe from within.)

It would be a tragic mistake to ignore the austerity-driven economic grievances that they are exploiting. Whatever course Britain takes over the next two or more weeks, those grievances need to be addressed and means of resolving them need to be outlined, here and in Europe. We need to deprive this far right nationalism of any political oxygen. Let them choke.

*yellow “jacket” – I prefer this noun over “vest” because, although it is supposed to reflect solidarity with the gillets jaunes in la belle France, it is also a cognate of the yellowjacket wasp of North America, which is a vicious and feared stinging insect pest. This is also indicative of the transaltantic political connections and alliances of the racist far right, for in the US, Trump, a nationalist and white supremacist sympathiser or fellow traveller, holds Nuremberg-style rallies across the US on a weekly basis. The far right is a looming pestilence. We live in interesting times after 74 years of European and transatlantic peace.

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