From Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Francisco Franco, Augusto Pinochet and in Ireland our own Blue Shirt fascist movement led by Eoin O’ Duffy to individuals like Enoch Powel in Britain and more recently Margaret Thatcher and later Nigel Farage, all have jumped on popular frustrations of their day among the populace. Adolph Hitler threaded anti-Semitism into German society, initially with little success. He then reverted to attacking global capitalism, particularly that of the USA – despite his own movement being pro capitalist and funded by German companies like I.G Farben and Krupp armaments who benefitted hugely under the Nazis – as the German people were not automatically anti-Semites. His Nuremberg laws of 1935, though not overtly opposed, nobody dare, were not widely popular. Germans married to Jewish people did not relish having their marriages declared null and void but were too afraid to say so. Then, in 1938, a German diplomat, Ernst Vorm Rath was shot dead in France. His assassin was a German Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, unhappy with the Nazi persecution becoming increasingly more violent of the Jews in Germany. This gave Hitler the long-awaited opportunity to reignite his anti-Semitic campaign, this time with more success. The German people having had this rammed down their throats for over a decade by the NSDAP (Nazi Party) this time in many cases swallowed this rubbish. Hitler played on the now growing anti-Semitism and unleashed “Kristallnacht” or Night of Broken Glass resulting in riots and Jewish properties having windows smashed and burnt along with Jewish books and literature. Synagogues were torched as mayhem broke out across Germany.
Today in Britain far-right groups, like Britain First who have links to six county loyalist organisations, spread their anti-Muslim propaganda and play on people’s fears and prejudices. In Ireland we too have a growing far-right neo fascist movement, tiny at this time but ignore them at your peril. There are a number of groups and all reportedly have links to the far-right in Britain and, therefore “Ulster” loyalists. These people are playing the anti-immigrant card and some speeches by individuals may have come straight from the pages of Mein Kamp, page after page of drabble written by Hitler. These Irish groups are playing, at the moment, on the anti-lockdown and anti-mask feeling among elements within the population. For the record, we are perhaps all anti-lockdown in respect none of us like it, neither do we look forward to wearing facemasks. Most of us realise that these measures, certainly for the time being are necessary in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. That does not mean we like them! The situation which could change if the government are perceived to be needlessly dragging their feet lifting restrictions. The majority who presently accept the necessity of lockdown are unlikely to show goodwill forevermore.
These right-wing groups organising anti-lockdown demonstrations resulting in public riots, as occurred on Saturday 27th February in Dublin, care nothing for Covid-19 and lockdown. It is an excuse to recruit people for their more sinister agenda. That agenda is to pedal racism, xenophobia, homophobia and numerous other hatreds into society, just as Hitler threaded anti-Semitism into German society, and Enoch Powel in Britain when in 1968 he made his “rivers of blood” speech. Once they have a large enough audience, under the anti-lockdown guise, they will unleash their real agenda. They will, by such time have the ear of many who, genuinely, believe only protest will force the government to hurry things up regarding lockdown. Once they have this audience and no longer have to look for receptive ears, their true colours will come out. There will be less and less mention of Covid-19 and lockdown and more about irrelevances such as the presence of black people, Muslims and other racial and religious minorities who obviously have nothing to do with the pandemic and resulting lockdown measures.
It does not help the situation when constitutional politicians show little knowledge of the subject, they are paid a fortune to know, politics. The Irish Justice Minister, Helen McEntee displayed a lack of knowledge, or certainly confusion, between far-left and far-right political ideologies. Despite Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris making up for his botched statement claiming at a press conference “a number of groups, including far left and far right, had been involved” (Irish Daily Mirror 01.03.2021 page 4) which he later withdrew claiming “there is no corroborated evidence of extreme left factions being involved” (ibid). The Justice Minister then claimed; “some of those who attended were individuals with previous connections to far-left violent groups or organisations.” She also claimed “the Garda Commissioner had clarified that far-left groups at the protest were violent republican groups” (ibid). She had obviously not read the Commissioners retraction of his earlier statement or is oblivious to the difference between far-left and far-right political ideology. The gap between these is as wide as the Cheddar Gorge and any minister should be aware of these huge differences in ideologies. It is tantamount to claiming Arthur Scargill (NUM President during the 1984/85 strike) and Margaret Thatcher (British Prime Minister at the same time) were on the picket line together, or held the same political ideologies and outlooks!
As unpopular as lockdown is, as is the wearing of masks, I would urge people not to follow these neo fascists and their extreme right-wing agenda, which has nothing to do with what they claim the protests are about. They claim to be Irish “patriots” and even have the cheek to claim allegiance to the men and women of 1916. How can this be when their bedfellows have links to loyalist organisations? They try to invoke the 1916 leaders in what they consider to be a patriotic stance, they obviously know little of the seven signatures on the proclamation. James Connolly, one of the leaders during the rising, was a trade unionist and a Marxist. During the 1903 Wood Quay election Connolly stood on the socialist ticket and had his election literature translated into Hebrew so that the Jewish community could understand, in their native tongue, what and where he stood. He viewed anti-Semitism and sectarianism as two sides of the same coin. While in the USA Connolly championed the rights of the black working-class, the most downtrodden section of the proletariat. He remonstrated with the descendants of George Washington, Americas own so-called “father of freedom”, over the word “freedom”. Connolly argued for the freedom of black people who the Washington’s employed as servants claiming they, Washington’s descendants, were taking it for granted a black girl would spend her life in servitude and expected any children she had to do the same. This family who spoke so flippantly of freedom and their famous forefather were more than happy to sentence others based on skin colour to a life with no freedoms. Not content with this they were condemning any children this black servant may have had to the same life. Connolly also argued with sections of the Irish/American working-class about equality for Italian and Polish workers, asking why they – the Irish – attacked fellow workers, as they themselves were attacked on their arrival in the US, and demanded they stop such actions which divide the labour and trade union movement. Such policies as those held by Connolly are an antithesis to these far-right groups who play on ethnic and racial divisions, as well as hating trade unions, claiming to be patriots and falsely to be disciples of James Connolly and the other 1916 leaders. A distortion of historical fact if ever there was one!
If these groups, or their ideologies ever get their hands on the reins of political power any benefits in working conditions and pay increases the trade unions have wrought from the employers will be reversed. They will enact laws which will make lockdown look like toytown, just as their predecessors in Italy and Germany did.
Do not be bluffed by their false concern about civil liberties, free speech and lockdown. If they ever get to have any say then civil liberties, free speech – which they claim to champion – will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Strikes or any form of industrial action may well be banned by law which perhaps brings us to one last question.
If these right-wing organisations presently on the fringe of politics, at best, ever ascend to governmental power, backed by the capitalist class who in crisis would turn to such fascist ideologies, and if they passed laws based on race similar to Hitler's 1935 Nuremberg laws, then would An Garda Siochana or any other police force in any country uphold such laws? Would they say the same as they do today, “we are here to uphold the law?” Would they begin rounding up people, undesirables in the eyes of the fascists, for deportation based on skin colour, ethnicity or political belief? Would they be prepared to take people away to “resettlement” camps as has happened in the past? Would they police and uphold the fascist laws as efficiently as they try to enforce lockdown and mask wearing? Let us hope we never find out and we can start by not allowing these far-right groups to use Covid-19 as a cover to gain support for their more sinister vile agenda.
It is important people consider these far-reaching consequences if the far-right get a foothold, therefore no matter how frustrated with this inept government’s handling of Covid-19 people may feel do not fall for the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Fascist groups claiming to champion free speech and civil liberties, these groups are in fact the opposite of such rights as free speech.