Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter


The Far Right Never Went Away

I’m cross-posting this on all my sites. It’s not about writing, but my literature professors always told me that to know the writer is to understand the writing.

It was no real surprise that the Far Right won so many seats in the recent European elections, although the mainstream press chose to be surprised by it. Regardless of the fact that some countries did not see as high a Far Right vote as we might have expected, this was still the day on which it became obvious, at least to me, that fascism has never gone away in Europe (and nor in the USA, to be frank).

Those who claim this to be a resurgence are plain wrong. The blackshirts have been hiding in plain sight, and under the rocks which keep their black hearts at the right temperature.

I’m not a political analyst, and would never claim to be one. Nor am I a historian. But my own history, my own story, has been blighted by fascism since I can remember, and that’s why I say, and know, it never went away.

My parents were extremely right-wing. Well, my father was, and my mother just did what he told her to. There exists a list of the tasks he set her on a daily basis for housekeeping, which included that his slippers had to be at right angles to the edge of the bed. As children we were beaten. When I got into Cambridge, yes, he was proud, but it soon came to the point where my left-wing “indoctrination” by those I was at university with started to interfere with his view of the world, and we had one massive row after the other. He’d used me as a weapon against left-wing student politics in the early 1970s when he forced me to distribute leaflets at the school I was a pupil at (and he chair of the parents’ association), next to him at the school entrance when school started. Not a pleasant experience.

When I was on my year abroad in Germany as part of my degree, I went on anti-nuke demos, went to a demo when the Bundeswaffe set up an exhibition of tanks and other weaponry on the park in Leonberg, the town where I was living at the time. At that demo a group of older women came up to us, started spitting at us, told us to go back to Russia if we were so intent on demonstrating against what was right. “If Hitler were still alive,’ one of them shouted at us, “you’d be a head shorter.” This was in 1981. Later in the 1980s, I narrowly avoided the water cannon and baton charges by the armed police at demos in Stuttgart where we were demonstrating against nukes and the suppression of the freedom of speech. Human chains linking nuclear bases came at the same time, all the time confronted by police, young men in black shirts shouting ne-Nazi slogans. I only found out later that the barber who used to give me my number 1 haircut every other week, and who had a remarkably high voice for so corpulent a man, was a neo-Nazi.

And once I lived back in England, Thatcher still in power, racism still rife, the BNP hardly censured by the Thatcherites, Rock Against Racism trying to getting a voice of common sense and equanimity heard, the better aspects of punk preaching a peace that wasn’t necessarily obvious in its music, the fight had to continue. The difference then, to now, was that many earnest young people truly believed that we could make the world better, as a movement. It seems we have failed.

Oh, for a few years, in the UK at least, in the early Blair years, it seemed like we had succeeded in one way or another, but that pipe dream soon fell apart because of politicking and what has become the inevitable war mongering by weak governments. And in every nook and cranny of this country, people who were different were still being beaten to pulp by people either literally or figuratively in black shirts.

When Breivik murdered all those labour activist youths in Norway in July 2011, it was no suprise. Xenophobia, racism, and right-wing extremism was rife in Norway when I lived there in 2002-2006. Preppers in the US are inevitably far-right adherents. Italy never foreswore Mussolini, not really. It’s the same whereever you look, and that’s just in the very small sample of countries I’ve known.

Then came austerity with Cameron and Osborne, facilitated by the promise-breaking Nick Clegg. Cameron’s and Osborne’s strategy was clear from the outset (and, yes, even then people were telling me that I and others like me were exaggerating the danger, that democracy wouldn’t suffer) – effectively ethnic cleansing and the systematic and slow elimination of the sick and the poor.

And along came UKIP and Farridge (that public school boy who likes to think he’s landed gentry but plays the common man after having hummed fascist tunes at school), and inflamed anti-austerity rhetoric to anti-immigrant rhetoric, used austerity to turn the electorate against itself, knowing all the while that giving Cameron and Osborne and their austerity a bloody nose would actually lead to a Brexit and to a polarised and violent battle between those who wanted to remain and those who didn’t because Brexit, after all was, shoving it up Cameron, and all the foreigners. Net migration has tripled since then.

I don’t really need to retell the tale of Boris Johnson, serial liar, womaniser, plagiarist, racist, transphobe, misogynist, corrupt Taugenichts (look it up), who still uses racist and anti-semitic language in his newspaper articles. Look at the history of the Daily Mail/Heil/Fail (take your pick), and fascism has always been its Leitmotif, its motivation, its aim, its ultimate god. And the UK had a reputation as being a tolerant, well-balanced nation. IT NEVER WAS.

So how do we counter this far-right burgeoning from sleeper cells and underground strength to winning so many votes? For once, I can’t offer a solution. Part of me feels like my generation has let down the younger generations in Europe, that we didn’t fight hard enough, not for what we think is right, but what is right. When governments deliberately under-educate their populace so that critical thinking becomes a rarity, when the people most at risk actually support the blackness of fascism and racism, words fail. All we can try to do is fight again. Perhaps our mistake was in believing that we could change people merely by the use of words not the use of weapons.

Perhaps it will be a start if Labour win the election in the UK. But there are so many dangers there, too, what with all parties wearing the hairshirt of anti-immigration under their suits. And that is the wrongest and most misguided of all things. Open borders lead to open minds.

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  1. Beth

    13th June 2024 at 01:49

    Thank you for writing this, Richard. I’m originally American, now a dual Canadian-American citizen because I left the country of my birth at the time of the Iraq War, when the writing was on the wall about where it was headed, and I couldn’t bear to have my tax dollars spent that way. I too feel like our generation has failed, but we must continue to fight and continue to tell our story. Ultimately, I don’t think the far right will triumph, but there is going to be a whole lot of suffering by those who least deserve it between now and then.

    1. Richard Pierce

      13th June 2024 at 14:25

      Thanks for letting me know what you thought of the piece (which of course becomes more incomplete the longer I look at it – I tend not to edit, nor do I have the highest level of patience with anything, least of all myself). I hope the Far Right won’t triumph, and pray to my god that Trump won’t win in November. Yes, so much pain.

  2. r

    13th June 2024 at 12:33

    I didn’t know about your parents. Your perspective is incredibly interesting to read. I saw the Guardian article this morning and “scary” is the right word.

    1. Richard Pierce

      13th June 2024 at 14:23

      I knew at the time what they were like (I mean my father even lent me money at 1% above the base rate), but it wasn’t really until I started therapy that I realised I had suppressed the memories of the emotional abuse that came with where he particularly was on the political spectrum. And that did scar me for life and adversely affected all my relationships, especially with M, until I did finally realise why I felt so bad about myself. I guess the upside is that I become more left-wing as I get older, unlike many of my peers. ANd, yes, it is scary. R

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