New Labour and Fascism, #1/5

Geoffrey Wheatcroft has an interesting op-ed in the Guardian today, describing some of the ways in which the rhetoric of leading politicians frequently includes characteristic fascist tropes, and he provides plenty of examples to illustrate his claims. (Harry’s not happy, and says so here.)

The suggestion that Tony Blair’s New Labour has something in common with interwar fascism is, of course, not new. The label that Mr Blair chose to describe his own politics, that of the Third Way, itself invites the comparison, owing to its popularity among mid-century fascists who saw their political creed as one which rejected the extremes of state socialism on the one hand and liberal economics on the other. One contemporary academic analyst of fascism, Roger Eatwell, for example, puts the search for a “holistic national radical Third Way” right at the heart of his extensive and authoritative examination of fascist ideology [Fascism: A History, p.11].

(A digression: Michael Mann’s new book, Fascists, one of many I’m half-way through at the moment, is superb. At least, the first few chapters are. I don’t yet know about the rest.)

Another old fascist slogan, “Neither Left Nor Right But Forward!”, has also become something of a staple among partisans of contemporary Anglophone centre-left politics. Blair guru Anthony Giddens published a book called Beyond Left and Right back in 1994, and the Labour Party is going to the country about now with the remarkably vacuous slogan, “Forwards, Not Back”. My favourite example of this kind of language, however, comes not from a Blairista but from a “New Democrat”: the New York Times reported in December 1998 that Al Gore had told a Democratic audience that, “Six years ago, we moved politics forward, beyond right and left. Today let us move politics not only farther forward, but also upward, to a higher place, to a place far beyond the false divisions and dichotomies of the past.”

OK: so some of the slogans are the same. (We knew that.) What else?

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