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Is this the path the UK is taking?

(63 Posts)
MaizieD Tue 15-Sep-20 21:09:12

The author of this piece is an International History professor at Strathclyde University and a German national. I thought it was interesting. Several British people have likened our current political 'atmosphere' to 1930s Germany. This is from closer to home, so to speak.

Start
As a German I have often asked myself how a country can fall. My country of birth fell far beyond the deepest abyss. How else could one describe what happened: a European country that developed an industrial-scale killing machinery designed to eradicate lives. Millions of them.
I have never found growing up in a country with that history easy. But that is, of course, not the point at all: this history is not a story about my feelings. It is the story about a murderous fascist regime and the lives it extinguished. This fact must never be forgotten.

If anything, I think it's good that I felt uneasy growing up in Germany. It's what forced me to frequently confront the question I began with: How could Germany get to the point of carrying out systematic mass murder? Like questions about other atrocities, eg in Rwanda, this too
has no simple answer. We can cite ideology; some undoubtedly were willing executioners while others chose to look away. Ultimately, the story is complex, its outcome always tragic. But one point is clear: the downfall of Germany did not begin with genocide—that is where it ended.

At this point in this thread (at the very latest), some will say that 1930s Germany is not 2020. They are right: it is impossible, and would be wrong, to draw direct parallels with a decade that is nearly a century removed from ours. I am not suggesting that we do.
But historical developments can inform how we interpret what is happening today. Understanding them can help us make sense of the present. And that is what we must try because there is nothing normal about what happened in Parliament last night. Nothing familiar.

It was brazen for the UK Government to announce the intention of breaking international law with the Internal Market Bill. For a majority of Parliamentarians to support that, however, is not just brazen; is not simply a dark moment. It is as pitch black as it gets in a democracy.
What if not respect for the rule of law is a responsibility that we can all unite behind? As others have rightly noted, this is not about Brexit or even the union. It is simply about what is right and wrong. The answer to that question does not come in a limited and specific way: it comes only in the way of what is right. Breaking the law is not right. I have now witnessed the country I chose to make my home dismantle itself for 4+ years. Sometimes slowly, often at speed. Dismantle what it stood for; dismantle every standard in the land; its reputation.
Lies - normalised. Hatred - normalised. The proroguing of Parliament - normalised. Forcing over three million people, neighbours, colleagues, friends and family, to apply to stay or face deportation - normalised. No deal - normalised. Now the breaking of the law is next in line.

The problem is that each normalisation plays with fire and eventually that fire becomes uncontrollable. If trust in politicians, in institutions and the rule of law is further undermined, there is a real danger of collapse. Mr Cummings may well rejoice at the thought of that,
but nobody else should even contemplate it. Look at the US to see what happens when democracy itself becomes hollowed out to the point that post boxes are being removed to prevent people from voting and white supremacists are praised by the President.

But it can't happen in the UK, right? Of course it can. There is no magic shield. We know of far right vigilantism on the Kent coast and hotels around the country, asylum seekers being hounded. We know of the British Union of Fascists' flag being openly displayed on Trafalgar Sq.
We know of the deliberately manufactured ‘culture war’ about the Proms that was designed solely to create further division; we know of the accusations of 'wokeness'. And then remember too how peace in Northern Ireland is being jeopardized without even the blink of an eye.

This would be bad enough on its own, but now couple it with the Covid crisis. This is the UK’s perfect storm. And that brings me back to Germany’s downfall. Its initial trigger was not genocide nor concentration camps; it was not Nazi ideology. It was Germany's own perfect storm.
It developed for different reasons specific to the German national story - one reason why we must not blur or confuse it with what is happening in the UK now; that would be both ahistorical and wrong. But there is one thing I need everyone to understand: Germany's perfect storm
might well have passed, but it consolidated instead. There were different factors, but a vital one was the hollowing out of democracy and the undermining of the rule of law. That is why, as a German, I ask every MP to understand that. I ask them to look at Hungary and the US to see what that can mean in 2020. This is not about parallels, its about common patterns. Recognizing them and understanding them in their context helps us. I truly hope MPs in the UK will use that help to stop that perfect storm from consolidating here.
I cannot predict what its outcome would be if that fails - history no longer helps us with that. But Brexit is premised on stripping away rights that much we know. The possibility of that continuing unchecked does not bode well for anybody, no matter your political views. /end

End

MaizieD Tue 15-Sep-20 21:10:01

Sorry, forgot to link: twitter.com/cliodiaspora/status/1305787397544779776

Whitewavemark2 Tue 15-Sep-20 21:15:45

I have been feeling very uneasy for quite some time now, and downright alarmed this past week.

janeainsworth Tue 15-Sep-20 21:20:02

I have too Whitewave.
I’m sorry that’s not a profound remark but it is very depressing and it’s good to know that others feel the same. 😥

Urmstongran Tue 15-Sep-20 21:49:07

If the EU negotiators get back on track and act ‘in good faith’ there will be no need to use our new insurance policy.

A deal will be struck I’m sure of it.

The rest is white noise.

Elegran Tue 15-Sep-20 23:02:16

I am uneasy too. How can any other nation negotiate with a country which renegs on treaties? ANY treaty would then be in jeopardy - a trade agreement, a non-aggression pact, an agreement to extradite criminals, to restrict fishing to allocated areas, to downsize nuclear weapons, to give disaster aid, to collaborate on a global project of any kind.

There would be no trust in agreements or promises of co-operation of any kind, not with other nations, and not internally between government and governed. Cynicism, misdirection and corruption would rule and it is not an exaggeration to fear anarchy.

The decline and fall of what was once known as Great Britain is on the agenda.

Grandad1943 Tue 15-Sep-20 23:32:31

Boris Johnson promised nothing at the last general election but to "Get Brexit Done". The British electorate polled for that outcome last December and now we are where we are.

Johnson is on the verge of achieving the only promise he made in that election campaign and there is good reason to be apprehensive in what the future has in store for all who reside in Britain.

However, myself and many others in our company have worked alongside those that have provided a great amount of the essential services that has been required throughout the lockdown and the entire covid-19 crisis. In that, all of us involved have so often been stunned at the resilience of those essential services providers and their workers to overcome what has often appeared to be insurmountable problems to provide all that we required.

I believe that whatever the combination of the Covid crisis combined with a no-deal Brexit brings forward Britain, through the determination of its people, will pull through without descending to the level of 1930s Germany or Italy.

The road ahead will not be easy, I feel, but this nation has a long inbuilt tradition of fairness and democracy and that will see us all through to better times and prosperity of that there can be no doubt.

paddyanne Tue 15-Sep-20 23:47:01

With all due respect you're a different generation grandad its a very different world with a very different attitude.If its not handed to them on a plate they certainly wont put any effort onto getting it .
The UK is screwed ..I believe Lorry /truck /container drivers even crossing into KENT from other parts of the country without relevant paperwork will face fines of £300.Then massive tailbacks to get the paperwork dealt with ..or not before they can take their goods to Europe.Hope doesn't spring eternal that goods will arrive in perfect condition..well foodstuff anyway.In Scotland we are hoping to export from the east coast instead on the usual English ports ,that will ensure a speedier delivery AND that OUR exports will be counted AS ours instead of as English which they are at present .
Thats just the start of the problems ,Bojo really has done ajob on you ,hopefully we'll be out and Independent very very soon

MaizieD Wed 16-Sep-20 00:06:52

Can I suggest that this thread is about the progress of the UK in the apparent direction of a far right dictatorship and the overthrow of liberal democracy, not about the after effects of Brexit. I thought I'd change the record...

NotSpaghetti Wed 16-Sep-20 00:06:53

🙄 Grandad
You and your company may feel positive about things but you sound like an embodiment of British Exceptionalism.

Plenty of us see that we are not a nation with a long inbuilt tradition of fairness and democracy any more. And some doubt we ever were. To many of us British Exceptional should have died with the Empire.

Some people have done pretty well out of Covid, it must be said. I think maybe your business was one of them? Some will do well out of Brexit too (Jacob Rees-Mogg for example), but for most of us we are heading to a massive struggle where the gulf between the haves and have-nots inevitably widens.

We now have the largest coronavirus death toll in Europe, and a prime minister who is lying about a treaty he made. He has a long history of making racist remarks and trampling on others. This uniquely turbulent period is trusted to this man. He now thinks he is above international Law. Our representatives in Parliament have supported him in it thus far, and having done that, having crossed that line, I see little to be unified about.

Whitewavemark2 Wed 16-Sep-20 07:14:47

I think first of all we have to look at the evidence of how far - if at all - we have moved from a liberal democracy towards a right wing authoritarian democracy.

Grany Wed 16-Sep-20 07:40:12

And here is her P.S

Prof Tanja Bueltmann
@cliodiaspora

PS: If the issue is that people tell you this is over the top/ scaremongering/ impossible here and now, ask them just one question: what is their red line, i.e. what would make them think a country is failing. This won’t work for all, but I’ve found it a good hook for discussion.

Grandad1943 Wed 16-Sep-20 07:43:18

paddyanne Quote [With all due respect you're a different generation grandad its a very different world with a very different attitude. If its not handed to them on a plate they certainly wont put any effort onto getting it] End Quote.

Paddyanne, in your above quote who are "THEM".

To me, " them" or they are the people who have worked throughout the Covid -19 crisis in the Health Service, the electricity gas and water industries, in food processing and the associated huge distribution centres along with the road haulage industry so as to maintain those essential services to the likes of yourself.

They have often worked in conditions where the risk of incurring Covid-19 has been high due to the very nature of that work and yet those employees have continued to carry out their work despite the foregoing. They have not had anything "put on a plate" for them, and for you, Paddyanne, to speak of those persons in such a totally disparaging manner is nothing short of absolutely disgusting.

However, it is not uncommon of those holding Scottish nationalists views to be disparaging of all they see around them which is linked in any way to the United Kingdom.

Therefore I agree with a forum member who advised in a post a few days back that should there be another Scottish independence referendum all in Britain should be allowed to vote in that so as those such as myself can vote to throw out the whinging whining Scottish nationalist and there so-called government from all further association with Britain.

Perhaps then at long last, the Scottish Nationalists can then lead their nation to a perceived promised land provided they can this time figure out their monetary currency and the situation in the border with the rest of Britain.

I believe my above views of the Scottish nationalist situation have become very common among the English people in recent years.

Galaxy Wed 16-Sep-20 07:44:54

Thanks Maizie for raising this, my father is German so I am really interested in the points you have made.
I think pretending Britain is different in some way is very dangerous, people are working hard and with great resilience in most countries, I am sure there were many people working hard in Germany at the time, this does not make Britain special in some way or immune to populism etc.

Whitewavemark2 Wed 16-Sep-20 08:01:11

In January 2020 Cambridge university published a report that showed that dissatisfaction with democracy in the U.K. was at a record high.

So whether there is sufficient evidence that democracy is under threat in the U.K. or not, people perceive that it is and there must be a reason for them to think this way.

Grandad1943 Wed 16-Sep-20 08:03:54

Britain is an island nation and that has always affected its history and national attitudes.

I believe it was an underlying factor in the referendum result that has taken Britain to withdrawal from the European Union. The Tory party were able to convince the British people that it was not in their interests or tradition to be "ruled from Europe" and that resounded with a great many in Britain.

However, I feel that such thinking will never allow Britain to travel the political road of Germany and Italy in the 1930s.

Davidhs Wed 16-Sep-20 08:15:43

The comparison with Nazi Germany is nonsense we are not going to see Brown Shirts in the streets or Gestapo watching our every move. However it looks increasingly likely we are going to see a good deal of disruption if there is “no deal”.

On the principle of a level playing field the EU have not budged one micron, the UK is not going to cheat and gain advantage on any product entering the EU. They want their rules obeyed, as does every country, as we do.

If we don’t cooperate there are a lot of sanctions that the EU could impose, the UK will reciprocate and everything grinds to a standstill. It will get resolved - in time, until then I would not want to be in the export or transport business.

Whitewavemark2 Wed 16-Sep-20 08:22:02

The report showed that barely a third of British people “trusted” MPs to act in the interest of the public.

The British form of democracy is still based on the medieval concept of Lords, monarchy and commoners, with the pre-democratic elements of the HoL still surviving. This part of our governing institution survived to continue to rule after greater democracy was introduced.

MaizieD Wed 16-Sep-20 09:08:04

This thread was NOT ABOUT BREXIT.

Before you start wittering on about Brown Shirts I respectfully suggest that you re-read the article

At this point in this thread (at the very latest), some will say that 1930s Germany is not 2020. They are right: it is impossible, and would be wrong, to draw direct parallels with a decade that is nearly a century removed from ours. I am not suggesting that we do.
But historical developments can inform how we interpret what is happening today. Understanding them can help us make sense of the present. And that is what we must try because there is nothing normal about what happened in Parliament last night. Nothing familiar.

Then think about what is happening in politics and in public discourse.

Grandad1943 Wed 16-Sep-20 09:11:49

I one hundred percent agree with all that Davidhs has started in his post @08:15 today. For anyone to believe that Brown Shirts and political stormtroopers will appear on our streets at any time in the foreseeable future in total and absolute nonsense.

Britain may well find itself in a serious situation if no trading agreement can be reached with the European Union by the end of the year. Should such a situation arise then the Channel ports, especially Dover would play a critical role in the situation Britain could find itself in.

Long delays to the ten thousand trucks per day that cross to and from Europe would quickly create shortages of many everyday items in the United Kingdom especially perishable food.

However, the road haulage industry and its associated distribution centres have overwhelmingly proved there resilience and adaptability throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Many companies have come away from Just in Time (JIT) delivery schedules in favour of holding stock where that is possible. Therefore there is good reason to believe that a severe transport crisis which could well bring about a political crisis can be avoided.

That stated the situation in the channel ports will be critical on the first of January and in the weeks that follow and that is the area for all to watch.

Elegran Wed 16-Sep-20 09:22:17

Why do so many of you think we are immune? Read "IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE" a reprint of a fictional novel written 75 years ago by Sinclair Lewis in 1935, as he saw Germany developing under the Third Reich and listened to Americans saying smugly ^"It can't happen here! We have a democracy!" and see how fascism can be disguised as patriotism, measures gradually introduced to "make us great again" which take away that democracy, and laws passed which prevent those measures from being discussed. today.

Read it, then compare the story in the book with the US under Donald Trump - predicted 75 years ago - and finally compare the US today with the path the UK - yes the UK, that island fortress of honour and decency - is drifting toward under the guise of "freedom". Let me remind you again of the old but true fact - The price of freedom is eternal vigilance - and that we are progressively losing ways of exercising that vigilance.

You can get the book on Amazon. www.amazon.co.uk/Cant-Happen-Penguin-Modern-Classics?tag=gransnetforum-21 I read it a few years ago, and I see that there is now a reprint. Significant, that, it means that others besides me think that it has become very relevant.

growstuff Wed 16-Sep-20 09:26:52

Davidhs

The comparison with Nazi Germany is nonsense we are not going to see Brown Shirts in the streets or Gestapo watching our every move. However it looks increasingly likely we are going to see a good deal of disruption if there is “no deal”.

On the principle of a level playing field the EU have not budged one micron, the UK is not going to cheat and gain advantage on any product entering the EU. They want their rules obeyed, as does every country, as we do.

If we don’t cooperate there are a lot of sanctions that the EU could impose, the UK will reciprocate and everything grinds to a standstill. It will get resolved - in time, until then I would not want to be in the export or transport business.

Try reading diaries, newspaper articles and other primary sources from pre-1933 Germany. The Germans didn't believe that their country would turn out as it did either. There are definitely elements of what happened then in what us happening in 2020 UK.

growstuff Wed 16-Sep-20 09:32:05

I can't really see road haulage companies and distribution centres being much help against the destruction of democracy. grin grin grin

MaizieD Wed 16-Sep-20 09:35:27

I one hundred percent agree with all that Davidhs has started in his post @08:15 today. For anyone to believe that Brown Shirts and political stormtroopers will appear on our streets at any time in the foreseeable future in total and absolute nonsense.

Oh, FGS, Grandad. Read the article, read the bit I reposted. Stop wittering on about Brexit and think about what is happening politically.

We might not have any brownshirts but we've a media and a government that doesn't hesitate to characterise those who oppose their thinking as enemies and traitors. And a fine army of rightwing thugs who wouldn't mind a bit of a fight..

Elegran Wed 16-Sep-20 09:36:20

History doesn't provide exact parallels, with identical coloured uniforms and identically worded legislation. Instead it shows pointers to the ambitions and methods of those who want power, and those who would like to see the end of the rule of law and the onset of anarchy.

Dictatorship comes masked with a concern for the mother country and the use of a goal that is so dazzling that it blinds onlookers to reality. It uses persuasive false logic to convince voters to back him - because a dictator likes to think that he is in power because of "the will of the people" and there is very often a powerful and sinister advisor, inside the country or outside it, whose motives are not what they seem (did anyone actually vote for anarchy?).

It takes years for "the people" to recognise the garden path up which they have been led, and every year makes it harder to retrace their steps.