Thursday, April 18, 2024

The fascist turn


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A constant danger of countries undergoing prolonged economic crisis, like Barbados today, is the descent to fascism. 
Although many narrowly associate “fascism” with Hitler and Mussolini, it is actually capitalism shorn of its democratic pretensions. While useful in attaining power, democracy is easily discarded and fascists resort to eliminating opposition and suppressing alternative views. Similarly, given the economic challenges, select groups can only be specially treated at the expense of “outsiders”. Since fascism is morally repugnant, propaganda becomes paramount. Thus the media, the church and universities become prime targets for suppression, and civic groups like trade unions are tolerated only as subordinate extensions of government. 
Are these features absent today?
It is instructive that one of the first Democratic Labour Party (DLP) policies was a “new immigration policy”, rationalised on economic grounds, and clothed in “us versus them” language calculated to negate public identification with the “unfaired” Guyanese.
With a close 2013 election and with continued economic deterioration, DLP fascism has increased.
The condemnation of a normal Opposition-led “meet the people” exercise with a veiled threat of “shooting people and breaking heads” illustrates this heightened authoritarianism.
Since then, Barbados has witnessed the arrest and questioning of journalists over separate incidents, and though arguably free of political interference, there is no doubt that an atmosphere of intimidation of journalists has been a result. Linked to this is the naked use of the official and sole local television station as an instrument of party propaganda.
More recently there has been the attempt to intimidate leading university academics in the conduct of their public engagement functions. There is no other word but fascism which can be used as a descriptor for the evoking of the Public Order Act in response to an academic merely describing the workings of the Westminster system insofar as it relates to the termination of a government before the expiration of the normal five-year term. This is basic Politics 101 taught in every Introduction to Politics class.
To hint at treason is to reveal an extreme paranoia on the part of our governors. Indeed paranoia, insecurity and intolerance are the nutrients that feed the fascist consciousness.
But alas, fascism cannot survive without the complicity of civil society.  The over-politicisation and over-identification of the unions, churches and civil society with power is central to the sustenance of fascism.
It led to a stony guilty silence on the part of Germans when faced with lines of Jews being fed to insatiable gas chambers. Today, in 21st century Barbados, the silence and complicity of civil society in the face of the intimidation of journalists, the pre-dawn deportation of “outsiders”, the harassment of academia, and the crude use of propaganda have aided and abetted the fascist turn.
It can only be reversed when civil society resolves to assert its independence and autonomy.


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