Witnessing trial runs for fascism


Sir, – In light of Fintan O’Toole’s article on the dangerous rise of “pre-fascism” in Europe (“Trial runs for fascism are in full flow”, Opinion, June 26th) should we not be questioning the perceived wisdom of axing history as a compulsory subject for the Junior Certificate?

The one thing we definitively know from history is that it repeats itself.

In England they dropped history as a compulsory subject with the introduction of the GCSEs in 1988 and a survey commissioned by the conservative peer Lord Ashcroft in the summer of 2012 revealed that more children associated the name Churchill with an animated dog that sells car insurance than Britain’s heroic wartime prime minister.

Should we really be going down the road of bankrupting some of our children of valuable historical knowledge?

Brexit was based on demonstrably false claims. That those of us with an intrinsic understanding of history could see it for the sham that it is should offer food for thought. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, – We are certainly living in strange times, but to assert, as Fintan O’Toole does (Opinion, June 26th), that they are pre-fascist is to imply that history repeats itself in ways that are knowable, predictable, and follow a determined trajectory. From what I know of history, it is anything but.

Fascism, as an historical phenomenon, not a portmanteau word for everything from authoritarian populism to Nazism, arose out of very particular circumstances, the European catastrophe and charnel house that was the first World War. The crash of 2007-8 was bad, but not as bad as that: there is a need for a sense of proportion.

Brexit was probably in part a result of the crash, but it is also a result of a democratic decision taken in a referendum. Both sides lied and exaggerated, but neither side actually resorted to Fascist tactics: Brexit was won, not by the BNP or English Defence, but the absurd idea that somehow Britain can be restored to its former swashbuckling glory by free trade deals with its former colonies, most of which roundly despise it and are waiting for a chance to revenge past wrongs. More Evelyn Waugh than Adolf Hitler, never mind Ayn Rand.

Italy, birthplace of Fascism, has a very nasty home affairs minister, but the fact is that the rest of Europe has not shared responsibility for the waves of migrants coming across the Mediterranean, themselves often a product of Western policy on the continent, particularly Libya.

Meanwhile, the euro haunts Europe like a spectre –the spectre being Germany.

Images of children in cages are truly revolting: images of Trump in a cage would do something to redress this. Given a president who is speculating on pardoning himself, who knows what might happen: there is still the rule of law.

The present crisis is a result of the collapse of one ideology – neoliberalism and its variants – that masqueraded as a science: economics. Economics, once over-confident to the point of hubris but now something of a cowering dog, is trying to put itself back together in ways that reconcile what was learned from the crash of 1929 and more recent events: an economics that addresses real democratic concerns. But as yet that hasn’t been formulated in a way that can catch the imagination as earlier, simplistic nostrums of neoliberalism did: it hasn’t found a political voice.

Or to put it in the words of the great Italian intellectual and anti-fascist, Antonio Gramsci, who died in prison at the hands of the regime, “the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.

These morbid symptoms can only be dealt with by open discussion, analysis, and the opening up of real economic debate – not least about what the nature of economics actually is, how it is done, whose interests it serves, how new directions can be found, rather than the flaccid accountancy reports often emanating from government sources that crowd out any real thought. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.