Welcome to Weimar Britain

A humane member of parliament has been murdered for the sanctified cause of Britain First - and immigrants last.

    Welcome to Weimar Britain
    A book of condolence for Labour Party MP Jo Cox is seen near her houseboat in Wapping in East London [Reuters]

    There is a whiff of Weimar in British politics today. The murder, by bullet and blade, of Labour Party MP Jo Cox - less than a week after the Orlando massacre - says so much about the resentment and craven fears loaded into British society at the moment.

    Two separate witness reports state that the killer shouted "Britain First" during the attack, referring to a violent far-right group.

    There is also some emerging evidence that the killer had far-right sympathies, which would have placed him in opposition to Cox's pro-migrant, pro-refugee politics. If this is true, it represents the full arrival of armed and deadly culture wars of the United States in the United Kingdom.

    Shock killing halts Britain's EU campaign

    Naturally, Britain First dismisses the witness claims as "hearsay". But the reaction of many right-wing activists on the internet illustrates what is at stake in the political fallout.

    For them, it is self-evident that the killing is a "left-wing false flag", an attempt to steal from the nationalist right the victory they were due in the upcoming referendum over British membership of the European Union.


    Why might that be? What does Britain's membership of this undemocratic, neoliberal bloc have to do with the politics of a racist street gang? Only this: The main campaigns for "exit" from the European Union have foregrounded one question before all else - immigration.

    Justice Secretary Michael Gove, a leader of the official Vote Leave campaign, claims that a population the size of Scotland is heading to the UK in the next 15 years, putting pressure on public services.

    The same campaign chose the build-up to an England v Turkey football game to suggest that British security was at risk from EU membership, as Turkey's EU accession would result in Turkish criminals coming to the UK.

    Now immigration is treated as synonymous with the loss of control people feel over a political and media class that is increasingly oblivious to popular opinion.


    The pro-exit press has supported this campaign, suggesting that 12 million Turkish migrants could be on their way to the UK. Penny Mordaunt, a Conservative minister, has joined in, adding that Turkish immigrants could put the NHS at risk. This is coming from a government that is effectively privatising the health service, while starving it of funds.

    Nigel Farage, the braying leader of the hard-right UK Independence Party and a leading figure in the anti-EU group Grassroots Out, recently unveiled a widely derided billboard poster with the words "Breaking Point" superimposed over an image of a sea of brown faces.

    Social media users have pointed out the uncanny resemblance of the image to Third Reich propaganda about gypsies and Jews.

    OPINION: I support Brexit but the Turkey bashing needs to stop

    As if to confirm the British far-right's orientation towards the US culture wars, a third exit campaign, Leave EU, has used Donald Trump's anti-immigrant speech about "the vicious snake" of migration in a campaign video filled with menacing images of fungible migrant hordes surging in European cities.

    The campaign's imagery also, once again, draws on a visual style of racist hilarity once prevalent on the inter-war anti-Semitic Right.

    The purest, chemically concentrated expression of this ascendant politics of resentful nationalism can be found among England football fans, whose rioting, nationalist slogans and racist violence were capped by the despicable baiting and humiliation of Roma children, throwing bottles and coins at them.

    Downward class trajectory

    These political and cultural tendencies have been incubating for some time. The psychic fuel for this racist and often violent acting out is an experience of decline, linked to patterns of deindustrialisation and underinvestment.

    Research suggests that it is not the poorest, but those who have experienced a downward class trajectory for the past few decades, who are most susceptible to resentful nationalism.

    OPINION: Brexit and the UK's geopolitical destiny

    The British right has always been masterful at linking this experience of decline to the purported loss of an ideal nation - the Britain of fair play, where everyone knew their neighbour - caused by immigration.

    And now immigration is also treated as synonymous with the loss of control people feel over a political and media class that is increasingly oblivious to popular opinion.

    And the monster behind it all: "the EUSSR", a "leftist" bloc with its own rouble. Paranoia and conspiracy theories are far from new in this debate.

    Across Europe, fascism is once more on the rise. Greece was on the precipice of a neo-Nazi surge, and could still return to that state as fresh austerity is implemented.

    Hungary has a far-right presidency, while Austria has only just averted the same fate. Marine Le Pen could very well be the next president of France.

    Across the Atlantic, a campaign which openly flirts with violence and white-supremacists - and which demands "America First!" at every opportunity - is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her ample money.

    And here in the UK, a humane, centre-left member of parliament has been murdered for the sanctified cause of "Britain First" - and immigrants last.

    Richard Seymour is an author and broadcaster based in London. He has written for The Guardian, the London Review of Books and many other publications.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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