‘Clenched fist nationalism’ is reappearing across Europe
Gordon Brown Jane Barlow/PA
Gordon Brown has warned that the type of “clenched fist nationalism” seen in the 20th Century has reappeared across Europe in parties like “Le Pens’ remodeled French National Front”, as he cautioned of the damage a second Scottish referendum could do to the UK.
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, wants another independence vote to be staged by the end of 2023, with authentic hermes h logos beant wallet leather light blue replica
SNP ministers hoping that work on another referendum can start in earnest later this year.
The former Prime Minister said: “I foresee a major constitutional crisis next year as the Scottish nationalists demand another referendum and I will not be silent.
“The very existence of our country now depends on whether we can rescue patriotism from the clutches of this narrow nationalism by addressing the deeply felt economic, social, cultural, and political grievances that Boris Johnson will continue to misinterpret unless he starts to listen to more knowledgeable voices on the ground in Scotland and elsewhere.”
Speaking ahead of the upcoming G7 meeting, Mr Brown said the UK should use it as a “launching pad” for a Global Britain that “the whole country can identify with”.
Mr Brown also called on Mr Johnson to address “economic insecurity” that results in “stagnant incomes” and fewer opportunities, and to assure the public that economic security would not be found “in a new form of protectionism, or in swapping one border for another”.
He cautioned that “an adversarial sectarian nationalism thrives when we ignore local ties that bind and fail to cultivate strong communities”, and called for “an early extension of locally elected Mayors” in order for decisions to be made by those who are closer to communities.
Mr Brown said the SNP must “open the books” and warned that the SNP Government “cannot be both judge and jury” when setting out the case for an independent nation.
very existence of our country depends on whether we can rescue patriotism from the clutches of narrow nationalism Gordon Brown
Nigel Farage notorious “Breaking Point” poster in the 2016 Brexit referendum is still remembered today a classic example of political shock tactics. What is less well known is how the poster which depicted a horde of Turkish immigrants threatening our homeland lived on. Two years later, under a new headline STOP, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban stole Mr Farage demagogic image to warn that his nation was being overrun. A year later, even more blatantly xenophobic images appeared again, this time in Spain from the nationalist party Vox. Irony of ironies, at least when it comes to poster design, the cause of anti internationalism has gone internationalist.
We thought this clenched fist nationalism had ended in the first half of the twentieth century. But, in our time, it has reappeared all over Europe: in the propaganda of Le Pens’ remodeled French National Front, Germany ADF, Italy’s League of Brothers in Italy, the Wilders party in Netherlands, and even in social democratic Scandinavia. Political nationalism has become, once again, the dominant ideology of our age.
A Europe that prided itself in its unity is now marked out by its deep sectarian divisions. And this return of tribal nationalism is not confined to the fringes: since 2010 we have seen a defensive nationalism made ‘official’ in formal tariff barriers, trade protectionism, the closure of borders and the building of walls separating countries, now 66 in number. And, in the last five, we have seen nationalism take on an even more aggressive form as America first, China first, India first, Russia first, and Turkey first movements emerged and vaccine nationalism and medical protectionism have taken hold.
All this is a far cry from the patriotism which George Orwell praised as the love of country, the natural, positive instinct to value our traditions, history, and culture. Instead it resembles his description of an us versus them nationalism which is not so much a patriotic celebration of ‘us’ but a resentment of ‘them’ and which views life as a constant struggle between ‘us’ and the ‘other’. It is an ideology that craves enemies and creates them where none exist, manufactures grievances that are more imagined than real, and incites the ‘ins’ to a xenophobic frenzy and ostracizes and even demonizes the rest.
But in one important respect in its causes this contemporary nationalism is different from the toxic nationalism of a century ago. Then, nationalist movements had their roots in claims of cultural discrimination, economic exploitation and political exclusion. The recent outbreak of Western nationalism in the UK, in Spain, Belgium, Eastern Europe, the US and Canada feeds on something quite different: economic insecurity (“I’m worse off than my parent’s generation”); social dislocation (“I’m not valued for what I do”); cultural loss (“my country is not what it used to be”); and political mistrust (“They’re all out for themselves”). And across Britain it exploits a feeling among millions of struggling families in the outlying regions and nations that they are being disdained and ignored, invisible to the political decision makers of the day and treated as second class citizens. “We don’t exist to them, do we?” is a common refrain, hence their susceptibility to the nationalism that proclaims the injustices they are suffering are, indeed, a form of discrimination, exploitation and exclusion.
Within our borders, our county is seeing five nationalisms Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Ulster and English which are becoming strong enough to threaten the viability of a now disunited Kingdom. I foresee a major constitutional crisis next year as the Scottish nationalists demand another referendum and I will not be silent. The very existence of our country now depends on whether we can rescue patriotism from the clutches of this narrow nationalism by addressing the deeply felt economic, social, cultural, and political grievances that Boris Johnson will continue to misinterpret unless he starts to listen to more knowledgeable voices on the ground in Scotland and elsewhere.
First, we must deal with economic insecurity: the devaluing of work, stagnant incomes from work, and a shrinking world of opportunities at work which make so many uncertain about what their place in this world is and will be. We have to show that the answer to economic insecurity does not lie in a new form of protectionism, or in swapping one border for another. The better way forward is to invest in upgrading people’s skills so that economies can create the well paid and high value jobs of the future and in a new social contract, particularly for those who have during this crisis given the most to society but have been rewarded the least: from the health and care workers who save lives to the delivery workers who ensure supplies from oxygen to food, and the caretakers who keep our hospitals and workplaces safe.
It’s not just about money: it about respect for people who feel that they are denied dignity and who deserve to be treated as equal citizens. Whether it be family, neighbourhood, workplace, village, town, or city, people want to feel they belong; to be a part of a community that is also part of them. An adversarial sectarian nationalism thrives when we ignore local ties that bind and fail to cultivate strong communities. It is time to reaffirm the importance of nurturing Edmund Burke’s “little platoons”, and of a Britain that has never, in its long history succumbed to a self interested individualism which would ignore the common good and never to an overbearing centralised state which would strangle local self government. We have to move forward on the principle underlying devolution that public policy decisions that affect our lives should be made, where possible, closest to where people are and I for one would favour an early extension of locally elected Mayors.
If we are to avert years of constitutional upheaval, we have to show we can make Britain work as a political community, building on the kind of cooperation we have seen between our four nations and regions in delivering mass vaccination. There is indeed a golden thread that connects our centuries old British commitment to tolerance and liberty with modern ideas of fairness and social responsibility. We have to rediscover that shared ethos and with it a shared mission, shared objectives and priorities; in other words, an enlightened patriotism that makes Britishness about more than holding a blue passport.
This also means we have to show that governments can manage globalisation well and not badly. The credibility of states now hinges on being able to solve global problems that require global responses, from pandemics to pollution to nuclear weapons proliferation. This week G7 should be the launching pad for a version of Global Britain that the whole country can identify with: a United Kingdom whose leadership on global vaccination, the closure of tax havens, the delivery of net carbon zero and the revival of global trade and growth is proof that when cooperation across nations works we all reap the benefit. Most expect theEU to launch infringement procedure over Italian media law, newspaper says.