In Dublin last week, riots and looting that broke out in the wake of a horrifying and inexplicable attack on three small children, and their carer, has been widely attributed to nascent fascism. We regard this as an inappropriate and, potentially, insidious suggestion; which is not to say that inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric did not fan the flames, or that repugnant and misleading ideas about a Great Replacement are not doing the rounds.
The historian Roger Eatwell describes the amorphous ideology of fascism as ‘a latter-day symbol of evil, like the Devil in the Middle Ages.’ It is a term now bandied about to describe all forms of authoritarianism, as well as nativism or racism, and everything in between.
What we can say about fascism, historically, is that it has arisen in circumstances of economic decline where a disgruntled pool of military or quasi-military personnel supported by the petit bourgeois – and a less apparent wealthy elite – adopt extreme nationalist rhetoric and scapegoat ethnic or religious minorities.
The association of fascism with the military or police has been crucial, as these groups are almost uniquely capable of overthrowing democratic governments and opposing worker movements that lack military training.
What we witnessed in Dublin last week is, in some respects, nothing new, but simply an amplification of a general lawlessness that has afflicted parts of Ireland’s capital city, in particular, since the period of lockdowns. It is also clear that mass immigration has generated serious disquiet among the indigenous community.
The crime that gave rise to the riot and subsequent looting, allegedly perpetrated by an immigrant, appeared to vindicate those who are opposed to immigration, but the looting that followed demonstrates that native Irish are quite capable of random acts of violence.
The simplistic use of the term fascism prevents us from diagnosing the real drivers of criminality in deficient education, homelessness and housing insecurity, a lack of community policing and rehabilitation of perpetrators of crimes.
The government ought to be addressing serious deficiencies in the delivery of public services rather than doubling down on hate crime laws, or extending the powers of the Gardaí, especially if we recognise how fascism really emerges. Apart from ameliorating the social conditions, the best way of confronting hatred of minorities is surely through rational debate.
One could be forgiven for thinking that certain elements within the Irish government are actually keen to see an anti-immigrant (far right?) political movement emerging as a political force in Ireland, as this could split the working class vote and deflects attention from their own failings.
Meanwhile, mercifully, we have seen an interruption to Israel’s incursion into Gaza. Earlier this month Fra Hughes speculated on whether US support for Israel’s war on Gaza acts as a veiled threat to any nation considering joining a fledgling multi-polar world order.
Also Dr. Billy Ralph argues that moves by the HSE to measure health metrics in G.P. practice serves the interest of Pharma, and could foreshadow a dystopian future.
David Langwallner suggests that older artists generally repeat earlier tropes or descend into irrelevance but finds this is definitely not the case with the Rollings Stones‘s latest album.
Frank Armstrong reveals that Irish restaurants served as a forum for both Nazi sympathisers and opponents of the Reich, while Jammet’s may have had the finest French cooking in the world.
Musician of the Month Lewis Barfoot admits to loving winter. She finds the stillness and darkness supportive of creative work. Her new album HOME is out today.
And finally, “Love keeps a record of you singing to yourself, / tallies your tears.” No Record of Wrongs is a new poem by Haley Hodges.