Probably the least convincing part of Roth’s ‘The Plot Against America’ is the denouement.
Lindbergh’s widow appeals for a turn away from KKK-led violence; Roosevelt is reelected; equilibrium (and the ‘American way’) is restored. In the epilogue, it is explained quite plausibly that it was a Nazi plot all along. I await Mrs Trump’s corresponding intervention with anticipation!
In Part One of this series, Trump’s fascist coup was described. In Part Two, the Brexit virus and the US/UK shared need to destroy ‘Europe’ as a tolerant, consensual model of global leadership and decision-making was diagnosed.
Is there a credible strategy to neutralise and turnaround US/UK intentions?
I have identified six strategies that seem worth developing – but have no monopoly of insight here. I welcome further suggestions from readers. I do not believe – as the May government does – that strategic principles need to be kept ‘secret’ in case it gives ‘the enemy’ an advantage. How ridiculous does it sound when we present May’s Supreme Court Brexit argument in these terms?
First, there does need to be some sort of inclusive mass movement in the UK. This is both to halt the momentum of the fascists, and to consistently develop and present the counter-narratives to contested concepts like ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and ‘respecting the voice of the people’.
The movement – ‘UK global citizens’, I quite like ‘199+’ (because we have so much more of a mandate than May’s 199 Tory MPs), or whatever appropriate badge might be chosen – should develop and popularise the various strands of strategy described below. It should champion progressive, inclusive constitutional and social reforms, rule of law, and a rebirth of positive democratic political action that engages and enthuses local communities.
The march of Farage’s goons to the Supreme Court should be banned (for reasons argued in part two). But, IF it is permitted to go ahead then a counter, peaceful Gandhi-esque mass sit-in should be organised outside the Supreme Court. The sit-in might start many days before the hearing, and grow in shifts to occupy the streets around the court as a zone of peaceful deliberation for rule of law during the hearings.
The mass movement needs political leadership and some traction with the remnants of representative and constitutional democracy in parliament and the four UK nations.
There is a reality that a broadly-based, real ‘Leader of the Opposition’ – founded on opposition to austerity and little-Englander xenophobia – would probably command a majority in Parliament. He/she would lead a coalition from ‘One Nation’ Tories to outward-looking Socialists. Some type of new third force was rumoured over the summer, but this has died down since Corbyn’s re-election.
It saddens me to write it, but Corbyn and McDonnell are barely Leaders of the Parliamentary Labour Party, let alone the ‘opposition’. They have become, in effect, May’s ‘wing men’. They ‘respect’ and prioritise the votes of racists, xenophobes aping Non-Dom media and political opportunist agendas, over the future hopes and opportunities of generations drowned out or denied a voice on June 23rd.
The current PLP’s position as articulated by Corbyn and Starmer is as inchoate as May’s. They will not ‘frustrate the voice of the people’ (as they define the 26%), but they have Article 50 ‘red lines’. They have not precisely said what these red lines are – but given some of them will surely be anathema to May’s Brexiteers – what are the PLP going to do? They either vote against Article 50 and, in their terms ‘frustrate the voice of the 26%’, or they let it pass and betray their red lines. Get a grip!
For what it is worth, the most consistent and coherent ‘Leader(s) of the Opposition’ I have heard in recent months is from Sturgeon and a particularly noble response from Lucas to Trump’s coup.
If Sturgeon and Lucas were to take this on and open their arms to Tories like Heseltine and Burt, Labour leaders like Khan and Leese (and some obvious PLP supporters), the LibDems, appropriate Welsh and Irish political leaders – they would be unstoppable. It is certainly in the interest of their narrower political agendas (Scotland and Green) to assemble this type of alliance. I also hope that in the face of a real opposition, the Corbynista movement (and perhaps its leaders) will think again. Potentially they have much progressive thought and dynamism if they can get over ‘respect’ for the tyranny of the 26% and their media mouthpieces.
The ‘199+’ national political leadership team, should champion and support fundamental enhanced devolution. This is absolutely required for Scotland and Northern Ireland – both of whom voted Remain – but should also be accelerated in areas of England and Wales who want it and have a credible manifesto for reform.
These are not the shabby haggles of Osborne’s deals – but a new constitutional settlement, probably with strong federal components. If London or other areas want and need their own international ‘freedoms’ (i.e. of capital, goods, people, ideas etc), and can demonstrate a mandate for their ambitions, then it is the job of ‘199+’ to press Parliament and government to support this. There are mechanisms in existing Scotland, Wales, NI, London, and Sustainable Communities Act legislation that might be amended to enable progress to be made.
There must be no more ‘Mr Nice Guys’ from ‘199+’ and the political leadership teams. All legal avenues should be explored to frustrate the coup in the US and the tyranny in the UK.
In the US, there are opportunities prior to the actual electoral college meeting on December 19th. Ongoing criminal and tax issues, the Putin links, the complicity of the FBI in the coup must be further exposed. Pressure should be put on Pence over his suitability to be VP, given Trump’s likely failure. There is the filibuster, and the considerable powers of resistance at State and Municipal levels. Of course, there is a risk that Trump turns into a Duterte (perhaps he already is one). But, short of that, the Democrats, the Sanders constituencies, other progressives, and local communities can make it very hard for Trump fascism if they are determined, pro-active and single-minded.
In the UK, there is the imminent Supreme Court appeal and any follow up. But this is only the beginning of necessary legal recourse against those who have incited hate crime and electoral fraud. The ongoing CPS investigation into the Leave Campaign might be augmented by the case I have made elsewhere, that Gove, Johnson and Farage should be investigated for inciting hate crimes. It is also difficult to argue that ‘freedom of the press’ is freedom to incite violence against judges, litigants and immigrants. ‘199+’ should support and bring these cases, and keep the media and the Government on the back foot in making their coup seem ‘normal’.
Consumer power of a ‘199+’ mass movement is potentially immense. The ‘Stop Funding Hate’ campaign has shown the way. It can extend its reach further. John Lewis, for instance, may have said ‘no’ in the first instance – but it has thousands of cooperative members and owners. If Stop Funding Hate reduces Xmas or January Sales turnover, and worries members and owners, will they change their position?
Finally, the EU itself needs to do more. They are under existential attack – not from boat people or Islam – but from US and UK political leaders, populist media, and their misguided followers.
The EU needs to get the narrative on the referendum right (as Merkel has done on Trump’s election). 26% is NOT a majority – especially when 3m EU residents in UK (and some UK residents in EU) were denied a voice that European citizens might have reasonably expected.
Thereafter, there is a carrot and stick approach. As a carrot, the EU institutions and Member States can reaffirm that Britain remains welcome and valued as part of the ‘European family’.
Second, it might wish to take its own view on who may trigger Article 50 on behalf of the UK. If it does not believe a Government whose only mandate is 199 Tory MPs can trigger Article 50 based on an advisory referendum, it should NOT accept an executive trigger and not commence negotiations.
The EU should also proactively take its own views on whether and how to work bilaterally with Scotland, Northern Ireland, London and other parts of the UK who have different views to May and wish to remain closer members of the European family. Unlike the highly centralised UK, the EU is used to doing this – as the case of Wallonia and CETA demonstrates.
Internationally, the EU should move swiftly to implement CETA and consider an accelerated extension of it to Mexico and other states whom Trump sets out to bully. They should also make clear that, in the event of UK departure from the EU, they expect to be a full partner in any successor negotiations Canada and the UK have about a bilateral deal.
There is much more that could and probably will be written both about ‘the plot against Europe’ and the fightback strategies and tactics. I consider my ‘six’ suggestions a reasonable starter, and something like this portfolio is necessary. However, I have considerable doubts whether they are likely to be sufficient. I would value reader feedback and ideas.
In particular, whilst rejecting racism and xenophobia, I recognise the requirement for a progressive narrative and credible policies on globalisation that counter media, political and business opportunists who prey on the fears of failed and struggling communities. Recent attention to inclusive growth and to leadership of place are part of the enhanced devolution agenda above. However, this must also have supportive national and global dimensions – including a reformed EU.
Amidst the anger, despair and the recollections of the Roth narrative, I am currently reading a novel by a European author, with strong strains of Latin American magic realism. In it, a book shop owner cherishes the favourite books in his store because they absorb and project the soul of the author. He sells and even gives these books to readers who will put some of themselves into the book as they read it.
I recognise ‘the plot against Europe’ has neither the meticulous intricate beauty of high literature, nor the years of blood, sweat and tears that goes into an author’s best work. It does, though, contain part of my soul during a very tough period politically and socially. I hope readers of the series will have some empathy with and be willing to act on these sentiments. I pledge to offer my energies and tangible support to each of the six strategies outlined. If many of us begin to do this, together we shall push back the redneck, little-Englander tide.
It is time to fightback for a better Britain and Europe in a progressive global community.