Gary Younge perceptively, as always, points out the obvious that few of us wish to recognise (Shocked by the rise of the right? The signs were always there, 24 May). Racism and fascist ideas have always been present in our society, but for most of the time have been largely contained. However, when a society faces a critical breakdown, as Germany did in the 1930s and the UK is today, these marginalised views are given a blood transfusion.
Willi Münzenberg, who developed the most effective forms of publicity and propaganda to counter German fascism during the 1930s, bemoaned the fact that the progressive forces in society refused to take Hitler’s and Goebbels’ propaganda and fraudulent promises seriously enough. Münzenberg wrote in detail about how the fascists utilised sophisticated publicity – many of their methods lifted from his pioneering work and perverted – to intoxicate the population with what Karl Marx called “a false consciousness”.
Then, as now, the mainstream media provide rightwing populists with the oxygen of publicity they need and thrive on. Only a concerted and focused effort by democratic forces (not only on the left but by government and public institutions too) to actively counteract racism, xenophobia, intolerance and ignorance can turn the tide.
Education is, of course, key to this, but also the need for widespread and organised campaigns and effective propaganda to counter the rhetoric and mendacity of rightwing populists. We ridicule the “comical” Hitlers, Salvinis and Farages at our peril.
Author of a forthcoming biography of Willi Münzenberg
• I’m not surprised by the current rise of the far right, but it does require explanation. From the Anti-Nazi League in the 1970s to Stand Up To Racism now, I’ve been active in opposing racists and fascists all my adult life. The National Front, the BNP, the EDL and Ukip have largely been seen off, yet now the Brexit party and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon have appeared. Given that every far-right and fascist organisation has been defeated by opponents in each generation, the fact that new ones replace them is concerning.
Perhaps we might consider that it is the operation of free-market capitalism itself, which works on the basis of “haves and have-nots”, that creates the conditions for this to happen, and it is this which we really need to get rid of.
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