As if on cue, no sooner was Brexit Day over than news began circulating of a notice posted for residents in a Norwich tower block telling people to speak English or go home. ‘We do not tolerate people speaking other languages than English in the flats,’ said the notice, before going on to encourage immigrants to return to their own countries and free up housing for white English-speaking British people. Monika Wiśniewska, a Polish author living in England, took to social media to describe how Polish people were now being described as ‘vermin.’
We may pretend that this could never happen here, but mass murder was thought out of the question in Srebrenica. The reality is that this can happen here, and it will happen here if we do not find a way of stopping the temperature rising. Already we have reached boiling point. All that is holding the old order in place is the democratic habit of a few generations, but this is eroding. It seems perfectly clear to me that we have reached a critical moment.
The common belief that Britain, acting as the policeman of Europe, went to war with Hitler to stop the Holocaust is an ex post facto justification. The Nazis’ “Final Solution” – the beginning of systematic murder as a solution to the “Jewish Problem” – did not begin until the Wannsee Conference of 20 January 1942. Adolf Hitler’s opinions regarding the Jews were well known long before the war. He wrote a book outlining his antisemitism and his plans to deal with the Jews of Germany. Britain may or may not have been comfortable with this development in Berlin, but it did nothing.
Yet the poppy, from the joke it was – no matter how ordinary innocent people feel about wearing it, has been “hijacked,” or so we are told. It has now become the totem of hyper-aggressive, right-wing racist British nationalism. On the football field it has become the weapon of choice to be deployed against non-British outsiders; Irish Catholics and Argentinians – very much victims of British imperial and colonial violence – who play for English clubs. On the lapels of knuckle-dragging thugs it has become a compliment to the Nazi swastika tattooed on their necks.
Many reading this piece will no doubt be concerned that intolerance of Siol nan Gaidheal is itself intolerance, and the last thing we want to be is intolerant. We are an “inclusive” movement after all. But this paradox has been dealt with before, by the Austrian-born philosopher Karl Popper. After the horrors of the Holocaust and the defeat of Nazism in Europe Popper reasoned – rightly – that it is not intolerance to refuse to tolerate the intolerant.
In Scotland we know the score. This brand of neo-Nazi, white supremacist, British ethno-nationalism – complete with the Sieg Heil salute – has already hit the streets. It has been mobilised all over Scotland against the civic and voluntary nationalism of the independence movement. On the 19 September 2014 it was on full triumphalist show to mark its territory on George Square, Glasgow, and it has been visible at every single pro-union demonstration and counterdemonstration since.
Do we negotiate with these thugs? How did that pan out for the socialists, communists, church leaders, and liberal politicians in Germany after 1933? Not very well! Before the roundups of Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Gypsies began these “traitors” – wasn’t that what Jo Cox’s killer was shouting as he hacked her to death? – were picked up in short order and interned in concentration camps like Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen, where they were tortured and murdered.