I recall being told by a veteran socialist back in the mid 80s that as difficult as things were at the time - the miners had just been defeated and thatcherism seemed unstoppable - that things would be worse for many working class people in the future.The footsoldiers of free market capitalism would become even more brutal and truly terrible right wing politicians would emerge he warned. And afraid to report that in many senses my erstwhile comrade was right.
There were no zero hour contracts back then, young people in education were getting full grants, council housing was still available, the private sector wasnt allowed near the NHS, millions of workers were still organised in trade unions, the railways and buses were still publicly owned, there were no foodbanks and the super rich were still paying their fair share of tax. And on the international front the US military was still licking its wounds after being kicked out of Vietnam a few years earlier while the medeival homicides of Daesh and Al Qaeda didnt even exist.
And looking at the world today we can see these terrible political figures i was warned of in the shape of the likes of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and Rodrigo Duterte. In fact all over the world we are seeing the rise of brutal right wing demagogues of the kind we have not seen since the 1930s.
Most prominent among these is the real estate salesman Donald Trump. Trump built on the fortune he inherited from his father by being a ruthless exponent of the callousness and greed which marked both thatcherism and reaganism - in fact trump's career in business makes the character gordon gekko of 'wall street' infamy look like a social worker. His presidential campaign has been characterised by explicit misogyny, undisguised racism towards latinos and muslims and a disturbing preoccupation with using nuclear weapons against what he perceives are the US's enemies.
The President of the Phillipines Rodrigo Duterte made international headlines this week after calling US President Barak Obama a "son of a whore".The Obama administration had rightly expressed concerns about human rights under Duterte, who was swept into power recently on a strong law and order ticket and a promise to crack down on crime. But under Dutere cracking down on crime has meant public and private death squads summarily executing thousands of people suspected of being involved in the drug trade. Indeed the positively psychopathic Duterte actively encourages people in the phillipines to kill 'criminals' without worrying about the niceties of the law or a legal trial.
Marine Le Pen is the daughter of the french neo fascist and veteran holocaust denier Jean Marie Le Pen. Marine Le Pen wants to strip millions of french muslims of their citizenship and wants to restore the death penalty in france. While the Ukip leader Nigel Farage has spent the last few years whipping up public hostility towards muslims in britain and nationals from EU countries. He produced a deeply racist poster during the recent referendum campaign that was condemned even by other leave europe campaigners. While the party he has spent years leading is also strongly in favour of the restoration of the death penalty in Britain.
What marks all these emergent right wing figures out is an extreme national chauvinism, racially charged views and the scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities, a complete disregard for human rights and strong support for the death penalty. It's entirely reasonable to say that none of these deeply disturbing and reactionary traits would have been out of place among right wing politicians in the 1930s, a decade which saw fascist movements emerge and seize power across europe and the world. We know how that turned out - so we cant say we haven't been warned.