Is Trump's Visit The Beginning Of A New Anschluss?
The 12th of March 1938 in Vienna was a terrifying time for all the liberal free-thinking people of Austria. Adolf Hitler and the Wehrmacht had received a rapturous welcome as they entered the country and cemented the Anschluss. For the many liberal people living in London, this weeks state visit will hold a similar feeling of dread.
It is somewhat hyperbolic of course to compare Trump to Hitler - he (as yet) doesn’t have the same control on government or legislation that Hitler had by 1938, nor the popular support of his country. However his visit does represent an Anschluss of sorts. It feels like tacit acknowledgement that the UK government intends to join the New Axis Of Populism that now stretches around the world from Russia, through Eastern and Southern Europe, Scandinavia and across the Atlantic.
The axis is made up of populist and anti-immigration movements such as Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord, France’s National Rally and of course The Brexit Party in the UK. Striding at the head of this band are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, (supported by useful apparatchiks like Nigel Farage and Steve Bannon). The collusion may not have been proven but they march to the same drum beat, towards a dream of insulated nation states and the erosion of civil liberties and human rights.
It is not exactly surprising that the current right-wing Tory government would feel comfortable extending the courtesy of a state visit to the most divisive US President in history but to true liberals it is terrifying. It also gives an indication of how far through the looking glass the Conservative Party have gone. When Trump breaks diplomatic protocol to back Boris Johnson for next Prime Minister and recommend that Farage play a key role in Brexit negotiations you wonder if he might not be giving orders rather than offering suggestions.
The big difference of course between Vienna in 1938 and present day London is our freedom of speech and the impressive machinery of protest that we have built up since 2016. The success of The Brexit Party in the European Elections has shown that there is still a large swathe of the UK in thrall to the populists, but fortunately the liberal voices in the UK are loud and in agreement. Trump’s axis maybe growing stronger but he will be hearing from us whether he likes it or not.
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