Yesterday, I was reminded by a reader, of this essay on “Democracy and Reason,” which I published in 1996 – 22 years ago! – as a newspaper column, and which this kind reader said “was prescient,” given the mob-like, dictatorial tenor of recent public discourse.
In one of those unctuous political utterances for which he was notorious, the former British Prime Minister John Major once declared that “fascism and communism lie behind us. The two great enemies of reason have been defeated.” This was astonishing from a nation that spent so much blood fighting these very evils – and dead wrong on three counts.
First, fascism and communism may be napping, but are not comatose. Their roots are far too deep for that. Many Eastern European nations, after having been joyously liberated from the horrors of communism in the 90s, turned right around and freely voted it back into power with only a slight change of make-up. As for the much misunderstood fascism, there are signs of it everywhere, both in Europe and in North America, especially in the schools and Universities, which heavily promote ethnic identitarianism.
Second, the implication of his comment was that communism is a demented expression of the left, and fascism, of the right. As a good pluralist, Major wished to blame them equally. Leftist journalists and undergraduates are always eager to echo this balancing reflex by quickly labeling anyone with non-egalitarian views, a “fascist.”