Trump and Charlottsville


Donald Trump’s disgraceful failure to specifically condemn neo-Nazis, in the immediate wake of the Charlottesville violence, should not have come as a surprise to those who witnessed the US President attract support from the far right underworld on his march to the White House.

The fact that David Duke, of the KKK, turned up in Virginia, to claim that white supremacists had gathered there to “fulfil the promises of Donald Trump” is proof that politicians don’t have to explicitly claim they sympathise with Nazis in order to get them on board.

To the Klan and the tiki-torch carriers, having a champion who screams “build the wall”, who calls Mexicans rapists, who brands all Muslims potential terrorists and suggests African-Americans are “thugs”, is all the alt-right need to see Trump as one of them.

There are parallels in Britain. The fact that Anne Marie Waters, the former leader of the far right anti-Islam movement Pegida UK, is a leadership candidate for UKIP is a consequence of rhetoric about “taking our country back” and all the coded xenophobia the phrase carries.

There is a fine line between posters claiming Britain is at ‘breaking point’ from immigration, and giving licence to extreme racists to snap. There is a parallel too between a surge in attacks against Muslims in America since Trump’s election, and the spike in hate crime in Britain after the Brexit referendum.

That is why Trump’s claim that “both sides” were equally to blame for unrest in Charlottesville, his singling out of anti-Nazi protestors as perpetrators of violence, and his claim that there were “good people” amongst the white supremacists is about as dangerous, as saying there were good people amongst Nazis Germany’s Waffen SS

The US President has drawn condemnation from across the political spectrum, including from his own supporters, not least because America knows the potential nightmare of signalling that it is acceptable to be a neo-Nazi.

Just 152 years after the end of the civil war, fought over slavery, a simmering caldron of Confederatism and white tribalism could yet rip America’s racial divide wide open with terrible implications for the entire nation and its standing in the world.

In Britain, far right leaders have long developed associations with the most extreme figures in the US and Europe to share ideas and tactics. Indeed Nazism, like pollution, has never been a respecter of borders. It is an international doctrine of hate that uses nationalism and xenophobia to achieve its own caliphate.

The danger today is that in recent history we’ve never had a US president who’s ambivalence towards White supremist groups in America is readily decoded not least by them as clear acceptance.

That must deeply worry us all.

Lester Holloway