Jack Straw would make a fine interior minister in Singapore, the land of "happy-face fascism"
When the Austrian neo-fascist Jorg Haider pointed out that his political programme closely matched that of the Blair project, his comments were lost in the heady news that Prince Charles would cancel a visit to Austria. Haider especially admires Jack Straw's anti- asylum rules, with their racism and aim of making this country virtually impenetrable by genuine asylum-seekers. He knows that the fuss in Brussels about the "threat" he poses to "European values" will pass like mist in Tyrolean valleys, as the Blairites, and their European allies, construct the fortress of the EU.
Consider the misery of the thousands of inmates of Italy's special immigrant prisons, like the one at Trapani in Sicily. Crammed 15 to a cell, denied basic liberties, and kept uninformed of their fate, they see only watchtowers and guards with machine-guns: a vision of a Europe where these "barely respectable concentration camps", as a German commentator put it, "are being put up as fast as branches of McDonald's".
The Blairites are more ruthless than most of their partners in Brussels, as the beneficiaries of the Prime Minister's "new moral crusade" in Kosovo are finding out. The case of one ethnic Albanian family is typical. With Nato bombs and Milosevic's ethnic cleansers precipitating a stampede, the family was divided; while the wife took shelter, the five-year-old daughter was sent to Italy. The husband, whose life was under threat, had already sought asylum in Britain in 1998. When the wife joined him, she was sent to the north and told that if she visited her husband in London, she risked losing the vouchers that asylum-seekers are given instead of money. Their child remains in Italy.
The roots of their despair, and that of tens of thousands like them, reach beyond ethnic conflict to the dismembering of Yugoslavia by the EU. In October 1991, the then European Community delivered the coup de grace to Tito's legacy at a special conference at The Hague, where ministers gave de facto recognition to the secessions of Croatia and Slovenia by effectively abolishing Yugoslavia.
Bosnia's leaders pleaded with the west not to recognise the new states, knowing that both Croats and Serbs would fall on multi-ethnic Bosnia. But Germany's expansion into its "natural investment market" in Croatia was unstoppable, and at Maastricht in 1991, a deal was done; Germany would submerge the Deutschmark into a common European currency if its European partners would give way on the recognition of Croatia. This was never openly linked to the Maastricht treaty itself. Two days after the conference broke up, on 18 December 1991, Germany recognised Croatia and a manageable internal conflict was turned into fratricide. At that time, the Bush administration had been waging economic warfare against Yugoslavia, demanding the usual "market reforms", privatisation and conditions amenable to western capital. These brutalising events made the rise of unemployment and ethnic tensions inevitable.
Globalisation was a new word then. The Observer on 13 February this year described it succinctly as "intensifying the gap between rich and poor . . . making weak political regimes in less developed countries readier to resort to oppression and torture to stay in power . . . most asylum- seekers are bona fide applicants fleeing from [this] oppression." Like the links between the forces of capital and fascism in Germany in the 1930s, the links between the globalisers and the extreme right make historical sense.
There is a growing awareness of this in Britain. Tribune recently published an article headed, "The far right stuff", which posed a question that a few years ago would have been unthinkable: "Is new Labour a form of proto-fascism?" The author, Robert Taylor, did not quite deny his own question, and compared the Blairite project with what he called the "state autocracy" in Singapore.
He was on the right track. Remember that Blair effectively began his election campaign in January 1996 in Singapore, where he declared that the "success" of Lee Kuan Yew "very much reflects my own philosophy". With his combination of institutional oppression and a rigged "market", Lee was an exponent of what the writer on Singapore, Ann Tellman, calls "happy-face fascism". Certainly, Straw would make a fine interior minister in Lee's theme park of globalisation. This is Margaret Thatcher's legacy. For all her rhetoric about the rights of the individual and the "withering of the state", she understood the important role of the state in promoting socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.
The Blairite globalisers have gone to the next stage, threatening the prospect of war with Nato's bellicose expansion. Last week, George Robertson, secretary-general of Nato and Blair's principal bomber of the Balkans and Iraq, was on tour in the global policeman's budding new empire, telling the governments of the Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria that their rearmament was essential if they were to "reap the benefits" of Nato membership. This has frightened the Russians, giving the Putin government an excuse to continue the restoration of Russia's cold-war nationalism. During Nato's attack on Yugoslavia last year, the National Security Council in Moscow quietly dropped its opposition to a "first strike" nuclear strategy. As the illusions fall away, these are times of great danger.
John Pilger's film on Iraq, "Paying the Price", will be shown on ITV on 6 March