Lest we forget

by Elias Blum

People are forgetting that in the 1930s (the last time we had an economic crisis of this persistent severity and poverty and inequality levels this high) half the democracies in Europe collapsed.

They are forgetting that minorities and foreigners were scapegoats, that civility broke down and ideologies polarised, that politics turned sour and ugly, and that truth was an early casualty.

They are forgetting that most of the ‘great and good’ in society – the churches, the universities, the media, big business, the landowners, the military, the bureaucracy – either actively colluded in the authoritarian take-over of the state, or did little to protest against it. In fact, they did their best to normalise it, because authoritarianism of the far right seemed less threatening to their interests than real economic reform from the left.

They are forgetting that it all led to secret police, book burnings, torture chambers, concentration camps, genocide, and millions of deaths.

They are forgetting that it took an extremely costly and destructive world war to stop the madness.

They are forgetting that there is a good reason why the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe, and the European Union exist.

I’d like to remind people of these things. Before we forget. Before it is too late.