We must all be active anti-racists and anti-fascists

I spoke in today's Holocaust Memorial Day about the importance of putting the phrase 'Never Again' into practice.  Here's my speech in full.

I’ve spoken in a number of Holocaust Memorial Day debates since I was first elected. And I had a look through my notes from those speeches earlier today.

If one of the core purposes of this day is to remind us of the need to proactively work to ensure that something like the Holocaust could never happen again, those seven years of notes make for depressing reading.

In 2017, I spoke about how fascists create their own alternative reality and then set about making the rest of society believe in it.

A hateful false reality where some people are less than human.

We’re all quite familiar with how the Nazis went about systematically dehumanising Jews, Slavic peoples, Roma, gay people, disabled people and others.

And the importance of media support to their success.

We’re pretty much a century on from the start of the Nazis’ rise to power.
But have we really learned the lessons of the darkest period in human history?

A century ago the Daily Mail’s owner aligned himself with Hitler and ran the headline ‘Hurrah for the blackshirts’.

When I spoke in this debate seven years ago The Sun – this country’s biggest selling newspaper – had recently published a  column which described refugees crossing the Mediterranean as cockroaches who should be stopped by gunships.

Language the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights had to intervene and point out was exactly the same as how the Nazis described Jews and groups.

And today we see dehumanising language used against the desperate and vulnerable people crossing the English Channel, against trans people and against other marginalised groups.

The Holocaust didn’t start with gas chambers.

The Rwandan genocide didn’t start with machete-wielding gangs.

The Bosnian genocide didn’t start with the massacre at Srebrenica.

They started with dehumanising language and misinformation, with extremists pushing the limits of debate, with efforts to suppress the voices of the groups being targeted.

Can we really say that the UK in the 21st century is doing all it can to live up to the commitment Never Again?

Seven years ago Donald Trump had just taken office and major US publications were running puff pieces on Neo-Nazis with headlines like: ‘Meet the dapper White Supremacist riding the Trump wave’

This year the prospect of Trump returning to the White House is a distressingly realistic one.

How must that make the Jewish community feel when his first election was quickly followed by events like Charlottesville, where uniformed white men held a torchlit march chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’?

Across Europe the far-right surge which appeared to have subsided a few years ago has begun again.

A left to right broad front may have taken back the government in Poland.

But fascists have just won a shock victory in the Netherlands on a platform which demonises Muslims in exactly the same manner than the Nazis’ early platform demonised Jews.

Sweden’s centre-right government is entirely dependent on fascist MPs to stay in office.

Italy’s Prime Minister leads a party which traces its lineage back to Mussolini.

And Germany has just been rocked by revelations that senior figures from the AfD attended a meeting with Neo-Nazi figures which included a presentation on how they could go about deporting those who are not ethnically German if they ever took power – not a distant prospect when they are currently polling second.

The cordon-sanitare is fraying.

In a clear and distressing parallel of Germany’s ruling parties a century ago, mainstream politicians so desperate to hold onto orget into government are cooperating with the far-right.

When you treat fascism as simply another political view, you have conceded legitimacy it does not deserve and should never have.

Its ideas become acceptable to discuss in the mainstream. Inciting genocide is not an acceptable point of view.

And believing that you can win the argument by giving these people at platform for debate misunderstands the problem.

Fascism is not rational.

Fascists and others advancing dangerous, lethal agendas are not interested in winning the debate.

They just want to implement their wicked worldview. And we cannot ever allow that to happen again.

Today we remember the victims of humanity’s worst crime.

And we must think seriously about how we turn our determination to never allow it to happen again into practical reality.

It’s not enough to not be a racist or not be a fascist.

We must all be active anti-racists and anti-fascists.

That is the only way in which our statements of Never Again can truly mean something.