Archive | December 2017

How to spot a fascist and what to do next.

Over the Christmas holiday I had a tweet from a man I knew vaguely through the Blake Society and had therefore followed, assuming him to be more or less on the side of the angels. I was wrong. This tweet was so arrogant, ignorant and insulting I wanted to jump through the ether and thump him. We had been trading statistics, he bragging that the Brexit vote was the biggest ever at 17 million, me pointing out that the 12 million who voted Labour in 45 was 61% of the electorate and had achieved a social revolution. And this was his answer. I’m going to quote it so that you can see what I mean.

Common working people throwing off an unelected autocracy, in the face of an affluent Establishment, and in the teeth of the age-old accusations of being too uncouth, ill-educated and poor to be trusted to vote, dwarfs anything the post-war government achieved.’

But as ether jumping is a skill I’ve yet to acquire I sat down and thought the thing through instead. I began with the anger I felt at the way he compared the Brexit voters with the men and women who voted in the 1945 bloodless revolution and all that followed. We had lived through six years of bloody war, in which millions had been killed, in battle, at sea, in the air, in bombed cities and, worst of all, in Hitler’s obscene concentration camps. We knew what we were about when  we voted on that day. We wanted to change society. And we did it despite massive opposition from the no longer ruling elite.

Bur we also wanted to find out how to deal with fascism so that such horrors wouldn’t happen again. And that was even more difficult.

Not long after the war a two volume book called ‘The Authoritarian Personality’ written by T.W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson and R.Nevitt Sandford was published. It was an attempt to analyse the factors and characterististics that turn people into fascists, and was a formidable work as befitted a formidable problem. I studied it avidly and, even now, it is sitting on my shelves before me as I write.

And now we have the ‘Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism’ by Dr Lawrence Britt which seems to me so succinct and helpful I’m going to quote it in some detail. The 49 million of us who didn’t vote Brexit need all the help we can get.

Fourteen defining characteristics of fascism.

  1. Powerful and continuing Nationalism.  Constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans symbols and songs.
  2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights – Because of fear of ‘enemies’ and the need for ‘security’, people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases. They therefore look the other way and/or approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations etc.
  3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. People are rallied into a unifying frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived threat or foe: racial, ethic or religious minorities, liberals, communists, socialists, terrorists etc.
  4. Supremacy of the military.
  5. Rampant sexism. Traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family.
  6. Controlled mass media.
  7. Obsession with National Security.
  8. Religion and government are intertwined. Governments use the most common religion in the nation to manipulate public opinion.
  9. Corporate power is protected
  10. Labour power is suppressed. Because the organising power of trade unions is the only real threat to a fascist government, Unions are either eliminated or severely suppressed.
  11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts.
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Police are given almost limitless power to enforce the laws.
  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
  14. Fraudulent elections.

The link to the full version can be found on

I shall be very interested to hear what you think of this and whether you found it helpful.

This entry was posted on December 28, 2017. 4 Comments

A heroine bites a little dust

Some time ago, someone on Twitter mentioned the fact that Virginia Woolf had written a book called ‘Night and Day’ and asked whether anyone had read it. I’m a great fan of Virginia Woolf, whom I studied at college, I was impressed by her skill with language and her wonderful ability to get inside a characters head, a technique she invented, believing that telling her readers what her characters were doing and saying was only half the story and that it wasn’t complete unless she let them know what they were thinking too. She called it, ‘the stream of consciousness’. Nowadays it is used by virtually every writer alive and is called ‘points of view’ or ‘pov’ for short.

It was a terrible and revealing disappointment to me to discover that this book was actually rather badly written. The imagery often felt strained and contrived. In the first chapter she says ‘The air in the drawing room was thickened by blue grains of mist.’ Which seemed a good image to me, but by the last chapter she was writing that ‘The light lay in soft golden grains upon the deep obscurity of the hushed and sleeping household.’ And that seemed over the top. It wasn’t what I expected of her. And the characters, although very clearly drawn, were extremely unsympathetic, being self-centered, idle and, it seemed to me, so firmly rooted in their own class that they were thoroughly out of touch with ‘lesser’ fellow human beings for whom they had no concern at all.

Halfway through I began to wonder when she had written it, and checked. It was in 1919 and it was her second novel written when she was 37. Almost a beginner’s piece.

So if you’re a beginner in this trade, take heart. Even a great like Virginia Woolf didn’t get it quite right in her earlier books. They were published of course because her husband had set up a printing press to ensure that they were. I wonder how these early books would have got on if they’d been submitted to one of our present day agents or one of our rich and powerful publishers. I had to go back to ‘To the Lighthouse’ to comfort myself that I hadn’t made a mistake in my estimate of her talent all those years ago and I hadn’t. The work was every bit as good as I remembered it.

So my heroine only bit a little bit of dust and I can still say respec’ to her.


This entry was posted on December 14, 2017. 1 Comment

Christmas in wartime, amongst other things

Something slightly different for you today. Mary Anne Yarde has been publishing various accounts of historical Christmases this week written by a variety of writers. I think a lot of them, including mine which is about Christmas during the war, would interest you.

A Christmas Memory of World War II
By Beryl Kingston. 


Here is the link to her blog:

Changing our minds about sex

I went to visit a very old friend this weekend and, as old friends do, we talked to one another about all manner of things, one of which was the rather alarming rise in the news items about the abuse of women by powerful men. And it seemed to both of us that we were witnessing a shift in public perception of how women should be treated, which is no bad thing and long overdue. The trouble is, we go on thinking the same things in the same way without very much concern until somebody comes along and says something that brings us up short and makes us really think.

The suffragettes, who had the daring to suggest that a woman should be allowed the vote, had to endure vilification, mockery and brutal forced feeding when they were in prison. The abuse they had to suffer was arrogant and thoughtless. They were women, how dare they ask for the vote? Opposition to a new idea is often angry and brutal.



I’ve seen a good many instances of this kind of arrogant and thoughtless abuse in my own lifetime and that was aroused because of difference of opinion that is being discussed and examined in the media now. There were a lot of randy servicemen about when I was in my teens and from time to time I had to fight them off because they were convinced that they could grab any woman they fancied and she shouldn’t object. ‘I couldn’t help it’ was their cry when they were checked. ‘You’re so beautiful!’ And it wasn’t just randy servicemen. I also got pounced on by a school-keeper who should have known better and a headmaster, who certainly should have known better. And when I was sixteen or seventeen and taking part in a beauty queen competition, I saw the “casting couch boys” in full cry.

The organisers  gave all the finalists a champagne and caviar party after the competition and we’d no sooner sat on the couches and accepted our glasses than a gang of black suited and Brylcreemed men smarmed into our company. They sat beside us, dropping their  smelly arms rather negligently over the backs of the sofas and told us that ‘if we were good to them they could get our names in lights’. I got up at once and left them, steaming with anger at their arrogance and their ugly suggestions.  How dare they think we would even look at them! My beliefs and attitude were poles apart from theirs.

But there were other beliefs and attitudes that were equally out of sync with the new ideas that were beginning to take route. When I started work it was assumed by many people that a woman should be paid no more than half of a mans wage for doing the same work. And this, despite the fact that in two world wars women had worked at men’s jobs and done them incredibly well and yet there were articles in the newspapers justifying the fact that a man should be paid far more than a woman because he was the breadwinner. That seemed an irrelevance to us, if you do the same work, you should get the same pay but it took a long time before that idea was generally accepted.

And now the casual abusers are under-fire and I’m delighted to see that the protest against them is public and massive, it heartens me to see women fighting back so passionately. So I will leave you in their courageous company.

Respec’ sisters! And respec’ all the brothers, husbands, fathers, sons, friends and lovers who are standing side by side with us.








This entry was posted on December 6, 2017. 3 Comments

My life is going with a bang!

Or to be more accurate, two rather formidable bangs. The first one was delivered in the middle of the night by this innocent looking bedside lamp. I’d woken in my usual way to toddle off to the loo and leant across to switch on the light. It didn’t so much ‘switch’ as ‘explode’ with a rather pretty shower of sparks and the total disappearance of the light bulb, leaving me in darkness wondering what had hit me. Much staggering about in the darkness to switch on the central light and to go in search of the bed when I’d switched it off.

The next morning I went on a hunt to find the bulb, it took a bit of doing. There was no trail of glass to lead the way and as far as I could see, no debris of any kind. Eventually it turned up, lurking under one of the pillows – don’t ask!

But an even more dramatic explosion was to follow a day later, when I switched on the washing machine as usual and left it to get on with its work, unmolested as usual, and settled down for a well earned cup of tea. How foolish of me. It wasn’t long before I was interrupted by a very loud bang which was followed by a extraordinary crashing and rattling coming from my usually tame machine. I switched it off PDQ and retrieved my washing which was largely white bed linen, now covered in black rubber smuts – oh frabjus joy! It wasn’t quite as bad as the machine in my picture but it was bad enough. When the local engineer came out to see it the following morning, he discovered that the drum was cracked. Oh frabjus joy kalloo kallay! Now I have a new machine which is so complicated it takes me hours to work out how to use it. Lies down in a now dark room with cold compress on head.

But the fates hadn’t finished with me even then. I felt I had earned a nice quiet evening in front of the television but lo and behold that evil machine had a treat in store for me too. Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me! It had decided to relinquish such niceties as colour and entertain me in black and white – cue for the visit of another engineer who is due here in half an hour. I’m now lying down in my darkened room with two cold compresses on my head, groaning dramatically.


This entry was posted on December 1, 2017. 9 Comments