The new demagogic right is seeking to undermine the checks and balances of our political system
Godwin’s Law does not apply in dangerous times. If you want to hear echoes of today’s threats against liberal democracy, turn to Nazi Germany. It denounced everyone, from Germans who sympathised with Jews to the “clique of criminals” in the army who failed to assassinate Hitler, as Volksverräter. In the Soviet Union, from Lenin via Stalin to the fall of communism, the same sentiment found a different expression. The millions who failed to please the glorious socialist motherland were vrag naroda, who deserved exile and death in Siberia for the sabotaging the workers’ paradise.
The English translation of Volksverräter and vrag naroda is “enemies of the people”, which was how the Daily Mail described three judges, who decided that the law required the prime minister to seek the approval of parliament before triggering Brexit. “The most fundamental rule of the UK constitution is that parliament is sovereign,” they said. It was hardly a controversial argument. Britain had fought civil wars in the 17th century to make the point clear, after all.