'Far More Insidious' Than Fascism - by Jacob Boas
In June 1935, British author E. M. Forster addressed an international writers' congress called to discuss ways of defending culture against the threat of fascism. In England, the author of A Passage to India observed, "our traditions and our liberties are closely connected," freedom having been "praised for … several hundred of years." English freedom was race- and class-bound, he conceded, "but the fact that our rulers have to pretend to like freedom is an advantage." The same can be said about the civil rights struggle in this country; in the Fifties and Sixties, the nation could no longer pretend that the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were for whites only.
This is not the only place in Forster's speech where a parallel with the U.S. can be drawn. He did not think, he told the conference, which was held in Paris and attended by hundreds of writers representing 38 countries, that there was a danger of fascism in Great Britain per se – "unless war starts, when anything may happen."
"We're menaced," he continued, "by something far more insidious … by the dictator-spirit working quietly behind the façade of constitutional forms, passing a little law … here, endorsing a departmental tyranny there, emphasizing the national need of secrecy elsewhere, and whispering and cooing the so-called 'news' every evening over the wireless, until opposition is tamed and gulled."