LIVING as we still do in the shadow of the 20th century and its extremes of violent ideology, it’s hard not to fixate on what’s happening in America today – the spectre of fascism, the tip towards extremist terror, even the fear of race war.

Talk of race war isn’t my hyperbole. Former assistant secretary at the US Homeland Security department, Elizabeth Neumann, said just a few days ago that the Trump administration is allowing right-wing extremists to “start a race war”. Washington DC mayor, Muriel Bowser, said on Monday that she worries the country is descending into a “race war”. The Washington Post ran a column the same day saying: “The President is trying to provoke a race war on the streets of America.”

The voice of menace in America has risen to a deafening roar, and we here in Scotland and Britain need to listen, because at home and across the West the same voice is getting louder each day. It’s gone beyond the whisper it once was and is now dangerously clamorous. This threatening voice demands our attention here at home – because as history warns us, the far right wants no other voice heard than its own.

The threat of the far right in Europe and the West is overshadowed by what’s happening in America. We complacently think we’re immune to this America disease – but that’s folly. Where America goes, the West follows. Since the American War of Independence inspired the French Revolution, what happens in America infects Europe.

I’ve been writing about the far right for decades. So let me give you a rundown of what extremists in Britain and the West have been up to in recent days. That might dispel any belief that what’s happening in America is uniquely American.

Just a few days ago, the far-right Britain First organisation began entering hotels where refugees are housed, knocking on their doors, filming them and posting footage of the humiliation and harassment online. It’s like watching a hunt in progress. It has the stink of the 1930s about it. The Home Office is now offering such hotels additional security. Russian media has also been ramping up the story.

The leader of Britain First, Paul Golding, was found guilty in May of an offence under the Terrorism Act after refusing to give police access to his mobile phone on his return from a political trip to Russia.

A councillor for the far right For Britain party, Julian Leppert, has been rabble-rousing in Essex and calling for the Home Office not to house refugees. When asked if he was advocating a whites-only enclave he replied: “Ideally, yeah.”

Far-right groups are planning anti-refugee protests in Dover. On social media, organisers have said they will “take Dover by force”, blocking roads and ferries. Two weeks ago a refugee was assaulted as he arrived on a beach in Kent.

In London, police have warned that the far right is using coronavirus as an excuse to attack people classified by officers as “oriental”. Such attacks have risen by a third since lockdown eased, and figures are significantly higher than previous years.

During last Saturday’s anti-lockdown demonstration in London, far-right placards and flags were on display. One protestor unfurled a flag displaying the symbol of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. The conspiracy theorist David Icke, who’s been branded antisemitic, was cheered by 10,000 people as he addressed the rally.

At a similar coronavirus protest in Berlin on Saturday, hundreds of far right protestors tried to storm the Reichstag. Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, called it “an unbearable attack on the heart of our democracy.”

Recently, Germany’s defence ministry officially disbanded a company of its Special Forces Command, the KSK, following its infiltration by the far right and neo-nazis. Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service is working on about 600 suspected cases of far-right extremism, including 20 pertaining to the KSK.

Military intelligence is also probing far-right activity in Canada’s Ranger unit. In Slovakia, a crackdown is underway to tackle the rise of the far right, while in Greece a new far right party has launched. In Ukraine, neo-nazis attacked a gay pride march last Sunday. Portugal is investigating far right threats to MPs. And just last week, a white supremacist was sentenced to life without parole for killing 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand.

At the weekend, a riot began in the Swedish city Malmo after video circulated of far right activists burning a copy of the Koran near a mosque. A Koran was also kicked around like a football.

The leading US think-tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, ranks the far right threat in Europe as “serious”. It says: “An increasing number of European extremists have developed relations with far-right networks in the United States, Ukraine, and other countries – making it a global challenge.”

RUSI, the UK defence and security think-tank, says the threat from the far right is rising.

This year the number of far right prisoners in Britain stands at a record high – climbing by a third last year. Some 44 “extreme rightwing” prisoners are now in custody for terror offences. Three years ago, the figure was nine. Those who’ve been jailed in recent years include Thomas Mair, who murdered Jo Cox MP, and a neo-nazi who plotted to kill Rosie Cooper, another Labour MP, with a machete.

What will fix this? Better education? Better policing? A clampdown on social media and the extremism it peddles? Perhaps, but one can’t help fearing that we are nearing a tipping-point, and the rest of the West may soon follow America towards dystopian extremism becoming a facet of mainstream politics.

The best advice is to be ever vigilant. Fascism is not going away. Any belief that it died in 1945 is blindly absurd.

The German dramatist Bertolt Brecht warned in his play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, a satire on Hitler’s seizure of power, that fascism will keep returning unless we continually fight against it.

As the end of his play prophesied: “Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the b*****d, the b***h that bore him is in heat again.”

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