In Victorian times the propertied classes in Britain and across Europe had an inordinate fear of ‘the mob’. That’s why they denied the vote to anyone who didn’t have a material ‘stake’ in their countries, and so could be marshalled violently against those who did. ‘The mob’ were at the core of all the riots that took place in Britain and on the Continent, from the 18thcentury through to the 20th. They – the ‘great unwashed’ – could also be seen be seen to make up the majority of working-class Brexiteers recently, and of the Trumpists who are presently storming the Capitol in Washington.
It was usually assumed in 19th-century Britain that the ‘mob’ would be of the Left, politically: socialists, communists or anarchists. It wasn’t always so; the ‘King and Country’ riots of the 18thcentury, and the anti-Catholic and race riots of the 19thand 20th centuries, certainly couldn’t be categorised in this way. The same is true of our present-day Ukippers and Trumpists, who are much more amenable to propaganda from the (usually very well-washed) Right. Trump even objects to Biden as a ‘socialist’. Both movements are hostile to any kind of ‘progressive’ or radical thought, especially if it can be dismissed as ‘political correctness’.
This may make them more dangerous – or, by another way of looking at it – effective; more so, indeed, than their numbers should suggest. There can be little doubt that Brexiteers and Trumpists represent only minorities in their respective countries – albeit substantial ones. What they both have, however, are large reservoirs of public resentment, and tremendous anger. That’s how you pull down the doors of Congress, when you don’t have a majority. One angry man or woman is worth ten calm and rational ones.
Is this the start of a new Civil War, my American friends? Or a revival of the old one? As a student of American history – although rather rusty now – I can see parallels between Trump’s followers and the Confederates. (Actually you didn’t need to be a historian to see that. They were carrying Confederate flags, for pity’s sake.) – Or perhaps it’s a (failed) French revolutionary moment? Didn’t I see somewhere a photo of a Trumpist sitting in the Speaker’s chair yesterday? Like this: from 200+ years ago.
(Later.) This may be the one I was thinking of:
Thank goodness it wasn’t another ‘Stockholms Blodbad’ (below). So far.