The Liberal Politics of Adolf Hitler by John King (London Books, £9.99)
JOHN KING is the raw chronicler of contemporary Englishness and, more specifically, that particular national blend of dislike for foreigners, an obsession with WWII and sheer bloody mindedness.
His trilogy — The Football Factory, Headhunters and England Away — dealt with violence and sex, home and abroad and, in a sense, The Liberal Politics of Adolf Hitler is a continuation of these themes.
In his novel, King projects forwards a few decades to a time when the European Union has mutated into the United States of Europe (USE) and its ideals — superficially “nice,” anti-racist and rational — have come to dominate most of the continent.
Rather as with Asterix and his Gallic confederates, there are a few pockets of resistance, including the “Free English” in “Wessex” who resist the foreign invader and insist on listening to punk rather than repackaged, bland Euro Pop.
They drink ale instead of lager and are sentimental towards animals, who are considered to be mere entertainment fodder by the other side. Animals are “subs” and subject to grotesquely elaborate public displays of torture reminiscent — surely not accidentally so — to the barbarities of the first Roman Empire.
Against this backdrop, King sets in motion the events that propel three very different individuals towards an explosive encounter at the end of the book.
Rupert Ronsberger is an ambitious true-believer in the manipulated mission of the USE while “Controller” Horace Starski, at the very top of the hierarchy, is troubled both by his past knowledge of pre-USE society and challenged by the easy compliance of the likes of Ronsberger to believe what he is told.
Kenny is a GB45 operative sent on a mission into the central London heartlands of the enemy.
There are times when King almost falls into a comic juxtaposing of opposites, with cruel and relentless besuited Eurocrats facing the honest but rather un-PC yeomanry of Farageland — the issue of an illegitimate coupling between 1984 and Dad’s Army.
Equally, and frustratingly, aside from oblique references to the “commons,” a short-hand for the proles, the novel shies away from using a class-based narrative to explain and expand upon the conflict.
King is too clever an author to resort to a pastiche across more than a few pages. He steadily constructs, layer by layer, an increasingly believable world where a combination of intrusive technology, ruthlessness and effectively bland public relations has ensured the domination of the majority’s thoughts and actions by the USE’s upper echelons.
The USE controls what society thinks because only erasable and changeable digital information is legal. “Hard” information, whether in books or on vinyl records, has been destroyed within the states.
For the resistance, such artefacts are objects of profound importance in a time when librarians are treated like prophets and shamans.
Yet history is rewritten in an instant and “good” Europeans are expected to forget that there ever was an alternative account. Citizens witnessing violence from Cool and Hardcore — the agents of the state — are persuaded that such scenes are actually merely films being shot.
The “liberal” politics of the book’s title are grounded in such violence and fear. But it does show — in a timely rebuttal to sneeringly superior Remainers — that nationalism does not have to be reactionary and can be viewed, even in an English context, as a national liberation struggle against a powerful oppressor.