To Fight Against This Age – On Fascism and Humanism

by Rob Riemen, WW Norton, 176pp, £15

Is the continent of Europe and the wider world menaced by the rise of fascism? In the view of the Dutch humanist philosopher Rob Riemen it most certainly is, and this short book is his analysis and antidote to what he perceives as the gathering storm threatening the values he holds dear.

It is meant as a wake-up call to the rest of us, to recognise the danger and to act before it is too late. But is he right, is fascism truly on the rise? His view is informed, as you might expect, mainly by the politics of his Dutch homeland.

Ahead of last year’s Dutch general election there was apprehension in Brussels that the Freedom Party (PVV), led by the flamboyant “populist” Geert Wilders, might become the largest party. Indeed, for months it led the opinion polls. In the event, the PVV came in second with 13.3 per cent, well below expectations – but even so, such a result is unnerving to many.

Much of the PVV’s appeal is based on its forthright opposition to Islam. This is a country, remember, which in 2004 witnessed the murder, by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, of Theo van Gogh, who had produced a film, Submission, critical of Islam’s treatment of women. Since then there have been other outrages and a predictable backlash against Islam.

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