Ed Balls is suggesting that the global depression could lead to a resurgence in fascism which, given the authoritarian nature of our current government, is kind of ironic.
What Balls is trying to do is equate "nationalism" with fascism - but they are not the same thing. It is true that those fascist regimes we most usually think of - Nazi Germany and 1930's Italy - were nationalistic as well as fascist, but it's also worth remembering that Britain was also a nationalist country up until relatively recently and the USA remains hugely nationalist, but neither were or are fascist.
Nationalism and fascism are two separate political concepts - and like many political concepts they can co-exist. The general view - propagated by the left - is that fascism is nationalism with a racial element, but this is something I disagree with. In my view, fascism is socialism with a racial element. The best way to describe this is by looking at two nationalist countries and comparing them - the USA and China.
Yes, the USA is nationalist - strongly so. It is, effectively, at the point Britain was at around 50 years or so ago (yes, Britain also used to be strongly nationalist) and is now facing many of the challenges that Britain faced back then. Whether it will come through those challenges better than we did remains to be seen.
China is also strongly nationalist. Like the USA, China arrived at the nationalist state through a revolutionary war, but unlike the USA China applied the ideology of Marxism as the political doctrine while the USA reverted to liberal democracy.
If you now compare the two states for the elements of fascism you will find that China meets most of the criteria - authoritarian, dictatorial head of state, oppressive state, crushing of political dissent, intolerance of government criticism, intrusion of the state into individual freedoms, intrusive state surveillance on the people, an informer society (to the extent where family members inform on other family members) and a single party political system.
Compare that to the USA and, although many leftists will disagree, none of those things exist in the USA. So both are nationalist, but China is far more fascist than the USA even though it has no racial criteria in its nationalism. The USA once did, though - but even when it did it still wasn't a fascist country! Do you see the difference? Even though the USA once had a strong racial element and was also a nationalist country it still wasn't fascist, while China which has no racial element to its political ideology is very much, in every other way fascist.
So what is the difference? The difference is, of course, authoritarianism. but because of the nature of socialism - the requirement for the state to take more control over peoples lives - socialism always leads to authoritarianism. So both socialism and fascism share a key element - the only difference between the two is that socialism does not include a racial element (at least, not an expressed one. The only significant difference between the USSR and Nazi Germany was that the USSR never actually admitted to wanting to exterminate the Jews - although they had a pretty good go all the same).
So fascism is not nationalism with a racial element - it is authoritarianism with a racial element. Balls suggestion that fascism could rise once again is, presumably, based on a concern about the possible rise of the BNP, but although the BNP have a clearly expressed racial element to their policies, I've seen nothing in those policies that would lead to authoritarianism - so they would not be fascist.
Indeed, the BNP (if you believe their policies) appear committed to real democracy based on popular sovereignty and political plurality - which, combined with significant, constitutional checks and balances on political hegemony, are all essential to avoid authoritarianism - and that stands in stark contrast to the party Balls supports.
If, in the incredibly unlikely event, the BNP were to win a General Election there is nothing to suggest in their policies that we would become an authoritarian nation - and therefore we would not become fascist. Racist - possibly, fascist - no. Of course, the BNP could be lying about their intent, but unless they get elected we'll never know.
What is certain, however, is that if we continue along the lines we are currently on we most certainly will become authoritarian. We're halfway there already and if the continued erosion of our true democracy, political plurality and constitutional checks and balances continues unabated then we may soon reach the point of no return (or rather, no return without significant upheaval).
I am a fervent nationalist. I believe that the nation state is the ultimate development of a community - a people with a shared language, history, heritage, traditions and culture. I believe that race is no barrier to membership of that community - only the willingness of an individual to accept the things I mentioned - language, history, heritage, traditions and, most importantly, culture.
I know this is not a problem for many (if not most) Indian Asians, black Africans and Afro-Caribbean's who originate from countries which share many of those things with Britain thanks to the legacy of empire and I know that many (if not most) have no desire for Britain to change any of that. They are happy to be British within the confines of British culture because, essentially, that is what they are used to anyway.
I also know that it is impossible for a single nation to be multicultural. A single nation depends on having a culture - the norms, practices, traditions and laws - which all accept, but you can not have two different cultures competing for the same space. Either one will come to dominate the other - leading once more to a mono-cultural nation - or the nation will divide.
This has been a long post - sorry about that, but it is something which I feel very passionately about. I'm fed up with toerags like Balls painting nationalists as "fascists" when nationalists are nothing of the sort. Nationalism, in the context of a liberal democracy, is a good thing. We have nothing to fear from nationalism, but lots to fear from authoritarianism - and that is the road on which Balls and his like currently have us headed.