EARLIER this month, a mass murderer (the only suspect is Patrick Crusius, aged 21) roamed a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, apparently with the sole objective of killing people of Latin American descent. By the time he was apprehended, 22 people had been shot dead or fatally wounded.

Nineteen minutes before the attack began, an anonymous, so-called “manifesto” (which is being investigated as the work of Crusius) appeared online. The document denounced Latino immigrants to the United States as “invaders” who “have close to the highest birthrate of all ethnicities in America”.

The suspected killer appears to justify the massacre he is about to commit, writing: “I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

Needless to say, President Trump denies any connection between the El Paso massacre and either his border wall policy or the anti-Latino rhetoric that underpins it.

This despite his infamous denunciation, during the 2016 presidential election campaign, of Latin American migrants as “rapists” and people who are “bringing drugs and crime” to the US.

Despite, too, his recent demand that the so-called “Squad” of four left-wing Democratic Party congresswomen of colour (including New York City-born Latina Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) “go back” to their countries of origin.

Trump’s denials are backed-up by supporters of his far-right, populist agenda who argue that Crusius’s alleged racism predates the property tycoon’s election to the presidency. However, this is to disingenuously ignore the pattern of increased far-right activity and racist hate crime in the US since Trump took office.

In August 2017, for instance, the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, brought together a coalition of the far-right (including former Ku Klux Klan “Grand Wizard” David Duke and various openly avowed fascists).

During the event, 20-year-old neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr deliberately drove a car into a crowd of anti-racist activists, killing 32-year-old Heather Danielle Heyer. Trump spoke of “very fine people on both sides” at Charlottesville.

It would, of course, be foolish in the extreme to fall for Trump’s doctrine of implausible deniability. The connection between the racist and far-right rhetoric of the US President (who also castigates the Squad and left-wing, Jewish politician Bernie Sanders as “communists”) and the significant increase in far-right activism and violence is plain to see.

Equally clear, however, is that Trump’s election is part of an international trend. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who recently announced draconian legislation which will, he says, allow the police to kill criminals “like cockroaches”, is part of an increasingly global emergence of far-right leaders.

The National: Brazil's far-right president Jair BolsonaroBrazil's far-right president Jair Bolsonaro

So, too, is Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, whose Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged from the proto-fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which the great Indian writer Arundhati Roy calls the “mothership” of the BJP.

MODI’S recent declaration, backed up by at least 10,000 additional occupation forces, that Indian-administered Kashmir will no longer have special status, was one of the most dangerous and incendiary acts in the 72-year conflict between India and Pakistan.

In effect, it reduces Muslim-majority Kashmir to a status similar to that of the West Bank under Israeli occupation; the key difference being that both countries involved in the dispute, India and Pakistan, are armed with nuclear weapons.

Add to this such figures as Vladimir Putin in Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and we can see a definite pattern of ultra-nationalist and far-right success in elections in nominally “democratic” states.

It is a pattern which has spread with alarming speed across Europe. In Austria in 2017, the conservative People’s Party formed a coalition government with the fascists of Heinz-Christian Strache’s Freedom Party.

The wheels have come off that administration recently, when Strache was exposed trying to exchange public contracts for campaign donations with a woman he believed to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

However, in Italy, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the far-right League party is dominating the agenda of the Italian government, despite the League being the supposed junior partner to the Five Star Movement in Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s administration.

Attempts to imprison as “people traffickers” anyone who rescues stricken migrants in the Mediterranean and brings them ashore in Italy are driven by Salvini. On the eve of recent commemorations of the genocide of Romani people during the Nazi Holocaust, Salvini denounced a Roma woman in Milan as a “dirty gypsy”.

In other European countries, the forces of the far-right are either in government (as in Hungary and Poland) or growing significantly (as in France, Germany and Spain).

There is, in all of this, a deeply worrying whiff of the 1930s. Then, the global economic instability caused by the 1929 Wall Street Crash sent distressed millions into the arms of fascist parties who were offering starkly simple solutions (blaming Jews, communism and cosmopolitanism for society’s ills, and promoting deeply conservative policies on the family, reproduction and sexuality). Italy was already in the grip of Mussolini, and soon Portugal (1932), Germany (1933) and Spain (1939) would follow.

The current rise of the far-right comes in the wake of the 2008 banking crash. Assisted by the methods of a largely unregulated internet, and funded by a coalition of wealthy far-right donors and deeply conservative religious bodies, the so-called “alt-right” is seeking to spread its ideology of “populist-nationalism” throughout the world.

The key figure in this effort to create a truly international far-right movement is Stephen K Bannon. The chief strategist in Trump’s presidential election campaign and the chief political strategist in the White House for the first seven months of the Trump administration, Bannon is at the forefront of the ideological, organisational and financial efforts to create an international movement from the many and varied far-right tendencies around the world.

Bannon was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and a Hollywood executive producer before, in 2007, he co-founded the far-right website Breitbart News. The website’s publisher, Andrew Breitbart, called Bannon the “Leni Riefenstahl of the [right-wing Republican] Tea Party movement”.

Bannon seems to have been happy enough to be compared to the creator of Triumph Of The Will, the most infamous propaganda film ever made for the Third Reich. Indeed, in The Brink, Alison Klayman’s recent documentary about him, Bannon speaks approvingly of Riefenstahl.

In truth, however, as the world’s most prominent and influential far-right strategist and ideologue, Bannon has more in common with Hitler’s chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels than he does with Riefenstahl. A self-defined “populist-nationalist”, Bannon has a clearly set out plan to create an international far-right coalition which brings under a single ideological umbrella the hard-right of traditional conservatism (such as the Johnsonian-Thatcherite right-wing of the British Tory Party), the new breed of far-right populist (including Nigel Farage in the UK and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban) and classical fascist parties (like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally – the renamed National Front – in France and the Freedom Party in Austria).

LAST year, in an interview with the Sunday Times, Bannon said of the British fascist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka “Tommy Robinson” (who is currently in prison for contempt of court in relation to paedophilia cases): “Tommy is not just a guy but a movement in and of himself now. He represents the working class and channels a lot of the frustration of everyday, blue-collar Britons.”

In the same interview, Bannon said Boris Johnson has “nothing to apologise for” in relation to the now prime minister’s widely condemned racist comments about Muslim women who wear the niqab, including the observation that they look like “letterboxes”. In Klayman’s film, Bannon can be heard claiming to have been advising Johnson on a key speech.

Even on the political right, Bannon’s efforts to, in his own words, “knit together this populist-nationalist movement throughout the world”, are creating concern.

In August of last year, former British Tory cabinet minister Damian Green expressed himself as being “particularly concerned by reports that President Trump’s sacked adviser Steve Bannon is forming a Europe-wide far-right campaign group – and has been in touch with Boris. I hope that no Conservative politician, including Boris, is taking advice from him about how the Conservative Party should behave.”

It is not in doubt that Bannon is, indeed, engaged in concerted efforts to create such a movement, especially in Europe. In Klayman’s film we see Bannon convening a meeting in London which is attended by representatives of fascist and far-right parties from across Europe, including the National Rally from France, the Belgian People’s Party, the Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest), the Sweden Democrats (a party with its roots in Swedish fascism) and Farage (then still of Ukip).

Bannon’s strategy is as familiar as it is vile. Anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric is placed front and centre, often closely followed by virulent social conservatism, as is the case with the anti-abortion politics of Trump, Salvini and the rising far-right Vox movement of Santiago Abascal in Spain. Speaking at a rally of the French National Front (prior to its name change), Bannon told one of Europe’s longest established fascist parties: “Let them call you racist, let them call you xenophobes... Wear it like a badge of honour.”

A large rally hosted by Salvini in Milan on May 18 of this year, ahead of the European Parliament elections, was a warning as to just how successful Bannon’s project has become. The chief of the League was joined by the leaders of 10 other fascist and far-right parties, including Marine Le Pen from France and Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party of Freedom.

As can be seen in Klayman’s documentary, Bannon sees Italy as the spearhead for efforts to unite the European far-right. Not only does the guru of the “alt-right” spend a great deal of time courting the forces of Italian proto-fascism, he actually attempted to open a school for the next generation of far-right leaders in a former monastery on a mountaintop 40 miles south of Rome.

The right-wing Catholic Dignitatis Humanae Institute leased the property for the purpose of training far-right activists, with Bannon as the head of operations. The lease was revoked by the Italian government on a legal technicality following a campaign by outraged locals, led by anti-fascist grandmother Letizia Roccasecca.

Bannon claims to reject the historic anti-Semitism of the far-right, proclaiming himself a “Christian Zionist”. Yet he also describes Orban as “one of my heroes”. This despite the Hungarian leader giving a Judeophobic election speech last year (“We are fighting an enemy that is... not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money,” Orban said) which was appallingly reminiscent of Hitler himself. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (another of Bannon’s “heroes”) has embraced Orban, despite his flagrant hatred of Jews.

It is clear that Bannon’s project represents an existential threat to democracy in Europe and throughout the world. We cannot say we weren’t warned.