At the SWP party council on June 2nd, a few of the speakers talked about the weakness of antifascism in France, evidenced by the relative freedom that the Front Nationale have to march around and by the huge right-wing protests against the recent same-sex marriage victory. This serves as an answer to the argument against the stupid idea that if we don’t counter-protest, the EDL etc. will expose themselves as ridiculous. I was in Paris the past weekend and on Sunday, a huge antifascist and anti-capitalist rally marched against the FN and Revolutionary Nationalist Youth, and in memory of the murder of left-wing activist Clement Meric. This should leave anti-racists around the world feeling more optimistic about the role of France while bearing in mind the work they have ahead. The anti-immigrant FN typically achieves 10% or higher in elections and polling. They are not considered extreme by most: after being treated respectfully but moderate parties, their views are merely viewed as a part of valuable discourse. Anti-fascism in France is further complicated by the excessive presence of armed police and military at peaceful protests, and use of police brutality. Among the protesters was the Front de Gauche with their various groups, the Communist Student Union, Venezuela supporters, LGBT campaigners, and some anarchists and syndicalists with their ambiguous flags. It was great to hear L’Internationale sung in full in its original language, but the lack of trade union banners seemed odd.
At home, the American anti-Muslim hate preachers Robert Spencer and Pam Geller have been banned from entering the UK, after 26,000 people signed HOPE Not Hate’s petition to the Home Secretary. I have seen some criticism of this decision, along the lines of: “Why should far-right extremists be banned when dangerous Muslim preachers are allowed in?”
This is mostly an imagined double standard that can be answered simply by a look at the Home Office’s list of hate promoters excluded from the UK. Notice that the majority are Islamic preachers. Whatever you think about Spencer and Geller being excluded, don’t pretend they are getting unequal treatment as people likely to incite violence.