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.
32 anti-fascists, mostly local to Thanet, gathered in the Red Hall tonight to discuss the current threat of the far-right and the tasks for UAF. Around fifteen anti-anti-fascists from around Kent disrupted the meeting from outside, but that’s a generous estimate. From what I could see on Facebook, they were a combination of the English Defence League and the more honest Nazis of what remains of the National Front. The speakers were the Labour Councillor Will Scobie for Margate and Cliftonville, Bunny LaRoche (UAF, SWP, Love Music Hate Racism), and Christine Shawcroft from the Labour NEC. After their talks it was an open discussion and many contributed from the floor.
Often when I’m doing a Socialist Worker paper sale or a stall for some cause, we will have a petition as well as all our material. Some of these are great and will probably prove to be effective: the petitions against NHS privatisation or the bedroom tax and evictions, for example. The reason these are useful is it because they are unambiguous what their aims and where the petition is going.
But the anti-racist petitions we use, usually provided by Unite Against Fascism, seem to have no purpose. We have collected signatures opposing UKIP, the EDL, and today, “Don’t let the racists divide us.” They are typically very wordy – not ideal for someone who is interested but in a hurry, and do not have an end goal. They are better than nothing as the number of signatures can be used as a statistic, so they are perhaps on the same level as names at the end of a letter of solidarity. But the petitions do not go anywhere and merely bounce around inside the UAF, without a plan or end result. This isn’t much more than a rant, but please try to make your petition as clear and goal-driven as possible.
Based on a talk that I gave to the Kent Socialist Workers Party group. To many people these ideas will be obvious, but sometimes it helps to be reminded of the obvious. References are at the bottom.
There are three main tasks that face a revolutionary socialist party. The first is the SWP’s role, or any socialist party’s role, as an antifascist opposition; second is the importance of education on socialism: this topic is the majority of this article; third is the importance of internationalism and of relating individual struggles, as explained by Duncan Hallas.
At the recent Party Council of the SWP (June 2nd), Weyman Bennett (UAF) made a point about the role of socialists in fighting the far right. Recent experience has shown that social-democracy (that is, introducing socialist politics through reformist methods) in Europe, for example in Sweden, Denmark, and arguably the area controlled by our own Green Party, has shown no opposition to austerity. Many problems and kinds of unrest caused by capitalism make the rise of fascism all the easier. Trotsky in his last article (August 1940), Bonapartism, Fascism, and War gives many examples of these problems but there are three that are most relatable to our current situation: “the gravest crisis of capitalist society; growing confusion and indifference; the growth of hostility to the proletariat”.
I could give specific examples, but they are fairly self-explanatory. The polling strength of the racist Swedish Democrats is the result of scapegoating inequality and other social ills on immigrants. It is quite clear that if the periodical and inevitable crises of capitalism can lead to the popularity of fascist and right-wing populist ideas, a dedicated anti-capitalist party will also be the most effective antifascist party. Left-reformists themselves have a lot to answer for in the rise of the far right. The Labour party has taken a typically conservative stance on immigration, while Ed Milliband expresses his respect for UKIP. All this serves to normalise anti-immigrant hatred.
Last Saturday (June 1st) a small group of British National Party supporters, apparently 150 of them (it looked about 40), had a pen to protest in outside parliament. Across the country on this day there were a total of 55 protests held by the BNP, English Defence League, National Front, and other racists hoping to pass off the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by an extremist Muslim as representative of Islam, and as the fault of immigration. All but two of these protests were outnumbered by counter-demos, mostly organised by Unite Against Fascism. It was great to see many SWP and ex-SWP members around, as well as our old sign The BNP is a Nazi Party – Smash the BNP. Many members of the Socialist Party were present, as well as Unison and PCS activists.
We managed, by refusing to be moved, to prevent the BNP from marching for five hours (midday to 5pm). When the police managed to get them marching, only 15 of them remained. Some activists against the badger cull managed to finally break them up! Human rights activist Peter Tatchell later recommended on twitter later that UAF use a “sitting protest” rather than the usual “macho methods”. Some of the ‘Anonymous’ protesters tried this, for about five minutes. It is a liberal tactic that achieves nothing more than a chalk drawing of a peace symbol. By allowing the fash to march freely, we would be guilty of giving them a platform. Most of the 58 antifascists who were arrested and dealt with so violently were protesting peacefully and defending democracy. [Relevant reading from ’77: In Defence of Violence]
A response to the OpinionPanel article Di Canio’s views don’t matter by Chris Jaffray. Quotes from the original article are in bold.
The first point made in this article has been made by all the right-wing press already: why does it matter all of a sudden? This is not a serious criticism or reason to stop talking about the issue. I agree though! He gave the straight-arm salute to supporters in a Lazio match back in 2005, and was rightly fined £7,000 and suspended for a game, but little attention was given after that. Having already made his name in club football in this country, anti-fascists should have been talking about this already. But now is of course the best time to grill him for his sympathy for Italian fascism, since a change of career means he would be in the media’s attention anyway.
“Being a Premier League manager is no serious platform to spout fascist ideology”
A Premier League manager is someone that thousands of young people will look up to, both Sunderland fans and other keen footballers. Cameras will be on him in the training ground, in the stadium, and in live interviews afterwards. It is true that defending Mussolini and showing off his awful tattoos won’t be the focus of his work at Sunderland FC, but it is at least giving these principles some legitimacy. Having sporting heroes displaying fascistic views and iconography might only give the far-right an inch, but an inch is all they need. It also undermines work done by the campaign to Kick Racism out of Football and will encourage a minority of football fans who start racist chants, which in turn reinforces the awful ‘football hooligan’ stereotype, doing nothing good for the image of the sport. It doesn’t make sense to not politicise this issue, when you consider the media presence, heritage, and wealth of our top football league.
“Also, even if he were a fascist (which is ambiguous) and wished to express his point of view, we should still not seek to ban him from management or interrogate him.”
Di Canio has stated, “I am a fascist.” I don’t know if there was something not communicated properly through the translation, but it sounds pretty unambiguous, does it not? Maybe you mean his excuse about fascism ‘in its milder form’ – whatever that means – is not seen as all that disturbing in Italy. The only thing to learn from this, if it is true, is that Italian governments since the National Fascist Party have not done enough to slam Mussolini. Why should we care what Di Canio’s standards are anyway? We have our own ongoing history of fighting fascism, from Cable Street to the EDL.
The idea that trying to shut fascists up is oppressive and they should be allowed to speak only shows that you, like me, are probably in a privileged position that prevents you from being one of the people most victimised by popular fascism. The straight-arm salute was an insult to past victims of totalitarianism, those who fought Nazism in WW2, and to footballers facing racism now. Ex-West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, a Trinidad & Tobago international, was surprised and offended by this behaviour and believes there is no place for extreme politics in football. The false appeal to free speech is typical of liberal analyses as it is totally void of social context and appeals only to an abstract noun. Giving people like Di Canio and Greek Giorgos Katidis a place in a top football league and therefore the mainstream media could be more problematic even than the relegation of Sunderland FC.
“Although Di Canio’s views probably bear no impact on British politics, they probably have something to contribute on the nature of Italian politics. Mussolini, after all, was no Hitler.”
Comparing people to Hitler is a very easy way to display them in a good light. Who else is ‘a Hitler?’ Anti-Semitism, fascism, and the fact that they considered each other allies are probably similarities enough. Fascism of course has a threat in British politics. With Labour’s gradual move to become essential and ideological ally to the Lib Dems, there is no prominent left-wing oppositional party. This leaves room for anti-immigrant and white nationalist politics to act as the only real alternative. So I’ll stick with UAF’s stance: a ‘No Platform’ policy.