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A talk I gave to the Canterbury branch of the SWP on 15/8

A while ago I wrote a response to an anti-Trotskyist leaflet1. It claimed that, by rejecting the possibility of ‘socialism in one country’, we try to put down “those who have the temerity to go on and build socialism”. It was a Stalinist group that put out this leaflet, but an orthodox Trotskyist could easily have written it.  One of the groups I spoke to at the Marxism festival was the International Bolshevik Tendency2, who are supporters of the theory that the Soviet Union (along with many other countries) was a “deformed” or “degenerated workers’ state”. Their spokesperson wagged a finger at me and told me about how awful it is that the SWP looks at the Hungarian uprising of ‘56 positively, rather than as an act of counterrevolution, and how we think a socialist revolution still needs to take place in North Korea.

So although as part of this talk I won’t be going over the arguments of the most uncritical Stalinists, I will be going part of the way to addressing that position, since the so-called Orthodox Trotskyists are themselves so often counterrevolutionary and apologists for Stalinism. It sounds like nonsense to say that a Trotskyist could be guilty of this, but Cliff explained well how it happens, and how it comes from following Trotsky dogmatically but losing his essence, and abandoning classical Marxism3.

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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.