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]
I delivered this letter yesterday. The Mosque was attacked by some EDL dickheads, one of whom has been arrested. Some people have raised issue with the Surah quote, saying it was out of context or I should have used the full version. However, the people who thought it was inappropriate were non-Muslims, and I had three Muslims who though it was fitting. I know almost nothing about Islamic scripture so I still don’t mind if anyone wants to correct me.
“Members of Gillingham Mosque,
It is a relief to hear that nobody was hurt in the attacks on your place of worship, and a relief that you dealt with the material damage fairly quickly. Once again the English Defence League has responded to extremism with its own extremism, lashing out at a community that has nothing to do with the violence in Woolwich and are the first to condemn such actions.
“To kill one man is to kill all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” – Surah, 5:23
Local anti-fascists have already been checking up on the Mosque and other affected Mosques and Islamic centres around the country, showing their concern for a diverse faith group that is so often demonised. It must be demoralising knowing that the group who is most often seen talking about Islam in mainstream media is also the group that understands it the least. Even more troubling is how easily their racist rhetoric and chanting catches on. But remember that you will always have friends, Muslim and non-Muslim, to rely on every time populist racism flares up. The majority of people oppose the message and tactics of the EDL and don’t want to see a fascist Britain.
Stay safe and continue to educate people on your religion and the cultures surrounding it, for if the members of the EDL were truly informed, they would have nothing to hate.
The letter was signed by East Kent Unite Against Fascism and 44 individuals, one of whom left their own message: “I have always been proud to be born and bred in Medway and will defend my home from people who often look down on it, but yesterday I felt shame for the first time. Racists out of Gillinghan, don’t let the Islamophobes divide us.”