Workers Hammer No. 243
How not to fight fascism
When supporters of the fascist Tommy Robinson rallied on 14 July and RMT official Steve Hedley was viciously assaulted (see leaflet above), the response of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) was an object lesson in how not to fight the fascists. The SWP proclaimed the day “a big step forward for anti-fascists” (Socialist Worker, 18 July). Why? Because a “unity protest against Tommy Robinson, Trump and the far-right” drew larger numbers than earlier such counter-protests, though still fewer than the fascists. What should have happened was a massive mobilisation centred on the trade unions to stop the fascists from rallying and to drive them off the streets.
The impotent “unity protest”, called by the SWP-led Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF), did nothing to stop the fascists, because that was not its intent. SUTR’s intent was clear from their response to the ominous 15,000-strong “Free Tommy Robinson” mobilisation on 9 June. They issued a liberal change.org petition signed by a host of Labour Party and trade union dignitaries calling to “come together to defend our multicultural society” — racist capitalist Britain. What the SWP strives for is not the unity of workers and the oppressed in struggle to smash the fascists, but electoral “unity” against the Tories, ie for a Labour government.
Beginning with the Anti Nazi League (ANL) in the 1970s and extending to SUTR and UAF today, the SWP has specialised in building movements aimed not at stopping the fascists but at diverting those who want to stop them into liberal protest politics. An article in Socialist Worker (10 August) titled “How the Anti Nazi League beat back the fascists” is designed to prettify that history for people unfamiliar with the ANL’s record of betrayal. Conspicuously missing from the article is the ANL’s role in allowing 2000 National Front (NF) fascists to march virtually unchallenged through a heavily immigrant area in London’s East End on 24 September 1978, while tens of thousands of anti-fascists were deliberately led in the other direction to a “rock against racism” concert (see “ANL Carnival scabs!”, Spartacist Britain no 5, October 1978).
In early August, the SWP raised the alarm over an “attack” by “Nazi and racist thugs” on the leftist Bookmarks bookshop in central London (socialistworker.co.uk, 5 August). A dozen racist and anti-communist creeps, including UKIP supporters, had gone into Bookmarks. As the video they posted on the internet shows, they waved “Make Britain Great Again” placards, tossed some books to the floor, chanted “We love Trump” and “Oh Tommy, Tommy” and railed against leftist “Jew-haters” and “paedophiles”. Disgusting, but hardly Nazi thuggery. It was a far cry from the 1981 fascist firebombing of the SWP bookshop in Birmingham, which left a woman murdered and the shop gutted (see “Firebomb outrage!”, Spartacist Britain no 31, April 1981).
The SWP’s conflation of one-time British National Party (BNP) stormtrooper Tommy Robinson with particularly noxious bourgeois politicians like Trump and UKIP or the Make Britain Great Again provocateurs serves only to disarm workers and minorities in the face of genuine fascists. So does SUTR’s call, in a “factsheet” issued after Robinson’s release on bail on 1 August, for “a mass anti-racist movement that can isolate far right ideas”. Fascism is not about ideas, but lethal violence, like last year’s murderous attack on Muslim worshippers at the Finsbury Park mosque and the arson attack on a mosque in Manchester. Fascists, such as the NF and BNP in the past and National Action and Britain First today, are paramilitary action gangs whose purpose is the obliteration of the workers movement and racial genocide. The key to fascism is that the road to power is violence.
Even though they sometimes share a platform with Robinson, racist and right-wing provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos or politicians like UKIP’s Gerard Batten are a different matter. It is necessary to protest, expose and refute such types. The other side of SUTR’s call to “isolate far right ideas” is that it is often used to shut down right-wing meetings on campus. Such actions hand reactionary ideologues the flag of “freedom of speech” against “leftist censorship”.
Like the SWP, the Socialist Party (SP) conflates fascism and racist ideas, albeit with an emphasis on trade union economism. Following the attack on Hedley, the Socialist (26 July) called on trade union leaders to “name the day” for a national demo to “fight the racist far right”. The SP is promoting a “model motion”, passed by the RMT London Underground Engineering branch, which dispels any idea that the SP is calling to marshal the potential social power of the unions to actually stop fascist mobilisations. The motion called for the TUC to launch a campaign for “jobs, homes not racism” which would include “all legal steps (up to and including strike action)” to stop the spread of racist “rhetoric”. The Labourite trade union misleaders are adept at using such toothless motions to provide a cover for their refusal to mobilise their members in class struggle.
By way of example, in 1994 the TUC did “name the day”, calling a “Unite Against Racism” rally in London on 19 March. For months, the trade union bureaucrats had been under pressure to appear to be “doing something” about the fascist menace posed by the BNP, whose bookshop in south London functioned as a base for violent racist attacks. A featured speaker at the demo was none other than Tony Blair, then the shadow home secretary. As we noted at the time (Workers Hammer no 140, March/April 1994): “The TUC leadership won’t harm a hair on the head of a single fascist.... Their answer to the BNP is a call for a vote to the servile, pro-capitalist Labour Party!” Three years later they got it, in the form of the racist, union-bashing, warmongering Blair Labour government.
Groups like the SWP and Socialist Party do not have a programme to put an end to fascism. Doing so requires a revolutionary proletarian perspective of sweeping away the capitalist order that breeds the fascist scum. The working class needs a vanguard party, a tribune of the people like Lenin’s Bolshevik party, which will champion the cause of all the exploited and oppressed as part of the struggle to lead the workers to power.