Alf Filer draws some conclusions from the far right’s announcement that it plans to attack student demonstrations.
“The next time the students want to protest in our capital, the English Defence League (EDL) will be there.” So threatened ex British National Party (BNP) supporter Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley Lennon , in a speech at Peterborough on 11 December. The EDL , as expected, have thrown in their lot with those forces attacking both the students and any other trade union opposition to the cuts. Fascism is the last defence of capitalism.
Such a statement confirms what most of us knew. The EDL are committed to developing into a hardened street fighting organisation determined first to attack Muslims and then to use that to divide working people, through the scapegoating of innocent victims of the capitalist crises. They see mass student resistance on the streets as being a real challenge, with an ability to mobilise and unite working class youth and trade unionists, whilst making it clear the enemy is not Muslims but the ConDem government, the City, their banker friends and the ruling class.
The racist, Islamophobic, homophobic and reactionary statements coming from the EDL represent a classical attempt by fascists to attack the working class and their allies, in defence of capital. Whilst claiming to be a working class movement of ordinary people, the EDL does not in any way represent or class. It is a crude and violent attempt to act as the storm troopers of capitalism. Some of their organisers may be of the working class but they are certainly not for the working class. Many of its leaders are petty bourgeois small business men, with a few secret financial backers. Their role is certainly not to protect workers from the ravages of the crises, far from it. Congratulations must go to those who recently hacked into the EDL website and exposed some of their supporters.
In Germany, the Brown Shirts violently attacked Jews, gays, trade unionists and socialists in the 20’s and 30’s, blaming unemployment and economic crises on a so-called Zionist Conspiracy. They resurrected the old Tsarist blood lie to frighten voters into supporting them, whilst using street violence to intimidate and attack opponents. Only a divided working class, resulting from a failure of the Communist and Socialist Parties to unite, enabled the Nazis to take power, using the jackboot and the ballot box. The lessons of the rise of fascism in the 30’s and the defeats and human tragedies that then followed in the Holocaust, must be fully understood by the movement today if we are to successfully prevent this being repeated. Stalinism and Social Democracy attempted then to disarm the proletariat in the struggle for Socialism. The united front tactic put forward by Trotsky and his supporters then are just as relevant and essential now.
We totally endorse the statement by the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) national officer Martin Smith:
“Some people in the antifascist movement have argued that if the EDL comes to your town, you should stay at home, ignore them and hope they’ll go away. We think that’s wrong. There are fascist elements with a growing influence in the EDL – and if you give an inch to a fascist, they’ll come back for more.
… When they attack one community, it’s an attack on all of us. And we should remember that if we all come together and stand united, there are many, many more of us than them.”
The EDL is planning to return to where it first started its racist marches, in Luton, on Saturday 5th February. Students and young workers will be there, alongside trade unionists, socialists, community groups, anti-cuts campaigners and many others to make it clear whose streets it is and that it does not belong to the fascists.
In Harrow, Tower Hamlets, Manchester, Glasgow, Burnley, Cardiff and in many other towns and cities across the country, thousands marched in defence of all communities against fascist and racist threats. The cry, “They shall not pass” and “ No Platform for Fascists”, was once again raised in defiance of attempts by the police, the media and the Establishment to protect the EDL whilst arresting anti-fascists and bringing of charges against the leaders of the UAF. This duplicity by the state was rewarded by the EDL subsequently attacking police lines on recent marches, to try to prove who the better street fighters were.
There are those in the anti-fascist movement, who have argued for a position that state bans should be relied on to prevent the fascists from marching. Instead of mass mobilisations organised through local based and democratic anti-fascist committees, Hope Not Hate and others have argued that we should call on the police and the Home Office to ban the EDL. Unfortunately, even if they wanted to, the state representatives make it clear that static demos are not illegal. This does not prevent them using police horses, illegal kettling, batons and other similar tactics to prevent students and youth from opposing the cuts. Some in the media have even suggested the use of water cannons and rubber bullets to put down the students, whilst turning a blind eye to the fascists.
The state is not, and never has been, neutral. State violence is used to reinforce class oppression and oppose resistance by working people and organized labour. The same capitalist state that inhumanely mistreats the children of asylum seekers at places such as Yarls Wood, batons and assaults students such as Alfie Meadows in Whitehall, will be the state that attacks workers on picket lines in defence of jobs. Only united action on the streets, as shown at Cable Street in the 1936 and in Harrow 2 years ago, can prevent the fascists from marching.
Although the BNP lost their seats in Barking and Dagenham, along with other electoral losses in the last general and local council elections, their vote had increased to over half a million nationally. This, combined with votes for other far right and nationalist candidates, shows that they are not finished, in spite of recent splits and faction fights. Nick Griffin is considering whether to run in the forthcoming Oldham and Sandlewood by-election.
Labour and immigation
Yet is the Labour Party able to present a challenge, given its record on immigration controls, support for public spending cuts and accepting the case for cutting the size of the budget deficit?
Disillusionment by working people is understandable when all three political parties argue that cuts are inevitable in one way or another. The disgraced former Labour MP, Phil Woolas, was happy to play the race card by accusing his Liberal Democrat opponent of trying to woo the votes of Muslim extremists.
Similarly, in the middle of the Dagenham election campaign, Margaret Hodge, New Labour Culture Minister at the time, called for tighter immigration quotas. Yet in campaigning against Griffin, anti-racists had to point out the racist nature of immigration controls and how racism cannot be fought with racist arguments. All immigration controls are by definition racist. Theresa May, the ConDem Home Office minister has now also faced defeats following successful appeals over immigration restrictions that her Government had recently introduced. Even the City accepts that immigration controls can have a harmful effect on the economy, yet they only want the restrictions lifted on their “ overpaid key workers” not all workers, many on very low pay.
Democracy in UAF
Over the past 2 years, many in the anti-fascist movement, along with Socialist Resistance, have been urging the UAF to maximise the support it has attracted by convening its long delayed AGM. The aim of this is to enable full and frank discussion within the wider movement on tactics and strategy for organising mass mobilisations effectively and so strengthen the anti-fascist movement. Such an AGM would also permit a more open, democratic and approach, with wider representation on the national committee of the UAF. Unfortunately this is where we must disagree with the dominant political force in the UAF, the SWP. Whilst we welcome and recognise the dedication of their members to this struggle, we do not agree with their methodology.
A more open and democratic structure at local and national level , as opposed to a top down approach, would enable the UAF to deepen its links within the labour movement, at the base. Whilst having endorsements from trade union and political leaders, it is the participation of activists in its everyday life that will enable the UAF to succeed. Perhaps this is where the UAF can learn some of the lessons from the Coalition of Resistance, with over 100 people on its National Council. Internal democracy is not a luxury it is a necessity.
Similarly it has been raised for the need by the UAF to convene an international conference, bringing together the international experiences of the anti-fascist movement, linking in with the international struggle against austerity measures across Europe and beyond. The present crises is international and the struggle against this and fascism must be international also.
The emergence over the past year of Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts, and their active involvement in the Coalition of Resistance is a very positive development in the struggle against racism and the cuts, based on the important principle of autonomy and self organisation. It is not sufficient to simply sloganise “black and white unite and fight”. This shows how the victims of racism can unite with the anti-cuts movement and so strengthen the struggle. Similarly we are seeing similar movements emerging amongst women, gays and people with disabilities. They quite rightly are not prepared to accept being patronised but be accepted and welcomed as equals, who have the right to maintain their independence.
The challenge facing the anti-cuts campaigns at a local and national level is to develop a unifying strategy that can reach out to all sections of the working class communities, developing a clear anti-racist and anti-sexist perspective. The labour movement must totally reject any formula that is based on protecting “British jobs for British workers”. The only winners from such a campaign will be the racists and fascists. Internationalism must be at the forefront of our struggle against austerity measures at all times.