The far right has grown in both numbers and political confidence since the Brexit referendum. Ukip, the party founded with the aim of making Brexit happen, is now in alliance with the new far right which Tommy Robinson personifies and they are jointly organising a central London demonstration this Sunday. This has caused a sometimes sharp conflict of views among those who oppose fascism. Stand Up To Racism, which has traditionally organised counter-demonstrations against these forces, argue that opposing the far right does not mean that you also have to oppose Brexit. This is true. Organisations like Another Europe Is Possible (AEIP) argue that any real challenge to the growing far right must connect with the hundreds of thousands who took part in the recent anti-Brexit demonstration and the three million EU citizens in the British state whom Ukip and Tommy Robinson want to drive out of the country. We agree with this too.
We invited Alena Ivanova of AEIP to explain their thinking:
So let’s start with the facts. Another Europe is Possible is part of a broader coalition of groups committed to fight the rise of the far right which formed loosely but naturally around the common goal of opposing the Brexit Betrayal demo Stephen Yaxley-Lennon has called on 9 December.
This coalition includes over 20 organisations – Momentum, War on Want, the Women’s Strike Assembly, Plan C and many more. The need for a broader mobilisation outside the established mould of Stand Up to Racism will be evident to anyone who attended the last actual counter-demo in October, or for that matter for anyone who was put off by attending yet another SWP-dominated rally that made little attempt to reach out beyond established activist circles, or to actively block the march of the DFLA.
This coalition understands the need for unity but we have also seen the anti-racism fight continuously ‘outsourced’ to Stand Up to Racism with little meaningful mobilisation of the Labour Party and wider labour movement, while the decision coming from activists with a strong feminist ethos to not work with SUTR is one I for one fully accept and support.
During their outings in the last few years, the various fascist groups have met with small and lively mobilisations of activists intending – and often succeeding, to block their marches, and official rallies that fail to attract the numbers needed to seriously puncture the rise of far right rhetoric. And while activists accuse each other on social media for not turning up to enough rallies or potential violent street blocks, that rise continues.
The fact is that Another Europe offers its full support and solidarity to those committed to fighting against racism and fascism and mobilise actively for 9 December. Despite various unfavourable pieces in left-wing outlets, it is manifestly not true that as an organisation we are mobilising for an alternative demonstration which is evident for anyone who would bother to check the various events on Facebook, their locations and their sponsors. There are those who are genuinely confused by what is going on, and those who are using the occasion to continue their attacks on the organisation.
I joined Another Europe as an activist, and now as a member because I share the analysis that Brexit is an attack on workers, a project to diminish our rights and a vindication of the migrant scapegoating strategy the right have been deploying for years. But I’m also a member because I know that absolutely every single one of the people involved would never stop fighting the far right and its narratives.
I think it is wholly counterproductive to ignore the ‘Brexit Betrayal’ narrative that Yaxley-Lennon is trying to tap into. On Sunday he will attempt his grand entry into a mainstream political climate which is carving out a space for him via the continued Brexit crisis. Brexit works for the far right.
This is not to say that there are no Brexit supporting anti-fascists! Of course there are. But they are not the ones at the helm of this political project – the ‘Brexit Betrayal’ slogan is not raised because Brexit has fallen at the hands of socialists! It is used to put pressure for an uglier, more xenophobic version than the shambles we’re seeing already.
This is an analysis not shared by all groups mobilising for 9 December, and as is anyone’s right, we are coming together, with different slogans. I’ve been on the streets against the fascists, and I will be there again. I’ve also been on the streets against Brexit and will be again.
In terms of numbers, we all know which demos have been bigger, and instead of feeling bitter, or accusing people for being too soft and too liberal, I believe it’s vital that we reach out to at least a layer of people motivated to march against a xenophobic project and take them on a journey.
Yaxley-Lennon wants to co-opt a wider social base, using Brexit. A wider social base that rejects Brexit and xenophobia is out there and in the coming months and years we need to do our utmost to mobilise them to engage with overt anti-racism and anti-fascism activism.
As an organisation, I believe Another Europe will continue to try and do just that.