zondag 1 januari 2012

Anti-fascism in the 21st Century, a working-class response

Anti-fascism in the 21st Century



In Britain and Europe today, organised fascist groups have been gaining strength and popularity on a scale unseen since the end of the Second World War. A majority of European countries now have fascists elected to government, they form a significant coalition in the European Parliament, and their appeals to popular racism on issues like immigration are easy fodder for mainstream politicians determined to push the agenda even further to the right.
The important question, for any dedicated social activist, then, is how do we stop this?
The fascist agenda quite clearly runs contrary to the goals of liberty, equality, community, and solidarity that are at the heart of labour, socialist, and anti-capitalist organising. Thus, a strong anti-fascist movement is vital to the class struggle and to grassroots community activism.
The rising tide
The sheer scale of the rising tide of fascism across Europe is startling. To give just a few examples, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) rose to power in Switzerland on the back of an openly-racist “black sheep” anti-immigration campaign. In Greece, the police have been openly collaborating with fascist paramilitary group Golden Dawn to wage a war of terror against migrants and left-wing workers’ groups. In Italy, the government has revived the Blackshirts as part of its vicious pogrom against the Roma people. Both Germany and Russia are experiencing an unprecedented level of neo-Nazi thuggery.
In Britain, traditionally the strongest bastion of anti-fascist sentiment in Europe, the British National Party (BNP) have made leaps and bounds in local council elections, as well as having their leader as an MEP. Meanwhile, militant groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Casuals United have taken over the mantle of street violence that the BNP have at least officially abandoned.
The consequences of such a rise are apparent for all to see. Amnesty International has pointed to a “growing trend of discrimination against Roma people across Europe,” from recent attacks in South Belfast to Government discrimination in Slovakia and fascist marches through Roma areas in the Czech Republic. Every so often, anti-Semitic attacks and vandalism will spike in France, among other places. And across the continent/, attacks on Arabs and anti-Muslim sentiment have reached fever pitch.
Faced with such consequences, it is clear how anti-fascists must respond. What we need, quite simply, is solid organisation willing to take the fight to the fascists on any ground that they choose. If they have groups of thugs amassing on the streets, then we must be prepared to take the streets back from them and stand up as a physical opposition to their violence and intimidation. If they hold rallies and marches, then we must drown them out with our own rallies and marches. If they attempt to organise, then we must fight this by dispersing their meetings and disrupting their calls to arms. If they hand out leaflets, then we must oppose them with our own leafleting campaigns, combating their lies and fear-mongering whilst making sure that their message of hate does not spread. And, most importantly, we must be ready to combat their ideas with our own.
Every piece of misinformation must be exposed by way of facts and reason, and all their claims to “credibility” and “legitimacy” shown up for what they truly are. This is particularly important at election times as, though undoubtedly there are a myriad of problems with the status quo, what the fascists represent is a thousand times worse.
For the most part, the above describes tactics that are already in use by anti-fascist organisations. However, there are some serious flaws that need to be addressed. For instance, whilst groups such as Antifa are firmly rooted in grassroots, non-hierarchical structures, the bigger anti-fascist groups such as Unite Against Fascism (UAF) are extremely hierarchical, and the decisions at the top aren’t influenced by the opinions of the supporters on the ground.
This, to my mind, is serious folly. What this means, in essence, is that UAF are completely detached from the ordinary people whose lives are affected by fascism every day. They hold rallies and protests where the destination is set by upper-echelon planners after negotiations with police, with no input at all from the bottom, and they release statements to the press. As far as serious activism and organising goes, however, their achievements are non-existent.
This kind of “anti-fascism,” then, is precisely of the kind that we need to avoid. One cannot wave a placard whilst hemmed in by police, shout out a few chants, and buy a copy of the Socialist Worker, and call it activism. It is not. Quite simply, performing this kind of action whilst remaining detached from the local community is not only ineffective but counter productive.
Addressing the roots of fascism
Anybody can see the consequences of organised fascist activity and know instantly how to respond to it. What makes a successful movement, however, is also looking towards the roots of such sentiment and trying to address that.
Fascism did not emerge one day from a vacuum and nor is it populated solely by people who are simply irrational racists the world would be better off without. No, a popular and growing fascist movement quite clearly contains a significant number of quite ordinary working class people who have for one reason or another thrown their lot in with the far-right. Unless we want to bow to snobbery, we cannot simply write this off as proof that the “lower classes” are all simply vile racists, we must begin to address the concerns of these people.
Unfortunately, an awful lot of people who oppose fascism on an intellectual level do move towards that conclusion, and fascists prey upon that fact. So, when somebody says that we need immigrants because “poor people are all lazy, ignorant, benefit-cheating scum” they are able to use this to their advantage and appeal to yet more people. We must reject this tactic and see it for the thinly-veiled class hatred that it is.
What we need, instead, is education. At the core of any workable organising effort is a group of dedicated activists doing their utmost to educate people about the problems that need to be overcome, about the importance of organising as a community and networking with similar groups, about the realities that we’re faced with, and so on. This involves going into schools, colleges, workplaces, and local communities to find people willing to hear our message. We have to spread the word on what fascism is, why it is a bad thing, how we oppose it, and what the alternatives are.
This cannot be done through sloganeering, either. Whether the audience is students, workers, or concerned local people, they are not stupid, and they will not see your point of view by being patronised or by having a slogan drilled into their heads. Fascists are gaining support by playing on and twisting legitimate grievances, and the only way to combat that is by addressing both the distortions and the underlying worries openly and honestly.
To take a more common example, it is quite clear that immigrants are not “stealing our jobs,” as fascists claim. However, what is happening is that corporations are exploiting immigrants and turning the native and foreign elements of the working class against each other in order to maximise profit. We need to get this message out, and to show that the solution isn’t to simply “kick them out.” A far more realistic and viable way of combating this problem is to work with immigrants, to bring them into trade union struggles, and to work together to fight the real cause of our problems – corporate capitalism.
That’s just one example, but it’s quite clear that anti-fascism needs to link into social activism: labour organisation, anti-capitalist organisation, local health and social programs for those abandoned by the government, education, and the like. In other words, engaging with local communities on issues they’re concerned about.
Anti-fascists also have to be careful with how we campaign during elections. In the first instance, we cannot overstate the importance of voting. Voting is neither the prime nor the most effective way of combating fascism. It has its uses, particularly when it can be used to help keep the extreme right out of power, but it also has its limits.
For example, we cannot be seen simply as another arm of the campaign for the ruling parties, as a lot of people are – quite justifiably – disillusioned with them. To take the recent European Parliament elections as a case in point, one of the main follies of the British anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate was to involve Labour Party MPs, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in what they were doing.
Particularly as one of the main ways in which the BNP won support was by portraying themselves as the “alternative” to the Labour government, this was a grave error. New Labour have, during the last decade, continued the Conservative policies that entrenched private power and annihilated the organised working class. Hence, utilising them for a campaign will only serve to alienate ordinary people from the anti-fascist cause.
What we need to be doing, instead, is countering the idea (put about by the government as much as by the BNP) that fascism is radically different from the incumbent ruling class. Rather, the likes of the BNP merely represent a logical extreme of mainstream politics. It is the government which has destroyed the labour movement, wedded private power ever tighter to the state, waged a vicious war on migrants with internment and forced deportations, and used race to turn the working class in on itself. The role of the fascists on the fringes has been to help push the government agenda even further rightward whilst providing a convenient foil to mask this fact.
The folly of sloganeering
A common mistake of anti-fascist groups like is that they play into this deliberate misconception through their use of sloganeering as a campaign tool. As an example, take the favourite slogan of UAF; “the BNP is a Nazi Party – smash the BNP.”
Undoubtedly, the sentiment expressed within the slogan is true. The BNP are fascists, utilising extremely authoritarian nationalism to promote a world order in which state and corporate power are absolute and intertwined. Their manifesto includes a pledge to “restore our economy and land to British [state] ownership” as a part of their “third position” economics, which echo Mussolini’s statement in The Doctrine of Fascism that “Fascism recognises the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade-unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonised in the unity of the State.”
At the same time, the party goes beyond fascism to Nazism with their ethno-nationalist ideology, opposing “miscegenation” (race-mixing) and a “multi-racist” society in favour of the one composed of “the overwhelmingly white makeup of the British population that existed prior to 1948,” as outlined in the party’s constitution. Even if this is achieved by expulsion rather than extermination, as was Hitler’s original intention, this amounts to nothing less than ethnic cleansing.
It is true, then, to declare that “the BNP are a Nazi party,” but what exactly does chanting such a slogan achieve? In my own opinion, the answer is nothing at all. Presented with the evidence, from the party’s own constitution and policy statements, the public could very easily conclude that the BNP are Nazis and fascists. But whilst the BNP are framing their ideology in sophisticated polemics which address the concerns and fears, if grossly distorted for doctrinal purposes, of ordinary people, chanting “the BNP are Nazis” only serves to put people off.
Parties such as the BNP are seen, falsely, as offering a radical alternative to a mainstream political system that has annihilated working class culture and marginalised great swathes of the population. If all anti-fascists are doing is chanting and saying “no, they’re bad” without offering our own grassroots alternative, then we will be seen merely as cranks and we will get nowhere.
If we are to present a credible alternative to organised fascism for ordinary people, it must also be an alternative to what is on offer in the mainstream. Here we have to be extremely honest. People have to know that there’s no quick fix to the problems that we all face if they’re not to vote for fascists offering exactly that. They have to know that the electoral system and reform have their limits, as history tells us. If we take any successful progressive movement of the past, whether it be civil rights, the suffragettes, the abolitionists, or anybody else, then we can see this. They used votes and petitions and so forth, but they also broke the law and were sent to jail for struggling. They used sit-ins, occupations, blockades, strikes, and virtually every other means at their disposal. Had they not, then we certainly wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms that we do today. So, yes, there is a hard fight ahead, but it can achieve real results and certainly offers greater promise than voting for or supporting fascists.
Opportunity and danger
We have reached a point, right now, where people are disillusioned with the status quo. They can see the effect that a culture of greed and selfish pursuit of profit, fostered under the dominant corporate-capitalist system, has on society.
Workers are losing their jobs so that their bosses can maintain profits in the recession. Billions of pounds of public money have been poured into keeping the banks afloat as they repossess homes at unprecedented rates. Social atomisation brought on by corporate dominance of the public sphere has led to spiralling crime rates and an entire generation marginalised by the system.


Such a situation offers both opportunity and danger to those struggling for serious social change. A population this disaffected by the status quo can go one of two ways, providing of course that a resurgent capitalist class don’t quickly reassert control through the propaganda system. Either they can be mobilised into mass popular movements that will challenge the injustices we see all around us and make a real, positive difference to the world that we live in, or they will turn to fascism.
At the moment, it is the latter course that is winning out. Instead of seeing the chance to organise the entire working class and fight against a system that has brought our society to its knees, they are turning on immigrants and minority communities. Instead of creating a real alternative to the disastrous policies offered up by a government in thrall to private power, they are voting for parties that will strengthen the ties between state and corporate power. Instead of fighting the disastrous division of the working class along racial lines, they are further withdrawing into their own, atomised racial “community.” The people are choosing fascism over activism.
This is precisely why anti-fascism has to be tied to class struggle and social activism to be truly effective. We have to make a serious effort to mobilise the population in a positive way and show them that there is a real alternative to the problems we currently face. Otherwise, all we are doing is driving away one fringe group for the benefit of a ruling class already enacting some of their worst policies.

Race and Class in the Anti-fascist Movement

A major criticism of the anti-fascist movement is that it is dominated by white, middle class people. This demographic, and the liberal, reformist perspective they offer, alienates those most affected by organised fascist activity – ethnic minority groups and the white working class. The result, so the argument goes, is an isolated, single-issue movement adept at nothing more than ineffectually waving placards.
I have written before about need for anti-fascism to have a radical, working class perspective that addresses the roots of fascism with a powerful economic argument. But where does race fit into this equation?
Fascism is a divisive movement. The aim is to split apart the working class along any line possible – race, religion, nationality, etc – in order gain influence and power. In order to most effectively fight that division, we need a movement that is not just based in class struggle but one which is as diverse as the working class itself.
There are several reasons why working class people of colour are put off from engaging in anti-fascist activity. All of them need to be addressed and challenged if that situation is to change.
A patronising anti-racism
Primary among those reasons is the sheer preponderance of white people. Faced with scenes where, for example, an overwhelmingly white crowd of students sang “we are black, white, Asian, and we’re Jews” at a protest in Liverpool, non-white communities are more often perplexed than encouraged by such action.
Liberal anti-fascism, as with liberalism in general, proliferates a patronising form of “anti-racism” and “inclusiveness” that seems to demand subservience more than it does equality.

The image many people have of anti-fascism today is that of a movement largely dominated by white, middle-class students
The image many people have of anti-fascism today is that of a movement largely dominated by white, middle-class students

As an example, look at the society that has emerged under the dominance of liberals eager to promote “multiculturalism.” In a fascist society, it is true, we would not see black rappers performing sellout tours, gay people camping it up on television, or Muslims defending their faith against criticism. But in this liberal society, we do not see black artists who rap about more than girls and guns, offering a radical critique of the dominant culture. We do not see queers who reject camp culture and demand true equality over being treated as amusing pets. We do not see Muslims or Arabs resisting the authoritarianism and patriarchy forced upon them by their mullahs.
Liberalism, whatever its pretences, offers not acceptance and equality, but a begrudging tolerance in hopeful exchange for silent acquiescence. In place of integration and cooperation we have a segregation of people into supposedly-homogenous “communities” where unelected “community leaders” repay state handouts with votes. Liberal “multicultualism,” then is a way to divide the working class whilst claiming to promote “diversity.”
With liberal anti-fascism, the principle is roughly the same. By offering a critique of fascist organisations that is not grounded in class struggle but a defence of the status quo and this statist principle of “multiculturalism.”
As such, the liberal anti-fascists offer a very patronising anti-racism to non-white people. Instead of offering an economic argument that tears down the false racial divides thrown up by the far-right, they will turn them around against the white working class. Instead of grassroots organisation across such artificial lines, they recruit “community leaders,” whose job is to keep their particular “ethnic community” in line in order to cement their own position, and who often represent the same authoritarianism, misogyny, and homophobia that is so loathsome in the far right.
This latter issue is particularly acute amongst the “traditional” left at large, such as the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and George Galloway’s Respect coalition. As I have written previously, they have become apologists for the worst elements of Islam, taking on a simplistic version of anti-imperialism which supports groups such as Hamas or the clerical regime in Iran. As they are involved in liberal anti-fascism as much as liberals, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) being an SWP front, this approach coalesces with the “multiculturalist” one.
The result is a movement that promotes social equality whilst ignoring economic equality. One that, with the mainstream trade unions on board, speaks of the working class yet has the highest echelons of established power amongst its benefactors.
Class as a turn-off for ethnic minorities
In response to these criticisms, those they are aimed at will throw the accusations right back. Talk of class war and socialism puts immigrants and ethnic minorities off, they respond. In truth, this is yet more patronising nonsense. Socialism and class struggle are hardly white priorities, and to suggest otherwise is to suggest that a different skin pigmentation equates to an entirely different set of concerns and values.
In fact, as already discussed, such patronisation is more off-putting than anything. But if class is in any way a factor in turning non-whites away from anti-fascism, then it will be for the fact that liberal anti-fascism is a predominantly middle-class movement.
Overwhelmingly, those blacks and Asians who do work with UAF, Hope not Hate, or similar factions, are of a fairly privileged background. Just as it does with white working class people, this turns black and Asian workers away. It is facile to think that a one-dimensional race argument will mobilise people who, on top of this, are facing the same struggles as we do in being a part of the working class.
Removing class and economics from the anti-fascist argument reduces it to a moral position which, as already covered, feels patronising more than empowering.
Moreover, it is another sop to the far-right. In dropping all emphasis on social class, we become the opposite side of their coin, defining people purely by the colour of their skin.
“Community Leaders”
Returning to what I said earlier about liberal multiculturalism, one particularly notorious way of splitting anti-fascism into racial blocks is to engage with often self-appointed “community leaders” as a substitute for grassroots community organisation.
As already stated, the effect of this is to create and build upon racial schisms in the working class under the guise of “diversity.” Another consequence is that entire racial groups become defined by the worst traits of their unelected “leader” or “spokesperson.”
As a more obvious example consider Iqbal Sacranie, former leader of the Muslim Council of Britain. In January 2006, he denounced homosexuality as “not acceptable” and called civil partnerships “harmful.” Because he was a “community leader,” this was reported not as an individual with distasteful views but as “Muslim head says gays ‘harmful’.” Through his very status as “leader,” he had transposed this opinion onto every Muslim in Britain.
As “community leaders” are unelected and without an opposition candidate, this leaves ordinary people even more voiceless than they are under parliamentary “democracy,” unable to get their message out if they disagree. This is somewhat troubling even with a well-meaning spokesperson. When those who claim to speak for their race or religion stand for the worst kind of authoritarianism and bigotry, it is downright dangerous.


Often, anti-fascists walk a tightrope on racial issues. They risk being caught between promoting racial segregation as apologists for values utterly antithetical to their own, and tokenism, condescendingly “allowing” blacks to take part in a “white” movement, as long as they don’t upset the applecart.
The need for grassroots organisation
The only way to avoid falling into this trap is to draw the antifascist movement back to the grassroots. To put it bluntly, a genuinely diverse anti-fascism cannot emerge within a top-down structure where opposition to racism must fit into a framework of established power.
Combating racial segregation and hatred must mean utterly rejecting the idea of homogenous “communities” and the “leaders” that come with them. At the same time, however, it must recognise that victims of racism (as victims of capitalism) are not helpless creatures requiring rescue by the “right-on.” We cannot “allow” non-whites to be anti-fascists or “invite” them to join us, as we have no monopoly on the movement.
White, middle-class students are not black, Asian, or Jews. They are white. Segregation is not diversity, even when you call it multiculturalism. If white people can organise and resist without the go-ahead from a “leader,” then so too can non-white people.
We must not only recognise that, but push against those trends. We need open and honest dialogue about the flaws of the anti-fascist movement as it is and how we might fix them. Most importantly, we must return to the grassroots and ensure that people hear the argument against fascism based upon class, not race.
If this does not happen, then anti-fascism will remain a white, middle class movement ineffectually waving placards whilst cordoned off from the fascists by the police.

On Violence and Censorship

Traditionally, antifascists have held to a philosophy of “no platform” and “physical opposition” to the far-right. However, in recent times, these stances have come under particular scrutiny and criticism. Both the efficacy and the morality of “no platform” have come under intense scrutiny, particularly from liberals, and many have been quick to equate “physical opposition” with wanton violence.
One problem with the debate as it stands, however, is that it lacks context. Particularly, the meaning of each phrase is not the same to all those involved in the debate, even if on the same side of it.
In the previous articles of this series, I have offered a radical, working class perspective on antifascism. Here, my aim is to apply that perspective to the questions of “no platform” and “physical opposition.”
The militant tradition
It is important, at this point, to differentiate between militant antifascism and liberal antifascism. The contrast between the two currents is vital to understanding this issue.
Apart from tactics, which I shall come to, where militants and liberals differ is on the perspective that they offer with regard to fascism.

Liberal antifascists from Unite Against fascism (UAF) march against the BNP's Red, White and Blue (RWB) festival under police escort

The liberal stance is a moral one, seeing fascism as”extremism” and a particularly virulent form of racism and bigotry. For example, Hope not Hate argue that the British National Party (BNP) “remains firmly entrenched in the principles of racial superiority and the banning of racial integration.” Their aim, then, is to oppose the BNP for “the great British tradition of tolerance, equality and compassion.” Every point against them is in the context of race, with only the occasional usage of the word “Nazi” pointing to any wider political criticism.
In contrast, militant group Antifa make the following point;
It’s quite common for people to equate fascism with racism and it’s often the case that fascist groups will use racist or xenophobic rhetoric and propaganda in order to spread their message. However it would be wrong to see fascism solely as a form of racism.
Traditionally fascist parties have used ethnic minorities as a scapegoat for the problems created by capitalism. For instance the BNP often point to migrant workers as being the cause for the degradation of the NHS or the reason for the lack of decent social housing. Similarly they blame migrant workers for “taking our jobs” instead of attacking the employers who routinely pay derisory wages and treat workers like disposable commodities. The reason fascist groups tend to attack ethnic minorities and immigrants in this way are because they want to divide the working class. By sowing the seeds of division, fragmentation and suspicion in working class communities they undermine notions of solidarity and cooperation thus strengthening the status quo and perpetuating existing inequalities in society.
Racism and xenophobia are not the primary goals of fascism but are rather part of their means for promoting the ascendancy of the nation state. Fascism promotes the ideals of nationalism and patriotism in opposition to internationalism and class solidarity. Fascism’s glorification of the nation is really the veneration of the hierarchies that exist within the nation. Fascist’s promoted the interests of ruling elite above those of the majority and in the past has used all the apparatus of the state to ensure that those hierarchies in society are maintained and bolstered. In this context talk of supporting the “indigenous people” is used to garner the support of the white working and middle classes to undermine class unity between people of different race or nationality.
Fascism should be opposed because it aims to crush all autonomy and freedom in the name of creating a strong nation state; it curtails freedom of expression, supports rigid hierarchies and most importantly stands against the interests of every working class person regardless of their race or nationality.
Moreover, liberal antifascists are particularly concerned with “legality” and “legitimacy.” There is much hand wringing over this matter, and constant attempts are made to prove that the BNP is not “legitimate” or “respectable.” To the contrary, Antifa say that they have “no interest in the legality or otherwise of the BNP. Nor do we care whether the State permits or prohibits such fascist groups.” No, their only interest is that “the working class have every right to stand up to and act against fascist politics and sympathisers in our communities and workplaces.”
For them, “the current Labour government have done more harm to communities than the BNP could even hope to do at the moment.” As such, “it’s no good telling people to vote for anybody but the BNP in order to keep them out because invariably that means either voting for the government or voting for another party who would implement the same sort of policies that Labour has done.” Thus, “legitimacy” means nothing when granted by those who are “undermining the welfare state and job security while simultaneously pitting domestic workers against migrant workers,” and have consequently “created a situation whereby the BNP are seen as a radical opposition to the government.”
The two forms of “no platform”
In the context of these two competing perspectives, it is not surprising that “no platform” has two entirely different meanings.
For liberal antifascists, “there is a world of difference between defending free speech and choosing to provide a platform for fascists.” As such, they will actively oppose the right of fascist individuals and groups to speak publicly, whether at a debate on freedom of speech organised by the Oxford Union, or on the BBC’s flagship current affairs show Question Time.
The essential position, then, is censorship. Hope not Hate talks about the “good example” set when BNP candidates are “not invited” to debates, or have their “invitation withdrawn” under public pressure.
As critics point out, such a policy plays right into the hands of fascists. In New Statesman, over a decade ago, Kenan Malik argued that “there has always been an ambiguity about policies which made an offence of incitement to racial hatred, or which tried to deny a platform for racists and fascists: the concern for greater equality and freedom for black people sat uneasily with demands for restrictions on free speech.” His question is “how can we establish the distinction between truth and falsehood without open debate?” Those who would censor fascists or other “extremists” are unwittingly “making it much more difficult to answer [them].” His hope, then, is “that equality and free speech are seen not as antagonistic claims, but as two necessary elements of a freer society.”
On the now defunct Far Left Watch, a right-wing blogger makes a similar point;
1) It is outrageously hypocritical.
NP is a concept introduced and enforced by people who have absolutely no legal power or democratic mandate. Groups such as UAF and ‘Hope Not Hate’ do not stand for election. Therefore, these people take it on themselves to spit in the face of democracy and decide in their pseudo-elitist, unelected groups as to whom the rest of the population are permitted to hear and whom they are not. Needless to say, those whom the world are forbidden to hear are those who disagree with far left politics.
Such a policy is enforced physically on regular occasions. Can you imagine anything more hypocritical than such actions from a group that claims to oppose Fascism?
2) It is counterproductive.
Westerners are raised in a cultural and academic environment that encourages critical thinking and questioning of authority. If I tell you right now: “Don’t you dare read the rest of this text!” you will have two reactions. One of them will be “Who the hell are you to tell me what I can and can’t read?!” and the other would be “Wow! I wonder what it is in this text that I can’t see! Must be good!”. You will become twice as determined to read it.
So when the UAF and their ilk attempt to enforce their rules on people, a sizeable number of them will have their curiosity tweaked and will dislike the UAF.
3) It is unprogressive.
There was a time when it was sacrilege to believe that The Earth orbited The Sun. There was a time when it was abominable to believe that women should have the right to vote. If we allow self declared thought police to control what sacred cows we can and can’t discuss, who is to say that this will not be a serious liability to our development?
4) It creates hysteria, lies and corruption.
Last week I was in a “debate” with a UAF supporter (you know who you are!) on Facebook who had requested (and been denied) that I was banned from a certain group (or as he put it: “Can we adopt no platform?”). He went on to say that “racial assaults have soared in Barking and Dagenham where the BNP have seats. When the BNP get confident, they get vicious.”
I immediately stepped in to show him a police report that specifically showed racial assaults had dropped in the area. If this UAF member had his way, his lies would have been allowed to spread because I would have been banned.
And lies emanate far more frequently from political groups who have no opposition to balance them. They believe in their own power, they become arrogant and they become dishonest. There are examples of this around the world.
5) It is unnecessary.
We already have the only restriction on free speech that is ever required. It is called Common Law. Common Law is apolitical (in theory) and has evolved over the hundreds of years that we Brits have striven towards democracy. As such it is not designed from the whims of any self important extremists, it is not so vulnerable to fashionable thought of one short period and it is democratic. Common Law provides the protection we need from those who would incite others to do us harm, or violate our civil rights. Many people have died struggling for Common Law to protect us all, and it should never be overruled by a mob.
I have, myself, argued along such lines. My own thought is that “if we are to try and censure that which is hateful or offensive, then an obvious question arises: who is left to decide what is hateful and offensive?” History tells us that the state is more likely to censure genuine radicalism before it does the reaction of movements such as fascism, and the primary victim would be the ability to question established power.
What, then, is the militant version of “no platform?” Is it not covered by the criticisms made above? It is not, because in fact groups such as Antifa agree with the sentiments I have expressed. “None of us have the power to stop fascists saying what they think, we cannot legislate against their words no matter how vile we consider them to be and neither would we want to be in a position to do so,” as they say on their own website.
However, there is a distinction to be made between speech and organisation.
As the Workers’ Solidarity Movement declare in a policy statement, “we do not oppose the right of racists to free speech,” although “racists should be actively challenged and opposed on all occasions. The task is not to prevent racists from speaking but to defeat their arguments by putting forward a strong alternative, and by challenging the assumptions and myths on which racist arguments are based.” However, “attempts by fascist groups to recruit members to fascism cannot be tolerated” and “racist organisations/individuals who physically attack people … do not have the right to organise, to recruit for such activities.” Thus, “in such instances, force should be met with force.”

A neo-Nazi in Moscow attacks gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, just one example of the physical threat posed by organised fascism

Antifa agree. “If all Nick Griffin and his disciples were doing was talking amongst themselves about repatriating migrant workers, clamping down on those they saw as deviants and splitting communities along lines of race then there wouldn’t be a serious problem.” But this is not the case. “The reality is the BNP are organising to gain seats of power and to implement their white nationalist policies,” and “this attempt to gain power and influence must be challenged by all effective means.”
This is the militant version of “no platform.”
Physical opposition or wanton violence?
There are those who argue that such a position is simply one of violence and intimidation, more akin to fascism than to antifascism.
In the Guardian after last year’s Red, White and Blue Festival, Rick Lyons made the case that Antifa “gifted the BNP a PR victory by allowing them to seem the more law-abiding and reasonable group.” Their crime, as he puts it, was “fighting with police, taking private property and scaring residents.”
In fact, as Lyons himself admits, the group were actually partaking in non-violent direct action by blocking the road “with objects from farmyards.” Riot police subsequently used excessive force to remove them “severely and quickly.” As I have discussed previously, “direct action – in all its forms – is the precise reason that we enjoy the (limited) freedoms we do today.” As with Antifa’s road blockade, the sit-ins of the Civil Rights movement were met with police brutality. The only difference is that Antifa, not being pacifists, physically defended themselves.
It was George Orwell who argued, in Pacifism and the war, that “Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist.” Though he was referring specifically to World War II, there are points that modern antifascists need to take into account;
As an ex-Indian civil servant, it always makes me shout with laughter to hear, for instance, Gandhi named as an example of the success of non-violence. As long as twenty years ago it was cynically admitted in Anglo-Indian circles that Gandhi was very useful to the British government. So he will be to the Japanese if they get there. Despotic governments can stand ‘moral force’ till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force.
This rebuttal can clearly apply to Lyons, who urges that Antifa “take off their black bandannas and hoods, put down the missiles [?], and join” the “moral force” of “Unite Against Fascism, Stop the BNP and trade unions,” in their “well-attended march and rally.” But, if direct action was “a complete failure” in this instance, what success can waving a banner and shouting in an area designated by police – whilst the BNP enjoy their festival utterly unperturbed – possibly achieve?
Lyons clearly intends to imply the accusation, which Orwell is utterly scornful of, that “those who fight against Fascism go Fascist themselves.” Far Left Watch made a similar point, as quoted above, with regard to no platform being “physically enforced,” and the idea that Antifa are “thugs” and “black-hooded goons” prevails, unsurprisingly, in far-right circles as well as liberal and libertarian ones. But are the accusations valid?
Antifa – as well as the affiliated 635 Group and the now-defunct 43 Group – follow a militant tradition which they trace back to the Battle of Cable Street and the Spanish Civil War. As explained above, they view physical resistance as a necessity in defence of the working class. However, according to their founding statement, “physical confrontation [when necessary] is only one of our tactics …, we do not aim to fetishise it as one tactic above all others, nor will we allow a hierarchy to develop based on the kudos of street-fighting.” Of course, they also say that “those with a moral problem regarding this issue should be advised that this is not the group for them,” but this is pointed at those of a pacifist leaning rather than those who might object to unprovoked attacks. Though they are unapologetic about their tactic of “confronting fascism physically,” they are also unequivocal in their intent only to use it “when it is necessary.”
Such necessity is more evident in Europe and Russia than in Britain, though perhaps only because the BNP tries (though often failing) to keep a tight rein on the violence of members. At least when the press are around.

Ivan Khutorskoy aka Vanya-kostolom, a Russian antifascist shot dead on his own doorstep on Monday 16th November 2009

In Europe, however, there is a considerable list of Antifa activists murdered by fascists. Far-right attacks in Germany reached a record high in Germany in 2007, whilst gay rights activist Peter Tatchell witnessed first hand the violence on offer from Russian neo-Nazis. Other examples, notably in Greece and Italy, abound. America, too, sees considerable ultra-nationalist activity, from “skinhead” marches in Philadelphia to incidences of mass murder in Canada. Antifa Belfast arose in response to a spate of anti-Roma violence in Ireland.
The necessity of resistance
These few examples, then, demonstrate the necessity of physical resistance to fascism, as enshrined in the militant “no platform” policy. Organised fascist and racist groups pose a physical threat to ethnic minorities, LBGTQ people, and, primarily, to the organised working class. In the face of this, and given the documented complicity of the state in such repressive violence, resistance organised at a grassroots level is the only sensible option.
It is important, in organising such resistance, that we do not live up to the criticisms directed at us. A movement built upon the repression of freedoms and unprovoked violence is antithetical to the interests of the working class, no matter who leads it, and we should resist such a trend. Likewise, Searchlight’s complicity in Security Services harrassment of left-wing activists is a warning of the dangers inherent in an “antifascist” movement that collaborates with the state.
Criticisms such as those mentioned above will come our way no matter what, and our perspective should be clear enough that we can challenge them head on.

Against Collaboration with the State

In their founding statement, militant antifascist organisation Antifa say that they “will not work with, accept information from, nor pass information to the magazine Searchlight.”
On the other hand, liberal antifascist group Unite Against Fascism (UAF)’s founding statement argues that the threat of fascism “requires a strong and united response from all those dedicated to freedom and democracy.” To this end, they seek “to unite the broadest possible spectrum of society to counter this threat.” Their signatories include MPs from all political parties and trade union and religious leaders.
These two contrasting positions, then, demonstrate the divide between liberals and radical militants as far as antifascism and the state are concerned. Here, I will argue that the Antifa approach is the right one, and that antifascists should be wary not only of working with the state but also with others who collaborate with the state.
The state as antagonistic to the working class

Having already argued that antifascism needs to be rooted in working class activism in the original Anti-fascism in the 21st century, I won’t dwell on the subject here. Operating from that perspective, however, the relationship between the state and fascism is worth noting.
In Killing and dying for “the old lie”, I stated that “it was in the context of [World War One] that millions of workers rose up in revolt against social and economic oppression, and the ruling classes fostered fascism as a way to crush this revolutionary wave and divide the working class.” To the examples offered in that article, we can add this observation on the modern British National Party by the Anarchist Federation;
During the Great Miners’ strike, which was eventually defeated by Thatcher’s government as well as by Scargill’s (the then leader of the National Union of Mineworkers) incompetence, the BNP actively worked against these working class heroes. Not only did the BNP not support the strikes, but they actively called for the miners to return to work and called on the Army to be used to break up pickets. A former BNP parliamentary candidate in Yorkshire and a candidate in Dewsbury in the 1990s, the Dowager Lady Jane Birdwood ran Self-Help, a right wing pressure group dedicated to smashing unions and funded scabs during the strike. She, among many others such as the late John Tyndall who remained in the party up until his death only a few years ago, saw the miners’ strike as a “Communist plot” to destroy Britain and even saw Thatcher as being too weak towards the miners. For anyone who remembers the great battles during the 1984-85 strike would remember how Thatcher ruthlessly persecuted mining communities and trade unionists and brought in London police and the Army to batter the miners into submission, at the Battle of Orgreave, soldiers in police uniforms herded miners into a field before charging at them on horseback, and to the BNP, this was seen as being too soft. Jane Birdwood found support from … guess who … mine owners, who actively worked with her and her pressure group to undermine the strike.
My statement that “fascism was used by the powerful as a way of fracturing class consciousness in favour of nationalism” remains true today. This can be seen in contrasting state reactions to the likes of the BNP and to class-based radical organisations.
Back in October, I wrote Question Time’s service to established power, discussing BNP leader Nick Griffin’s appearence on the BBC talk show. My opinion was that Griffin was “invited on specifically to flail and flop” and that “in doing so, he and the BNP serve well their role, both as convenient foils for mainstream parties, and as part of the flak machine driving the political agenda rightward.”

Searchlight front campaign Hope Not Hate has openly worked with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a cynical attempt to con antiracists into backing a viciously racist authoritarian party in order to prevent the encroach of the viciously racist and authoritarian BNP

On the streets, the BNP has also been the recipient of strong police protection. When the party held a march in Liverpool last November, “police informed [antifascist] organisers that the BNP had not shown up in Liverpool” before they “protect[ed] the one hundred and fifty strong BNP contingent.” “Two lines of police separated the two demonstrations” before “they managed to isolate those who had been agitating for us to hold our ground, we were read a section of the Public Order Act before being frog marched to where [UAF leader Weymann] Bennett had obediently reassembled the demonstration (nearly a kilometre from the fascists) and released.” “At this point the crowd (now numbering around one hundred) had been completely hemmed in by the police, whilst the BNP marched back across town and held a rally on the steps of St. George’s Hall, declaring the they had “reclaimed the streets of Liverpool.”" This is just one example.
Meanwhile, radical left activists are branded “domestic extremists,” and their photographs and details held on intelligence databases. Evidence has emerged of police covering up their badge numbers (and of the top brass covering up this fact) before brutalising protesters. In response to this, one activist has even been brutally manhandled and arrested for asking for a policeman’s badge number.
The above is just a small sample of evidence that, in the words of Antifa, “the State will employ fascist tactics if necessary in the cause of suppressing dissent.
Betrayal of activists by state-sponsored “antifascists”
What, then, of antifascist organisations that work within the law and collaborate with the powers-that-be, such as Searchlight? According to Antifa;
As an organisation that works hand-in-glove with State agencies, we cannot trust them or the agenda they pursue. Their influence within, and manipulation of, militant anti-fascism has been deeply divisive over the years, their methods and involvement with State security services are well documented and entirely incompatible with our own position.
The links between Searchlight’s publisher, Gerry Gable, and MI5 are well-known. The first article to expose them was Searchlight and the State, originally published in Anarchy 36 in 1983. According to the article;
Searchlight has built up an impressive reputation for investigative reporting, and has done pioneering work of genuine value in exposing the activities and international links of fascist organisations. But the political expediency of a perceived identity of interest in the short-term, in the cause of ‘anti-fascism’ just as in ‘anti-communism’, is apt to lead one to work with some strange allies. In Searchlight’s case, opposition to the ‘extremists’ of the Right has opened up the door to the extremists of the centre, for whom Right and Left are equally perceived as a threat to ‘democracy’.
Not only has Gable admitted, as part of his defence in the 1963/4 burglary trial, that he hoped to supply information to Special Branch on David Irving, but a confidential memorandum written by him to his producers in London Weekend Television (where he worked until recently as a researcher/presenter on the London Programme: he is now trying to work his ticket with an alleged ‘heart condition’) on 2 May 1977 gave clear, hard, evidence that he has also engaged in a two-way traffic of information with the security services of several countries, and acted as a conduit of misinformation for MI5 against fellow journalists, and socialists.
As an appendix to Bash the Fash: Anti-fascists recollections, 1984-1993 notes;
There are three main reasons why co-operating with the police against the fascists is a bad idea (i) the police demand or covertly obtain information about our side who they regard as a worse enemy anyway (ii) the police agenda is against ‘extremists’ left and right, which may account for Searchlight’s disgraceful smear campaign against some fine anti-fascists in the DAM and Class War (iii) as some hairy bloke once said “the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class alone” ie we can fight our own battles thank you very much.
In 2005, Searchlight wrote their “Letter of resignation to  UAF.” Citing “a difference of strategy with regards to our own local campaigning and UAF’s national strategy,” Searchlight “resign[ed] our two places on the [UAF] steering committee.”
However, this does not exempt UAF from such criticism. The problem with UAF is that it attempts to walk in both worlds, committed to legalism through a need to secure MP and trade union funding, whilst trying to lure in more experienced antifascists by pretending to direct action and militancy. An article on Workers’ Liberty offers a pertinent recent example of this;
The UAF has no history of mass pickets of BNP events. Politically, it subsists on “Uniting everyone against the Nazis” — including government ministers and Tory politicians.
UAF has been successful in gathering up trade union support and money. Whilst remaining — obviously, ostentatiously — an SWP front, UAF has been endorsed and tolerated by union leaders as a convenient, tokenistic gesture. UAF affliation neither disturbs the unions’ kowtowing to the government, nor risks pulling them into radical action that might cause them embarrassment. The union bosses can continue to pretend they were fighting fascism — by giving great amounts of money to the UAF/SWP.
To spice up UAF a bit, on marches over the last few years, such as the RWB in 2008 and the Stoke demonstration after that, the SWP has engineeed fruitless minor confrontations with the police, usually miles from the BNP. The simple purpose seems to be to make the protests a little more exciting for possible SWP recruits who might attend, and to disguise the fact that UAF had put little work in preparing a more serious protest.
At this year’s RWB the SWP made a turn. They now seem to believe that more radical action on the streets will help them to relate to “angry youth”.
Sadly, rather than try to persuade UAF’s union sponsors that such action could be justified for reasons other than aiding SWP recruitment, the SWP has faced in two directions. At RWB they promised the local TUC that there would be no direct action, but organised it anyway.
And, at a demonstration against the English Defence League in Leeds, we saw how easily UAF commitment to legalism, as with Searchlight’s commitment to connections in the security services, leads to the betrayal of antifascists. To quote the Anarchist Federation;
The Anarchist Federation condemns the group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) who, on Saturday 31st October at a mobilisation against the English Defence League (EDL) in Leeds city centre, openly handed one of our members over to the police. Several UAF stewards, including the head of UAF Leeds, physically prevented our member from rejoining the cordon, and then called the police over to arrest him. We will not tolerate collaboration with the state to halt  the activity of genuine anti-fascists and ask other progressive organisations to do the same. UAF’s policy of negotiating with the state for its public protests is well known, as is its alliance with religious leaders, trade union bureaucrats and politicians. UAF, apart from being nothing more than a front group for the Socialist Workers Party, has never been an effective means to combat the rise of fascism in Britain nor does it offer anything to working class communities.
According to Antifa, such betrayals stem from a desire to “retain control over anti-fascism in Britain.” Their “reluctan[ce] to support a protest that they do not control, and one organised with the involvement of other socialist groups” demonstrates clearly that they “are so utterly enamoured with the commercial business school approach to growth (market monopoly and brand strength) that they are willing to sabotage genuine efforts to confront the BNP.”

Police in Liverpool during a BNP rally, where they were accused of aiding and protecting the fascists whilst spreading disinformation to antifascists

The need for an antiauthoritarian antifascism
After the 1936 Spanish Revolution, antifascists should have learned the folly of working with both the state and those that cooperate with it. Those events should also have cemented the moral of the February Revolution in Russia in 1917, and it’s betrayal by Lenin’s “Vanguard” that October. Knowing that history, antifascism today should be very different. It should be a non-hierarchical grassroots movement, based upon radical, working-class opposition to the state and capitalism.
In the words of Antifa;
[We] believe in organizing within our own communities against the spread of racism stirred up by everyone from the mainstream media to New Labour, and against the fascism of the BNP. Only by organizing in our own communities and workplaces can we hope to defeat fascism once and for all. In the white working-class areas where the BNP have already gained a toe-hold (primarily former Labour strongholds where people rightly feel betrayed by the mainstream parties and have been conned into seeing the BNP as some form of ‘radical’ alternative), as well as confronting the BNP physically, we should aim to challenge the BNP’s fascist politics and replace them with our own anti-racist, anti-state, and pro working-class politics.
The reasons why such a movement does not exist are complex. However, they can be traced back to a steady dilution of class consciousness over the last century, and the ability of parties such as the SWP to dominate popular movements with recruiting fronts, thus robbing them of all potency. In this context, it would have been more of a surprise if the fascists were not able to falsely take up the mantle of class politics and offer themselves as a “radical opposition” to a ruling class steadily chipping away at all our hard-won rights.
If we are to undo this damage, then there must be an open and honest dialogue addressing precisely these follies. The case against state collaboration must be made, and argued out, using reason and the lessons of the past. But to attempt such is to be labelled “sectarian.” Of course, we must be aware of the danger of this – turning in on ourselves over ideology only makes the working class more vulnerable to attack by fascists and the rich. But at the same time we cannot allow the threat of such a label to end the debate and silence all dissent.
Today, antifascism is one of many areas of radical politics dominated by marginally different sects of “socialist” Vanguards, using it as another front to compete for numbers, funding, and paper sales. It is they who are guilty of a cynical sectarianism, along with the betrayal of genuine activists, in the pursuit of their own interests. In opposition to this, we must stand with Antifa and declare that “we are not asking for people to join us; we are not asking for your contact details or for your money; we are simply asking for you to ACT.”

The Far-right and Elections

Elections offer a particular contradiction for antifascists. On the one hand, we of course want to stop organised fascist movements from gaining the political power to enact their policies. On the other hand, as social activists often involved in other movements to challenge pre-existing injustice, we do not wish to offer even an implicit support for the status quo or the incumbent ruling class.
This contradiction raises two significant problems.
The first is that fascists are often able to capitalise on this contradiction in order to present themselves as radicals. Their propaganda effectively paints them as the only serious opposition to the government, and the only group who really cares about the issues affecting real people. By extension, antifascists are associated with the incumbent parties and those same socio-economic ills, regardless of the truth.
The second is that a looming election and questions of how to approach it quickly bring on a schism in the antifascist movement, particularly between socialists and anarchists. Not only does this the fallout from such a tactical disagreement create disunity, it impedes the ability of the left to make the political arguments against fascism. As a result, the moral arguments of liberal and even conservative “antifascists” take precedence, allowing a genuine campaign against the far-right to be overtaken by more cynical campaigns to appropriate their support for the centre-right.
If there is to be a serious, radical antifascist challenge to the electoral ambitions of white nationalists, it is clear that this contradiction, and the problems it creates must be overcome. The question is, how?
The problem with voting

During last year’s European Parliamentary elections, Hope not Hate made the case for voting;
Nothing is certain in politics and while the terrain is certainly getting tougher the BNP can be defeated. However for this to happen requires a massive campaign to mobilise everyone opposed to the politics of hate to turn out and vote. We have shown time and again that there is a huge anti-BNP vote out there and if it is organised and motivated then it will turn up at the polling stations and be decisive in an election.
There is a valid point within this. The prime aim of fascist parties is to gain the political power with which they can enact their policies. As such, by ensuring that those who vote do not vote for the far-right, we keep them out of power. However, the logic of this idea is not watertight.

A common anti-BNP electoral slogan, as offered by Unite Against Fascism

Most people who vote for the far-right are not themselves white nationalists or fascists. They are, in the main, white members of the working class who once voted for labour and socialist parties. As Johann Hari writes, they are “not straightforwardly bigoted,” but “angry and alienated,” with a vote for fascism being “the sharpest needle to jab into the eye of the political process.”
Mainstream politics is the business of maintaining power and privilege at a profit. Under the neo-liberal economic system which dominates the globe, the vast majority of people live in abject poverty for the benefit of the richest 1 – 5%. In the West, through trade union militancy and outright rioting, the working class has been able to resist this trend. Every important social advance that we have seen, from the end of slavery and indentured servitude to women’s suffrage and socialised medicine, has been a result of intense and often violent struggle. However, since the 1980s, the ruling class has had some success in rolling those gains back.
At the same time, neo-colonialism and globalisation have combined to offer the world a hitherto unprecedented phenomenon in mass migration. Met with an increasingly repressive system of controls aimed at dividing people into citizens and non-citizens, legal and “illegal,” migrants quickly became a near-inexhaustible source of cheap labour. Not only is this invaluable for employers who wish to undermine hard-won rights and undercut wages, it also makes for an invaluable propaganda tool. Thus, immigrants become the guilty party in a system that they, too, are victims of.
The only challenge to the divisive myths about immigration comes from a liberal press which offers no class perspective and an open apologism for the status quo. As Hari writes, “instead of offering these solutions, we have turned the white working class into a national punch-line. We dismiss them as “chavs”, “pikeys” and racists, and jeer at their clothes, voices and names.”
In this context, and with the left too riven by factionalism and navel-gazing to offer any serious alternative, the far-right becomes very attractive. As Antifa note;
For decades the middle-class Left have told us ‘Vote Labour Without Illusions’ – or some other trite slogan. Under Thatcher, they told us we had to vote Labour ‘To get Maggie out’. What did that get us? If anything it got us a government that was even further to the Right. Since 1997 New Labour have continued to shit on the poor and institute a vicious Police State. They have completely alienated working-class people, pushed the political agenda immeasurably to the Right, and fostered the rise of the fascist British National Party. Ordinary people are understandably VERY pissed-off with politicians.
The BNP are hoping to capitalise on the current economic crisis by scapegoating immigrants and asylum-seekers, and to capitalise on anger against Westminster by mobilising a so-called ‘protest vote’ – ie a vote for the fascist BNP. Meanwhile, the drips of ‘Unite Against Fascism’, ‘Hope Not Hate, the ‘Socialist Workers Party’, and all the other middle-class idiots who told us to vote New Labour in the past, are telling us not to ‘waste’ our votes! They know that working-class communities are not going to vote Tory, do they really think that a vote for New Labour is a vote AGAINST fascism?! This is the party that has been bombing the shit out of Iraq and Afghanistan for years now, and locking up and deporting refugees en masse.
It is this sort of patronising, condescending stupidity that has led to the rise of the BNP in the first place. It is an insult to the intelligence of ordinary people. Antifa are not calling on people to vote Labour or ‘Respect’ to stop the BNP, we are calling on people to boycott the whole election charade, and to get out onto the streets and combat the rise of the BNP in the only way that matters – by Direct Action.
We can understand the contempt people rightly have for the mainstream political parties. We can understand why white working-class communities feel abandoned and alienated. But a vote for the BNP is NOT a so-called ‘protest vote’, it is a vote for FASCISM.
Don’t believe ANY of their lies.
Don’t play the politicians’ games.
Don’t vote – Organize!
Working class self-organisation
Although that latter sentiment should be one common to all revolutionary left groups, it has now become associated almost exclusively with anarchists. Within the trade unions and the vast myriad of socialist parties that exist, a belief in the power of electoralism still prevails.
As such, a common approach is to attempt to unite all the various sects under the banner of a broad electoral coalition. One example is the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which will be standing candidates in the forthcoming British general election;
With the coming ferocious attacks on public spending, wages, living standards and workers’ rights, regardless of which party (Tory or New Labour) forms the next government, the coalition aims to bring home the urgent need for “mass resistance to the ruling class offensive, and for an alternative programme of left-wing policies to help inspire and direct such resistance”.
Here, again, theory and practice diverge. In reality, such coalitions achieve little significant success, and are defined by their differences more than their commonalities. With TUSC, “different strategic views about the way forward for the left in Britain, whether the Labour Party can be reclaimed by the labour movement, or whether a new workers’ party needs to be established,” and it already faces difficulties from “the lack of formal endorsement of the coalition from even left-wing trade unions like the RMT, the POA, the PCS or the Fire Brigades Union.”
But, without the ambitions towards power that drive such factionalism, an electoral coalition could work. But it would have to be one built not to win votes but to, using the pretext of the elections, galvanise communities to organise themselves and take matters into their own hands. Writing for Truth, Reason & Liberty, I explained how community resistance can be far more effective than even the most “strategic” mark on a ballot paper;
All politicians are wankers, and all political parties are conglomerates of worthless, power-hungry, often-reactionary horseshit. But people have power in numbers.
Most people think of community participation as “neighbourhood watch” and other such peeping-tom exercises. But it doesn’t have to be. It can mean organisation, and resistance, for a better society. Whether it’s booting out Islamist / fascist rabble-rousers, stopping your council from closing a public footpath, resisting forced eviction and building up a squatters’ movement to make good use of derelict homes for the homeless, occupying a school so the council can’t close it down, or any other act of defiance, we can build up a new society within the shell of the old. With organisation, education, and activism, anything is possible.
Antifascism, being the most significant area within which otherwise quite disparate left-groups work together, offers the best basis for such an initiative. Not only can antifascists work within their own communities with an aim to educate people and organise them against the threat of the far-right, but they can offer the disenfranchised a way to work towards genuine change without having to choose a lesser evil.

A European Election poster for the British National Party. The BNP's awareness of voter discontent with the main parties is one reason why urging people not to vote for them often appears as a tacit support for the status quo

A clear and honest perspective
In writing this series of articles, my purpose has been to give a clear and honest perspective on antifascism, both as it stands today and where it is going in the future.
Too often, those who make such points are leapt upon as “sectarian” and silenced. Such a tactic is particularly endemic within Unite Against Fascism (UAF), being a front group for the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP). But such suppression of dissent is both off-putting to new antifascists and actively counter-productive. It speaks of an authoritarian movement unwilling to tolerate differences of opinion, not of a movement which is supposedly opposed to groups with such tendencies.
There is a need for openness and honesty. There are serious flaws with the antifascist movement, and it is not just antifascists who are aware of them. As such, attempting to brush them under the carpet will only make us more isolated. Addressing these flaws directly, in a democratic way among equals, will win far more respect than a figure of “authority” shouting down “sectarianism.” Especially as, in their attempts to monopolise resistance, such authorities are in fact far more sectarian than any of their detractors.
The course ahead
It is, of course, unlikely that those for whom antifascism is a recruitment platform will see the error of their ways. Likewise, those who wish to use bashing the BNP as a way to pull in support for the status quo will continue to do so.
However, by being open about what we want, the difficulties we face, and the differences of opinion among us, genuine antifascists can offer an antithesis to such stale and cynical campaigning. With democratic and non-hierarchical organisation, we can show other sincere activists that they need not be fooled by their so-called “leaders.” And, through activism and engagement at a grassroots level, we can spread the word that people need not vote for fascists to oppose the current system.
¡No Pasarán!

Phil Dickens is an anarchist, anti-fascist, and trade unionist from Liverpool, England. He writes regularly about class struggle, racism, fascism, and imperialism, and his blogs can be found at http://truth-reason-liberty.blogspot.com and http://propertyistheft.wordpress.com


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"If fascism re-emerges in Europe, it will be under the banner of 'anti-fascism'

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