Monday, 10 December 2018

It’s time to Rebuild an Anti-fascist Movement in Britain but Stand Up to Racism is not that Movement

Over-exaggerating our numbers and claiming non-existent victories does not strengthen us, it leads to complacency

The ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ demonstration on June 9th, when up to 15,000 attended a Football Lads Alliance protest caused shock on the left.  This was the biggest fascist demonstration in living memory even if not all those who attended were paid up fascists. 
The Battle of Lewisham in 1977, the first time in mainland Britain that the Police donned riot gear as the NF march was pelted with bricks and other objects and forced to call off its march after going less than a third of the way
Even at its height the National Front never mobilised more than three thousand at Wood Green.  At the Lewisham counter-demonstration to the NF in August 1977 we broke the back of the NF. The fascists could not turn out more than a thousand at the very most. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s fascist demonstrations were always heavily outnumbered.
Today we are seeing a very different phenomenon. The problem is that many on the Left believe that they can simply relive those earlier battles.  That includes John McDonnell who recently called for the reformation of the Anti-Nazi League.
The situation is entirely different. Then there were a series of racist murders starting with the hot summer of 1976. Working class activity e.g. the Grunwick strike was far higher and working class involvement in anti-fascist activity was far greater than today.

Today the terrain has changed. The clear and obvious difference is that the NF, which posed as the 3rd party of government portrayed itself, not as a neo-Nazi party but as a patriotic party. One of our tasks was to demonstrate that the NF was a neo-Nazi party and this was done very effectively in conjunction with Searchlight Anti-Fascist magazine under the editorship of Maurice Ludmer, who was also President of Birmingham Trades Council.  They produced an excellent pamphlet A Well Oiled Nazi Machine

Unfortunately with Maurice’s untimely death, Searchlight fell into the hands of Gerry Gable, who traded information with Special Branch on anti-fascists.  It also became overtly pro-Zionist. See Searchlight 'anti-fascist magazine joins forces with Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ witchhunt and The Death Agony of Searchlight Anti-Fascist Magazine
 At one time the NF was beating the  Liberal Party into 3rd place in by-elections. In the West Bromwich by-election in 1973 Martin Webster obtained 16% compared to 25% for the Conservatives and in the Stechford by-election in 1977 Andrew Brons gained 2,900 votes and 8.2% compared to the Liberal Party’s 8%.  Brons later became an MEP for the BNP.

Today we are faced with an entirely different situation. For a start, far-Right parties have grown throughout Europe as Euro-scepticism and nationalism have taken root.  This is particularly though not exclusively the case in Eastern Europe.  In Italy we see Matteo Salvini, a fascist Deputy Prime Minister who talks about cleansing the streets of Roma. In Hungary and Poland there are overtly anti-Semitic regimes, vehemently anti-refugee and anti-Roma. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally is a major contender in France. In Austria the neo-Nazi Freedom Party is in government and the neo-Nazi AFD gained 13% and seats in the German Bundestag. In the Netherlands Geert Wilders Freedom Party is the second largest party.

That isn’t to say that fascism on the model of Nazi Germany is around the corner.  Nazism in Germany was a direct response to a strong and militant German working class. Unfortunately the working class in Europe, like in Britain, is not strong today for structural and political reasons. European fascism feeds off the influx of migrants, itself a consequence of US and British imperialism in the Middle East.  It is not a response to the ‘Bolshevik’ threat.

Ageing Skinheads heckle the march at the Haymarket
The other major feature of the far-Right in Europe is that, almost without exception, it is pro-Zionist and pro-Israel.  The myth that anti-Zionism is a cover for anti-Semitism is simply absurd.  The far-Right and fascists today disguise their anti-Semitism by proclaiming their support for Israel and Zionism.  E.g. the neo-Nazi founder of the alt-Right Richard Spencer declares that he is a White Zionist.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is anti-Semitic. See for example Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody.  At the Chanukkah celebration at the White House last week the Chump praised Israel as ‘your country’ to American Jews. As even the Times of Israel accepted this ‘insinuated that US Jews owe a dual loyalty to Israel.’ The Jewish Forward was even more blunt: ‘Trump Just Accused Jews Of Loving Israel, Not America - And His Fans Cheered Anyway
But of course the anti-Semitic canard of dual loyalty is inherent in Zionism itself. Did not Avi Gabbay, leader of the Israeli Labour Party react to the murder of 11 Jews at Pittsburgh by suggesting they ‘return’ to Israel ‘because this is their home.’
There were a number of Palestinian flags but no Zionist ones - let us hope that next year when SUTR march in Scotland that the Friends of Israel group is not allowed to take part
The other feature of today’s demonstration, which was nominally for both supporters and opponents of Brexit, was how there was no visible sign of support for Brexit.  On the contrary there were very vocal and large contingents who were explicitly anti-Brexit.  Given that the SWP, Counterfire and the Morning Star among others on the Left refuse to see that Brexit is based on racist fears of immigration, one can only hope that the Left groups begins at last to face reality.
Tommy Robinson is a fascist whose racism is directed almost exclusively at the Moslem population. He may mix with people who look fondly on the Third Reich but like his alt-Right counterparts in the USA, he is overtly pro-Zionist and is in love with Israel, the ideal ethno-nationalist state. Israel is unique in the western world for being a state based not on its own inhabitants or citizens but on a specific ethnic category – Jews. That is exactly what fascists have long demanded – that Britain for example be based on White British people not anyone who happens to live here.
Fascism will never go away as long as capitalism is here.  That is the first lesson that we need to be learnt.  That is why there is very little purchase in seeking an alliance with liberals. I doubt very much that a rerun of the ANL has any chance of taking off today. 
What there does need to be, as there was in the mid-1970’s, is the creation of local anti-fascist Committees. That means that the labour movement itself has to take seriously the growth of the far-Right. Stand Up To Racism is widely seen as an SWP front and the fact that Diana Abbot and other non-members are formally Officers makes no difference. They weren’t elected to those positions but put in place by those who formed SUTR, which is the SWP. 
I attended today’s demonstration and did a rough count.  I would estimate that about 4,000 people attended not the 15,000 which is being claimed by SUTR and Laura Parker of Momentum.  It is simply not true to say that the UKIP/Fascist demonstration was ‘massively outnumbered.’ If the far-Right demonstration garnered between two and three thousand– and our demonstrations were too far apart for me to make any judgement – then there may have been a difference of one to two thousand at best. That is good but it is not ‘massively’ different.
It is good that Momentum nationally gave its support to the demonstration.  However Momentum claims to have over 40,000 members.  There were, at best 4-5 Momentum banners in evidence on the demonstration and those, like Camden were from the Left of Momentum, anti-Lansman branches. I doubt if even 1% of Momentum’s membership actually went. The videos which Momentum have produced and which are displayed here on Tommy Robinson are good and should be used by the movement.  However the inability of Momentum to mobilise even a fraction of its own membership demonstrates the problems inherent in an undemocratic, top-down organisation.  Momentum consists of a largely paper membership.

Zionists Against Antisemitism — literally a man, woman and dog
Oh and there were two members, together with a dog, carrying a Socialists Against Anti-Semitism banner.  This seems to be a wholly constructed Lansman organisation following up from his disastrous video on anti-Semitism featuring Tania Shrew.  It is literally a one-man and his dog operation. Perhaps it should more accurately be termed ‘Zionists Against Anti-Semitism’.  What it is not is an anti-racist organisation or even an organisation. True that there must be some left-Zionists who feel that the Jewish Labour Movement are a right-wing anti-Corbyn organisation but I doubt there is room for another Zionist movement in the Labour Party!
Tony Greenstein

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