Why liberal ‘anti-fascism’ is a mistake, Part 3
4. It bolsters the far right’s attempts to portray themselves as victims
Those on the far right love to think of themselves as victims of an establishment conspiracy to deprive them of their free speech and undermine them. To some extent, this is true, largely due to the sporadic adoption of a liberal anti-extremism by mainstream society. The tendency of liberal anti-fascists to give a platform to mainstream politicians and establishment figures (see Part 2 of this article), to leave physical confrontation of fascists to the police (see Part 1) and to lobby for the mainstream media and organisations to deny the far right a platform mean that it is extremely difficult to find mainstream voices explicitly supporting the BNP or the EDL.
However, it is not necessary to dig too much deeper to find establishment support for the kind of policies these groups would like to see implemented. Strict immigration controls, racial and religious profiling, greater police powers and patriarchal family values all receive some degree of support within the mainstream. Indeed, anti-fascism often turns into a game of labels rather than an examination of the content of politics. Tory and Labour MPs get away with saying and doing all kinds of authoritarian and reactionary things that Tommy Robinson or Nick Griffin could never, because anti-fascism can often become fixated on membership of certain organisations, rather than the ideological confrontation of a particular kind of politics.
Indeed, far from being rebels, the EDL often seem to act as guard dogs for the establishment: supporting the monarchy, the armed forces and British rule over the Falklands,attacking striking workers, student protesters, Irish republicans and the left. At times the EDL’s politics seems to flow directly from the pages of the right wing tabloids – hardly the voice of an oppressed minority! Indeed, the EDL were notoriously championed by the Daily Star.
As the examples of other European countries (e.g. Austria, Italy, Greece) demonstrate, these populist nationalists can easily become the establishment without shedding their fascist core. They can then start using the resources and authority of the state to build up their movements and carry out attacks on minorities and the left. Thanks to their contorted worldview they can happily integrate into the state in this way and still complain about what a victimised minority they are.
Increasingly, the far right is appropriating the language of genuine struggles against domination, e.g. anti-racism and anti-colonial and indigenous struggles, and using it for their own aim of continued European/white domination of the political, economic and cultural spheres. Anti-fascists need to confront this fake victimhood wherever it crops up and consistently challenge the fascists with the reality of the power relations involved.
5. It weakens anti-fascism on the streets
As Anti-Fascist Action famously stated, their aim was to confront fascism ideologically and physically. This is a message that has been lost in recent decades, as the Socialist Workers Party-controlled UAF has come to dominate anti-fascism’s street presence. Despite all of their rhetoric about smashing fascism, UAF rarely even try to confront fascist marches and demonstrations. Instead, they prefer to keep mainstream politicians, community leaders and trade unions on board by meekly conforming with the police’s instructions. They and the allied Love Music Hate Racism organise celebrations of multiculturalism that are often well out of the way of the fascists, giving the police plenty of space to control both crowds. Often the actual confrontation is left to the local communities themselves who are usually heavily outnumbered by better kitted out riot police.
Whilst it can certainly be argued that, due to the rise of police surveillance and evidence gathering capabilities, the days of AFA are long gone, the opportunity to physically resist fascist mobilisations is definitely not. This does not, despite the stereotype, have to mean going out for a fight with the fash (although we should always be prepared for that), but rather physically preventing them from going where they want. Anti-fascists can take heart from the successful blockade of a Nazi march in Dresden in 2010, and, more close to home, the successful blockade of a BNP meeting in Kimberley in 2007. Both actions relied mainly on the presence of large numbers of anti-fascists who refused to collaborate with the police and blocked the fascists from getting past.
As the BNP disintegrates and the much hyped British Freedom is turning out to be a big disappointment, the far right’s stormtroopers are hoping to go back to the streets again to assert themselves. It is vital for our struggle to prevent them from doing that. That doesn’t mean leaving it to the police to sort out or getting the government to ban them. It means defending our communities from these fascist intruders, by whatever tactics are most effective.