Apr 30 2012

Why liberal ‘anti-fascism’ is a mistake, Part 1

An important distinction needs to be made between a genuine, militant anti-fascism, and the pseudo anti-fascism of liberal organisations like Unite Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate and Searchlight. The latter ideology also informs websites like EDL News and Expose who often seem to see anti-fascism as a race to see who can report racist comments to the police first. Whilst there is no doubt that some of what these organisations do is useful to the anti-fascist cause, the liberal approach strengthens authoritarian elements of the state and state-sponsored ‘community leaders’ who seek to undermine all threats to their power. It boosts an ideologically filtered anti-extremism that is ultimately opposed to militant anti-fascism and liberatory movements as well. Militant anti-fascists must consistently challenge the statist tactics of some who oppose the far right. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing the reasons why.

1. It takes us closer to a police state

Central to liberal ideology is the idea that the state should have a monopoly on violence. Consequently, liberals favour the idea that the police are the only body that can legitimately ‘smash the fash’ on the streets. They blithely ignore the tendency of the police to ‘facilitate’ the free speech of fascists and to repress anti-fascists as and when it suits their interests. Calls for the state to regulate fascism in this way help the state to concentrate power in the hands of authoritarians and quasi-fascists within its own ranks. It should be easy to see why calling for the state to tackle fascism is extremely counter-productive.

The British police have a long and shameful history of protecting fascists. From the famous Battle of Cable Street (which was a fight between anti-fascists and the Metropolitan Police, who were protecting Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists), to the 1993 demonstration against the BNP bookshop at Welling (brutally attacked by the police), to the fitting up of anti-fascists protesting against a neo-Nazi Blood & Honour gig in 2009, the police have made it their job to ensure that fascists have the freedom to organise. Their aims are fundamentally different to those of anti-fascists.

Anti-fascists who call for the state to ban fascist marches, groups and symbols are playing an extremely dangerous game as such state intervention is frequently also turned against them. For example, Searchlight and other liberal anti-fascists trumpeted Home Secretary Theresa May’s ban on the EDL marching in Tower Hamlets in August last year. However, the Home Office used this opportunity to ban all marches in Tower Hamlets and four other London boroughs for an entire month, which conveniently also banned anti-militarist marches against the DSEI arms fair, East London LGBT Pride and anti-cuts protests. The state will use the cover of banning ‘extremists’ (who are as likely to be people fighting for freedom as fascists or religious militants) to further its own controlling and policing agendas, which are usually fundamentally opposed to the interests of those who want to fight fascism.

There is also evidence of the state using liberal anti-fascist organisations to monitor and control anti-fascists. For example, Searchlight founder and long-time editor, Gerry Gable, was exposed as having links to various state intelligence agencies in the 1980s. Searchlight notoriously infiltrated the Yorkshire branch of Anti-Fascist Action, as detailed in Beating the Fascists, sowing distrust and weakening the organisation. Inevitably, even without intentionally stitching up their comrades, the passing of information about fascist activities to the state by anti-fascists provides an opportunity for the state to monitor what the anti-fascists are up to as well.

For all of these reasons, militant anti-fascists do not trust the state and have sought to build their own movements against fascism, outside of state surveillance and control.

[Go to Part 2 | Part 3]