This article will look at how fascist organisations and ideas are inevitable under capitalism, and explain why liberal opponents of ‘no platform’ fail to understand either the role or reality of fascism in class society.
Many people argue that socialists are ‘undemocratic’ for opposing any platform for fascist ideas. This means we organise to physically stop them spreading their anti-working class poison from any public platform – whether this is through TV, newspapers, stalls, public meetings, or demonstrations.
On 3rd September, the English Defence League hopes to march thousands of fascists through Tower Hamlets in East London. This provocation is the sign of a group looking to demonstrate its power and carry out its agenda of sowing fear and division in our communities.
Anti-fascists are preparing to ensure the EDL get the same reception that the Black-shirts and National Front got in the 1930s and 70s. On those occasions the local communities united and organised to drive the fascists off their streets; 2011 must stand in that tradition.
Despite splits, setbacks and infighting, the last 12 months has seen the English Defence League successfully exploit prevalent Islamophobic ideas to develop the basis for a fascist street force prepared to wage a violent campaign of hate and intimidation against minorities in working-class communities.
Their claims of existing solely to oppose the spread of ‘Islamic extremism’ or Sharia Law have been thoroughly exposed as a pathetic and superficial gloss – an attempt to ground their ideology in a context which side-steps the allegiance to Hitler and anti-Semitism which has handicapped previous British fascist movements.
Fascist tendencies thrive during times of economic crisis, and the EDL seek to capitalise on the fallout from the economic crisis, by stoking fires of division in working class communities between white workers and the new scapegoats, Muslim and migrant workers.
Fascism and class society
Right-wing violence briefly dominated the news after the terrorist attacks which killed 80 people in Norway in July. The man responsible, Anders Breivik, is a Norwegian fascist with link to the EDL and has remarked on his admiration of their methods of street violence.
Yet far from discrediting fascist violence the attacks resulted in an unprecedented surge of publicity for the self-proclaimed leaders of British fascism’s race war.
The media exposure extended to tin-pot fascists like Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, hooligan and EDL ringleader, has presented Islamophobia as a mainstream political opinion, rather than the prejudiced hatred of racists and bigots.
Despite the horrific nature of Breivik’s atrocities, bourgeois commentators fell over themselves trying to separate his opinions on Islamophobia from his violent ‘solution’. It is important to note that he was described variously as a ‘gunman’, ‘assailant’ or ‘fundamentalist’ but never as a ‘terrorist’. It seems that word is still reserved for our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Fascist demagogues from across Europe lined up alongside ‘respectable’ TV newsreaders and journalists to insist that although they opposed a violent solution, they thought that Breivik ‘had a point’ about Islam; that there are too many Muslims in Europe, too many mosques, too many potential terrorists. In short, organised fascists and the mouthpieces of the ruling class are both trying to present the attacks in Norway as the ‘consequence’ of the ‘Islamification’ of Europe.
With the capitalist monopoly over the TV and newspapers, the racist propaganda of the bosses can be doled out daily to hundreds of millions of people across the world. It is no surprise that racist stereotypes and misconceptions are so prevalent when the pages of most daily papers are filled with jumped-up racists, Tory politicians and journalists paid to invent stories about Asylum seekers living in mansions.
Control over the sources of information and communication ensures that the dominant ideas in any society are the ideas of the class which exercises that control. Under capitalism, the ruling class is the minority of super wealthy with monopoly control over the banks, industries and media.
Airtime for fascists and prehistoric racists like David Starkey reflects the role of media and the purpose of fascist ideology in capitalist society; that is, to allow the ruling class to divide and rule.
The divisive, racist and Islamophobic ideas of Breivik and the EDL present no threat whatsoever to established power relations, they strengthen the bosses’ rule by dividing the working class along ethnic lines. This is why the police defend the fascist marches, and it is why the EDL ‘whiteshirts’ volunteered to help the police ‘restore order’ during the riots.
The lessons of history are implacable. In the 20th century, everywhere fascism rose to power as the last resort of the capitalists confronted by the revolutionary struggles of the working-class. The examples of Spain, Germany, Italy, are testament to fascism’s historic role as the final bastion of capitalist property relations against workers’ control and socialism.
Blame the bosses, not foreign workers
It is no coincidence that fascist ideas gain a wider audience just as the bosses are launching a devastating offensive on working-class jobs, pensions and public services.
The bosses ruthlessly exploit immigrant labour during the boom years, paying lower wages, refusing to recognise trade unions and impoverishing their communities. All the while the capitalist media wages a constant campaign of sensationalism, lies and racism which manages to vilify immigrants in general, Muslims in particular, and the welfare state as the engineer of moral collapse.
During an economic crisis, the bosses cut workers’ jobs because capitalism ensures profit is the logic behind all production. Unemployment exists because the bosses don’t want to pay people to produce things which can’t be sold profitably. The politicians and the bosses use the millions of unemployed as a surplus army of workers which can used to undermine strikes and drive down wages through the increasingly desperate competition for jobs.
The fascists blame unemployment on the poorest, most exploited sections of society, despite the fact that the only people who benefit from unemployment are the bosses – who use it to lower wages and make ordinary people turn against each other when there aren’t enough jobs to go round.
Fascism – more than just a bad idea
However, opposing fascism isn’t just a battle of ideas. Based on a reactionary and illogical ideology, fascism can only demonstrate its value to the bosses through “well-directed boots and fists.”
This is why the EDL have stepped up their campaign of attacking left-wing and trade union meetings – to disrupt working-class organisations and weaken our ability to resist the bosses’ offensive on our jobs.
Allowing fascists like Tommy Robinson and Nick Griffin a platform for their ideas catapults their fanatical rhetoric from the political fringes into the mainstream. Inevitably, this increases the audience for their ideas and bolsters their organisation on the streets.
With an ideology that scapegoats Muslims and migrants for the crisis caused by capitalism, a physical force of organised fighters is necessary to compensate for the limited appeal of their irrational and divisive policies.
Fascism has never been a force based on parliamentary democracy. Electoral politics is not their main arena; they thrive on publicity, but they aren’t interested in carrying out their agenda through debates with the anti-racist majority.
By attacking the organised working class, and waging a campaign of terror and pogroms in Black and Asian communities, the EDL seek to build a street movement which can act as an auxiliary to the bosses’ tools of repression. The fascist gangs will be used as proxies for the police and army, using state-backed violence to undermine our resistance.
This has been made clear during the recent riots by the formation of small units of EDL thugs in Lewisham, Edmonton and Enfield; the so-called ‘White Shirts’ out to ‘restore law and order’, policing the ‘feral’ black and Muslim youth. Here the fascists are on the streets, with the sole aim of terrorising Black and Asian people – while the police stand by.
The fascists are not interested in fighting against unemployment, poor housing or imperialist wars. In reality they are simply the face of capitalism stripped of the luxuries like ‘human rights’ ‘free speech’ and ‘democracy’ which our societies can only afford because of our immense wealth. The fascists want to ensure that working-class is too divided to wage a united struggle against the capitalist system.
No platform works
In times of economic and social crisis, the fascists will offer racism and violence as a solution to people’s desperation.
The question of No Platform must be posed as an issue of working-class unity against the bosses’ efforts to divide and rule.
It is also a question of our right to organise self-defence against fascist pogroms and attacks on our meetings and demonstrations.
That’s why, when the English Defence League march in our cities and towns, attacking black and Asian areas, screaming racist abuse, we need our own “Antifascist Defence League” to stop them in their tracks and send them packing. A highly trained, highly organised Defence League of our own is the way to beat them, defend our demonstrations and our communities from racist thugs.
But there are other reasons too. As capitalism moves into decay and crisis, as we are seeing today, it relies more and more upon brute force and violence to back up its political and social attacks on working class people.
In the student movement last year we saw police imprison young protesters in Kettles for hours on end, and charge us with cavalry. In the past few weeks we’ve seen the state hand down the most horrific prison sentences to young people for the smallest of crimes. Like an animal backed into a corner, when capitalism is wounded it strikes back with desperation.
Organising against the fascists, and preparing defence of our struggles is a necessary step in organising our class to fight back against bosses’ offensive as a whole – a class war driven by wealth and backed up with violence and repression.