ANALYSIS: THE FAR RIGHT & THE FIGHT AGAINST RACISM IN BRITAIN
Last Saturday at the BBC in central London, the state of the British far right was clear to see. Only around 100 fascists gathered to support their key figurehead, Stephen Yaxley Lennon aka ‘Tommy Robinson’. They looked demoralised. Nazi National Front thugs, mixed with a few Chelsea Headhunters (notorious fascist hooligans) and an associate of the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, who were virtually absent.
Several factors have undercut the fascists and Robinson.
The movement behind Robinson has not recovered from the humiliation he suffered in the recent Euro elections. Robinson needed 8 percent of the vote to gain a seat, he got 2 percent.
Sta nd Up To Racism analyses from the campaign against Robinson here
The excellent campaign organised by SUTR/UAF in the North West was a model of how to build a united campaign against the far right. It saw campaigners, Labour MP’s, MEP’s, mayors, councillors, faith organisations, trade unionists and local communities working together. Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and MEP Julie Ward hosted a packed meeting for campaigners before election-day. Mass leafleting was regular to “get the anti-racist vote out” and there were mobilisations against Robinson and his supporters across the region.
The milkshake became a popular symbol of resistance . In Barrow megaphone man Paul confronted Robinson and the video of him telling “Tommy” that “You’re a Nazi” went viral. Robinson complained that everywhere he went people called him a Nazi, the message got across!
At the BBC last week, anti-fascists from Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism and the London Anti-fascist Assembly outnumbered the far right two to one.
What a comedown for Robinson and fans. Last summer 10-15,000 gathered in London to rally. A US Congressman, and various far right leaders such as Geert Wilders, flew over to speak. The Middle East Forum, an Islamophobic think-tank poured money into Robinson’s accounts. A UKIP Lord wined and dined him in Parliament.
But anti-racists and anti-fascists systematically built the movement against Robinson. By November 30,000 marched against the far right and Robinson on the SUTR Unity demo backed by the TUC and leading figures across the labour movement.
In December 10,000 outnumbered the far right on their “Brexit betrayal” demo called by Robinson and Gerard Batten’s UKIP.
In March over 25,000 marched on Stand Up To Racism demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on UN anti-racism day , a global protest co-ordinated with #WorldAgainstRacism demos in the US and across Europe in over 60 cities .
The contrast for Robinson’s supporters from 2018 to last Saturday couldn’t have been starker, just as on the previous poor demonstration for Robinson this month (when 300 came out for Robinson opposed by some 500 antifascists).
Gone were the high profile speakers, costly large screens and video clips, and hired security. Instead there was just the hardcore, far right.
Apart from the obnoxious figure of Richard “Dick” Braine, current ‘leader’ of the shipwreck that is UKIP, few political figures now back Robinson. He is increasingly being seen as too loose a cannon by many on the far right internationally.
Of course his being blocked from much of social media damaged his ability to mobilise support and get his message across. But remember that social media firms only moved against him under pressure from anti-racist campaigners.
Robinson’s current spell inside will end shortly. Many of his backers will be wondering what happens now? A former aide of his, Carolan Robertson revealed last week in Byline Times, the large amounts of money Robinson was receiving in donations, eg £3000 monthly. This has to a large extent dried up and Robinson may yet rue the fall out from ex allies.
Two far right mobilisations have flopped in a month, with over 20 arrests of fascists. This illustrates that the far right are currently, in a cul de sac.
Robinson may also face the consequences of his appalling alleged defamation of a Syrian refugee schoolboy. His ability to operate may be restricted. The British far right, electorally and on the streets are now in retreat. This is a big achievement for anti fascists.
However, they are still looking to regroup. The scale of their street mobilisations have greatly diminished but given the extent of Islamophobia and racism coming from the top of British society their potential ability to grow is still there.
The far right DFLA may mobilise on the first Saturday of September. Their number have substantially declined and they are not the size they were a year ago. The suspension of Parliament has seen small groups of the far right out, as this is written. However, their numbers are tiny as against those demonstrating.
But in a crisis ridden political situation, just like their friends in Europe and the US, Robinson and the far right will hope to make back ground they have lost. Robinson is constantly reinventing himself, he may be down, but he’s unlikely to be out.
It’s precisely the dynamic we see from the likes of Johnson—modelling himself as Britain’s Trump —and from Farage—and his racist populism, masquerading as an anti establishment man of the people—that for now been forced onto the backfoot by the decisive strategy of a mass anti racist movement. However the intensification of the ‘hostile environment’, the divisions and crisis over Brexit in the government, and the use of Islamophobic and anti migrant rhetoric and policy, all act to create the breeding ground for the far right to potentially regroup.
The ideological extremists and erstwhile backers of Robinson, of Generation Identity (GI), who have been linked to the Christchurch mosque murderer, still aim to recruit and are targeting college campuses. Their recent ‘mock execution’ stunt of anti-racists outside the Tower of London, shows their mindset.
Stand Up To Racism with the UCU union are organising against efforts to build far right bases at colleges and universities.
Though GI are small at present, their racist ‘Great Replacement’ theories are sometimes advanced by those in authority in parts of Europe. They will expect to grow. The recent physical assault on campaigner and journalist Owen Jones shows the need to ensure the far right are pushed back. The more their popular support fades the more likely it is that frustrated far right activists will carry out this kind of violent attack. Fascists tried to intimidate those remembering the Peterloo Massacre, in Manchester recently.
Chilling Generation Identity (GI) mock execution stunt of Stand Up To Racism activists – July 2019
This sort of violence recalls past periods where the far right suffered setbacks. Following electoral and street defeats for the Nazi National Front (NF) in the late 1970s, some fascists turned from political activism to racist attacks and acts of individual violence.
In the US Trump’s one sided criticism of anti-fascists has bolstered open Nazis. His influence on the far right is huge. His attacks on migrants and hatred for ‘the Squad’, enthuses the far right everywhere.
European leaders like Matteo Salvini and Viktor Orbán have created an atmosphere where we are seeing outrages across the continent that recall the dark days of the 1930s. Salvini has led the war on refugees and migrants that has turned the Mediterranean into a graveyard. At best other leaders have looked on in silence at worst they have joined in the scapegoating.
Far right groups like the French National Rally and the German Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) have built their support off the backs of anti-refugee and migrant scapegoating and the kind of Islamophobia promoted by Trump.
But like in Britain there is also growing resistance to the rise of racism and fascism in the US and Europe.
Last weekend in Dresden, Germany, 35,000 people marched against racism and the far right party AfD, which has open fascists operating within it.
This is significant as it comes before state elections where the AfD is projected to make huge gains. New polls show the AfD party running neck and neck with Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) party in Saxony. In Brandenburg, the region surrounding Berlin, some surveys see the AfD topping the polls.
Under the banner “Indivisible”, a broad coalition of artists, workers and young people gathered in Dresden to urge voters to reject the far right. Germany, like Austria is at the centre of the far right revival, in Europe. But there is resistance, as Dresden shows.
Anti-racist voices from Germany, as well as across Europe and the US, will be heard on 19 October at the International conference against racism and fascism , in London.
With the terror attacks in El Paso and Christchurch this year, and the extreme rhetoric of groups with funding like GI, it is not farfetched to see how embittered fascist activists might take the same path in Britain. Official reports on the dangers of far right radicalisation follow on from concerns raised by anti-racists over a long period. Jo Cox’s murder in 2016 must stand as a reminder of how fascists, individuals and groups like National Action can turn to terror. The murderous assault on Finsbury Park Mosque by Darren Osborne in 2018 is another example.
Thanks to anti-racists and anti-fascists, Britain is one of the weakest links for the far right. We’ve managed to prevent them establishing themselves as a mass movement, so far, but there is no room for complacency.
The main front against racism is now centred on the battle against the state racism represented by Johnson and his attempts to import Trumpism here, and the populist racism of the likes of Farage.
Johnson’s attacks on EU citizens, the hostile environment and his infamous comments about Muslim women and black people show that racism will be at the heart of his project. Racist stop and search is once more being promoted by the Tories as the “cure” for knife crime.
Farage’s attacks on the “cosmopolitan elites (with all that, that implies) and his ongoing links to the racist right show what direction the Brexit Party can head in. Farage hasn’t changed his spots after leaving UKIP. If you voted “Leave” or “Remain”, Farage is still a racist and will need to be opposed.
But just as the far right came back onto the streets in the wake of the London and Manchester terror attacks in the shape of the Football Lads Alliance back in the summer of 2017, they can emerge again in the present chaotic political situation.
Continuing to build a mass anti-racist and anti-fascist movement, as in the North West this year, remains critical in stopping the far right.
The day after the far right’s latest London embarrassment, the Notting Hill Carnival rocked through West London . Such vibrancy and multi-racial celebration is the antidote to the far right’s message of hate.
We need a movement capable of popularising anti racism, combating state racism and of mobilising when necessary against the likes of fascist ‘Tommy Robinson’.
2019-08-31 | Action, News, Top story | English | UAF