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(en) Britain, Anarchist journal ORGANISE #70 - BASH THE FASH

Date Thu, 12 Jun 2008 10:51:13 +0300



“Fascist” nowadays has come to be popularly adopted as a harmless pejorative
term used towards any person or institution considered to be mildly
authoritarian. It is an anachronism that refers to a political movement that
existed and failed decades ago. Euronationalist groups like the British National
Party (BNP), exploiting fears from the working class over worsening conditions,
now attempt to couch their policies in respectable political language. They
attempt to present themselves as a radical alternative to the static mainstream
political parties who have become increasingly isolated from the concerns of
working class communities and have been rewarded for this with a swell in
sympathy. Yet despite their apparent transformation, the political programmes of
organisations like the BNP still in reality embody the original tenets of
fascist ideology. They are authoritarian and hierarchical, organising themselves
and understanding society along strict racial lines and promoting a centralised
corporatist economic model as an attempt to reconcile the inherent
contradictions of capital. These ideas may have been re-branded as the supposed
popular face of white Britain and clothed in the guise of a parliamentary
political party but their essential character remains. It represents, as with
all statist political movements, the subjugation, oppression and continued
exploitation of the working class and active opposition to its organisation
through the organs of the state. Fascism is the most explicitly violent
incarnation of this political programme. It shows its true colours when family
values, concerns for immigration and traditionalism at the ballot box become
homophobia, male chauvinism, racialism and despotism in power. Class antagonisms
are silenced by a brutal regime that denies the diversity, individuality and
creative potential of human life. Capital and privilege are defended by the
entire repressive arsenal of the state as opponents and dissidents are quashed.

Fascist violence

Political violence has remained consistent in fascism’s modern counterparts.
Despite a commitment to “community activism”, hostility, threats and
intimidation continue to exist as a central driving force behind fascist
ideology. The BNP has a well publicised history of brutal attacks by its
members. Tony Wentworth, the BNP’s former student organiser has had convictions
alongside Joe Owens (Nick Griffin’s former bodyguard) for assaults against
activists at an anti-BNP rally. Owens had also previously served eight months in
prison for sending razor blades to a Jewish family through the post. Tony
Lecomber -Nick Griffin’s key deputy in the party from 1999 until January 2006 -
was jailed in 1985 after a nail bomb he was carrying to the offices of the
Worker’s Revolutionary Party exploded and then again in 1991 for assaulting a
Jewish teacher who was removing a BNP sticker from a London Underground Station.
David Copeland, who exploded a nail bomb at the Admiral Duncan pub in the heart
of London's homosexual community, was a former BNP member. Although the BNP
distanced itself from Copeland, Griffin wrote in the aftermath of the bombing
that homosexuals protesting against the murders were "flaunting their perversion
in front of the world's journalists, [and] showed just why so many ordinary
people find these creatures disgusting". Wherever fascists are unopposed they
are able to carry out systematic campaigns of violence against ethnic
minorities, the gay community and working class organisations.

Antifa origins

The term “antifa” has its original origins in the “Antifaschismus”, working
class organisations that were formed in Germany (and also in Italy) in
opposition to the fascist parties that were to take power during the interwar
years. Originally, being composed only of members of the “Rotfrontkämpferbund”,
the paramilitary wing of the German Communist Party, the groups later expanded
to encompass a wide range of left wing activists. Its central goal was to
present a physical opposition to the emerging fascism. Despite some attempts at
mass resistance to National Socialism, particularly within the Mössinger General
Strike, after Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 the movement began to fall into
decline and became increasingly isolated from the communist resistance during
the war. Many antifa groups during this period came with Soviet sponsorship and
Prisoners of War captured during the Eastern Front campaign were encouraged to
undertake antifa training. In Spain during the 1930’s antifascism took on a more
explicitly revolutionary character. During the civil war, “reds” from across the
globe mobilised in defence of worker and peasant gains against the Republic and
fascist armies. "¡No pasarán!" became a rallying cry alongside “Land and
Liberty!” for the international emancipation of the working classes. It also
came to be adopted by British militants during the 1936 Battle of Cable Street.
Antifas, including Jewish, socialist and Irish groups, blockaded streets and
fought running battles with the police in an attempt to halt a planned march and
kick Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists out of the East End.

National Front and British Movement

In the 1970s, fascist and far right parties such as the National Front (NF) and
British Movement were making significant gains electorally in the UK and were
increasingly confident in their public appearances. This was challenged in 1977
with the Battle of Lewisham, when thousands of people physically stopped an NF
march in South London. Shortly after this, the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) was
launched by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The ANL had a campaign of high
profile propaganda, as well as anti-fascist squads that attacked NF meetings and
paper sales to disrupt their ability to organize. The SWP, whose theoretician
Tony Cliff described the period as one of downturn in class struggle, later
disbanded the ANL. However, many squad members refused to stop their activities
and because of this were expelled from the party in 1981; many then going on to
form the group Red Action. In 1985, some members of Red Action and the
anarcho-syndicalist Direct Action Movement launched Anti-Fascist Action (AFA),
which was to be the focus of militant anti-fascism in the UK for the next 15
years. Similarly, in the 1980’s activists from the German autonomous and
squatters movement began to adopt militant anti-fascist tactics in the face of
neo-Nazi attacks following the reunification of Germany. They rekindled the
legacy of the earlier oppositions to National Socialism and began to organize to
prevent and disrupt planned activities of far right organizations – particularly
the Third Position group the NDP (National Democratic Party) which had a history
of violence and intimidation. After the decline of AFA in the late 90’s, in 2004
members from the Anarchist Federation, Class War, and No Platform founded the UK
organization Antifa. Antifa poses an alternative to non-violent, broad front and
anti-class groups like the UAF (Unite Against Fascism) and state-linked agencies
like Searchlight and continues to imitate the tactics of groups like AFA before
them.

Militant values

Despite this chequered history and the diverse adherents the essential values of
“Antifa” have remained consistent. Militant anti-fascists all accept the need
for physical confrontation with fascists; they understand that fascist groups
promote their ideas through political violence and that there needs to be a
counterweight to this. They also accept that if the struggle against fascism is
to be successful it must be tackled by communities, not the state.

These principles have led many to confuse the character of Antifa and militant
anti-fascism. These aims clearly have a political quality and come hand-in-hand
with a radical, class based critique of capitalist society. Yet while the roots
of militant anti-fascism are clearly political, Antifa is essentially a tactic.
It is about defending the streets against those who wish to claim them and
presenting an active and confrontational face for working class opposition. The
“flabby pacifism” of liberal and broad front organisations has and always will
fail. Every inch of political ground that is given to the fascists means more
attacks, more intimidation, more intolerance and less unity. The use of violence
and the threat of violence is a fabric of our everyday existence. It is used by
the state, it is used by the army and it is used by our political opponents.
This means that activists have to face some difficult questions. Militants have
a clear choice when confronted with fascism. They can either do nothing, resign
themselves to pacifistic and statist “solutions” that only serve to entrench the
conditions in which fascism flourishes or they can be active, they can accept a
historical responsibility to take a stand and stamp this poison out of their
community. It is important however, to hold no illusions over these tactics. It
is vital for the health of an organisation that it is conscious of the potential
negative effects that the use of violence can have. Activists must be
introspective and self-critical. Machismo and hooliganism cannot be tolerated
and a concerted effort must be made to stop organisations becoming gendered. An
awareness of the stress and commitment that are involved in these situations and
the need for solidarity and support are also important for the well-being of
activists.

Leftist criticisms

The secretive nature of many antifascist groups has led to criticisms of
“squadism” from many within the left. They see Antifa and its equivalents as
elitist and undemocratic. But such an attitude is a symptom of mentalities that
view all workers organisations as necessarily vanguardist and is unfair to
activists who risk their safety in defence of their communities. For decades
revolutionary left groups have opportunistically used the mobilisation against
fascism as a way of trying to swell their membership and the coffers of their
party. There are clear practical reasons why militant anti-fascist groups have
to retain cautiousness over membership. Not only does the potential illegality
of actions warrant vigilance but there are also many precedents of far-right and
state infiltration within these organisations. This criticism also ignores
Antifa’s clear commitment to ideological struggle against fascism and the open
community activism which is considered as equally important to successful
confrontation with fascists. As is stated in Antifa’s founding statement,
“education and presenting workable solutions to the problems faced by
communities are absolutely vital to the struggle. These may be outside the
current remit of Antifa, but we will wholeheartedly support these tactics, and
while we may not be able to initiate such activities, we strongly encourage our
members to involve themselves in this sort of grass-roots work.”

Some will argue that this ideological struggle must be waged against the fascist
themselves, that a direct debate is the most effective way of undermining their
ideals. But debate with a fascist is not only futile but impossible. It is an
academic fantasy born of no real experience of what the threat of fascism means
on your street and in your neighbourhood. It is, after all, difficult to discuss
dialectics with a jackboot to your face. Debate represents progress. Fascists
are not interested in this. Their ideas are inherently irrational and
romanticised, they should not be considered as equal. As has been demonstrated
repeatedly, to fascists like Nick Griffin public debate is merely a PR stunt. It
is a media spectacle for them to spout their ideological trash.

No platform to fascists

No platform adherents like the Anarchist Federation and Antifa believe that
fascists should not be given the authority to proselytize against ethnic
communities and minorities and encourage their followers to violence. Giving
them a platform gives respectability to their ideas and bolsters the
self-assurance of their adherents who may feel it is publicly acceptable to
adopt the label “fascist”. These “ideas” must never become acceptable. They
undermine our confidence, they undermine our unity and they legitimize
anti-class attitudes. Halting a BNP paper sale, march or meeting may seem like a
trivial affair, but it is vital to disrupt their organisation at all of its
levels. Adolf Hitler himself said that the only way the rise of the German Nazi
party could have been prevented was if its enemies had recognized it for what it
was right at the start and had smashed it in its infancy and with utmost force.
It is necessary for debate to take place, but this has to be within and amongst
the community. Issues need to be addressed, activists need to help build workers
confidence and encourage struggles in a more productive direction. Intolerance
to fascism needs to become a basic fact of community life as solidarity, mutual
aid and autonomy are promoted as alternative methods of confronting the ills of
capitalist society.

As militant anti-fascists we understand the necessity of Antifa and physical
confrontation tactics. But as anarchist communists we also understand that
ultimately the only decisive way to defeat fascism is to eliminate the
conditions under which it develops. Fascism will end when an organised working
class is able to overthrow capital and the state and reconstruct society along
libertarian lines. Fascism is a product of weak and disillusioned people.
Capitalism argues that prosperity comes through strength and this imperialism is
mirrored in their ideology. Anarchist communism also argues that we can be
strong, but that we discover this through solidarity and self-organisation. It
will only be when these ideas are the natural principles of the working class
that we will we be able to decisively give fascism the boot.

---

ANTIFA is a collective of militant anti-fascists committed to opposing the rise
of the far-right in Britain and abroad. They believe in the 'no platform'
philosophy and the tradition of fighting fascism/racism stretching back to Cable
Street, Red Lion Square, Lewisham, and Waterloo. They are a network of various
organisations and individuals who see anti-fascism as part of the class
struggle. http://www.antifa.org.uk
info [at] antifa.org.uk
PO Box 467, London E8 3QX
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