By Daphne Liddle
most significant fascist and racist groups active in Britain at the moment are
the British National Party, the English Defence League, Britain First, the English
Volunteer Force, Traditional Britain and a number of regional Infidel and
alliance groups – and of course the United Kingdom Independence Party.
The British National Party is now just a
shadow of its former self after its election wipe-out in 2010 and the collapse
of its electoral strategy. But it still exists. It has enormous debts and
financial problems and has lost its main former financier, Ulster businessman
Jim Dowson, but it is still getting money from somewhere and cannot be totally
Dowson himself recently told a [Channel Four News] documentary on Britain
First, who are Dowson’s new protégés, that although he had broken with the BNP
he had previously given them a total of around £4 million and he considered
this well spent because BNP public activity during elections had “moved the
whole British political spectrum several degrees to the right”.
And we should note a coincidence that
the National Front’s dramatic collapse and splintering into umpteen warring
factions in 1979 also coincided with a general election that swept Labour from
power and brought in a very hard-line anti-working class, anti state-welfare
The NF at the time had also just lost one of
its main sources of income – money from the US-based World Anti-Communist
League (which was funded from US, Saudi and Brunei sources and initiated by
former Ukrainian Nazis) that was channelled via Lady Jane Birdwood. WACL’s new
director, John Singlaub redirected the money from Birdwood to extreme
right-wing Tory fringe groups. These groups included the notorious Federation
of Conservative Students, which ran a campaign to hang Nelson Mandela.
In 1979 The NF was also wracked with
internal strife after Special Branch leaked to anti-fascists the information
that Martin Webster, second in command of the NF, had regularly supplied them
with information on the NF in return for money. He considered himself seriously
underpaid by the NF.
But like the BNP in 2010, the NF had
done its job of diverting and dividing the working class to allow for the
election of a right-wing Tory government with a strong anti-working class
agenda and was no longer needed by those who had been financing it.
The English Defence League is also now
just a shadow of its former self. A few years ago it could attract thousands of
assorted football hooligans, former squaddies, neo-Nazis and general thugs
looking for something to fight about on the streets. Its declared
anti-Islamicist policies were a thin cover for its general racism and
demonization of immigrants. They would bring terror to the streets of the towns
targeted for their marches and they deliberately picked areas with a large
The tide of success for the EDL turned
with massive anti-fascist mobilisations in Tower Hamlets, Brighton, Walthamstow
and other places where large numbers of local residents took part in blocking
the paths of the intended EDL march routes, sheer numbers and mobility making
it impossible for police to control. When this happens police can, with difficulty,
clear a stretch of road but it fills up again immediately with more
photographers, being close to the EDL ranks, witnessed the intense anger and
frustration of EDL members when their marches were blocked in this way. They were
most furious to see the numbers of white working class people among the
anti-fascist ranks because they have a delusion that the majority of white
working class people share their racist outlook. “You’re not English anymore!”
is the chant they hurl at such people.
When their marches were blocked
repeatedly EDL supporters drained away. Their commitment to the cause is weak
and their political understanding very shallow. Many have just come along for
the opportunity of a fight. If they cannot fight immigrant communities or
anti-fascists they will fight the police. And if they cannot fight the police
they will fight each other.
In May 2013 the brutal murder of Drummer
Lee Rigby in Woolwich by two Muslims caused a new wave of anti-Muslim hysteria
that revived the fortunes of the EDL briefly. They organised dozens of marches
and rallies but found, as before, they were still being blocked by
anti-fascists and no one wanted them and the numbers began to fall away again.
This was when their leader, Stephen
Yaxley-Lennon commonly known as Tommy Robinson, decided to quit. He claimed to
have suddenly realised that people of different faiths can and should live in
harmony and mutual respect and from now on this was going to be his mission –
as though no one had ever thought of it before. There was no word of apology to
the many multi-faith groups whose influence he and the EDL had tried to smash.
Nor was there any word of apology to his
former followers who had dutifully trudged up and down the high streets of
England on what he now realised was a mistaken cause. He also claimed to have only just realised
that the organisation he built attracted thugs, racists and neo-Nazis. He
teamed up with a dubious state-funded think-tank known as Quilliam, which
claimed to specialise in the redemption of Muslim extremist would-be
The EDL had already begun to splinter
into various more extreme “Infidel” groups – some of whom spent more time
attacking Catholics than Muslims – and regional alliances. Paul Pitt from Essex
emerged as the leader of the South East Alliance and is also a leading member
of the English Volunteer Force. Last year he was seen outside the Lord Moon pub
in Whitehall chatting with Jim Dowson.
Another small group of unashamed Nazis
arising from the splintering of the BNP and the EDL is Britain First, led by
Paul Golding. They charge around in an armoured Land Rover trying to intimidate
Muslims, invading mosques with bibles and bottles of alcohol reminding the
Muslims of what they probably most despise about traditional English manners.
But Britain First does seem to have won
some funding from Jim Dowson. And from the behaviour of those vying for
Dowson’s money it would seem they are competing to “kick their way into the
headlines” – the tactics that Martin Webster of the old National Front boasted
about. The old National Front is still around, just, and has benefitted a
little from the fall-out from the shrinking BNP and EDL. In spite of its small
size the NF is currently divided into three warring factions.
The Traditional Britain Group is
evolving to take the place of the old Monday Club – an amorphous meeting and
mingling place between fascist and racist “intellectuals” and the right-wing of
the Tory party.
The EDL has shrunk but, like the BNP, is
still there with a small core of hard-liners. It is still putting on marches in
towns around the country: Slough, Peterborough, Rotherham, Newcastle, Stevenage
There is a pattern to these events. The
EDL turnout is low – usually fewer than 150 but the local police put on a huge
and expensive show to guard against clashes with the local communities and with
The police order the EDL to assemble
outside the town so that they can enter the town accompanied by a lot of police,
either by train or in special coaches laid on by the police. They allow the EDL
to march noisily through the centre of town offending local residents, to a
prepared pen where they make speeches. These invariably focus on the theme of
Muslims and paedophilia and the grooming of young girls. There is no
rationality to this – such activity is just as abhorrent to most Muslims as it
is to anyone else and the paedophilia practised by various celebrities,
politicians and some Catholic priests is never mentioned. It just plays to
tabloid sensationalism and is the modern equivalent of the Victorian “white
slave trade” scaremongering.
The EDL also boast about how much their
marches are going to cost local council tax payers for policing.
There is invariably an anti-fascist
counter demonstration, usually organised by the local trades council. These
counter demonstrations are usually much bigger than the EDL effort but police
route them around the outskirts of town so only those who participate really
know they have happened. This is sad because it allows the EDL to feel they
have triumphed over anti-fascist opposition and gives them a little boost.
Their numbers have started to grow again a little.
There is no substitute for blocking
their path with massive numbers, even if the police do not like this.
So it goes without saying that on the
streets and facing the fascists there must be maximum unity between
anti-fascists of all political shades. We must remember that the biggest and
most successful anti-fascist alliance of all time comprised Stalin, Churchill
and Roosevelt and they managed to work together in spite of having very little
else in common, until the threat of Nazism was smashed. If they can work with
each other then we can too – communists, socialists, anarchists, Tories,
Liberals, Labour supporters, young, old, male, female and every gender nuance
in between, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists and every
other world view and every ethnic shade possible.
AS COMMUNISTS, working with other
anti-fascists of all kinds also gives opportunities for friendly dialogue as we
stand shoulder to shoulder against fascism and it in no way implies our support
for the political views on other matters of the people we are standing next to.
Those are matters for peaceful argument during the lulls in fighting the
fascists. This is the only way to achieve the mass turn-outs necessary to stop
the fascists. And it happens naturally on the streets. Anti-fascists of all
shades will defend one another regardless where there is a threat of attack by
fascists or by police.
traditional tactics of Unite Against Fascism and the more anarchic tactics of
the energetic young people of Antifa are both needed and should be co-ordinated
for maximum effect. Some trade unions do a good job of mobilising their members
for anti-fascist work from the workplace – but we must find a way to mobilise
workers in places that are not unionised (yet). We need to knock on doors and
talk to working people in their communities, countering the lies that the
fascists and racists promote. This is what was most effective in wiping out the
this is the best way to defeat Ukip. Ukip has undoubtedly had an enormous
amount of free publicity from the media and the state. It is performing a
function for one section of a ruling class that is divided over Europe. That
function is not to win a majority in Parliament but, again, to shift the whole
political spectrum even further to the right and to persuade the working class
to accept even further draconian anti-working class measures – the total
dismemberment of state welfare, the trade union movement and all working class
rights that have been won over the last 200 years by diverting attention into
racism and xenophobia and an obsession with immigration.
media never disclose any other aspects of Ukip policy so few people are aware
that Ukip wants to abolish the NHS and privatise all medical care and all free
education; ultimately they would like to abolish all taxes. It is the task of
the anti-fascist and anti-racist movement to make up for this deficit in
general awareness and it is the task of communists to give a lead in
prioritising this work. And we do not give a lead from the rear, telling others
what to do. We do it by being in the front line of activity.
communists are great ones for meetings, conferences, debates and committees –
theoretical work that is usually done sitting down. This is all essential work
but it is only half the struggle. If all those great resolutions and
clarifications of the line are just left hanging we might as well not bother.
We must stand up, get out and about and be at the forefront of implementation –
on the streets, in the workplaces, in the communities, on the housing estates
putting our line into practice and communicating directly with workers and
raising levels of political awareness and class consciousness. And we must do
this most of all among the masses who are currently disillusioned, politically
unaware and sceptical of the value of left political activity.
must ensure that the hardship and suffering caused by the austerity measures
and attacks on working class living standards turn into anger and not into
despair and resignation. To do that we need some successes in struggle, we need
to set at first modest, achievable goals to build morale and awareness. And
defeating fascist and racist activity is one area where we can do this.
the poll tax was defeated by mass non-compliance that made it impossible to
implement. The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign won because, through an enormous
effort, it achieved a truly massive level of active involvement and support. It
can be done. Some say in both cases there have been subsequent reversals – the
council tax system is also unjust and the Government changed the law so that in
future cases like Lewisham hospital will not be able to succeed. But both
campaigns did succeed in their main immediate goals and set a powerful example
for others. Under capitalism there is no such thing as a permanent victory that
does not have to be defended again and again but with good morale and mass
involvement that is achievable.
on the anti-racist anti-fascist front there have been a steady level of
successes in anti-discrimination laws and the Stephen Lawrence family campaign
led to big changes in policing. There is still a long way to go in achieving
policing that is really free from racism and the progress achieved is always
under threat. But that is the fluid nature of political struggle; we can never
let up but we know we can win.
is down to a critical mass of involvement but to achieve that we have to make a
public political stand that people can and will rally to. Three times this year
different fascist groups – Britain First and then the ex-EDL’s South East
Alliance – have tried to stage events in Cricklewood, north London.
In the first instance in February the
anti-fascist picket line was quite modest – the local trades council, members
of the Labour Representation Committee and a few others – seemed quite modest
in number. But when the fascists turned up it was heartening to see the
anti-fascists numbers quadruple at least as local passers-by joined in and it
turned into a major success. But it would not have happened if the trades
council comrades had not bothered to make a stand in the first place.
the second instance in June it was the young, mobile and daring comrades of the
Antifa movement who totally blocked the street – and also won a lot of support
from local passers-by. The fascists were unable to do anything and their leader
Paul Pitt exploded with rage and frustration. No violence was involved – just a
critical mass of people able to block and road and with the courage to do so.
the third instance, Paul Pitt’s South East Alliance again tried to march in
Cricklewood but the effect of their previous defeat was that Pitt could muster
only 17 supporters – and three of them were so embarrassed by the low turnout
they did not march with the others but hung about on the sidelines. Pitt
protested to the police again – but this time it was very half hearted.
Meanwhile the number of anti-fascists had multiplied again and, with a line of
big banners right across the street, they barred the way again.
in the 70s and 80s the presence of Anti-Nazi-League pickets, however small, at
every fascist and racist public activity had a true mass impact on the
fascists’ and racists’ morale. It led them more or less to give up street
activity. And it was always a very welcome sight to an anti-fascist
photographer to know they were not alone. Now Unite Against Fascism and other
anti-fascist groups are keeping up that tradition.
Europe there is a much more serious situation developing with new Nazi parties
blatantly displaying fascist and Nazi symbols, calling for pogroms against
immigrants, Jews and Roma people.
in the Ukraine, with the backing of US finance they have seized power from the
weak democratic government of Yanukovich as part of a western strategy to bring
Ukraine under the political and economic control of Nato and the European
again the fascists are being used to divert and divide the working class while
the most draconian cuts in wages, pensions and services are being imposed on
them as the giant western companies try to seize Ukraine’s agricultural and
West had tried before to destabilise Ukraine and supported pro-western and
anti-Russian puppets but the people soon saw through them and threw them out.
This time they used the pro-EU Maidan Square protesters as a cover to seize
are a people who can remember living under socialism and they are putting up a
mighty resistance and in the east are attempting to set up breakaway republics.
Crimea broke away altogether and reverted to becoming part of Russia, denying
the important Russian Naval base at Sevastopol to the Kiev Nazis.
a full scale war is being fought by Kiev against the peoples of eastern
is also strong resistance to the Nazi putsch in western Ukraine but it is being
dealt with very brutally. Outspoken opponents of the junta are being murdered,
communist party offices have been looted and burned, Russian language books are
being burned and the language is being outlawed. All to divert attention from
the huge drop in living standards being imposed on all the people by western
leader Vladimir Putin, a right-wing nationalist and pro-capitalist but opposed
to western imperialism, was quick to accept Crimea back into Russia but is
avoiding further Russian involvement. He can clearly see the hand of Washington
behind the Kiev junta and he has no desire to escalate the conflict into a
third world war. He knows there are hawks in Washington who would like to do
he is securing economic agreements with China and other Brics (Brazil, Russia,
India, China and South Africa) countries to reduce the power of the US dollar
globally and to defuse the American threat that way.
are also strong Nazi movements in Greece, Hungary, Poland and in Russia itself.
But they tend to be divided from each other by their extremist nationalism.
Polish, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Russian fascists all lay claim to parts of
each other’s territories and despise each other as lesser breeds of human.
there are also strong anti-fascist movements growing up. The memory of the Red
Army is growing stronger and communism is remembered once more as the force
that succeeded in smashing fascism. It is our strength that we can unite
internationally and work together with mutual respect.
We have every reason to get ourselves into the
front line of this struggle and show the world that communists still know how
to organise, how to recover from initial defeats and setbacks and how to win
the war and destroy fascism.