Recent scenes from America, where Heather Heyer, an anti-fascist activist, was murdered by a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville, have reminded us, again, that violent far-right organisation is not a thing of the past.
The resurgent white supremacist movement in the USA is emboldened by a president who is clearly in sympathy with some of its ideas, and who openly equivocates between Nazis and those mobilising to resist them.
What are the ideas of the fascists who mobilised in Charlottesville? White supremacy (the idea that white people are superior to non-white people, Jews, and other ethnic groups); patriarchy and male supremacy; militarism; nationalism; hatred of LGBT people. Our lived experience as workers in a diverse workforce explodes these poisonous ideas: we know from working alongside workers of different racial backgrounds, genders, and sexualities, that we have common interests.
It is true that anti-fascists used direct action and, in some cases, physical force to confront the Nazis in Charlottesville and attempt to disrupt their march and rally. But the issue is not fundamentally one of "violence" in the abstract. Fascist organisation, from the smallest meeting or rally right up to the level of state power (for example in Italy, Spain, and Germany in the 1930s), represents a declaration of war against ethnic minorities, LGBT people, disabled people, and the labour movement. History tells us that the spread of fascist ideas and organisation is impossible without widespread political murder. Mobilising to prevent fascists from organising, via the use of physical force if necessary, is therefore a form of pre-emptive self-defence. Anti-fascist "violence" cannot be morally equated with the violence of the fascists.
What does this mean for us in Britain? In a post-Brexit context of increased racism and growing hostility to migrants, it is not difficult to imagine the currently marginalised far right becoming resurgent. We've had experiences in the past of large groups of English Defence League members being herded through our stations by police on their way to and from rallies; in 2011, swift action by RMT reps scuppers proposal to run a special train from Hainault to Liverpool Street to ferry EDLers to a demo (read more about this in an issue of Tubeworker from the time). At the time, RMT also reminded members of our rights not to work on the grounds of safety. Some of us discussed the possibility of closing stations to prevent EDLers from travelling if we felt the presence, or potential presence, or large groups of organised racists in our workplaces posed a safety threat to ourselves and our passengers.
We should be inspired by the example of San Francisco dockers who are planning a strike on 26 August in order to allow them to march off the job to oppose a planned fascist rally in their city. Fascism represents a violent threat to the principles of equality, solidarity, and internationalism underpinning the best traditions of our labour movement. In America and at home, we must oppose it with all our might.