Stopping Brexit isn’t anti-fascism
Callum Cant takes issue over the 9 December counter¬demo
The Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) are obsessed with trade unions. When their march was blocked in October, their leadership couldn’t stop themselves from fantasising about beating up organised workers. For many of their supporters, the organisation’s high point was when a DFLA group launched a serious physical attack on RMT members in a pub in Whitehall. The essence of their politics is a hatred of the organised working class.
This is not a new dynamic – indeed, Clara Zetkin wrote about the emergence of Italian fascism in very similar terms in 1923: “Proletarian struggle and self¬defence against fascism requires the proletarian united front. Fascism does not ask if the worker in the factory has a soul painted in the white and blue colours of Bavaria; the black, red, and gold colours of the bourgeois republic; or the red banner with the hammer and sickle. […] All that matters to fascists is that they encounter a class conscious proletarian, and then they club him to the ground. That is why workers must come together for struggle without distinctions of party or trade union affiliation.”
Zetkin was fundamentally correct. Her ideas are applicable to the UK today – specifically on the question of how anti-fascists should approach Brexit. In short, we shouldn’t. The RMT backed Leave. Unite backed Remain. The DFLA want to destroy both.
Dividing mobilisations against the far right on the basis of opinions regarding the referendum weakens the front. The only viable line is one of anti-fascist unity: some of us are leave, some of us are remain, but we’re all anti-fascist.
The argument over a socialist position on the question of Stop Brexit/Lexit should be conducted amongst the left outside of the sphere of anti-fascism, where disunity is directly harmful to our ability to oppose the far right.
The AWL should absolutely mobilise for any and all upcoming anti-fascist demonstrations. But you should do so as participants in a front with the broadest possible base and the narrowest possible politics.
Unity doesn’t mean ditching ideas
Kelly Rogers responds from Workers’ Liberty
Callum Cant argues, both in his article here and in his article published on Novara Media, that we must build an anti-fascist “united front” with the “broadest possible base, and the narrowest possible politics.” He also argues that anyone joining the demonstration against Tommy Robinson on 9 December under the banner of “Stop Brexit” and “fight for free movement”, with Another Europe is Possible, is “dividing mobilisations against the far right”.
Firstly, Another Europe is Possible have called their demo as a bloc at the same place and same time as the wider Momentum-backed demonstration. To argue that they are dividing the movement is a wilful misrepresentation of reality.
More importantly, this lowest common denominator politics only makes sense up to a point. Both Workers’ Liberty and Another Europe are determined to make a positive case for freedom of movement, both in terms of protecting the limited free movement that currently exists, and extending it. If we are to provide an antidote to the rise of the far right, then we need to tackle their politics head on. Momentum refused to back a demonstration that raised that slogan because the Labour front bench does not support it.
Other campaigns in the new coalition behind the 9 December mobilisation have fallen in line without protest. If Cant and others are happy to “narrow” their politics to the point where they are prepared to junk the rights of EU migrants, then that’s not practical united front tactics, it’s just reactionary.
Another Europe also called their bloc to raise the slogan “No to Brexit”. Not all Leave voters are racist. Many of them will oppose Tommy Robinson’s fascism. But it is a fact that Brexit is a right-wing project, and one which has helped to foster the growth of the far right in Britain.
Anti-immigrant racism and nationalism have been at the heart of Brexit since the beginning. It will mean the biggest expansion of border controls in recent history, perhaps since the 1905 Aliens Act. Brexit is situated in the context of a global phenomenon that encompasses the pan¬European far right, Trump in America.
The protagonists of these movements are very clear about the connections. Steve Bannon has this year set up a Brussels headquarters and has made visits to see Nigel Farage, Tommy Robinson, and Marine Le Pen. These people explicitly view themselves as part of a global right-wing alliance, a “nationalist international”. In this context, it is no good pretending that Brexit is an irrelevant detail here, something we can ignore because it’s difficult, or – and I suspect this is what it is really about — because the Labour Party front bench are promising a “better Brexit” and an expanded border force.
Cant’s argument that the RMT union is for Leave and the Unite union for Remain, and fascists “want to destroy both”, and therefore we have to sit on the fence, is not worth much space. We are for raising the political level of our class and equipping it with the ideas to defeat the forces of reaction.
United fronts are not simply a coalition of forces. They are a space for the battle of ideas. The slogans we raise now will shape the movement going into the future. Cant’s argument is apolitical and short-sighted, based merely on a calculation of how to get numbers onto the streets. He fails to make the political argument against Tommy Robinson. He seeks to unite people around lowest common denominator politics and edgy aesthetics, but fails to address the issues at the very heart of the far right in Britain.