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The left and labour movement need to get organising in our communities to defeat the growing far right threat

British politics is undoubtedly at a fork in the road, with two very different paths ahead, writes JYOTI WILKINSON

AT approximately 6.45pm on August 5 2018, at least a dozen far-right thugs in masks marched into socialist bookshop Bookmarks in central London and took part in an act of co-ordinated destruction, threatening staff and attempting to destroy books.  

Prior to this, Tommy Robinson, the founder of the neofascist English Defence League, was released from prison following a petition that attracted more than 600,000 signatories and was supported by far reaching alt-right media outlets such as Breitbart.  

Last week, Tory demagogue Boris Johnson, aided and abetted by professional xenophobe and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, engaged in his latest act of disgraceful dog-whistle racism and nailed his colours firmly to the mast of far-right intolerance.  

One thing is for certain, years of creeping anti-immigrant rhetoric and bigoted narratives have finally taken their toll and, as a result, a newly empowered fascist movement is on the rise. 

Of course, we all know racism is by no means anything new and these brands of Islamophobic sentiments that have recently reached stratospheric levels have been steadily building ever since they were drilled into the public consciousness in the early 21st century as part of the US-led “war on terror.” 

I can often think back to when I was in school, and coming from a mixed-race background, where I was told in numerous instances that I had a “Paki name” and Asian classmates were labelled “terrorists.”

These narratives were, and continue to be, set by the political Establishment and freely supported by the mainstream media without opposition to justify their imperialist globalisation agenda. 

All these recent events bear chilling similarities to Enoch Powell’s infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech and the societal conditions that followed.  

While reports of racially motivated attacks have sharply risen, with many attackers reportedly citing Johnson and his “letterbox” comments as inspiration for these, journalists were only too happy to froth gratuitously and absolve the Etonian showman of any responsibility when he emerged from his front door with his carefully crafted cup of tea stunt.  

In this one act, the mainstream media, rather than hold the hard right to account, placated the rising forces of fascism. 

In the May local elections in Derby, the leader of the Labour Group lost his seat to Ukip, which nationally has now aligned itself to the fascist movement, with its leader Gerard Batten sharing platforms with the EDL as part of the populist “Free Tommy” rallies.  

Ukip ran an openly racist campaign and its group leader will often stand shamelessly in the council chamber and launch into bigoted anti-immigrant tirades.  

Had the Labour group leader at that time adopted a stronger anti-austerity message, then it remains to be seen whether those who live in his former ward, which is one of the poorest in Derby, would have continued to turn to the hard right for answers.

The current Labour leadership are veterans of the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement, with Jeremy Corbyn a key organiser in the fight against the National Front when he was a councillor in Haringey in the late 1970s.  

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has now called for the establishment of a nationwide anti-fascist movement, and in a statement, he commented that “it’s time for an Anti-Nazi League-type cultural and political campaign to resist.”

McDonnell is right and it is now time for the mass social movement that the Labour Party has now become, as a result of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, to boldly challenge and combat the tide of rising racism in Britain.  

This needs a multipronged approach, with community organising very much at its heart.  

I recently bumped into an old friend who is now teaching economics at a college in a deprived post-industrial community in Amber Valley, an area that historically has had its fair share of problems with the far right.

He told me of the young men, many of whom will not go to university for fear of being burdened with a lifetime of debt, who are facing an uncertain future as crippling austerity has torn apart industry and the wider community. They are turning to the fascist movement not only to channel their mounting frustrations but to seek an all-too-easy answer to the injustices and inequality that plagues them.  

The Labour Party under the direction of Jeremy Corbyn has recently launched its community organising initiative, which gives the progressive Labour-left, working alongside partner organisations like Hope not Hate and trade unions, a golden opportunity to enter deep into these communities.

Not just to listen to the concerns of the disenfranchised but to actually empower them in a positive manner to collectively tackle the conditions such as poor housing and the wholesale destruction of the welfare state that have created the breeding ground for fascist entryism.

This, of course, is very much a long-term strategy and organised action needs to be taken in the short term to challenge the immediate dangers that are brewing.  

Noble as the pursuits of the black bloc and organisations such as Stand Up to Racism and Antifa are in placing themselves on the front line against far-right violence and thuggery, the left lost the battle for the online narrative leading up to the most recent Free Tommy Demo, leaving them impotent at the actual event.  

Taking into consideration that the turnout for the Stop Trump Rally the day before had been exceptional, fascists outnumbered counter-demonstrators from the left by at least three to one, with an escalation to violence inevitable.  

A more co-ordinated immediate approach is desperately needed, with the Corbyn movement at front and centre, flooding social media and online platforms which currently the alt-right have a monopoly on to directly combat their narratives. 

Politically, the labour movement needs to firmly take a stand and hold bigotry in politics to account.  

But it must also drop any notion of a second referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union too.  

Historically, fascism needs a crisis in capital and the conditions that are a result of this to thrive and, with the Tories’ ideologically driven austerity, this has been handed to the extreme right on a plate for the best part of the last decade.  

For the Establishment to simply turn around and reject the democratic wish of the electorate, without even attempting to tackle the conditions that led to Brexit, would allow right-wing populists to carve a place in the political narrative from which we would not be able to return, allowing them to stake their claim as the true voice of the people.  

British politics is undoubtedly at a fork in the road, with two very different paths ahead.  

The age of populism is now upon us and for the progressive left to triumph over the xenophobic and ultra-reactionary narratives that are being peddled by the Tory government and much of the media, grassroots action and organising will be vital.  

But to truly defeat the rise of the extreme right, we must ensure that, when Labour next take power, rather than buy into the xenophobic rhetoric and print racist mugs, we must reverse the devastating cuts and crippling austerity that have torn communities apart and implement a truly radical and transformational agenda.  

Simply put, to truly destroy fascism, the answer must be socialism.

 

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