The menace of anti-fascism

A communist critique of anti-fascism, arguing that rather than small fascist groups, the real enemies of the working class are usually the mainstream "democratic" parties.

Submitted by Steven. on June 12, 2011


The low level of workplace struggle in Britain over the last few years left the anti-poll tax movement as one of the few fishing grounds open to left wing groups. With the partial success of that movement and consequent decline in organised opposition to the poll tax, left groups have been cast adrift looking for new pools from which to recruit. It has proved a difficult search.

Anti-apartheid doesn't provide good campaign material since the ANC started playing footsie with the National Party. Other foreign adventures were considered a bit risky since 'liberation' movements generally began falling over themselves to court western politicians and bankers. A few esoteric groups have chanced their arm at reviving interest in support for Fidel Castro's Cuban dictatorship, but it isn't much of a crowd puller these days.

The general election campaign provided a brief respite from the left's desperate search, but now that is out of the way, the problem has returned.

In the absence of any new and exciting campaign material the left have fallen back on to some of their old tried and trusted formulae for conning workers into supporting them.


The left played a significant part in the 30s and 40s in rallying support for "democratic" CAPITALISM against the forces of fascist CAPITALISM in Europe. 'Communist' parties and even Trotskyists gained themselves considerable credibility by attaching themselves to the coat-tails of various western governments whom they had previously dismissed as vile enemies of the working class. Even anarchists on the fringe of left politics came out of the cold and fell into line by supporting Republican capitalism in Spain against Franco's fascists.


So today, thinks the left, if we shout loud enough about the new fascist menace in Europe and hark back to the horrors of World War Two, perhaps we can create a new 'anti-fascist' movement and round up all those footloose labourites and liberals reeling from another Tory election victory.

So that's exactly what they have done. Time, energy and money have been diverted into various organisations and activities previously quite low on their list of priorities. Unfortunately for them, not only is it difficult persuading most workers that there really is a fascist menace, but competition for the footloose is so intense amongst these lefties that each has decided to set up their very own 'anti-fascist' or 'anti-racist' front. Incidentally this sectarian promotion of different groups, all supposedly fighting the same enemy, is in flat contradiction to the Trotskyists' oft repeated, if false theory, that fascism in the thirties made such headway only through the failure of all the left groups to create a genuine 'united front'.


To our knowledge there are at least five ostensibly national anti-fascist/anti-racist fronts in Britain alongside dozens of other local alliances. Of the national groups some are straightforward extensions of one particular group. Militant's Youth Against Racism and the SWP's Anti-Nazi League are examples of these. There's the moderate Anti-Racist Alliance made up of Labourites and their hangers on. Smaller political groups like Red Action and the anarchist DAM have clubbed together in the more radical sounding Anti-Fascist Action. The participants in AFA have made a virtue out of necessity, by proclaiming non-sectarian principles against the 'opportunism' of the likes of Militant and the SWP.


Well, you might say, this is just sour grapes on the part of an even smaller group like Subversion, who couldn't extend themselves to setting up their very own anti-fascist front in competition with the others or haven't the stomach for in-fighting in AFA. But Subversion is not in the business of trying to manufacture opposition in the absence of genuine working class struggle. Neither are we interested in recruiting on the basis of single issue politics.


Then again you might think we're being a bit unfair on the lefties' motives or political reasoning. After all, even if it is accepted that the left's claims are a bit overblown, surely it's still true that for some workers even a tiny group of self-proclaimed fascists or their supporters can make life a misery? And isn't it true that the fascists on the continent are much stronger than here - shouldn't we be working together to stop that happening here?


Well, on the first point we agree that, for instance, if some bunch of fascist thugs is harassing black workers then they deserve a good beating and we should support those workers organising themselves to sort the fascists out, in whatever way we can. Such groups of self-organised workers should, wherever necessary, link up over as wide a geographical area as practicable. Of course in any physical confrontation with fascists in this type of situation we don't stop to ask if the individual next to us is a member of the SWP or Red Action, but this shouldn't stop us from questioning the politics of such groups.


On the second point, it is true that self-proclaimed fascist groups are stronger in some other European countries and that alongside these groups are much larger and more influential extreme right-wing organisations like the National Front in France which the working class needs to oppose.

Here we come to the 'heart of the matter', politically speaking. It is essential that we understand the emotive and non-historical use which the left makes of the term fascist. Fascism (or Nazism, and there were some important differences between the Italian and German variants of what is commonly described as Fascism in popular usage) was a very particular combination of nationalism, racism and state corporatism which the ruling class supported in Germany and Italy in a specific historical situation.

Other combinations of the same elements were found to be more useful elsewhere - Stalinism in Russia and Eastern Europe for instance. Yet Stalinism was aligned with the so-called forces of 'democracy' against fascism! Furthermore, we would argue that it was 'democracy' and the democratic parties of capitalism in Germany who effectively paved the way for the rise of the Nazis to power, in particular through their political and physical attacks on the working class rebellion in central Europe between 1917 and 1920.


Capitalism as a system is neither naturally 'democratic' nor 'totalitarian' in its political forms. Whatever the political form, it is however, always a dictatorship of the capitalist class over the working class. The nation states of capitalism will at different times pass through a whole range of right wing 'democracies' and 'dictatorships' and left-wing 'democracies' and 'dictatorships'. The particular political form will depend on the perceived needs of the national ruling class to deal with their competitors abroad and their enemy at home - the working class. It is also at least arguable, that political 'democracies' have perpetuated as much violence against the world's workers - through wars, starvation, enforced poverty, ecological disasters, industrial 'accidents', civil repression, etc - as have political 'dictatorships'.

Let us not forget such current or recent examples as the Gulf War, Serbia's 'ethnic cleansing', famine in Africa, Shoot To Kill and Bloody Sunday in Ireland, the Chernobyl and Bhopal disasters, to name just a few.


So returning to Britain today, we can see that there is a huge difference between sorting out a bunch of local fascist thugs and building up a whole campaign focussed on some supposed national or international fascist threat.

The real enemy of all workers, black or white, at the present time are the everyday institutions of capitalism and the people who run them - the courts, police, jails, immigration office; the established political parties of capitalism, Labour, Tory, Liberal, SNP etc; the media and churches; AND right in the heart of the working class, the unions and the bureaucracy which runs them.


It's the state which enforces a rigorous policy of racism throughout society, especially in times of recession. (It's the Tories with the tacit support of Labour who have introduced the racist Asylum Bill not the fascists).

It's the state through its police and army which tries to break our strikes and occupations.

It's the established political parties which seek (ably assisted by the left) to channel our discontent into harmless parliamentary pursuits and dependence on leaders. It's the media which reinforces racist and anti-working class values. It's the churches that divide workers and preach subservience to the system "on earth as in heaven". It's the unions who divide workers and divert our energies.


Yet the left in their "Broad" fronts and alliances say 'fear the fascist menace - vote Labour'! Instead of fighting the sham of capitalist democracy they either openly or covertly encourage participation in the system 'in order to keep the right wing and the fascists out' or just to minimise the fascist vote. This despite the fact that it is often workers' confused rejection of capitalist democracy which tempts them to support the fascists.

The Anti-Racist Alliance seems to be made up of assorted left wing Labour Party types and various Black 'community leaders', all loyally working within the system, promoting reforms and offering advice to those in power. The last Manchester meeting we attended had as its honoured guest a black community policeman from the USA, who was particularly strong on the benefits of working within the system.

Even the AFA, which many consider the best of a bad bunch for its members' willingness to 'get stuck in' still trawls the polluted waters of the trade union bureaucracy for support and produces election leaflets with propaganda aimed only against tiny local fascist groups.


That nasty fascist and extreme right wing groups are able to make any headway amongst workers today is a reflection of the depth of the economic crisis, the visibly worn out policies of the established parties of capitalism (including the so-called 'socialist' parties) to deal with it, and the disunity and demoralisation of the working class following the defeat of a wave of strikes and other struggles in the seventies and eighties.


The re-emergence of working class struggle and the increased unity and self-confidence across racial and other barriers which comes with it, cannot be artificially manufactured by small political groups through the medium of campaign style politics.

Struggle will re-emerge. It always does. There are already at least some small signs of this which the media prefers to hide news of beneath a barrage of false debate over capitalist issues and the latest demoralising news of massacres in Yugoslavia etc. To have any chance of success, the struggle as it re-emerges needs to know its enemies and not be diverted into capitalist battles between left and right, democratic or dictatorial, black or white etc. We will not assist this process by promoting cross class alliances under the banner of anti-fascism.