Fascism and the far right

There are few things more important to the working-class movement than responding to the threat of fascism. Cry ‘fascist’ at every right-wing politician and there’s a danger of missing the real thing. Ignore the risk and then the potential horrors of Nazi Germany await. Neil Davidson (Scottish Left Review Jul/Aug 2019) provided a useful reminder: don’t overemphasise the threat of fascism while underplaying the menace of right-wing populism. He was correct to make a distinction between right-wing populist, Nigel Farage, and fascist, Tommy Robinson. However, it is also important to recognise what they have in common.

Since the financial crash of 2008/2009, politicians from the liberal-centre to the far right have targeted immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers are those responsible for the need to carry through austerity. So, crude racism via ‘divide and rule’ has been the cover through which policies have been pushed forward to transfer wealth from the poorest with the aim of restoring profitability.

This has been used by both the far right and fascist organisations to win support. When Trump tells congresswomen of colour in the US ‘to go back to their own country’, he emboldens the alt-right. When Johnston calls black people ‘picaninnies’ and describes Muslim women as ‘looking like letterboxes’, he provides an excuse for far-right thugs to target Muslims, immigrants or asylum seekers. His election as Tory leader and, thus, Prime Minister, will boost Islamaphobes and racists.

Neil is also right to point out that one of the ‘defining characteristics of fascism is to seek the destruction of working-class organisations’ and ‘The non-fascist hard right’ are ‘primarily electoral’. However, that is not the end of the matter. Recently, in International Socialism, David Albright described the current approach of fascist organisations as ‘Hitler’s strategy reversed’. He points out: ‘Today fascists are already strong in Parliament. Some are even part of Governments as in Austria, but they have issues building on the streets’. Does this make them any less dangerous?

In Austria, the fascist FPO formed a government with the right-wing, Austrian People’s Party, and fascist parties have won significant votes in Germany (AFD 12.6% 2017), Hungary (Jobbik 19.06% 2017), Sweden (Swedish Democrats 17.53% 2018) and in France in 2017, the National Rally/Front won 34% of votes in the presidential run-off. There are a number of reasons for the failure of fascists forces to dominate the streets, not least of which they have to confront opposition from anti-racists and anti-fascists. However, while modern fascist organisations try to mask their actual intentions, there is plenty of evidence – in their speeches and literature – this is superficial, their glorification of past Nazi practices and their intention to move to a more ‘revolutionary phase’.

Nor should we be complacent about the present threat. We have seen anti-immigrant rioting by far-right forces in Chemnitz last August, 51 killed in a terrorist attack on a Christchurch mosque and the massacre of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. In Britain, the Football Lads Alliance and Democratic Football Alliance have mobilised thousands on the basis of anti-Muslim bigotry.

Alongside Syriza’s downfall, there was some good news. Golden Dawn lost all its 21 MPs, largely as a result of the anti-fascist organisation, KEEFA, working with the anti-racists and anti-fascists across Greece. Tommy Robinson stood in the European elections, believing it was possible to win a seat. A campaign organised by Stand Up to Racism in alliance with unions and anti-racist groups in the north-west England limited Robinson’s vote to just 2%. Nevertheless, we cannot be complacent – the threat of the far right and fascism remains serious.

Bob Fotheringham is a member of the Socialist Workers Party in Scotland