Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The mutating forms of post-fascism, and immigration politics

Anti-fascism: defeating the EDL and the BNP
Via AWL, I read about the formation of a new network of anti-fascists, to provide an alternative to the pointless liberal posturing of the mainstream anti-BNP campaigns. The network was called by Notts Stop the BNP and South Yorkshire Stop the BNP. To be honest, I know nothing about either organisation, and even less about who else might be involved apart from the AWL. Anyone who can tell us more in the comments would be appreciated. My fear would be that it has all the signs of something that would attract sterile Trot sects like flies to the proverbial. However, the resolution on the English Defence League (pdf, via here) is pretty good. Here is part of it:
1. The EDL (and its far weaker Scottish and Welsh satellites, the SDL and WDL) are racist populist organisations whose political staple diet is organising racist street provocations.
2. From the EDL's inception there have been organised fascists prominent in its organisation. The EDL's initial organisational base has been from nationalist gangs of football hooligans but it has been successful over the last year in pulling behind it a layer of working class youth. It has energetically attempted to claim that it is not racist and attempted to pull in black (Afro-Caribbean) youth and they have had people from the Black and non-Muslim Asian community speaking at rallies. Some of those in its periphery, particularly on the web, appear to be taken in by this.
3. The EDL however still has only a skeletal organisational structure and few policies other than crude anti-Muslim slogans and implicit anti-immigrant policies. As such at present it cannot be regarded as a fascist organisation. Whilst some in the EDL are members of the BNP, it is not a BNP front. Any unsubstantiated claims that it is a BNP front, only weakens our argument.
4. Like organised fascist organisations the EDL feeds off the disillusionment in working class communities with politics, particularly the Labour Party and the lack of a fight by many trade unions. Even a limited growth in trade union activity and militancy would marginalise the racists of the EDL and their pretence that they to genuinely represent working class dissent. But until and even when a revival in real working class politics happens, there is still a need to stop the racist activities of organisations like the EDL.
5. Whilst the EDL's demonstrations continue, they might provide the resources and personnel for a major growth of fascism in this country either by:
a) continuing to be a recruiting milieu for organised fascists of the BNP and NF; or
b) becoming a significant factor in a future fascist regrouping
6. The EDL contains many who have experience in street fighting and confrontations with the police. Legal bans, which we do not support, and attempts by the police to restrain them are even less likely to be effective than such action taken against the BNP or NF.
7. The EDL also pose an indirect threat, in that their slogans feed into the Islamophobia which has been pushed into the public consciousness by government institutions and the media when attacking the rights of asylum seekers, immigrants or justifying wars in Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran. This normalises the association of the Muslim community with extremism, fundamentalism, cultural dominance and terrorism and without the offer of an alternative perspective provides justification for supporting the BNP.
As communities/individuals already targeted by racism seek to distance themselves from those scapegoated by the EDL ( e.g . Asian speaker at EDL rally) it creates confusion by lending credence to EDL's claim to be non-racist. Such divide and rule tactics undermine attempts to organise against racism and fascism.
This strikes me as very clear-headed analysis, and a massive improvement on Unite Against Fascism's pointless shout-Nazi policy. Further discussion of these issues can be found here, Sacha Ismail's summary of his debate with Weyman Bennett of the Socialist Workers' Party and Unite Against Fascism, on the Islam Channel. The other participants were Labour GLA member Murad Qureshi and Birmingham Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob, and the host recently expelled SWPer John Rees. The debate covers state bans, anti-fascist unity and Islamophobia, and Ismail is basically right on all of those, especially the first and third.

(I think that a similar effort is required to understand complex and contradictory nature of the Tea Party movement in the US, and not simply dismiss it as a form of fascism. A good starting point is this piece by Andrew Epstein, which Contested Terrain considers here.)

Detoxifying the immigration debate
In my view, the two key elements in defeating the EDL, BNP and their ilk are the re-emergence of grassroots politics in working class communities, and the detoxification of the immigration debate. On the latter, a recent intervention by the IPPR, "The limit to limits", is promising. This has been picked up by George Eaton at the Staggers. The IPPR's Sarah Mully has good blog posts on the excellent Left Foot Forward, and on the IPPR blog (where she also takes on the Lib Dems). A related article, from back in November, that is somewhat softer on the Tories but frames the issues well, is by Ayesha Saran at Open Democracy.

In a recent post, Chris Dillow puts forward some other pro-immigration arguments, although this should be balanced against this piece by the IWCA. See also Francis Sedgemore.

On a different immigration topic, Paul Canning at LFF is good on LGB asylum issues: Never mind Latvian gay rights, what about Iraq’s record?


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Post-fascism? Come on, Bob, you of all people should know better than to surrender to this fad of sticking "post" to everything. What is so "post" in these run of the mill fascist yobs?

Apologies for nitpicking of this rather great post.

socialrepublican said...

The prefix post is well put.

Fascism in it's classical forms proudly and openly despised not only democracy but democratic traditions, forms and rhetoric. The BNP's transparent attempts at using the rhetoric of liberty and civil rights to cloak their continued distain are at the very least a break from the past. It's is merely for show, of course, but the fact such a core belief of the ideology, such a prime marker of the movement's identity is now a source of embarrassment dramatically changes the nature of the beast and how we fight it. It was after Le Pen made "peace" with the heritage of 1789 that the FN's grew out of it's niche. Similar with the FPO and the MSI and its successors

The slimemold of the EDL are another break from the classic Fascist case. They have no structurally vital leaders, they have no infrastructure they can be pinned to. Like the lone wolves and the online fascist phenomena, they coalesce in the right conditions and hibernate in fallow periods. The fight against these "evolved fascisms" if you prefer requires new tools and new strategies, new taxonomy and new analysis.

Neil said...

The Independent White Comrades Association piece is shockingly bad - left cover for immigration controls that leave people dying on boats in the Med or locked up detention centres. Hey but don't worry they will be having 'democratically controlled' immigration. As usual they assume that the working class = the established British working class. The tens of thousands of low paid migrant workers who are actually the majority of the working class in some parts of London are dismissed as capitalist dupes undermining wages.

It may be true that in some sectors having a larger pool of labour is reducing wages, but the answer to that is workers solidarity not vicious border controls (what other kind are there). It is also true that many of these workers have struggled to get here at great risk, hardly flown in by capitalists. While the wages of some workers MAY have been undermined, other workers are earning much more here than they were at home and are also supporting families in their home countries. I find it painfully sad that the remnants of an organisation that was at the front line of fighting fascists in the 1980s are now coming out with this crap.

bob said...

SR, thanks for the defence of the prefix. Well put.

Neil, I partly agree. (We had a discussion back in November about this; Ross is from the IWCA: How come nobody is allowed to talk about immigration?)

The idea of "democratic controls" on immigration seem to me as utopian as no borders and as pandering to the anti-immigration fever rather than countering it. British workers should not be prioritised over non-British workers.

I do think the IWCA are right, though, to insist that we listen carefully to people's fears and concerns, and not simply dismiss those holding them as "racist". And I think their analysis of the economics is partly correct, that migration has benefited the UK economy as a whole, but negatively impacted on people here who are most vulnerable, have the lowest skills and pay and the lowest qualifications. This serves, in the classic Marxist account, to produce a "reserve army of labour" who will keep costs down for capitalism, and contributes to the social disintegration of post-industrial "broken" Britain.

The step the IWCA don't then take, as your comment emphasises, is to see that, when combined with "tough" government regimes on irregular migrants, this dynamic makes migrants subject to the most extreme forms of exploitation and vulnerability, and thus any "working class" political project should put solidarity with them at the top of the agenda.

bob said...

Some relative sense from Vince Cable of the Lib Dems:

Anonymous said...

The IWCA are obviously right that immigration policy is governed by the needs of capital, and that capital has always sought to use migration to its advantage to undermine wages. This has always provided fuel to racism - e.g. the British Brothers League in the early 20th century mobilised against Jewish migration partly on the basis of its supposed effect on wages.

Where the IWCA go wrong is to then posit opposition to immigration controls as pro-capitalist, and implicitly therefore to suggest that arguing for state protectionism against migrant workers could be some kind of radical anti-capitalist move.

Thing is immigration controls aren't just about turning on and off taps. They are ultimately a policing function. An organisation that calls itself Working Class can hardly turn a blind eye to the fact that workers are being dragged out of their workplaces, locked up and forced on to planes, their children likewise dragged out of school. Or that other workers are dying in large numbers as they take risks to get round these controls.

It is precisely these measures that place migrant labour in precarious position and undermine wages (e.g. the fight by cleaners for better wages is being underminded by companies turning over strikers to the Borders Angency). The way to stop this is to fight for migrant workers to have the same rights and conditions as everybody else - this would benefit non-migrant workers too as the bosses wouldn't be able to play one off against the other.

The underlying issue is that the IWCA and some of the ex-Class War types don't actually seem to see migrant workers as part of the working class. The 'ideal type' that IWCA seem to want to address is white manual workers who live on Council Estates - not to deny that they are large part of the working class, but actually their interests are not the only working class interests.

I do think that the IWCA is playing a dangerous game and that there is an emerging 'red brown' overlap based around:

- calls for protectionism, including immigration controls;
- populism ('the ordinary people' versus 'intellectuals')
- British nationalism (British Jobs for British Workers).

Basically that was the British Brothers League programme, which I see the EDL as a successor too (i.e. street based and sometimes violent populist working class nationalism rather than fascism as such).

No I am not saying that the IWCA is heading towards an accommodation with strasserites, but there are signs that some people with similar ideas to them are, for instance, beginning to justify the EDL as a working class movement. N.