The mutating forms of post-fascism, and immigration politics
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.