POLICE warnings that the fastest-growing terrorist threat in Britain comes from the far right shows that the left and the labour movement need to up our game on anti-fascist organising.
Britain does not currently face the menace of a major far-right electoral force in our politics.
Ukip’s lurch towards fascist street thuggery under Gerard Batten resulted in a miserable performance at this year’s European elections and the loss of all its MEPs — a setback standing in contrast to most of Europe, with fascists playing a growing political role in countries including France, Germany, Ukraine and Hungary, and far-right parties holding office in Hungary, Austria and Poland and until recently in Italy — where Matteo Salvini’s departure from government has not noticeably shifted Rome’s cruel and irresponsible hostility to providing a safe haven for desperate refugees.
But that brutish attitude to people fleeing famine and war — catastrophes in which Britain’s government and its allies are more often than not implicated — has been on display here in Britain First’s revolting vigilante beach patrols.
The name the fascist outfit has given to these stunts — Operation White Cliffs — is no mere nod to Dover’s famous chalk but a racist signal indicating that their true purpose is more to intimidate black and ethnic minority people here than to stop refugees, the number of whom taken in Britain remains tiny by European standards, and hardly any of whom arrive by boat.
And these thugs, like Met Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu’s revelation that “nearly a third of plots foiled by police relate to right-wing ideology,” show that fascists and white supremacists do not need electoral success to be dangerous.
As Germany’s Die Linke MP Ulla Jelpke pointed out when the country’s constitutional court refused to ban the neonazi NPD on the grounds that it was “too insignificant” to pose a threat to the political system, a nazi who might not be a risk to state power can still pose a lethal risk to individuals.
Britain, where Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a nazi in 2016, should remember that.
Racism is the motive for around three-quarters of all hate crimes committed in Britain.
Many point to a rise in race-hate crimes following 2016’s referendum on EU membership, though the rise actually began earlier under David Cameron’s government.
Politicians bear a heavy responsibility for normalising racism.
Cameron’s fearmongering over a “swarm” of migrants at Calais, his government’s disgraceful Islamophobic campaign against Sadiq Khan’s successful bid for London’s mayoralty and Theresa May’s construction of the “hostile environment” that saw black British citizens illegally deported and denied essential medical treatment all paved the way for our current Prime Minister, who refuses to apologise for a long record of race-baiting language aimed at black people and Muslims.
Every time racism is given this “respectable” face it emboldens the street fascism of “Tommy Robinson” and his goons.
The best answer to such racism is organising: trade union organisation is the surest foundation for building class consciousness and uniting all working people in a struggle for recognised common interests.
It also provides the strongest protection against employers’ bid to undercut terms and conditions by employing cheaper imported labour, a source of anxiety about immigration that can feed into racist and xenophobic attitudes — and one Labour is committed to tackle by banning such practices and restoring sectoral collective bargaining.
Building the labour movement and electing Jeremy Corbyn are tasks for all anti-racists — but they do not absolve us of the immediate need to face down and see off fascists wherever they show themselves.
As for Operation White Cliffs, it was Churchill who said of nazis “we shall fight them on the beaches.”
These intimidation tactics cannot be allowed to succeed, and anti-racists can work with coastal communities to show that fascists are no more welcome at the seaside than they are in the city.
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