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Editorial Mobilising against ‘Tommy Robinson’ is starting to bite

THE failure of far-right crook “Tommy Robinson” to get a visa to address Islamophobes in the US shows the mobilisation against his hate-fuelled politics is starting to bite.

So soon after public pressure induced PayPal to stop processing payments on his behalf, it demonstrates that we can have an impact on — to use his real name — Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s ability to fundraise.

He himself claims a 40 per cent decline in subscriptions to his “cause” and ascribes it to the work of anti-racist campaign groups such as Hope Not Hate, Unite Against Fascism, Stand up to Racism and others, though it could also uncharitably be ascribed to his fans finally clocking that donations to him don’t always do what they say on the tin. As Louise Raw has pointed out in these pages, the “Free Tommy” campaign raised an estimated £2 million in public subscriptions for his legal defence only for him to sack his legal team and represent himself.

We have no way of knowing whether his US trip would have netted him another £1m, the figure widely cited in the media. And the US embassy is not going to reveal whether public pressure influenced Yaxley-Lennon’s failure to get a visa — as a convicted criminal already barred from the country for having tried to enter it on somebody else’s passport in 2012, he could plausibly have been denied entry anyway.

What we do know is that a US tour would have added to the legitimacy this racist rabble-rouser has gained through decisions like that of the City of London Police to allow him a rally, with a stage and sound system outside his own court hearing for contempt, or that of Ukip peer Lord Pearson of Rannoch to invite him for a celebratory lunch in the House of Lords after he once again avoided doing time.

And Yaxley-Lennon has friends in the US as well as among Britain’s aristocracy — President Donald Trump’s son has tweeted in his support, while the US ambassador for international religious freedom reportedly raised his brief imprisonment with Britain’s ambassador in Washington earlier this year, though the US denies having put pressure on our government to release him.

Above all, he remains a favourite with far-right strategist Steve Bannon, whose so-called Movement is aimed at reinvigorating — and ensuring a steady flow of income for — right-wing extremism across the Western world.

The game plan is to exploit resentment of real problems — a fixation by British and European elites on austerity, privatisation and cuts, an insistence by authorities in London and Brussels on pursuing “market solutions” when markets have clearly failed the public — to fuel an upsurge of nationalism, bigotry and intolerance. 

It was clear enough at French fascist leader Marine Le Pen’s press conference with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in Rome last month, where the inveterate racists concentrated their fire on bankers, the unelected EU Commission’s opposition to public spending and Jean-Claude Juncker.

Yaxley-Lennon’s many friends in high places belie his claim to represent any kind of “anti-Establishment” force. But he is likely to claim that campaigns to cut off his funding and stop him visiting the US are elitist attempts to silence him.

The answer to that must be the biggest possible turnout for the TUC-backed unity demonstration against fascism and racism this Saturday. The far right must be out-mobilised on the streets as well as online.

And Labour and the unions must continue to ramp up the escalating struggle for justice in the workplace and the community — secure jobs, higher pay and properly funded public services. 

The socialist left, not the far right, is the real alternative to the corporate criminals who are impoverishing working people and ruining our planet. And the socialist left, because it can address these crises where the status quo cannot, is also the only force that can tackle the cancer of fascism at the root.

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