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A HUGE show of solidarity with London socialist booksellers Bookmarks tomorrow will show the left is serious about mobilising to defy and defeat the far right.
Last week’s attack on the shop had its childish aspects, but like the assault on RMT members including their senior assistant general secretary Steve Hedley last month, it reminds us that the fascist right is growing in confidence.
Now as always, violence is intrinsic to fascism.
The integral role of street violence is one of the factors that distinguishes fascism from other varieties of nationalist politics.
It is deadly serious — the thugs who wrecked displays and tore up magazines at Bookmarks, calling the staff “traitors” and “chanting about Muslims and paedophilia,” are supping the same toxic brew that led Darren Osborne to launch his murderous terrorist attack on Finsbury Park mosque last year.
Like many of the “Free Tommy Robinson” brigade, Osborne (a subscriber to the former English Defence League founder’s group email list) combined hatred of Muslims with hatred of the left — he admitted that he had originally hired the van with which he murdered 51-year-old Makram Ali in order to kill Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Fascists cannot be ignored or dismissed. As Die Linke MP Ulla Jelpke noted when Germany’s top court refused to ban the nazi National Democratic Party in January, fascists do not have to win public office in order to do harm — they incite and carry out racist attacks as a matter of course.
That’s why we need to mobilise and confront fascism, and why the socialist and communist left has traditionally adopted a No Platform policy against fascists rather than agreeing to debate them — an approach which remains valid in shutting down the far right’s incitement to violence even if it has been discredited on parts of the left by inappropriate use against other targets.
Bookmarks has shown it will not be intimidated: the planned celebration of tolerance and learning is a much-needed show of unity in the face of adversity.
The far right in Britain is weaker than in most of Europe — it does not hold government ministries as in Italy or Austria, nor attract millions of votes as in France or Germany.
But if we want things to stay that way we have our work cut out.
Under Corbyn, Labour has become a truly mass party — that new membership needs to be mobilised and engaged in the anti-fascist struggle, as John McDonnell noted with his call for a new Anti-Nazi League this week.
The trade unions too have a crucial role, as identified by the RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash and others. In Monday’s Morning Star Frederik Blauwhof will consider the response of Germany’s trade union movement to the rise of the far right. Organising workers’ unity around issues that affect us all combats the racism and division peddled by fascists.
It is equally crucial to ensure the left holds together behind Corbyn and behind Labour’s radical transformative programme. Poverty and insecurity breed intolerance and hate. Liberalism has no answers to the catastrophic inequalities blighting Britain and Europe and “centrist” politicians here and elsewhere have fed the fascist monster by adopting its language and appeasing its prejudices.
Those same “centrists” are currently placing enormous pressure on Corbyn to give ground to critics pushing a definition of anti-semitism which could be used to stifle criticism of the Israeli state.
Some on the left claim unity could be restored by buckling on the issue: this is to ignore the motives of Corbyn’s critics, who will not let up until Labour’s socialist “blip,” to use Margaret Hodge’s phrase, is history.
Handing them a victory would weaken the left, encourage further purges of Corbyn supporters and potentially paralyse the party when it needs to regain the offensive.
Given the real threats demonstrated by attacks like that on Bookmarks, that would be gravely irresponsible.
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