On 30 January violent fascists from across the UK will descend on Dover for the fourth far-right demonstration the port town will have seen in two years. In September around 200 fascists rampaged through the town, attacking antifascists and demanding that Britain’s borders be closed to refugees.
Anti-Fascist Network has organised a mass counter-demo on the day, and is calling on people everywhere to stand firm in solidarity with refugees, and to ensure that the fascists do not pass. Here are four reasons why you should attend:
1. Because they are fascists.
The word fascism is often used as a normative appeal against racism, authoritarianism, and inequality. Tempting as this use is, it’s incorrect. While it can provide arguments against the sheer moral depravity of right-wing politics with some extra bite, it also dilutes the word’s descriptive power, and allows it to be attached to almost any political enemy. Are Muslims ‘Islamofascists’ because of a few words written in the Koran? Are antifascists actually fascists themselves because of their intolerance to racism? Is the far-right simply exercising its right to free speech?
This muddying of the waters obscures the true constitutive aspects of fascism. While there is some debate in academic circles about its exact nature, the constituents of the contemporary British far-right slot neatly into most definitions: whether we focus on these groups’ national rebirth myths about reclaiming the UK from an Islamic pantomime villain, their development from single-issue racism to a broader ultra-nationalist and anti-leftist caucus, their collective use of the classic fascist dual strategy of a quasi-respectable parliamentary wing backed up by a vicious street army, or the objective material conditions which gave rise to them.
Besides, the people attacking Muslims today are often the very same ones who were ranting about Jews decades ago. Notice a pattern?
2. Because rape is not a race issue.
Content warning: sexual violence.
2016 had barely begun before the far-right commenced its gleeful exploitation of the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne. Predictably, even ostensibly left-wing media outlets chose to add their weight to the fascists’ narrative by highlighting the attackers’ ‘Arab or North African’ appearance, providing fertile ground for age-old racist stereotypes to flourish.
It’s important not the deny the experiences of the women involved: migrant men can, and do, commit sexual violence. But so do others: an estimated 200 sexual assaults happen every year at Oktoberfest, to little media fanfare. Yet there have been no attempts to assign collective blame to German men, or to deport beer enthusiasts.
A November 2015 analysis from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office – hardly a haven of woolly political correctness – shows that on balance refugees commit slightly less crime than native Germans, and that sexual offences make up less than 1% of that figure.
This media racism not only harms refugees, but also shifts the focus away from the real causes of sexual violence. A 2014 report from the European Agency for Fundamental Rights shows that the vast majority of sexual assaults against European women are perpetrated by men who are already known to them.
These attacks occur primarily within social structures: workplaces, care homes, schools, families, and so on. Rape is not some savage aberration committed by an external Other, but a structural element of capitalism; committed by men of all cultures. Racism has no place in the fight for women’s liberation.
3. Because fascism harms everyone.
The destructiveness of fascism – and racism more generally – is not limited to its principal enemies. Far from affording privileges to large swathes of society as some suggest, the oppression of marginalised groups hurts the entire working class. This is true in a social sense – as in the racist externalisation of misogyny mentioned above – as well as an economic one.
In Black Reconstruction in America, W.E.B. Du Bois first outlined the way that racism was used to pay ‘public and psychological’ wages to white workers; undermining solidarity with their black peers so that ‘the wages of both classes could be kept low’. Recent analyses have reaffirmed this principle, as has the European labour market, where the exploitation of migrant workers hurts pay and conditions for everyone.
Beyond support for these toxic ideas, fascists also have a long history of physically attacking picket lines and workers’ organisations. Solidarity against fascism is not an altruistic option; it’s a rational necessity.
4. Because antifascism works.
Over 50% of police officers voted for the openly neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in the 2012 Greek elections. Special Branch routinely cooperated with the Spanish authorities in operations against antifascists in Francoist Spain. In the UK, the police regularly attack counter-demonstrators and clear a path for fascists to march, all while their political masters enact senseless and racist policies.
Political analysis of these facts aside, one thing is clear: we cannot rely on the state to fight fascism. From the 1936 Battle of Cable Street – where Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts were routed by a coalition of Jews and antifascists – to the victories against the National Front in the 80s, and the annihilation of the British National Party and English Defence League as political forces in modern times; physical antifascism has proven its necessity and effectiveness.
The most important thing in Dover is numbers. We don’t need a squad of burly blokes to have a fist fight, but a coalition of people of all races, genders, sexualities, and abilities to stand united against our common enemy, to show refugees that they are welcome, and to show the fascists that we are not afraid.
See you on the 30th.
Photo: Lewisham Dreamer/Flickr
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