Tag Archives: anti-fascists

A sense of belonging

In the coming year, I really want someone to stand up – and I really hope it will be Ed Miliband – to say something along the lines of: I’m a migrant, you’re a migrant, some of my best friends are migrants. Some came as children, some fleeing, others as students. They have brought things to us and have adapted to the ways in which we do things, strange though we have sometimes found each other.

Some of them came further back in the past, to fight alongside us when things were dark. They fought against an ideology that said that some people were made superior by blood and biology and that put millions to death to preserve this nonsensical pseudo-scientific theory of racial purity.

We, the descendents of those that fought together against it, refute that ideology completely. We know that although we are an island, we have never been insular. Rather, our influence has always extended beyond our shores. Our language has travelled around the globe and, despite the fact that our influence has not always been benign, our hope is that our words can become something of a unifier.

What would Britain be without immigration? Perhaps our roads would be muddier and wonkier, our castles made of wood, not stone, and large swathes of it might be forest, not farmland. More recent arrivals have brought food, music and literature: the joys of life. Migrants, their children and grandchildren, have nursed us through sickness, taught our children and built our houses. They serve as magistrates, stand as MPs, read the nightly news. They are as bound into the fabric of our country as a plant from the Americas is to our soil and our diets.

Anybody with any sense can see that strength comes from this, not some outdated, horrendous notion of ‘purity’ or ‘separateness’, but a blending and mixing of backgrounds, experiences and histories that creates a patchwork, linking us to Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. We are joined via great-grandparents who perhaps had to leave or perhaps chose to, and decided to come – perhaps a little reluctantly – to the industrial powerhouse that we were, leaving behind more pleasing scenes that would never entirely leave their hearts.

Perhaps those migrants came because they believed us when we spoke of our love of fair play and justice, of ‘live and let live’. They might have come because we never surrendered, never gave in to the jack-boots, because we fought on the beaches. That makes it even more ridiculous to me that today, the political descendents of those who did take money from fascist dictators, who donned their black shirts and silver flashes, who shouted ‘Death to Jews’ or trumpeted ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’, now seek to convince us that they hold the key to what Britishness is and that they are the keepers of the flame. It is rubbish.

Not our Briton of the Year

Not our Briton of the Year

It doesn’t matter if you drive a white van or a vintage Jag, if you believe that there is a ‘THEY’, who can be ‘SENT BACK’ to some imaginary ‘OVER THERE’ and all problems will be magicked away with them, you are being sold a pup. The problems that afflict our society don’t stem from Europe or the Middle East, or anywhere else. They don’t come from people of a different colour, or religion, speaking a different language to you. They have been caused by mostly old, mostly white, mostly men – certainly greedy – taking more than they are entitled to and leaving the rest of us to fight over the scraps. Migrants didn’t crash the banks, vote to sell off the NHS to healthcare companies they own shares in or spend your money on duck homes or moat cleaning.

We can continue down this road to the end, refuse every visa to every scientist researching medical cures, every student attracted to our universities, break apart more families, close the doors and say no more. Our country would be no richer and certainly far poorer. Or we can draw a line, say no more ground will be given to the racists and nationalists. Of course we need to set criteria, but they will be fairly applied. Of course we need to verify information, but you will be treated with dignity while we do. If you are looking for a base for study, for innovation, for entrepreneurship, to love who you want to, to raise a family in peace and freedom, as so many have done before you, join us. Welcome. We come from many places, but we all belong here.


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On repeat

Perhaps this should come as little surprise.  A new study has discovered that the popularity of far-right groups is on the rise across Europe, even in the parts previously considered too enlightened to go in for that sort of thing, such as Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

Of particular concern is that the responses were gathered in July and August, so before Europe’s financial position performed an even more graceless nose-dive.  As the situation worsens, these parties are likely to increase in attractiveness and should – according to the study – experience little difficulty in translating their online support into ballots.

In evaluating possible responses to this news, perhaps we are in a way lucky.  We have a wealth of historical information and experience to call on and can have no doubts over the results of appeasing fascists.  Jamie Bartlett of the Demos think-tank who carried out the study, is right to say:

Politicians across the continent need to sit up, listen and respond.

But the response of non-politicians will be of greater importance.  Sitting back and letting fascism rise unchecked while we assume someone else will take care of it ends in a place no-one should be keen to revisit.  So the question must be, what can be done?

Knowing the enemy is essential.  While a lot about them remains the same as the 1930s, today’s fascists have shifted their attention from International Jewry to Islam, as well as tweaking their message for the new era.  Expert Matthew Goodwin from Nottingham University, quoted in The Guardian’s story, notes that:

What some parties are trying to do is frame opposition to immigration in a way that is acceptable to large numbers of people. Voters now are turned off by crude, blatant racism – we know that from a series of surveys and polls.

[They are] saying to voters: it’s not racist to oppose these groups if you’re doing it from the point of view of defending your domestic traditions.

Yet underneath this seemingly ‘acceptable’ message lies a well-established truth.  Fascism has never been solely a racist agenda.  For fascists, racism, xenophobia and nationalism are tools, they are not of themselves the final aim.  In an essential essay on the ‘Property is Theft’ website, Phil Dickens quotes militant anti-fascists Antifa:

The reason fascist groups tend to attack ethnic minorities and immigrants in this way are because they want to divide the working class. By sowing the seeds of division, fragmentation and suspicion in working class communities they undermine notions of solidarity and cooperation thus strengthening the status quo and perpetuating existing inequalities in society.

And so it naturally follows that the English Defence League in Liverpool have recently made:

…an open declaration of war against organised workers willing to stand up for their interests

by attacking workers protesting against job cuts.  When fascists lay claim to addressing the concerns of a working class they accuse other political parties of abandoning, this real agenda must always be thrown back at them.  They pay lip-service to worries over issues like housing, welfare and jobs, but their economic and social policies show that they remain a party of the bosses, not the workers.

It is down to all of us who love freedom and hate bigotry to tackle fascism in all its forms.  Whether it is that friend you haven’t seen for years posting a Facebook status about ‘them’ stealing ‘our’ jobs, or the EDL planning a march through your town, this is the time to stand up for what you know to be right.  Their propaganda must be countered and their shows of strength combatted, until they get the message:

They shall not pass.

Picture borrowed from here.

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Road to nowhere

For all of those readers who aren’t students of the 1930s – and why wouldn’t you be, given that we seem to be hell-bent on recreating it? – all I can say is, well.

Be warned, the last time foreign creditors tried to circumvent the democratic institutions of a sovereign nation in order to impose ever-increasing deprivation on its working and middle-class population, via a series of coalition governments lacking clear mandates to do so, it did not end well.

And that’s putting it mildly.

Picture borrowed from here, also well worth a read.


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‘No pasaran’: Cable Street 1936-2011

Anniversaries always offer good opportunities for the reinterpretation of past events according to modern sensibilities.  With each passing year the memories get polished, the myths build and the truth becomes that little less easy to establish.  75 years have gone by since a diverse population of East Enders – among them dockers, Jews, trade unionists and assorted left-wing groups – gathered to stop Sir Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts goose-stepping through the neighbourhood and ended up fighting the police sent in to clear a way for the fascists.

That is more than enough time for the stories of what happened in a now fairly anonymous street in E1 to get lost in a fog.  Enough time for historians to look at the events of 4 October 1936 and question if the Battle even made things worse for the local Jewish population:

Far from signalling the demise of fascism in the East End, or bringing respite to its Jewish victims, Cable Street had quite the opposite effect. Over the following months the British Union of Fascists was able to convert defeat on the day into longer-term success and to justify a further radicalisation of its anti-Jewish campaign.

This is a dangerous argument, if seen through to its logical conclusion, that fascists are best not resisted.  With the world mired in economic crisis and racists targetting areas with concentrated immigrant populations once again, it is tempting to wonder what, if anything, we have learned since the Thirties.  Even this writer has indulged.  And as Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti commented:

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.

The truly fatal myth is the one that tries to encourage us to ignore fascism in the hope it will go away, when even a brief look at history shows this is not an effective strategy.  As this excellent article argues,

it was not “objective conditions” that stopped the police forcing a way for the British Hitlerites into Jewish East London: it was a quarter of a million workers massing on the streets to tell them that they would not pass, and making good the pledge by erecting barricades and fighting the BUF-shepherding police. A year after Cable Street, it was the working class and the socialist movement which again put up barricades in Bermondsey to stop the fascists marching.

Remembering that may be the best way of marking today’s anniversary.

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Say what you see

All looks a bit silly now, doesn't it chaps?

Despite earlier proof of arse-elbow location difficulties, Rod Liddle was caught in a rare act of sense-speaking this weekend in his Sunday Times column. He hasn’t always used his own freedom of speech in such a sensible manner, but his argument that banning groups for being obnoxious or unpleasant is a crass method for combating them, is sound.

You may also have heard Pat Robertson’s measured commentary on the Haiti disaster coming as a result of a ‘pact with the devil’. Is this callous? Yes. Stupid? Very much so. Worthy of banning? I would say, absolutely not.

I am lucky enough to have people in my circle of friends and family with whom I do not need to adhere to many niceties when speaking. Our debates and conversations often seem like arguments to the outside observer, because no holds need to be barred, no punches pulled, all is up for grabs. It is true freedom of speech – you are soon told if you are going wrong or being foolish, but you won’t be censured for it – so it allows for true freedom of thought as well.

We must have the courage to allow our national conversations to display the candour of a group of friends gathered around a table after a few too many. Words are not our enemies. There is no idea, which by being voiced, can take your life, rob you of your money or cause your hair to drop out. I am confident that the sky won’t fall in because a group of people walk through a town holding empty coffins, however repugnant the idea of that is.

I believe that allowing Islam4UK’s march to go ahead would have done more to condemn the group than banning them can ever achieve. Wootton Bassett is not sacred ground, nor has it been consecrated or designated as an official monument. It is a place in our country where people have chosen to make their own personal tribute to the dead. I support this completely. We should all remember the (often young) people who fight for our freedoms, some being left horribly scarred, in such a personal, reflective and dignified way.

What we shouldn’t do is give away so cheaply the freedom that we require our armed services to defend. What sets us apart from the Taliban and their ilk is our belief in freedom. This includes, but should not be limited to, freedom to protest, freedom to speak and, crucially, the complete and untrammelled freedom to make a right arse of ourselves on a national stage so that other people can point out our errors.

Also in Sunday’s Times, you see, was an interview with the, well, I hesitate to call him a ‘mastermind’ but for want of a better word, the ‘mastermind’ behind Islam4UK and, it should not surprise anyone to find out, he is an absolute, 24-carat, idiot of a man. Inconsistent, stupid and wrong, plain wrong. From watching the news, you might have suspected he was evil incarnate, read the interview and he comes across in a very different way. Make your own mind up here.

There was once a similar debate about banning marches by Fascists in the 1930s. Then, it was decided that to allow them to go ahead was to reveal the movement in all its goose-stepping, uniform-wearing stupidity. A ban was only imposed when it became too difficult to police the inevitable battles with anti-fascists that would ensue. So, while it is tempting to want to turn up to any future march and throw bricks at ‘the group formerly known as Islam4UK’, might I suggest that a better response would be to show them on heavy rotation across all channels instead. That was an effective strategy with Nick Griffin, as it was previously with Oswald Mosley, and no doubt will be again, so long as we manage to resist the urge to ban everything we don’t agree with.
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ten minutes hate

When this blog was named (by a very talented writer, if a slacker when it comes to updates) and I was looking to see if anyone else had been similarly inspired, I stumbled across something from the States defining a ten minutes hate as the home straight in a hotly contested election.   So now here we are.  Just five days away from something which we are promised will be a cross between Judgement Night, the Second Coming and Armaggeddon. Does everyone have their popcorn and beers at the ready?

Because there is nothing the people of Britain enjoy more than a little light bear baiting.  Although, given our reputation for loving animals and since Parliament rather stupidly outlawed the use of bears in 1835, these days we have switched to chaining politicians to a stake and poking them with sharpened sticks instead.  Much more humane.

This could be the least optimistic election since records began, since this time we will not be voting FOR anything, especially not the change of government that we would mostly like to see, but simply chucking a well-aimed, ‘NONE OF THE ABOVE’-shaped spanner into the works.  I know what I would like to vote against: expense cheats; fascists; expansions in state control.  Where to find a party that reflects all that?  And so, like many other people, I follow a party like it is a football team: my side, right or wrong, trying not to notice that the old loyalties are as outdated as the ideologies.  Labour don’t want to be the party of the workers any more than the Tories want to be toffs.  The Libbies would love to be the natural alternative, and are happy that people are suddenly thinking of them, but how can you vote for a party that can’t even run a website?

A parliament of individuals, independant and owing nothing to any outside interest, whip or Beloved Leader would be ideal.  A bloody nightmare in practice.  The European model of loose coalitions of like-minded fellow travellers perhaps.  Or instead, what some commentators seem to fear, a Parliament of celebrities coalescing around populist issues like the Gurkha campaign.  For myself, I would need to find a party believing in low taxes, shorter working hours and the right to stay up late.  Find me that party and they can have my ‘X’.

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That apology in full

To recap:

We’re sorry we got caught.  We’re sorry the newspapers are full of mindless tedium about what we chose to spend your money on, instead of the usual rehearsed platitudes and rewritten press releases.  We hope we can draw a line under this terrible set of events so that normal business can be resumed without delay.  Please don’t vote for the BNP.

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Friday morning call to arms

Update to advise that this might be worth a look…

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Last one to Cable Street

Uncharacteristically, snow fell in London last October, for the first time since 1934.  It wasn’t the only harbinger of a return to Depression-era doom and gloom as the credit crunch™ began to bite.  The Observer ran an article claiming that eco-terrorists were plotting outrages, no doubt the precursor for the passing of yet more draconian laws, essential if even the tree huggers have a fundamentalist wing now.  The publication of the BNP membership list also seemed like a quaint reminder of a bygone age (oh, look, Fascists!) and made it much easier to organise a fight by text message, so, quick,

…last one to Cable Street’s a wanker

The halcyon days at the dawn of the new century seemed so far away as the flakes fell, the days when we had money to burn, lighting our cigarettes with rolled up twenties, floating on a tide of vintage champagne and ever more ludicrously distilled premium vodka and above all spend, spend, spending, gorging on STUFF like a WAG let loose in Liverpool’s Cricket boutique with her boyfriend’s plastic, nothing too trivial a frippery for us to splash the cash on.

‘Your more simplified life is in your hands.  YSL bag, $1,895.’

Despite the example of bubbles from time immemorial, the South Sea one, the Roaring Twenties, even the Dot Com one of recent living memory, we were confident that this one was going to be different.  Doped with the promised end to boom and bust, out of our gourds with the need to consume, high on the guarantee that we were worth it, damn it.  House prices were going up and up and up and you were an idiot if you didn’t agree to hand over most of your income in return for the keys to a former crack house in Dalston now an exclusive des res worth just shy of a mill.  If forking out that much of your folding each month left you without the necessary pocket money for the other trinkets so essential to your sense of self, well, hey, the banks could help you out there too.  Pay it back later, when the house trebled in value and you could borrow more from Peter to pay back Paul.  Simple.

The whole economy rested on it, people felt good because of it and they liked Labour because they were claiming responsibility for it.  There were no losers.

Lest we get nervous, the party of the workers famously declared itself ‘intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, as long as they pay their taxes.’  Utilising the Whaaat? communal fag packet, we ran some numbers.  If this writer has been paying roughly 300 quid a month to the government over a decade of full time employment that makes £36,000.  And if there are 28 million people employed in the UK paying the same, then, gosh, that adds up to £1,008 billion.  An unreal number.  As are the numbers being bandied around for how much fixing this mess will cost.  And still, the sneaking suspicion that, for all the good it has done us, we should have spunked the lot on 500 million YSL handbags.

The Titanic analogy that keeps cropping up in the cartoons and op-eds is a good one.  We built the boat, paid our fares, counted the number of lifeboats and sailed off into the icy currents.  We knew enough to know what we were getting into.  So here we are, with nothing left to do but see who will sink and who will swim.  Got savings, low rate credit cards and a job that won’t easily transfer to the sub-Continent?  Lucky you.  Up to your arse in loans and the rest, needing to remortgage, with a boss that hates you?  That water’s going to feel pretty chilly.

What exactly have we achieved since the Thirties?

We are still as in hock to the never-never in the form of credit cards, still dreaming of the big win on the lottery that replaced the pools as a chance to save ourselves from the drudgery, still fearful of showing a spark of anything that might lead to us being given our cards, so we keep our heads down, mind our ps and qs, lest the bosses ship the whole concern out to India or China and leave us back where our grandparents started from.

With a little luck, though, that won’t be you; and as Polly Toynbee, friend to the poor, points out, 3 million could be out of work and 90% of us won’t even notice.  It will be unknowable, until some bold social warrior takes the Road to Wigan Pier to report back on the squalor and the shattered dreams while others stand wringing their hands over the failure of somebody, somewhere to do something.

So maybe that somebody should be us.  Maybe it is time to recognise that worshipping the market is a collective delusion.  To realise that money is as nebulous a concept as God.  Let’s wake up to the fact that ignoring the beauty of the world to sit staring at a computer screen all day to pay taxes for the government to hand over to the banks for them to lend back to us (or not) at 7% interest to be spent on yet more consumer goods is a Sisyphean endeavour.  We were meant for better than a life of ceaseless toil.

Bill Hicks was right, it is ‘just a ride’ and it only has one outcome, whether you smoke or not, eat your greens or not, go for a run or slob in front of the telly, it is going to end with your death.  Market conditions, consumer confidence, the value of your house can go up as well as down, no matter: it is all a figment of your imagination.  Recessions present opportunities other than cheap shares for those not too browbeaten to seize them; this one offers the prospect of reimagining and reclaiming our future from the greed heads and lifestyle peddlers, if only we dare.  So, ignore the adverts, put down the credit card and get on with it; throw yourself into life, stare into the face of death and laugh.


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You can look back to the thirties and forties and think how much easier it was then, when the bad guys wore the hooked cross so lusted over by the toffs and the good guys were the ones who were against those guys, by whatever means were available to them.

Yet a look beneath the surface shows a time that was as conflicted as our own.  For instance, Orwell thought he could tell the difference between friend and foe when he headed to the front in  Spain – by the time he made the return journey in an ambulance he had been taught by events not to assume that his own ‘side’ were any less dangerous than the nominal enemy across the valley.  Naturally sympathetic to the causes of the left after his experiences in the pits around Wigan and the kitchens of Paris, he came to despise both the be sandalled socialists and the jackbooted communists who suppressed with enthusiastic ruthlessness the anarchist militias he fought with against the fascists.  He was no respecter of the adage that the enemy of your enemy is your friend, recognising that the enemy of your enemy is just the next arsehole on the list to be dealt with once you have finished kicking the main pig.

‘He may be a bastard, but he’s OUR bastard’

is not a thought that ever crossed Orwell’s mind, or so I think.  Nor would he have enjoyed the sight of tracksuit wearing secret police on our streets, imported from China like knock off Gucci handbags.  Or the vision of the Labour party walking around on two legs trying to convince us that they are the autocratic masters, while the Tories trot around on four, snuggling up to hoodies, trees, Shami Chakrabati and anything else that looks like it needs a hug.

What the people of this land should realise is that if we stop shooting, knifing, cheating and dragging each other onto the Jeremy Kyle show for a good shout, stop paying any attention whatsoever to Kerry Katona and the latest skid in her car crash of a life and instead, say, started taking out Cabinet Ministers in hand-to-hand combat, we would pathetically quickly gain the upper hand.  Those Kevlar vests they wear still leave a few major arteries open to the imagination.  Imagine Harriet Harman taking a Hummer trip around her constituency because she cannot be protected from us any other way.  Imagine Ed Balls fleeing from the kids’ playground because those same kids are chasing him off their turf, intent on pounding him with baseball bats.  I wonder if you can?

Let’s make them fear us for a change, Britain.
Let’s give them sleepless nights instead

Don’t lie there worrying about your mortgage payments; ponder which one of Brown’s bull-shitting bastards you would like to take out first.  Let them see that power brings consequences other than a shed-load of free John Lewis furnishings, great responsibility other than making sure your kids have a job for life.  Well, you can keep the £4,000 a-roll wallpaper, Lord Chancellor, but with it comes a free Battle Royale style death match involving both Houses on Canvey Island. Last wo/man standing gets to rule.  Perhaps it would also follow that seeing their backbench colleagues brutally massacred by feral teens would make them less keen on creating carnage in other people’s backyards?

Instead of Gladiators, let’s see Brown and Cameron really battle it out: just how bad do you want it, fella?  Dave, want to see a wind turbine on every roof so much that you will gouge out Gordon’s other eye to triumph?  Come on, Ken, now that there’s nothing to lose, let’s see how much of a class warrior you really are. I hear the argument that the landed gentry fight dirty and have been doing so for generations, but have always felt that in a street fight Red Ken would be naturally adept at the no-holds-barred style – after all, you can’t be that close to Stalin and Castro without picking up a few tricks.  Boris pleading, claiming to be a lover not a fighter, while the newt-fancier stomps on the usurper’s crown jewels might be the best, most crowd pleasing way to decide a future Mayoral contest since Dick Whittington started talking to his cat.

I for one am sick of a no-choice vote deciding between competing mediocrities

I think it is possible that you, my fellow electors, are with me on this.  Dwindling turnouts cannot only be blamed on a clash with a crucial episode of Eastenders.  What is the point of getting off the couch to mark an X if all it serves to do is duck out of taking responsibility for another few years?  Where is the incentive when 862,415 Irish voters can say they don’t want something and their rulers decide that actually, in fact, they do?  Whaaat? is never happy advocating violence and I am sure there will be a lengthy editorial disclaimer somewhere about leaving minister’s arteries alone (Eh?  Oh, yes.  Very bad.  Absolutely – Ed) but perhaps, just this once, it is time to act with aggression.  Our marching taught them nothing.  They need to be shown that they can no longer rely on the passivity of our implied goodwill.

Four hundred years after the last one, Britain needs to reclaim the brand of civil war she has been exporting in recent years and set it free to run amok on her own streets.  Violence is a game we are playing from Basra to Kandahar – why should Basingstoke and Kensington miss out?  Except that we are not going to turn brother against brother, putting fellow victims up against the wall: it is going to be strictly US v. THEM – the ones who presume to rule us based on flimsy margins, taken out by an electorate that have taken enough.  They have squandered the peace our grandparents bought for them and in return given us nothing but penury, cronyism and state interference.

We have been complacent for too long; it is time to discover if there is sand underneath the cobble stones after all…

First published September 2008 in issue two of whaaat?

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