Last Saturday (5 January), fascists masquerading as the British version of the French gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement, staged a protest in Manchester. It was poorly attended, overall, but the numbers were enough for them to stop and harass a picket line of RMT members at Victoria station. This reinforces the point that the far-right is the enemy of the organised working class. It also underlined the need for a serious working class self-defence against fascism.
It has been heartening to see the mass outpouring of solidarity with the RMT and the commitment of other unions, activist groups and local Labour Party branches to swell the numbers on their pickets. Aside from the broader principle that the working class should support our own in struggle against the bosses, it is also true that fascist aggression should be directly confronted.
There has, this past year, been a renewed debate on the left about what form our anti-fascist activism should take. The position of the PCS Independent Left is that we should face the far-right head on – our mobilisations aimed at halting their marches, drowning out their voices, defending those they would seek to physically attack. We also believe that opposition to fascism should be organised on a class basis: led by organised workers including the trade unions, and not attempting to build phoney “unity” with others who, whilst not fascists, attack the working class in other ways such as through cutting jobs and rolling back hard won rights.
Various dedicated anti-fascist and anti-racist organisations exist, such as the Anti Fascist Network, Stand Up To Racism, Hope not Hate, etc. Within and between those groups, there are political differences about how fascism and racism should be tackled, as well as legitimate criticisms of the behaviour of some of them and of the parties behind them. We believe that such positions should be addressed robustly and honestly, whilst not resorting to simple sectarianism. We also don’t believe that the trade unions should seek simply to outsource our anti-fascist work to such organisations.
It is past time that we saw the growth of a mass anti-fascist movement led directly by organised workers. A movement that is able to confront the far right both physically and ideologically.
When fascists are on the march, we should seek to block them and shut them down. When they attack our meetings and our picket lines, our events should be stewarded in such a way that they are heavily defended. And when their propaganda spreads, we should be actively inoculating the working class through education and organisation.
Fascists latch on to the fears and insecurities of those who feel abandoned in order to turn them towards racism and hate. It is a movement built on hate which sees the organised working class as its enemy. A confident and well organised workers’ movement should be able to repel the threat they present and offer up a militant, progressive, solidarity-conscious alternative.