Archive for the ‘ireland’ Category

What is fascism and how to fight it

February 16, 2020

(Talk given to Leicester Socialist Alternative, Feb 2020)

Fascism is one of those political words which is much abused and misused. We need to know its origins and what it represents in order to arm ourselves with the tactics necessary to tackle the threat it represents. We must not overstate and oversimplify events by labelling draconian measures taken by right-wing governments as “fascist”.

The term “fascism” was coined by Mussolini in the early twentieth century. Fasces is a Roman term for a “bundle of sticks”– one stick can be easily broken, but tied together, they are much stronger – like the communist symbol of the fist – one finger can be easily broken, together, they can pack a punch. Fascism deliberately employed socialist iconography in its early days in order to gain a foothold in a section of the working class. It drew support also from the upper-middle class and was funded by donations from big businesses such as IG Farben.

In a short time, it is only possible to give a sketchy outline of complicated and prolonged events – for more inspiration and information – read: Trotsky’s authoritative pamphlet What is Fascism and How to Fight It; Jan Valtin’s, Out of The Night; Jack London’s, The Iron Heel; Clara Zetkin, Fascism

Hitler came to power in 1933. This was only possible due to a smashing of the German labour movement, which made tragic mistakes. Firstly, the premature attempted revolution of 1919 ended in the execution of its leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Leibknecht.

There was a period of hyperinflation and Germany suffered from the reparations demanded by the West after the First World War. The German Communist Party (KPD) and social democratic parties had a huge base, but the were fighting each other instead of the Nazis, treating them as if they were another democratic party. Fascism is based on violence rather than discourse.

The KPD labelled centre parties as “social fascists”, in accordance with the Stalinist dogma of the time, and attacked their meetings. Trotsky described it using an analogy of cattle being driven to the slaughter house. The fascists are represented by the butcher, the social democrats as the cattle dealer. Let us close ranks and jack this executioner up on our horns. “How is he worse than the cattle dealer who drove us here with his cudgel?” “We shall be able to attend to the dealer as well afterwards”. “Nothing doing”, replied the bulls, “you are trying to shield our enemies from the left, you are a social-butcher yourself. They refused to close ranks. According to the Communists, the choice would be between fascism and communism, once social democracy had been smashed. Their vote in the last democratic elections held in Germany before the Second World War increased and they won 100 seats, but they did not reckon that the Nazis would destroy all open opposition to their regime, executing trade union leaders, attacking and imprisoning the Communists.

After WWII, there was an attempt by capitalism with the UN Declaration of Human Rights to ensure fascism would not happen again. Freedom of assembly (curtailed to specific places), freedom to protest (curtailed by police’s powers to stop public protests). Impossible to overcome the contradictions and limitations of this capitalist system, however. The roots of both right wing populism and ultimately fascism, and are still around today, and the threat of the far right will keep popping up in different forms. You cannot legislate away discrimination: it is illegal to discriminate against people in the UK on the grounds of disability, for example, yet the government do this all the time!

The biggest threat to the working class today is right populism, not fascism in the classic sense. However, fascism still exists in the form of the far-right BNP, National Front, the Golden Dawn in Greece, Austria’s Freedom Party, Jobbik in Hungary, Vox in Spain, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France (who is trying to get rid of her father’s fascist ideology, and trying to portray her party as right-wing populist). It is still a threat. It is characterised by a militaristic presence, intolerance of democratic opposition, and the use of violence. Fascism is a last resort for capitalism, when normal methods of governing – elections, the media, tame socialist and trade union leaders, in the mould of Dave Prentis or Tony Blair – have failed and there is a risk of losing control. It is very unlikely that fascism will consciously be used as a tactic by capitalism and big business again. However, the same processes, due to the acute failure of capitalism to provide for the vast majority of people – are still in play. And the threat of right-wing populism only makes fascist ideology more acceptable.

So what is populism and how is it different? Bolsanaro, Nigel Farage, Trump, Boris Johnson, Modi. How can a political programme which only benefits a small minority sustain itself in a democracy? Capitalism has always divided people by religion, racism, culture, etc. It is in the interests of a small establishment to seek to blame a country’s problems on outsiders and set the working class against itself.

A local example is the Operation Dharmic Vote campaign, set up by a Tory supporter from Rugby, angry at Labour’s proposal to outlaw the caste system, which claims that Hindus, Sikhs and Jains should vote against the pro-Muslim Labour Party. It has campaigned in London and in Leicester East, where Keith Vaz was friendly with Mahendra Modi’s BJP. This is playing a very old and very dangerous game: splitting communities along ethnic / religious lines. Fortunately, the left-wing MP Claudia Webbe was still elected in Leicester East – but across the country Farage’s Brexit Party dealt a blow to Labour’s chances – because of Labour’s muddled position on Brexit, and because the Brexit Party did not stand against the Tories. It shows, for all Farage’s pretence at being in touch with ordinary people, that Brexit’s class interests stands with the bosses.

By contrast socialists and trade unions emphasise the unity of workers, that we share common concerns and the need for tolerance of different religious and cultural traditions. We oppose racism. We confront fascists and seek to no platform them when they try to speak, by organising mass demonstrations of people, such as when we played a part in opposing the English Defence League when they came to Leicester and we stood with the community of Highfields.

Members of our party have gone over to Ireland in the past weeks to aid in the campaign to re-elect non-sectarian socialists to the Irish Parliament. A small fascist party, the National Party in Ireland reported one of our candidates, Mary Vallely, in Limerick to the police, misquoting “a Trotsky novel” – you can only assume she got Trotsky mixed up with Tolstoy! – as saying, “we need to acquaint fascist’s heads with the pavement”- what the quote refers to is that where persuasion fails, we need to defend ourselves against violent attacks and be wary of the threat that fascism poses to the ideas of socialism and to any civilised society. This has also been summarised more succinctly as “socialism or barbarism”.

The best way to defeat the poisonous ideas of fascism is to build strong trade unions and to develop socialist ideas, to build an international workers’ movement which will be capable of transforming people’s lives across the globe.

Divine Interference

May 29, 2018

To our so-called Superiors, and their “god-given” right,
To abuse power and profit, while hidden from sight.
To those who would question how we live our life,
To pass judgement on doctors for using the knife.

Their medieval morality no longer holds sway.
Their perseverance and courage at last won the day.
Their banner said ROSA, and true was their cause;
Their vision: freedom, end to outdated laws.

The women of Ireland, no longer enslaved;
The millions of people, who battled and paved
The way forward to victory in historic vote,
The thousands returning by plane and by boat.

Who abolished dark memories of Magdalene Laundries,
Who cleansed those captive, communal memories.
Who were determined the world must at last hear their voice,
Who campaigned for a new, generational choice.

As we sing, voices carry cross ocean’s blue swell,
As our demands for equality will one day surely tell.
As we challenge authority’s hypocritical boast,
As it is always the poor, who suffer the most.