Monday, 14 March 2011

Quote of the day...

...comes from a comment piece in the Socialist Worker;
The working class has been central to fighting racism and fascism from Cable Street in 1936 to the British National Party and the English Defence League (EDL) today.

And a common working class identity—based on a shared experience of work and exploitation—still exists. By denying it Searchlight is breaking with that tradition and opening the door to racist ideas.

It is echoing a right wing Labour agenda—David Miliband has endorsed the campaign, while Jon Cruddas has written a forward to the report. References to “lessons” for the Labour party are peppered throughout.

But as the recession deepens and the Tory cuts hit home, working class unity will becoming even more important.
This comes from their response to Searchlight's Fear and Hope report, and it makes much the same points that I made when I dissected the document. That is, that Searchlight are glossing over the class perspective on anti-fascism to promote a narrative which fits into mainstream politics.

However, that this comes from the Socialist Workers Party - the driving force behind Unite Against Fascism - displays either an astounding lack of self-awareness or a particular skill with irony. UAF, after all, have mastered the art of apolitical anti-fascism in order to win over the liberal mainstream. Arguments about "working class unity" against "Tory cuts" ring hollow from an organisation with David Cameron among its founding signatories.

All of this is evident from looking at the response to Searchlight that appears on the UAF website. Here, there is no argument for class unity, only for "positively campaign[ing] to highlight the benefits of diversity." There is mention of attempts to "deflect public anger about the impact of the economic crisis," but it falls far short of the language of class conflict used by the SWP.

The reason, as I and other militant antifascists have been told a number of times by SWP/UAF activists, is that class politics are "too complex" for anti-fascism. Instead, they are quite happy to confine themselves to banalities about "the benefits of diversity, multiculturalism and the contribution of immigrant communities." After all, despite the rhetoric of the Socialist Worker, the front group they support advocates not class unity but "a broad and common front against this common threat." Regardless of political and class loyalty, we must all come together against the Nazis. Despite the possibility that those who may be on the platform arguing against fascism one day may be organising strike breakers and smashing picket lines on the next.

Then there is the fact that both UAF and SWP gloss over the issue of Islamic extremism. Both put the term in inverted commas as though it does not exist, and so "argu[ing] that Muslim extremism is the same as the racism and extremism of the far right" becomes "equat[ing] the far right with Muslims."

This is not only overly simplistic, but it plays into the exact same narrative as the far-right. They also view Muslims and Islamism as inseparable, though they deny the existence of "moderates" rather than of "extremists" as UAF do. It also adds weight to the argument that anybody who opposes the likes of the EDL is in league with Islamists, a claim already given considerable weight by UAF's uncritical allegiances with the Islamic conservative- and far-right.

Even behind the UAF front, this simplistic position is the one on offer from SWP. Their rhetoric about "class unity" dries up with the failure to acknowledge the antagonisms based on class and religion that exist within Muslim communities, and their previous derision of those who take a class position and oppose religious bigots as racists or even "in league with fascists."

The SWP are right when they say that working class unity is integral to fighting fascism. It's just a shame that this is little more than hollow rhetoric and - in order to recruit people and build their front organisations - they refuse to practice what they preach.