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Fascism and Antifascism. Part three. Populist fascism: perpetual counter-revolution.

From ‘The Authority of the Boot-maker’ by Mal Content.

“What is this liberal rubbish?
Are you some kind of mug?
Don’t talk to me of ‘free speech’
For murdering fascist thugs

We remember Mosley
And how Cable Street folk fought him
When we see the fash
We let the boots do the talking”

– Oi Polloi

Now I started writing this chapter in 2012, then I paused it to see what would happen, and quite a lot has happened since. Ten years on, Britain has the most explicitly right-wing authoritarian government in its history, suppressing dissent by any means at its disposal. It is supported by computerised surveillance and detection, a police force as brutal, sexist and racist as ever, tamed media and a judiciary who mostly went to the same schools as the executive. The entire island is in counter-insurgency mode.

We’ve seen the rise and fall of the English Defence League and the United Kingdom Independence Party, the election of far-right governments around the world. The United States elected a reactionary-comic television presenter as its 45th President, who clowned around for five years making his office even more of a laughing stock while we wondered if anyone had the sense to disconnect the nuclear button.

In 1945, after six years of war against Nazism, a British labour government permitted the fascists detained under Regulation 18b to resume their activities, and gave them a police escort wherever they went, as unsurprisingly they had no popular constituency whatsoever. They were joined by Axis prisoners of war who were supposedly being rehabilitated. Some of those returned to Germany and maintaining their British contacts, plotted a fourth Reich, under cover of a crank spiritualist group called Ostara. Recently demobbed British Jews reacted with disbelief:

“I had been in the merchant navy, survived two torpedo attacks on the Atlantic convoys, and I came back home to Amhurst Road, Hackney to hugs and kisses. My mother went out to make some tea and my dad said, The bastards are back – Mosley and his Blackshirts

– Morris Beckman, antifascist: to ‘The Guardian’ 2009.

Apart from Spain and Portugal, which retained fascist governments, the only country in Europe where it was legal to glorify Hitler and the holocaust was Britain. Mosley took advantage of this to publish a German-language paper and antisemitic propaganda for distribution by right-wing British service personnel in the occupation zone. After three years of that, Mosley again combined the splinters into the Union Movement, and embarked on an electoral campaign.

“Going from a cinema showing newsreel of piles of Jewish men, women and children being bulldozed into lime pits in the concentration camps, and then passing an outdoor fascist meeting or seeing swastikas whitewashed on the walls of Jewish homes and synagogues affected these ex-servicemen with emotion ranging from choleric anger to a cold hard desire to kill the perpetrators.”

– Morris Beckman: ‘The 43 Group’

The conflict in the British Working Class was inflamed on the one hand, by newsreels of the holocaust, and on the other, by the civil war in Palestine that preceded the establishment of the state of Israel.

“Above all, it was the unfolding extent of the concentration camp horrors that really unhinged us all. It imbued every ex servicemen with a sick sense of shame that no action had ever been taken to try to save the camp inmates. Air crews had no doubt that specialised attacks could have taken out gas chambers, furnaces and SS barracks. Ex-paratroopers and Special Forces veterans argued that drops into and around the camps could have saved many, but nothing was ever attempted, …”

                (ibid.)

You have to keep in mind that Churchill had been an anti-Semite when Hitler was still in short trousers, and so was post-war foreign secretary Ernest Bevin. Bevin was an enthusiast of the ‘Truman Doctrine’ against Soviet influence, so the pre-war squabble between socialist and Communist internationals was still playing into fascist hands. A dedicated imperialist, Bevin opposed Indian independence and set about re-establishing Dutch control in Indonesia, using British, Indian and even Japanese troops to wrest the islands from the indigenous people who had recently liberated them. He was also concerned to limit Jewish emigration to Palestine, declaring to the press on 1st March 1946: “Jews must not try to get to the head of the queue”, sparking riots in Tel Aviv that left six civilians dead, shot by British troops. Some Jewish soldiers refused to clash with their co-religionists and were quietly posted elsewhere.

“Watching the Royal Navy stop Greek and Turkish bucket ships crammed with the sick and broken survivors of the camps and the Pathé Gazette and Movietone films of these same derelicts being incarcerated behind barbed wire in Cyprus, seemed to plumb the very depths of inhumanity.”

(ibid.)

Just as they had been before the war, the fascists were driven off the streets by autonomous direct action. The ‘43 Group’,

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Death in the English Channel – ACG (GB) and UCL (France) statement

The Anarchist Communist Group.

The following is a statement agreed by the ACG and the Union Communiste Libertaire (UCL) in France.

The recent twenty-seven deaths of refugees in the English Channel follow another ten deaths this year of desperate refugees attempting to cross to the UK. There does not appear to be official figures for the number of deaths in similar circumstances over the last twenty years, but last October a figure of 296 was given of those attempting to cross by boat or tunnel. These latest figures raise the number of deaths to over 330, to say nothing of the thousands who have met their deaths in the Mediterranean. Our thoughts are with the relatives and friends of those who have died.

Both the British and French governments have attempted to place the blame for these deaths on people traffickers. But it wasn’t the traffickers who supplied the arms to vicious authoritarian regimes and who intervened in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, with bombings and occupations, destabilising the region, it was the Western powers, and that includes France and Britain. In addition, the French state has carried out a war against the refugees, dismantling their camps and pulling down their tents in the middle of winter, running out rolls of barbed wire around a camp at Lille and along the railway tracks to Calais, rounding up migrants, subjecting them to harassment, gassings, and strip searches. On the day of the tragedy that resulted in the 27 deaths, the sub-prefect of Boulogne-sur-Mer sent the police to stop the survivors being supplied with dry clothes.

There have been 1,281 recorded attempts to cross the Channel since the beginning of the year, involving a total of 33,083 people, according to the French maritime prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea. The British Home Office recognises that 25,792 refugees managed to reach Kent, and the Maritime Prefecture says that it has brought back 8,200 during rescue operations.

The refugees don’t come to the West just to annoy people in Calais and in Kent. They are fleeing mass murders, bombings, oppressive regimes and political and religious persecution. Many are Kurds who have been forced to flee from Iraq, Iran and Syria. They are not coming to the UK to “scrounge” as has been stated by Priti Patel and other Conservative MPs in parliament, but because there are already existing migrant communities who can support them and provide work, often off the record. Indeed, in early November, Patel stated that 70% of refugees were ‘economic migrants’ and she has not substantiated this spurious allegation. Tory MPs like Edward Leigh and Julian Lewis have gloated in Parliament over the deaths, saying that it would act as a lesson for those attempting to cross the Channel into Britain.

Both the French and British governments have expressed hypocritical sympathy for those who have died, Macron saying that he would not let the Channel become a cemetery. His actions say otherwise. Meanwhile Boris Johnson allocated £54 million last summer to stop crossings. Both are cynically using the crossings to exacerbate the tension between the British and French governments.

It is precisely because of the militarised and heavily fortified crossing points, particularly at the entrances to the tunnel at Coquelles, that have forced refugees to take to sea, often on improvised rafts.

Johnson came to power because of Brexit and one of the aims of Brexit was to end the influx of migrants, especially from the Middle East. This is failing significantly, as around 25% of refugees manage to cross to Britain. In France there is the run-up to the presidential elections, and candidates are keen to show how zealous they are to combat migration.

The Johnson government has closed down any legal paths into the UK and ways of setting up safer routes, such as allowing asylum applications at British embassies, which it virulently opposes. The resettlement scheme he promised for those fleeing from the Taliban in Afghanistan three months ago has still not been implemented, forcing many to take dangerous routes to escape. As for Priti Patel, the Home Office minister, she continues to blame the French government and her own legal advisers and officials for a failure to deliver on Brexit promises. She has raised the idea of a “push-back” policy, with the coastguard and the Navy forcing refugees back to France mid-Channel. No seafarer relishes condemning anyone to drowning, and even the staff union of Border Force, the frontiers law enforcement agency, has rejected the “push-back”. Other crazy schemes mooted have been the sub-contracting of processing asylum seekers to distant countries, for example Albania. The Albanian government has dismissed this as “totally fake”.

For us, libertarian communists, the world is not divided between East and West, North and South, but between the classes, between those who rule and exploit and profit, and those who work and produce the wealth, and are used as cannon fodder by the boss class. Solidarity between French and British workers and with the migrants. Don’t let the nasty, sordid aim of restructuring capitalism on a global scale by those who rule and exploit fool you. The workers of the world have no country. It is time to resurrect a class consciousness that does not recognise borders and states. In the meantime, we must fight to stop any further deaths in the Channel.

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