The following is a lightly edited transcript of a contribution by an IBT supporter to a panel on anti-fascism at a “student activist weekender” held in London on 8 September 2018.
I’m a Trotskyist, a supporter of the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) and I’ve been active in the London section of the Anti-Fascist Network (AFN), London Anti-Fascists, for about a year now. I’m also a student here in London and I’ve been involved in attempts to set up a student anti-fascist network. I’m hoping to continue those efforts this year, perhaps with the help of some people here.
Despite what you might think, militant anti-fascism is not all about dressing up like a ninja and punching Nazis in the face. (Although I’m not saying that doesn’t happen!) The basic premise of being a militant anti-fascist is what we call no platform. Fascism is not a set of ideas to be debated but a mortal threat to the working class and marginalised groups. Hitler himself said that the only way the rise of the German Nazi party could have been stopped was if its enemies had recognised it for what it was right at the start and had smashed it in its infancy. Fascist movements recruit by displaying strength. History shows that the only way to stop scum like Tommy Robinson and the DFLA (Democratic Football Lads Alliance) is by physically confronting them and literally kicking them off our streets, dealing them humiliating defeats before they can grow. The fascists plan to come back to London on 13 October. Successfully preventing this march would be a real victory for all those threatened by fascism.
Militant anti-fascism then is driven by denying a platform to fascists by any means necessary, be it preventing a march from taking place by blocking it, stopping a conference by closing down their venue or destroying their recruitment materials such as posters, stickers and leaflets.
The need to physically stop the fascists is one of the AFN’s three basic premises. The others are no collaboration with the state/cops and a working-class orientation.
We cannot rely on the capitalist state to neutralise the fascist threat. The same powers used to suppress the far right can and are used against the left and workers movement. Fascism is the last bastion of capitalism in crisis and ultimately the state will side with the fascists. I saw this first hand at the counterdemo against Tommy Robinson’s “Day for Freedom” in July, when two dozen riot cops stood and watched as 30 members of the DFLA master race piled into the kettle yelling “Oh Tommy Tommy” and started attacking the counter-demonstrators.
Which brings us to the working-class orientation. Although cops, prison workers and soldiers are often key constituencies for fascism, its social base extends far beyond the personnel of the state. Most fascist shock troops are recruited from petty-bourgeois layers hostile to trade unions, along with lumpenproletarians and backward workers poisoned by chauvinism. The attack on RMT trade union members during the July demonstration was only a small example of how fascism targets the organised workers movement. The big challenge for anti-fascists in Britain is to build links with workers organised in the trade unions. The AFN is beginning to take some small steps in this direction.
Workers organised in the trade unions have the strategic social and economic power necessary to lead all the fascists' potential victims into decisive action. This will only be achieved by challenging the privileged union leadership who would rather endorse demonstrations on paper than lead their members onto the streets.
By agreeing on a limited set of demands, the AFN is utilising the united front tactic, where workers of various political tendencies come together around a specific issue to defend the immediate interests of the working class against the capitalists. This gives us the potential to attract the broadest number of militants and maximise the chances of dealing serious blows to the fascists. We don’t expect agreement within the AFN on international issues or how to fight all the bigoted symptoms of capitalism such as sexism, transphobia and racism. I have deep disagreements with the AWL (Alliance for Workers Liberty) comrades here about many issues, as I do with the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) — none of which will stop me collaborating with them in fighting fascism if the opportunity arises. The no platform tactic is a weapon against fascists who seek to violently deny us our voices and perhaps even our lives. No platform is not a tool to be used against others on the left that we disagree with.
Of course, it is not always possible to collaborate. If a supposedly anti-fascist mobilisation keeps well away from the fascists in order to attract liberal speakers to the platform, as various SWP front groups have been known to do, then militant anti-fascists need to organise elsewhere. On the other hand, a strategy that relies on small bands of clandestine street fighters without mass mobilisation is equally doomed to fail. As is a sectarian approach that correctly argues the necessity of union contingents to defeat the fascists but doesn’t advocate mobilising until the unions are in place, which the AWL can tend to argue, for instance in a recent article by a Workers Liberty supporter in The Clarion.
Beyond the agreed points, all participants in the united front should have freedom to argue their own political programmes. After London Anti-Fascists meetings or demonstrations, over a few beers, we’ve had some robust discussions between Trotskyists, anarchists, Irish republicans, social democrats, libertarians etc. The IBT argues that the social problems on which fascism feeds need to be addressed by a militant workers’ movement under the leadership of a Leninist revolutionary party, which intervenes in the current struggles of the workers and oppressed but makes no concessions to social democracy nor strategic alliances with bourgeois forces. Fascism is a weapon of the bourgeoisie and to destroy it once and for all means overthrowing the capitalist system that breeds it.