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What is the proper role of anti-fascism today?

RMT activitst Eddie Dempsey has been denounced by MP Clive Lewis and Labour strategist Paul Mason as a ‘Tommy Robinson empathising, racist, anti-Semitic, working class imperialist’. But his only crime was in taking their own strategy – previously characterised as ‘socialism without the working class’ – and returning it to them unfiltered. Tellingly, none of his many Twitter critics actually denied the core of his allegation. What really bridled was Dempsey’s insistence that the rise of the populist right was one of the consequences of the liberal-left approach.

Amidst the emerging political chaos, there is only one position for anti-fascism now to take up. That is shoulder to shoulder with the working class and against globalisation, big business and the narrow elite, thereby flanking but opposing the populists and ethno-nationalists emerging from the right. The singular responsibility of anti-fascism must be to establish a political foothold from where the so-called populists can be challenged, in front of the entire working class, for the leadership of it.

One of the primary criticisms of Theresa May is that she has been prepared to sacrifice the unity of the country in order to preserve the unity of the Tory party. But this is to totally misunderstand her motivation. Theresa May’s sole loyalty is to herself. So it follows that all of her calculations and manoeuvres have no greater purpose than extending her tenure in Downing Street. The violent hand-brake turns, the jaw-dropping duplicity, and the shrugging off of historic humiliations are best understood from this autistic perspective. It is likely Juncker and Barnier tumbled to her Achilles heel some time ago, and from then on the European Commission was, in essence, negotiating with itself, which is how the compromise extension of 31 October was arrived at. So low is her standing that on Wednesday night Donald Tusk publicly announced their decision prior to informing May. Her role is now EU envoy rather than British PM.

Understandably the British media has fixated on the myriad factions and personalities in the Tory party that have resulted from her mind-boggling mismanagement. Notwithstanding the infighting within the Cabinet, Tory grassroots membership with 70% in favour of ‘no deal’ is at least in tune with the 2016 referendum result. Labour’s fundamental cleavage is between its liberal middle class activist base, with 88 per cent in favour of a democracy up-ending second referendum, and the millions who can now be safely described as its former working class constituency, still truculently holding out for leave. This division has been downplayed but promises to be even more profound than a total Tory collapse.

A couple of weeks ago an RMT activist, Eddie Dempsey, speaking at a pro-Leave rally attacked long standing liberal-left strategy that has kicked the working class to the kerb and is oxygenating the nationalist-right as a result. “Too many in the Labour Party have made a calculation that there’s a certain section at the top end of the working class, in alliance with people from ethnic minorities and liberals, that is enough to get them into power.” Huge swathes of the working class “hate the liberal left as a result, and are right to do so” he concluded.

For what they regarded as unreconstructed proletarian impertinence he was swiftly denounced by MP Clive Lewis and Labour strategist Paul Mason as a ‘Tommy Robinson empathising, racist, anti-Semitic, working class imperialist’. But his only crime was in taking their own strategy – previously characterised as ‘socialism without the working class’ – and returning it to them unfiltered. Tellingly, none of his many Twitter critics actually denied the core of his allegation. What really bridled was Dempsey’s insistence that the rise of the populist right was one of the consequences of the liberal-left approach. It was not some airborne disease, as they like to pretend, but the result of an active choice. Logically, the more this line is pushed the greater the traction of the nationalist-right on the ground. Moreover, the liberal recipe has been applied with the predicted and disastrous results throughout Europe already. But why the policy continues to be promoted is a result of a battlefield re-alignment that has largely been hidden in the class war fog.

In the 1930s communists and social democrats, overwhelmingly working class in composition, were on one side, with big business, all middle class parties and the far-right on the other. Today we have big business, all the middle class parties and the liberal left being faced down by populists, the far-right and a sullen working class.

The significant moving part is the one time social democrats who reached the conclusion that “the working class is no longer at the heart of the left wing vote.” “The future will be younger, diverse, and more feminised” as Terra Nova, the French socialist think tank promised a few years ago. Today, National Rally (formerly the NF) is neck and neck with Macron’s outfit while the Socialist Party is defunct. So while Lewis, Mason and company might be congratulating each other for courageously ‘calling out racism and fascism’ they are, like Terra Nova, effectively doing so from behind enemy lines.

A further glance at the battlefield reveals that there is only one position for anti-fascism to take up. That is shoulder to shoulder with the working class and against globalisation, big business and the narrow elite, thereby flanking but in opposition to the populists and ethno-nationalists emerging from the right. The singular responsibility of anti-fascism must be to establish a political foothold from where the so-called populists can be challenged, in front of the entire working class, for the leadership of it. The working class, brown, black and white simply must be brought in from the cold. In the aftermath of the upcoming European elections the consequences of failing do so will leave even the most brazen liberal renegade with no place to hide.

This article first appeared on the Independent Working Class Association facebook page on the date given above and has been transferred here in August 2019.

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