The below article comes to us from Nick, a digital organiser for HOPE not hate, an anti-racist and anti-fascist advocacy group on 5 simple steps you can take to fight racism & fascism in your community. Often it seems that populism is tied to racist or fascist elements, and even left populism can take thinly (or not so thinly) veiled nationalist or anti-semitic overtones. An analysis of populism, and it’s utility to organisers and socialists has to deal with this, and propose ways to defuse this where necessary. We welcome contributions from the wider anti-racist & anti-fascist movement focused on their relationship with trade unionism and working class organising, as well as updated analysis of the far right and suggestions for innovative and effective ways our readers can get involved.
It’s early 2019, and we’ve already witnessed Members of Parliament and the media being harassed and abused on the streets of London by far-right activists. Meanwhile an RMT union picket in Manchester was attacked by far-right thugs before the year had barely begun.
At the same time, HOPE not hate has revealed how private messages between individuals within a so-called ‘yellow vest’ movement – in reality a loose network of far-right conspiracy theorists, some with links to former BNP leader Nick Griffin – have indicated plans to show up and protest at the offices of Remain-voting Labour MPs. Given that Jo Cox’s murder by a fascist terrorist took place less than three years ago, and that HOPE not hate foiled a neo-nazi murder plot against another Labour MP last year, these threats need to be taken very seriously.
These are volatile times. And as convicted fraudster and thug Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) continues to exploit divisions over Brexit to further his own anti-Muslim agenda (and rake in more money for himself), and with UKIP hurtling further and further to the right under the leadership of the Muslim-obsessed Gerard Batten, there may yet be more volatility to come in the not-too-distant future.
So with all this in mind, what can you do to help fight the far-right? Here are my ‘top 5’ suggestions, plus a slightly woolly bonus (“why didn’t you just make it a ‘top 6’?”, I hear you ask), to give you some inspiration for the rest of 2019:
- Get active:
I’ll start with the most obvious. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it remains true: apathy will be viewed by our opponents as tolerance.
When it comes to racism and fascism, this is an extremely dangerous position to be in. So if an anti-racist group in your town or city exists, join it and get out there. If not, why not set one up? Get in touch with me and I’ll help you through the process. In the meantime, think about building a coalition of like-minded groups in your area, what your strategy is and what tactics you will employ to see that strategy realised.
Finally, reflect on what skills and interests you have, and how they can be put them to use in the fight. Perhaps you love photography and film-making? Perhaps you have an incredible memory for names and faces? Or maybe you have a knack for public speaking? Whatever it may be, think creatively.
- Provide support to those on the receiving end:
If there has been an incident of hate crime in your town, show support to the victim or victims by attending any subsequent unity event or vigil.
Perhaps racist graffiti has appeared in your town? Yes it might have been painted by some edgelord who spends all their time on 4chan, but use it as an opportunity to bring people together: scrub it off as a group, turn it into a social occasion and a chance to meet new people, and hold an event a couple of weeks later to physically display opposition to that kind of behaviour.
Since the Brexit referendum in 2016, I’ve lost count of the amount of videos and news articles I’ve seen centred on people being racially abused in public in the UK, as more and more bigots felt emboldened to act on their beliefs. If you see it happen, film the perpetrator as evidence, call them out (if it’s safe to do so) and show solidarity to whoever is being targeted by doing something as simple as sitting next to them.
- Challenge it:
At HOPE not hate, we deliver our “Difficult Conversations” workshop week-in week-out, giving participants three simple, effective tools to use when engaging with someone with whom we disagree.
We are consistently clear that these techniques are for use with those who are open to dialogue (i.e. not dedicated fascists), and are powerful tools for unpicking views that we find objectionable.
Calling people out, especially if they are our classmates or colleagues or really anyone we interact with regularly and have some form of a relationship, can be challenging. But ensuring that the ‘normalisation’ of racist views is not allowed to take root in our communities, workplaces or anywhere else is not only vital politically, but also from the perspective of showing solidarity with other classmates and colleagues who might be on the receiving end of such views.
Indeed, we must be consistent in standing up to hate and racism wherever we see it, and yes, that includes anti semitism on the left from people who are supposed comrades.
Finally, an unholy alliance between members of our current government and their party’s outriders in the right-wing media have routinely created an antagonistic environment towards immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, resulting in real-world consequences for people on the street. In 2019, let’s get better at reporting media inaccuracies, blind-spots and biases, and let’s go further in taking certain sections of the media to task for the hate and fear which they continue to whip up.
- Get online:
The UK far-right may have been demolished at the ballot box, but they have adapted, taking their message of hatred and fear onto social media with great success. Today the most vile far-right content is just a few clicks away.
On the whole, anti-fascists have been slow to deal with this emerging threat, with keyboard warriors and social media enablers able to garner huge views online for their often anti-Muslim, conspiratorial posts and videos. We need to get better at providing more compelling counter-narratives, at reporting hateful content online, exposing their lies and at disrupting the online activities of our opponents.
The so-called ‘alt-right’ movement has been chipping away at the building blocks of the post-war consensus around liberal values and liberal democracy. Using social media as their chisel, they are attempting to remove foundational and widespread anti-racist tenets by normalising ideas of racial superiority and anti-Muslim hate, and spreading conspiracy theories that undermine democratic processes. At that point, they believe, a political change which mirrors those beliefs is sure to follow. With far-right and ‘alt-right’ video content and social media accounts drawing in gigantic numbers, the threat they represent is now far greater than anything posed by the far-right on the street or at the ballot box.
So, get online: raise up the voices of dissent and of antiracism, produce videos championing our values, run coordinated disruptions online – whatever form it takes, we must do more of it.
- Stay educated and vigilant:
The far-right may currently exist in what my HOPE not hate colleague Joe Mulhall has termed a ‘post-organisational’ state, but some fringe far-right groups still exist in the UK. Familiarise yourself with far-right symbolism and terminology, and keep abreast of new groups popping up, no matter how small.
Having said that, you don’t need to be an expert in the history of post-war fascist movements to be effective. Keep a look out for our annual ‘State of Hate’ report (2019 edition coming this month, 2018’s is here), which provides a complete analysis of the far-right in the UK.
Learn about specific slogans and acronyms, so that if you see them online or in your community, you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Try and keep on top of current far-right “talking points” and campaigns of misinformation, so that if someone repeats one of them in your presence, you are able to debunk it immediately.
- Remain flexible:
As a bonus, I’m going to end on a theme which ties the previous five points together: stay flexible.
The simple fact is this: just because one tactic has been useful in the past does not mean that it still has, or will have, that same level of effect today or in the future. Situations, technology and attitudes develop and shape our responses.
We must be prepared to continuously adapt, just as the far-right has done, in order to meet and defeat this new manifestation of an old menace.
Nick Spooner is the Digital Organiser for HOPE not hate (@hopenothate)
He tweets at: @Nick_Spooner1
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