The following report of the ‘Racism and the Far Right’ School commission, is by Paddy Meehan, from Belfast, N Ireland. Recently Paddy and other members of Socialist Youth helped to organise local residents against fascists and racists in South Belfast who targeted immigrant Romanian families, forcing them to flee their homes. This action isolated the racists and halted the attacks. Paddy’s high profile in this campaign led to him receiving death threats from fascists in N Ireland. As well as the reports of contributions made during the commission below, Paddy reported on the courageous and inspiring work of the CWI comrades in Belfast against the dangerous threat of the far right in that city. Following this campaign, Youth Against Racism has been launched in N Ireland to help counter the far-right which is targeting young people, especially those in working class communities which suffer from high levels of unemployment. Youth Against Racism is a broad campaign that not only mobilises and confronts racists in the local communities, but also highlights the need to tackle the social conditions which give rise to racism, such as unemployment, lack of housing etc.
Racism and the Far Right
The 16 July 2009 commission on racism and the far right reflected the increase in the vote of the far right in many countries across Europe. It also demonstrated clearly that in many of these countries the CWI has a proven record of dealing with racism and effectively opposing far right and fascist groups.
Hannah Sell (Socialist Party England and Wales) introduced the discussion outlining the increase in the votes of the far right and fascist parties across Europe. The FPÖ increased its vote to 17.3%; the Dutch Freedom Party won 17%, becoming the second largest party in Holland, while the Northern League in Italy doubled its vote. The British National Party (BNP) won two MEP’s, with further gains for the far right in Hungary, Sweden and Romania.
Christine from Italy reported on the complicated situation of the Northern League’s development. The party received 20% of the vote in the north of Italy and has succeeded in introducing the legalisation of vigilante groups, the forcing of public officials (including hospital staff) to inform on ‘undocumented refugees’ and making it a criminal offence to help ‘illegal’ workers with a 3 year prison sentence.
These gains and the present position of the far right were the consequence of the collapse of Stalinism, the capitulation of the social democratic and former workers’ parties to capitalism and crucially the lack of a real socialist alternative for many workers and youth. In tandem with this, many of the trade union leaders gave up a class fighting position preferring a form of social compromise with the bosses. Given the vacuum of leadership of the working class, the far-right have been able to exploit fears created by globalisation; that is the moving of production abroad to cheaper labour countries and the use of super-exploited cheap labour to lower wages within countries.
Far right parties in some countries have gained a semi-stable electoral base. However, where significant new left formations exist, for example Die Linke in Germany, they have been able to partially cut across the growth of the far right.
Many of the far right groups were founded by neo-fascist forces but have, to one degree or another, moved away from this in order to gain an electoral base. Despite this, some still contain the hard core fascist elements. This situation is not fixed, for example, neo-fascist elements are becoming more central to Austrian FPÖ.
The parties of the far right, although gaining electorally, are unable to link up due to the contradictions of their nationalist views. Despite this, general trends do appear in their development and activity. Improved election results and even breakthroughs in some countries are not linked to an increase in membership. Even a split in the parties, as has happened in the BNP and Austrian parties, does not generally affect their vote.
There has been an increase in racist attacks and also the violence of the attacks. In the past 18 months, the CWI in Sweden have been attacked 11 times, including an attempt to murder one CWI member. In Germany, some fascist groups have started to replicate the anarchist ‘black bloc’ tactics.
The racism in their propaganda has increased during the economic recession, with an aspect of anti-establishment or even anti-capitalist rhetoric. The Vlaams Belang in Belgium has called for the nationalisation of a car plant while the German NPD called for state intervention to save shipyards. The main capitalist parties in some countries begin to copy the positions of the far right to preserve the interests of capitalism.
The application of ‘No Platform’
During the discussion the question of preventing the far right from gaining a platform when they have already succeeded in winning public positions was raised. Marxists are, of course, completely opposed to the vile, racist and anti-working class ideas of the neo-fascists and far right. To stop the far right we employ the tactics that best respond to any concrete situation and which will raise the consciousness of the working class. In the 1930’s, when Trotsky advocated the tactic of ‘no platform’ he did not make it an absolute principle and at certain junctures socialists and communists debated with fascists.
Already the CWI has been posed with this question in a concrete way, as we have been invited to debate in the media with far right politicians like the BNP, Vlaams Belang and the Swedish Democrats. If the media insist on inviting these far right parties onto the programme, it would be wrong for us to refuse to take part on every occasion, albeit under protest. To not participate in these debates does not stop the far right from espousing racism; it only means we cut ourselves off from challenging them.
Far right cut across by the left
The tactic of fighting the far right comes down to posing a political alternative and also to the capitalist system. Many comrades reported the ability of a left force cutting across the electoral successes of the far right. Igor from SAV in Germany reported that in the European elections, 5 years ago, only the fascist NPD were using anti-establishment or anti-capitalist rhetoric but in 2009 Die Linke (Left Party) stood in EU elections and cut across the far right’s support. They were able to do this despite Die Linke’s political limits.
Members from Austria, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, Czech Republic, France, Israel, Russia and Britain explained the huge amount of campaigning against racist attacks the CWI has been involved in. The common thread was that we approached this work not in a lecturing manner but one of explaining the issues and linking the struggle against racism to the mobilisation of the working class.
CWI: ‘Jobs, Homes, Public services NOT Racism’
Geert Cool from Belgium concluded the discussion by pointing out that although the economic crisis may the worst since the 1930’s the prospect of fascist states emerging again was not on the agenda at this stage. The crisis does give far-right parties new opportunities to grow, however. The economic crisis can and has provoked huge struggles of the working class which push the far right to the side and isolate them.
The CWI will continue to combat the forces of the far right and racism but it will be the working class taking control of society and redistributing the wealth of society in order to meet the needs of all that will begin to create the real basis to permanently eradicate racism.