Some leading left-wingers have called on Corbyn to support a ‘People’s Vote’ in order to curtail the rise of the far right. But reversing Brexit will do nothing to undermine the fascists. Instead, we need bold socialist demands.
As Theresa May’s government continues to implode over Brexit, the liberal media is awash with pundits giving their two cents about just what should happen next. Rachel Shabi and Paul Mason – writing in the Guardian and the New Statesman respectively – have some advice for Jeremy Corbyn: support a second referendum on Brexit to stop the far right.
The far right has certainly been emboldened by the political atmosphere of xenophobia and national chauvinism whipped up around the Brexit vote. The Tories – and the right-wing rags that support them – are responsible for creating a mood of bigotry and racism, attempting to divide workers in a desperate attempt to cling onto power.
This reactionary bile has only been able to gain a foothold in society by presenting itself as an alternative to a broken and corrupt status quo. British politics is becoming increasingly polarised as the liberal centre ground shows itself completely incapable of resolving the crisis of capitalism. They have nothing to offer save yet more grinding austerity, proving themselves to be nothing but faithful servants of their friends in the banking sector.
The Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, however, can provide another alternative: a radical socialist alternative that addresses the real problems of the working class, rather than blaming them on Muslims or migrants.
This strategy has already seen success. Many other traditional social-democratic parties face electoral oblivion, due to their failure to break with the failed politics of ‘Blairism’. In contrast, Labour is now the biggest party in Western Europe, due to its focus on class questions.
In the 2017 election, Labour had the largest increase in its share of the vote since 1945. This completely undermined the influence of UKIP, who saw their vote share collapse from 12.6% to just 1.8%, losing their only seat. This is because Labour fought the election on class issues, not on the basis of Britain’s future relationship to the EU.
A second referendum would neither help Labour put forward a radical socialist programme nor put the far right back into Pandora’s box. The naive hope of many ‘People’s Vote’ supporters is that by cancelling Brexit, Britain can return to a time of political calm and stability. But that stability has been shattered forever by the crisis of capitalism. Brexit has exposed all the festering wounds within British society. The genie cannot be put back in his bottle.
This is why Shabi, Mason and others are pressuring Corbyn to come out in support of the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign. They hope that the Labour leader could provide radical credentials to a cynical attempt to rebuild the old status quo. But this would only undermine Corbyn’s message of change, demonstrating – both to his supporters and his right-wing opponents – that he can be made to capitulate.
Symptom of a rotten system
Rather than demoralising the far right, another vote on Brexit would be handing them an ideal political situation on a silver platter. Another referendum campaign would be seized on by the far right as an opportunity to spread their reactionary hatred, styling themselves as the true defenders of democracy against a corrupt establishment.
Even in the event of a Remain vote, the matter of Brexit would not be put to bed. Instead, it would continue to consume British society for years to come, giving the far right evermore opportunities to go on the offensive.
It is important to reminded ourselves – and the fascists also – of the fact that they only represent a tiny minority of society. Fascism is not a mass movement or an imminent threat to the working class, and alarmist cries of fascism should not be used in order to lull the left into making an unholy alliance with big business in defence of the capitalist EU.
Of course, individual fascists thugs and gangs are an increasing threat to the labour movement and ethnic minority communities, as seen by the brutal killing of Jo Cox MP and the recent revelation of a fascist plot to murder Labour MP Rosie Cooper.
But the far right will not be scared off by a public vote to rejoin a crumbling political and economic union that serves only to defend the interests of European bankers and bosses. Wherever they raise their foul heads, the fascists and far right must be confronted on the streets by the organised and united labour movement.
In the final analysis, no matter the outcome of Brexit, the far right will only be undermined in the long run by uniting working people on a class basis against their true enemy: the capitalists. The only way to defeat the fascists once and for all is to do away with the rotten capitalist system that breeds them.
Fight the far right – no pasaran!
By Steve Jones
The sinister threat of the far right is one that can no longer be ignored by the labour and trade union movement. These violent elements are increasingly targeting our movement, as well as migrants, Muslims and others who they choose to try and intimidate.
After an anti-racism protest in London last year, for example, EDL thugs assaulted RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley and other union members. This is perhaps just the latest high-profile incident of the rising far right problem. Before that we had the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016. There have been reports of left-wing stalls being attacked. In one recent incident, a trade union picket line was harassed.
If nothing else, this shows the real anti-working class face of these groups and those who lead them.
Even the establishment has finally started to pick up on the threat from the far right, after years of concentrating entirely on Islamic terrorism. Indeed in the US, the number of far-right terror incidents now accounts for nearly three-quarters of all such reported events. In Britain, the number of referrals about the far right made to the government’s Prevent programme has increased from 968 in 2016-17 to 1,312 in 2017-18.
The recent terrorist murders in New Zealand have also served to raise concerns about the links of the far right. The killer travelled to Europe and had contact with a number of key figures on the fringes of the right. Many now wonder if what happened in New Zealand could happen here next.
Some sections of the far right have recently tried to re-invent themselves to be more respectable to the media. The BNP tried this tactic two decades ago. But after some initial success, they soon found the tactic wanting and split apart.
Britain First also tried this, but have been quickly exposed for the racist scum they are. Football hooligan based groups like the EDL and the DFLA have also courted respectability by claiming to just be against Islamic terrorism etc. But they are clearly aimed at providing a violent outlet for their miserable ranks.
UKIP has also moved to capture some of the far right market, trying to co-opt Tommy Robinson into their line up. Other groups such as the National Front have largely stuck to the old Nazi template set up by Mosley before the war.
A more dangerous threat is to be seen from the various violent groups that have spewed forth from the banned National Action group, which openly argues for white power and a Hitler-style fascism. These groups have continued to organise, and are clearly set on carrying out violent acts.
Meet them on the streets
Of course we must not succumb to the same wild fantasies that fuel the minds of those who lead such groups and imagine that fascism is on the order of the day in Britain. This is not the case. The ruling class will only surrender control to the fascists as a desperate last bid to save their system.
The essence of fascism is to violently destroy any form of working class organisation. It requires a mass movement of the ruined middle classes and declassed elements – driven to despair by the impasse of capitalism – to achieve this aim. Only when the working class fails to take power and transform society can such elements seize their opportunity.
Despite the concerns – even of the establishment – about the rise of far right activity, it is worth noting that when Labour put forward a radical programme in the 2017 election campaign, under Corbyn’s leadership, it cut across the reactionary bile of UKIP and other groups. Providing a clear alternative that offers a real solution to working people’s problems would leave the far right isolated and impotent.
We must be aware, however, that these groups, small as they are, will target the forces of the labour movement. They will also continue to target migrants and certain racial and religious groups. In the week after the New Zealand killings, race hate incidents in Britain increased by 593%.
The labour and trade union movement must act to defend workers and prevent communities, meetings, and picket lines from coming under attack. A clear sign of defiance and force from the organised working class would undermine the confidence of these thugs – just as the fascists were given a hammering at Cable Street in the 1930s and Lewisham in 1977. The message must be: they shall not pass!