Success in the fight against fascism depends on mass mobilisation.
In the 1930s a general strike and mass demonstration blocked the fascist challenge in France after the far right had forced the government from office.
In October 1936 100,000 anti-fascists blocked Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists from marching through east London.
In March 1943 a mass strike in northern Italy shook Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship and precipitated his downfall.
The failure of the German left to unite against Adolf Hitler meant there was no mass mobilisation and he took power without a fight.
Elsewhere the Communists ensured the same result after they flip-flopped into arguing for unity with “progressive” capitalists against the fascists.
During the Spanish Civil War they demobilised the spontaneous uprising of workers because they feared it would frighten capitalist anti-fascists.
The centrality of mass mobilisation and the need for unity to achieve that underlay the success of the SWP in helping stop a National Front (NF) march in Lewisham three decades ago. We then helped launch the Anti Nazi League to undermine the NF and later the British National Party (BNP).
Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, has today largely eschewed demonstrations and street rallies, seeking to emulate European fascists such as Jean-Marie Le Pen in concentrating on an electoral approach.
Griffin’s approach has brought some success for the BNP. The fascists hope to garner support from those alienated by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron’s neoliberal policies.
Yet while the BNP has more councillors than any previous fascist outfit in Britain, their membership is far smaller.
People on recent BNP mobilisations could be counted in scores, unlike in the 1970s when the NF could mobilise four figure marches.
This means anti?fascists cannot just rely on countering the BNP on the streets. We need a strategy to undercut their vote.
It will not do to simply tell people enraged by Blair and Brown to vote New Labour.
One task facing Respect is to organise in working class communities dumped by Blair and not leave them free for fascists to benefit from anger and alienation.
But that is only one part of a solution—one which cannot involve those who still stick with Labour or who will not go as far as backing Respect.
In the 1930s the Communists in east London organised round issues like housing to prove that they, and not the fascists, could deal with the problems of evictions, overcrowding and repairs.
Today the BNP is again trying to capitalise on issues like housing and health. But the reality is that they are anti-trade union, anti-immigrant and seek to destroy the black and white unity necessary to fight and win over those issues.
The fascists could never organise the collective, united mass action needed to win over an issue like the future of the NHS, because of their racism.
They might have opposed the Iraq war, but they hate the unity shown by the anti-war movement.
The fascists are also trying to appeal to two widely different constituencies.
The Guardian reports the BNP targeting rich areas of London such as Belgravia, Chelsea and Knightsbridge. They are recruiting “dozens of company directors, computing entrepreneurs, bankers and estate agents” and even a principal dancer with the English National Ballet.
These people, ex-Tories largely, have little or nothing in common with many of those voting BNP in Dagenham or Burnley.
To undercut any appeal the BNP might enjoy, a key solution is for the left to take up the issues the BNP wants to exploit.
In previous articles we showed how Hitler and Mussolini used anti?capitalist rhetoric on occasion, but in reality leapt to make an alliance with big business when the opportunity arrived.
Once in power they pursued relentless free market policies—benefiting their new allies at the expense of the small businessmen, the unemployed and farmers among whom they recruited their troops.
Who do Le Pen in France and the “post fascist” National Alliance in Italy work with in local or, in the latter case, central government?
The answer is, of course, with the right wing neoliberals, on the basis of agreement on free market policies.