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The new rise of the right

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From Hungary, to Italy, to Brazil, to the US, racists and fascists are growing. Charlie Kimber looks at what’s behind this terrifying growth—and how we can stop it
Issue 2630
Marching for Nazi Tommy Robinson (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A series of thuggish, racist and fascist movements are on the rise.

Sometimes they are in government or challenging for office.

Elsewhere they are still small but are hopeful of a breakthrough.

The election of far right Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil at the end of last month underlined that this is not a case of one or two repellent regimes. It is a phenomenon sweeping many parts of the world.

Fences and walls are going up, the razor wire is unrolled. Laws designed to expel and repulse migrants are nodded through compliant parliaments.

And there are assaults and murders in the streets. Muslims are hunted and vile antisemitism spews forth again.

The parties and individuals involved have different roots, political programmes and social bases.

Matteo Salvini of the League in Italy is not the same as Narendra Modi in India or Donald Trump in the US.

Has Brazil fallen to fascism?
Has Brazil fallen to fascism?
  Read More

There are groups that are fascist and use the uniforms and insignias of the 1930s fascists—such as Jobbik in Hungary.

There are parties that are not fascist—at least not yet—but have substantial numbers of fascists organising inside them. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is one clear example.

There are right wingers that rely on fascists for their parliamentary majority. The Austrian government is made up of a racist mainstream conservative party and a fascist party.

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan formed a “People’s Alliance” for this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections with the fascist MHP party. Now he couldn’t rule without them.

The differences matter. It’s important to say that not all of these racist, far right parties and figures are fascists.

This is not a question of saying that some are dangerous and others are not.


They are all a threat to working class organisation and the oppressed. They all have to be opposed.

One key difference is that fascism in power means the complete destruction of working class organisation and independent political life.

Because fascism is not yet triumphant we can still use the strength of the working class to hurl it back.

But it is not enough to hope for our side to organise. We actually have to do it—urgently.

Another factor is that fascism is a mass social movement which organises a street army to destroy its opponents. It is not simply a parliamentary political grouping that heads up the existing state machinery.

That’s why in Britain it is important to contest the marches by Nazi Tommy Robinson’s supporters and deny them control of the streets.

We have to understand our enemy in order to defeat it.

The new rise of the racists is a product of capitalist crisis.

Capitalism always produces racism, but its virulence and pattern varies depending on the system’s booms and slumps.

Since the financial crisis, governments everywhere have poured huge funding into the banks and the corporations to shore up profits.

That provoked anger and sometimes resistance from those who are being fleeced to bail out the rich.

In response there is intensified repression, censorship, police powers and militarism.

The “states of emergency” proclaimed in France or Turkey were ended only when virtually all the undemocratic powers they enabled were translated into permanent laws.

The police—and sometimes death squads that operate outside the state system—get free rein to arrest and murder.


President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines unleashed the police to target those they defined as drug addicts. At least 6,000 people have been killed.

Governments peddle the idea of “national unity” in order to splinter the opposition and to fuse together enough people to win an election.

That means defining some groups as aliens, opposed to what’s presented as the native decent and hard-working majority.

This consciously stokes racism and clears the path for those further to the right.

Islamophobia has been used by governments to scapegoat Muslims and justify wars in the Middle East. It is the glue that holds the far right together.

Theresa May’s “hostile environment” towards migrants aids the lies of Tommy Robinson. Home secretary Sajid Javid’s taunts against Asians and Muslims are celebrated by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance.

Racist political manoeuvres are copied and admired by other right wingers. Trump becomes an inspiration to others.

The right has consciously dismantled the ramparts that in an earlier period were erected against fascism.

As Hungarian philopoper and analyst GM Tamas puts it, after the horrors of the Holocaust there was widespread acceptance that “nobody should be excluded from the political community”.

He adds that this was always a hypocritical and imperfect reality—for example, colonial people were left out as were many black people.

But political rights were not formally based on race or religion. This, says Tamas, has now been destroyed by racists.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban says the Roma, legal Hungarian residents, are lower quality beings.

Salvini says that 500,000 migrants need to be expelled from Italy. Trump threatens to take away the citizenship rights of some people living in the US.

And it has ceased to be a dirty secret that people can be treated like this.

“Get out! Get lost! Don’t come here!” That’s the language of the new far right and fascists. People stepping from ministerial cars mouth the slogans of racist street thugs.

It is deemed acceptable in Europe in 2018 to have detention camps filled with refugees in Greece.

And to leave people to face freezing conditions in northern France rather than allow them to come to Britain. It’s commonplace that thousands can be abandoned to drown if they dare to try to enter Europe from Africa.

The nation is increasingly defined by the racists and the far right as the ethnically and racially pure, the white and heterosexual. Bolosnaro doesn’t just attack Brazil’s indigenous people, he abuses women and LGBT+ people.

But none of this would work without another factor—the decline and retreat of the social democrat left.

Socialist democrats who are supposed to offer an alternative to the inequality of capitalism have implemented austerity.

They have accepted the lie that migrants lower wages, scapegoated Muslims and cheered on imperialist wars.

They have often placed themselves in the front rank of those who demand more police and stronger borders.

This has been an essential element in buttressing the right’s agenda and weakening the defences against the fascists.

It demoralises and weakens the left.

Fortunately the growth of the far right is only one side of the picture. There is also resistance.

We stand with the quarter of a million who demonstrated against racism in Berlin, the 250,000 who marched against Trump in London. We are with the Brazilians who are taking to the streets to defy Bolsonaro and the many others across the world who are fighting back.

There have to be much bigger and stronger united anti-racist and anti-fascist movements and, just like the far right, we need to organise beyond borders.


But we need to go further and confront not just today’s fascists but the system that produces them again and again.

There has to be a socialist force that calls for and fights for a classless society.

Mealy-mouthed opposition that clusters around the racist, neoliberal European Union or the decaying centre parties won’t blunt the right.

Look at France where, according to a poll last week, Marine Le Pen’s fascist movement will take the most votes in European elections next year. The Labour?type Socialist Party is in sixth place.

It has made itself irrelevant with its austerity-lite message. Against the far right’s message of hatred and division there needs to be struggle to smash the system that has produced the growth of today’s horrors.

Capitalism is not delivering for the vast majority and it is not going to. It means poverty, war, racism and catastrophic environmental destruction.

Workers, the poor and sections of the middle class are angry—and are right to be angry. But their fury has to be turned away from the false targets offered by the far right and towards the real enemy.

Anti-racist mobilisation and class struggle is the way to break the fascists.

Ultimately the threat will be removed through revolution, when the working class takes power from the capitalist class and fights for a different world.

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