ANTI-FASCIST and anti-racist activists and academics gathered last Saturday at the Bishopsgate Institute in London’s East End to debate the rising threat of extreme right-wing ideas throughout Europe and the western world and how to confront it.
The conference was called by the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, which it marking its 50th year. Searchlight editor Gerry Gable told the New Worker that “many people when looking at the far right do not see beyond the British National Party and the English Defence League”.
These organisations have suffered serious setbacks in recent years – largely because of the hard work of anti-fascists and anti-racists going round and knocking on doors wherever the BNP has been standing in elections to counter the lies put out by the BNP – and by turning out in huge numbers wherever the EDL declares it intends to march, not to fight but simply to block them.
Bothe the BNP and the EDL are declining but that does not mean that the threat has gone away.
Two recent conferences in London were organised by people who are re-inventing fascism for the modern era. One was facilitated by the Traditional Britain Group – which has links with the right-wing of the Tory Party and provides a bridge with the new fascists in same way and the Monday Club used to. The other was fully organised by the TBG.
The first, on 12th October, is entitled “The end of the present world: the post-American century and beyond”, and will feature the infamous Russian fascist Alexander Dugin and Alain de Benoist, the French New Right philosopher and writer who for the past 40 years has tried to influence the extreme-right agenda and organisations internationally.
A week later the TBG’s day-long conference entitled “The future of the nation state”, brought together a range of extremist participants.
Among the most concerning is the rise of Generation Identity – an extreme right wing “intellectual” group that is growing across Europe, including Britain, and is re-inventing eugenics.
A leading voice in Generation Identity is Markus Willinger, who has written Generation Identity: A Declaration of War Against the ’68ers, is trying to undo all the reforms, all the advances against racism, sexism, homophobia and general intolerance that have been made since the 1960s, which he refers to as “cultural Marxism”.
And we could be seeing the influence of these ideas in the Con-Dem coalition’s demonization of the long-term sick and disabled as “scroungers” – and some of the outrageously racist and sexist utterances of various Tory councillors and UK Independence Party “loose cannons”.
Last Saturday’s conference began with a debate on the role of the trade unions in resisting fascism and racism that was chaired by Megan Dobney, regional secretary of the South East Region TUC.
Speakers at this session included Kay Carberry, who is assistant general secretary of the TUC, Mohammed Taj, a Bradford bus driver and a member of Unite who is the TUC’s first Asian President, Jo Rust from King’s Lynn trades council and Cathy Pound who is [Searchlight’s] trade union liaison officer.
The second session dealt with the “No Platform” policy chaired by Aaron Kiely, the National Union of Students Black Students’ officer and included speakers Dr Matthew Feldman who c-directs the Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post Fascist Studies at Teesside University, Kyaz Mughal, founder and co-director of Faith Matters, veteran [Searchlight] activist Paul Crofts and journalist Tim Lezzard.
Session three was entitled: “Education in the front-line of the defence of young people” chaired by Dr Paul Jackson of the University of Northampton. Speakers included teacher David Rosenberg, Paul Mackney, former general secretary of the lecturers’ union Natfhe until it merged with AUT to become UCU, Kevin Courtney, the deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, and Dagenham teacher Dominic Byrne who a long history of campaigning against racism.
The fourth and final session, on building a stronger, non-sectarian front of mutual support, was chaired by Gerry Gable. Speakers included Bob Archer, president of Redbridge NUT, Ulrike Schmidt, a musician, instrument-maker, teacher and Activist for Amnesty specialising in campaigning against the persecution suffered by the Roma community in Europe, Daphne Liddle from the New Communist Party, Steve Hart of the trade union think-tank Class and chair of Unite Against fascism, Jo Caldwell, a leader of the very successful We Are Waltham Forest, which formed to keep the EDL out of the borough but now also campaigns against cuts and Maria Nikolakaki, Associate Professor of Education at the University of the Peloponnese in Greece and an active anti-fascist.