Issue 171 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published January 1994 Copyright © Socialist Review
Earlier this year, at a gig in London, two friends and myself were attacked by a gang of Nazis.
The attack was typical of the Nazis. The cowards attacked from behind after making sure that they outnumbered us. Even then they botched the job and when we began to fight back they ran off into the night. The three of us were left bloodied and pissed off but it could have been much worse. My black mate was wearing glasses which were smashed off his face and could easily have blinded him. The Nazis had slashed my face with a pointed instrument which had been aimed at my eye.
Adam Powell in December's Review suggests that we could have dealt with the fascists in a different manner. We should have patiently explained that they were dupes of capitalism and offered to take them to a screening of Gandhi!
Adam's argument is both confused and dangerous. On the one hand he argues, correctly, that the ANL defeated the Nazis in the 1970s, yet he also argues that they did so by 'peaceful means' and uses this as a platform to argue for a pacific response to the growing Nazi threat. This is to totally rewrite the history of the successful anti-fascist struggle.
The ANL fought the National Front--the largest of the Nazi groups of the 1970s--on two fronts. On one hand we mobilised propaganda to expose the NF as Nazis. Millions of leaflets, badges and posters alerted people to the message that the NF was a Nazi organisation with a Nazi leadership and programme. But this in itself was not enough. Hand in hand with propaganda went a commitment to stop the Nazis on the streets. Wherever the NF tried to march or meet or sell their racist filth they were met by an ANL counter-demonstration determined to stop them using any means necessary--including force.
This strategy was not based on any bloodlust or love of violence by the socialists and anti-racists of the ANL. It was based on an understanding of the nature of fascism.
Fascism is concerned not with the destruction, but with the preservation of bourgeois society.
They have to show our rulers that they are a valid option to be turned to as capitalism slides into crisis and our rulers' profits are threatened. The only arena where the fascists can grow is on the streets and we must not shrink from challenging them there.
Pacifism will not stop the Nazis! The Blackshirts of the 1930s were not reasoned away, neither were the NF in the 1970s.
History has shown us that the Nazis can be beaten. It's also shown us the consequences if they're not. By the end of the Second World War, the Nazis had murdered six million Jews, over ten million other non-combatants including Poles, Czechs, Yugoslavs and Russians, they slaughtered tens of thousands of gays and lesbians and tens of thousands of what they termed as 'mental defectives'. We say never again!
Aleksandar Sasha Simic
Adam Powell's letter implies that by advocating resistance to the Nazis 'by any means necessary' we are stooping to their level. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of how fascism works. It is not just about anti-democratic ideas, but a movement based on force that aims to physically destroy all democratic institutions.
As BNP Führer Tyndall says, 'When we come to power our opponents will be swept aside like flies.' You can't oppose it on the basis of some textbook idea of democracy where everyone has equal rights. Stopping the Nazis is a life and death question, and humanity has paid a high enough price for the left's failure to realise this last time round.
If we give Nazis the 'democratic right' to march and peddle their filthy ideas, we're letting them deny democratic rights to everyone.
Adam's right to say we shouldn't write off ordinary BNP voters in Millwall. But there's a difference between people who vote BNP out of protest and the hardened Nazis who run the BNP. Stopping the Nazis recruiting in places like Millwall means stopping them being able to play on people's fears in the first place.
The alternative is to give the Nazis the respectability they have in France, where SOS Racisme publicly debates with Le Pen, or Germany, where former socialist Danny Cohn-Bendit advocates discussions with the openly Nazi NPD.
John McAnulty claims that 'any serious examination of our early history' proves that Catholic and Protestant workers cannot be united. Even a brief overview of Irish history rubbishes this idea.
Two fine examples of workers' unity that instantly spring to mind are the 1907 dock strike and the outdoor relief strikes of the 1930s. McAnulty even admits that his own organisation, Peoples Democracy, 'did in fact physically unite Catholic and Protestant'.
More recent history provides examples of this unity on an almost daily basis. The recent civil service strike and action to defend the NHS drew wide support from both communities.
When the 90 percent Protestant workforce in Shorts walked out to protest at the murder of Catholic workers and tens of thousands of ordinary workers marched to demand peace a blow was struck against sectarianism.
McAnulty's pessimistic conclusion that workers' unity is impossible fails to understand this reality and offers no solutions to the Irish working class.
A working class fightback against low pay, unemployment and hospital closures could be a major start to breaking down sectarianism. What is needed in the North today is a socialist organisation which can link these struggles together and challenge not only the Orange state but the British and Southern Irish states also.
This can only be done by a party which, as Bernadette Devlin said 'can communicate with the Protestant by being honestly socialist'.
The SWM is building just such a movement.
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