“Fascism is on the rise” declares Neil Hannon, singer in the Divine Comedy, as he introduces his new song, The Pact. It’s a song about coming together to stem the rising fascist tide, and has lyrics like:
When they attack
And you can be sure that they shall
We shall without delay
Come to each other’s aid
And man the barricades together
Unlike most activists or theorists that I usually quote on this blog, Hannon is not of the radical left, eventhough lyrics such as these would not go amiss as part of our philosophy. Instead, Hannon describes himself as a “Wooly kind of liberal” and when he told the guardian in 2010 that he was wary of extremisms I imagine he was talking more of aversion to the left – as that was the current on the rise following the crash – rather than the Fascist right. But this woolly liberal seems to have been moved by these darker times to make his anti-fascist views known. And he is far from the only one who has ventured out of their generally apolitical worlds to voice opposition. A lot of otherwise politically apathetic people are speaking out and if not nailing their colours to the mast at least making it visibly and vocally known that they are against this kind of thing. Which presents a bit of a dilemma for radical leftist activism in terms of the best strategies and alliances for anti-fascist resistance.
There is no question but that the priority is front line defence of communities targetted by the fascists whether this is simply practicing anti-racist solidarity by making it that bit more difficult for police and arseholes to act with immunity by crowding around, documenting, and possibly intervening in racist activity, or the more medium term construction of community networks to develop a degree of autonomy from attacks.
What one may lack
The other party will provide
And everyone must know
You mess with one, you mess with both
And together we’ll beat the bastards back
But beyond this, the traditional pre-figurative tactics and alliances of the autonomist and anarchist left are less equipped to getting the bastards out of power. In the immediate term, the only solution to state power being captured by racist bigots is to have somebody nicer at the wheel. Usually this kind of strategy is bollox – its only a matter of time before the nicer people betray us – but the threat to all things progressive with the fascists in charge is so great that it seems to be an option worth pursuing for the moment: anything to get us out of fascism.
And this kind of strategy entails cooperating with some of our enemies: liberals, both wooly liberals and consciously committed neo-liberals. And make no mistake, both will sell us out in the long term, the committed will do so deviously to avoiding sharing any of their new-found power with those of us who helped them get is, and the woolies will sell us out in the name of moderation and restraint. But rather than just putting our hands up at the outset and refusing to work with anybody in the name of anti-fascism because they are not going towards exactly the same destination as us, the threat is too serious, and too many people are already being hurt to play the moral anarchist high ground.
We need to join The Pact, but we need to do so in such a way that we are always pushing past the limits of liberal strategising. Both Brexit and Trump are outcomes of electoral politics – and no matter how much the liberals refuse to admit it, the solution to voting is not more voting. When working with ad-hoc alliances, we need to remind people that it is the demand of liberals for the support of people yet at the same time their refusal to truly represent people that has gifted the platform to the fascists. By portraying extra-parliamentary direct action and prefigurative resistance as either illegitimate or purely auxiliary to representative politics, yet at the same time sabotaging any ground made by the electoral left (e.g. the Democrats deliberately undermining Sanders, the coup against Corbyn and the general political and media alliance against him, or the cooptation of any leftist party that managed to get into power during the post-crash neo-liberal restructuring, most scandalously and brazenly with Syriza in Greece) how did they expect people to act out their opposition?
A popular front is what is needed, but we need to participate in it as we would in any campaign that doesn’t work along perfect purist anarchist principles but that actually has real people participating in it. The immediate goal is community defence and then getting the fascists out. In working towards these goals, our role is to push for prefigurative tactics built on mutual aid which make an injury to one an injury to all, and for strategies that frame these goals within a broader horizon that sees past our liberal allies’ goals to give the shaft to us and to the vast majority of people once they get the liberal peace they want.
A bond born of brotherhood
A friendship forged in fire
To benefit the common good