Leaflet first distributed at an anti-fascist demonstration in London on 13 October 2018 (PDF)
Explicitly fascist forces are a growing presence in Britain today, currently organised around Tommy Robinson's exploitation of sexual abuse trials to fuel prejudice against Muslims and the attempts of the 'Democratic Football Lads Alliance' (DFLA) to build racism and bigotry among football fans. Their supporters have attacked trade unionists, racial minorities and left-wing counter-demonstrations. They are funded by the international far right, amplified by right-wing press and social media and validated by the racism and reaction of the political establishment. It is vitally necessary to build a broad united front to mobilise the working class and other potential victims of fascism to kick them off our streets.
Fascism is not a set of ideas to be debated but a mortal threat to the working class and marginalised groups, and only grows stronger as capitalism sinks further into crisis. We are nowhere near the point where the British ruling class is required to call upon fascism to assume state power, but it would be more than foolish to wait until then. It is precisely while the fascists are small and weak that we must deal them humiliating defeats. Most fascist shock troops are recruited from the petty-bourgeois and plebeian layers hostile to trade unions and backward workers so poisoned by chauvinism that they mobilise against their own class interests. It is class struggle that will win this fight, mobilising workers to defend ourselves as a class, in alliance with oppressed groups targeted by fascists.
We cannot rely on the cops, courts or other forces of the capitalist state to neutralise the fascist threat. The same powers used to suppress the far right can, and will, be used against the left and workers' movement. Ultimately the state will side with the fascists, as its "shock troops" in reserve, despite a pretence of even-handedness. Cops, screws and squaddies are key constituencies for fascist recruitment. Police sympathies are often on show as they turn a blind eye to fascist attacks on counter-demonstrators or protect a small group of fascists marching through a much larger crowd of local residents who don't want racist scum parading past their homes.
Workers organised in the trade unions have the strategic social and economic power to lead all the potential victims of fascism into decisive action. Transport workers, for instance, could control movement of fascist and anti-fascist forces. Union contingents, trained on the picket line, can be far more organised and effective than disparate forces of the left. Fascist hostility to the unions shows that they know it. But this kind of trade union mobilisation will only be achieved by challenging the privileged union leadership who would rather provide paper endorsements and give speeches than actually mobilise their members on the streets.
In Germany in the 1930s, Trotsky called for a workers' united front against fascism, for the vast combined weight of the Communist Party and the SPD to join forces, despite their other differences, to prevent Hitler taking power. History might have been very different had the Stalinists and the Social Democrats taken this advice. The same applies today - workers of various political tendencies need to come together around this specific issue, to defend the immediate interests of the working class and oppressed against the threat of fascism. This gives us the potential to attract the broadest number of militants and maximise the chances of dealing serious blows to the fascists.
We don't expect agreement within the anti-fascist united front on international issues or how to fight all the bigoted symptoms of capitalism such as sexism, transphobia and racism. The IBT's Trotskyist programme is very different from, for example, that of the SWP, or anarchists, or the Labour left - but this will not stop us collaborating with them in fighting fascism when the opportunity arises. The no platform tactic is a weapon against fascists who seek to violently deny us our voices and perhaps even our lives, not a tool to be used against others on the left with whom we disagree. Beyond the broad base of agreement, all participants in the united front should have freedom to argue their own political programmes. While collaborating to build anti-fascist meetings or demonstrations, the different forces involved (for example, Trotskyists, anarchists, Irish republicans, feminists, social democrats or libertarians) will be seeking to argue and convince others of their point of view on many issues.
Of course, it is not always possible to collaborate. If a supposedly anti-fascist mobilisation keeps well away from the fascists in order to attract liberal speakers to the platform, as various SWP front groups have been known to do, then militant anti-fascists need to organise elsewhere. On the other hand, a strategy that relies on small bands of clandestine street fighters without mass mobilisation is equally doomed to fail. As is a sectarian approach that correctly argues the necessity of union contingents to defeat the fascists but doesn't advocate mobilising at all until the unions are in place.
Poverty, unemployment, homelessness and other symptoms of capitalist austerity are used by the fascists to divide the working class. Instead, the blame needs to be placed squarely at the feet of those responsible – the capitalists. The social problems on which fascism feeds can ultimately only be addressed by a militant workers' movement under the leadership of a Leninist revolutionary party. This party would be involved at every level in the current struggles of the workers and oppressed, while making no programmatic concessions to social democracy nor seeking strategic alliances with bourgeois forces. The process of fighting fascism demonstrates in practice the links between economic inequality, sexism and racism, state violence and other manifestations of oppression under capitalism. Fascism is a weapon in the hands of the bourgeoisie and to destroy it once and for all requires overthrowing the capitalist system that breeds it.