Rishi Sunak meets Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Oct 2022. Rishi Sunak meets Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Oct 2022. Source: UK Government - Flickr / cropped from original / shared under license CC BY 2.0

The right-wing establishment’s fanning the flames of street fascism makes the pro-Palestinian movement the key to wider struggles, argues Kevin Ovenden

The Home Secretary is doing an Enoch Powell of April 1968, and the Prime Minister has been too pathetic to sack her. She has, in effect, summoned racist thugs of the EDL onto the streets of Whitehall on Saturday. She is calling on the police to be more sympathetic to the extreme right than when popular anti-fascist mobilisation forced the authorities to take a firmer stand some years ago. It’s not popular prejudice enabling fascism in Britain right now. It’s reckless Tories like Suella Braverman and concessions made by Rishi Sunak.

It may well be that she is trying to get sacked in order openly to launch a leadership bid. But as of Friday morning, Sunak had not moved against her. That meant she continued to have the authority of Home Secretary in stirring up the far right on the street and not only online and in the right-wing media.

There are important lessons from history and from elsewhere in Europe today over where this is going, no matter what Braverman’s immediate fate. The path for the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece from 2010 onwards was not paved by some popular prejudice of the ‘uneducated’ layers. It was not some automatic result of economic collapse, on the one hand, and migration on the other.

The critical element was the calling forth of the racist right and flirting with outright fascists by the right wing of the Greek equivalent of the Tory party. It was the Samaras faction of New Democracy that, from above, generated racist and authoritarian reactions through the state and that legitimised formations like Golden Dawn, which they saw as useful for their personal and political ends.

They could quietly encourage the fascist violence while also pointing to it as a reason for greater authoritarianism and the need to clamp down on the left or, they said, ‘citizens will take matters into their own hands’.

That is happening now in Britain. It foreshadows continuing Tory breakdown and almost certainly a very bad defeat in the election next year.

From that will come realignments on the radical right. In what ways exactly, we don’t yet know. The Reform Party has been getting around 7% in elections and will aim to have equal billing with the remaining extreme-right Tory MPs, who, in turn, will want to offer a lead to those embittered MPs who had held on.

And with that foothold in parliament to offer, the plan will be to give a lead to extra-parliamentary, radicalised far-right forces. They in turn will hope to be the opposition to a Keir Starmer government that manages to disappoint even before it has been elected. Some variation of that is coming down the road.

Palestine is central

So we see how the question of Palestine, opposing Britain’s role in Israel’s war on Gaza, and stopping Britain’s militarism and wars abroad are right at the centre of heading off the far right today. Along with that is generating stronger solidarity and action by working-class people over the massive squeeze on living standards and life for ordinary people.

Of course, there are direct anti-racist battles. The Supreme Court will decide next Wednesday on whether Braverman’s grotesque Rwanda deportation scheme is lawful, or whether it breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. It will be a flashpoint for the radical right and racists. There will be demands to scrap human-rights treaties if Braverman loses. There will be calls for her to bid for the leadership if she wins. With that in mind, it is very important how the multiracial demonstrations for Palestine have expanded the anti-racist field. The exact opposite of the claims by the right and supporters of Israel’s war.

In political terms – that is in the interaction of state, government, political and social forces in Britain – at this moment, it is the advance of the pro-Palestine movement and its capacity politically to defeat attempts to stop it that is critical. Thus it is vital in throwing back forces that are not only incubating fascism but turning to extra-state physical mobilisation already, to try to stop the left.

In other words, they are not only creating the conditions for fascism but going down the route of the violent methods that comprise it in full-blown form. That is the deep and dangerous meaning of Braverman’s response, in inciting knuckle-dragging racists onto Whitehall, to the police refusal to ban the demonstration. There, they may well clash with the police, with others or – as the past has shown – each other.

That is why in this precise sense in Britain right now, Palestine is an anti-fascist issue. And it objectively remains so even for those who disagree with the Palestine solidarity and anti-war movements, but who will be among the victims of a violent far-right if it is allowed to grow. The spiralling movement around Palestine and against war is shaking up politics in Britain and in other countries. The effects are going to continue for years to come. One area is in the politics and movements against racism and fascism.

The fascist Marine Le Pen is to attend a demonstration with politicians of French president Emmanuel Macron’s party on Sunday purportedly in opposition to anti-Semitism. She is using the blood spilt in Israel-Palestine and her support for the extreme-right government of Binyamin Netanyahu to try to wash away the deep anti-Semitic stain that runs through her party back to its foundation. That is why we need anti-racist and anti-fascist movements that are broad but also militant, and with a politics that is directed against the system that is rehabilitating outright fascist street methods. The upsurge in the mass movement for Palestine is the big space at this moment in which such politics and organisation can be built. It is a moment that has to be seized.

Before you go

Counterfire is growing faster than ever before

We need to raise £20,000 as we are having to expand operations. We are moving to a bigger, better central office, upping our print run and distribution, buying a new printer, new computers and employing more staff.

Please give generously.

Kevin Ovenden

Kevin Ovenden is a progressive journalist who has followed politics and social movements for 25 years. He is a leading activist in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, led five successful aid convoys to break the siege on Gaza, and was aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship when Israeli commandoes boarded it killing 10 people in May 2010. He is author of Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth.

Tagged under: