Demonstration opposing Tommy Robinson supporters, 14 July 2018. Photo: Flickr/Mark Ramsay Demonstration opposing Tommy Robinson supporters, 14 July 2018. Photo: Flickr/Mark Ramsay

The UK far right, complete with distinct Nazi elements, is a clear and present danger, asserts Sofie Mason

This year we have seen attacks on left wing bookshops and physical assaults on trade union activists. These are proven hallmarks of a weaponised far right. 

Two years ago the odious Tommy Robinson was struggling to get his fledgeling media career off the ground, today he’s being dined in The House of Lords. Robinson’s handlers will present him as a different figure to all sorts of different audiences to muster support. 

But it’s our job to be crystal-clear about what he is – a potential fascist leader – and recognise that relentlessly restating this is one of the keys to marginalising him, and marginalising him for good.  

The thirty-five year old Stephen Yaxley-Lennon cut his teeth in the proudly fascist (but now defunct) British National Party in the 2000s. It is here he learnt the potent lessons of street violence, racism and duping the working class that are the building blocks of fascism. He would have also been prompted to conceal his immigrant roots behind a faintly ludicrous moniker: the lies of Tommy Robinson start here.   

Beneath his self-serving verbiage about “free speech” and child welfare, the only consistent threads throughout his adult life are racism, violence and incarceration. No one should want him as a hero, least of all the working class. But even a loser like Yaxley-Lennon can function as an able frontman for larger, darker and more accomplished forces, the US’s Steve Bannon being only one example.  

This brings us to the still unbowed Trump. A demagogue US president whose basic MO is malice and division. When the planet’s most powerful imperial leader operates like this then reactionary and exclusionary politics the world over – from Brazil to Hungary – are normalised and invigorated. The massacre at Pittsburg is, of course, the starkest and most brutal example of this. 

In spite of these horrors, we must never lose sight of our wider political horizons.  

The central fact about Britain in recent times is that millions support a Labour Party that has a left leadership and a radical membership. We must do everything possible to strengthen Labour’s radicalism and its reach.

But remember, Corbyn’s origins are not just in established politics but in the anti-war, anti-austerity and anti-racist movements as well. Neither austerity policies nor the far right can be defeated by electoral politics alone. We need to be building the left in the streets as well as in parliament. 

In practice this means recommitting to the anti-austerity movement and challenging the government’s assault on working people in every town and city around the country. The People’s Assembly’s ‘Britain is Broken’ initiative is a great opportunity to do this. ‘

The mobilisations against the far right also need to be strengthened. Even now there are plenty of pockets of resistance to the far right. 

Recent community-based mobilisations in Norwich, Liverpool and Worcester, clear expressions of the country’s anti-racist majority, are more than enough to repel local racists. The cancellation of a far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) speaker due to speak at the feted Oxford Union at the beginning of this month similarly attests to the power of grassroots initiatives. This in turn creates a mood music that compels a major corporation like PayPal to withdraw from Tommy Robinson’s fundraising efforts.  

All of this is very positive but fragmentary. Our task is to bring all these elements together with a bold national focus. The quarter-of-a-million strong “Unteilbar” (Indivisible) against the AfD in Berlin last month is an object lesson in correctly applied anti-racist politics echoing the successes of the Anti-Nazi League in this country last century. Our aim has to be to achieve the social weight and gravitas within the movement that will allow us to confront Tommy Robinson and his thugs directly.   

Complacency and pessimism are both gifts to today’s racists; our side can and should proceed with unity, conviction and confidence. 

Sofie Mason

Sofie Mason is a political activist, arts campaigner, trade union official and occasionally works for all-female plumbing company Stopcocks.