Brexit and the rise of the far right and fascism

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27/06/2018 by socialistfight


By Gerry Downing

The Brexit vote on 23 June 2016 is the cause of the huge rise in racist attacks in its aftermath and the rapid rise of the far right, neo-fascist Democratic Football Lads Alliance in 2018. Revolutionary Socialists should have voted remain in that referendum and should now expend every effort to frustrate and defeat that Brexit agenda, via a new Labour government and a new referendum. Economic nationalism import and immigration controls, trade wars and racist victimisations of Muslims and other minority is the territory of the right, far right and fascism, it is never the territory of the left. And revolutionary socialists reject capitalism in a single country as strongly that we reject the Stalinist notion of socialism in a single country.

Trotsky explained the economic and political basis for Lenin and the Bolshevik’s internationalism in opposition to the Stalinist revisionist theory of socialism in a single country in 1929:

“The essence of our epoch lies in this, that the productive forces have definitely outgrown the framework of the national state and have assumed primarily in America and Europe partly continental, partly world proportions … In other words: thanks to the development of the productive forces capitalism has long ago been unable to exist in a single country. Meanwhile, socialism can and will base itself on far more developed productive forces, otherwise socialism would represent not progress but regression with respect to capitalism … The formula Soviet United States of Europe is precisely the political expression of the idea that socialism is impossible in one country. Socialism cannot of course attain its full development even in the limits of a single continent. The Socialist United States of Europe represents the historical slogan which is a stage on the road to the world socialist federation.” [1]

Fuck business

In the Financial Times of 25 June, Robert Shrimsley headlined, “Boris Johnson’s Brexit explosion ruins Tory business credentials”, and the subhead, “The foreign secretary’s outburst reveals commerce has lost out to nationalism.” He then comments:

“Fuck business.” Never was the Brexit manifesto more succinctly captured than in Boris Johnson’s impromptu aside. As slogans go, it has everything. It surfs the populist wave of anger towards elites. It is easy to understand. Hell, it’s even shorter than “take back control”. The UK’s foreign secretary apparently outlined his new business strategy at a private reception, when challenged about the clamour from Airbus and BMW over the threat to jobs and investment.” [2]

In short, it reveals that Johnson was toying with far right/neo-fascist populism, like Trump has done over the last two years. Shrimsley concludes his article:

“This then is the state of British politics. A Labour party which has fallen to anti-capitalists and a Conservative party, infected by a strain of economic denialism and with a core — though not yet a majority — who place little store in business-friendly policies. For the first time in 40 years business cannot be sure that either major party cares about its interests. The nation must hope that global businesses making investment decisions and hearing of Mr Johnson’s remark do not plump for the obvious reply.” [3]

Theresa did not slap Johnson down directly but said “business is at the heart of how we are going to develop this country. We want to ensure we are listening to the business voice because business provides the backbone of our economy. It’s right that we listen to the voice of business.”

Condemning business in these terms indicates an agenda that is prepared to see section of the British business and workers jobs destroyed in order to achieve another agenda – to facilitate the rise of the far right and the fascists to face down the outburst of anger and mass strikes that everyone knows is inevitable.

Writing in the Irish Times on 26 June Fintan O’Toole asserts that Trump’s babies in cages was no ‘mistake’ but a trial runs for fascism:

“It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages. I wonder how it will go down with Rupert Murdoch.”

Image result for Tommy Robinson and the DFLA images Tommy Robinson, centre, fascist and Islamophobe.

Tommy Robinson and the DFLA

On 9 June some 15,000 marched in defence of the neo-fascist man Tommy Robinson, jailed for 13 months for contempt of court on 29 May. But for the presence of several hundred police in Whitehall on that day some of us in the 350-strong antifascist counter-demonstration would have been killed.

#FreeTommyRobinson went viral, more than 500,000 people signed an online petition demanding his release, and messages of support have been posted on social media from such figures as President Donald Trump’s eldest son, the disgraced American comedienne Roseanne Barr, Meghan Markle’s (Prince Harry’s new wife) sister Samantha and Benjamin Netanyahu’s social media adviser Hananya Naftali who tweeted his support for Robinson.

The international neo-fascist nature of the 9 June rally was established by compere Raheen Kassam, a leading figure in the far right in Britain who has personal connections with US president Donald Trump. He spoke about people taking “their countries back” in Italy, Poland and Hungary and the need to build a similar movement in Britain. He quoted from the Tory rightist bigot Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech on 20 April 1968. His racist agenda has shaped British far-right politics ever since.

Steve Bannon, US president Donald Trump’s former adviser and former executive chair of Breitbart (Kassam was the British representative) sent a message of support for Robinson. A few months ago, Bannon spoke to the Front National in France: “Let them call you racist, xenophobes, nativists, homophobes, misogynists – wear it as a badge of honour!” There were also messages of support from Louis Aliot, deputy leader of the Front National and partner of its leader, Marine Le Pen. Filip Dewinter of the fascist Vlaams Belang spoke to the rally, who has called for a “white Europe” in the past.

The main attraction was Geert Wilders, leader of the racist populist Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands. Wilders is an internationalist fascist, organising the alliance with his own group, France’s Front National, Italy’s racist Lega, Austria’s FPÖ and the rest of the far-right parties in the EU. He has lionised Robinson as a “working class hero”. UKIP leader Gerard Batten also spoke in defence of Robinson and his presence marks a turn of these far rightist to the streets, following their wipe out in the June 2017 election.

There can be no doubt that the Brexit vote caused the sharp rise in racist attacks in Britain; incidents surged by 23 per cent – from 40,741 to 49,921 – in the 11 months after the EU referendum, compared with the same period the previous year. This testifies to the essential nationalistic and racist nature of the campaign; Donald Trump infamously said he wanted “Brexit, plus, plus, plus”, testifying to the agenda of the far right. Trump’s election also saw a rise in the far right and racist attacks.

Image result for Chancellor Denis Healey, returned from Heathrow airport 1976  imagesJames Callaghan and Denis Healy – leaders of the first neoliberal government in Britain in 1976

Neo-liberalism was introduced 40 years ago

Shrimsley refers in his article to events in Britain 40 years ago. On 28 September 1976 Chancellor Denis Healey, abandoned a flight and returned from Heathrow airport because of volatile markets and applied for an International Monetary Fund loan of $3.9bn, which stipulated £2.5bn in cuts in welfare spending. A few days later he flew to Liverpool for the Labour party Conference. Healy was not allowed to speak from the platform, so he made the case for IMF austerity from the floor, to much heckling and booing. The Prime Minister, James Callaghan, then made the infamous speech that announced the beginning of neo-liberal Britain: “We used to think you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all candour, that option no longer exists.”

Healey’s described the plan as an albatross but the left led by Crossland and Benn were defeated by the block votes of the trade union bureaucrats; it passed by 3,314,000 votes to 525,000, despite the very vociferous opposition of most delegates. In 1978 James Callaghan faced down the Winter of Discontent, which saw massive strikes which overcame the efforts of the trade union bureaucrats to stop anger which burst forth against the austerity he imposed via the neo-liberal theory of monetarism on the instructions of the International Monetary fund.

Callaghan and Healey adopted that Tory line against unions and public services, becoming the first neo-liberal government. Denis Healey then began saying that unemployment benefits undermined the incentive to search for jobs and subsidised unemployment. Labour therefore inevitably lost the May 1979 election to Margaret Thatcher. Michael Foot became the new, leftist Labour leader. Foot’s leftism did not extend to anti-Imperialism, his support for the war in the Malvinas in 1982 destroyed the leftist surge in Labour and Thatcher, lagging in the opinion polls in the mid-20s now surged as the national leader who had asserted the right of British imperialism, in alliance with US imperialism to rule the globe in the interests of the labour bureaucracy and the labour aristocracy in Britain.


Anti-Imperialism and defeating Neo-Liberalism

Backing up Foot’s capitulation was the Militant Tendency, today’s Committee for a Workers International (CWI):

“A socialist government would make a class appeal to the Argentinean workers. A Labour government could not just abandon the Falklanders and let Galtieri get on with it. But it would continue the war on socialist lines.” [4]

The wrote in 1982, to flaunt their support for British imperialism. By 2011 the crisis on the left was such that almost the entire far left was pro-imperialist, either neutral on the NATO attack on Libya or produced some version of the CWI’s inane statement:

“The way in which Gaddafi has been removed means that a victory for the Libyan people was also a success for Imperialism.”


Image result for Jeremy Corbyn’s rise  images

Jeremy Corbyn’s rise is seen as a rise against austerity. Labour has 552,000 members now [5] but the mass of the working class is industrially quiescent, the number of workers on strike in 2017 was 33,000 only, the lowest figure recorded since 1891. Although it was only the seventh lowest in terms of strike days, because the same workers took several days’ strikes, in Unite on British Airways and the RMT on the railways. Imposition of austerity by Labour councils is the biggest contradiction in Labour’s anti-austerity agenda and must eventually lead to a confrontation with the working class. The Tories control 9,081 councils, Labour 6,470 and the Liberal Democrats 1,870.

More far-sighted representatives of the ruling class like the Financial Time’s Shrimsley know that Corbyn is very likely to become the next prime Minister in Britain and they are unsure how that will work out, as they were 40 years ago. He is not a safe pair of hands as yet, despite giving every indication that he will do what is necessary to defend capitalism. But will he be able to control the mass movement when it really erupts? The lessons of the history of how neo-liberalism was imposed 40 years ago must be learned in preventing its unravelling, the ruling class reason.

We too must learn those lessons if we want to give that mass membership what they want, and which will be the demands of the striking working-class mass movement which we understand is inevitable. Bureaucratic control by the TU bureaucracy was crucial in defeating the leftist surge in Labour and in the Winter of Discontent two years later. Unless we can seriously democratise Labour, defeat the dead hand of bureaucracy, whose main agent in Labour is now John Lansman, the autocratic leader of Momentum, who own the whole movement as a private company and tolerated no opposition whatsoever.

Of outstanding importance is the leadership of the far left and their stance on imperialism. Socialist Fight has given no political quarter to the pro-imperialist left since its founding in 2009, opposing the British Jobs for British workers, opposing the pro-imperialist left on Libya, ideologically led not least by the cruise missile socialist the USFI’s Professor Gilbert Achcar, and the Socialist party’s Peter Taaffe. All successes for imperialism are defeats for the entire global working class, it should not be necessary to point out to Peter Taaffe.


[1] Leon Trotsky, Disarmament and the United States of Europe, 4 October 1929,

[2] Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times, 25 June, Boris Johnson’s Brexit explosion ruins Tory business credentials,

[3] Ibid.

[4] Militant International Review (Issue 22, June 1982).

[5] In 2018 the Conservative have 124,000 members, SNP 118,000, Liberal Democrats 101,000, Green Party 41,000, UKIP 21,000 and Plaid Cymru 8,000 members.

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