Author Archives: lives; running

Ellen Wilkinson: anti-fascism in the 1920s

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A previous article described Ethel Carnegie Holdsworth as Britain’s first anti-fascist. It is pleasing coincidence that the second anti-fascist in British history was also, like her, a working-class woman. Published in October 1924, presumably to accompany the second anniversary of Mussolini’s seizure of power, the first sustained piece of anti-fascist writing in Britain was published by a left-wing radical education campaign, the Plebs League. Thirty-eight pages long, and printed in a distinctive gothic front, the cover shows the image of a skull, presumably to represent the fate of the left if it did not respond adequately to the new far right.

The pamphlet’s publishers, the Plebs League, were the distant ancestors of today’s trade union education movement, with a network of organisers giving classes to some 30,ooo students a year in trade unionism, psychology, economics, geography, the politics of trade unionism and of the industrial co-operatives.

The author chose to remain anonymous, giving herself no more than the initials LW. The members of the Plebs League executive at this point include the historian of the feudal economy Maurice Dobb, the publishers Eden and Cedar Paul, the writer Raymond Postgate, JT Walton Newbold (who had been, briefly, one of Britain’s first Communist MPs), Ellen Wilkinson, and Winifred and Frank Horrabin. The most likely candidate is Wilkinson, who has gone down in history as the MP who led the Jarrow March, and was later the Minister of Education in Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour government. She was in 1924 a full-time official of the precursor of today’s USDAW shopworkers’ union, the newly-elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East and a recent ex-Communist. She was also a creative writer and her 1929 novel Clashtells a story of romantic entanglements and revolutionary politics in the Yorkshire coalfields during the 1926 General Strike.

            LW’s pamphlet Fascism tries to steer a narrow course between parliamentary and revolutionary socialism, which would be consistent with Wilkinson’s recent membership of the CP. Indeed Wilkinson would travel to Italy in July 1925 and meet anti-fascists there, and in 1935 she would publish a further pamphlet Why Fascism?together with Edward Conze, an anti-fascist Communist in exile from Bonn.

LW begins her pamphlet with smashing of the Italian labour movement in 1919 -20, Mussolini’s beating and burning of his opponents: ‘The murderous policy of the Fascists during the period preceding their seizure of power was directed almost entirely against the workers.’ Fascism, LW acknowledged, used a language of class collaboration, and hinted at the possibility that one day workers might enjoy some say over the control of Italian industry. But this, LW insisted, was mere ‘nauseating cant’ (pg. 6). Fascism was ‘a force directed against the interests and ideals of the workers’, (pg. 7). LW referred to Clara Zetkin’s June 1923 presentation to the Executive of the Communist lnternational (republished in 2018 by Haymarket), from which LW drew the conclusion that fascism was the punishment of the propertied for the Italian left’s failure to carry through the revolution that had been possible in 1918.

The author blamed the defeat of the Italian workers on the Italian Socialist Party which as late as 1920 had attempted to fudge the difference between the reformist and the revolutionary approach to seizing power (pg. 12). The pamphlet was familiar with figures such as the parliamentarians Serrati and Turati (Wilkinson had attended the April 1921 Congress of the Communist International, where the respective failings of each had been discussed). The Communists, ‘Zinoviev and his friends,’ LW writes, ‘were right’ to demand the removal of reformists from the Italian Socialist Party; ‘and Serrati’ (who had sought to hold both reformists and revolutionaries together within a single left-wing party) ‘was wrong. There is a time to hold one’s hand and a time to strike hard, and the hour for striking hard had come in Italy in the autumn of 1920’ (pg. 14).

LW described the occupation of the Italian factories in 1920 as the high-point of recent struggle, showing the potential for ‘workers’ control’ (pg. 15). From their leader’s irresolution all subsequent defeats had followed. Fascism, the pamphlet argued, was a ramp of ‘industrial capitalists’ – not the landowners, not the army, not the professions – but the employers of heavy industry. If, under Mussolini, workers had joined its corporations this was only ‘out of fear’ (pg. 21). Elements of the industrial class remained aloof from fascism, it found its keenest support among employers in military production (pg. 28).

The author concluded her section on Italy by envisaging the possibility of a capitalist rejection of fascism, or of both the fascists and the capitalists being overturned by the workers (pg. 30). If anything, LW appears to have underestimated the capacity of Italian capital to maintain conditions of dictatorship and one-sided class war against the workers.

In common with Zetkin and other Marxist writers of this period, LW treated fascism as an international force: ‘a menace to the workers throughout the world’ (pg. 35). She acknowledged the success of Hitler and referred to his ‘temporar[y] retire[ment]’ from active political life – in October 1924, he was nearing the end of his eight-month sentence for participation in the Beer Hall putsch. She describes the success of fascist parties in Austria, Poland and Hungary. In a warning to those who attempt to describe a developing movement before it has fully formed LW wrote, overconfidently, that ‘In France, Spain … there is no real Fascist movement except in name’ (pg. 33). She was on stronger ground in describing the British Fascists as ‘an object of laughter … a glorified Boys’ Brigade’ (pg. 35).

‘Fascism,’ LW argued, ‘is a move in the class war, and its opponents can hope to succeed only if they recognise this fact and act accordingly’ (pg. 35). In terms which pre-empt the united front discussions of the 1930s, the author called for complete unity among working-class parties (i.e. Socialists and Communists) but radical distancing from the bourgeoisie. The fascists, she argued, were the direct expression of big business and the landlords, the Liberal politicians their indirect expression. Neither were the answer. ‘The courage and the political sense of the Italian workers have often been proved; if their leadership and organisation can only reach the same high standards in the coming struggle; Fascism can be crushed and a workers’ government set up in Italy’ (pg. 38).

Given the range of Wilkinson’s personal experience, her time as a worker and a union organiser in a largely female industry, and her own creative writing, there are perhaps omissions. Fascism and its opponents are examined in purely economic and social categories, there is no sense of fascism’s dependence on the Church and the monarchy, still less any integration of these power realities with a sense (for example) of the gendered way in which fascism appealed to workers.

That said, LW is an acute observer of fascism; her pamphlet stands on an equal footing with the most cited work of this generation – Gramsci’s writings on fascism, Zetkin’s, or the likes of Trotsky or Thalheimer.

 

 

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Britain’s first anti-fascist: Ethel Carnie Holdsworth and the NUCF

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In his new book, Fascism, Roger Griffin observes that the first people to write seriously about the far right were Marxists. This is true, but when thinking about Britain it is insufficient. Here, the first anti-fascists of any stature were not just socialists, they were also women: Ethel Carnie Holdsworth and Ellen Wilkinson.

Here I will describe Holdsworth, a later piece will be dedicated to Wilkinson.

In most accounts of anti-fascism in British history Holdsworth is given a brief mention. She is described as a poet who lived in the Yorkshire village of Hebden bridge and inspired the National Union for Combating Fascism, a non-violent body which warned local Labour Parties about the fascist threat. That account underestimates the significance of Holdsworth as a writer and activist and does little justice to the range of groups within the labour movement with which she worked

Ethel Cranie Holdsworth had worked as a spinner in the Lancashire cotton industry from 1897, when she had been aged just eleven. By the time she was thirteen, She was working full-time. Holdsworth later wrote poetry, children’s stories and published ten novels, including Miss Nobody(1913), a social realist romance whose themes include trade unionism, tramping, and gender politics in the family, and Helen of Four Gates (1971), which was turned into a successful silent film. Holdsworth is sometimes described as this country’s first working-class women novelist. Her fiction was feminist: there are men in her books, and relationships, good and bad. But the action is resolved by the decision of women.

Holdsworth’s contacts ranged across the left: born into a Marxist family, she wrote for the Labour Party press and for the anarchist journalFreedom, where in winter 1924 she added her name to an early demand for the closure of Solovetsky prison, which held a number of the regime’s left-wing critics.

Between 1923 and 1925, together with her husband the poet Alfred, Ethel Holdsworth edited The Clear Light. It was a one penny paper, whose message was that the left needed to unite against capitalism, militarism and religion. The paper was sold principally in Yorkshire, although some issues name sellers in Scotland and in London. Other contributors included William Holt, a Communist from Todmorden, and the anarchist feminist Rose Witcop. Holdsworth was sympathetic to the Labour Party but skeptical of the actual Labour government that was formed in 1924, on a modest programme, and with a number of non-Labour ministers.

Anti-fascism became a central theme of The Clear Lightonly in the paper’s second year’ Holdsworth was disturbed by the support of the British royal family for Mussolini, as well as signs of fascist organizing in nearby Leeds. In summer 1924, The Clear Lightannounced its support for the National Union for Combating Fascism (NUCF). Holdsworth explain that fascism was a movement of exclusion and slavery, the opposite of democracy. She noted that the Duke of Northumberland, one of Britain’s wealthiest coal plutocrats, had gone over to fascism.

The NUCF had not been founded by Holdsworth but by Eric Burton Dancy, an activist in Chiswick. Having heard of his nascent campaign, they threw their weight behind it. The Clear Light urged its readers to join the NUCF, publishing the group’s membership form and with them the famous concluding words of Shelley’s poem The Mask of Anarchy: ‘Ye are many – they are few’.

The paper printed lists of fascist atrocities and an extract from the murdered socialist Matteoti’s The Fascists Exposed.

Holdsworth was at times despairing, warning in one article that most workers in Britain were blithely unconcerned with the fascist threat. Indeed, her sense of foreboding grew more intense with the plainly faked Zinoviev letter, and the success of the right-wing fringe in toppling the first Labour government.

Fascists threatened The Clear Light’s printer, William Ackroyd.

The July 1925 issue of the newspaper featured a number of recent successes: new NUCF branches being established in Burnley and Holdsworth. There were also urgent appeals for funds. The issue turned out to be the paper’s last.

We can only speculate about why The Clear Light was shut down: it seems that Holdsworth was living on the proceeds of her books and films, using them to subsidise the paper. The paper’s writers came from a narrow group, and it was competing against the better financed publications of the Labour and Communist parties.

The message of anti-fascism did not yet have a mass appeal; Holdsworth’s enemy the British Fascists recruited principally in an aristocratic milieu far way from their socialist opponents. The BF’s moment in the public eye – the General Strike – was still a year away. And its success, when it was obtained would be short lived; involvement in strike-breaking, working alongside the Conservative Party, caused the BF to split with a majority returning to the Tory fold.

At the same time that Holdsworth was drifting away from the anti-fascist movement, she was finishing her boldest novel,This Slavery (1925). This uses the setting of a city besieged by mass strikes, the attempts by socialists and syndicalists to foment mutinies among soldiers, and the poverty of people living on nothing better than ham bones and potato peelings. It describes the part played by working class women in leading the people around them into struggle.

Holdsworth’s politics lived on beyond her involvement in the campaign. She left an anti-fascist legacy in the mill towns: nearby Nelson would be an epicentre of the conflict between fascists and anti-fascists in the 1930s.

Changing tack

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For the last couple of months I have been writing updates and articles about what the far-right is doing – at the rate of maybe 2-3 a week (including longer posts on facebook) – going back to the internationalisation of the right, its success, the convergence of mainstream and extremists…

Post-Bolsonaro I’m going to pause on that. Everyone can see that this is a moment of breakthrough for the right in almost every country. It’s their “1960s”.

So, instead of trying to fill everyone with gloom I’m going to write more about anti-racists and anti-fascists, about strategies which have worked and ones which haven’t. And why.

There’s no shortage of pessimism of the intellect out there – what we’re missing is optimism of the will.

What it means to ask if Bolsonaro is a fascist

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In response to recent pieces by Alfredo Saad-Filho and Valerio Arcary:

When writers on the left debate whether X individual or Y political party is a fascist, we do so for specific reasons. In the last hundred years, the richest countries of the world have with one exception been free from civil war, genocide and even direct military conflict. The major exception was fascism. It follows that fascist parties are an exceptional form under capitalism, which are capable of talking all the hatred and the violence on which capitalism thrives but concentrating and taking them further; much further than is possible under any other form of politics. All sorts of practical conclusions (indeed the whole anti-fascist tradition, in all its varieties) follow from this premise.

For at least two years, we have been living through a moment of far-right advance, which has included victories for the right in major powers (which are therefore capable of emulation): Brexit, Trump, the thirty-three percent of the vote won by the Front National in the second round, etc. But until very recently, these victories were being won by forces which were clearly closer to conservatism than what we ordinarily understand as fascism. The key personalities, Farage, Trump, Le Pen, were electoral politicians with neither fascist political nor a base of sup-port (a mass movement) outside the electoral sphere. With the likely victory of Jair Bolsonaro in tonight’s election that changes; very many Brazilian socialists regard Bolsonaro as a fascist, he uses a language of authoritarianism and makes promises of violence whose sadism seem to make him a definite step to the right compared with what has gone before – not just in Brazil but internationally. Here, I am not going to attempt my own definition of Bolsonaro’s movement – readers who want that detail are directed to the pieces I linked to at the start – rather what I want to do is make some general points about the period we are living in and what it means even to ask whether a particular movement is fascist.

Why Bolsonaro is unlike fascism:

There have been many political authoritarians in history who were not fascists

Part of the claim that Bolsonaro is a fascist rests on his frequent invocations of the military rule of Brazil’s generals and his attempts to eulogise that regime including its use of torture. If the judges stand up to him, he says he will send the army to crush them. He calls on the existing repressive institutions of the state to destroy the liberal ones. But the twenty-year dictatorship of the Brazilian generals was not a fascist regime. It was a top-down, anti-democratic regime but it did not practise violence against its own population on the scale of the interwar regimes. It is horrible and offensive to have to think like this, but of the different estimates for the numbers killed by the generals the most common are in the hundreds or the low thousands. Compare, for example, the terror experienced in Spain after Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War, during which at least a hundred times as many people were killed. In terms of its economic policies, it was a corrupt developmentalist dictatorship well within the bounds of conservative politics.

When writers on the left have attempted to define fascism, one common argument has been it is a form of politics which emerges outside traditional regimes, and seeks to organize a mass movement against the existing capitalist class, and it is this outsider quality which enables it to govern more aggressively than conventional right-wing politics. If Bolsonaro introduces a personal form of rule which goes on to recreate the social content of the Brazilian military dictatorship, then his is a regime which must be urgently resisted. But it will not be fascist.

Part of what makes fascism is a commitment to certain core ideas (the leadership principle, sexism, anti-semitism, the identification of the left as the movement’s antagonist, autarky, the creation of a new fascist man…)

On this score as well, Bolsonaro’s ideas seem to be closer to ordinary right-wing thinking. His economic advisers are neoliberals rather than advocates of national protection. They (and he) speak of recreating Pinochet’s Chile rather than the 1930s.

But how did fascism get to be fascism?

Part of the danger when making these arguments is that, even if they are “correct” they rest on static categories when what is taking place before our eyes is a process: the birth of an international movement combining different elements. So, Brexit (which was not in itself a step to the far right even if it had some of those qualities) contributed to the rise of Trump (whose conservatism edges much closer to what we think of as far right) and then gave impetus to Le Pen whose party had been set up in order to convey the false impression of normality on what were initially a fascist leadership). Trump’s support, and the last-minute intervention of Steve Bannon, both contributed significantly to the success of the League in Italy. Different right-wing elements are boosting and competing with each other to be the most violent and the most influential movement on the right.

This process has an affinity with the rise of fascism which saw parties of different origin (the plebeian fascists of the NSDAP; the reactionary Catholics of Franco’s regime and in Romania…) competing with each other internationally to be the most aggressive, and in that way moved them from one point on the political spectrum to something new. Even the fascism of the 1930s was considerably more radical than the fascism of 10 years before.

This is the only possible or even most likely outcome, there are other models of right-wing convergence: Thatcher and Reagan 1979-80, for example, which fell far short of fascism.

The limits to how far convergence goes does not depend only on the context (post 9/11 authoritarianism, the 2008 economic crisis), or even on the starting-point of the various right-wing figures, but also on how quickly the left finds new ways of reinvigorating itself in response to them.

There is indeed no reason to assume that the murderous authoritarians of the future will be fascists. If we assume that capitalism is going to last for (say) another century – despite dictatorships, environmental degradation … – then it is likely that all sorts of violent political forms will emerge which will be in various ways unlike what has gone before.

Finally, fascism remains a despised tradition. And while the presence of fascism in our collective memory has declined compared to previous generations (a process which makes life easier for the violent right), fascism is still a tradition which offends as much as it attracts. For that reason, it is more likely that even a party which wanted to occupy much the same political space as fascism would give itself a new name.

Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin’s race problem

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R. Eatwell and M. Goodwin, National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy. London: Pelican, 2018. ISBN 978-0-241-31200-1 £9.99

No doubt, this weekend’s papers will be full of positive reviews of Eatwell and Goodwin’s book. It has been accepted by a major publisher, and the story with which it engages (the inexorable rise of the far right) has been a staple of press reporting for many years. Despite their book’s seeming length (344 pages), the text is in fact on the short side (c70,000 words) and can be read in a single sitting. There are few academic references, the language is simple, as indeed is the message. All the authors want you to know is that the far-right has been doing well electorally for some time, that its voters are normal people with comprehensible motives, and that its rise is therefore likely to continue, as they conclude with the book’s final sentence, “for many years to come”.

If the authors have an antagonist, it is not the “national populists” (at pp 70-2 Eatwell and Godwin argue that the adoption by the latter of racialized welfare policies mean that they sit awkwardly outside the category far-right) but left-wing academics (“progressive liberals”). The latter share a series of muddle-headed (“biased”: p xiv) views about the populists. In particular, leftists wrongly think that the right’s support is restricted to the old, and that their ideas will die out because of their limited appeal to younger voters (p xxvi).

The authors insist that national populist voters hold views about black and Muslim people which are both racial and legitimate. “Racial” is my term not theirs; what Eatwell and Goodwin argue is that it is wrong to regard such views as “racist” since the latter is a boo word which operates to silence debate. They argue that accusations of bias,

“stifle important debates about immigration and Islam. For example, should economic immigration be closely linked to the receiving country’s economic needs, or should such immigrants have immediate access to benefits on the same terms as native people? Turning to Islam, should what many see as symbols of women’s oppression like the niqab be banned in public, and Muslim schools be expected to teach Western values openly and fairly?” (p. 74).

For Eatwell and Goodwin, the greatest danger to avoid is the tendency of liberals and leftists to restrict the expression of Populist opinions. Debate is sacrosanct.

Yet no historian of migration would accept that “debates about immigration” have been “stifled” whether in Britain, Western Europe or the US. Rather, the media has been writing about migration fascinatedly, if not obsessively, for more than fifty years.

Goodwin and Eatwell suggest that a discussion is needed as to whether countries should be allowed to limit immigration opportunities to prospective immigrants’ employment (“receiving country’s economic needs”). They seem to be unaware that this has in fact been the principle route of “economic immigration” to Britain for more than fifty years.

You also have to wonder from where Eatwell and Goodwin have picked up the idea that there exist, in Britain, Europe or the US, large numbers of Muslims schools which teach prejudiced views hostile to Western values? In Britain we have a large and well-resourced bureaucratic infrastructure (Prevent) which monitors the views of Muslim teachers and students and dissuades or criminalises the holding of such opinions. The assumptions that Muslims are opposed to the West and that Prevent fails to curtail them panders to the alternative facts of far right propaganda.

In the middle passages of the book, Eatwell and Goodwin confront the argument that anti-migrant sentiment is racist. No, they insist, it is rational. “By the end of the twentieth century … the US and much of Western Europe had witnessed large and often unprecedented waves of immigration which were also often more visibly and culturally distinct than earlier ones and which then accelerated during the next two decades of the twenty-first century as the ethnic transformation of the West reached new heights” (p 140).

What Eatwell and Goodwin are arguing in this passage is worth spelling out:

  • Anti-migrant racism is a response to visual and cultural difference (this is what they mean when they say that recent migrants are “visibly … distinctive”: at p 136, they compare recent migration to the US from Mexico and the Middle East with the German and Italian immigration of a hundred years ago)
  • Therefore the greater the visual difference between immigrants and existing society, the more you should expect the former to be met with hostility
  • As a matter of fact, recent migrants to the West have been more different (ie blacker and more Muslim) than their historical predecessors. This explains today’s hostility.

But, there is no objective reality to visual or cultural difference. For example, in the 1950s, during an epoch of Commonwealth migration, one of the favourite claims of far-right orators were that black migrants were so stupid, or so poor, that they were reduced to eating cat food from tins. Any rational person reading about such views sixty years later would grasp that this supposed visual and cultural “difference” was contained simply in the mind of the host society not in any actual behaviour exhibited by new arrivals.

It is equally untrue to say that racial prejudice exists in a simple relationship to cultural or in particular colour difference. If that was right, then you would expect the greatest acts of racism in twentieth century Europe to have been directed against the blackest of minorities. But the Jews and gypsies of 1930s Europe were white.

To argue that racism directed against Syrians fleeing from Assad is rational because they are Middle Eastern and therefore blacker than previous immigrants is bizarre; not merely in the context of German history (the Syrians of the 2000s are no blacker than the guest workers of the 1950s), but even more so in French or British history.

Eatwell and Goodwin are, in fairness to them, experts in Politics not History, but if such analyses were expressed in a first year seminar on migration history, even a class of undergraduates would be baffled by them.

The argument of Eatwell and Goodwin could be summarized down to a single sentence: the Populists must be heard. Very well, stated in that form no-one could possibly object to it. But the question they avoid is the harder one: when does one person’s insistence on speaking require another person’s silence? When does speech go too far? When is it that the right to insult or lie becomes objectionable?

To those questions, the good Professors have no answer.

 

 

 

The DFLA falls; Tommy Robinson continues his rise

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Reports are coming in that the Tommy Robinson case has been adjourned.

In the history of the Old Bailey there has never been as direct a challenge to the court’s symbolic authority as the scenes today, with Robinson being allowed to speak from a stage outside the court to well over 1000 followers (on a weekday…) before going into court. His supporters pack into the narrow streets, as he calls for a revolution against journalists, against liberal society and the existing state. Their chants are heard in the courtroom.

Just down the road – anti-fascists stood sheltering behind barriers.

While the left were right to see the protests against the DFLA as a step forwards, we need to grasp that the biggest threat is not a clapped out bunch of football hooligans organising in the style of party. Rather it’s the online right, the people who are surfing the moment around us by talking about culture, about Muslims, the people with their alternative facts who have a passive aggressive streak a mile wide and who shift from street to electoral politics without settling down in either. The ones who deny that they are political and organise as a social movement.

The greater the influence of their ideas, the less we are heard. And the other side are far ahead of us…

Convergence on the right: Cambridge and the row over Remembrance Day

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I’ve written previously about how the right is changing, with the mainstream and the far right increasingly converging on politics which all the rest of used to think were limited to the margins. It is a process that takes place within political parties (think of the relationship between Trump and Bannon), between parties (think of UKIP’s relationship with Tommy Robinson), and sometimes over borders. As the mainstream and the far right converge, both are radicalised.

A good example of that process would be developments in Cambridge in the last week; where last Monday a Tory motion to the students union proposed to mandate the latter to celebrate the “valour, courage, and heroism” of “British war veterans”. So far, this was just standard centre-right politics, and nothing unusual in itself.

When the students rejected the motion in favour of an amended alternative, someone unknown (but if you were a gambling person, the obvious candidate would be one of the disappointed Tory students) leaked the story to the Daily Mail. Again, so far so normal. The Mail ran quite a cautious, sober piece, plainly backing the Tory students and deprecating those who didn’t want to focus on just British war veterans. But in a first, subtle, aggravation of the situation they published the name of the motion’s main left-wing critic, a  student presumably in her early 20s, and a photograph of her smiling with a glass of beer in hand – no doubt scraped from facebook. (I am very deliberately not repeating her name here – even if the right refuse to allow her privacy, everyone else should respect it). The message of the image was simple: here was the callous, stupid, indifferent and hypocritical left drinking while poor veterans were ignored.

From there, the story was picked up by others, including American and online publishers (Breitbart, Reddit). This was another definite step to the right.

By Thursday, the papers were reporting that the movers of the amended motion were receiving death threats.

Meanwhile, the Conservative students, rather than being ashamed of the coverage and seeing a need to take the heat out of the situation, were continuing to put out press releases denouncing their left-wing opponents.

On Monday morning, Piers Morgan sided palpably with the Tory students – and accusing their critics of wanting to celebrate Hitler and Isis rather than the British dead.

Right now on twitter you can see Dfla supporters beginning to discuss paying Cambridge a visit to coincide with Remembrance Day.

There’s a gendered aspect to the photograph which the Mail chose – they would not have chosen similar image of a male activist. The threats she is now receiving on Twitter are gender specific with people calling her silly, more than once person threatening to kick her “in the fanny”, others calling her a child, ugly, spotty, using the C word…

There is a process in which the centre and far right are competing to outbid each other, each insisting that they are more patriotic than the other. Normal politics is replaced with threats of violence. A key role is played by digital media, which broadcasts the loudest and most synthetic outrage not caring who is its source or where it leads.

It is the competitive but amicable relationship between the centre- and the far-right which is the key.

Normally, you cannot be an advocate of electoral politics and someone who uses death threats against your opponents. Most people understand this: it’s why Trump received such criticism after his support for the alt right at Charlottesville.

If anti-fascists can find a way of pushing back at that unholy alliance on the right – it might just be the way to undermine not only the likes of the Cambridge Tories, or indeed the hapless DFLA, but even higher-profile figures such as Tommy Robinson.