Category Archives: fascism

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.

 

 

 

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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.

The two souls of anti-fascism

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I spent this Saturday marching against the Democratic Football Lads Alliance. I was part of a unity demonstration which began at Portland Place (i.e. a little south of Regents Park) and marched very slowlyfrom there to Trafalgar Square. Despite the slow progress (a deliberate move, intended to prevent the DFLA from marching past us), the protest was one of the most enjoyable I have been on in years. Young, very largely female, full of excited people. Among the friends I marched with were seasoned anti-fascists who go back to the campaigns of the 1980s, Marxist journalists, fans in football regalia, exiles from the lefts in America and Brazil, LGBT activists, a disabled singer, and a woman who hadn’t known about the march until she came into London that morning with her seven year old son to go shopping, asked the police who were demonstrating and (despite the police’s best efforts) found herself joining what she soon realized was a joyous celebration of unity.

There were 1500 people on the march, and the name “unity” is richly deserved. A very large number of groups – the RMT trade union, Plan C, London Anti-Fascists, AFNs from elsewhere in the country, Jewdas, Palestine activist campaigns, RS21, had turned out, in each case, quite small numbers of people. The result of these many small mobilisations was a large and exuberant protest, with songs (“I will survive”), purple smoke from flares, chants. The protest was led by Women’s Strike Assembly and placed women at the front, even pausing at one stage (as we approached the Brazilian embassy) to allow women from Latin America to rush to the front.

The unity march was youthful, and vibrant. Its most interesting component was Women’s Strike Assembly who, although a minority of demonstrators, had been allowed to set the agenda for the majority and lead them. Their idea is that anti-fascism should not simply react to far-right demonstrations but set our own agenda. For six weeks prior to the DFLA event, they had held private meetings, public assemblies to discuss their plans. They organised creches, food for the demonstrators, cookies with arrest cards. Because they have spent weeks planning for the demonstration, and because they talked to activists who weren’t initially planning to go on the demo, they were able to persuade sufficient numbers of new people to turn out so that the far right was badly outnumbered. Wonen’s Strike do not confront every single far right protest (they haven’t tried, for example, to oppose the Tommy Robinson court appearances); they think that the left can mobilise in large numbers only occasionally. That calculation is probably correct. The movement is better if we focus on occasional large turnouts, rather than mobilising small numbers of our older supporters on weekday stunts.

We confronted the DFLA; at about 3 o’clock a group of around two hundred supporters of the far right broke out of police lines and attempted to march on us. Outnumbered, their “Eng-ger-land” chants were drowned out by people chanting back at them the slogan of the Spanish Civil War, “No Pasaran.”

I waited with friends, and when it was clear that the far right was not going to break through, we set off through central London and took a good look at the DFLA. They were, unsurprisingly, the same far right crowd that we have seen repeatedly over the last eighteen months, predominantly male and middle aged, with a large number of football insignia (including, at one point, two men carrying what looked like West Ham shields carved out of a small wall of flowers). The DFLA’s strategy since the spring has been to build out of a women’s and children’s movement against rape. If that was supposed to bring in a new generation of activists, it hasn’t been successful yet. Of the 800-1000 DFLA supporters we saw, just three women were wearing stickers which alluded to that recent campaign. The DFLA itself faces an increasing threat from the right in the form of Tommy Robinson who spent last year tacking towards the DFLA and has recently moved away from it, leaving that campaign feeling like last year’s news. The stage was disorganized, the audience uninterested, as the DFLA gave a platform to its highest profile remaining allies the Justice for the 21 campaign in Birmingham, which campaigns for the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings and for the naming of the killers. Even with such mainstream allies, the DFLA seemed isolated and short of purpose.

As well as the main unity march there was also a second protest, called by a long-standing campaign group Stand Up to Racism. The organisers say that there were 2000 people on their protest. I have spoken to six of the people who were there and their estimates of their event’s size ranged from 750 to 1000 people. By the time I had got there (i.e. midway through the speeches), numbers had fallen far below that level.

The SUtR, protest was very different from the unity march. Small numbers of older men were standing far back from police lines. They were kettled, and making no effort to break out from the lines behind which they were constricted. There were in effect two stages – a DFLA stage on the North side of Whitehall, and a UAF stage on the South side, with two sets of speakers pointing away from each other. A single police helicopter made a desultory pretence of flying over the two. The UAF march did not confront the DFLA nor did the organisers have any intention of doing so.

The history of the left gives many examples of a campaign which was at once stage hegemonic on the left giving way to a younger, more political and more combative rival. After all, most members of the unity protest are veterans of previous SUtR and similar events. While SUtR was content behind its kettle, and the young were marching elsewhere, they were still chanting slogans first heard on SUtR protests.

Even SUtR derives its heritage, if increasingly distantly, from the Anti-Nazi League and the SWP of the 1970s, part of whose adoption of anti-fascism was part of a longer-term plan of replacing the ageing Communist Party of Great Britain as the largest organization force outside Labour on the left. From the perspective of generational and political renewal, it is very easy to see which forces are going to be the mainstays of anti-fascism in the decades to come.

What is harder to ask is whether even a generational renewal of the campaign will lead to what we really need – i.e. a movement capable of stopping not the smaller groups on the right but the likes of Tommy Robinson. The big picture is that the far right of our own times organises in ways different from the methods the left understands how to confront, through the adoption of a contrarian persona, anti-politically, and principally online. Moreover, in so far as anti-fascism works by distancing the extremists on the right from their mainstream allies, a problem facing us is that the two wings of the right have been co-operating voluntarily. There is, in short, a battle of ideas taking place between the left as a whole and the right as a whole. In that context, even the best of the anti-fascism can be no more than a part of the answer.

Tommy Robinson and the inconvenience of the state

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This Thursday, Tommy Robinson will be back in court in his long-running contempt of court trial. He has served two months in prison already, and has won a previous appeal; but the effect of that success has merely been to return his case to the Crown Court where a new judge will have to make a fresh sentencing decision.

I was in court in July for Robinson’s last hearing. We were in the Royal Courts of Justice with their oak paneled walls, the Law Reports stuffed hopelessly on the shelves. The public gallery was full of Robinson’s followers, trying too hard to look smart in tasseled loafers, suits which hadn’t fitted in twenty years.

Ezra Levant from Canada’s Rebel Media, and recently Robinsons employer, was one of the first to arrive. He stood by the door to the gallery, nodding at the members of the public as we walked in. Later, Levant and one of his American friends could be heard reminiscing self-importantly. “Do you remember when I was in that class action, for the American Enterprise Institute? We intervened to prevent a settlement…” Levant was trying to signal to everyone watching that he was in charge, hewas the one who was paying for Robinson’s court fees. In fact, Levant and Robinson had fallen out a year before. The former EDL man was indeed having his lawyers’ fees paid from abroad, but the main funder was not Levant. It was a different foreign Islamophobe, Daniel Pipes of Campus Watch.

Robinson was watching the scenes by video link from Woodhill Prison. Can you see your barrister, the usher asked. “Yeah.” Can you see the judges? “Yeah. Are they supposed to be that small?” Bored, ignored by the lawyers in court, Robinson was “please” and “thank you” and trying hard to look serious. “I’m not nervous before a court case,” he said, “not usually.” Soon enough the sound was switched, off, leaving Robinson picking distractedly at his shirt, like a monkey savouring its fleas.

When they spoke, his lawyers made every effort to present Robinson as a quiet advocate of good relations between different communities. Yes, they accepted, Tommy Robinson’s livestreaming from outside Leeds Crown Court breached an order made on 19 March this year, which banned any person from publishing any report of those proceedings. And yes, Robinson was already subject to a suspended sentence from a similar contempt. But he was sorry. Very sorry.

Robinson was entitled to the protection of Article 6 of the European Convention, his barrister argued. Perhaps we can expect a future demonstration at which Katie Hopkins and their like demonstrate in support of the beloved Human Rights Act?

Robinson had been learning how to be an investigative journalist. He had been trying to better himself for the purpose of challenging extremism. A reliable solicitor’s firm, Kingsely Napley, had apparently trained Robinson and warned him where the line was between legitimate and illegitimate behavior. Which did beg the question of why he had so blatantly crossed it.

Tommy Robinson, his lawyer argued, was a delicate man, the victim of self-doubt. When in prison, he suffers anxiety, butterflies to the stomach. To which there is an answer, of course, that we need a world with more empathy rather than less. And that by organizing a street-fighting army to denounce mosques and ordinary Muslims, Robinson has been more than guilty of the very heartlessness with which he now complains the state has been prosecuting him.

Robinson has not been shy to market himself as at war with the authorities. His memoir is titled “Tommy Robinson, Enemy of the State.” I have sat in court and seen what happens in cases where the state is determined not to lose. There was a post-Occupy trial where the Metropolitan Police sent an assistant commissioner to sit for a whole day in court, in uniform, doing nothing more than signaling by his presence how much importance the police accorded to a successful outcome in the case.

But there weren’t any policeman in uniform to watch Robinson’s appeal, nor even a plain clothes note-taker. And, from the point of view of the judges, the reason Robinson was on trial was not his malice but his stupidity. If there is going to be a second edition of his book then it should be titled, “Tommy Robinson: the man who unwittingly frustrates the trials of Muslims and is therefore a minor inconvenience to the lower judiciary.” But maybe that wouldn’t sell so well on Amazon.

The best thing about Robinson’s successful appeal is that ever since Robinson has been in the hands of capable lawyers they have plainly been warning him (as any lawyer should) of the risk of further custodial sentences. For the time being, he has listened to them and the street protests have stopped.

But Robinson is still the same man he ever was, and he still has the same plan which is to demonstrate again and again for his own rights, and for the subordination of Muslims. This will require him to go back to social media and to say outrageous and offensive things until everyone else notices him. His time in prison brought in a bounty of donations – the equivalent, no doubt of the £100k that Rebel Media was once paying him for a year’s work – but Robinson has expensive tastes and many hangers on. Give it six months and that money will be spent. And, when it is, Robinson will be back on the streets again.

Tommy Robinson; and the rewards of outrage

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In June, anti-fascists everywhere were shocked by the size of the Free Tommy protest in London, which had 15,000 people on it and was far larger than any comparable protest organised by any of the National Front, the BNP, the EDL or UKIP. The Robinson supporters followed it up with a smaller march a month later, with about 4,000 people taking part. After winning his appeal, Tommy Robinson is now out on bail but again facing a sentencing hearing and no doubt this time his lawyers are begging him to keep low profile (at least until the next hearing). What about afterwards; will Robinson return to the streets – and, if so, what level of support is he likely to sustain?

The first thing to grasp is that we are still in a moment when the far-right is growing faster than any other time since 1945. On the left, when we look back at the 1960s, we think go it as a freewheeling time of countercultural advance when “the movement” would mean at one time a campaign for civil rights, at any other time women’s and gay liberation, when it encompassed huge popular music festivals, campaigns for national liberation, comics, films, songs, conferences, street happenings, election victories. It was a time when somehow all these different types of movement, with all their different demands, seemed to fit together and represent one single process.

The troubling thought is that the post-2016 far right has exactly the same shifting content. To take just one example: one component of the Tommy Robinson movement is a group of football firms – the Football Lads Alliance banner. A year ago, it was solely a conventional single issue campaign only against Islamic terror attacks. But, after that, when there hadn’t been any further outrages and the issue drained out of the news; it became an external faction support a local campaign to expose the supposed connivance of the UK state in the IRA pub bombings. Then, when it became clear that the campaign couldn’t take root outside Birmingham, the FLA became a reluctant part of the Robinson movement. Now, it has changed again, and all the group’s energy is dedicated to supporting a movement of “women and children” (because they’re the same thing, right?) against rape. It relies on the unspoken but real insistence that all rapes in Britain are being carried out by Muslims. And, with the backing of Anne Marie Waters and Pat Buchanan, the FLA is now building itself through a series of further demonstrations in the North East.

A key part of the far right’s ability to reinvent itself has been the refusal of the mainstream right to police its outliers. For seventy years, the mainstream right has known that the key to electoral success has been that it must keep the dangerous elements at arm’s length. So in Britain, the most popular rightwing political between 1945 and 1979 Enoch Powell was publicly sacrificed by the Tory party – not because the Conservatives were nice people but because a purely racist approach to politics would cause the party to lose elections, and they knew that he polarised voters, when a strategy for repeated success relied in presenting Conservatism as a universal virtue, somehow above politics. The same was even true on the electoral far right: Farage built a career by driving out the nationalist element, turning down deals with the BNP and positioning his party as a friend of the Tories and closed to those further to its right.

But in 2018, we have the likely next leader of the Conservatives Boris Johnson taking advice from Steve Bannon and coming up with his racist musings about women in burkas. Or the present leader of UKIP attending pro-Robinson marches and telling the demonstrators that the founder of the Muslim religion was a paedophile and insisting that every racist fantasy they have about Muslims is true.

When Robinson’s movement took a step back in July, I argued that it was facing significant problems in renewing itself. On further reflection, I think the reasons for that were as follows. The Tommy Robinson movement is not best understood a political party but a social movement or even (better still) as what happens when a social media career starts to express itself in real life. The campaign has very few “cadres”, and almost no infrastructure apart from its online presence and a shifting micro-generation of people (Robinson’s former employer, his former secretary) who can claim to speak for Robinson himself. When he was in prison, he had very little access to his allies, he was in a cell 23.5 hours a day with phone access limited to 30 minutes in the early afternoon. He couldn’t make decision for them, and so no decisions were taken – except for just the single agreement that they should have a second demonstration in his support, to copy as closely as possible the one they had just held in June.

Now that Robinson is at large (or at least, once his sentencing appeal is over), those practical difficulties have been resolved.

All the signs are that the far-right is still growing across Europe. The next election to watch will be on 9 September in Sweden and while it no longer looks as if the Swedish Democrats will actually win, they are polling at a steady 20% of the vote, and we should except them to win their highest ever vote. There will be more press headlines in Britain describing the far right as Europe’s coming force.

Here, Brexit continues to poison our politics; there is a convergence between the ways in which the main Brexiteers see the world (Johnson: Brexit was a great idea, but the politicians never allowed me to explain it properly) and the way that the Robinson supporters understand it, as the defeat of the nation by a caste of politicians committed to keeping their cosmopolitan links and working secretly behind the scenes to betray the Brexit vote.

Above all, we need to understand Robinson himself. On his version of events, for ten years he has been trying to have a normal career, as a working class man, supporting his wife and his children. But he couldn’t be a plasterer, he couldn’t have his own business, because every time he tries to live normally, he gets into trouble with the state. Therefore he has no choice but to try to live online. And by turning to social media, by monetising his followers on twitter and youtube, he has the opportunity to live well and to have his ideas about Muslims heard.

Of course Robinson’s version of reality involves him telling lies about the threat he represents to the state. He is not public enemy number one. He has got into trouble because the things he wanted to do – to physically confront his wife, to lie in a mortgage application and pretend that his house was for another person, to disrupt an ongoing court case by filming it to build his social media support – are acts of private selfishness, malice and stupidity which the state repeatedly disciplines without needing to invoking a grand liberal conspiracy against heroic patriots.

But if we get stuck on Robinson’s immense capacity for self deceit, we can miss the more important and troubling dynamic, which is this. Even with all the support Robinson has received, the far-right donors sending him cheques, he still has to live. He needs a regular income. He needs to sustain a lifestyle in which he can pay off six-figure court fines without pausing for breath. The problem with social media is that each grotesque act Robinson does (getting jailed, filming his traumatised children…) only remains newsworthy so long as it a first. He will stay in the public eye only if he does something even more grotesque next time.

In other words, if we take seriously the idea that this current iteration of the far right is – at its core – a strategy for building influence through selective use of social media, then it follows that Robinson will have every incentive when the dust settles to “go again”, to find new ways of winning supporters and outraging the rest of us. And in a world where the right is growing, his audience still wants more outrage and not less.

Learning from the past, so that we do it differently – and even better – next time

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By 1976, the National Front had become the fourth largest party in Britain. In a context of national decline, racism, and fears that the country was collapsing into social unrest, the Front won 19 percent of the vote in elections in Leicester and 100,000 votes in London.

In response, an anti-fascist campaign was born, which combined mass action to deprive the Front of public platforms with a mass cultural movement. Rock Against Racism brought punk and reggae bands together as a weapon against the right.

At Lewisham in August 1977, fighting between the far right and its opponents saw two hundred people arrested and fifty policemen injured. The press urged the state to ban two rival sets of dangerous extremists. But as the papers took sides, so did many others who determined to oppose the Front.

Through the Anti-Nazi League hundreds of thousands of people painted out racist graffiti, distributed leaflets, persuaded those around them to vote against the right. This combined movement was one of the biggest mass campaigns that Britain has ever seen.

This book tells the story of the National Front and the campaign which stopped it.

“I was gripped and loved the way it took me through different elements of popular culture, personal reflection, policy. It is the best account of the relationship between punk and the Anti-Nazi League / Rock Against Racism.” Lucy Robinson, Professor in Collaborative History, University of Sussex.

“A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the post-war history of racist and fascist movements and the strategies of resistance to them.” Hsiao-Hung Pai, author of Angry White People.

“Dave Renton’s book helps us understand a pivotal moment in the defeat of fascism; it addresses the militant tradition of anti-fascism with real consideration.” Louise Purbrick, contributor to Physical Resistance: A Hundred Years of Anti-Fascism.

Never Again will be published in February 2019. It is available for order here.