Anti-Fascist Strategy

Anti-fascism might best be described as a rearguard action 'until better times'. In previous phases of the post war struggle against fascism, from the 43 Group through to the 62 Group, to the original ANL, the accepted custom and practice of anti-fascism was to blunt fascist aggression - collect the plaudits, hastily wind up the organisation and retire. It was never the intention that the advantage should be pushed home. In the sense that having defeated fascism in working class areas, there is no real evidence of any ambition to politically replace them there. Ultimately this political shortsightedness guaranteed that the respite would be brief.

Consequently, having suffered substantial defeat in the late 40's, the far-right, reorganised by the late 50's. From taking a hammering in the early 60's it was on the threshold of mainstream breakthrough by the mid 70's. Electorally emasculated by Thatcher's 'swamping' speech in 1979, and despite splits, schisms and internal squabbles the NF could still mount a 2,000 strong march to the Cenotaph in 1986. By the early 1990's the vote for far-right parties (despite standing less candidates) had climbed by 600%.

Military theorist Von Claueswitz, famous for the term 'war is politics by other means' stated that 'if the defensive is the stronger form of conducting war (preservation being easier than acquisition) but has a negative object, it follows of itself that we must only make use of it so long as our weakness compels us to do so, and that we must give up that form as soon as we feel strong enough to aim at the positive object'. The normal object of anti-fascist defence, is to preserve. Either an organisation or an area, or democracy itself depending on the stakes and the level of aggression. But as conditions change and become more favourable the negative, according to Von Clausewitz, must be jettisoned for a more positive objective. For previous generations of anti-fascists, the inability or lack of will to change from defensive, to the politically offensive meant their efforts were invariably wasted. Or to put it more accurately, 'if the natural course of war is to begin with the defensive and end with the offensive'; then despite their undoubted personal commitment - the job was always left half done.

'Leaving the job half done' is for this generation of anti-fascists is not even an option. Principally as the far-right, having staged a strategic withdrawal from the streets are far from destroyed. On the contrary intelligence indicates that not only are they using the time to develop a cogent infrastructure, but the BNP claim a 35% growth in membership in the last 12 months alone. Artificial though it maybe, but this then is our 'respite', our 'better times' and we must make the best of it. Otherwise there is a danger that this time around the job may be left, not half done, but undone. So for militant anti-fascism, the challenge as it has been since the BNP 'cried uncle' in 1994, is to move collectively from the defensive stance and negative objective, to an offensive and politically positive objective. Which means switching from a position of simply denying the far-right political and territorial acquisitions, to systematically working towards acquiring zones of political influence we can advance from, or retreat to, ourselves.
Despite various policy adoptions since early 1995, due to the stress always being firmly on the need to move collectively it was never going to be easy, and so it has proved. And for that same reason the transition is still patchy. Some when looking to the 'positive' objective, were understandably overawed by the size and nature of the task; others were reluctant to decommission their own ideologies. Meanwhile conservative elements; 'the Real AFA' appeared determined to reduce militant anti-fascism to a tactic of physical force - only. Encouraging signs from unconnected parts of the country suggest there is a growing recognition that with the Left decomposing, it is increasingly a matter of militants taking on the responsibility or it not getting done. Yet for many, the hardest part is knowing where to start. Increasingly the medical profession argue that the key to a cure is 'to treat the patient rather than the disease'. Focus more on how your community might be helped, and less on how the far-right might be hindered, is that logic applied to the body politic. As Machievelli noted 'political disorders can be quickly healed if seen in advance, when for lack of a diagnosis they are allowed to grow in such a way that everyone can recognise them, remedies are too late'. Fortunately, anti-fascism has made it's diagnosis. And made it collectively. However for the impact to be felt, the remedy needs to be applied collectively as well.

Reproduced from RA vol 3, Issue 5, Feb/Mar '99