I was talking to a young Anti-fascist yesterday. This twenty-something has been aware of and actively opposing the neoNazi resurgence for about 2 years now and her stamina is beginning to wane. The spike in racist attacks since Brexit and the resurgence of far right political groups over the last few years has left her feeling defeated. Like Canute she feels herself fighting against an incoming tide of fascism and hatred that she is powerless to stop.
Yesterday’s attack during the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice was very much the last straw for this sincere but despondent young woman. We both know what will happen next.
Across Europe far right groups will use this lone-wolf attack as evidence of Muslim aggression. The propaganda coup that this crazed extremist has handed European fascism is too good for them to pass by and they’ll use it to extract every ounce of hate from the population. This will, of course move innocent Muslims one step closer to social isolation and alienation and undoubtedly a small minority will be radicalised by the treatment they receive at the hands of their neighbours.
So the cycle will continue. European fascism drives otherwise innocent people into the arms of extremists as the whole fabric of society breaks down into a dichotomy of hatred and mistrust. Terrorist groups like Daesh and hate preachers like Anjem Choudhary are fed a constant supply of new converts by terrorist groups like Pegida and hate preachers like Tommy Robinson (BNP/EDL/Pegida) or Jayda Fransen (EDL/Britain First). They’re two sides of the same coin, fighting a war that nobody wants and sustaining each other through alienation and propaganda.
Understandably this young woman was despairing. I’m sure she’s not alone. But now is not the time for despair.
We’ve been here before. This cycle of radicalisation is part of the even larger, equally cyclical ‘ebb and flow’ of hatred and alienation. We saw this in the 1980s when the British National Party and the National Front (both now reduced to minor players in the neoNazi league tables) commanded gangs of violent street-fighters who terrorized British streets. We saw it in the 1960s when mainstream politicians like Enoch Powell incited race hatred and violence was commonplace. We see it now because the backlash of anger from a society disenchanted with ‘politics as usual’ needs expression and Islam is a convenient target. But this too will pass.
Now is not the time to despair. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in the name of peace and equality. The far right may well be approaching its zenith as the wheel of political life continues to turn. Soon it will be on the decline once again. But while the neo-Nazis enjoy their brief period of success it is vital that those of us who oppose their division and hatred keep the pressure up. We cannot stop the cycle and we cannot prevent them from having the occasional spell of success but we can shorten the length of time they enjoy in the limelight. This is the moment when we need to make our voices heard the loudest of all. This is the time to scream “No Pasaran” from every rooftop in Europe. This is the darkness before the dawn and the louder we shout, the sooner that daylight will arrive.
The human species may well be unable to escape the xenophobic hatred that comes with group identity. It may be that evolution has locked us into a cycle fluctuating between mistrust and inclusivity that we can never escape. But that shouldn’t make us feel helpless. We need to recognise this apparent defeat for what it really is – a brief setback in an endless conflict – and we need to take heart. The racists and the neoNazis have been on the rise for some years now. Here in UK they hijacked Brexit (a referendum that really had nothing to do with race or discrimination) and in doing so exposed themselves as woefully inadequate and ill-informed. That inadequacy will be their downfall in the coming phase of the cycle.
Don’t despair my anti-fascist friends. Keep the faith and keep on standing up for what’s right.
Our time is coming!