It’s not news to state that the far-right is gaining ground, not just here in the UK but all over Europe. I know that many of us have been surprised, even shocked at the progress that racism and even neoNazism has made over the last few years. The explanations for this are undoubtedly complex and include austerity, immigration, the vast diaspora of refugees from the middle East and concerns about national identity and traditional culture here at home.
But they only explain what caused the problem. They don’t explain the inefficacy of anti-fascist movements in combatting it.
I think that once we look beyond our own bunker-mentality and begin to notice the patterns of activity for both the fash and the anti-fash it becomes very clear. Our side has lost the momentum. In fact, we haven’t just lost the momentum – we’ve given it away.
Far right groups from UKIP to Britain First and the English Defence League always seem to take the initiative. They decide the territory, they choose the field of battle and we react. We’re always playing catch-up, always on our back foot and always wasting time spending far more energy and effort to debunk their lies than they spend creating them. It takes two minutes to publish a meme claiming X million immigrants are actually terrorists and potentially hours of dedicated time tracking down the facts and figures necessary to refute the claim. By that time the damage has often been done – the original lie has spread across social media and the public at large have been fed another piece of propaganda to influence national opinion.
Of course there’s a place for that. Fact-checking groups like Exposing Britain First are important in providing the ammunition we all need to counter far-right lies in conversation with potential fash recruits we chance to meet. I’m sure we’ve all had success in preventing at least some from joining the ranks of the neo-Nazis by using the information they provide. But it’s still reactive and it’s not enough.
Groups like Pegida and the English Defence League hold a march and we turn up to oppose them. It doesn’t matter that we outnumber them. It doesn’t matter that they are ridiculed by the locals. All that matters is that the time we spend organising our opposition to them prevents us from focussing upon what really matters. We give away the initiative time and time again.
We report hate crime and mount petitions but even if we were to succeed 100% of the time (let’s face it we don’t) we’d still only be acting upon the information we’ve managed to come by. There’s still plenty more we don’t have. And that’s the far-right’s greatest advantage. They churn out so much propoganda and commit so much hate crime that no matter how hard we work we’ll never be able to oppose it all unless we change our approach. We have let the fascists set the agenda for far too long.
The #LeaveTheDark social media hashtag is the beginning of a movement aimed at reclaiming the initiative. The time has come for us to set the agenda. It’s time for us to choose the field of battle (metaphorically speaking, of course). Over the next 48hrs or so we’ll set out a basic agenda for seizing back the initiative from the far right. It will appear under the #LeaveTheDark hashtag so please watch out for it and spread the word to your contacts too. This strategy will be innovative and based not upon a top-down model of dictatorial leadership but a much more level playing field where ideas are encouraged and leadership, such as it is, will exist more to provide a focal point and ‘central clearing house’ for events than as a way to feed anyone’s ego. If we’re going to succeed we need to build a tribe, not an organisation. We don’t need a president or a chairman – we need a focal point for innovative people to share ideas and to build the social momentum necessary to consign European fascism back into history.
Let’s stop reacting and start initiating!