Wednesday 29 May 2019

Analysis – EU Elections: Tommy Robinson defeated but far right remain a major threat

Joint statement by Stand Up To Racism/UAF – The European election results saw alarming advances across Europe for parties using scapegoating and racism to grow. But it also showed that where fascists are exposed and challenged, they can be driven back and defeated.

 

 

All the headlines in Britain are centring on Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party’s heading the polls with 31.69 percent of the vote, winning 29 seats. Nigel Farage’s EU election victory with UKIP in 2014, saw the party win 26.77 percent of the vote.

 

 

It’s worth stating that the most high profile fascist figure for a generation, Tommy Robinson, was humiliated by the campaign led by Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism in the North West.

Robinson certainly isn’t the cocky Nazi he was at the start of the campaign when he clearly thought he could use the Brexit crisis to win. Robinson took to social media and moaned that a combination of  ‘the media, his being taken off social media’ and the fact that people often challenged him on being a nazi had conspired against him. Proof positive that the fascist label SUTR & UAF pinned on him, hit home with many.

 

 

Robinson is now in court on July 4th, over charges of contempt of court over a sexual abuse case in Leeds. He also is being sued for allegedly defaming a Syrian refugee boy who was filmed being attacked at his school in Huddersfield.

 

 

Anti fascists were heartened that Robinson, despite his money, ran a very poor campaign. Imbeciles such as the bungled kidnapper, Daniel Thomas and James Goddard, were at the front of a slipshod and amateur series of efforts that showed little planning or strategy. It’s no surprise perhaps that Robinson seems to have put his house up for sale…

 

 

Farage may have concentrated on Brexit alone in the European election campaign but he has a long track record of whipping up racism and moral panics over immigration. He opened the door to the far right in UKIP around Gerard Batten through his constant Islamophobia and scapegoating of refugees and migrants. This leopard has not changed its spots.

 

 

Across Europe racist populist and fascist organisations have made notable gains, although this is not an even picture. In countries like Italy and France the far right have hit the headlines, and are shaping politics. But elsewhere, for example Greece, and the Netherlands things have moved in the opposite direction.

 

 

Fascism is a toxic brand to sell. There is a direct correlation between the far right’s success and the level of opposition from anti-racists that they face.

 

 

This has led to the far right presenting themselves in different ways across Europe. Open Nazi organisations like Jobbik and Golden Dawn are one side of the equation. But the main far right organisations have adopted a “Euro fascist” strategy.

 

 

The AfD in Germany, National Rally in France, the FPO in Austria and the League in Italy combine populist racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism with the scapegoating of refugees. But all have a more or less developed fascist core with a relationship to street movements (such as the AfD’s link with the Islamophobic Pegida movement).

 

 

In Poland and in Hungary we are also seeing radicalised racist authoritarian governments that have a direct relationship with the fascist right on the streets.

 

 

The far right are a serious danger.

In France fascist Marine Le Pen’s National Rally headed the polls with 23 percent of the vote (22 seats) ahead of President Macron’s 22 percent (21 seats).

In 2014 the then National Front received 24 percent of the vote (23 seats) but on a much lower turn out. This time around Le Pen was able to pose as an alternative to government austerity policies in the wake of the insurgent “Yellow Vest” movements demonstrations.

 

 

In Italy Matteo Salvini’s League vote rose dramatically, winning 34 percent of the vote (28 seats). In 2014 the then Northern League received just 6.4 percent of the vote. Salvini has been one of the chief architects of the “fortress Europe” policy that has turned the Mediterranean into a graveyard. He represents a hard racist vote.

 

 

The AfD made gains in Germany. This organisation with a strong Nazi wing won 11 percent of the vote, 11 MEP’s, 4 MEP’s up on the 2014 Euro elections. In Austria even in the wake of the corruption scandal that led to the resignation of Heinz Christian Stracher from the government, the Freedom Party (FPO), with its roots in Hitler’s SS, still got 17 percent of the vote giving them 3 MEP’s (in 2014 they achieved 19.7 percent, 4 seats).

 

 

In Hungary Victor Orban’s racist Fidesz Party won 52.33 percent of the vote (13 MEPs) up from 51 percent in 2014. In Poland the authoritarian governing Law & Justice Party got 45.56 percent of the vote (26 seats).

But for all the successes, and they are real, Salvini and Le Pen’s Euro fascist grand coalition has not gained quite the complete success they hoped for.

 

 

For the far right not a one way process of success.

In Hungary the fascist Jobbik Party were down to 6.4 percent (just 1 MEP) from 14.6 percent in 2014. Orban’s Fidesz is now so openly racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic that it has stolen much of Jobbik’s clothes. Jobbik has suffered splits, cutting its base.

In the Netherlands Geert Wilders racist, Islamophobic PVV saw it’s vote decline to 3.5 percent, down from 13.3 percent in 2014 (4 MEP’s). Geert Wilders has faced growing anti-racist opposition and has failed to build the kind of organisation capable of maintaining an electoral challenge.

 

 

In Greece the murderous fascists of Golden Dawn were down to 4.86 of the vote (2 MEP’s) down from 9.39 percent (3 seats). The exposure of Golden Dawn’s direct involvement in the murder of Pavlos Fyssas (rapper Killer P) and others (damaged them?)

 

 

Again Golden Dawn have faced sustained anti-racist and anti-fascist mobilisations against them that have called them out for the violent Nazis that they are.

The racist Danish People’s Party, part of Salvini’s new European alliance saw their vote slashed from 26 percent of the vote in 2014 to 10 percent (losing 3 seats). Again they faced sustained opposition from anti-racists.

 

 

Britain saw the far right in the shape of fascist Tommy Robinson and Gerard Batten’s UKIP marginalised by anti fascists,  but also a big swing to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Stand Up To Racism, Unite Against Fascism and hundreds of anti-racists, trade unionists and campaigners won a stunning victory against fascist Tommy Robinson. Some people will say Robinson didn’t have a chance. This is just not true.

 

 

Off the back of the high profile “free Tommy” campaign, ex English Defence League leader Robinson came from the margins of far right politics to the media spotlight. Last summer 15,000 of his supporters were on the streets and Robinson seemed to be uniting the Alt right, football thugs of the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, with UKIP on the streets.

His humiliating 38,900 votes (just over 2 percent) could so easily have been transformed if he had gone unopposed. Instead from milkshakes in Warrington to megaphone man Paul Jenkins in Barrow,  Robinson faced opposition everywhere he went.

 

 

Labour MP’s like Diane Abbott and Kate Green, MEP’s like Julie Ward, Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, actress Maxine Peake worked with hundreds of anti-racists, trade unionists and campaigners, giving out over half a million leaflets, holding rallies and street stalls and marching on the streets. Robinson’s defeat put a smile on the face of every anti-racist, he looked a beaten man when he skulked off from the count on Sunday night.

 

 

It was a mass anti-racist campaign (and the odd milkshake) that dealt with fascist Tommy, but he’ll be back.

UKIP’s direct links with the far right Democratic Football Lads Alliance, fascist Tommy Robinson and figures like sexist bigot Carl Benjamin was a gamble for Batten. He believed he could use these far right figures and groups to build a vote. The gamble didn’t pay off. A  collapse in support for Ukip, in which all its MEPs lost their seats, means the party may yet fade away.

 

 

 

End of UKIP?

But this was not inevitable. It was anti-racists who exposed the far right strategy for what it was and helped to lose UKIP its respectable veneer. In the South West, a previous stronghold for UKIP, the revolting Carl Benjamin, finally being investigated over his ‘rape tweets’ concerning a Labour MP  was ‘milkshaked’ several times and even Batten was forced to distance himself from Benjamin.

 

 

Mike Hookem, who also lost his seat now aims to win the leadership of UKIP. It’s noticable that erstwhile supporters of UKIP, like Robinson and the DFLA, are very quiet over the party’s failures.

 

 

Gerard Batten lost his seat and the party’s vote is being systematically swallowed by the Brexit Party.

But for anti-racists Farage presents a massive problem. There are of course many reasons why people voted for the Brexit Party. Not everyone who voted for the party is a racist. But Farage will use racism as a tool in his arsenal.

 

 

Remember that Farage has sat down with key far right Steve Bannon, to discuss his part in that man’s attempts to organise the international far right.

Many in our movement may have voted Leave or Remain in the referendum. But we can all unite against the racism that Farage represents. Farage got his milkshake because he’s a racist.

 

 

Farage is Trump’s man. He ran to Trump’s side after his election victory.

Trump the world’s number one racist, who brought us the Muslim ban and the border wall will be in Britain from next Monday. Every anti-racist has to build for the maximum turn out against Trump, both to oppose him but also to oppose the racists he gives confidence to here.

There are many reasons to protest against Trump. He’s sexist, he’s homophobic and a climate change denier. But he has played an absolutely pivotal role in making racism acceptable. The fact that he is coming to Britain as part of commemorations of D-Day is an insult to anyone who opposed fascism. Remember, he said there were “good people” on the far right march at Charlottesville where fascists with burning torches shouted “Jews will not replace us”.

 

 

 

When we survey Europe’s political scene, it echoes the chaos of the 1930’s. Britain’s broken political system is also in chaos. The Tories under Theresa May helped to popularise racism with their “hostile environment”. Sajid Javid rushed home from Xmas holidays to scapegoat refugees and migrants. Boris Johnson’s “letter box” comment about Muslim women legitimises the Islamophobia of the far right.

 

 

As Tory leadership challengers compete with each other to win over the racist hard-right of the party over the next few weeks, it is vital the anti racist movement continues to challenge and expose Tory racism & Islamophobia.

The toxic nature of the Brexit debate has had scapegoating throughout with the murder of Jo Cox, it’s most horrible result. The far right in the shape of Tommy Robinson and UKIP have failed to capitalise on this, thanks to the opposition of anti-fascists, but the more mainstream racism of Nigel Farage is now at the centre of political discourse.

 

 

We urgently need a movement capable of taking on the racists and crossing the Brexit divide to mobilise the whole of the anti-racist movement if we are going to keep Robinson in the gutter where he belongs and drive back the threat the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson represent.


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