Anti-Fascism One Year On From The Lee Rigby Murder
Today is the local and European elections. It is also the first year anniversary of Lee Rigby’s murder, a personal tragedy and a sickening public spectacle which triggered a wave of reactionary Islamophobic violence across the country.
On the day of the killing, Theresa May, the Home Secretary described it as “an attack on everyone in the United Kingdom,” and this nationalist positioning set the tone for the events that followed. Hours later, that evening Yaxley-Lennon aka “Tommy Robinson” led a boozy mob of white men in balaclavas bringing anger and violence in Woolwich indiscriminately directed at Muslim and Black communities.
From Woolwich to Walsall, there was a sharp increase in vandalism, graffiti, arson and bomb attacks against Mosques and Islamic centres. Also there were many reported direct attacks on Muslims in public and at their homes, could be plainly observed.
Despite a racially-motivated murder and over a dozen attempted maiming of Muslims and people of colour targeted by white far-right groups and individuals, there were no COBRA meetings, no comparable announcements or calls for monitoring white communities in which these “extremists” reside. The message was clear; we could all consider ourselves victims of Lee Rigby’s murder but Muslims were to suffer on their own. We contrast the detailed coverage of the trial of the attackers, with the limited discussion on claims that one of the attackers was radicalised by MI5-approved rape and torture in Kenya.
South London Anti-Fascists reached out to the local Muslim community through mosques and schools and invited members to our meetings, we stood with marginalised communities, and we did not predicate our support on the bogus idea of national unity. We mobilised against the EDL and the BNP to some considerable cost – the Metropolitan Police adopted a tactic of mass arrests of hundreds of anti-fascist activists and bystanders imposed restrictive bail conditions on hundreds of people at a time.
We stopped splinter groups like South East Alliance and confronted Union of British Fascists along the way. By the year’s end Yaxley-Lennon saw that the EDL and its tactics were a dead end and made the pragmatic choice to move to a more “respectable” politics, styling himself as an “anti extremist”. We believe he had merely recognised that the State was better at promoting his hateful ideology than his amateurish street movement had been.
The recent predominance of anti-immigrant propaganda by UKIP indicates that while anti-fascism is necessary it is also insufficient. There is some technical dispute as to the degree to which UKIP can be considered fascist but, interesting though the exercise may be for some, we will not let such concerns limit our response. UKIP represent an increasingly populist demand to blame immigration and immigrants for a decline in living standards and welfare provision. UKIP are anti-gay, anti-women and anti-migrant, and the environment that has made their message appealing is at the fault of the established parties. Fascism breeds due to the economic and social policies of the Liberals that preceded them.
We believe that the Immigration Bill of 2014 is more of a threat to immigrants than symbolic power of UKIP topping the EU poll. While idiots like Britain First are emboldened to try to harass Muslim worshippers in East London, only to be stopped by parking ticket inspectors, the Coalition Government with Labour Party support are on track to legalise racist discrimination in housing, and in the NHS. Landlords will be able to decline migrants and people of colour on the basis that they do not want to risk renting to illegal immigrants, pregnant women of colour have already reported being asked for their passport when going into NHS hospitals. This will only increase after the law is passed. It allows for citizens to have their citizenship revoked, this will be used on British Muslims no doubt for future drone strikes.
Meanwhile hunger strikes have been staged across the country in immigration detention centres; Isa Muaza starved himself into blindness in a desperate bid to avoid deportation. Earlier this year, an elderly detained Canadian man was found dead in handcuffs, these are but some of the few horrendous events and conditions that exist in these prisons.
The UK Border Force have been harassing multicultural communities both unlawfully and aggressively in an attempt to produce the “hostile environment” Theresa May promised. In our analysis, the State is a much bigger threat and generator of popular racism, so we need to organise locally and with a long-term mindset. If our groups are white English then we should organise there to resist racist ideas from gaining ground. In black communities, we should follow the lead of black members and community contacts to find out how we can aid their resistance to racist oppression.
While the militant anti-fascist movement has had some successes, we need to evaluate why our anti-fascism isn’t always anti-racist and anti-sexist. We as a group do not pretend to have the answers but we are prepared to ask difficult questions about why and how we as a movement exclude and ignore white superiority and male chauvinism in our own structures.
We can and should work towards building a consistent anti-racist and anti-fascist presence in the local areas we operate. Without working relationships with significant local institutions and community groups, we remain parachuting adventurists who may irritate and be condemned by the very working class communities we claim to be working in solidarity with.
Against oppression from the street to the state, and remembering those who have suffered violence brought about by a system that encourages it.