(This article by our comrade Vic Vanni who died this afternoon appeared in the Socialist Standard No. 916 December 1980)
Violence between the extreme Left and Right has been a recurring
theme in British politics for nearly fifty years, with some of the most
vicious outbreaks occurring in the 1930s. More recently there have been
the punch-ups between supporters of the National Front and their leftist
counterparts, and although these have died down lately we can expect fresh eruptions in the not too distant future.
In pre-war days the leftists were squaring-up to Sir Oswald Mosley
and his Blackshirts. Then their declared intention was to "smash the
fascists" and a so-called United Front was formed to bring this about.
They failed and all that the violence achieved was to attract thousands
of fresh recruits into the
fascist ranks. The Mosleyites continued to march, hold meetings and contest elections until the outbreak of war.
Someone claimed that the lesson of history is that people never
learn the lesson of history. Obviously this is untrue (otherwise there
could never have been any progress, social or technical) but such a
cynical view could be justified if it was based on the antics of the
leftists, because they never learn. Now
many of the current crop have formed themselves into the Anti Nazi
League and are determined to re-stage the same useless battles that were
fought long ago.
A glance at history shows that ideas which have some roots in
existing social conditions cannot be stamped out by force. For example,
in Hitler's Germany, the Social Democrats and the Communists suffered
twelve years of being killed and jailed yet both those organisations
re-emerged at the end of the
war. Nor has more than sixty years of mass murder and repression
eliminated the various nationalist and other dissidents in the USSR.
More significantly, despite the killing of millions, of fascists- during
the 1939-45 war and the vilification of fascism by Hollywood and the
rest of the media for over forty years; the growth of fascist organisations and activity in Europe is front page news today.
So the notion that fascism can be destroyed by violence has not a shred of evidence to support it.
Everywhere the leftists have tried this tactic it has failed
disastrously - what happened to their "street fighters" in pre-war Italy
and Germany is proof of this.Ideas are rooted in the material
conditions of life; people are influenced by the economic and historic
situation they live in. It is no accident that fascism flourishes
whenever capitalism is in one of its periodic slumps. Then fascist
demagogues, by blaming problems like unemployment and bad housing
on the failure of democracy and the presence of blacks or Jews, are more likely to be listened to.
Fascism feeds on poverty, insecurity and fear and since these are
inseparable from capitalism then fascist ideas will persist as long as
capitalism] lasts, no matter how many heads are cracked or meetings
The claim made by the "Anti-Nazis" that they are defending freedom
by preventing the National Front and similar organisations from holding
meetings are absurd. Free speech can only exist when it is open to all
and it cannot be defended by those who in fact abolish it. Not only does
political violence not
preserve existing democratic rights, it positively weakens them by
creating a situation in which the authorities may restrict or ban many
forms of political activity. This much is certain: the chances of
getting the socialist case across in such an atmosphere of intolerance
will be considerably lessened.
The only way to deal with fascists is to demolish their obnoxious,
anti-working class ideas at every turn. We would welcome any opportunity
to confront them in open debate before an audience of working men and
women. We have nothing to fear and everything to gain from this because
we are confident of the workers' ability to understand the socialist case and
of our own ability to present it. Of course, this will not sound
exciting enough for leftist hot-heads looking for trouble, but whatever
the right method of dealing with fascists may be, theirs is absolutely
Vic Vanni Socialist Standard December 1980