For those not in favour

In Budget week Mark Perryman welcomes a new book that demolishes the Austerity myth.

Against AusterityWhen the Con-Dems ushered in the bright shiny new era of coalition politics with a tripling of student tuition fees the wave of anger this provoked seemed to suggest almost anything opposition-wise was possible. Prominent student leader Clare Solomon described the moment, with co-author Tania Palmieri, in her book Springtime as :

“There is a new anger that melts the snow. All hail the new, young student Decembrists who challenged complacent government and simultaneously fired a few shots across the bows of an opposition and its toadies in the media, all still recovering from a paralytic hangover, a consequence of imbibing too much Nouveau Blair.”

Students occupying the roof of the Tory Party’s Millbank HQ was a glorious spectacle of revolt, occurring on the eve of the Arab Spring, militant resistance in Greece and Spain, the beginnings of Occupy in the USA. We really did seem to be on the edge of a movement for change.
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Did you dig deep for the miners?

Philosophy Football have produced a T-shirt to raise funds for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. Mark Perryman explains why the Miners Strike 30 years on still matters.

The Enemy Within t shirtDo you remember 1984-85? Digging deeper for the miners. Frankie Goes to Hollywood at number one. Everton win the league championship. And a medium-sized t-shirt was ample big enough. For those whose principles have endured the test of time it all seems just like yesterday and Tony Blair only a bad dream.

The strike ended up as a defeat, there is no point avoiding that awkward and painful fact. But that doesn’t mean it hardly matters, then or now. This was twelve months of communities across Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Kent, the North-East of England, South Wales, Scotland and elsewhere effectively under police siege. Miners Support Groups twinning metropolitan Britain with coalfield towns and villages. Convoys of trucks full of seasonal hampers to brighten up Christmas for miners families’ who had already endured 10 months on strike. Women against Pit Closures projecting a powerful message of solidarity on and beyond the strike picket lines. Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners connecting social movements and identity politics to a common cause. Bands and stand-up comedy mobilised to put on benefit after benefit to raise not only much needed funds but the case for the miners too. Keep on keeping on kept on for twelve magnificent months.

Prolonged and courageous. British politics hadn’t seen anything quite like it for a generation or more and in terms of industrial action nothing like it since either. In the late 1970s the historian Eric Hobsbawm had provocatively argued for an analysis he called The Forward March of Labour Halted. The decade after the miners strike we were to discover not only had it been halted but it had turned decisively rightwards too. A decade after the miners strike had begun in ’84 this process saw Tony Blair elected Labour leader and the symbolic, yet politically significant dumping of Labour’s Clause IV commitment to common ownership as its model of society. As we would soon learn, things could only get bitter.
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New year sports resolutions

Mark Perryman from Handbook of London 2012 Olympic gamesToo much Christmas pud, cake and ale over the seasonal break? Feet up in front of the TV for an indecent chunk of the duration? Sport defined as watching it rather than doing it? The first few weeks of January are often the period to make a personal pledge to get active, lose those bulges and finally dust off those long-forgotten running shoes, a bike, pair of swimming trunks or whatever and put them to the use they were intended for. A month later ending up back at square one, well that’s certainly the case for most of modern, inactive, Britain. Why has sport evolved into a multibillion global industry yet activity plummets, obesity rockets? This New Year resolution reading list might help us to understand why, and vitally do something about it too.
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Presents tense

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football provides a guide for books to give the Leftist in your life this Christmas

On resistanceCheer up, it could be worse? Well, under this hapless government probably not but a bit of seasonal present-giving might at least keep the temptations of miserabilism at bay. 2014 will mark the start of the 1914 centenary hoopla, you know the thing ‘ The War to End All Wars’ and all that guff.A superb read therefore over the 12 days would be the poetry collection compiled by Carol Ann Duffy 1914 Poetry Remembers, moving and thought-provoking from the War Poets and today’s verse-writers too. An equally moving recollection is provided by Nicholas Rankin’s Telegram from Guernica. The extraordinary story of war reporter George Steer, and in particular how he smuggled out from Spain in full gruesome detail the horrific impact of the carpet bombing of Guernica. Steer was part of that 1930s generation who across the political spectrum were decisively shaped by the cause of anti-fascism. Idealism and commitment from another era, and continent in Beverley Naidoo’s beautifully written Death of An Idealist. Told in graphic and merciless detail, the tale of the murder by the Apartheid authorities of a young, white, doctor who had dedicated himself to providing medical help in South Africa’s Black townships.
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Socialist Workers Party: Comrade ‘X’ resigns

This article has been re-posted from Phil’s site, A Very Public Sociologist.

Socialist Worker burningThe below comes from ‘Comrade X’, the woman who, like ‘Comrade W’ made a sexual assault complaint to the SWP’s Dispute Commission about the alleged behaviour of a former leading member. Again, it is worth reiterating that “Delta” has never had charges brought against him and is entitled to the presumption of innocence like anyone else. The scandal, the putrescent stench has always been about the appalling handling of those allegations and hounding of alleged sexual abuse survivors by active SWP’ers. As you can see from X’s resignation note (original here via Ciara Squires), her experience too is of being bullied, harassed and smeared. What a disgusting bunch.

I’m glad to hear that now SWP conference has closed, those few decent socialists who’ve remained are packing their bags and bidding farewell. Good. A slow, painful fade into the footnotes of labour movement history now awaits the SWP, a decline that cannot come soon enough.
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Books for a season of rain & grey skies

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football reviews an autumn of sports books.

Culture, Politics and SportIt was three decades ago, in 1983, that Garry Whannel wrote the pioneering book Blowing the Whistle: The Politics of Sport. The book was part of a series ‘Arguments for Socialism’, created by The Socialist Society, an alliance of Left-wing thinkers writers and campaigners, and published by Pluto Press. Despite the dreadful defeats at the hands of Thatcherism , and the jingoistic aftermath of the Falklands War the Left felt livelier, more open-minded and with a greater sense of ambition and purposefulness than it sometimes does today. Garry’s book, reminding the Left that sport and leisure matters was part of this liveliness. He summed up what was then a prevailing attitude both on the Left and the Right and remains largely the same 30 years on today in the book’s neatest of phrases. “Sport is marked down as a natural, taken-for-granted activity. You don’t need to talk or write about it. You just do it.” The book was a few years ago republished in an updated and revised form Culture, Politics and Sport and remains one of the defining texts for any serious understanding of sport.

One of the huge changes since Garry Whannel wrote those words is the breadth and number of sports books published. David Epstein’s The Sports Gene: What Makes The Perfect Athlete is the kind of book, immersed as it is in the nurture vs nature debate, that connects sport, knowingly or unknowingly, to much broader issues and reveals it as anything but ‘Just Done’. Incisive, a book that examines the varied conditions that creates sport’s winners . A very different approach to the same subject was offered by Christopher McDougall in his classic book Born to Run. This is sport as anthropology, examining the phenomenal endurance running of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico then translating this into a manifesto for the simple appeal of running, including in its purest form, barefoot.

Easy RiderThe bare essentials is hardly how the modern sport of cycling is best described. With the genius behind the two-wheeled success of Team GB and Team Sky Dave Brailsford describing his philosophy as the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ the attention paid to the smallest engineering, physiological and psychological detail is obvious. It is an evolution that is retold quite thrillingly in Edward Pickering’s book The Race Against Time. This is the story of the 1990s rivalry of Chris Boardman vs Graeme Obree and their battle for the one hour track cycling record. Boardman remains well-known today thanks to his TV work as a pundit, Obree meanwhile has become a virtual recluse, a superbly gifted athlete who doubles up as an inventor. Its a great story, which in many ways created the base for the later success of Hoy, Pendleton, Wiggins, Cavendish, Froome and Trott. The story behind the most successful sport in British sporting history, track and road cycling, is revealed in an honest and well-written account provided by Team GB Elite Coach and Team Sky Performance Manager Rod Ellingworth in his book Project Rainbow. One of the most refreshing aspects of cycling as a sport is the key protagonists’ willingness to engage openly with their public. Cycling ‘s openness may be in part due to the legacy of the criminal cover-ups that we now know dominated the Armstrong era but whatever the reason it is a sport now keen readers can acquire a fill and proper insight into, Rod Ellingworth’s book is testament to that. The same can be said for two autobiographies from cyclists who straddle cycling ‘ Before and after Wiggo ‘. For years Sean Yates was by far and away the most successful British rider in the Tour de France since Tommy Simpson. Then came Cavendish, Froome and most of all Wiggins. After retiring from racing Sean Yates was to become Team Sky’s Race Director and a figure central to Wiggins’ 2012 Tour victory. His book It’s All About The Bike is a great and once again revealing book . Easy Rider by former racer Rob Hayles covers a slightly later period. As the success of track cycling began to take off after British success at the Athens 2004 Olympics, eventually to be translated into success on the road too. Rob Hayles was one of the pioneers of that breakthrough and provides a fascinating account of the reasons why British cycling became, and remains, such a success story.

Socialist sportswriter Gareth Edwards makes an interesting case in a three-party online essay for taking the playful appeal of sport seriously. To that end many of these books are about only one, distinctly minority, aspect of sport, competition at an elite level. Most of us who ‘do’ sport just do it for leisure, recreation and pleasure Some compete, most don’t, and it is competitive sport that has suffered the most severe decline in levels of participation. The Rules : The Way of the Cycling Disciple is in this regard a very different kind of sports book. Its about the likes of us who are never going to win a race let alone enter a national, European or World Championship for glory .We just get on our bikes to stretch ourselves in the cause of some kind of enjoyment. That’s not to say such sport doesn’t have its own culture and this book seeks to catalogue precisely this, with a touch of ultra-narcissism on occasion. But perhaps we need to broaden our definition of sport, or at least physical activities much broader, to include the recreational. It would be hard to justify ‘walking’ as any kind of sport, but it is the most common form of physical activity most of us take pat in, sometimes with a dog, a relationship wonderfully chronicled in Harry Pearson’s book Hound Dog Days.

I am ZlatanOnce the football season starts, and nowadays it never seems to end, most other sports, never mind any coverage of recreational, and non-competitive sports are pushed off the back pages to the exclusion of coverage of almost anything apart from football. Two recent biographies, Dennis Bergkamp’s Stillness and Speed and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s I Am Zlatan get to grips with football’s undoubted appeal to the fans. Both are a pleasant respite from the ghost-written dross served up by most players, and managers, including Ferguson’s non-revelatory latest. Perhaps because in both cases these are foreign players, writing for a non-English audience, with well chosen co-writers, in Bergkamp’s case the superlative David Winner. And the result are books that begin to explore in a serious way football’s enduringly hegemonic appeal, now on a global scale. Mike Carson’s The Manager is a different kind of endeavour, putting fans’, and the media’s, obsession with football’s managers in a broader context of the cult of managerialism, framed primarily by business culture. Insightful and thought-provoking, a great read for the next time a club’s manager is sacked. Lose to a rival, and any manager is going to be under pressure. In world football few rivalries provoke such interest and passion as Real vs Barca. Sid Lowe’s Fear and Loathing in La Liga is unsurprisingly very good, Sid Lowe is the always well-informed Spanish football correspondent of the Guardian. Combining the historical, cultural, political because as Garry Whannel had patiently explained 30 years ago sport is shaped by all three and there’s not a better example of this truism than Barca vs Real , which Sid Lowe explains with an eye for detail and pacey writing to create a really good read. Spain are of course the reigning European and World Champions, England meanwhile have managed to squeeze past Montenegro, Poland and the Ukraine to at least qualify for World Cup 2014 but with no one, including the team captain, expecting them to get anywhere close to winning the tournament. What’s new? No semi-final appearance by England since Euro ’96, one single semi-final appearance at a tournament outside of England, at Italia ’90. So in a sense why are so many of us surprised when England’s prospects remain so dire? A combination of the ’66 legacy, the burden of Imperial history, two World Wars oh and inventing the game, plus the self-appointed Greatest League in the World. For a coach-centred grassroots analysis of what is wrong with a football culture incapable of producing enough technically gifted players to muster a decent national team there’s no better book than Matthew Whitehouse’s outstanding The Way Forward: Solutions to England’s Football Failings.

Nine years after Garry Whannel’s socialist analysis of sport was published Nick Hornby wrote the best-selling Fever Pitch. The rest is, publishing, history. The bookshop shelves are heaving with an ever-expanding range of sports titles, many of them treat sport in that ‘just done it’ unproblematic way that Garry critiqued. In his own way Nick Hornby taught us something different, the meaning of sport in general, football in particular, the way that it connects with us emotionally, as individuals, impacting on our relationships, and group loyalties. Hornby wrote in that most feminine of styles the confessional and his writing touched his audience, mainly male, in a previously unheard of way because of it. Two decades on much of today’s sportswriting has reverted to type, but there remain precious exceptions.

My book of the sporting quarter stands out precisely because it is is exceptional. Author Michael Calvin’s previous book on Millwall, Family: Life, Death and Football already stood serious comparison with Fever Pitch as an all-time sportswriting classic. With his new book The Nowhere Men Calvin has produced an even better book. The extraordinary, and untold, tale of football’s Scouts, how talent is discovered, often missed, recruited by the clubs, looked after, not always very well, and ends up the other end as a Premier League superstar. Sportswriting at its very best, investigative, compelling and revealing.

No links in this review are to Amazon. If you can avoid purchasing from the tax-dodgers please do so.

Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled ‘sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’ aka Philosophy Football }

SWP: Party members write full narrative of Comrade Delta rape case

SWP members angry about the Comrade Delta case have contacted SU and asked us to publish this article. It was due to appear in one of the party’s ‘pre-conference bulletins‘, which are documents for members to argue and debate issues before the annual conference.

This year, the party’s leadership has done something highly unusual: They’ve been censoring these contributions. They’re removed paragraphs and, earlier in the year, refused to carry certain articles altogether. This is all related to accusations of rape and sexual harrassment against a former leading member. A large number of party members have left or are likely to leave, because the party leadership (plus an undeclared ‘secret’ faction) seems bent on destroying it rather than accept that they really have let these women down. With another SWP member alleging that she was raped and the same bad method being used to deal with it (as well as the person making the complaint being told not to talk about her experiences) this issue is far from resolved, no matter how many times the SWP’s leaders claim to have drawn a line under it.

The document below appears in full, as it was sent to us. It is a complete narrative of the story, and it shows that the leadership has done everything it can to avoid dealing with the issue – allowing bullying to run unchecked, driving hundreds of people out, and worse than all of that, doing nothing at all to help the women at the centre of these events. When you realise that party members have spent £thousands to help send Comrade Delta to university after he stepped down from his SWP job, you realise just how rotten these people’s politics and morals are. The SWP always appeals to people not to make these documents public, to “protect” people. But what we’ve seen this year is that ‘confidentiality’ and ‘privacy’ have been used not to protect political discussions and people’s jobs, but to make sure that party members don’t have access to information, and that those who want people to know what’s happened to them are forced to keep quiet.

Moving forward means acknowledging mistakes and holding our leadership to account

by Simon F (Birmingham), Viv S & Rita M (Hackney)

This document is a narrative of the events leading up to and following a Disputes Committee (DC) hearing in October 2012 in which Comrade W accused a then CC member (M) of rape. We do not go into the detail of the case here but focus on the mishandling of the situation by the CC and their deliberate campaign of misinformation and intimidation, supported by a layer of leading comrades, once the case became known in the wider party. In producing this narrative we hope to elucidate the issues needing redress before the party can move forward.

Before the hearing

At Marxism 2010 two woman comrades (Sadia J and Donna G) approached former CC member Viv S to discuss a serious allegation regarding sexual harassment involving the then national secretary (M) and a young woman comrade (W). This allegation surrounded incidents that had occurred a year earlier.
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Tommy and cousin Kev quit the EDL

This is a post from Bob Pitt of Islamophobia Watch, a site that documents anti-Muslim bigotry – it’s a great resource for anti-racists and the left.

EDL members demonstrating with the National Front

The English Defence League demonstrating alongside the neo-Nazis of the National Front

Today the internet has been buzzing with the news that Stephen Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) and Kevin Carroll have resigned from the English Defence League. It even qualified for coverage on national TV.

The EDL leaders’ break with the organisation they helped to found was announced this morning in a press release from the Quilliam group (“Quilliam facilitates Tommy Robinson leaving the English Defence League”), which quotes Lennon as saying: “I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive. I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas.”

Lennon and Carroll will expand on their motives for leaving the EDL at a press conference this evening which has been organised by Quilliam.

Promoting itself as “the world’s first counter-extremism organisation”, Quilliam’s pitch is that it is ex-”extremists” like themselves (the organisation was launched by former Hizb ut-Tahrir members) who are best placed to counter extremist ideology and win adherents of extremist groups back to mainstream society.

That’s the basis on which Quilliam appeal for funding. It’s an argument which persuaded the last Labour government to lavish huge sums of money on the organisation, but since 2010 the Tory-led coalition government has been less forthcoming, and at one point Quilliam was reduced to sending out begging letters.

Quilliam evidently thinks this latest media stunt with Lennon and Carroll is a real coup for the organisation, with chairman and co-founder Maajid Nawaz declaring that it “represents a huge success for community relations in the United Kingdom” and is “a very proud moment” for Quilliam. After all, what better proof could there be of Quilliam’s expertise in winning over former extremists than convincing Lennon and Carroll to give up on the EDL? Nawaz is no doubt rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of further financial support rolling in.

However, as Anindya Bhattacharyya has noted, this is not the first time we’ve been here. Back in 2011 Quilliam were equally proud to announce that two former EDL activists, Leighton Evans and Harry Burns (Andy Hughes), had broken with the organisation and repudiated extremism. Alas for Quilliam, it all came embarassingly unstuck when they arranged for Evans to do an interview with the Guardian, in the course of which he announced his admiration for the EDL and his continuing support for its ideology.

So what evidence is there that Lennon and Carroll have not only broken organisationally with the EDL but have also come to understand “the dangers of far-right extremism”? Just over a fortnight ago, the two EDL leaders both addressed an anti-mosque protest in Sheffield, so their speeches there presumably provide an accurate record of their current thinking.

In his speech Lennon announced: “We’re here because the Muslim community are raising funds to build yet another mosque in this area.” He said the purpose of the protest was to show the people of Sheffield that “there is now a defence against the Islamification of this great city”. He declared: “We don’t want any more mosques in this country.” Lennon promised that all planning applications for mosques would be opposed and “people will no longer sit by and watch their towns and cities taken over”. He also made the inflammatory claim that “English girls in Sheffield are being groomed and raped” by “members of the Islamic community” while the police refused to arrest the perpetrators.

Carroll’s speech continued in the same inflammatory vein, consisting of a classic far-right rant about the failure of the authorities to recognise the growing problem of “racial attacks on non-Muslims”. To shouts of anger from EDL supporters Carroll recounted the familiar fascist myth about how the 2004 murder of Glasgow teenager Kriss Donald was ignored by the media. Only one newspaper, which he named as the Daily Telegraph, reported the crime, an outraged Carroll assured the mob. (It is of course true that the Telegraph reported the murder, along with the Times, the Mail, the Sun, the BBC and every other news outlet in the country.) This is the sort of rhetoric about “anti-white racism” that could have come straight out of the mouth of Nick Griffin.

So, not much sign of a break from far-right extremism there, you might think.

It looks to me like Quilliam have been suckered again. There is every reason to suppose that this is a purely cynical manoeuvre on Lennon’s part. The EDL’s decline was temporarily arrested by the murder of Lee Rigby in May, and attendance at its protests briefly picked up again, but this recovery could only be short-lived. As the poor turnout at Tower Hamlets indicated, it wasn’t going to be long before EDL supporters once again got tired of travelling round the country shouting drunken abuse at Muslims and anti-fascists, and the movement gradually fizzled out. Lennon no doubt reasoned that it was time to move on.

The EDL was in any case always something of an anomaly within the international “counterjihad” network, most of whose component groups do not consist of violent street movements populated by football hooligans and neo-Nazis. It seems likely Lennon and Carroll want to reposition themselves as the leaders of a less overtly thuggish and fascist organisation that can take its place alongside the likes of Jihad Watch or Gates of Vienna. Perhaps, too, they hope to get their hands on some of the vast funding that fuels the Islamophobia industry.

This analysis of their aims is reinforced by Lennon and Carroll’s PA Hel Gower, who told International Business Times: ”A new group, that isn’t street-based, is going to be formed. Tommy is definitely going to be in the new group, and Kevin will be in it too.”

Yes, that’s the same Hel Gower who is on record as declaring her support for both the British National Party and the neo-Nazi groupuscule the British First Party, and who joined a Facebook group calling for unity between the EDL and BNP. Quite how Lennon and Carroll hope to pretend they’ve broken with far-right extremism while publicly relying on the continued support of Gower is anybody’s guess.

Greece, the state & anti-fascism

This is a guest post by Kevin Ovenden. This article is cross-posted at Left Flank.

Golden Dawn arrests

Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos under arrest

The struggle against the most pernicious and entrenched neo-Nazi force in Europe is at a critical moment.

At stake in the dramatic arrests of Nikolaos Michaloliakos and other leaders of the Golden Dawn in Greece is not only the immediate future of a Nazi party that has 18 MPs, with 7 percent of the vote at the last general election, and a considerable street-fighting arm, but also the course of the social and political resistance in the European country hit hardest by crisis.

At issue too is the wider struggle in Europe against fascism, racism and xenophobia — as the rise of Golden Dawn has acted as an exemplar and loadstone for radicalising, far Right forces across the continent.

The sudden turn by the state and government of Antonis Samaras against GD is testament to sustained anti-fascist campaigning in Greece and to the eruption of popular fury at the fascist murder of much-loved, anti-racist hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas. Within hours of Pavlos’s murder, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of dozens of cities across Greece targeting GD, one of whose cadres wielded the knife that felled him.

It was fear of a repeat of the uprising of December 2008 — resulting from the police murder of 15-year-old school student Alexandros Grigoropoulos — intersecting with a rising strike wave and the growth of the radical Left that led the government to act.

It certainly was not some inherent hostility towards the fascists on the part of Samaras and his New Democracy party. At least three leading figures of the centre Right had entertained a possible coalition with the fascists (if they “moderated” slightly) as the ruling coalition dwindled to just the centre Right and the zombie social democratic party, Pasok.

Anti-fascist lawyers Evgenia Kouniaki, Takis Zwtos and Thanasis Kampagiannis outline the tip of a mountain of evidence linking GD to criminal activity and murder over the last few years, including to the murder of Pakistani worker Shehzad Luqman in January this year: one of his killers had piles of GD leaflets and a portrait of Michaloliakos in his flat. There were no raids of GD offices or of police stations implicated with the Nazis eight months ago.

Costas Douzinas, Hara Kouki and Antonis Vradis here sketch some of the extensive links between the fascists, and the centre Right and elements of the state. Last week brought revelations of paramilitary fascist training conducted by reserve elements of Greece’s special forces and the collusion of a leading figure of the secret service, EYP, in obstructing investigations into GD crimes.

Additionally, this is a government that has implemented the savage austerity memorandums while deliberately stoking racism, rounding up refugees and migrants, all as it increased state repression against the social movements. As this statement puts it succinctly, “It is the government that closed schools and hospitals, and opened concentration camps.”

It is also a government which, faced with the rise of the radical Left — with the main Left opposition party Syriza the potential victor of the next general election, has sought to vilify the whole Left, and by implication legitimise the fascist Right, by describing both as “twin extremes”, which are equally a threat to democracy.

Samaras revived that smear only this week on a visit to the US, comparing those in favour of an exit from the Eurozone and EU with GD thugs. That and the fact that the courts decided to release on bail several leading Nazi thugs — including Ilias Kasidiaris, who went on the run after attacking two female left-wing MPs on television last year — should be warning enough that the moves by the government and state against GD will not of their own accord destroy the Nazis. Still less will they tear out the links between GD, the centre Right, elements of the state and figures in the capitalist class.

Indeed, if the anti-fascist struggle is left at the institutional and “constitutional” level, there is a great danger that the Nazis can weather the storm and re-emerge as the anti-establishment pole in a society where there is an endemic crisis for the governmental parties.

The anti-fascist movement in Greece is contending with some key political lessons in order to avoid that and instead to turn this great upsurge into a movement that can liquidate the fascists as a political/physical force and in so doing undermine the government and policies that have incubated GD’s growth. These are lessons that have great salience elsewhere in Europe:

1) Fascism is a distinct threat — necessitating a broad yet militant response

The Greek anti-fascist and anti-racist coalition KEERFA was formed before GD entered the parliament last year and grew sharply. It argued that while, of course, the Nazis grew out of conditions and policies imposed by the governing establishment — austerity, institutional racism, the vilification of the Left using imagery from the civil war of the 1940s and so on — opposing fascism requires a specific political response rather than focusing on challenging its causes instead.

The fascist Right is not merely a resultant of political and social crisis. It is an actor in its own right, with force and direction. If allowed physical and political space to grow, the result is both its rapid establishment of street terror (under conditions of generalised crisis) and with it the radicalisation of the state machine and the politics of the Right as a whole.

The anti-fascist movement in Greece has argued consistently for closing down that space. It has meant popular mobilisations and the militant argument that the fascists are not a legitimate political force, but a violent gang, which should be treated as such in all arenas. On the basis of that argument it has sought to build the widest possible fighting unity across the Left, trade union movement and immigrant communities.

Anti fascist march in Athens 8-6-12 A demonstration called against recent electoral gains by the neo nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece. Thousands of people marched through Athens on the demonstration called by Keerfa and the Immigrant Workers Union.

Immigrants have become central to anti-fascist activity

2) Anti-fascism requires anti-racism

After GD broke through many European media outlets honed in on fascist stunts, such as providing food distribution or blood banks for “Greeks only”. But GD’s growth was not the result of it being able to replace in any serious way state functions. Central to it was deepening institutional and popular racism. GD could say that while the politicians talked of being “overrun by immigrants” it was fascist cadres who were prepared to drive immigrants out of neighbourhoods and to take direct action.

So strategies that said that it was possible to deal with GD mainly by competing from the Left to provide social services missed the point. Challenging GD’s racism, concentrated into violent attacks on immigrants and then on the Left, was central. That meant putting the mobilisation and leading role of the immigrant communities who were directly under attack at the centre of resistance.

In so doing, migrant communities were re-presented as a part of the wider social resistance — part of “us” not “them”. At the same time such united mobilisations provided a visible and material basis for a fundamental anti-racist argument directed against the government and state.

While the fascists can attract some layers who are just disillusioned with establishment politics and the impact of austerity, their core support is from those who accept large numbers of racist myths. Opposing austerity without explicitly drawing anti-racist and anti-xenophobic conclusions, which usually do not “spontaneously” arise, will not destroy the fascist base.

3) Fascism grows with the state — not against it…

It was shocking, but not a surprise, to read reports that possibly half the Athens police force voted for GD in the second general election last year.

For all the pseudo-anti-capitalist and radical rhetoric, fascist formations have only ever seized power with the support of a dominant section of the capitalist class and their state. That was true of Mussolini, Hitler and the classical fascist parties.

The growth of fascism represents an extension and radicalisation of the state. The actual formation of a fascist regime comes after large elements of the state machine and ruling apparatus have already gone over to fascism as a final instrument when “normal” methods of police repression and right-wing, parliamentary politics have failed.

4) … But it matters enormously what the state does

That does not mean that we should be indifferent to what the state does or that the struggle against fascism is some kind of diversion from the battle against the governments of austerity and the repressive states they deploy.

Protest following the murder of Pavlos Fyssas

Protest following the murder of Pavlos Fyssas

To respond to the collusion between the police or government and the fascists by saying that the state and the fascists are as one is in effect to accept that the fascists are already on the road to power or that the state is so powerful it can militarise its response to the social movements at will. The seeming radicalism of that position reveals a fatalist despair.

It’s not that the establishment and the repressive forces of the state are not capable of terror. They are. It’s that the extent to which they feel able to deploy repression depends upon the balance of forces in the society. A key part of that balance is the extent to which fascist gangs are able to entrench inside neighbourhoods and in the social space.

The Left and working class movement have every interest in exposing collusion between the state and the fascists, rooting out fascist ties to the state and forcing the state to act against the fascists — not because the state is a reliable barrier to fascism, but because if it is forced to act the space to delegitimise the fascists grows and the door to weakening the repressive state itself widens.

5) The fascists are unconstitutional — but they will not be stopped through a “constitutional consensus”

Faced with the enormous backlash at the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, the government temporarily dropped the language of the “twin extremes” of Right and Left and called on all the political parties to form with it a “constitutional arc” rejecting the fascists.

Its aim is to usurp the very anti-fascist movement it has attacked. And what is meant by “the law” and “the constitution” is contested. Successive Greek governments have ruled “unconstitutionally” over the last two years, with the appointment of an unelected prime minister — banker Lucas Papademos — and now the increasing use of executive diktat rather than parliamentary norms.

The article of the criminal code — number 187 — under which GD leaders face prosecution as a criminal enterprise has indeed been used against the Left. This is not a “constitutional” axis that the Left can be part of, especially as the prosecuting authorities wish to limit investigations so as to leave untouched the establishment while, for example, the district attorney of Athens has laid charges against a key leader of the anti-fascist movement, Petros Constantinou, a councillor in Athens.

None of this means that the Left should somehow champion the “constitutional rights” of the fascists, directly or implicitly. Rather it means precisely cutting through establishment manoeuvres in order both to liquidate the fascists and undermine the government from the Left.

The “constitution” that is of value for the Left is the freedom and space that have been won for the workers and social movements, whether reflected in attenuated form in the official laws of the state or accepted as a political fact or convention on account of accumulated struggles. That is what is threatened by fascism, and it is that popular “constitution” that masses of people can be won to defend.

6) A mass movement beyond establishment limits

The mass movement has political effect. It is why the Greek government has been forced to take what action against the fascists it has.

To fail to engage with the political reality the movement itself creates, to disavow its effects, is both to undermine its confidence in its own capacity and to surrender the political initiative to others.

The demands and next steps of the anti-fascist movement in Greece are directed at widening the breach it has already created. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, last week said that he was “not for placing GD outside the law [i.e. banned as a party], but brought before the law”. This week he said he “trusted the Greek judicial authorities”.

Today the judge hearing the remand cases of various GD leaders “accidentally” gave the fascists’ lawyers the name and details of the former GD member turned whistleblower, who has provided testimony against them.

So holding the criminals of GD to account cannot be left to the authorities, which have collaborated with them. It requires systematically arguing for the gang to be dismantled at every level and for the trail of investigation into its violence and criminality to be pursued wherever it leads.

It means forcing the government to cut off the state funds that go to GD. If GD is a criminal gang, then its offices in neighbourhoods are centres of organising terror. They should be closed down, by any means necessary.

In other words, the official moves against GD will only have purchase if they continue to respond to an independent, militant movement that goes beyond the official confines and is prepared to act.

That’s why it was absolutely right at the huge anti-fascist rally outside the Greek parliament last week that the anti-fascist movement broke with the constitutional and legalistic consensus and set out to march on the GD headquarters.

The move was not ritualistic or by a small ultra-radical minority. It was the political assertion of the centrality of a mass movement, by that mass movement, in driving the struggle against fascism and racism.

That movement, which is holding an important conference in Athens this weekend, is now in a position to push forward the dismantling of GD and also — in combination with ongoing mass strikes and social struggles — to raise the pressure on the government to go.

These are some of the general lessons, put rather telegraphically, from the last week of struggle in Greece.

The biggest lesson, however, is that politics, strategy and tactics are not deducible from abstract schemes. Radicalism does not come from rhetoric or finding ultra-militant postures or points of distinction. They all come from concrete engagement in building a mass movement and with it fighting for a politics that seeks to cut through, rather than evade, the responses of the state and establishment.

Kevin Ovenden is a national officer of Unite Against Fascism.