Wednesday, 1 August 2018

On Fascist Heroes

You can tell a something about a movement by its heroes and martyrs. Take the workers' movement, for instance. At its most radical edge you have comrades like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, murdered by the proto-fascist Freikorps militia at the behest of the post-WWI social democratic government of Germany. Both of them had impeccable records as activists, organisers and, in Luxemburg's case, an outstanding theoretician. Truly people whose example will never be forgotten. Likewise, you can add to this list Antonio Gramsci who laboured in gruelling conditions under the lock and key of Mussolini, an imprisonment that killed him - but also enabled him to produce endlessly fruitful theoretical work. We think about the comrades who selflessly set aside their own safety and fought fascism, gun in hand, in Spain. The activists who put their jobs on the line defending workers' rights and building the labour movement in hostile workplaces. Comrades who risked life and limb taking on the fash and standing up to the police. And today, those comrades who travelled to Syria to fight with the Kurdish YPG. Whatever their foibles and human frailties, the fact they risked everything and, in some cases, paid the ultimate price, is what inspires. They put others before themselves and lived (and died) in power and in solidarity. They became martyrs because their lives and deaths embody socialist values.

Now consider fascist heroes. Take Horst Wessel, the SA youth leader who was murdered by a couple of KPD activists. A martyr to his cause, yes, but let's look at the content of his "activism". This consisted entirely of attacking the workers' movement with the kind of thuggish ferocity that ensured his promotion in the Nazi party, and earned him the favour of Joseph Goebbels. Though, like a true coward, he always let "his boys" do the grunt work of fighting and scrapping - he himself not being physically robust enough to mix it up. Wessel was also a notorious drunk and a pimp and undoubtedly, had his career not been cut short he would surely have graduated to the status of a major war criminal. It says everything about the Nazis and their latter day followers that a petty criminal and thug is one of their most beloved martyrs.

Which brings me to the case of Tommy Robinson, or Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, or whatever his name is this week. The "backbone of Britain" as the rancid Steve Bannon hailed him, and a living embodiment of "Ghandi", "Nelson Mandela", and "the Suffragettes" according to UKIP leader Gerard Batten. Why not add Buddha and Obi-Wan Kenobi to the list? It goes with saying he's none of these things. He is for the fissiparous far right a rallying figure and someone who has built a profile thanks to the indulgence shown him by the broadcast media, particularly the BBC, and his pubic "rehabilitation" thanks to Maajid Nawaz and the Quilliam Foundation. What can you say? Liberals are gonna liberal.

Of course, the far right narrative surrounding Yaxley-Lennon's recent imprisonment for contempt of court is about setting him up as a martyr figure. Here's a patriot standing up against Muslim grooming gangs, and getting put away for revealing the truth. At least goes the fairy tale. And yet this thin gruel is undermined by our Tommy. As The Secret Barrister notes, Yaxley-Lennon accepts that he was in the wrong:
1. Robinson admitted that he was in contempt of court at Canterbury, through racially charged and aggressive hounding of defendants which risked derailing a serious sex trial and denying justice to victims of sexual offending;
2. Robinson admitted through his barrister that he was in breach of the reporting restrictions at Leeds Crown Court. It was never suggested, by his barrister or anyone else, that the reporting restrictions were inappropriate. It was agreed by all that they were necessary to ensure the fairness of serious trials.
3. “Free speech” has nothing to do with this decision. This was not a case of Robinson “exposing” something the state was trying to cover up. At both Canterbury and Leeds, he was interfering in a live criminal trial in defiance of laws designed to ensure the trial was fair. The cases would have been reported in full by journalists once the postponement order was over. The only thing added to the sum of human experience by Robinson’s “citizen journalism” was the very real risk of serious criminal cases collapsing.
Not that you'd know this from far right coverage. Or, for that matter, mainstream reporting. Yet, now's he's out and about again we'll see more of the same: lies, defamation of others, scapegoating and all the rest. Yaxley-Lennon is a liar, a cynical, deceitful and dishonest toe rag who revels in the celebrity notoriety the media has gifted him. But, as with the aforementioned Horst Wessel, he shares a number of other characteristics befitting a fascist icon. He received a 12 month suspended sentence for his role in a ruck between rival footy hooligans, cracked on to a 15 year old on Twitter, served a brief stint for passport fraud, received £160k for his part in a mortgage fraud (and did an 18 month stretch for it). All this is without taking on board his issues with the law vis the EDL and the contempt of court proceedings. He's nothing but lumpen trash.

And yet fascism draws deep from this most poisonous of wells. Why? Because, ultimately, fascism is a criminal enterprise. It has the trappings of a political movement - parties, periodicals, ideas - but its aim, which is the smashing of labour movements, the evisceration of democracy, and the erection of dictatorship simultaneously wages class war and involves criminal activity. A movement that is lawless and only obeys the law of the jungle, small wonder it appeals to criminals, misfits and losers. Yaxley-Lennon in this respect is the perfect embodiment of the fash demographic - petit bourgeois (shopkeeper), lumpenised and criminal, a serial liar, he's got what it takes to be a fascist hero.


Southpawpunch said...

This is where Lefts are indistinguishable from liberals - and to the right of the state (which has now released Robinson) on this particular issue.

When I heard the claim that Robinson had been locked up just a few hours after he was nicked I thought that was bad unlike the rest of the Left (even the Revolutionary Left) who welcomed his imprisonment.

Any Left with sense sees that the arbitrary application of state power against someone for their political views - as his release would appear to confirm - is alarming. If they can do such to near fascists like him (and I hope the vile bigot drops dead tomorrow), they can do it to Lefts and, liberal that I am maybe, I would not support the persecution of anyone for their politics by a capitalist state.

This article is riven with assumptions that are so ingrained in the UK Left that I think some think these are 'natural'. 'What he did was illegal' - maybe, but that is no test for us. Lots of things that break the law are fine with us, others not.

'Ah, but he was messing with a trial. That's bad.' My understanding of the law in most/all of the US is that you can say things about people on trial well beyond the strict restrictions on such that there are in the UK.

I obviously don't think the USA is a workers paradise but the UK does seem a long way behind them on freedom - e.g. the right to silence still exists there, continuing no double jeopardy rule, right to bear arms.

So if I was to guess, I would imagine the US rule on trials and contempt is better than our own. I can see that is debateable on this issue but it is the assumption here - he broke one of our lawsm so must be wrong - is just so craven in it adoption of the ideology of the ruling class. Think critically.

Konrad said...

What about Malcolm X? I believe he had an interesting journey from petty criminal through extremist anti-white racist to quite nuanced thinker before he was murdered. Maybe there is hope for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon yet?

Ken said...

Not with you there Southpawpunch about the “craven....adoption of the ruling class ideology..” There is a long history of getting juries to be independent of outside pressures, usually from the “ruling class”. In one celebrated instance, the judge had the jury locked up until it changes it’s verdict of not guilty. In the case of Clive Ponting, a civil servant who leaked documents the government would rather have kept from the public, the press and government wanted him jailed. All this pressure was shut off during the trial. Only the evidence presented was judged by the jury. The result? Not guilty.
It’s a valuable check on the misuse of power by the powerful, or, the rabble-rousers who know better than the jury.

Bill said...

What Ken said. Jury trials are the most democratic aspect of the existing system, and I mean "democratic" in the revolutionary sense. They're the last thing I feel we have to change and, tellingly, one of the first things this fascist felt he had to challenge.

Southpawpunch said...

I can't see how (very rare) instances of e.g. a jury acting independently or even deciding to acquit when the defendants openly admit guilt (e.g. the jury who acquitted Pottle and Randle who helped heroic comrade George Blake to escape - that has a name, a 'perverse verdict'. maybe?) is relevant here, Ken.

No jury is independent e.g. it doesn't do its own investigations, call what witnesses it wishes - its verdict arises from what is put to it (and what is hidden from it) and the rules it works, under e.g. the judge's summing up.

I'm not arguing the US system is better or worse than UK, as I said, I don't know. But I'm not presuming what our state imposes is best and the immediate 'justice' that lowlife Robinson was served appears to be lower even than that standard .

Anonymous said...

"...the arbitrary application of state power against someone for their political views..." not remotely relevant, unless you choose to believe the transparently false narrative of a lying publicity-seeking fascist arsehole.

'Tommy Robinson' committed a fairly serious crime (prejudicing a trial), then while on a suspended sentence for that, went out and publicly did exactly the same thing again. That's why he was in jail, because obviously that's what would happen if you did that.

So there's two possibilities: 1) He's so unbelievably stupid that it didn't occur to him, or 2) He was courting arrest deliberately as a self-promoting stunt to raise his own profile as a leader of the right/far-right.

Neither possibility would qualify him as a "political prisoner" or any kind of martyr, victim, or hero. Again, what he really is, is a lying publicity-seeking fascist arsehole. Nothing more.

Ken said...

If this is getting boring now Southpunch I’ll stop. As for juries only deciding on what is put to them or not, I can concede that in England, recent rape trials have collapsed because the police hadn’t released all the social media evidence to the defendants before the trial was due to begin. This could be seen as an underfunded geek squad being careless, or not.
As for supine juries not being aware of what is being missed out; I was on a jury on a rape trial and we sent at least one letter to the presiding judge asking why people who had been named as being at the event where the alleged rape took place were not being called. We were told that neither of the prosecuting or defence barristers had decided to call these people as witnesses, and drew a set of conclusions from that. After 5 days at £5k per day to run a trial, the prosecution case thinned out and eventually the jury brought in a Not Guilty verdict.

TheOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

In Denmark, as bastion of the ‘free world’, women are now being fined for wearing the wrong clothes, i.e. Islamic clothing. This is completely normalised by the mainstream. And they are scratching their heads wondering why the far right are making headway. You have to chuckle.

Modern day fascism is not stupid, it has seen a gap in the market, a place where it can peddle its racism, supremacist ideology and thuggism behaviour relatively freely. That place is called Islamophobia and/or Muslims. In this place any kind of racist garbage can be peddled without too much fuss from polite society, hard working families, identity politics foot soldiers or liberal lefties. It is fertile ground to build a movement in an otherwise hostile environment.

Let us call islamophobia a safe space for fascists. If only those Muslims were Jews it could be oh so different!

Welcome to the free West, where you can’t do this and you can’t do that, you can say this and you can’t say that, you can’t think this and you can’t think that, you can’t want this and you can’t want that, you can’t traverse this and you can’t traverse that, you can’t move here and you can’t move there, you can’t believe this and you can’t believe that, you can’t produce this and you can’t produce that, you can’t post this and you can’t post that, you can’t wear this and you can’t wear that, welcome to the free West!

George Carty said...

I remember having epiphany on reading an article on a Shi'a website defending the Islamic dress code, which quoted a passage from Germaine Greer's book Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility:

“Women who wear cortes or huipiles or saris or jellabas or salwar kameez or any other ample garments can swell and diminish inside them without embarrassment or discomfort. Women with shawls and veils can breastfeed anywhere without calling attention to themselves, while baby is protected from dust and flies. In most non-Western societies, the dress and ornaments of women celebrate the mothering function. Ours deny it.”

We could also note that when Mary (the mother of Jesus) is depicted by Christian artists, she is almost always wearing clothes similar to what Muslim women wear today.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why women in Islamic dress are so often attacked by racists – because their attire is seen as dangerously celebratory of motherhood, and thus accentuates the racists' fear of being "out-bred"? (Note also those infamous "1 Shot 2 Kills" T-shirts marketed by the Israeli military!)

Anonymous said...

cant believe i came here to read about a NES game and ended up depresed bout politricks. This essay is means i can never vote for these happy clappy labor. Its all wannabe middle class posers bigging it up bout revolution wiv Rosa and ends up all "lumpen trash". Yeah we get it you hate the undeserving poor. thing is bruv us trash are usually the ones fighting the nazis with r hands wile you have a jolly good time behine a keyboard. jog on back to morgageland

and every sponsord game was shit.

Phil said...

What on earth are you on about?

And no, not every sponsored game was shit!!