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International Socialism, Autumn 1962


Notes of the Quarter

Fists Against Fascists


From International Socialism, No.10, Autumn 1962, p.2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Proofread by Anoma Cartwright (May 2008).


What should the Labour Movement do about the fascists? Stop them physically and directly, or rely on Acts ‘outlawing the dissemination of racial doctrines and practices’? One would have thought the lesson had been learnt thirty years ago and needed no repetition.

But no, Michael Foot writing in Tribune’s leader column (10 August) advises against taking matters into our own hands. Forgetting the massive opposition shown the fascists recently in London, Manchester and even village Gloucestershire, ignoring the readiness of CND and Young Socialist youth for do-it-yourself politics, he writes: ‘if it were accepted that the right of people to speak and demonstrate in this country should be settled by street fights and physical violence of one kind or another, the eventual casualty would be the right of free speech for many others besides the neo-Nazis. They would retaliate against Left-wing meetings’.

Let them dare!

As for policy, Foot offers nothing by the statement that ‘Tribune has always been in favour of Fenner Brockway’s Bill for outlawing the dissemination of racial doctrines and practices’.

Tribune needs to be reminded of two basic truths. The Law is their Law, not ours – Capital’s not Labour’s. Orthodox Big Business might feel sufficiently secure at the moment to invoke it against fascists as impartially as it does against anti-Bombsters, but in the final analysis it is an actively anti-Bomb-anti-Boss labour movement which will draw the full weight of legal repression. We might use the Law sometimes, but never can we rely on it.

The second truth Tribune need ponder is that socialists are in this society but not of it. However small the socialist movement and however clogged its communications with the wider labour movement, it represents the possibility of an alternative form of society, an alternative social power. We are duty bound to assert that power where we are able.

If we do not, the dangers of partial fascist victories and of the roughneck politics Tribune fears will grow. As Anthony Howard has shown in his New Statesman articles on the Islington Labour Parties, where the party has wrapped itself round an electoral apparatus to the exclusion of all other considerations, including politics and including contact with the people it is supposed to represent, the area is laid open to fascist encroachment. There were 800 fascist votes for the LCC in Southwest Islington alone last year. How many next time? We can’t expect the constituency machine-men and parish pump tinkers to take to the streets, but Tribune should certainly get out of the way of ready anti-fascist fists.

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