Six flavours of milkshake for the European elections

The far right across Europe hopes to make gains in this week’s European elections. In Britain, the new Brexit Party has been making inroads. Meanwhile, Ukip is standing far-right candidates, and the Islamophobic agitator ‘Tommy Robinson’ is standing as an independent in the North West. Ian Allinson suggests some arguments to help you persuade people to vote against Robinson and the far right…

Drawing: Papachan (CC-BY)

‘Electing the far right is the best way to shake things up’

It would shake things up, but make things worse. In Britain it would encourage the Tories to impose racist, repressive and authoritarian policies, embolden the right of the Labour Party which defends the status quo, and give fascists and the far right even more media profile. Across Europe the far right have a new grouping in the European Parliament including Italy’s Salvini, anti-Islam Danish People’s Party, Marine’s Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly Front National), and Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland (AfD). The Brexit Party has been invited to join and Farage won’t rule it out. The far right are amongst the worst climate deniers. Success for the far right isn’t just a protest vote, it will do real harm.

‘Robinson isn’t a fascist – he’s a campaigner against extremism standing in a democratic election’

Participation in elections doesn’t make you a democrat – Hitler stood in elections. Throughout his reinventions, Yaxley-Lennon has been consistent in his anti-Muslim racism. In 2011 he blamed ‘every single Muslim’ for the 7/7 attacks and threatened that ‘the Islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defence League’. In 2016 he argued to deport every adult male Muslim who had entered the EU in the previous year.

Robinson was a member of the BNP, set up the English Defence League (EDL) which went on anti-Muslim pogroms and attacked the Unite union office in Liverpool, tried to set up a British branch of the Islamophobic German Pegida movement, and continues to mobilise racists onto the streets. He continues to work with and support more overt fascists – hardly opposing extremism. Mass murderers such as Anders Breivik and Darren Osborne (the Finsbury Park Mosque killer) were directly influenced by Tommy Robinson, and Osborne even received messages from him.

‘Robinson is doing important work opposing rape and child abuse’

Robinson’s supposed concern with rape and child abuse is not only selective but actually harmful.

rs21’s recent pamphlet and the work of the Feminist Anti-Fascist Assembly have highlighted how sexism is central to far-right ideology. Ukip election candidate Carl Benjamin’s rape threat ‘joke’ illustrated this. The far right, including people close to Robinson, is riddled with perpetrators of sexual violence. Robinson himself assaulted a partner in 2004.

Women’s organisations actually trying to tackle sexual violence have condemned Robinson and refused his cash, arguing:

Tommy doesn’t care about the rights of women and girls – he is exploiting the pain of survivors and their families to fuel racist hate for his own gain. He is a misogynist and has recklessly put victims at risk for his own moment of media spotlight. Tommy Robinson’s factually incorrect messages about ‘grooming’, and his attempt to portray himself as a champion of the cause, are an insult to survivors of abuse.

Robinson’s publicity stunt at court nearly caused the collapse of a major child sexual abuse trial. More generally, the pretence that Muslim men are disproportionately responsible for sexual violence directs attention away from the real issues which urgently need tackling. The far right reinforce rather than challenge a toxic version of masculinity. They hate trade unions (as shown by the attack on the RMT picket in Manchester) which are needed to challenge the power imbalances in workplaces and wider society which render people vulnerable, enable abuse and cover ups. They divide working class communities, making it harder to fight for funding for high quality support services.

‘It’s not racist to criticise a religion – it’s freedom of speech’

Biologically, there are no ‘races’: they are a social and political invention. Groups of people are ‘racialised’ to legitimise treating them as less than human, for example to justify slavery, war and denial of rights. So Irish people, Eastern Europeans, Jews and Muslims have all been racialised using imagined racial characteristics, as well as black people.

What the far right do isn’t criticism of religion, despite their claims. They treat Muslims as a group, ignoring the variety of class, beliefs, politics etc. Having racialised Muslims they regard them as a threat, scapegoating them for all the ills of society, which helps those really responsible for crap jobs, housing and services continue to get away with it.

‘The far right and Robinson are speaking up for ordinary people against elites’

It’s certainly true that they want to speak on our behalf. Tommy Robinson’s election leaflet claims: ‘If you elect me to the European Parliament, I’ll represent you, the working class of England’. He cultivates a ‘man in the street’ image, but he is a manufactured online celebrity. He talks of the housing crisis, but it is landlords like Robinson and governments and councils who fail to build high quality affordable homes that we need to tackle. The far right complain of over-stretched public services, but want to drive out many who work in them. Far from having answers, the far right are part of the problem, providing an outlet for our anger that is no threat to those in power.

‘It’s not racist to say there are too many immigrants – we just can’t take any more’

There is ample wealth in Britain to provide decent homes and services, and plenty of work that needs doing that could provide good jobs for all. The problem is that resources and power are hoarded by a tiny minority. We are left fighting amongst ourselves for the crumbs while luxury apartments lie empty and the rich spend more on a meal or a bottle of wine than many earn in a week. The rich love it when we turn on each other rather than them. It’s tempting when we don’t have enough to fight each other for the crumbs, but at best this gets us crumbs. The British far right is bankrolled by millionaires from around the world, particularly the USA. Robinson is a rich man exploiting the victims of terrorism and sexual abuse – and his supporters.

Vote Labour to defeat the far right

On Thursday 23 May everyone who has a vote should turn out to use it against the far right – Robinson, the Brexit Party and UKIP. A Labour vote will not only help defeat the far right, but increase the Tories’ crisis, help finish off the dying neoliberal Change UK, and strengthen the hand of Corbyn against the Labour right.

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