They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a caption is too.
While looking for coverage of the far-right’s attempts to exploit the tragedy in Rotherham to stir up a bit of cheap publicity, I stumbled across something that stuck in my head and bothered me in a way that silly facebook posts don’t normally do. The post in question was from “Patriots Against Society”, one of the myriad of daft EDL News-style pages and accounts that parody the far right:
Something about the combination of that banner and that “antifascist” response really gets to me. It’s a powerful message: drawing on a memory of class hatred of the police going back thirty years to their actions as an occupying army in the miners’ strike, making links between the contempt shown for working-class football fans in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster and the contempt for young working-class girls that enabled the horrific abuse in Rotherham to go on for so long. And what do “anti-racists” have to say in response? “Lol, look at the thickos who can’t spell.”
The case against “anti-fascist” snobbery has been made before, of course, but it seems to be one of those arguments that needs to be made time and time again. The situation in Rotherham is a difficult and complicated one – I’m not used to finding myself agreeing with the demands put forward by far-right groups, but it’s hard to see how anyone could disagree with the EDL’s demand that Shaun Wright needs to go. The standard UAF model of organising demos where the speakers’ platform is a lash-up between the SWP and local bigwigs was never that good to start with, but it could be terrifyingly counter-productive in a situation like Rotherham, where a platform dominated by Weyman Bennett and local councillors would look like a who’s who of abuse enablers.
Orgreave, Hillsborough, Rotherham. The person who made that banner was angry, and they had good reasons for being angry, and the fact that they were out marching with the EDL should give us pause for thought. In a situation like this, the need for an anti-fascist movement that’s populist, anti-state, anti-establishment and can talk about class is more urgent than ever. The Anti-Fascist Network statement on the situation is a good start, but the amount of EDL News/Still Laughing at the EDL-style crap that’s out there means that there’s still a lot of dead wood that needs pruning if we want to have an antifascist movement that can seriously compete for the hearts and minds of people who drawn towards racist groups, instead of just instantly putting them off with blatant snobbery. I’d like to say the attitudes I’m complaining about are just a liberal problem, but anyone who’s familiar with the Malatesta blog will be aware that some anarchists have just as much difficulty with the difference between taking the piss out of racists for being racist and taking the piss out of racists for being fat/bald/alcoholic/uneducated/tattooed/etc.
There’s a place for satire and ridicule, of course, but good satire should be about examining what your target is actually saying, looking at their arguments to expose the holes, absurdities and inconsistencies in their logic. There’s a world of difference between that and shit like this:
If opposition to the far-right is ever going to go beyond frantic attempts at damage limitation, we need to be actually engaging with the people drawn to far-right ideas – yes, even the fat ones, the bald ones, the ones with alcohol problems and crap tattoos and bad teeth and a poor grasp of the English language and all the other things that seem to mark people out as subhuman in the eyes of many “anti-fascists” – and arguing why their justified frustrations should be expressed along class lines, not national or racial ones. And if we can’t do that, then we could at least do with some better-quality satire, so we’ll have something to laugh at while everything continues to get worse.