Revived Anti Nazi League on the agenda

Trevor Fisher on the threat from the far right

When John McDonnell called for a new movement against the growing far right threat in early August, he struck a chord. Reported on Labour List on August 7th, his tweet said

With the scale of the Tommy Robinson demonstrations, the storming of Bookmarks bookshop, and now Boris Johnson’s Islamophobic comments, we can no longer ignore the rise of far right politics in our society. Maybe its time for an Anti Nazi League type cultural and political campaign to resist.
He went on to advocate Rock Against Racism as another important precedent and his call seems perfectly reasonable.

Yet it received a muted or hostile response. Most of the responses on Labour List were predictably people running hobby horses, yet why Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle criticised the call is very odd. Whatever is the case with the anti-semitism row, those who are advocating a new holocaust have to be opposed, not just in the UK, but across Europe and beyond. The Australian Senator (Fraser Anning of the Katters Australian Party) who used the term “Final Solution” in calling for immigration bans on Muslims and other races was defended on the ground that he did not know the implications of the term.  It is intolerable that anyone can claim not to know what happened under the Nazis or the clear direction of travel the far right are taking.

The term “Nazi”, like that of “Fascist”, has been devalued over the years and revisiting the history and what the original Anti Nazi League did is essential. The history has faded, and with the rise of Putin extreme nationalism has become favoured across Europe and America. Immediately two areas have to be made priorities: firstly, defining the far right and distinguishing it from the hard right; and secondly, making the history of the ANL well known. McDonnell can be criticised for linking Boris Johnson with the far right. Johnson is dabbling in dangerous waters, but it is too simple to tar all opponents  with the same brush. The anti-democratic and exterminationist elements of Nazism put it in a very different place.

The original ANL understood this, and it was the rise of the National Front which sparked the movement, particularly comments by its leader John Tyndall that they were building a Nazi machine. The current far right is unlikely to make its intentions that explicit, but there is no doubt that unlike the BNP the new movements are unlikely to confine themselves to democratic moves, as the attack on Bookmarks suggests.

When the NF disintegrated, the ANL rightly closed down, though Rock against Racism mutated into Love Music Hate Racism as racism has never gone away. A revival of the ANL may not be easily achieved in the short term, but immediately an Anti Nazi Forum of interested parties should be set up. The process of gathering forces for a revived anti Nazi front must begin.