It must be hard when something that you’ve spent a good proportion of your life campaigning against simply ceases to exist in any meaningful way. All those hours tirelessly working the streets, handing out leaflets, organising protests; the millions of words you wrote and spoke in commitment to the cause. And then slowly you realise there is no longer any point: the Great Threat you’ve been warning about has gone.
This is the existential dilemma anti-fascist groups such as Hope Not Hate and United Against Fascism (UAF) must surely be facing given the decimation of the far-right British National Party (BNP) and now the implosion of anti-Islamic extremism group the English Defence League (EDL). While, as has long been noted on spiked, the significance of these groups has been massively overinflated, they did at least offer something for anti-fascist groups to take to the streets and rally against to gain a sense of purpose. Now, without them, is it not time to move on?
Sadly, the only thing these groups are moving on to is what they apparently deem to be the latest embodiment of Hate: the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Given that UKIP has existed since 1991, it’s strange that it’s taken over two decades for these groups to unmask UKIP’s latent fascism. Indeed, it was as late as May last year that Hope Not Hate began its ‘Purple Rain’ blog to ‘keep a close eye on the fortunes and misfortunes of UKIP’. During the local council elections last year, UAF was still claiming ‘UKIP is a party to the right of the Conservative party but is not at this precise moment considered to be a fascist party’.
So what has changed? UAF spin-off Stand Up to UKIP is holding a demo in Westminster, London tomorrow ‘to oppose racist scapegoating’, with leaflets being circulated claiming UKIP is riddled with ‘racists, sexists, homophobes and bigots’. Vast amounts of time is being spent by left-wing commentators and activists scouring the Twitter feeds, blogs and even family trees of UKIP candidates trying to find even the most tenuous link to the far-right. Hope Not Hate is now lumping UKIP with the BNP, declaring that the 2014 elections ‘will see us taking on the British National Party (BNP) and UK Independence Party (UKIP) on their home turf’. Surely, they argue, the parallel is clear: ‘The party even ripped off the BNP’s old “Love Britain, Vote BNP” slogan with the line “Love Britain, Vote UKIP”.’
Is loving Britain now a telltale sign of fascism? It seems that in trying to taint UKIP with the stench of fascism, anti-fascist groups are forever widening the definition of the enemy they are trying to combat. As a number of normally sympathetic commentators have pointed out, such attacks on UKIP mean that campaigners run the risk of alienating themselves from the British public as readily as Gordon Brown did during the 2010 election campaign when he dismissed lifelong Labour supporter Gillian Duffy as ‘that bigoted woman’ for daring to raise her concerns about immigration with him. In attacking UKIP’s ‘populism’, groups such as UAF are inadvertently attacking the British public for being so easily seduced by Farage’s facile arguments that pander to their basest instincts.