The London Anti-Fascist Assembly (LAFA) launched this year as a pan-city grassroots anti-fascist coalition made up of groups from across the left. Below, a member of far-right monitoring podcast 12 Rules For WHAT (@12rulesforwhat) considers the challenges ahead.
In February more than 150 anti-fascists packed into a social centre in Dalston to discuss and plan a new anti-fascist movement. The successes of 2018, and a resurgent threat from the far-right across the world, had once again made anti-fascism into a vital and pressing activity for a broad swathe of Londoners. And despite LAFA being originally conceived as a way for existing groups on the radical left to coordinate, the assembly has gone well beyond anti-fascism’s usual constituency of committed activists.
This is extremely promising, and makes it a particularly hopeful time to be an anti-fascist. However, some of the problems LAFA was created to solve remain. It aimed to increase participation in street-based anti-fascism, but anti-fascist demonstrations called at short notice or during the week still have low turnouts. Politically, LAFA hasn’t yet produced an answer to the ongoing collapse of the distinction between the fascist and non-fascist right, making its target at some points unclear. From an organisational perspective, although LAFA has drawn new people into doing anti-fascist work, the movement still largely relies on the same fairly small set of organisers to spur action.
As it’s not been around for very long, there’s still plenty of opportunity to develop the group further. LAFA could address some or all of these ongoing issues by:
- Continuing its already very promising successes in building a mass movement capable of opposing fascists on the street;
- Organising training for new anti-fascist organisers;
- Helping to produce counter-narratives to the pernicious but effective propaganda produced by the far right.
If LAFA is going to grow, and ultimately be successful, it will be by emphasising its function as an assembly. It is essential to bring together groups and individuals to coordinate the left response to fascism.
It’s clear anti-fascism can’t just react to the activities of the far right, but must build a movement ready to meet the next threat, and ultimately be robust and wide-spread enough to stop the threat arising at all. Just as we need direct action, or “militant” anti-fascism to break up fascist organising, we also need a mass movement to make anti-fascism a reflexive and sustained practice of the left. Assemblies can do this.
Anti-Fascist Night School
To be effective in the long run, anti-fascists will need to produce and reproduce their own organisers. This means giving people the ability and confidence to fulfil functions within the movement. The importance of an emphasis on reproduction and care in our movements, which the Feminist Anti-Fascist Assembly in particular has already highlighted, needs to also look to the long term sustainability of these movements, and that means training.
There are clear deficiencies to be filled. On previous demonstrations there has been little capacity for stewarding, for example, and more generally a lack of energy for doing sustained research into fascist groups. More broadly, despite far-right figures being increasingly excluded from major social media platforms, anti-migrant and other proto-fascist sentiments are still rife on social media. To counter this, we need to develop skills systematically in a structured programme.
Culture not Subculture
The third area LAFA should develop is its cultural work. Bringing new people into anti-fascism means expanding the ways in which anti-fascism is practiced and contesting fascists in the cultural spheres where they agitate.
There has been much talk in recent months of bringing back Rock Against Racism, an important cultural project from a previous cycle of anti-fascist activity. But this would miss the reality that dominant forms of culture have moved on. Unlike in the 1970s and ’80s, fascist and reactionary movements are not prioritising music as a way to capture new recruits. Instead, we should look the work being done by projects such as the anti-fascist Clapton CFC (along with it’s sister esports team) and the emerging “Breadtube” movement of leftist YouTubers challenging the hegemony the far-right has held on the platform. LAFA should be actively producing anti-fascist culture, linking these projects together as a single coherent project, and creating access points for new people get involved in anti-fascist activities.
This article first appeared in the Summer issue of Freedom Journal