The far-right successfully whipped up a scare about asylum seekers in Oughterard last night, infiltrating and manipulating a large public meeting & turning it into the largest & most repulsive hatefest in the ROI since the 1930s.
They are copying a strategy from their fellow fascists in Italy, Sweden, Germany, Poland & elsewhere, where the strategy has had great success. This is a ‘rural base’ strategy, whereby they target left-behind small-towns which have been hollowed out by decades of neglect and where most of the energetic young people have left, leaving behind great pools of bitterness & resentment within which the left finds it difficult to organise.
The far-right moves in, fueling itself with the resentment, and lighting fire to the bitterness by focusing on groups that cant defend themselves – Travellers & asylum seekers to begin with. Bit by bit they gain influence and, before we know it, they have a large rural following and a base from which to launch into the cities. After that it’s civil war or a strongman coup they are aiming for – according to their own internet bulletin boards – and the physical annihilation of all ‘foreign elements’.
They are supported around Ireland by many right-wing councillors, several right-wing TDs, & a plethora of small but tenacious far-right orgs.
Too many on the left have been ignoring the growth of the far-right, despite the fact that it is obviously growing into its greatest strength since the 1930s. This is in marked contrast to 20 years ago – when we had no TDs – and when at the first signs of far-right emergence we immediately organised to crush them.
The far-left in Britain – perhaps less in thrall to the de-radicalising effects of long-term electoralism than our own – have had a lot of success in undermining and reducing in strength their much larger & much more dangerous far-right in recent times. Anti-fascist organising in the US & Germany also seems to be gaining momentum.
Last night in Oughterard, despite being aggressively shouted down by the fascist activists in the crowd, those few bravehearts who spoke up against racism, including the courageous TD Catherine Connolly, received support from many present. In the cities, and in the less devastated country towns and regions, there is a large progressive majority within and among which a mass anti-fascist movement, if it is united and dogged, can quickly be built.
So, while the danger is clear & present, we still have time to halt the rise of an aggressive & murderous politics of hate in Ireland.
But the structures & strategies we have at the moment are simply not up to the task. Fascism will not be defeated by small front groups or by isolated splinter groups, courageous as members of those groups might be. It will not be defeated by witty memes, celebrity twitter threads, or online petitions – although all these have their place in the propaganda war. It will not be defeated by annual marches & jamborees in Dublin on the one hand (though these are important for recruiting & public influence) or by the targeting of leading figures by small groups of anonymous militants on the other.
If fascism could be defeated by any of the above it would not be anything much to worry about. It would not be an existential threat to workers, the poor, to all progressive members of society.
But it is dangerous, deadly dangerous & it will be more and more dangerous over the coming years as the effects of Brexit & a new global recession strike together with irreversible and transformative climate change, causing ever more chaos, despair, division & panic. So we need to get our act together fast. We need, at the very least, far more co-ordinated efforts among the left to get a large-scale, broad, diverse, relentless anti-fascist movement off the ground.
The far-left parties & the reformist parties need to step-up to the plate & start putting as much energy & resources into anti-fascism as they have in recent years into pro-choice, water charges, housing etc. Civil society groups and anti-fascist independents also need to join in one big effort. We need some form of national activist network & umbrella structure to include as many organisations and individuals possible and get a public anti-fascist presence going everywhere we can.
Some form of national conference needs to called as soon as possible out of which a national strategy can be launched & sub-groups formed to work on all the different aspects of anti-fascist organising.
Speak, Act now, or, before you know it, it will soon be too late.
PS – please thread linked below about how far-right are organising online re Oughterard to divide communities & whip up hatred.