Cross-community, left alternative needed
Many young people and workers are looking at the growth of far-right populist forces across the world with deep-seated concern. From the election of proto-fascist Jair Bolsanoro in Brazil to to the substantial vote in the Southern Presidential election for Peter Casey, who based his campaign on anti-traveller racism, there is a real fear that society is heading in a rightward direction.
Years of brutal austerity, fuelled by the neo-liberal agenda of establishment parties, has undermined the living standards of working-class people. Parties of capitalism have left themselves discredited and exposed as working in the interests of big business and the super-rich. Through the media and governments, the ruling class have scapegoated migrants for the failures of capitalism to provide adequate housing, public services and stable, well-paying jobs.
Far-right populist rhetoric about taking on the establishment and challenging immigration can get an echo in this context. These groups have no solutions to the problems facing the working class, however. They only serve to divide workers, playing into the bosses’ hands.
Far-right group Britain First have made a turn to organising in Northern Ireland in recent months. They have held several rallies in Belfast city centre alongside the Southern racists of Generation Identity, and are targeting towns like Ballymena, Newtownards and Portadown. At this point, they have managed to mobilise several hundred. Tricolours have appeared on demonstrations alongside Union flags in an attempt to portray themselves as cross-community. Ultimately, however, to build a base they will fall down into one sectarian camp – the natural tendency for Britain First is to gravitate toward the Protestant community.
Cross-community, socialist response needed
The forces of Green and Orange have no effective way to defeat the far right. Turning this issue into a sectarian battleground by waving flags associated with one community or labelling one community as being “racist” will only play into the hands of the far right. It will sow more division and provide fertile ground for them to grow.
The trade union movement, representing both Protestant and Catholic workers, is the key force that can challenge the far right here. Mobilisations of workers from both backgrounds, linked to demands for investment in housing and job creation, will be key to knocking them back. Ultimately, building an anti-sectarian political alternative and struggling for a socialist future is the only way to bury the far right for good.
By Seán Burns