British Fascism and the Fight for Working Class Politics: The Democratic Football Alliance March into Whitehall
I spent a beautiful warm, and balmy Saturday afternoon in mid October walking between Whitehall to Trafalgar Square in central London, with wide open eyes to the consequences of 8 years of austerity for the poorest, and socialism for those with economic, cultural and political power. What I mean by this is since the banking crash of 2008 there has been a scarcity of resources for the British working class, material but also the resources that are connected to dignity and respect. The British working class whether we like this or not have always found their value, their inner dignity and their wider sense of worth from family, community and work. The austerity programme that has hit all social services- relied on to maintain working class life in an already unfair and unequal system has been severely cut, working class people struggle to find a place to live, the consequences is a breakdown in their communities, they struggle to find work that offers enough recompense to feed their children and put a stable roof over the heads of their family, and lastly the very basics like healthcare, welfare services, and education have been cut to the bone which has a massive impact on not only the physical lives of the working class but also how they see themselves in relation to how they are valued. (When I talk about the working class for those ready to jump all over this and purposefully misrepresent this -I mean all working class people, black, white, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, South American, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and everywhere else but whose homes and lives are in the UK).
At the same time the middle class have seen and advanced their role in this deeply unfair and unequal Britain and that is through the medium of politics, culture and education. It is true that the middle class under the austerity programme may have seen their incomes fall, and are also finding it difficult to get on the housing ladder but they have temporarily substituted their economic capital for cultural capital with a large slice of that as political capital.
The middle class through holding on to their safe territory of education have managed to colonise all political debate from the left to the right and everywhere in between, they have become ‘right and legitimate’ in all social, and political debate. This is problematic because it has left the working class has wrong as default and therefore must prove how they are ‘right’ but also how their voices can be legitimate. This has left them bound and gagged.
The middle class use the notion of the 1% to explain inequality and an unfair system however this allows them to be uncritical about their own position. Allowing them to be in a unique advantage point they can look up and point the finger of blame and look down and either despise, blame or create victims for them to save.
Back to London 13th October 2018
I anticipated as I travelled to Charing Cross on the Northern Line another day of a couple of hundred people on two sides of an argument insulting each other over a thin blue line of coppers who are now a thin yellow high Vis line.
To some extents this is what I saw, but I felt unsettled all day, and have since. We are not in the 1970s and the 1980s, the DFLA (Democratic Football Lads Alliance) are not the National Front and they are not fascists, my comrade Martin Wright who I was with recognised some of the people marching with the DFLA from the 70s and 80s who had been part of the National Front, the BNP, and other far right and fascists groups but they were a minority. What unsettled me was that a majority of those marching yesterday with the DFLA where there for many reasons, and I spoke to them why they were there, some said it was Pakistani rape gangs, others about Muslim terrorism and extremism, all of them talked about their fears of Shariah law. There was and is a definite anti-Islamic flavour in their words, however there was also a recognition that as working class people (which they identified as) that they were unimportant, their views ignored and their identities, communities and social positions were being devalued.
None of this new news, and my fear and what unsettled me the most was not the thousand or so ‘activists’ on the DFLA march but how this plays out in the wider country and within class politics.
The AntiFa Unity Opposition
The Unite and AntiFa opposition has claimed victory, in that a little over a thousand people turned up and prevented the DFLA in marching on their police agreed and designated route to Whitehall to hold a rally. When I saw the two groups converge at Trafalgar Square there was nowhere near a thousand people in the Unity March a few hundred that I have to say showed a commitment and bravery in holding to their convictions of the day, despite being asked by the organisers to not mask up, bring their dogs (on strings) be hung-over or to drink on the march, all of which I thought was bizarre, and my message to the organisers that put out this memo in future join the Unite Against Fascism, SWP, TUC, Labour Party and Momentum along with the reporting Guardian Journalists at their village fair- that was out of sight and out of mind speaking only to themselves, their irrelevance is not worth any more discussion.
The Unity march although admittedly had a small victory delaying the DFLA march on the day but actually looked totally unconnected and unrelated to the British working class, they were mostly white students, singing out-dated and generic unrelated ditties about keeping fascists off our streets, and refugees being welcome.
The Football Lads and Lasses Against Fascism
However there was some hope within this day that had totally unsettled me, and that was the newly set up group of working class people FLAF that had used a social media campaign to make the argument to other working class people in the last few weeks that you can be working class, a football supporter and anti-racist. The FLAF formed their own roaming group going straight to the pubs along the route and confronted the DFLA. This was a tactic taken straight from Football Firms (remember those on the march forming the DFLA are already organised and have been for generations through their football firms, they use tactics of taking over space using their oppositions pubs, they spread themselves out over a large territory using their own spotters, and crews, I know this I was married to someone that employed these tactics in his own support for his beloved Nottingham Forest).
The DFLA appeared as a group on their march as a thousand mostly white men, although there was also black men, mixed race men and Asian men amongst their ranks, however there was probably another thousand in the pubs along the route. At the end of the march some of the DLAF carried rosettes and flower arrangements in their club colours mostly London Football clubs.
The FLLAF looked like their opponents they were working class men, football supporters and understood and knew the tactics, they took the fight to the DLAF in the pubs but the police very quickly moved them out of the area with horses.
The day was personally unsettling for me, because I am a white working class woman, because I have personal connections to ‘Football lads’, and to working class people all over the country that relate to DFLA and because my son is mixed race and many other people that I love dearly through a rise in far right politics are now vulnerable.
But the 13th October 2018 around Trafalgar was a set piece, a show piece in what is a wider game being played out in the country and probably much wider. The left are smug, middle class, and always right, this is a problem and is absolutely fuelling conservative right leaning popular politics (UAF, Momentum, SWP, Owen Jones et al and Novara Media you are really problematic but too arrogant to acknowledge it).
There is a wide, deep, pervasive and long problem with the British class system that reproduces inequality in the forms of economic, social and cultural resources; the current climate in the UK is a battle in how we acknowledge that inequality and how we tackle that inequality. The working class are losing and losing big in so many ways our voices are not being heard in any medium and the middle class are speaking for us, this is allowing right wing populism to totally ambush these feelings and experiences of powerlessness. Everyone may be claiming victory but only the usual suspects are winning, and that is those who already have a voice, a platform and power on all sides.