Liberal Anti-Fascism

The death of Pawel Adamowicz marks a turning point.

With the rise of the right there has been a spike in political violence in Europe and in the US. Bombs are being thrown, people threatened, and people killed in the name of so-called “populism”. The moment Adamowicz’s killer linked his actions with allegations levelled at the Civic Platform group of politicians is the moment when it became a political act.

The same goes for the murder of the MP Jo Cox. These are symptoms of the augmentation of what we deem as populism to a far more reactionary line of thinking, which will end, organically, in all out fascism. These exact paths have been trodden before.

What can liberals do about it? Adamowicz’s life was one of political action. As a student he organised protests and strikes across Poland during the time of Soviet occupation. He was a champion of minority rights and those of the LGBT community. He was, for all the things he did and said, a good man. I say that we ought to follow his example.

Over the next few days, if at all, there will be a lot of talk from the liberal commentariat about the causes of Adamowicz’s death, analysis of the Law and Justice Party in Poland, and a quick few seconds silence before we carry on with life as it was before. This is not enough. Even now, all over the country, these forces of intolerance, inequality, hatred, and fear are organising, mounting, planning their next move. What we need to do is get organised. Instead of endlessly talking amongst ourselves about how terrible this all is and how awful it is that no one is doing something about it we need to be the bulwark. This party is a liberal party. Therefore, it must champion the same things as Adamowicz with the same veracity and determination.

Liberals have become complacent. We think that some form of common sense will prevail and that all of this, just like Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and the BNP under Nick Griffin, will just go away. But it will not. Mosley opened a wound in the British psyche, one that has never truly healed. Even when we do not see it at work it is there, under the surface. A status post on Facebook or Twitter, a change of the profile picture, and self righteous pontification are not enough – we must act.

That great liberal thinker John Stuart Mill devised the harm principal for this reason. He knew that speech can lead to harmful acts. This is the limit of free speech – when demagogues speak, their adherents act. And when they act it is with violence and a deep set detestation of humanity. It is time that we shouted with one great voice that this is not acceptable, that this kind of thought flies in the face of those same Western values they say that they are defending. The best way to honour the memory of Pawel Adamowicz is to take action.

* Edwin Black is a keen Lib Dem activist in Sheffield whose interests include reading, writing, amateur cartooning and research into the history of British politics.

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5 Comments

  • Mark Seaman 17th Jan '19 - 6:57pm

    The problem is … who defines who is a Fascist/Nazi?
    So many of the examples I have seen are where the Socialist Worker’s Party and their ilk are doing so; and from their perspective, 99% of the UK population are dangerous right-wingers.

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Jan '19 - 9:17pm

    @ Edwin Black,
    It is tempting to look at the rise of fascist elements and think I don’t want to share sovereignty with governments such as the Law and Order Party , or Victor Orban, but I have come to the conclusion that in order to fight rising fascist sentiment , we need to remain part of the EU.

    My reason for saying this is that there is an European dimension. Steve Bannon, Stephen Yaxley- Lennon, far right groups in Europe are forging an international grouping via social media and other forms of communication. To defeat their poisonous ideology we anti-fascists must also work across borders and show solidarity with those in countries who take considerable risks to oppose them.

    There is evidence to show that Islamic extremists and right wing fascist ‘s bolster each other in their desire to bring about the destruction of liberal society. They are two sides of the same coin.

    Pawel Adamowicz was a brave man. RIP.

  • Neil Sandison 17th Jan '19 - 10:23pm

    Good article Edwin the rise of the intolerant hard right and lets blame everyone else and not take responsibility for our actions hard left will lead to a rebirth in fascism and hate filled nationalism .Every true internationalist liberal must bear witness and speak out where we see this evil propagated particularly where that populism is aped by alleged mainstream parties coveting cheap popular support at the expense of their fellow citizens silence is not an option ,appeasement is no solution .We must speak out and challenge such action at every opportunity should we have a SAO to keep members informed and able to act where we witness such actions ?

  • Peter Martin 19th Jan '19 - 10:55am

    Yes fascism needs to be countered. But you aren’t going to do that by just denouncing the extreme right.

    Some questions to be answered:

    Why was fascism a European problem in the 20s and 30s but not so much before?

    Why wasn’t it a uncontainable problem in the immediate post WW2 period? Many had predicted a rerun of the 20s and 30s.

    Why is it a growing problem now?

    Why has the (largely pro EU) European centre left, the only real bulwark against fascism lost so much of its erstwhile working class support?

    https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2018/05/collapse-europe-s-mainstream-centre-left

  • Neil Sandison 21st Jan '19 - 12:03pm

    The road to fascism has many steps. Firstly as a non-British citizen, you are asked to complete an application form which will cost you, not the State, £65.00. Then, next you know they may be asking you to report to a police station to prove you are still resident in the UK. Next you are advised to get a tattoo or bio-metric tag which can be scanned by immigration officals in your place of work/accommodation or the State health or education facility that you or your family may use. Next, it can be withdrawn or misused to deport you or send you to a work camp so that you earn your right to stay by constructive labour. EU settlers resident in the UK on th whole register to go on to the electoral register. Local government checks out that you are at that address to avoid electoral fraud. That should be enough to prove you are indeed resident or employed within that electoral division, why on earth do you need an application form ?

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