The Slow Burning Fuse

an atheisitic anarchistic scorcher www.facebook.com/TheSlowBurningFuse

How UK football fans are fighting the far-right

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Can Football Fans Resist the Far Right Surge?

by Kieron Monks
(originally posted here)

The newly-formed Football Lads Against Fascism (FLAF) is aiming to build a working class movement to challenge the influence of Robinson and the DFLA. The group, which has a strong Scottish contingent and links with football firms across Britain, announced its pitch to supporters in a founding statement: “The basic message is football, anti-fascism and working class unity.”

Co-founder and Celtic fan Stevie Harper says the group was formed because there was “no movement that specifically addresses working class football supporters.” He believes such communities have been abandoned by the political left and exploited by far right groups peddling easy answers that blame immigrants for social problems. Harper feels these messages must be countered at grassroots level.

“We strongly believe that liberal top-down campaigns initiated by clubs, the football hierarchy and the the government can only have a limited success because they are seen to come from above,” says Harper. “The most long-lasting and significant campaigns in football have come from the fans themselves, from the bottom-up.”

A group in Liverpool is already challenging the far right on matchdays. Author and activist Alan Gibbons was alarmed enough by the sight of mass pro-Robinson rallies in London to call a public meeting to discuss the rising threat, which drew concerned citizens, antifa activists, trade union officials, and Labour councillors. The unlikely coalition agreed that as the DFLA and ‘Free Tommy’ movements were targeting football fans, they should too.

Around 100 activists from the freshly-minted group Merseyside Together descended upon Goodison Park and Anfield in August armed with thousands of leaflets detailing the crimes of Robinson, attacking the “hate and division” of the DFLA, arguing that austerity rather than immigration was responsible for the crises of jobs and housing, and lauding Muslim footballers such as Mo Salah and Idrissa Gueye. The public response was almost entirely supportive.

A group in Liverpool is already challenging the far right on matchdays. Author and activist Alan Gibbons was alarmed enough by the sight of mass pro-Robinson rallies in London to call a public meeting to discuss the rising threat, which drew concerned citizens, antifa activists, trade union officials, and Labour councillors. The unlikely coalition agreed that as the DFLA and ‘Free Tommy’ movements were targeting football fans, they should too.

Around 100 activists from the freshly-minted group Merseyside Together descended upon Goodison Park and Anfield in August armed with thousands of leaflets detailing the crimes of Robinson, attacking the “hate and division” of the DFLA, arguing that austerity rather than immigration was responsible for the crises of jobs and housing, and lauding Muslim footballers such as Mo Salah and Idrissa Gueye. The public response was almost entirely supportive.

Liverpool has strong anti-racist traditions and the far right has long struggled to gain a foothold in the city. But Gibbons is not complacent and believes prevention is better than cure. “We shouldn’t just be reacting to far right demonstrations but being pro-active, going into communities and football grounds to undercut the appeal before any demo,” he says. “When you let things fester they become hardened.”

For Gibbons, engaging with working class supporters means engaging with day-to-day struggles, which means organising against the far right must take place alongside campaigns against austerity and poverty. Merseyside Together has close ties to groups such as Fans Supporting Foodbanks, an initiative of Liverpool and Everton fans. “I don’t believe you can be an anti-racist and anti-fascist without also being anti-austerity,” says the organiser. “Austerity is the breeding ground for racism and Islamophobia.

There is broad agreement among activists that a successful challenge to the far right must be rooted in the communities where it is strongest, which means tackling the material drivers of radicalisation such as disaffection, poverty, and weak community cohesion. Where people are exposed to far rightpropaganda, Merseyside Together and the FLAF want to give them alternative messages, and strengthen support networks such as food banks on the basis of “solidarity not charity.” In Liverpool, anti-far right activists are seeking to promote cross-cultural integration through initiatives such as screening matches in mosques.

John McDonnell recently called for a new street movement to take on the far right in the tradition of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL). Anti-far right activists are convinced that football fans can be foot soldiers of such a movement. For Gibbons, the key lesson from the ANL is to create a dynamic, exciting culture of opposition to the far right with mainstream appeal. Groups such as Merseyside Together and the FLAF offer some, embryonic signs that a popular resistance is emerging around the game, from the streets of Liverpool to the firms of Glasgow. There is even a fresh iconography flourishing in the FLAF’s anti-fascist badges and Clapton’s Internacionales shirts that could serve as a beacon to attract converts. Luton’s ex-hooligans say the lesson of the ANL is to give people something better to belong to than the far right.

John McDonnell recently called for a new street movement to take on the far right in the tradition of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL). Anti-far right activists are convinced that football fans can be foot soldiers of such a movement. For Gibbons, the key lesson from the ANL is to create a dynamic, exciting culture of opposition to the far right with mainstream appeal. Groups such as Merseyside Together and the FLAF offer some, embryonic signs that a popular resistance is emerging around the game, from the streets of Liverpool to the firms of Glasgow. There is even a fresh iconography flourishing in the FLAF’s anti-fascist badges and Clapton’s Internacionales shirts that could serve as a beacon to attract converts. Luton’s ex-hooligans say the lesson of the ANL is to give people something better to belong to than the far right.

John McDonnell recently called for a new street movement to take on the far right in the tradition of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL). Anti-far right activists are convinced that football fans can be foot soldiers of such a movement. For Gibbons, the key lesson from the ANL is to create a dynamic, exciting culture of opposition to the far right with mainstream appeal. Groups such as Merseyside Together and the FLAF offer some, embryonic signs that a popular resistance is emerging around the game, from the streets of Liverpool to the firms of Glasgow. There is even a fresh iconography flourishing in the FLAF’s anti-fascist badges and Clapton’s Internacionales shirts that could serve as a beacon to attract converts. Luton’s ex-hooligans say the lesson of the ANL is to give people something better to belong to than the far right.

Football fans have already won the fight for their stadiums once when they helped beat the National Front into obscurity. The challenge now, to borrow Alf Ramsey’s words before extra time of the 1966 World Cup final, is to go out there and win it again.

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This entry was posted on October 8, 2018 by in anarchy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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