The Fight Against Fascism

TOMMY SHANE explains why he we need to stop vilifying the people that protested against Le Pen.

Cambridge fascism free speech le pen nazi UAF Union

Now, I know I’m fighting an uphill battle here. The Tab has argued that the protest against Le Pen was wrong, representing everyone (even the EDL) except for the protesters themselves. But if you’re not too afraid to listen, then I beg your attention one more time:

I protested against Le Pen speaking at the Union. And I’d like to explain why.

Amidst accusations of me oppressing free speech, I think it’s worth clarifying what free speech actually means. The Union isn’t currently oppressing my free speech by not actively inviting me to speak in their chamber. I can still talk to my friends about whatever I want, and shout the craziest political beliefs on Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.

And so, by not actively inviting Marine Le Pen, the Union would have in no way been undermining her freedom of speech. Instead, they would have chosen not to give her an international megaphone. And yet this is exactly what they did, to a woman whose policies seek to undermine what people can wear, and for which religion people can pray. If anyone is undermining free speech, it’s Marine Le Pen.

The other issue Bordell and many others have taken up is the association of Le Pen with the Nazis. I appreciate that this may all sound sensationalist, because that’s exactly what I thought it was when I first heard it. But when you consider the fact that the Nazis had 18.3% of the vote in 1929, and that Le Pen’s party got 18.5% of the French vote last year, the comparison isn’t as sensational as it seems. The Nazis were a credible threat to power then, and Le Pen is a credible threat to power now.

And no, Le Pen isn’t advocating the views of the Nazis. But then neither did the Nazis – it’s not like they advertised the holocaust as their flagship policy.

Instead, they scapegoated racial minorities, just as Le Pen is doing right now. It’s naive to think that a Neo-Nazi uprising will look any different to the Front National – a very right wing party with an attractive, charismatic leader, portraying themselves as more central than they really are. And along with the Front National will come their more openly fascist affiliates, like the SNS in Slovakia, and smaller, rogue factions within France.

So the point isn’t that Le Pen has got some secret plan to slaughter millions of Muslims, but that the Front National is paving the way for extremely right-wing politics across Europe. And speaking at the Union helped her achieve that.

I’m very proud of my fellow students that tackled Le Pen directly in the Union, and thankful that they did. But this was essentially a private conversation. All that the world heard was that an ultra-right wing politician, the leader of a party that has historical links with Nazis, was invited to speak (alone: this wasn’t a debate) at one of the most prestigious venues in the world.

It’s easy to shove this under the carpet, and simplify the views of people like me as some cigarette-rolling, brogues-wearing exhibitionist who wants to be politically fashionable. But I just want the same things that you do, and I’m committed to doing something about it.

For those who are still doubters, I ask you to consider this question: what would have to happen before you took the Front National seriously? Laws banning religious freedom? Mass deportations? How many people would you wait to be systematically oppressed before you took the threat seriously and did something about it?

Whatever future we’re headed for, be it another holocaust or simply French ethnic minorities fearing their own streets, we should at least be able to say that we didn’t sit back and ignore it. We should at least be able to say that we made Le Pen and her party feel unwelcome in our country.

That is what the protest was all about. And that is why I went.