In the 1940s, legendary American folk singer and political activist Woody Guthrie wrote the lyrics to a song called ‘All You Fascists Bound To Lose’. Offering words of resistance and unity, it was a response to not just the horrors of Hitler and Nazi Germany but events much closer to home, namely the racist Ku Klux Klan, who lynched black men and women across the Southern states up until the 1960s.
As a man who played a guitar scrawled with the words ‘this machine kills fascists’, Guthrie fought for social justice through music and education. So when he died in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, he must have believed that his country and the rest of the world were fighting their way to a better future. Little did he know that his words would need to be called upon again in 2017. Last weekend, in Charlottesville, Virginia, one of the most sinister parts of America’s history repeated itself, with a white supremacist rally held in protest against the removal of a statue depicting Confederate general and big-time racist Robert E Lee.
By now you will have all seen pictures from the ‘Unite The Right’ march – men (why is it always men?) brandishing torches and storming through the University of Virginia campus, chanting Nazi slogans and waving swastikas. Their actions were called a “cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism and intolerance” by the mayor of Charlottesville and clashes between counter-protesters the following day led to the tragic death of anti-fascist demonstrator Heather Heyer. She was killed when a right-wing extremist deliberately drove his car through the crowds, also injuring 19 others.
The actions of the fascist demonstrators have been widely condemned, though Donald Trump’s initial comment on the situation was sketchy, not specifically marking out the white supremacists as the bad guys. Even when – after two days – he finally called them “repugnant”, he failed to reject their support. Something you think’d be kind of key, especially after former KKK boss David Duke pledged his allegiance to him and his policies. Some have taken Trump’s seeming apathy even further, with singer John Legend tweeting, “We have Nazi sympathizers and white nationalists in the White House. Condemn them too.”
We have nazi sympathizers and white nationalists in the White House. Condemn them too. They should not be receiving taxpayer money.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) August 12, 2017
But what does this all mean for us in the UK? The answer is everything. ‘Unite The Right’ has shown us that there are some truly horrible people out there, but the counter-protests show that we are many and they are few. The UK is a country that should be proud of its history of resistance against racism, from the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, where 20,000 demonstrators fought the British Union of Fascists on the streets of east London, to the Rock Against Racism movement of the 1970s, to viral hero Saffiyah Khan, who stepped to the defence of a woman wearing a headscarf at an English Defence League rally earlier this year. We stand by the counter-protesters in America, because all you fascists are bound to lose.