Musicians & tQ Writers On Anti-Fascist Anthems

Featuring contributions from Ben Durutti, Penny Rimbaud, Bobby Barry, Jeremy Allen, Ben Myers, Kevin McCaighy, Stewart Smith, Neil Cooper, Matt Evans, Tony F Wilson, Leo Chadburn, Emily Mackay, David Bennun, Phil Harrison, Arnold De Boer, Joel McIver, Russell Cuzner, Jeremy Bolm, John Doran, TV Smith, James Sherry, Jonathan Meades, Tristan Bath, JR Moores, Julian Marszalek, Captain Sensible, Andy Moor, Christine Casey, Nic Bullen and Stewart Lee

This morning I opened Facebook to an endless scroll through update after update despairing at what’s unfolding since the British people voted to leave the EU last Thursday. As well as the anger, shock and disbelief there were, within half a brew’s worth of scrolling, two posts that were more sinister. One, a report of racist attack in Birmingham, a brick thrown through a window into a room where two small children were watching television. The other incident saw a friend being asked if he spoke English. The response from his interrogators was "’Thank FUCK for that!" after which they "waited for me to high-five them or something."

These two incidents are, as even a cursory glance across social media reveals, far from isolated. Over the weekend, it’s become abundantly clear that the referendum to leave the EU has unleashed what was surely a merely slightly-repressed torrent of English racism, xenophobia, intolerance and hate. Reports hate crime are up 57% since the vote. This is the visible manifestation of a misinformed search for scapegoats to blame for pressed wages and deteriorating living standards, the sense that the future doesn’t look as bright as an imagined past. This is both repellent to human decency and politically troubling, for scapegoating minorities has always been a key building block of fascism and totalitarianism of all stripes.

We’ve long had a belief in England that fascism cannot happen here, that we’re by and large a tolerant, liberal country. This is partly a myth created by the 1930s and 40s, when the Blackshirts were defeated on the streets of the East End and, as the national narrative has it, we "stood up" to Hitler to defeat Nazism. This of course neglects the inconvenient truth that Lord Halifax and various members of the Royal Family were ready to do a deal with Hitler in the bleak months of early 1940, meaning that fascism very nearly became institutionalised here.

Racism and fascism might be different things but they are always bedfellows. It’s been hard not to get the feeling over the course of the referendum campaign, and since, that this country is heading in a very, very dark direction. Just look at Nigel Farage, a man whose schoolteachers suspected of having fascist tendencies, saying that Leave had been won "without a shot being fired". Not only is this revolting given the assassination of Jo Cox, it’s not a huge leap to interpret the statement as evidence that alongside xenophobic nationalism there lurks in Nigel Farage’s vile, unctuous imagination a hankering for violent change.

We think that we’re immune from fascism because of our sense of humour, our disdain for the ridiculous – remember those newsreels of the goose-stepping Nazis sped up and reversed – but those were different times. If fascism reappears in Britain now it won’t look like you expect it to. It might not come floating up the Thames on a flotilla of boats emblazoned with the Union Flag. It would likely come from a Farage with conviction, not an everyman but a leader, a Blair figure from the far right. Thankfully, there doesn’t currently seem to be anyone who fits the bill on the horizon. Then again, perhaps 21st century British extremism could be fascism mutated into a new form, taking advantage of the weakness of our politicians to be an unfocussed state of mind that buffets a fool in the direction that it wants to go. With the economy in turmoil and both government and opposition failing to seize the initiative and demonstrate competent leadership, the immediate and long term future is up for grabs. I dread to think who might seize it.

With that in mind, what are we to do in response? What can The Quietus, a digital websheet devoted to music, do? Art has long been a powerful instrument for freedom, for attacking the status quo, for being the opposite to that for which Nigel Farage claimed the Brexit victory: "ordinary and decent". The best music is extraordinary and indecent, brave diverse, and that’s what we will continue to celebrate. Extraordinary and indecent music does not exist in an aesthetic vacuum. It is shaped by and responds to the society that creates it, which is why as the mood in the United Kingdom turns dark we asked our writers and various musicians what their favourite anti-fascist – and anti-totalitarian – anthems are, interpreting those words however they saw fit. To enter the gallery click below. And please let us know what your favourite anti-fascist music is in the comment section below.

This feature has been built as a large gallery because all profits are going to The Jo Cox Fund

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