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Anti-fascist :: English Defence League
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English Defence League
Socialist Party members on the anti-'Free Tommy Robinson' demo 9 June, photo London Socialist Party, photo London Socialist Party (Click to enlarge)
On 14 July, after participating in a counter-demonstration against a 'welcome Trump' march - organised by the far-right group known as the 'Democratic' Football Lads Alliance (FLA) - a number of members of transport workers' union RMT were subjected to an unprovoked and extremely violent attack.
Those injured included Steve Hedley, RMT Assistant General Secretary. Earlier in the day, racist thugs also held up a bus to intimidate a Muslim woman bus driver.
These events have exposed the racist thugs closely surrounding Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the far-right English Defence League (EDL).
Some angry, alienated and disillusioned people have supported the demos called by the FLA, hit by austerity and decades of cuts and privatisations, betrayed by all the mainstream parties. But there can be no doubting that the core forces trying to exploit those fears and anger are far-right racists and fascists.
This violent assault on trade unionists has caused outrage among RMT members as well as within the wider trade union movement. It has shown the FLA as a racist, anti-trade union and anti-working class organisation.
It was no accident that these thugs picked out members of one of the most industrially and politically militant trade unions: the RMT.
At its Annual General Meeting earlier in the summer, the RMT passed a resolution calling on the union to oppose Robinson and the FLA.
Since 14 July, the response of many trade union members has been swift. Activists in the RMT called a meeting of trade unionists and anti-racists which took place on 11 July. At the meeting, Steve Hedley stated that the RMT would organise to confront the far-right wherever they gathered, but also emphasised the need for a working class, trade union-based opposition to be built.
Socialist Party members in the RMT also pointed to importance of linking the struggle against racism and fascism with building a mass movement against austerity - to fight for jobs, homes and services for all.
On Saturday 21 July, a protest against a mobilisation by the FLA in Cambridge saw a larger turnout from the trade unions than there has been at similar events that have taken place recently.
In particular, it was noticeable that there had been a greater mobilisation by the RMT, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), and Unite. Around 500 joined a march against the FLA, who only mustered a pathetic 30.
Nonetheless, the threat posed by the far right remains a serious one. Reports this weekend have revealed the big money being placed behind Tommy Robinson and his campaign, including from prominent figures in the US 'alt-right' such as Steven Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist.
It is vital that the trade union movement places itself front and centre in the fight against the FLA and other far-right forces.
1. If the far right attempt to invade a local community it is essential that we fight for a massive mobilisation of the community to defend itself.
The trade unions can be crucial in this. With an energetically-built campaign in the workplaces we can mobilise members.
Trade unions should provide stewarding instead of relying on the police to keep people safe.
2. Crucially, trade union action can hold out hope and an alternative to those small numbers of people who may be attracted to far-right ideas.
While some of the people that give their support to organisations like FLA, DFLA and 'Britain First' subscribe to the racist rhetoric expounded by their leaders, the people demonstrating are not all 'fascists'.
A lot of them are angry young working class men, deeply alienated by austerity and by decades of capitalist neo-liberal policies.
They have been betrayed by all the establishment politicians, in particular abandoned by the betrayals of Blairite New Labour that has pursued pro-capitalist policies of cuts, privatisation and austerity-lite in councils and in government.
3. When Jeremy Corbyn put forward an anti-austerity manifesto in the 2017 general election a million previously-Ukip voters switched to vote Labour.
While up to 15,000 marched to 'Free Tommy' on 9 June, in March 2011 three quarters of a million marched under the banner of the TUC when people believed the trade unions were going to fight austerity.
4. If the trade unions mobilise with energy and with clear demands to fight for jobs and homes and to kick out the Tories, we'd have hundreds of thousands on the streets and could cut across the appeal of far-right leaders.
1. It is essential to build an anti-racist workers' movement that fights for jobs, for council homes, for pay, benefits and decent public services.
2. We resolve to open up a debate in the trade unions about the slogans and tactics necessary to defeat the far-right, putting the resources, authority and power of the organised working class at the centre of a mass anti-racist, anti-austerity movement.
3. To write to the TUC to demand it launch a 'jobs, homes not racism' campaign to unite the wider trade union movement and to campaign effectively against the far right.
This should include workers taking all legal steps (up to and including strike action) to disrupt all attempts to organise for the purposes of extending the rhetoric of the FLA and DFLA or any similar organisation.
4. The trade unions should name the day for a national demonstration.
Far right (159)
Article dated 26 July 2018
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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