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About 100 right-wing 'yellow vest' protesters gathered in Leeds city centre, outside the BBC Yorkshire offices, on 19 January. Clad in high-vis jackets, waving England flags and shouting "Leave means leave" (but also with a flag from the fascist British Movement and one person doing a Nazi salute), the group came to stand off against the counter-demo that Leeds Socialist Party had been involved in organising.
Groups, including Leeds Socialist Party, left Labour members and the Anti-Fascist Network, came together to oppose the divisive message of the far-right protest, which sought to pit migrants and refugees against the rest of the population.
This face-off stopped passers-by and disrupted traffic, with many stopping to question what the opposing sides each stood for.
Many onlookers generally supported aspects of the genuine 'gilets jaunes' (yellow vests) movement in France and shared our anger at the impact of austerity on working-class people. Our leaflets were positively received and were handed out by other groups on the demo to passers-by.
We highlighted how some of those attracted to the far-right demo are as angry as ourselves about cuts to education, health services and public services. But, rather than blaming migrant workers and refugees for the decimation of services, we pointed towards the crisis-ridden capitalist profit-system. A system where the super-rich have inflated their wealth at the expense of working-class living standards.
Most of the counter-protest, including Socialist Party members, had earlier that morning joined the RMT transport union picket lines on Northern Rail - whose members are fighting to retain safety-critical guards on trains.
It is militant action like this which points the way forward to fighting cuts and austerity.
Moreover, as we've seen in Manchester recently, it has been far-right groups who have attacked the RMT guards' picket line, thereby playing into the hands of the bosses.
There is an urgent need to take up the pressing social and economic issues by organising a united struggle of the working class through the trade unions, and offering a real socialist alternative to capitalism. This is necessary to cut across attempts by far-right groups to divide working-class communities.
Far right (159)
Article dated 23 January 2019
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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