By Simon Hannah, Tooting CLP
The far right has been consolidating, growing and strengthening itself for the last few years – that much is clear. They are part of a growing international alliance of racists, fascists and violent extremists that has scoured some huge successes in recent years, building mass movements in Europe and gaining electoral power. The Trump presidency in the US is the jewel in the crown.
The 250,000 strong demonstration against Trump on 13 July was a great display of opposition to the politics of the far right – a clarion call against the misogyny and racism that has become so mainstream.
But the following day a protest of several thousands fascists and far right activists in central London dwarfed the counter protest from the left. The counter demonstration was around 3000 people – a considerable improvement on the much smaller left protest on 9 June which had to face off against 15,000 far right activists. Nevertheless there is still so much more work to do.
The new violent racist movement is the culmination of years of work by the far right – starting with the BNPs turn to electoralism in the late 1990s, followed by the return to street protests by the EDL and the hugely successful social media profile of organisations like Britain First and professional trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos.
And they have created a movement of several thousand people – the biggest far right protests since Cable Street in 1936. On their protest on 14 July there was someone with an Israeli flag standing only a few feet away from a man with a Swastika T-shirt emblazoned with the 14 words of white supremacy (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”). People with t-shirts with a picture of Jeremy Corbyn and the word ‘twat’ standing next to football hooligans. Generation Identity neo-nazis brushing shoulders with drunks out for an afternoon fight.
What unites these forces is a hatred of Islam (as one speaker said “there is no such thing as moderate Islam, all Islam is extremist”) and a defence of their fascist leader Tommy Robinson – in prison for contempt of court. Their obsession is with ‘Islamic rape gangs’ who are allegedly targeting white British girls. They believe the establishment is covering up the extent of these crimes, that Robinson is a hero for his crusade to expose them, and that – by extension – the left are to blame for covering up the crimes of Muslims. This is their public narrative – but it is all part of their wider and deeper racist views, their white supremacy, their hatred of multi-culturalism.
Some on the left skirt dangerously close to arguing that a lot of the people on the Tommy Robinson demo are just disillusioned white working class folk who have fallen prey to bad ideas. Some of them no doubt are working class and suffer the same issues around wages or housing as the rest of us – but they are also that section of the working class that give up their Saturday afternoons to attend a protest in support of a known racist thug and hurl abuse at Muslims.
Around the edges of the demonstration was the most serious violence. Gangs of drunken far right thugs patrolling pubs, looking for left wingers to attack. They found a group of socialists and RMT activists in a pub and attacked. It was a vicious assault, glasses and chairs were thrown, RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley and others were hurt in the melee.
The far right are not messing around. They are growing in confidence and strength. They want to actively defeat the left, they hate trade unionists and anti racists, they hate Labour and especially prominent BME politicians like Sadiq Khan and Diane Abbot. They are not interested in debate – they don’t care about the finer points of your arguments. They want to use violence to pursue their agenda of hate.
The left have to take this seriously. Only 3,500 on the counter demonstration is not enough – the next protest has to be far larger than theirs. We have to show them that they are the minority – that we vastly outnumber them and we are not afraid of them.
The next counter protest has to be a priority.
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Good article. We also need to consider the tactics of SUTR and others on marches and meeting like last saturday The fascists and bigots controlled the streets. Some strutted around in Generation Identity uniforms, waving flags to the cheers of the crowd. Time and again groups attempted to attack the rear of the anti fascist meeting but were held back by police and the few that got through held back by, it seems,mainly Antifa with no sign of UAF stewards I am told.
The short anti fascist march walked straight into a police kettle for protection and left hours before the fascists had finished their meeting leaving them to once again claim the streets and they celebrated by glassing Steve Hedley and attacking any anti fascist they could find. Antifa in return did remain united and it seems toured several known pubs to confront the fascists celebrating their “victory”. Why did not others join them or do the same ?
This was another failure on our part as all it did was give the fascists another victory. They were never confronted and roamed in and out of their meetings for carry-outs at will, blocked buses and generally took over that part of Whitehall/Trafalgar Square while we cowered behind police lines with no, it seems, organised defence against their attacks let alone confront them even verbally.
Marching into kettles for police protection does no inspire confidence or dim the confidence of the Robinson fans. We need to face them and oppose them We do not have the strength numerically to block them yet but we can at least verbally take them on. We could have opposed their march from Temple along the embankment or from Trafalgar Square as they entered Whitehall. Others will have better proposals than me. But we need more than being hidden behind the police and out of earshot.
We also need to steward ourselves in large numbers for protection. We do need to confront the fascists in some way before during and after their meeting. We must not leave the streets to them and go home before their celebration is over. Our presence alone is enough to dampen their feeling of victory.
Organised trade unions were noticable by their absence in any real numbers apart from RMT (40 members) and the usual few militants from other unions , similarly the Labour Party. Signing letters of support is no substitute for people on the streets. Where were the Muslims ? They are the ones directly under attack and we had their verbal support but few participants again. Where were all the hundreds of thousands of well meaning people from the anti Trump march ?.
Unite Against Fascism say that numbers of faith groups trade unions Labour Party branches and others marched “to confront the racists ” I only wish it were true.
I think you need to contact Robinson and ask him straight out if he supports the violent thuggery in his defence.He claims to not be a racist or an Islamophobe. Give him a chance to prove it