The Socialist 8 August 2018 |
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A mass campaign and trade union organisation can defeat the far-right FLA
Socialist Party members on the anti-'Free Tommy Robinson' demo 9 June, photo London Socialist Party, photo London Socialist Party (Click to enlarge)
London Socialist Party
As reported in the Socialist issue 1004, RMT transport union assistant general secretary Steve Hedley has called for a trade union stewards group to defend demonstrations against the far-right 'Democratic' Football Lads Alliance (DFLA).
This follows the vicious attack on trade unionists after the DFLA marched in London on 14 July. This has now been followed by an attack by other thugs on the socialist Bookmarks bookshop in London.
This call is extremely welcome. Socialist Party members argue for the trade unions to provide stewards in our resolution that is being discussed in trade union bodies. We would urge all trade unionists to respond positively to this proposal.
The DFLA is an attempt by racist and fascist individuals and organisations to try to pull together a far-right street force. Its figurehead is former leader of the racist English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, and the mobilisations include a number of hooligan football 'firms'.
The DFLA has the backing of far-right figures internationally including 'alt-right' former adviser to Donald Trump Steve Bannon, who is aiming to raise a million pounds to fund a new right-wing movement.
Now Tommy Robinson has been released from prison it is possible that there will be more demonstrations around the country. If any far-right force invades a local community, it is essential that it is countered by a mobilisation of the local community and trade union movement.
It is very important that these counter-demonstrations are not only as big as possible, but also properly stewarded and defended. It cannot be left to the police to protect demonstrators - the police have been used to kettle, snatch, beat and intimidate student and anti-racist demonstrators. If they know that safety is being taken seriously, many more people will be encouraged to participate.
An initial appeal has been made for 20 volunteer stewards from each union - a good start towards organising for hundreds. An extensive list of trade union volunteers could be drawn up, headed up by an experienced trade union chief steward, which could be called on for any necessary mobilisations.
This could then mean hundreds of well-organised trade union stewards could form a strong team on any counter-demonstration, and could also supervise the safe dispersal of demonstrators once a march is over.
In raising this idea, we can draw on experience of mobilisations against the far-right, for example in the battles against the British National Party (BNP) in the early 1990s. Socialist Party members argued for and provided effective stewarding to defend the big Welling demonstration against the BNP HQ in October 1993 from ferocious police attack. We had to argue for this against the refusal of the Socialist Workers Party to take stewarding seriously.
When BNP activists in Tower Hamlets created a climate of fear that included several racist attacks in the early 1990s, our members argued for community defence patrols under the democratic control of the local trades council and community representatives. We also helped local people organise a whistle alarm defence campaign to protect estates.
The far-right can be defeated by a mass campaign. It is essential that a workers', anti-racist, anti-austerity movement is built that fights for jobs and homes for all, and that trade unions and Jeremy Corbyn do all they can to lead that.
This could undercut any potential support for the far right amongst alienated disillusioned working class people who have been at the brunt of austerity and decades of cuts and privatisation, and feel betrayed by capitalist politicians. Democratically controlled stewarding by the workers' movement should be an important part of that mobilisation.