Trade union-led anti-racist demo

Trade union-led anti-racist demo in Liverpool

Fighting the far right threat also requires a strategy to fight austerity

Tony Mulhearn and Hugh Caffrey

On 12 October, thousands joined a national demonstration in Liverpool, called by Unite the Union following a series of attacks by members of the English Defence League (EDL) on Unite offices and PCS union members on Merseyside.

Despite much-reported possible attacks on the demo, the far right did not raise their snouts.

This is the first national demonstration in a long time called by the trade union movement directly against the far right.

We support that step. Now the unions need to build a serious programme of similar demonstrations against every far-right event, threat or attack.

Speakers at the rally all declared the need to step up the campaign against the far right by defeating the British National Party’s (BNP) North West MEP Nick Griffin in next year’s European elections.

Petros Constantinou, a Greek anti-fascist activist, outlined the struggle against the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, whose recent murder of Pavlos Fyssas had provoked mass anti-fascist demos throughout Greece.

The Socialist Party leaflet distributed at the demo argued that as “part of building a mass anti-fascist and anti-far right movement, the unions must build a new mass working class party to give a socialist way forwards.

“This month, PCS member Graham Woodhouse will contest the Bootle byelection for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

“Graham will argue for scrapping the bedroom tax and zero-hour contracts, creating jobs and building council housing, restoring public services and pensions and benefits, for workers’ rights and decent wages.”


Unfortunately, at the rally the call for the election of a Labour government was made without a single criticism of New Labour’s commitment to aping the Con-Dems’ savage cuts programme.

Austerity is creating deeper poverty and despair – conditions in which racist and fascist ideas can flourish.

The case for a fight against the cuts based on mass working class struggle was sadly lacking from the rally speeches.

Liverpool’s Labour Mayor Joe Anderson attacked the far right but without at all being embarrassed by his savage cuts policy.

Anderson’s presence on the platform must have confused and angered those organisations that are fighting the cuts on Merseyside.

While council reserves are used to finance multi-million pound prestige projects, Anderson insists that using the same reserves to guarantee jobs and services would be irresponsible! The far right will seek to capitalise on the social devastation to which the council’s cuts are leading.

Another disappointment was Unite general secretary Len McCluskey’s declaration that he was proud to share a platform with Anderson, going on to say he ‘had faith in Ed (Miliband) in giving us hope for the future’.

The fact that austerity and anti-trade union laws will continue under a future Labour government wasn’t even mentioned.

When Len did mention the tactic of a general strike to fight austerity, in response to some heckling, it was done in a flippant manner.

Unfortunately this will disorientate Unite activists and some will question Len’s commitment to leading a struggle against austerity.

The confusing message from the platform was that the struggle against austerity is totally separate from the struggle against the far right.

While organised action based on the involvement of working class people can block the far right when they try to march and promote their poisonous ideas, the struggle to defeat all they stand for requires a longer-term strategy.

The reality is that only a determined working class-led fightback against austerity can undercut the far right.

A one-day general strike would be a powerful message of working class unity, and would do more to undercut racism than a thousand speeches by Ed Miliband!

As part of building a mass anti-racist and anti-far right movement, the unions must also build a new mass working class party to give a socialist way forward.