Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/959/26021

From The Socialist newspaper, 23 August 2017

Lewisham 1977: When socialists and workers defeated the far-right National Front

Opposing racism, photo Paul Mattsson

Opposing racism, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Roger Shrives, Lewisham Socialist Party

The tragic murder of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer by a white supremacist at a far right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, brought back memories to me of another attempted far right march, in London.

40 years ago almost to the day before Charlottesville, on 13 August 1977, the fascist National Front aimed to march through my home borough, Lewisham. Many workers in the borough came from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds. Racist attacks had been growing.

The whole labour movement was under attack as fascism wanted to destroy workers' rights and democracy. Local black youth, trade unionists and socialists aimed to stop the fascists - and succeeded.

Recession

The right-wing Labour government of 1974-79 failed to tackle the first post-war capitalist recession with bold socialist policies. During 1975 and 1976, wages had plummeted faster than in practically any post-war year.

National Front propaganda made much of this and some working class people voted National Front (and its split-off the National Party) in a council ward election in Deptford in 1976. It was largely through an active campaign, led by the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS), with its Militant (forerunner of the Socialist) leadership, that a fascist victory was averted.

Facing the National Front threat in 1977 Labour's right wing, assorted bishops and Communist Party figures in the 'All Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism' (ALCARAF) campaign wanted to avoid directly confronting the fascists and organised a protest miles from the march.

The LPYS nationally and other lefts voted to stop the fascists, following the example of Cable Street in east London where local workers stopped Mosley's fascists marching in 1936. When ALCARAF told counter-demonstrators not to go to New Cross to confront the fascists, many marchers saw this advice as splitting the movement and joined the New Cross protest.

4,000 police (armed with riot shields for the first time outside Northern Ireland) were mobilised to help the fascists carry out their march. Protesters' fears about violent confrontation were greatly lessened by good stewarding and good organisation, linking arms and acting together against the National Front and the police horses, batons and riot shields.

As Militant (19 August 1977) said, the LPYS contingent "were the most disciplined section of the counter-demonstration. Positioned where the police charge began, it set a shining example of how to exercise effective anti-fascist action."

The police charge tried to crush the counter-demonstrators but a barrage of bottles, bricks and other materials was thrown at the fascists when they appeared. The National Front were humiliated - reduced from a swaggering triumphalist march to a dejected gaggle. Many National Front activists did not even try to march.

Foiled

Despite the failure of the trade unions' and Labour Party leadership to mobilise their forces, a few thousand protesters had foiled the plans of the National Front and the police. It gave confidence to young black people and to the LPYS to hold mass anti-racist meetings in cities like Birmingham.

The far right still exists on both sides of the Atlantic and it must be fought. But as Militant commented after the 13 August counter-demo: "Ultimately the labour movement will be able to counter racism and fascism only if it is seen to be fighting to change the rotten conditions on which it spawns, by fighting for jobs, decent wages, more and better houses, better education and health services and for a socialist planned economy that would make these things possible for all."

Four decades later, that is still true.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 23 August 2017:


What we think

Coordinate the strikes to defeat the Tories


Socialist Party news and analysis

Glasgow jannies win famous victory against council cutters

Bin workers - fighting back wins!

Hundreds evacuated after Labour council dismisses cracks in tower blocks

Amazon tax halves as revenues soar - nationalise now!


Workplace news and analysis

RMT and the Labour Party affiliation debate

Defiant Barts NHS workers fight to stop Serco sabotage

Three-week Argos distribution strike

BA poverty pay dispute enters new phase of action

McDonald's workers vote to walk out in historic strike

Bin workers say: Sack Suez, stop rubbish cuts!

PCS: strikes to defend jobcentres


Fighting the far right

US: neo-Nazi violence reawakens resistance

Lewisham 1977: When socialists and workers defeated the far-right National Front

Opposing the National Front in Grantham

Charlottesville solidarity


Socialist Party feature

The Single Market: a neoliberal tool of the bosses


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Come to Socialism 2017

Chatsworth ward campaigners demand answers

Vital women's services under threat

Hull youth festival

West Midlands Young Socialists fight for free education on results day

NHS campaign receives Labour Party backing


Socialist readers' comments and reviews

Mutinies and strikes: when Bolshevism threatened British bosses

The Socialist inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 23 August 2017   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Anti-fascist:

triangleNewcastle anti-fascist demo

triangleMemorial to working-class fighters who fought fascism

triangleProtesters drive far right out of Liverpool

trianglePittsburgh Synagogue shootings: Unite to fight anti-Semitism and far right

triangleBolsonaro - a threat to Brazil's workers and all oppressed people

Lewisham:

triangleISS workers' pay victory

triangleWorkers at Lewisham coronavirus hospital walk out after not being paid

triangleSouth east London Socialist Party: Fight the anti-trade union laws!

triangleSouth east London Socialist Party: World in Turmoil

Far-right:

triangleFight the far-right - fight for socialist policies

triangleEuro elections 2019 - Across Europe

triangleSwansea anti-far right protest

Fascists:

triangle25 years since 50,000 marched against the far-right threat

triangleThe Socialist inbox

Police:

triangleIrish police use Covid-19 emergency powers to disperse Dublin shop workers' protest

Militant:

triangleMick Cotter 21-9-57 to 20-5-20

Racist:

triangleProtest against Modi's racist law

Fascist:

triangleItalian elections create huge political shake-up

Fascism:

triangleNottingham Socialist Party: The new right - are they heading towards fascism?

Racism:

triangleTV: Noughts and Crosses

Black youth:

triangleThe life and legacy of Martin Luther King

Historic events

Historic events

13/5/20

War

A new world order - global reconstruction after World War Two

13/5/20

War

The Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it "fanned the flames of revolt"

13/5/20

Europe

'Victory in Europe' 75th anniversary: A resurgent workers' movement and the fight for socialism

6/5/20

Obituary

Peter Hadden remembered

6/5/20

Tyneside

The Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2

29/4/20

May Day

130 Years of May Day in Britain: Fight for workers' rights more relevant than ever

29/4/20

War

No return to the 1930s: World War Two and 'a land fit for heroes'

22/4/20

Lenin

Lenin at 150: A revolutionary life - and the relevance of his ideas for today

15/4/20

WW1

How the catastrophe of WW1 sparked revolution

8/4/20

War

Class collaboration and worker militancy in World War Two Britain

1/4/20

War

All in this together? The 'Blitz spirit' myth

25/3/20

Poll tax

30 years since the huge anti-poll tax demo... And how mass non-payment of the tax was built

18/3/20

Apartheid

South Africa: 60 years marking the Sharpeville Massacre

6/11/19

Berlin Wall

30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall: How a mass revolutionary movement for genuine socialism was diverted

30/10/19

Obituary

Obituary - Bob Lee: 1954 - 2019

triangleMore Historic events articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999