Paul Gerrard, Salford Socialist Party
Supporters of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, AKA ‘Tommy Robinson’, gathered at the BBC’s Media City studios in Salford to protest against Panorama’s documentary on his far-right activities on Saturday 23 February.
The BBC had planned an exposé of Robinson, believing an aggrieved associate of his could be trusted to gain them access. But she passed BBC footage to Robinson, who made his own film entitled ‘Panodrama’ to embarrass the BBC. The demonstration displayed this on a giant screen – though a poor-quality link made much of it unviewable.
Many trade unionists would not see the point in defending the establishment media, whose bosses routinely ignore major demonstrations, and whose well-heeled presenters interrupt and harass left activists and Corbynista MPs.
But socialists do defend BBC workers in media unions who are trying to do their jobs, and who face harassment by supporters of the far right.
A joint Media City workforce statement from the National Union of Journalists and technicians’ union Bectu, issued in advance of the demo, denounced the intimidation, threats and violence of the far right, especially targeting photojournalists.
It also rightly encouraged members not covering the event to attend the counter-demonstration.
The Robinson crowd included EDL and Ukip supporters. Ukip’s leader Gerard Batten spoke in support of Robinson, who he has taken on as an adviser to Ukip.
In the event, although much smaller than last summer’s mobilisations in London, the pro-Robinson demo seriously outnumbered the counter-demo. This dangerous development makes it urgent for the trade unions to take charge and mobilise behind a clear programme to improve working-class lives.
Instead, organising was left to ‘Stand Up to Racism’, led by the Socialist Workers Party. As usual they provided plenty of speakers who told us we must oppose racism, but put forward no answers.
That was left to Socialist Party member Steve North, secretary of the Salford branch of public service union Unison.
“When was the last time you saw this lot stand on a picket line with workers? When was the last time you saw them standing up for nurseries, or a decent NHS?
“Even for the people they pretend to support, the so-called white working class, they have no solutions.
“They don’t fight for houses, they don’t fight for jobs and services, they offer nothing but division.”
In the vacuum left by Jeremy Corbyn and the trade union leaders failing to lead a fight to end Tory and Blairite austerity, the far right is trying to regroup.
The Socialist Party calls on Corbyn and the union tops to build for urgent mass action to force a general election, for a Corbyn-led government with socialist policies, which could decisively undermine the far right.