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Far right seen off at Oxford Circus - but trade union lead needed
Mark Best, East London Socialist Party
Socialist Party members joined several hundred others at a counter-demonstration opposing supporters of the jailed far-right provocateur 'Tommy Robinson' on Saturday 3 August.
Organised by the anti-racist group 'Stand Up to Racism' (SUTR) and the anarchist-led London Anti-Fascists, this protest again demonstrated that the trade unions need to take the lead in the fight against the far right. The Socialist Party has long emphasised and campaigned for this.
It is important to counter the far right. Especially we need to mobilise to defend local communities.
Anti-racist protesters and police saw off attempts by the far right to attack the counter-demonstration on this occasion. However, by the end of the march, anti-racist protesters were kettled in a pen, leaving groups of the far right to march down Regent Street unopposed.
Those on the counter-demonstration were left in the dark about what was happening. Why did the march repeatedly stop on the way to Oxford Circus? Where were we going? What were the plans when we got there? SUTR organisers did not give a lead and had nothing to say when asked what was going on.
The Socialist Party gave out our leaflets on the need to fight to kick out the Tory government, and for Jeremy Corbyn to contest a general election on a socialist programme.
Construction workers and shoppers at the sides of the counter-demo took our leaflets and bought copies of the Socialist.
Unfortunately, trade union banners and delegations were almost entirely absent. In 2018, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) made the decision to launch a "jobs, homes, not racism" campaign to unite the trade union movement in the campaign against the far right. This has not materialised in any serious way.
Socialist Party members have moved motions in trade union branches and conferences calling for union leaders and the TUC to act on this decision - but also for union branches not to wait. Union branches should discuss and debate "the slogans and tactics necessary to defeat the far right, putting the resources, authority and power of the organised working class at the centre of a mass, anti-racist, anti-austerity movement."
Part of this has to be responding to the previous calls for a trade union stewarding group for demonstrations such as this. Stewards from the unions, disciplined and accountable, would be able to organise to defend protesters from the far right - and from police if necessary.
We could then rely on the collective strength of our own working-class organisations, instead of untrustworthy agreements with the police or the unaccountable actions of anonymous 'leaders'.
This must be linked to a political campaign against the divisive, racist politics of Robinson and his ilk. The unions represent over six million workers in Britain. If the unions could mobilise a serious section of workers against the far right, this would be a real blow to their confidence.
But to do this, the fight against racism has to include the fight against the conditions that allow racism to flourish. We fight for jobs, homes and services, against the 'race to the bottom'. Trade union action on these issues could build a movement that would cut across the present small support for the far right.
Capitalism will attempt to divide workers to maintain the profit system. The working class in struggle can sweep aside these divisions, but to do so needs a programme worth fighting for.
Workers fighting against the bosses and the bosses' government, to win any improvements we can, shows our power as workers. We fight for a socialist society where workers collectively own and democratically control the wealth in society, so we can provide jobs, homes and services for all.
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In The Socialist 14 August 2019:
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