Sunday 15 July 2018

Big step forward against Tommy Robinson fascists in London

3,000 took to the streets of London for a joint Unite Against Fascism and Stand Up To Racism counterdemonstration

3,000 took to the streets of London for a joint Unite Against Fascism and Stand Up To Racism counter-demonstration

Antifascists have made a big step forward against supporters of Tommy Robinson – but violent fascists physically attacked trade unionists and went on the rampage in Central London

Over 3,000 antifascists took to the streets against supporters of Robinson as they rallied to welcome Donald Trump in Whitehall.

Supporters of jailed Nazi Tommy Robinson brought some 6,000 into Central London – a sign of what a huge threat they pose, but also significantly down on the 15,000 that rallied last month in the same spot.

Groups of trade unionists, Labour Party branches, faith groups and others marched from Parliament to Whitehall to confront the racists.

Antifascists heard from David Lammy MP, Kevin Courtney, the General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), and many others.

Reps from NEU, Unite the Union, the RMT rail union, GMB, the CWU postal union, Unison, the PCS civil servants’ union and the UCU lecturers’ union all brought banners.

And some 40 RMT activists with branch banners marched into the Unite Against Fascism to huge applause. RMT members on London’s transport network had put incredible work into building the demonstration over the past few weeks.

The protest was backed by the London Muslim Centre and a delegation from the Kurdish community in London brought a banner – while German antiracists from the Aufstehen Gegen Rassismus group brought international solidarity.

The protest was much bigger than previous counter-demonstrations against the racist street movement around Tommy Robinson, UKIP and the so-called ‘Democratic’ Football Lads Alliance.

The success of the mobilisation comes off the back of a fantastic demonstration in Leeds last weekend that outnumbered supporters of Tommy Robinson seven-to-one – and a demonstration against the National Front in Wakefield that saw 200 antifascists see off 20 Nazis.

Filip Dewinter (third from left), a leading figure in the Belgian far-right and apologist for wartime Nazi collaboration, spoke at the Tommy Robinson rally in Whitehall - but the DFLA were cut out of the event

Filip Dewinter (third from left), a leading figure in the Belgian far-right and apologist for wartime Nazi collaboration, spoke at the Tommy Robinson rally in Whitehall – but the DFLA were cut out of the event

 

Fascists attack trade unionists

But while there is clearly momentum behind the antifascist movement, the threat posed by supporters of Robinson became clear as the day went on.

A large gang of fascists attacked a pub in which antifascists and RMT activists were drinking.

Throwing glasses and chairs, they hospitalised two RMT members, including Steve Hedley, the Assistant General Secretary of the union.

The thugs are attached to a well-known football hooligan firm.

The unprovoked attack shows the hypocrisy of the fascists’ claims to be defending ‘freedom of speech’.

The fascists are using Islamophobia and racist violence to bind their nascent movement together – but one of their key goals is to build a street force that can physically attack trade unionists and left-wing activists.

This is why speaker-after-speaker at their rally attacked the Left and Jeremy Corbyn. UKIP leader Gerrard Batten claimed that his party is the ‘resistance to Corbyn’s commies’.

Meanwhile, Kevin Carroll, the uncle of Robinson, attacked teachers’ unions as representing the ‘infiltration of socialists into the education system to poison young minds’ and called the Left the ‘biggest danger to all of us at this moment in history.’

This is precisely the type of rhetoric that inspires the sort of disgusting violence against trade unionists that occurred later in the day.

And transport workers were a further target later in the day, when Robinson’s supporters blocked a bus in Trafalgar Square because the driver was wearing a hijab.

In the coming period, all antifascists must stand in solidarity with the RMT and push the argument into the labour movement that fascism is a danger to all trade unionists.

Nita Sanghera, UCU President Elect, speaks at the counter-demonstration. Trade unions were at the heart of the mobilisation.

Nita Sanghera, UCU President Elect, speaks at the counter-demonstration. Trade unions were at the heart of the mobilisation.

 

Building the fascist international

In Whitehall, the fascist rally showcased the international alliance being built around the ‘Free Tommy’ movement in the UK.

Platform speakers include a representative from the French Nazi party Rassemblement National, which is the new name of Marine Le Pen’s Front National.

Filip Dewinter, a leader of the Belgian Vlaams Belang and apologist for Flemish collaborators with Hitler’s SS, also made a speech.

A message from Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders was played on a big screen.

The day’s events were compered by Raheem Kassam, who is a former editor of the American alt-right news platform Breitbart.

The international dimension of the platform is a clear sign that the far-right across Europe and North America is trying to build a fascist movement in the UK.

And antifascists will suspect that Trump’s attacks on Sadiq Khan and migration in the British press were timed to give a fillip to the British far-right – especially after revelations that a senior Trump ally in the US embassy in London has been lobbying the UK government on behalf of Tommy Robinson.

Speeches from UKIP’s leader, Gerrard Batten, and their only peer, Lord Malcolm Pearson, focused on trying to cement UKIP as the electoral wing of this far-right street movement.

Batten claimed that ‘Islam is the most regressive force on earth’ and compared Tommy Robinson to the suffragettes, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

He also called for support for Justin Smith, a key figure in the ‘Democratic’ Football Lads Alliance who was recently arrested in continental Europe for undisclosed reasons. The DFLA was founded by football hooligan firms with historic links to the neo-Nazi terror organisation Combat-18.

And he gloated that the splits in the government over Brexit was forcing UKIP’s opinion poll ratings up for the first time since the 2016 referendum – with most voters being unaware of the party’s new connections to Nazis, racist football hooligans and European fascists.

UKIP leader Gerrard Batten claimed that Islam is a cult founded by a paedophile, before attacking the Left as 'Corbyn's commies'

UKIP leader Gerrard Batten claimed that Islam is a cult founded by a paedophile, before attacking the Left as ‘Corbyn’s commies’

 

Building unity to smash the fascists

The Islamophobic street movement in Britain is hardening up. Fascist elements within it are recruiting with the aim of building a street army to attack Muslims, migrants and the Left.

This wasn’t only shown by the disgraceful violence that RMT activists were subjected to, but also by the applause that Generation Identity received as they entered the hate rally.

Generation Identity is a white nationalist organisation that, like Gerrard Batten’s UKIP, pushes the neo-Nazi conspiracy theory that the Jewish financier and Holocaust-survivor George Soros is trying to wipe out white people by ‘flooding’ the West with Muslim refugees.

But despite the huge threat, there is a new impetus with the antifascist movement.

Saturday’s protest saw impressive unity between trade unions, faith groups and Labour Party members – as well as activists from Unite Against Fascism, Stand Up To Racism and the Anti-Fascist Network.

And the demonstration against Donald Trump in London on Friday shows the enormous breadth of antiracist feeling in Britain, with at least 250,000 taking to the streets.

Moreover, huge demonstrations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester and Sheffield show that the desire to take on the World’s Number One Racist is far from a London-centric phenomenon.

Next weekend, antifascists will gather in Cambridge, where Robinson supporters are attempting a hate rally. It’s vital that the fascists are opposed wherever they go in the country.

The task for antifascists now is to build on the momentum of the recent demonstrations in London and Yorkshire to develop the kind of movement that can challenge the racists for control of the streets.

That will take massive mobilisations that draw on all sections that are potential victims of fascist violence – trade unionists, Muslims, migrants, women, LGBT+ people, black people and many others.

The shocking attacks on trade unionists shows that we cannot afford to not build the kind of unity that we need to smash the fascists.


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