By New Worker
ANTI-FASCISTS and anti-racists in Britain are doing a good job and this is shown by the poor state of the main fascist and racist organisations in Britain – the British National Party and the English Defence League, which have both seen major setbacks in the last two or three years and struggle to mobilise more than a handful of supporters at public events.
“But the EDL didn’t just melt away; we melted it,” Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism told a packed auditorium at the UAF’s national conference at the TUC’s Congress House in London last Saturday.
The room was packed with activists from all around Britain, from dozens of towns – Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Walthamstow, Aldgate, Barking and many other places – where the UAF and local anti-fascists have come out on to the streets and simply peacefully but forcefully blocked roads to prevent the EDL marching through their home towns.
There was one exception – there was no delegation from Manchester because in that city comrades were out on the streets that very day, barring the way to the EDL. The EDL thugs had deliberately timed their march to coincide with the UAF conference in the vain hope it would mean the UAF could not run a national conference and still have enough people to block them.
There were some high profile speakers including Labour MP Diane Abbott, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, NUT general secretary Christine Blower and Claude Moraes, a Labour member of the European Parliament.
Diane Abbott, like many of the speakers, cited the recession and the austerity programme of the Con-Dem Coalition as fostering racism and fascism. “In the middle of a recession, where ordinary people are afraid for their jobs and their houses and their living standards, inevitable this fosters racism as the ruling class seeks to scapegoat ‘the others’ – the Irish, the Jewish, the Black and now the Muslims.”
She said she hoped the main political parties, in particular the Labour Party, would “not learn the wrong lessons” from the UKIP surge at the Eastleigh by-election last Thursday and lurch to the right to appease anti-immigration scaremongers.
“The white and black working class is suffering low wages, unemployment and austerity because of the deregulation of the labour market, it is this that holds wages down, not immigration,” she said.
Abbott called for a campaign to refute the lies that immigration is “putting the welfare state under pressure”. “If it wasn’t for immigrants we would not have an NHS,” she said.
Ken Livingstone spoke of the “assault on multiculturalism”, especially in the Daily Mail, citing its scaremongering campaigns against the Irish, Jews, West Indians, Asians and now Romanians and Bulgarians.
The conference included eight workshops on many aspects of the struggle, including one on the necessity to sustain the policy of no platform for fascists, which was addressed by Gerry Gable, editor of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight.
But this was a theme taken up time and time again by many speakers. Sabby Dhalu, joint UAF secretary, said this policy was vital and was the reason why fascist and neo-Nazi groups in Britain were kept to the fringes while in other European countries the lack of the no-platform policy allowed them to get a toehold in the mainstream political arena and portray themselves as respectable.
But the most important speakers were those who came from the floor to tell of their experiences in fighting racism and fascism in their home towns, workplaces and unions. And they included a Holocaust survivor from France who spoke of the continuing fight against fascism in France.