“They shall not pass”
I heard some chanting behind me about” Tommy” then felt something smash on the left side of my face seconds later my partner was hit in the ribs by a flying metal chair launched by Tommy Robinson supporting thugs. It was a glorious Saturday and it was around three in the afternoon, I was enjoying my second pint with my partner Bridget, one of our branch secretaries Kym and a trade union activist nearing retirement age Mike. We had been to a counter protest to the pro Trump /free Tommy Robinson demo where I had the honour of speaking against the rise of the right on behalf of my union the RMT. Somewhat ironically I had warned in my speech that the EDL/DFLA were scapegoating minorities today but could well be attacking picket lines tomorrow. The words seem somewhat prophetic in retrospect as I and several other RMT members including a former president, executive members past and present, a regional secretary and another Assistant general secretary were all the subjects of a violent unprovoked attack by the Tommy Robinson supporting scum. I use the word subjects deliberately instead of the word victims as we refuse to buy into the cult of victimhood so prevalent recently on the left which only encourages the far right .We were attacked and we defended ourselves there were many injuries on both sides and although we were outnumbered it was our attackers who withdrew from the fray.
Cause and effect.
In understanding the dynamics of the rise of Alt/far right it’s necessary to place it in national and global contexts. In Britain a neo liberal labour party abandoned the working class with a strategy of triangulation to capture middle class votes. This left us without a mainstream political party to represent our interests and the void was filled by the far right, firstly by the BNP and later by UKIP and the EDL. New labour pursued Thatcherite light policies, privatising, deregulating and refusing to build council housing so badly needed in working class communities .Up popped the far right and offered the solution of you can have that Muslims job or that Asian family’s house, or your hospital is inaccessible and wages are low because of immigrants, unfortunately in the absence of any credible left alternative some people were sucked in. A similar situation prevails across the Atlantic with the Democrats abandoning class politics and pursuing a neo liberal globalisation agenda whilst adopting a conscious strategy of identity politics, which ultimately divides the working class.
It’s a class struggle, Unity not identity.
The remedy to the rise of the far right is for the Trade unions and labour party is to return to the politics of class struggle and get rid of divisive and destructive identity politics. When we start delivering, decent jobs wages and conditions to workers combined with plentiful decent public housing and services then the ground will be cut from under the far rights feet. Corbyn could play a leading role in this providing he and his supporters start standing up to the right in the labour party and stop capitulating to them.
Populism on the rise.
There is no doubt the far right are on the crest of a wave, the election of Trump has made racism and bigotry acceptable. The far right street thugs feel confident enough to attack trade unionists in broad daylight in Westminster, followed by an attack on the Bookmarks socialist bookshop two weeks later. A combination of an international alliance of far right parties which Steve Bannon is seeking to further develop could theoretically rise to prominence in Britain fronted by the remains of UKIP and supported by the EDL/DFLA street fighters on the ground. Trade unionists and socialists have a duty to mobilise against them both politically and on the street.
Fascism will never truly be defeated whilst capitalism still exists as Bertolt Brecht said after ww2 “the beast is dead but the bitch is pregnant” i.e. in times of crisis the ruling class will always use fascists to attack the workers movement.
That is why our union has set up a stewarding group to protect our members and why we make it clear in the RMT rule book that we are working for the ” supposition of the capitalist system with a socialist form of society”. Only when socialism is achieved will the fascist beast finally be laid permanently to rest.
“No pasarán! They shall not pass”
By Steve Hedley
RMT Deputy General Secretary.