Monday, 15 December 2008

Brighton Socialists turnout to fight fascism

[By Lee Vernon, Thursday branch member]

Over 200 rally against the BNP at Hove Station

On Wednesday 10 December over 200 anti-fascists gathered to protest outside Hove Station to fight back against the British National Party (BNP) attempts at a “relaunch” in the Brighton and Hove area. Socialists, trade unionists, workers, students and young people united to show the fascists that they are not welcome and that the people of Brighton would not stand for their vile, divisive beliefs.

The BNP had tried to downplay their meeting and claimed it was postponed until the New Year. However activists turned out in force anyway, sending the message out loud and clear that we will not tolerate fascists in our city.

Unconfirmed sources claimed that three local BNP organisers were having a meeting in the local pub and once they were recognised by anti-fascist anarchist elements had to be given a rapid police escort into a taxi and driven out of the area. Any attempts at organising a public meeting had clearly been halted and, given the turnout on the rally, will unlikely be tried again for some time. When workers and students unite under the leadership of the left and the trade unions we can stop the BNP branching out into new areas by mobilising against them.

With only five days notice that the BNP were in the area, Socialist Party comrades and Socialist Students proved vital in building for the demo and making sure mobilisation was as big as possible.

Although no particular group had called the rally and the left as a whole were responsible for the high turnout, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) was quick to claim it as their own. Within two days of the news being revealed a local UAF group (created by the local Socialist Workers' Party) had sprung up as if by magic. On the demo they put forward speakers from the Labour Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats and raised chants of “No to Nazis, smash the BNP”. With the exception of the Green Party, the main political parties had done little to build for the demo and whose only answer to the threat of fascism was to vote Labour or Lib Dem instead! Yet, it is their own policies of selling out working class people with cuts in jobs and public services that has pushed so many into the hands of the BNP who only offer lies, easy answers and false solutions. Added to this, the limited chants and demands the UAF group raised - “No to Nazis, smash the BNP” - are politically shallow and potentially alienating. The BNP core membership and leadership are hardcore racists and fascists. Yet many of their supporters and sympathisers are not “Nazis” but simply disillusioned working class people whom such chants will have no effect on.

Thankfully, Socialist Party comrades representing Brighton, Hove and District Trades Council and University of Sussex Students Union were able to take the platform and raise these political points. Simply saying “Smash the BNP” isn’t enough and at times can even be counter productive, especially in areas where they already have a base of support. In order to effectively fight the BNP we need to take on the root causes of their support which is the poverty, despair and the lack of political representation for working people. To answer this we need to build a new political alternative that working class people can get involved in and believe in and raise the demands for a new mass workers party that will see support for the BNP dry up.

The UAF is a broad, national, united front organisation that represents a broad group dominated by the SWP. It attempts to bring together as many different elements from across the political spectrum in order to challenge fascism. Although we are not opposed to united fronts, the tactics of the UAF are fundamentally wrong, if not dangerous, as this demo showed. Relying on support from figures from the Labour Party and even the Conservatives will only alienate more people. Even worse, in order to include these figures the UAF have to drop all political arguments to keep these capitalists politicians on board. This means their demands never go beyond “smashing the fascists” as to talk about the failure of the main political parties will drive away their new allies.

We need to confront this stance, to expose the failure of the main parties to defend all working people as the main reason for the growth of the far right growth and that in order to fight this we need new genuine working class representation. It is up to us to put forward a transitional program that workers can believe in and raise the call for a new mass workers party. No to racism and fascism. For a united working class.

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