Demonstrations on 9 June and 14 July saw the far right out in force, in their greatest numbers since the 1930s. The demonstrations have been organised in support of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka "Tommy Robinson", recently jailed for contempt of court. After the demonstration on 14 July, a group of far-right thugs attacked people in a Westminster pub, including a number of Tube workers and RMT members.
These events should be a wake-up call. A growing far right is a threat to the labour movement.
Trade unions seek to organise all workers, regardless of ethnicity or national origin. This fundamental mission of working-class unity means we are necessarily counterposed to the politics of the far right. Whenever far-right movements have grown and become powerful, they have sought to smash trade unions.
The divisive, nationalist ideas peddled by the likes of Robinson have won support from some sections of the working class. Our unions, the Labour Party, and other labour-movement organisations need to tackle those ideas head on, and offer an alternative politics based on solidarity and socialism.
Low wages, lack of affordable housing, and cuts to services have led to widespread social despair and alienation in many communities in Britain. In these conditions, the racist and nationalist narratives offered by the far right can seem appealing, with their easy scapegoats and simply solutions, which blame immigrants for all these ills and claim that by ending immigration, life will be better for "white workers".
But immigrants are not to blame for these problems. They are the result of political choices made by successive governments to pursue austerity economics. All workers - British-born and migrant - have suffered at the hands of these policies. We should defend migrants' rights, including from the threats posed to them by Brexit, which will end the right of free movement around Europe, and promote radical working-class policies: universal living wages; mass council house building; reversal of cuts and privatisations of services; all funded by taxation of the rich and the expropriation of the banks.
Moreover, Robinson's stand against "grooming gangs" is a hypocritical attempt to cynically exploit an issue to advance racist politics. Sexual abuse of women and girls is by no means limited to Muslim communities, and is not a problem that would be solved by restricting immigration as the far right proposes. Robinson's movement pushes a deeply nationalist agenda that is evolving increasingly in the direction of white supremacy. Fascists and neo-Nazis like Generation Identity are involved in his movement and have been present on their demonstrations.
Our workplaces on London Underground are multiracial and include many workers from migrant backgrounds. At work, we all pull together to get the job done, and when we take action, we stand side-by-side on the picket line. We know we have common interests as workers, interests that we share against our bosses, regardless of the colour of our skin or whether we were born in this country. Our daily experiences are a living reminder that the divisions the far right wants to impose are artificial and destructive.
Through our unions, we can stand together against racism and fascism, opposing the far right when they mobilise in the streets, and promoting a socialist politics than can provide real answers to the despair on which they feed.
Safety at work?
Many of us, such as station staff and cleaners, could face particular risks as far-right mobilisations grow. Already we have seen a Muslim bus drivers harassed by far-right thugs. If large groups of fascists are moving through our stations on demo days, we could also face attack.
Remember: you can refuse to work if you feel unsafe. If workers' safety is compromised, stations should be closed. Our unions must back any groups of workers taking such a stance.