Justin Baidoo, a trade union and socialist activist in South London, is standing for Unite Against Fascism assistant secretary at the UAF conference on 25 February. He spoke to Solidarity.
Why are you standing?
As an active anti-fascist campaigner for four years, I think there is a need for a national anti-fascist network. AWL and others tried to create something with Stop Racism and Fascism, but it didn’t go very far. Hope Not Hate is an ineffective pressure group, and farcically has just split from Searchlight. UAF, though I have many criticisms of it, is a real national network. Following arguments inside and outside the SWP, there are elections for a national leadership. I’m taking this chance to stand for further change in the campaign, to make it more democratic, more based on local activism and more working-class politically.
I’m supported by Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Council, which set up the South London Anti-Fascist Group (now South London Community Action Network) and by my union branch, Unite Croydon and Crystal Palace.
If you get elected, what changes will you push for?
I want to go beyond “parachute anti-fascism” — reactive, parachuting into an area when the EDL, BNP or whoever do a demo, arranging things with the police, but then disappearing. We need a long-term, pro-active, trade union based approach. We need to organise with local forces, particularly local labour movements to fight fascism more consistently.
To do that, we also need democracy in the campaign. These elections are a first step, but they are somewhat tokenistic. We need proper input for local groups and a fully democratic national structure.
Also UAF should be helping, not hindering, proper local groups, ideally I think with trades councils at their heart like in South London.
We need to drop token, fake anti-fascists like David Cameron and other Tory, Liberal and New Labour bigwigs from the campaign. That’s so we can offer concrete solutions.
At the moment UAF just says “multiculturalism is great, defend it”. Yes, but this is rearguard and weak. We should be taking up the policies which our labour movement stands for. Of course the unions are weak and they sell people out, but the labour movement is there to be improved. We need demands on jobs, housing and services and all the issues the far right exploits.
Clearly an anti-fascist campaign can’t be a surrogate political party, but we need a labour movement consensus.
If you’d get rid of bourgeois politicians, what are the criteria for accepting an ally? We need to define anti-fascism, and fascism.
Fascism is an authoritarian movement with nationalist and racist tendencies which aims to crush any challenge to the system — against oppressed racial minorities, the disabled, LGBT people but also against trade unions and the socialist movement. From that it should be obvious that we can’t ally with people currently in power who also attack our people and our movement.
That means an end to keeping quiet about homophobia. But it also means we can’t support politicians who promote Fortress Europe, who supported clearing out Dale Farm, who promote racism and discrimination.
That still seems unclear. For instance, aren’t all immigration controls discriminatory? But would you make that a red line?
I think where exactly the line would be defined can’t bet set a priori — it would require debate and discussion. The point is there should be a line. I’m not looking for a full socialist program, I’m looking for a serious alliance. I don’t want to get into Trotsky’s language of united front and popular front, but that’s what we’re talking about. I’m talking about not allying with clear enemies.
Are you standing with any other candidates?
Not at the moment. It’s worth saying that the whole nomination process has been kept very quiet, and it’s quite complicated to get nominated.
What’s interesting is that as I understand it I’ll be standing against [leading SWPer] Martin Smith.
I don’t know what my chances are, but there are a lot of people my campaign has struck a chord with. I’m hoping that numbers will increase as my campaign gets out there.
Beyond UAF, what do you think are the key issues facing anti-fascists and anti-racists?
Fascism proper seems to be waning somewhat in Britain. The BNP are going down and the EDL are still strong but have not stepped into electoral politics yet — though their alliance with the British Freedom Party is worrying.
But apparently some EDL are also entering UKIP, who did incredibly well in the European elections and are a force. I’m not sure the far right will register that much in the London elections. But beyond the still strong danger of street fascism, we have an authoritarian, right-wing political agenda in power, attacking migrants, savaging our living standards and so on. To some extent the official right works in tandem with the far right, encouraging them.
A lot of the liberal left seems to think that the far right threat is over, but socialists should know better. The far right burgeoned in a period of relative calm and economic growth because beneath it was a growth of casualisation, precarity, agency work and the whole Blairite agenda. Now we face economic crisis and as the Tory “reforms” really hit, the relationship between state-sponsored and fascist reaction could blossom. I think you saw the dangers in the right-wing response to the riots. In any case, with mass unemployment, homelessness and falling living standards, we will see a lot of angry and confused working-class people of all colours — not just white.
The responsibility on socialists becomes enormous. Part of that is a strong anti-fascist movement which is making working-class arguments and providing answers, not allying with people who are anti-working class. If we get this wrong the workers’ movement could be set way back.
I suppose we could start from scratch, but I think it’s better to have a go at realigning and transforming the anti-fascist movement which already exists.
• For more on Justin’s campaign, see his blog
• English Defence League: wash out or warning? here