On Monday 15 October I attended a meeting on behalf of my union branch, Lambeth Unison, to discuss the setting up a local Labour Against Racism and Fascism network.
The meeting was attended by Secretaries and BAME Forum members from 14 South London local Labour Parties, as well as union reps.
The meeting was initiated by activists in Dulwich and West Norwood CLP who had been alarmed by the rise of new far-right street movements in the UK, led by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA), and coalescing around the #FreeTommy movement.
The new far right movement had organised #FreeTommy protests far bigger than any far right demonstration in Britain since the thirties.
Dulwich and West Norwood CLP had been mobilising for the counter protests against the DFLA but found that their banner was one of only a handful of labour movement banners (and one of only two Labour Party banners).
The comrades in DaWN are right to point to the failure of Labour Parties to mobilise against the far right which pose physical threat to our activists and organisations. For too long, our unions and the Labour Party have “outsourced” their anti-fascist activity to campaigns like Stand Up to Racism (and its predecessor Unite Against Fascism).
We pass motions to support external organisations, sometimes provide a platform speaker and a logo for a leaflet and consider our anti-fascism “done”. The meeting discussed anti-fascist tactics and agreed to call for and help build counter-protests to block the far right from marching.
Several BAME activists challenged the sole focus on fascism which, they argued, appeared largely irrelevant to the lives of many ethnic minority people constantly struggling against racism, individual and institutional.
It’s welcome to see activists with different views and political background robustly debate political programme and strategy for a new initiative. Following this debate the meeting agreed the campaign should have a wider remit to look at anti-racist campaigning and policy.
Some answers are very simple. Labour should adopt radical policy providing decent housing for all, reversing the cuts across the public sector and scrapping the anti-union laws.
These policies will cut against right populist answers which help the far right grow. It will also reduce the suffering caused by material structural oppression of our BAME comrades. Tory austerity agenda exacerbated the BAME mental health crisis, inequalities in education and the race pay gap.
Not all answers will be as simple as that, but beginning a conversation in Labour and the unions on how to fight racism and racists is the first step.
Several attendees told stories of workmates who suffered racism at work and felt let down by their union. We hope Lambeth Unison can bring some experience and ideas for organising against racism at work. We reject attempts to divide the workers’ movement and media fixation with the “white working class”.
Our trade unionism must be anti-racist. Our anti-racism that of independent working-class politics.