On 29 March, the day the UK was due to crash out of the European Union, the pro-Brexit right mobilised in central London.
Thousands marched for Brexit and the SWP front, Stand Up to Racism (SUTR), protested in opposition. There were about 50 anti-racists who were barracked and taunted by the rightists: “Leftist scum, off our streets!”. The SWP organiser approached the police and asked to be moved away from the right-wing mob. When the SUTR people had moved away to a safe distance the SWP got out their STUR placards and banners.
So what are we to make of such a fiasco?
• Brexit is a movement of the right. The SWP, who voted Leave, should pay attention to the movement they helped to create. They are now protesting (ineffectively) against a movement they should be supporting! At least the reality of the Brexit mobilisation is obvious, now, to the SWP. Perhaps they now might reflect that their vote and little campaign on the left for ‘Lexit’ was ridiculous.
• The SWP/SUTR is utterly unable to mobilise adequate numbers to confront the growing right-wing threat in the UK.
Twice in 2018 very large pro-Tommy Robinson protests took place in Whitehall, London. Despite the claims of the SWP that their counter-marches dwarfed the right-mobilisations, those that were present know very well that the right would have smashed the anti-racists without the police’s intervention.
I watched in July, at the corner of Parliament Square and Whitehall, as 80 pro-Robinson football hooligans were kept away from the anti-fascists by the determined actions of riot police and mounted police. If these thugs had got through the police ranks they would have routed the spirited youth in the Antifa-bloc, and the grey-haired ex-ANL people the SWP had brought along.
So what are we to do?
• The unions must end the contracting-out of anti-fascism to the SWP and their front organisations. The way this works at the moment is that major unions declare that they are fighting fascism and racism by giving large amounts of cash to SWP fronts like SUTR and Love Music, Hate Racism. The SWP’s part of the bargain is to give the union leaders a platform at their protests and conferences.
• The right-wing threat is now so clear and pressing we must insist that the unions take matters into their own hands. Each union must mobilise their own members in great numbers to confront the fascists when they take to the streets, stewarding delegations and being willing to defend our members against right wing violence.
And what about the NEU?
Kevin Courtney is no doubt sincere when he speaks of the need to stop Robinson and the far right. However, if he wants to be effective he might consider the need to put large numbers of school workers on the streets against the far right. Kevin Courtney spoke at both SUTR rallies in central London last year and was later seen walking off, by himself. Much better if he had stood at the head of a thousand NEU members, organised in our own, stewarded bloc.
Next time, Kevin Courtney needs to bring our members with him to confront the right.