On Saturday 18 October the fascist British People’s Party are planning a racist march to HMV, Leeds, against rap music. As with the BNP leader Nick Griffin’s recent rally in Stoke this is a test to see if fascists can once again openly organise on the streets of Britain.
In the 1930s and again in the 1970s fascists held open rallies, marches and meetings in city centres and in areas with large Jewish, black and Asian communities. Yet Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in the 1930s and the National Front in the 1970s were largely driven from the streets by workers’ movement and local communities. Since then, despite the BNP’s electoral gains began, they have not dared march through any major city.
The fact that the fascists feel emboldened to rally in Stoke and Leeds is undoubtedly down to the weakness of working class anti-fascism. In Leeds the counter demonstration against the BPP is called by Antifa, a small collective of anti-fascist anarchists who believe in direct action. Whilst this group is in many ways admirable it does not effectively challenge the political ideas behind fascism or seek to build a mass democratic movement in the working class.
“Unite Against Fascism” (UAF), has many trade union affiliates, but has been slow to respond to BPP’s march. It is now building for the demo but its strategy is to hand out leaflets telling people “don’t vote Nazi”. It also seeks active support from the capitalist parties for their campaigns, and that means stifling criticisms of the very policies that have helped nurture the BNP.
In Leeds the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty called a joint organising meeting with Workers’ Power for the demo and to talk-about an anti-fascist group could raise slogans for a working class response to the fascists. However Workers’ Power would not even consider a joint leaflet because it would not make its first demand “a new workers’ party”. It seems building working-class anti-fascist unity is less important than posturing.
There is another model of organising against the fascists. The East Midlands Stop the BNP group has been founded by trade unionists, local community activists, socialists and anarchists from a range of groups. In August it organised a large demo in Codnor in Derbyshire against the BNP’s annual “Red, White & Blue Festival”, and on 27 September a conference in Nottingham. Without being sectarian or ultra-left, it has raised the political demands that UAF refuses’ to. This is the kind of campaign that is necessary in Leeds and elsewhere.
Now we are in a period of economic crisis the fascists will go on the offensive and will recruit those offered no alternatives to the miseries of capitalism. The workers’ movement must be ready to respond effectively to defeat the fascists.
• Demonstrate against the BPP. Saturday 18 October, 10am, corner of Lands Lane and Albion Place, Leeds.