Mobilise against the far right on July 7th

Events in Leeds over the last month will have shocked many – from the several hundred who marched through Leeds in early June demanding the release of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as Tommy Robinson, the founder of the racist English Defence League (EDL)) from prison following his conviction for contempt of court, to the attacks on a Mosque and Gudawara in South Leeds just a few days afterwards.

Robinson was arrested for contempt of court, for livestreaming on facebook outside an ongoing grooming trial at Leeds combined courts. Robinson’s supporters claim he was jailed for speaking out about the issue of grooming, but his actions could have actually collapsed the trial that was in progress in Leeds, which would have allowed alleged groomers to escape justice and causing more hardship for the victims of horrible sexual offences.

Robinson real agenda was to latch onto the grooming issue to spread his own divisive, racist views which scapegoat one part of the community for these crimes. If Robinson really cared, where was he when council social services departments were being cut to the bone, where was he when the victims of Jimmy Saville came forward and demanded justice? He was nowhere to be found.

These ideas must be challenged, including by mass opposition when Robinson’s supporters take to the streets on July 7th in Leeds. But also important is providing an alternative to the racist division being sown, by offering a way to deal with the political vacuum that has allowed Robinson to draw disillusioned layers behind him, including workers. Their divisive ideas will hinder the necessary united struggles of workers which will be necessary to push back and defeat austerity.

We believe the trade union movement has the key role to play in this. The trade union movement is the organisation of the working class in the workplace and has a role and responsibility to fight for workers unity.

It is welcome to see a number of trade unions actively organising their memberships to turn up on the 7th. It is also welcome that a number of union are also producing statements outlining their opposition to Robinson’s arguments and putting forward a positive strategy. The motion passed at Unite’s conference calling for trade unions to take the lead in this struggle is a good step forward.

The political vacuum that exists in society is a product of 2007/08 economic crisis and the austerity measures which followed that have squeezed the living standards of working class people, whilst those at the top of society have increased their wealth, aided by Tory tax breaks. Political representatives, from all major parties, have carried out austerity at local and national levels – creating a feeling amongst a layer of people that no-one is prepared to stand up for them. This has only partially been cut across by the radical anti-austerity manifesto which the Labour Party stood on in the 2017 general election, but even this is undermined by continuing austerity measures carried out by Labour councils including Leeds.

Combined with this has been the failure of the majority of the trade union leaders to lead a serious struggle against the austerity measures, including the selling out of the 2011 pensions dispute that saw millions of public sector workers take strike action.

Given the lack of lead from mass organisations to address the frustrations felt by many of no-one addressing the issues they faced, and a political elite that seemed determine to ignore them (including attempts to overturn the EU referendum result), is why a minority is looking for ideas elsewhere. In fact, rallies and events where such failed politicians are pushed to the fore will only push these people further into the arms of Robinson, rather than win them to a class position.

But the largest demonstration of Robinson supporters of 15,000 is dwarfed by the 2011 TUC demonstration of ½ a million or even the 2017 Health Campaigns Together demonstration which event the police estimated at having 250,000 attend. Whilst the fascistic elements involved among the hard core of Robinson’s movement is a potential threat to workers’ unity, the balance of class forces is overwhelmingly with the workers movement.

Whilst mobilising for the 7th, we believe it is crucial that arguments against Robinson’s divisive ideas are carried into the workplace and a political strategy and tactics to build a mass movement against austerity is crucial to defeating this threat and fighting for a society in the interests of all.

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