Organising for Worker’s Unity against Austerity & the Far Right

Below we print two reports – firstly from the counter-demo to a right-wing ‘Yellow Vests’ protest in Leeds and then from a public meeting the Socialist Party called in response to an attempt to disrupt one of our meetings a fortnight ago.

About 100 right-wing ‘yellow vest’ protesters gathered in Leeds city centre, outside the BBC Yorkshire offices, on 19 January. Clad in high-vis jackets, waving England flags and shouting “Leave means leave” (but also with a flag from the fascist British Movement and one person doing a Nazi salute), the group came to stand off against the counter-demo that Leeds Socialist Party had been involved in organising.

Groups, including Leeds Socialist Party, left Labour members and the Anti-Fascist Network, came together to oppose the divisive message of the far-right protest, which sought to pit migrants and refugees against the rest of the population.

This face-off stopped passers-by and disrupted traffic, with many stopping to question what the opposing sides each stood for.

Many onlookers generally supported aspects of the genuine ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests) movement in France and shared our anger at the impact of austerity on working-class people. Our leaflets were positively received and were handed out by other groups on the demo to passers-by.

We highlighted how some of those attracted to the far-right demo are as angry as ourselves about cuts to education, health services and public services. But, rather than blaming migrant workers and refugees for the decimation of services, we pointed towards the crisis-ridden capitalist profit-system. A system where the super-rich have inflated their wealth at the expense of working-class living standards.

Most of the counter-protest, including Socialist Party members, had earlier that morning joined the RMT transport union picket lines on Northern Rail – whose members are fighting to retain safety-critical guards on trains.

It is militant action like this which points the way forward to fighting cuts and austerity.

Moreover, as we’ve seen in Manchester recently, it has been far-right groups who have attacked the RMT guards’ picket line, thereby playing into the hands of the bosses.

There is an urgent need to take up the pressing social and economic issues by organising a united struggle of the working class through the trade unions, and offering a real socialist alternative to capitalism. This is necessary to cut across attempts by far-right groups to divide working-class communities.


Around 20 people attended a public meeting in Leeds on Monday 21 January to discuss ‘How To Stop The Far Right – Build a Movement Aginst the Tories and Austerity’ a topic on everyone’s minds since a group calling themselves “Antifa Public Watch” tried to disrupt a Socialist Party meeting earlier in the month.

Many comrades spoke and shared their experiences on dealing with the far right and suggestions in how to deal with their growth going forward. It was generally agreed that despite our politics and those of the far right being drastically different, the underlying anger of those looking towards the far right can step from situation facing ordinary working class people, which could equally push people in a socialist direction. A few days earlier, a far right group were involved in a protest co-opting the pro working class imagery of the French yellow vests movement, but with added xenophobic rhetoric – one protestor was even photographed doing a nazi salute!

Some people may turn to the far right as a result of low pay and poor material conditions inflicted by our Conservative government. In the absence of a visible left wing movement, working class individuals can fall victim to the divisions enabled by the ruling class, placing the blame on scapegoats like migrants instead of the true culprits, the capitalist establishment who control their material conditions. The general conclusion was that, to stop the emerging far right, we need to not only combat their demonstrations, but also push through further on campaigning to alleviate the material conditions that fuel the far right and to present a viable socialist alternative in the interests of the working class.

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