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Uniting against Islamophobia, antisemitism and fascism in Europe

Unite_logoAn ugly situation in Europe is turning nastier. In recent years we’ve seen a growth of racist and populist right wing parties across the continent. Many mainstream politicians have pandered to this development, choosing to blame migrants and the Muslim community for the economic and social problems that austerity has created.

On top of this, Western foreign policy in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere has created wars, refugees, and failed states. This is a situation which combines waging war against Muslim countries abroad, whilst scapegoating Muslims at home.

Although anti-Semitism has certainly never disappeared, the murders in Paris and Copenhagen add an urgent warning of the dangers the Jewish community is facing. Our key conclusion has to be that fighting the different forms of discrimination is a crucial priority for the whole progressive movement.

For our part, I think the trade unions must take up their place in a broad alliance.

Unite against Fascism (UAF) has been successful against the BNP & EDL because it steered activists into broad-based activity. It has been successful because it understood that fascism gains ground when people refuse to stand up to racism and fail to support our multicultural society.

These insights continue to be valid – even if the BNP and EDL are in their death spasms.

Today’s social conditions, created by austerity economics and a belligerent foreign policy, are grounds upon which racism and discrimination will be constantly refuelled. So using our inclusive tactics, we must pull together all those who will organise against the new waves of virulent discrimination.

Immediately, we have to challenge the rise of UKIP – who are a populist racist party. They are Enoch Powell’s legacy in the 21st century.  Facts matter little for UKIP. What matters is whipping up the fear of migrants and everything foreign.

We should press mainstream politicians not to give ground to UKIP’s anti-migrant agenda. Dealing with UKIP means standing up to their lies, myths and rumours.  It doesn’t mean triangulating towards their “concerns”. Bigotry has to be confronted, not dallied with.

We must also oppose the attempts to criminalise and isolate this country’s entire Muslim community.  Politicians and media commentators regularly insist that Muslims denounce the criminal actions of Muslims here or abroad. No such pressure is being applied to other communities. It is the Muslim community that has become the favourite scapegoat for the polite racism of politicians and the media commentators.

Such scapegoating has fearsome historical precedents – leading to pogroms and genocide. And just as we are commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – so we’ve seen a new wave of anti-Semitism. It is enough to make you weep.

However, we must be more practical. Building an opposition to every manifestation of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is our task.

We must make a big priority of the mobilisation for the UN Anti-Racism Day rally on 21 March. A big turnout can create an anti-racist momentum as we enter the short campaign period in the General Election

We must also ensure that the various party candidates have their antiracist credentials checked in the next three months.

We have to create a counter-pressure to the right. We want Labour, and the left leaning parties, to take a clear stance in defence of migrants, and against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Finally, we must continue to build the structures and support for Unite Against Fascism. We have to drill down anti-racist organisation to every city, town and community. We have to have affiliations from national unions, and their regions and branches.

This activity promotes members who are able to stand up to the racist wave and turn it back. These are difficult times, but we are capable of changing them. Together, we will win.

This article is a slightly abridged version of the speech made by Billy Hayes at the annual conference of Unite against Fascism on 21 February.

4 Comments

  1. James Martin says:

    So unite against fascism so long as its not the Islamic fundamentalist kind? Or what about the rise of Hindu racist nationalism in some areas? Yet more UAF nonsense that sees UKIP as the main ‘fascist’ threat because such a soft target is a lot easier than dealing with real and very dangerous fascists who aren’t white.

  2. Barry Ewart says:

    Perhaps it may help if the World didn’t look at groups such as Muslims as though they were homogenous (all the same) when there will be progressive and moderate voices (a vast majority) but there are also tiny far right factions as there are in ethnic majority populations in Europe etc. and some are more extreme than others. But I think it was Rosa Luxemburg who argued that violence like bombings had as much effect on the powerful as “swatting a knat” – real change comes from mass movements and actions. Democratic socialists have a powerful message – we want to unite peacefully diverse working people of all religions and of none – we want to unite all those who have to sell their labour to live. In this country we have a Govt which deliberately sets neighbour against neighbour re welfare distracting people from tax cuts for millionaires, rich tax dodgers etc. (who are distant from most peoples lives) and thus make the rich invisible. This Govt with their vile immigration vans was also happy to set established citizens against newcomers as are UKIP – both for political gain. I was lucky I was brought up in the inner city and was used to mixing in diverse communities and hopefully learnt to understand and to fight for equality (but some people still rarely mix) but the left is not insular which is our stength but I can remember the small but worrying far right wing backlash to large scale immigation in the 1960s and 70’s but we leant to be inclusive. Interestingly where UKIP seems to do well (the South Easst and some coastal areas) there may have been few ethic minority groups until recently and there was perhaps little tradition of multiculturalism but we need genuine multiculturalism – a genuine exchange. A few years ago an inner-city project I worked with sent a group of white working class people from a local council easte and some asylum seekers from the estate on a Weekend at Northern College in Barnsley – there was some apprehension on both sides before but by the end of the weekend they were all the best of friends and we need more of this, diverse working people mixing and talking and learning from each other. Democratic socialists have a powerful message which is needed perhaps more than ever! Yours in international solidarity!

  3. gerry says:

    UAF are exactly what James says – part of the problem not part of the solution.

    Jews are being directly murdered by Islamic extremists just because they are Jews – the purest definition of fascism you can have – and the levels of Jew-hatred amongst Muslims in Europe/UK are sky-high and rising: even people like Mehdi Hasan have written pieces acknowledging this.

    Yet UAF refuse to name this growing and murderous threat to all Jews, instead focussing on Ukip or the BNP or the EDL who, loathsome as they are, have yet to gun down kosher supermarket shoppers or Jewish museum attendees or batmizvah guests as Islamic fascists have recently done.

    UAF are sick and sickening, a so-called left front in alliance with hard line religious fundamentalists of the Islamic king: shame on BIlly Hayes and the rest of them

  4. David Ellis says:

    Zionists and Islamists are bringing their wars to the streets of Europe. It suits both as they both benefit from greater sectarianism and alienation between communities. The victims as usual are overwhelmingly ordinary people of the Jewish and Islamic faith. Meanwhile traditional Brtish fash get to see rising Islamaphobia and Netenyahu callling on Europe’s Jews to ship out. A double victory for their ideology. But that is what sectarianism is for: divide and rule. How else could 85 individuals come to control more wealth than 3.5 billion people?

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