Organising to defeat the far right

With fascism on the rise, a workshop at the Black members’ conference explored how it can be defeated

“We live in very dangerous times. For years, there was a consensus right across the political spectrum that we must keep the fascists out of the political mainstream. That clearly is changing,” said Brian Robinson from Stand Against Racism and Inequality (pictured).

“The rise of populist leaders like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil – as well as an increased vote for fascist parties in Germany, Sweden, Italy and many other countries – has emboldened racists.

“The EU referendum result has given confidence to right wing leaders and groups,” continued Mr Robinson. “We know that Stephen Yaxley-Lennon [also known as Tommy Robinson] and other right-wing organisations have links with international groups. We cannot be complacent. We have to think how we can marginalise, mobilise and prevent them from making a serious breakthrough.”

Get organised

“When I was young, I worked as a housing officer on the Beechdale estate in Walsall, which was notorious for racist hate crimes,” said UNISON assistant general secretary, Roger McKenzie.

“One night, my boss grabbed me and literally threw me under the table as the National Front was outside. The only way I got home safely was by being smuggled out under a coat. I had family who lived on that estate too and they were routinely attacked. They had letter bombs and dog mess put through their letterboxes and were generally harassed and attacked in the streets.

“You can try and defeat racism and fascism on your own. But my lesson from history is that you are much more likely to succeed if you stand up to racism collectively. The far right have to know that, when they attack one Black family, they face the whole Black community.”

Counter campaigns

“Last year, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon stood as a candidate in the European elections,” said Mr Robinson.

“He saw the elections as an opportunity to make a breakthrough in the North West, but anti-racist groups mobilised on the streets of Manchester. We knocked on doors, we held stalls and we leafleted areas.”

Voters most likely to oppose Yaxley-Lennon’s divisive policies were encouraged to get out and vote.

“Stephen Yaxley-Lennon ended up skulking away from Manchester town hall after being defeated with only 2% of the vote and losing his deposit.

“Rather than hoping fascists don’t exist, that they’ll go away or people won’t take them seriously, we need to organise and run campaigns to expose them.”

Online racism

“Immediately following the EU referendum, there was an increase in the number of racist attacks being reported to us,” said Rose Simpkins of Stop Hate UK.

“We challenge hate crime both online and offline. Our advice is to encourage people to report hate crime to us – or another anti-racist organisation if we do not operate in your area.

“The worst examples of racism are always in the comments online. We have teams and volunteers who are expert at disrupting these threads and drowning out racists by

Creating a different dialogue.

“If you see something offensive online always take a screen shot and report it to the social media outlet where you’ve seen it. If they say it doesn’t breach their community standards, don’t accept this. Report it again. Create an atmosphere where social media companies do not want this stuff on their platform.

Hatemeter is an EU-funded project that monitors anti-Muslim content and has an ITtool that produces computer-assisted responses and hints to support anti-racist and awareness raising campaigns.

But it’s important to remember: “do not engage with racists online without following guidelines as you could place yourself at risk.”

“The luxury of doing nothing doesn’t exist anymore,” said Mr McKenzie. “It is time to organise and show solidarity. Working people need to pull together.”

“We have to fight against the attitude that it’s okay for racists to say and do what they want.

There can be no room for complacency. Black self-organisation is so important. It’s not about winning an argument, it’s about how we can build that sense of collective organisation in communities.