More than 400 anti-fascist activists from around Britain gathered in Manchester last weekend for a conference organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF).
It followed the fascist British National Party (BNP) snatching two seats in the European parliament elections last month.
The tone of the conference was serious and determined.
Former Labour MEP Glyn Ford reminded people that, while we should not underestimate the scale of the threat, we should be aware that “we can beat them”.
Dominique Walker, whose brother Anthony was murdered by racists in Liverpool in 2005, summed up the feelings of many. “There’s no room for complacency. And I’m not having it any more,” she said to cheers from the conference.
Other speakers included Pav Akhtar from the Unison union, Dr Dilder Chowdhury from the Muslim Council of Britain and Sam Duckworth of the band Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.
There was also plenty of discussion by delegates from local UAF groups, trade unions and other community campaigns.
People agreed that the BNP is building out of a wider climate of discrimination and that the movement shouldn’t give any concessions on the question of Islamophobia or other forms of racism.
As one delegate put it, “We can’t allow any slippage. Appeasing the BNP’s agenda over the ‘British jobs for British workers’ slogans or over ‘local housing’—just strengthens them.”
Some speakers and delegates raised questions about whether UAF should back particular candidates in elections, but many people pointed out that this would split and fragment the movement.
There was very wide agreement that one key task for the movement is to keep pinning the label of Nazi on the BNP—and denying it the “respectability” it hopes will help promote its fascist politics.
One key chance to do this will be the mass, national protest at the BNP’s Red, White and Blue “festival” in Codnor, Derbyshire, on 15 August.
Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of UAF, called on those at the conference to build the biggest possible turnout on the day. “We have to show that we are the majority,” he said.
The anti-fascist movement has entered a serious new phase.
No one was under any illusions that beating the BNP will be easy, but the conference was an important reminder of the energy and experience of a movement that can drive the Nazis back.
For more information about the protest in Codnor and transport details go to