Some 440 delegates attended Unite Against Fascism’s national conference in London last Saturday to discuss strategies against the far right.
The conference opened with a session on the links between fascist organisations and institutional racism in wider society.
Highlights included speeches by Leroy Rosenior and Paul Mortimer, two former professional footballers who talked about their experiences of racism on the football pitch.
Both now campaign for Show Racism the Red Card, which works in schools and elsewhere against racism in football and wider society.
Ross Willmott, a Labour councillor in Leicester, reported on last month’s EDL march through the city and UAF counter demo.
He attacked the decision to let the EDL march and criticised the way police cleared anti-fascist demonstrators from the city centre.
“We had mounted police used against us. It was shocking and surprising—more like a police state than you’d think,” he said.
The afternoon saw workshops on a variety of subjects including racism against Roma people in Europe (see box) and anti-fascism in the student movement.
There was also a debate over whether anti-fascists should call for state bans against marches and rallies by the EDL and other fascist organisations.
Both sides agreed that mass protests against fascists were vital. Sabby Dhalu, joint secretary of UAF, argued that ban calls helped build mass protests, while UAF assistant secretary Martin Smith argued that they were demobilising and counterproductive.
Several speakers from the floor raised the issue of police racism. Some argued that bans forced the police to protect minority communities from fascists, while others countered that the police could never be trusted to do that.
The conference ended with speeches from Jeremy Corbyn MP and Martin Smith. Martin outlined three key priorities for UAF this year.
These were: wiping out the remaining BNP council seats; countering the threat from the newly formed British Freedom Party; and opposing the EDL and other racist street movements.
Leading trade unionists spoke at the conference to pledge their support for UAF and opposition to racism and fascism, including Kevin Courtney of the NUT, Hugh Lanning from PCS and Billy Hayes, general secretary of the CWU.
Hugh Lanning argued that working class unity was the common key to success whether campaigning for jobs and services, or against fascism and racism.
He was cheered when he called for public sector unions to strike over pensions on 28 March.
Hugh also paid tribute to Kevin Gately, who was killed by police in 1974 on an anti-fascist protest at Red Lion Square outside the conference venue.