Some 600 people, young and old, black, white and Asian came together last Saturday to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR).
The day fused music, film and culture with political debate at the Rich Mix Centre in east London.
Activists from trade unions, schools and colleges looked back over LMHR’s years of anti-racist campaigning, and ahead to future challenges. Discussion ranged from the riots of 2011, to the rise of the French Front National.
Gurinder Chadha, director of Bend it Like Beckham, introduced her film “I’m British but…” and poet Michael Rosen talked about racism and education.
A session on the far right in Europe heard harrowing testimony from Ulrike Maria Schmidt and Liz Fekete. They described how Roma people are persecuted by Nazi gangs and state authorities.
Tony Kearns from the CWU union warned that austerity was creating conditions in which racist propaganda can get a hearing and fascist organisations can thrive.
Martin Smith, from LMHR and assistant secretary of Unite Against Fascism, argued that the “objective factors” driving Nazi growth on the continent were also present in Britain.
He said, “The difference is a subjective one. We have an organisation that challenges the fascists wherever they go and labels them as fascists.” That was the crucial reason why the British National Party and English Defence League are currently in disarray, Martin added.
Author Paul Gilroy looked back on the changes in the 30 years since he wrote Ain’t No Black In the Union Jack. Paul asked if there was still anything that could be called youth culture.
A young black woman answered. She described a film showing she organised—90 people attended to discuss politics.
Speakers at a session on defending multiculturalism were unanimous in their condemnation of Tory attacks on our multicultural society. But there were differences over what to make of Labour.
Ken Livingstone stressed the aspects of leader Ed Miliband’s recent speech that promised to crack down on employers who used migrant labour to drive down wages.
The PCS union’s Hugh Lanning was far more critical of Miliband. He argued that his “Blue Labour” policies are fundamentally about caving in to anti-immigrant racism and blaming economic problems on migrant workers.
In other workshops Morris Beckman, who fought Mosley’s Blackshirts in London in the 1940s, talked about his experiences. One young activist responded, “I’ve just been in a bit of history”.
A rammed comedy and poetry session featuring Michael Rosen, Zita Holbourne, Mark Steel and others wrapped up the day before the party started. LMHR stalwarts Pandit G and 4i2i took to the stage with other performers to a full house at the evening gig.
‘We will march again’
The session discussing how the English Defence League (EDL) was defeated in Walthamstow, east London, was one of the liveliest of the day.
The racists say they will come back on 27 October. But a positive mood predominated. Speakers said we would march again.
Labour London Assembly member Jennette Arnold recalled how she joined the sit down that blocked the EDL from marching.
Irfan Akhtar of the Waltham Forest council of Mosques said the police only stopped the EDL marching past moques once they were told that Muslims would come out on the streets.
Martin Smith said Unite Against Fascism is calling a national mobilisation as the EDL is gambling everything on its new march. We should be confident, but not complacent.