More than 400 activists attended Unite Against Fascism’s (UAF) annual national conference last Saturday.
It brought together campaigners and trade unionists who have stood up to the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL) across Britain.
UAF members in the north west of England had to miss the conference to oppose the EDL in Manchester (see box). This showed the continued need for vigilance.
The conference opened with a series of workshops. These included “Organising against the EDL”, “Immigration, integration and multiculturalism” and “Policing and institutional racism”.
John Campbell from UAF Yorkshire told Socialist Worker, “Multiculturalism is the rock that our society stands on. It means that black and Asian people can integrate and take part in politics and public life.”
The conference then gathered for a combined session.
The National Union of Teachers sponsored the conference. Its general secretary Christine Blower said, “The BNP hasn’t gone away but they have declined due to extraordinarily effective campaigns by UAF.
“We have pushed back the EDL in Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest but they haven’t gone away.
“We are going to campaign to get rid of fascist MEPs, and our schools and colleges must be fascist free too. Everyone must feel safe in their classrooms.”
Other speakers at the conference included author Owen Jones, Daud Abdullah from the British Muslim Initiative, Sue Bond, vice chair of the PCS and Steve Hart from Unite.
Petros Constantinou flew in from Greece to tell people about the experience of the anti-fascist organisation Keerfa.
He said, “It is terrible to have the Nazis back in Greece. But the new anti-fascist movement is united and strong.
“The political crisis opened a space for the fascists but the workers’ movement opened a space for trade unions in the streets. Immigrant workers have joined strikes.”
Keerfa also opposes the Greek government’s racist policies of detention centres for immigrants and refusing civil rights to their children.
Many activists spoke about the need to counter the growing threat of Islamophobia.
Labour MP Diane Abbott said, “I am fearful that the mainstream parties will take the wrong message from the rise of Ukip in the Eastleigh by-election.
“Any progressive party moving to the right is a spiral downwards.
“It’s disrespectful to only talk about immigrants as a drain and never talk about their contribution.Without immigration there would be no NHS.”
Many speakers argued that Nazis must be given no platform to spread their lies. Claude Moraes, Labour MEP, said, “The policy of no platform has moved the BNP to the edges of this country. But in the European parliament they sit on committees and talk about immigration.”
Seven far-right parties created a new group called the Alliance of European Nationalist Movements in the European parliament last month. It has been able to apply for hundreds of thousands of euros.
Weyman Bennett, joint chair of UAF, said, “I’ve heard it said that the EDL melted away. Well they didn’t—we melted them.
“We know what happens if you don’t no platform Nazis—you get Marine Le Pen in France.”
The conference ended with a call to get rid of the Nazis in European Parliament in next year’s elections.
BNP leader Nick Griffin was elected in the North West in 2009. Fellow fascist Andrew Brons was also elected for the BNP in Yorkshire and Humberside but split last year and formed the British Democratic Party.