Socialist Worker

Anti-racist conference meets in London and pledges to push the racist right back

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2627

Some 1,000 people came to the Stand Up To Racism international conference in central London on Saturday

Some 1,400 people came to the Stand Up To Racism international conference in central London on Saturday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Anti-racists from across Europe have vowed to step up the fight against the far right and racism.

The Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) international conference in central London on Saturday brought together activists from across Europe, the US and Latin America. 

Around 1,400 people attended meetings and workshops throughout the day. Themes included defeating the far right, building solidarity with refugees and defending migrants' rights.

The conference came against the backdrop of mainstream politicians ramping up racism against Muslims, migrants and refugees—which is fueling the growth of fascist and racist forces.

Petros Constantinou from Greek anti-racist organization KEERFA told the conference the movement had to take on both threats. "The fascists are not unstoppable. We have a movement and we are powerful," he said.

"And we cannot stop them by giving in to racism, because that's the ground on which they grow."

Cornelia Kerth from Germany talked about how mainstream right wing politicians laid the ground for the far right AfD party's breakthrough in the Bavarian regional elections last week. "The CSU party in Bavaria tried to copy the propaganda of the right wing AfD," she said.

But Kerth also pointed to the possibility of pushing back the far right, saying, "One day before, we had 240,000 people out in Berlin and no one had expected that."

"Whenever the AfD hold a congress, there are demonstrations."

The SUTR conference brought together people from across Britain, including many new to politics. Muna from Birmingham told Socialist Worker, "I came from Yemen and lived in Sweden for six years and it became obvious that racism is getting worse in Europe.

"Everyone should be part of stuff like this."

Applause

At the 200-strong workshop on Islamophobia there was standing room only. 

A French Muslim woman spoke brilliantly from the floor. To huge applause, she said, “I’m a feminist but in France many other feminists think their job is to liberate me. I say to them, ‘Thank you, but I’m going to liberate myself.”

A debate opened when a woman spoke and described herself as a former officer with the British government’s Prevent strategy. 

She said she couldn’t understand the panel speakers’ hostility to the government’s anti-terror strategy and that she herself had “saved” a Muslim family planning to travel to the Middle East. 

A young Yemeni woman challenged her immediately. 

Another debate broke out at the workshop on how to build a movement against the far right. 

Liane Groves from the Unite union said it wouldn't "resonate with people in ordinary workplaces" to just talk about fighting fascism. 

She said activists could, for instance, point to Labour's plan to build council housing as a way to undercut the far right's focus on military veterans being homeless. 

Alternative

Candy Udwin, a PCS union member, said, "We have to show there is an alternative to austerity, but we also have to learn the lesson that you have to call a spade a spade. 

"We have to take on racism, even if it comes from among our own members."

Among the debates, speakers stressed the need for unity in action to take on the the threat of fascism and racism.

Labours shadow home secretary Diane Abbott spoke at the closing rally on Saturday

Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott spoke at the closing rally on Saturday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott threw her support behind the initiatives of SUTR. "We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we don't need a new organiswation," she said.

"We need unity."

And Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said, "Today is us recognising the scale of the threat and what we need to do about it.

"We needs peaceful non-violent direct action to ensure no pasaran [they shall not pass] for the far right."

Weyman Bennett, SUTR co-convenor, closed the conference by calling for people to join the national demonstration against racism and fascism on 17 November.

"I am for defeating the fascists by any means necessary," he said.

"We have got the seeds of a mass movement and we need an international movement because we face an international threat."


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