Socialist Worker

How we can push back against racism

Thousands of people will march in London next weekend against the rise of racism and fascism. Activists spoke to Socialist Worker about the renewed threat from the right—and what needs to be done to fight it

Issue No. 2630

Pic

Marching against the DFLA in October (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Grattan Puxon

Executive member of the International Romani Union

Gratten Puxon

Grattan Puxon


At least 15 Roma have been killed or died due to mistreatment across Europe since February 2017.

The rise in racism, and the election of right wing governments, has had a big impact on Roma. In Italy we have a very bad situation. The authorities are attacking camps systematically there, and in France too.

France has seen massive deportations of Roma.

In Britain there are around 150,000 Roma migrants. They fear that Brexit means they could face the threat of deportation.

Theoretically they have the right to stay here if they are resident. But there are a lot of forms to fill in and barriers you have to get through. Many Roma won’t pass these barriers—and they are not supposed to pass them.

We will have a bloc on the protest on 17 November flying Roma flags.

On 8 April we will mark International Roma Day in London and elsewhere. We would like anybody who can to come and support us. And on 2 August we will mark the 75th year of the Roma Genocide Commemoration.

We will be grieving for the Roma losses during the Nazi period but also thinking about Roma who are under attack today.

In advertising anti-racist events, antisemitism and Islamophobia are rightly often mentioned. We want equal space to be given to anti?Roma racism. That would add to the agenda and help us to fight.

Mohammed Kozbar

Chair of Finsbury Park mosque in London

Mohammed Kozbar

Mohammed Kozbar


 

We’ve been fighting racism and Islamophobia for years. But now it really is the right time to try to do something big which should have an impact on the government.

There’s a rise in racism and Islamophobia in particular—52 percent of religious hate crimes are against Muslims.

Our mosque in Finsbury Park has been attacked many times.

They’ve tried to set fire to the mosque, they’ve put a pig’s head on the gates, and they’ve sent us white powder.

I’m sure every mosque in the country has been attacked in one way or another.

Muslim women who wear the hijab are more vulnerable than others.

Many women have come to us in tears saying they can’t take their children to schools as they used to any more. They can’t use public transport as they used to, because they are afraid.

There are different reasons for this but the main thing is the media. Most of the stories about Muslims are negative. The government is not taking serious steps to protect Muslims.

There is a lot that Stand Up To Racism can do locally. We need to challenge the media much more if we see stories that are not accurate and make them feel they cannot get away with false information.

When we see an incident take place we need to stand up to it.

We need to lobby the government, parliament and our local MPs and say Islamophobia is not acceptable.

We should challenge parties who have got an issue with Islamophobia—we need to keep asking the Conservative Party to open an investigation into Islamophobia.

We can do a lot of things locally. We had an organising meeting with Muslim organisations and Stand Up To Racism in Islington, to talk about the 17 November demonstration and work out a longer term strategy.

We can have meetings, posters to let people know what to do if they are attacked and training courses on challenging the media. We need to start this process.

Unmesh Desai

Labour Greater London Assembly member

Unmesh Desei

Unmesh Desei

The scale and nature of the threat we face is different from what we’ve seen over the last two decades. The populist right and the respectable right are coming together—something which we’ve not had before, not even in the 1970s.

The painful reality is too many people—including in trade unions and the Labour Party—have not grasped the scale of the challenges. We need to raise consciousness through an education process.

Secondly we need to build local anti-racist and anti-fascist alliances working with or through Stand Up To Racism. They can organise against the far right—even if the far right is small. Because if you let them get away with small things they’ll go on to bigger things.

Thirdly, institutions such as trade unions need official positions on how they’re going to combat the far right. We need the broadest possible unity, involving politicians of all parties, people in positions of authority, schools, community groups, political groups and faith groups.

As well as the broadest possible unity, those of us on the left have also got to offer a worked out alternative to the politics of austerity. Especially on housing, jobs and on how we can build a vision for a post-Brexit Britain.

The Labour Party must be at the forefront of any initiative against the far right.

We’ve got a historic tradition. John McDonnell called for an anti-racist movement, Diane Abbott spoke at the Stand Up To Racism rally as did I. That message has got to go out to Labour Party members.

The huge strength of the Labour Party—half a million members alongside six million trade unionists—is how we channel that energy and dynamism outwards into a mass anti-racist movement.

Naima Omar

Stand Up To Racism activist and Socialist Workers Party member

Naima Omar

Naima Omar (Pic: Jo Holland)


 

 

The far right is growing across the whole world. It’s not just Europe. You see it in the United States and in Brazil with the rise of Jair Bolsonaro.

It’s worrying, especially where some have made it to parliament and are gaining confidence on the streets.

Here in Britain Tommy Robinson has mobilised thousands of people on the streets not once but twice in the last year. So an anti-racist movement is important to put the far right on the back foot.

The anti-fascist movement has to be a broad united front with people from across the spectrum of anti-racists who really want to tackle the far right’s growth.

The Labour Party is an important element in the movement—it’s the largest party in Europe. But the anti-racist movement can’t be limited to the Labour Party. There are anti-racists who are not Labour members.

And Labour’s record on anti-racism when it’s been in office is terrible. The growth of racism and the narrative of the far right is about more than austerity.

Of course there will be political disagreements about certain things. But the main thing is to come together and mobilise an anti-racist movement in local areas and nationally.

It has to create a culture where anti-racism is part of our society. It sounds cheesy, but it has to make being a racist not cool.

But the movement also has to mobilise on counter-demonstrations any time the far right, the fascists or Tommy Robinson rear their heads.

Counter-demonstrations are important to claim our streets—to show them that they don’t have the majority. That they are not the voices of ordinary people.

To say we are the majority and we’re not going to accept their racism, hatred and bigotry. But also, if we’re large enough, we want to take them off the streets completely.

Rose Brown

Unison union national executive committee (pc)

Rose Brown

Rose Brown

Fascists are open and proud now. They had been driven underground, but there’s no more shame. It’s almost like a badge of honour.

And there is the rise of state-sponsored racism.

We have to be constantly on the lookout for the changing shape and face of racism and the fact that people are being told that it’s OK to be racist against certain groups.

Let’s not be frightened and think we’ve just got to look after our own. A united front will make the far right run fast.

The problem is things such as the Democratic Football Lads Alliance. It can appeal to a demographic of people who are marginalised and who will listen to its arguments about migrants. People need to be educated about why people need to move. Migrants don’t create their own crises. They don’t create their own wars. Refugees on the move are often the innocent victims of conflicts.

The fact is that freedom of movement is something that was agreed throughout Europe. Why are people suddenly being stigmatised for something they’re entitled to do?

Trade unions are good at organising. They’ve got mass memberships and if they work together they can mobilise. That’s what we do. We’ve got people who are committed, who are experienced and can encourage others.

The organising model of the trade union is what is needed. Getting people to organise themselves, show people that they can. We have funds, buildings and facilities that people can use. That can encourage people.

As trade unionists we also have to fight austerity. We have to let people know who’s at fault and why austerity is there.

If the big corporations paid their taxes everybody would be a bit better off. Maybe we’d all get better rates of pay.


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