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We will be united against racism on 16 March

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Activists are gearing up for an international day of protest against racism and fascism on 16 March. Organisers from the US and Europe spoke to Socialist Worker about how they’re mobilising to beat back the right
Issue 2641
Some 250,000 protested against fascism in Berlin last October
Some 250,000 protested against fascism in Berlin last October (Pic: andiweiland/Flickr)

Across the world politicians are ramping up their racist assault against Muslims, migrants and refugees. And their state-sponsored racism is fuelling the rise of fascist and far right forces.

The international day of action against racism on 16 March is a chance to strengthen the movement against them.

In Europe far right parties such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD) are coordinating their efforts to grab more seats in the European elections in May.

There will be demonstrations against racism in Austria, Germany, France, Poland and other countries.

Many of the far right forces in Europe have been inspired by Donald Trump and the alt right.

That’s why it’s important that US anti-racist activists will join the international day of action for the first time.

And in Britain the divided Tories are trying to get back on the front foot by whipping up more racism against migrants. This could once again boost fascists such as Tommy Robinson.

Be part of the movement against racism and the far right on 16 March.

‘Fascists in Poland even demonstrated at Auschwitz on Holocaust Memorial Day’

Andy Zebrowski United Against Racism activist, Poland

Poland’s racist, right wing government is doing everything it can to make fascism appear normal.

Every November the fascists organise and lead an Independence Day march in the capital Warsaw.

Last year’s 200,000-strong march to mark 100 years of Polish independence was jointly organised by fascists and the highest state authorities.

It was fronted by the president, prime minister, cabinet ministers and columns of military vehicles with soldiers walking alongside fascists.

This is boosting the fascists’ confidence.

Around 50 fascists demonstrated at Auschwitz death camp on Holocaust Memorial Day last month. They went unchallenged by the police even after chanting, “Time to fight Jewry.”

We know that the majority of people are disgusted by fascism and racist attacks. And the anti-racist demonstrations on 16 March are a great opportunity to show this on the streets.

The United Against Racism (Zjednoczeni Przeciw Rasizmowi) in Poland is calling for demonstrations and pickets throughout the country. The coalition brings together activists from left parties, the Greens, trade unions, interfaith groups and NGOs working with refugees and migrants.

At the moment actions are planned in 13 towns and cities.

The biggest demonstration will be in Warsaw where we have managed to involve school teachers and pupils in spreading the word. The student anti-fascist committees in Warsaw and Gdansk on the northern coast are also involved.

‘Breakthrough for far right was a shock’

David Karvala United Against Fascism and Racism activist, Spanish state

The far right Vox party’s parliamentary breakthrough last December was a shock for people across the Spanish state.

It grabbed 12 seats in the parliament of the southern region of Andalusia.

Commentators argued that the mainstream conservative PP, with its racist policies, would mop up fascist voters. In fact, when mainstream parties use racist and far right arguments it makes it easier, not harder, for the fascists.

So here the international day of protests will be strongly focused on the call to “Stop Vox”.

We initiated Unity Against Fascism and Racism (UCFR) in Catalonia in 2010—and we have defeated the fascist Platform for Catalonia party.

Unfortunately, in most of the Spanish state the fight against the far right has so far been restricted to small, far left “antifa” groups. Despite their best efforts, they cannot stop Vox on their own.

UCFR published a call last December encouraging people in other areas to build united movements against racism and the far right. It has been signed by a whole range of movements and organisations. A Spanish state-wide meeting last month was a great success.

Activists from other areas went home with thousands of leaflets, and above all the desire to start building movements like UCFR.

The next date on their agenda is 23 March, rather than 16 March. That’s to allow more time to build for them after the international women’s day actions on 8 March, which will be massive and include opposition to Vox.

Establishing united movements against the far right in more areas will be a big step forward.

‘Building opposition to racism in Australia helps us to confront the far right’

Jasmine Ali, activist with Stand Together Committee and member of Solidarity

On 16 March, Melbourne will be mobilising to “Stand Together against Racism and the Right”. The rally will highlight the concerning growth of the far right globally. But our main focus will be on building opposition to our conservative Liberal-National Coalition government.

The Coalition, through a series of policies, has intensified racism and spurred the confidence of far right groups in Australia.

The government has rehabilitated white Australian nationalism. It has continued assimilationist policies towards Aboriginal people – the rate of Aboriginal child removal is higher than the infamous stolen generation of early twentieth-century.

Aboriginal people are now the most incarcerated group of people in the planet.

The government has ramped up border control policies, detaining refugees who arrive by boat on offshore camps on former Australian colonies in the Pacific, Nauru and the Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

It has launched attacks on migrants, making citizenship requirements more onerous, and scapegoated migrants for the demise of public transport, and housing.

It has bolstered Islamophobia, with policies that place Muslims under more intense surveillance. More recently, it has fuelled anti-black racism against African and Sudanese people by associating minorities with crime.

In pushing racism, the government has given legitimacy to small far right and Nazi groupings.

Far right groups have harassed black youth, and with attacked synagogues and mosques.

The Stand Together Against Racism Committee is a broad anti-racist group. It involves members of the trade unions, migrant organisations, refugee and Indigenous rights groups, as well as members of the Labour Party, The Greens and Socialists.

By building broad opposition to the Coalition’s racist policies, we are continuing to build the wider forces necessary to confront further far right mobilisations. And we are building an ongoing campaign that can put pressure on the incoming Labour government after the Federal election in May.

‘The massacre at the synagogue in Pittsburgh was a wake up call. We had to start organising’

Iannis Delatolas United Against Racism and Fascism-NYC, US

Since the election of Donald Trump we have seen the worrying rise of the racists and Nazis in the US.

The far right see Trump in a similar was to the way the left see reformists. He’s not going to give them exactly what they want, but he is going to open up space in which they can operate.

Trump is going to deport more migrants, increase border security and so on. That gives the far right’s arguments more traction and makes them more acceptable—it also gives them confidence.

There have been a number of worrying developments. Recently a far right group called Patriot Prayer made threats against meetings of the International Socialist Organisation and Democratic Socialists of America at the university in Portland, Oregon. The administration caved in and called the meetings off. It’s a dangerous precedent.

Patriot Prayer also attacked the office of the Industrial Workers of the World trade union in the same city.

The massacre at the synagogue in Pittsburgh in November 2018 was a wake up call. 11 people were killed and another eight injured. We started organising in the week after the massacre.

We have been arguing for a broad anti-racist, anti-fascist campaign to confront the far right and racists and discuss how to fight Trump and his vision of society. We don’t really have to convince people that such an organisation is needed—that’s clear.

We have a group in New York City (United Against Racism and Fascism-NYC) and a group in Washington DC called DC United Against Hate.

We’re building for the 16 March international day of anti-racist protests. There’s going to be a rally in Foley Square in the centre of New York, and then possibly a march if we have enough people.

Racist, bigoted, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is coming to the US soon after M16, so we’re mobilising against his visit as well.

So far we have succeeded in bringing together the left, including people who voted for Hillary Clinton.

The left has been very divided since the presidential elections in 2016. Building these links is important.

‘We are having a joint action with activists in Turkey’

Petros Constantinou Coordinator of the Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat in Greece

The right have tried to play the nationalist card over Greece’s northern neighbour Macedonia. They want to deny the right of the Macedonian people to choose their own name as a country.

The Syriza government struck an agreement with the Macedonian government which allows them to call themselves North Macedonia.

The right, far right and the fascists have tried to oppose this. And there were nationalist demonstrations.

They tried to disorientate the anger and disillusionment that people have with the Syriza government’s sellouts.

Polls show the right are above Syriza in upcoming parliamentary elections this year, but their attempts to push for a nationalist agenda has been defeated practically.

This is also a period when the workers’ movement is getting on the streets. Just before the 16 March we have 8 March—International Women’s Day—when the main public sector union plans to begin a four-day strike.

People are still moving to the left.

And of course there is a campaign in solidarity with refugees.

The Syriza government is implementing the European Union’s deal with Turkey. This means that the refugees are locked in detention centres on the Greek islands and the mainland.

There are a lot of refugees trying to cross the border from Turkey by land across the Evros river.

That’s why in preparation for the 16 March we in the Greek anti-racist organisation Keerfa had a joint action with activists in Turkey on Sunday. We organised a demonstration on the bridge across Evros.

There are going to be demonstrations in eight of the main cities in Greece on 16 March. They’ll involve trade unions, refugee organisations, women’s organisations and LGBT+ organisations, students unions and school students.

‘Anti-racism is on the rise in Germany’

Phil Butland Stand Up Against Racism activist, Germany

Anti-racist protests on 16 March in Germany come less than a year after the large Nazi mobilisations in Chemnitz. They were followed by hundreds of attacks against Muslims, Jews and other minorities.

The activities in Chemnitz last August have increased the confidence of the Nazi wing of the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Polls in October 2018 predicted that the AfD would get 16 percent of the vote in the European Union elections in May. More recent polls have AfD support down to between 10 and 12 percent, which is still no cause for complacency. In addition to spreading hatred against migrants, the AfD’s euro election campaign is based around opposing “Islamisation”.

Not everything is bleak.

Anti-racism is also on the rise as a reaction to the Chemnitz attacks and the threat of the AfD.

Some 250,000 people protested for refugee rights at the #Unteilbar (indivisible) demonstration in Berlin last October.

Unfortunately left party Die Linke has not been able to gain from rising anti-racism as much as it should.

As hundreds of thousands marched for refugees, the party was beset by an internal fight. The co-leader of the parliamentary group, Sahra Wagenknecht, attacked the party’s policy of open borders.

The Die Linke parliamentary fraction has called an anti?racism conference in March. As well as MPs, speakers include representatives of refugee, Jewish and Muslim groups.

It’s essential that the left unites with victims of racism, rather than treat them as a problem to be washed away.

‘The people are on our side’

David Albrich activist in Platform for a More Humane Asylum Policy

This year began with a frontal attack on human rights by Austria’s Tory/Nazi coalition government.

The fascist FPO party interior minister Herbert Kickl said he would take on “strange legal structures, developed under totally different circumstances”.

He was referring to the European Convention on Human Rights, which was formulated after the horror of the Holocaust and the Second World War. It guarantees the right to seek and secure asylum in other countries.

Kickl’s declaration of war on human rights is not just the beginning of a new racist offensive ahead of the European elections in May.

It is part of the FPO’s project to build a fascist street movement.

Fascists today try to establish a favourable social climate, where open street violence is again tolerated. So the Tory/Nazi coalition is increasing deportations of refugees and has introduced a ban on headscarves in nurseries.

Most governments in Europe have turned rightwards, but people are on our side. Some 87 percent of people in Austria said they won’t tolerate someone “glorifying national socialism”.

We have to call the fascists what they are—it hurts them.

We’re building for a major demonstration in Vienna on 16 March under the slogan, “Stand up to racism.” It is our best weapon to fight the rise of fascism.

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