Workers Hammer No. 243

Autumn 2018


For union/minority action to stop the fascists!

Ominous fascist attack on RMT leader

We reprint below a leaflet issued by the Spartacist League on 21 July.

On 14 July, following a rally of some 6000 supporters of jailed fascist English Defence League (EDL) founder Tommy Robinson, a gang of fascist thugs launched a vicious assault on members of the RMT union as they sat drinking in a Westminster pub. Assistant general secretary of the union Steve Hedley and his partner Bridget Power were hospitalised after Robinson’s supporters hurled glasses and metal chairs at them. Several other RMT members were injured in the attack. Hedley had earlier spoken at a counter-protest against Robinson. True to form, the police detained both Hedley and Power for having the temerity to defend themselves. After her release from hospital with bruised ribs, Power was held in police custody for several hours.

The same day as the attack on the RMT, the fascists surrounded a London bus, terrorising the driver — a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. In June, 15,000 Robinson supporters, some giving Nazi salutes, marched through London before attacking anti-racist counter-protesters. A march in Leeds, also in June, was followed some days later by the firebombing of a mosque and a Sikh gurdwara. These attacks underline that fascism is not a system of bad ideas which can be defeated through exposure, or argued away. Fascists differ from right-wing ideologues such as UKIP in that they are paramilitary gangs whose purpose is racist terror and ultimately the destruction of the workers movement.

That fascist scum feel bold enough to assault a prominent leader of one of the country’s most powerful unions is an ominous development. The RMT organises tens of thousands, including large numbers of black and Asian workers. This represents considerable social power that the fascists should fear.

While trade unions have endorsed the recent anti-fascist counter-protests, their mobilisation has been limited to small numbers of workers behind union banners. The organisers of these protests see the unions as just one more constituency alongside “faith groups” and leftists. What’s needed is not bringing out trade union members as atomised individuals, but mobilising disciplined contingents of unionised workers. Standing at the head of the oppressed, the workers movement uniquely has the numbers, organisation and power to sweep the fascists off the streets.

It is the decaying capitalist order that creates the conditions in which the fascists thrive, and the fight against fascism is therefore inseparable from the fight to overthrow the capitalist system. Mobilising the unions to defend workers and the oppressed requires a political fight against the trade union bureaucracy, which is wedded to capitalism and to class collaboration and has not waged an effective fight to defend union members against austerity, much less defend minorities.

The police persecution of Hedley and Power illustrates the folly of looking to the forces of the capitalist state to act against the fascists. The state is not “neutral” between the fascists and the workers movement. The police, along with the army, the courts and the prisons are the core of the capitalist state — the repressive apparatus that defends the property and the interests of the capitalists against the working class and oppressed. The job of the police includes breaking workers strikes, brutalising black and Asian people and spying on leftists and trade unionists.

Reliance on the cops for protection against the fascists is suicidal, but that is precisely the programme of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Stand Up To Racism (SUTR). The 14 July counter-protest jointly organised by the UAF and SUTR ultimately relied on police to defend the 3000 anti-fascist demonstrators against much bigger forces of fascists and other reactionaries.

The British capitalist rulers today do not need to resort to fascism to crush the workers movement. However, the capitalist rulers hold the fascist shock troops in reserve so that they can be unleashed against the working people in times of social upheaval. The fascists today are small, but the workers movement must understand it is precisely when they are weak that the fascists must be crushed.

At bottom, the union misleaders and the reformist left push illusions that the way to combat fascism is by electing a Corbyn-led Labour government. In contrast, the Spartacist League’s perspective of mobilising union power to stop the fascists also aims to imbue the working class with consciousness of its social power and revolutionary potential. This is a step towards building a revolutionary party, a champion of all the oppressed, which can lead the working class to overturn the depraved capitalist system which is itself the source of fascist barbarism.