By Jack Yarlett
Far-right violence reared its ugly head in Knowsley last month. A crowd of around 400 people, organised and egged on by a hard core of far-right activists, violently rioted outside a hotel being used to temporarily house refugees. Although it was technically led by a band of small fascist and neo-Nazi organisations which counter-protestors came out to confront, we need to also place the blame where the blame belongs: the Tories and their right-wing ‘culture war’, which has been designed from day one to target the most oppressed in society.
The government has employed dehumanising rhetoric against migrants, LGBTQ+ people, and others in an increasingly desperate bid to distract from Britain’s dire economic situation, the crisis in the NHS, and the spiraling costs of essentials like energy, food, and housing. No matter how much they attempt to distance themselves, responsibility lies in their hands.
The alarm which came after the disturbing turnout for their protest, and the limp condemnation from the Tories (such as Suella Braverman, who refused to answer an interview question about whether or not she considered the protestors racist) will no doubt encourage the far-right groups involved, such as the neo-Nazi ‘Patriotic Alternative’, to escalate their activities.
In the past few weeks there have already been attempts to follow up the Knowsley riot with further protests against asylum seekers and drag queen story time events. However there has also an inspiring response, with counter-demonstrations from anti-racists, trade unionists and others, with Socialist Alternative also playing a role in helping to organise to drive them off our streets.
One week after the riot in Knowsley, a short-notice and last minute anti-racist demonstration was held outside St. Georges Hall in Liverpool, with around 1,000 attendees. This was a much larger crowd than the one the far-right have been able to muster in recent months. An attempted racist gathering held nearby attracted just five people, who were confronted by around 100 counter-protestors. Counter-protestors outnumbered the far-right outside a hotel housing refugees in Rotherham, and on Saturday a tiny protest organised by Turning Point UK against a drag queen story time at a pub in Lewisham was drowned out by a crowd of hundreds.
Examples like these, as well as mass community actions over the past years to stop deportation raids in Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Peckham show also the instinctive mood of solidarity from many. They are also proof that, for all of the attempts by politicians and the press to whip up ever more brazen bigotry, thousands will mobilise in opposition to this poison.
Stamp out the roots of racism
Many will feel, however, that counter-protests alone will not be enough to stamp out the roots of far-right racism. We need to get the root. After all, attacks on refugees can only grow where the ground allows it to grow.
The far-right have latched onto many of the issues affecting working class people which are bred by Tory rule and capitalism – poor housing, homeless and abuse – to drum up support for their twisted agenda. This is why the trade union movement – which includes over six million workers and hundreds of thousands on strike in recent weeks – cannot stand on the sidelines of this fight. The movement has a key role to play in uniting working class people to break the right wing and the Tories through solidarity and militant action.
A national demonstration on Budget Day – 15 March should raise the bold demand for an end to the war on refugees, for closure of all detention centres and for good quality unionised jobs and council house building to provide for all. A general strike of all workers in dispute, standing with both refugees and trans people would send a hugely powerful signal.
The unions must take up a clear position of actively campaigning against all attempts to scapegoat refugees for problems surrounding wages, working conditions, public services and housing. Special efforts must be made now to bring all migrant workers into the workers’ movement, to take action against discrimination, harassment and violence. This would show working class people everywhere who our real enemies are – the bosses and profiteers, not refugees and migrants. The workers’ movement urgently needs to build in communities like Knowsley, which for decades have gone neglected by establishment politicians.
The government knows full well that by closing down safe passage routes and making it impossible to attain citizenship for many, this refugee crisis has been deliberately bred through their actions. They have disproportionately placed refugees in some of the poorest areas, which have been made a pole of attraction for scapegoating. The far-right cannot be combatted effectively unless a socialist alternative is presented to unaffordable housing, crumbling public services and spiralling energy and food prices currently provided by capitalism.
Harassment and abuse: They have no answers!
The far-right has latched onto the very real issue of sexual harassment and abuse to cynically whip up support for their toxic ideas. After a video was revealed allegedly showing an unspecified man harassing a young school student in Knowsley, the fascist and neo-Nazi groups branded their riot as being about “protecting our women and girls”. Concerned about threats to children, some have been fed the false impression that this is what it was about. But it is exactly that – false.
This goes hand in hand with an attempt to portray male asylum seekers as predators and LGBTQ+ people as “groomers”. This despite the support the far-right has shown for the repulsive misogynist and alleged sex trafficker Andrew Tate. The same far-right groups have themselves also been known for decades to harbour a long, long list of predatory and abusive men.
This is why the only way to fight endemic abuse and harassment is through building a socialist feminist movement which can take on the system which spreads toxic patriarchal attitudes and teaches men to treat the bodies of women as possessions to control.
The best way to confront this hypocrisy is by building a movement to combat sexual harassment and gender-based violence, organising against the for-profit capitalist system that traps people in abusive relationships and forces people to put up with harassment and sexism in the workplace. Socialist Alternative is building for big turnouts at International Women’s Day events being held in towns and cities on March 8. Click here for more info on events near to you!
Ultimately the fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and all other types of oppression are intertwined with the fight to replace capitalism with socialism. Capitalism is a broken and rotting system in which a tiny minority hoards incredible amounts of wealth at the cost of poverty for the majority and the destruction of the climate. Racism and anti-migrant ideas are integral for the system’s survival. It is a tool for the ruling class to divide and sow division among the working class. We respond by uniting in struggle to defend the rights of all the oppressed.
- Build a mass movement to stamp out racism and the far right!
- Stop deportations – end the demonisation of asylum seekers. Close all detention centres!
- Build a general strike against the cost of living crisis and the racist Tory government!
- Fight harassment and transphobia with socialist feminism!
- Capitalism breeds oppression! For a socialist alternative, based on public ownership of the giant corporations and planning to meet the needs of people and the planet