One month ago we saw one of the largest and most diverse rallies in defence of multiculturalism and modern Britain. The vibrant London Borough of Tower Hamlets, with its mix of many cultures living side by side together is a true anathema to the English Defence League.
On the day of the EDL’s planned march through Tower Hamlets, local community leaders including the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, lgbt communities, students, faith representatives including those from the local mosque and residents joined with the labour movement in opposing the violent thuggery of the EDL. Many different trade unions were represented and their banners held high alongside placards calling for black and white to unite against racism. The day was a success for the anti-racist movement as the EDL were denied their provocative march through the East End, which is wholly reminiscent of the defeat of Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts on Cable street 75 years ago.
As public sector cuts and record unemployment wreak havoc on communities, there are those who seek to exploit and sow division within them in order to distract from the realities of what is a vicious right-wing government. Racism always thrives in times of economic hardship and this is evidenced in David Cameron’s statement in February, on the same day the EDL rallied in Luton; that ‘multiculturalism had failed.’ The Guardian this week held a report entitled “David Cameron launches immigration crackdown” which included details of how the public would be urged to report suspected illegal immigrants. This is a clear and open invitation for people to report anyone who looks different to them, be it colour of their skin, their place of worship, their language or the way they dress and is a turn for the worst when it comes to race relations in Britain.
The EDL may claim that they are against ‘militant Islam’, but have been known to quickly change their target to the labour movement. Recently, EDL members attacked a well-known progressive bookshop in Liverpool, known for their anti-racist activity. As the student movement revived itself last year against the rise in fees, the EDL put out a disturbing statement saying that they would ‘be there’ the next time students hold a demonstration. The EDL brutally attacked a Labour Party anti-racism meeting in Barking, leaving several people injured. Even in my own Borough of Thurrock, the EDL accosted members of Young Labour as they were about to come to campaign against the BNP – many felt so threatened that they had to abandon campaigning. This is the reality of the far-right in Britain today; where they are emboldened enough to attack Mosques, they then attack trade unionists and labour activists.
This is why it is vital that trade unionists and those on the sharp end of Islamophobia and racism ally together to celebrate modern Britain and the many communities that make it what it is. This Saturday I look forward to hearing from leading members of the Labour Party, such as Peter Hain MP, Helen Goodman MP, Jack Dromey MP and Claude Moraes MEP this weekend, alongside leading trade unionists such as Francis O’Grady the TUC Deputy General Secretary. Farooq Murad, of the Muslim Council of Britain, Edie Friedman from the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Pav Akhtar from UK Black Pride and Kanja Sesay, the NUS Black Students’ Officer. This represents the progressive alliance that we need if we are to resoundingly defeat fascism.
Unite Against Fascism and One Society Many Cultures will hold their Conference on multiculturalism on the 15th October at the TUC Conference Centre.