Supporters of the English Defence League (EDL) and the British National Party (BNP) laid siege to Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, last Saturday. The mobilisation should be a wake-up call to every anti-fascist and anti-racist in Britain. This was the largest gathering of fascists and the far right on the streets of Britain since the 1970s. It will give them more confidence—to air their bigoted views and to act on them. We cannot allow the EDL to assemble in such large numbers again. Such mobilisations can create the impression that racism and fascism are rampant in Britain. They can make Asian and black people feel isolated—and paralyse the opposition to the racists. The BNP knows that it can use the EDL to strengthen its base and snatch more votes. And where the BNP gains votes, racist violence increases. But anti-racists are the vast majority in society. We can stop the Nazis. Everyone must get to Dudley on 4 April—the EDL’s next target—to show the strength of opposition to them. We need to build a militant mass movement to drive fascists and their supporters off our streets. We should mobilise at every level—in the trade union movement, schools, colleges and universities, council tenants’ groups, mosques and churches. But there is another side to our task. Labour has failed ordinary people, and its betrayals have increased disillusionment with mainstream parties in general. It has used scaremongering over immigration to divert attention from its own failings. Meanwhile the “war on terror” has led to a rise in Islamophobia. All of this feeds the EDL and the BNP. Socialists have to put the question of class at the heart of the struggle against fascism. We have to put forward socialist solutions to answer the real problems that ordinary people face. The trillions spent on bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the bailout of the banks has exposed the hypocrisy of our ruling class. There is always money for the rich, for war and destruction. But there is never money for things that the working class—black and white, British and migrant—desperately need. Swingeing cuts have already begun. They will continue to destroy public services and jobs, and drive down workers’ living standards, unless we stop them. Whichever party is elected this year, it will be determined to make ordinary people pay for the crisis. That is why we need to do more than build a mass movement, although that remains crucial. We need to do everything we can to raise the level of class struggle in Britain. Every strike, every picket line and every workers’ protest unites our side and builds our confidence to fight back. We can stop our communities from becoming a breeding ground for racists. But to do it we need a united response that can stand up to the attacks—and kick the Nazis back into the gutter.
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