The National Unity Demo 17 November 2018 – Unity with whom?

London RCG at the National Unity Demo 18 November 2018

On 17 November London RCG comrades joined the march billed as a ‘National Unity Demonstration Against Racism and Fascism’. It was organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) with the endorsement of leading Labour Party figures and sponsorship of the Trades Union Congress. SUTR and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) have been building for this event for months; the stated purpose was to show that the British left and labour movement are united in the face of attempts by the far right to rebuild in Britain and internationally, especially the several large rallies in support of far-right idol Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (‘Tommy Robinson’) that were held in London over the summer. SUTR stressed that it was absolutely paramount for all anti-racist and left organisations to come together in the style of the SWP-led Anti-Nazi League (ANL) that formed in the 1970s and re-formed in the 1990s, and defy a rising racist threat.

This, at least, was the official story. The RCG argued months ago (see A new 'Anti-Nazi League’? Still seeking unity with the dividers? Still seeking unity with the dividers) that this respectability parade would be an attempt to distract from the Labour Party’s overtly racist manifesto pledges and promises by its leadership. There can be no doubt that Labour remains a racist party. Diane Abbott MP, the Shadow Home Secretary and president of SUTR, has signalled Labour’s intention to continue operating Britain’s system of immigration detention centres and border policing that violently imprisons and deports thousands of people each year and creates systematic, divisive inequality between migrants and the rest of the working class. Abbott has committed to supporting this system by recruiting 500 more border guards and, in language which is indistinguishable from the xenophobic tones of the Tories or previous Labour administrations, has promised ‘real border security – to stop drug traffickers, sex traffickers, gangsters and terrorists – that is what Labour stands for.’

In the past, the ANL played the role of distracting people from Labour’s racism. By gesturing with exaggerated alarm at the ‘Nazis’ on Britain’s streets, it was possible to ignore Labour and the TUC’s support for the immigration acts. But far right organisations are far from power in Britain and can only dream of wielding the instruments of racist violence that the Tories use today, and Labour will use in government if elected. To paint the far right as a greater threat to migrants and working-class organisations than the British state is pure propaganda on behalf of Labour.

The RCG joined the demonstration with a clear and timely message: that Zionism is racism, and that unity against racism means unity with Palestinians resisting ethnic cleansing by the Israeli state. This should be a central pillar of anti-racist organising in Britain today. However, Palestine was notably absent from the official agenda and received no mention from the speakers at the rally, despite the recent attacks on Gaza which killed at least 10 Palestinians, as well as the thousands shot by Israeli snipers since March, protesting for their right to return to land they were expelled from through ethnic cleansing. The reason for this is clear: Labour has backed down in the face of a Zionist campaign of censorship and smears, adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which silences criticism of Israel as a racist state. Our petition to oppose the IHRA was signed by dozens of marchers and many stated that they would join our struggle. With their support we will continue to build our campaign against IHRA, targeting the London Labour-led councils which are preparing to implement the IHRA definition into their standing orders, anti-discrimination policies and staff codes of conduct.

At the demonstration, RCG comrades questioned members of SUTR: can unity against racism really mean unity with a political party that promises to imprison and deport migrants, wage war against the people of other nations, and defend Israeli apartheid from criticism? This was met with accusations that such truths would sow division and threaten ‘unity’. The only thing that is threatened by such straightforward questions is Labour opportunism. SUTR’s ‘unity’ still means unity with racists, unity with imperialism.

Solidarity with migrants against racist immigration controls! Freedom for Palestine! Zionism is racism!



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