Manchester Socialist Appeal supporters were confronted by fascist thugs at a recent Labour rally. The labour movement must organise around clear socialist demands to fightback against the far right.
Earlier this month, on Monday 2nd September, Socialist Appeal supporters in Manchester attended a Labour Party rally. The speakers on the platform included a range of prominent Labour MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Angela Rayner, Rebecca Long Bailey, and Diane Abbott.
This rally came off the back of the suspension of Parliament, with a wave of calls to fightback against Johnson. The speakers all took a firm position on the need for a Labour government.
They talked about the millions of homeless and starving people in the UK. Diane Abbott told the audience that everything she had, she owed to the Labour movement – from the free orange juice given to school children, to the grant she was given to go to university.
Rebecca Long-Bailey highlighted the nationalisations promised in the Labour Party manifesto. Drawing attention to the excessive cost of living in Tory Britain, many speakers reiterated the need for a £10 an hour minimum wage and greater empowerment for trade unions.
The mood amongst the crowd was one of excitement and enthusiasm. Speakers were pausing every 30 seconds to take in applause from the audience. Angela Rayner asked attendees to sign up to volunteer, and more than half of the room took out their phones at that moment to sign up. It is clear that people are ready to fight for a Labour government.
There were over a thousand people present at this rally. This shows that a genuine class-based campaign from Labour would galvanise a huge amount of voters. This is what we should be fighting for.
However, although class-based politics were the focus in this meeting, rather than Brexit; and despite every speaker saying ‘whether you voted Leave or Remain, we are here to fight for the many not the few’: the battle is still being hailed by the establishment media as one between Leave and Remain voters.
This divisive rhetoric along non-class lines has played right into the hands of right-wing demagogues like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, and also thugs like Tommy Robinson. They have painted themselves as defenders of ‘the people’ against the establishment, all the while whipping up nationalism and flag-waving jingoism.
This has emboldened some far-right Brexit supporters, who are increasingly attempting to harass and intimidate trade unionists, Labour Party members, and socialist activists.
Upon exiting the venue, we came across a band of around 20 people who were surrounding James Goddard, a reactionary ‘yellow vest’ protestor. Goddard and a couple of his gang had been there before the meeting, but had obviously called more people out to try and attack attendees and disrupt the mood of excitement created by the rally.
Comparing the atmosphere beforehand and afterwards was like night and day. Before, when knowingly outnumbered by people entering the theatre, with an ITV news camera on a few feet away, Goddard and his crew adopted a tamer approach.
But later, when around ten Socialist Appeal activists left the meeting slightly before the end, the thugs took a more aggressive approach. They marched over to us chanting: “You lost the vote, you lost the vote.”
This was amusing, given that only an hour earlier Goddard had quizzed me, where I stated in no uncertain terms that Socialist Appeal does not support the demand for a second referendum. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story.
There was, of course, the customary screaming of ill-informed, near-indecipherable nonsense coming from a megaphone. This is to be expected from fascists and the far right, whose main concern is intimidation and infantile spectacle. The megaphone hinted at their true character: they were prepared for, and were likely expecting, a confrontation in which volume would be the deciding factor.
As Socialist Appeal activists left the theatre, Goddard, who before was unremarkable and rather boring, was now ready for a fight. Gone was the faux-intellect and the need to legitimise himself; here he was in his true reactionary character.
Goddard and his gang ran down the usual pre-prepared lists of reactionary talking points: how socialism doesn’t work; how Johnson is a demi-god for pushing through a no-deal Brexit; how Venezuela and Cuba were destroyed by socialism. Unable to defend any of his own views, Goddard constantly moved the goal-posts to disrupt any genuine debate.
Supercut of the human weasel James Goddard getting arrested in Salford.@0161Festival @AntifaIntel @JLRFB pic.twitter.com/LJSLO97RMf
— kahwe the dj (@kkahwe) September 4, 2019
Broken status quo
For all of their cretinism, their lies, and their hatred of us, I must admit that watching them was a sad sight. Amongst their ranks were working-class men and women, disabled people, young people, and the elderly: the very people who would suffer under the ideology Goddard spouts.
Some of those who fall into the orbit of figures like Robinson and Goddard are those who have been left behind by capitalism and alienated from the society around them. This feeling of being left behind also partially explains the Brexit vote in 2016.
In our earlier exchanges, Goddard had been very enthusiastic about class-based politics, and the battle between the ruling class and working class. Behind all the racism and nationalism, reactionaries like Robinson and Goddard do tap into an anger towards the broken status quo and the liberal establishment, taking up (in a distorted way) demands around jobs, housing, and public services.
And after decades of Blairism, and with figures like Tom Watson now leading the charge against Brexit and for a second referendum, far-right figures like Goddard have little problem presenting Labour and the left as part of this much-hated establishment.
The blame for this lies not with those taken in by the promise of the ‘good old days’, or of a return to some idealised past. The blame, as ever, lies with those at the top: Farage, Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Murdoch – and ultimately the capitalist system that they all defend.
We hear their lies, their distortions of the truth, and we reject them wholeheartedly.
Fight for socialism
The only way to fight these pernicious ideas is by Labour and the trade unions responding with a bold, class-based approach.
On the one hand, the labour movement needs to come out onto the streets to meet the fascists and the far right head on. This means organising to protect our demonstrations and rallies, and to defend activists against intimidation by reactionary thugs.
And on the other hand, we need to go on the offensive politically, building a class-based movement that will unite people in a fight for a socialist alternative, and not divide people along the lines of nationality, race, gender, and sexuality.
The first step in this is to fight for a Labour government on a socialist programme. A general election fought with mass mobilisation around class-based politics is the only way to cut across the growth of the poisonous ideas of the far right.
Fight for a general election! Fight for a socialist Labour government!