UAF conference Standing up to fascism and racism

by New Worker correspondent

HUNDREDS of anti-fascist and anti-racist activists packed the TUC’s main conference room at its headquarters in London last Saturday for the annual conference of Unite Against Fascism.

The conference had so many urgent topics to debate that it divided from the outset into four different discussion groups covering:

  1. Mobilising against the far right and fascist street movements across Europe with speakers Christine Buchholz, a Die Linke MP from Germany, Martin Lynch from the Black Country and Sabby Dhalu, joint general secretary of UAF.
  2. War, torture and Islamophobia — defend civil liberties with speakers Shahrar Ali from the Green Party, Lindsey German from Stop the War, Mohammed Kozbar from the Muslim Association of Britain, Hamja Ahsan from free Talha Ahsan campaign and human rights lawyer Louise Christian.
  3. Opposing austerity and racism and scapegoating immigrants with speakers Jeremy Corbyn MP, Sam Fairburn from the People’s Assembly, Abiola Famakinwa, economist Mick Burke and Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing.
  4. Never Against — 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz with speakers Gerry Gable and Colette Levy.

Attendance was so high that all these sessions were packed and about 30 people left over who could not squeeze into any of them.

The first plenary session, focussing on uniting against Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and fascism in Europe, required three extra rows of seating put out and still people were standing.

Speakers included Christine Buchholz, Owen Jones, writer Victoria Brittain, Ken Livingstone and CWU general secretary Billy Hayes.

Marwan Muhammed, speaking for Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), called for anti-fascism to be focussed more on the needs of its victims. He warned that many victims do not report attacks because they have no confidence that anything will happen and that little or no effort will be made to bring the attackers to justice.

He warned that the effect of racism on its victims is to totally destroy their self-image as human beings.

After lunch there were four more big discussion groups: Black lives matter; Keep racism out of the general election; Stand up to Ukip and Je ne suis pas Charlie — incitement of hatred and Islamophobia is not freedom of speech.

Speakers included relatives of black people who died in custody Janet Alder and Marcia Rigg, Zita Holbourne, Diane Abbott MP, Steve Hart from the union Unite, Emily Thornberry MP, Claude Moraes MEP, footballer Francis Duku and Lee Jasper.

It was an event that brought together the whole spectrum of left politics and touched on many other issues: austerity, civil rights, peace and so on.

One topic missing from the main discussion arenas was the new fascist government in Ukraine that includes hard core Nazis and the regime of terror there.

But a stall run by the New Communist Party did its best to make up for this deficit with copies of the New Worker, leaflets and many discussions.

A small handful of fascists made an attempt to disrupt the conference but were kept well at bay by police and conference stewards. After the event a group of anti-fascists leaving were set upon by fascists. But the anti-fascists were ready and soon had the fascists running from them.