Following disturbing scenes of racist violence in Merseyside recently, anti-fascist activists mobilised a strong counter-demo in Rotherham last Saturday, stopping the far right in their tracks. This shows the potential power of workers’ unity.
On Saturday 18 February, Sheffield Marxists mobilised dozens of activists, joining hundreds of other workers and youth for an anti-fascist protest in Rotherham.
This demonstration was called in reaction to attempts by far-right groups to emulate earlier attacks on asylum-seekers in Knowsley, Merseyside.
In Rotherham, as in Knowsley, the fascists targeted a hotel used to temporarily accommodate refugees.
The far right only managed to mobilise around 70 people, however, and were vastly outnumbered by the counter-demonstration – by almost 10 times.
The counter-protest gathered just outside the entrance of the hotel, standing in the way of the racist thugs. This was enough to deter them from attempting to replicate the scenes of violence seen recently in Merseyside.
Despite spreading lies, whipping up fear and hate, and attempting to plan (including placing spotters at the train station), this far-right mob were rendered impotent on the day.
They jeered from afar, sheltered behind dozens of police. But their insults were completely overshadowed by our chants.
The main slogans and speeches on the counter-demo raised the need for solidarity, denouncing deportations and calling out the Tory government for their racist rhetoric and policies.
Those on the megaphone spoke militantly, explaining how the labour movement should organise to fight the far-right menace.
A speaker from the RMT gave a rousing speech, exposing the ruling class’ divide-and-rule tactics. They pointed out that solidarity is more than an abstract ideal – it is being built every day between workers on the picket lines.
One Socialist Appeal activist also spoke, highlighting that these attacks are a direct consequence of the ruling class’ attempts to whip-up division between workers; of the xenophobic hysteria of the capitalist press; and of the criminal policies of the Home Office.
We fight for open borders and for the rights of all workers, regardless of nationality, the comrade explained. It is capitalism and its representatives who are responsible for crumbling public services, the shortage of jobs and housing, and low wages.
This is what our comrade said at the counter-demo. The workers will not allow the ruling class to divide and distract us. Workers of the world unite! https://t.co/tYeGpchBw7 pic.twitter.com/zFbkvW9NWs
— Sheffield Marxist Society (@SheffMarxSoc) February 20, 2023
Saturday’s anti-fascist demonstration displayed what workers’ solidarity looks like, with the refugees inside the hotel holding up ‘thank you’ signs against their windows.
At the same time, this solidarity protest in Rotherham offered only a glimpse of the potential strength of our movement. Despite being poorly advertised, limited to circles of the organised left, the mobilisation still dwarfed the small number of fascists who turned up.
Working-class unity is vital in our struggle to defeat the far right. It is the task of the labour movement to organise and defend migrants against repression, aggression, and exploitation.
This battle will only be won through the methods of class struggle; by fighting for a socialist alternative to capitalism’s barbarism.
Only a united workers’ movement – fighting for a clear socialist programme – can drive the fascists off our streets, overthrow the racist ruling class, and answer the burning problems in society, upon which the far right thrive.
Hundreds rally in Liverpool to say ‘refugees welcome’
Mike Hogan, Liverpool Marxists
In response to the far-right violence in Kirkby, Merseyside, on 10 February, several hundreds attended an anti-racist rally in Liverpool last Saturday.
This protest was called under the slogan ‘refugees welcome here’, with speakers including Jeremy Corbyn.
The rally was chaired by Chantelle Lunt of Black Lives Matter, who exposed the racists’ lies about refugees, describing Liverpool as a city built by migrants.
Tracey Hylton of the PCS union summarised the theme of many contributions: “There is a war being fought against our class, and they are going back to the old playbook of dividing us up.”
The fascists called a miniscule counter-demonstration, to which only around six people turned up. They were easily dealt with by the Merseyside Anti-Fascist Network, who ruined their attempt to film a propaganda piece.
There was a good turn out from the unions, including PCS, RMT, FBU, Unite, UCU, and Unison.
The pernicious role of the Tories was summed up by Phil Maxwell of the Merseyside Pensioners Association, who was present in Kirkby, attempting to protest against the far right.
“They need a diversion from the so-called cost-of-living crisis,” Phil stated, “because it is really a daylight-robbery crisis.”
— Merseyside Pensioners Association (@MerseyPensioner) February 18, 2023