June 9th last month marked the largest mobilisation of the far right since the 1930s, when about 15,000 people gathered in a racist demonstration in London in support of former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson.
By comparison, the counter-demonstration organised by Stand Up to Racism and others was small. In the days following the demonstration, other large racist marches in cities and towns throughout the UK drew an alarming number of people, and were followed by racist attacks.
Delegates at Unite’s policy conference stood firm against this burgeoning mobilisation of the far right as conference highlighted a new diffuse and growing organisation – the Football Lads Alliance (FLA).
Founded last year, the FLA uses football to disseminate xenophobia, especially Islamophobia. While presenting itself as an ‘anti-extremist’ organisation, it has aligned itself with many in the far-right such as Tommy Robinson and its Facebook page moderators freely tolerate hate speech from its members against women, Muslims and black and ethnic minority groups.
Unite delegate Ian Allinson moved an emergency motion on opposing the FLA, which garnered unanimous support.
“We must send the message loud and clear [to the FLA and other groups] that ‘you will not pass’,” he said, as he called on Unite to systematically educate its members about racism and Islamophobia.
Speaking in support of the motion, Unite executive council member Simon Rosenthal highlighted that the FLA is spreading its influence by co-opting football. He urged Unite to take a stand.
Trade unions take the lead
“We cannot sit back and let anti-racist groups do this on their own,” he said. “Trade unions must take the lead.”
Unite Ireland region delegate Neil Moore agreed, highlighting trade unions’ ability to bring working people together – against sectarianism, racism, and division of all kinds.
Also speaking in support of the motion was Unite delegate Steve Saxby, who urged conference that Unite “needs to cause a crisis for the FLA”.
“Fascism is not acceptable on our streets,” he said.
The motion was unanimously carried. It comes as Unite general secretary Len McCluskey slammed the FLA in the Daily Mirror on Monday (July 2).
“We can’t leave the resistance to traditional anti-racist groups alone,” he said. “I call on all trade union members to become part of the opposition to the rise of a new far right street movement. Let not the peddlers of prejudice win.”