Unite members gathered discuss how to tackle the far-right and racism at the union’s rules conference in Brighton this week.
At the Unity Over Division fringe, delegates discussed the union’s efforts to challenge extreme right wing efforts to sow fear and division within communities.
Addressing the packed out meeting, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said, “We need to understand how we take our messages back into our workplaces, back into our communities – in the pub, on the bus, in the home very often – in a way in which we’re not just telling people you’re wrong, you’re a facist, you’re a racist.
“We’re having a difficult discussion with them. How do you steer that conversation away from the angry response that very often you get from people that are tinkering with the far-right. We’ve set up Unity Over Division to empower our activists to have that conversation.”
Turner added that the union has implemented a training course to provide reps with the skills and knowledge to challenge far-right narratives in workplaces and communities.
In a moving contribution, Unite executive council member for black and ethnic minorities, Susan Matthews told the meeting that austerity and the enmity caused by Brexit has opened divisions that have turned working people against one another.
She said, “There has been such a damaging impact on working class people. People feel at a disadvantage and need to find a group to belong to and be accepted by. As trade unionists we need to stop people buying (into the far right) and bring them together.”
Matthews also spoke at the Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) fringe, chaired by Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett, about her own experiences as a black woman since Brexit and the need to combat racism in schools and communities.
Beckett added, “SRtRC is a charity that is about using the medium of football to engage with young people. Sadly the national curriculum does not allow a space to allow teachers to teach anti-racism. SRtRC fills this gap.
“Unite continues to call for anti-racism to be on the curriculum and for Labour to include this in its next manifesto. It is only by education that we can truly seek to rid the world of racism.”