Racism demands class response

Readers of the Weekly Worker will have read Mark Metcalf?s account of a recent Sunderland anti-NF mobilisation, which contained some hard hitting criticism of ANL strategy (?Anti-fascists kick off? Weekly Worker August 30).

Last Saturday, September 15, the National Front mustered their assorted rag-bag of misfits from around the country for an away-day up north in the same town. What followed was not an inspiring display of our pristine abilities in confronting racism and fascism. The assembling of approaching 100 anti-fascists was reasonable enough, given the lacklustre state of the left in the north-east; their deployment and effectiveness, however, left a lot to be desired.

The initial planning meeting had been called with the intention of organising a counter-demo under a united banner. The Socialist Workers Party, however, stole a march, with the announcement of an Anti-Nazi League demonstration the day before, and the ANL presented the meeting with a fait accompli. Given the choice of a competing counter-demonstration or reluctantly supporting the ANL demonstration, the meeting wisely chose the latter.

Even so, the day itself was marked by a display of rivalry between the Socialist Party-backed Youth Against Racism (YRE) and the SWP-backed ANL - competing leaflets, banners, etc meant that the event lacked any sense that this was supposedly a united action.

Thankfully assorted glitterati are not ten a penny in Sunderland and so we were spared listening to the likes of Trevor Philips or the Bishop of Southwark. However, the politics of the demo need serious questioning. The event was used more as a launch pad to get people to the forthcoming Oldham carnival than anything else, with Green Party and SWP speakers going through the motions of repeating the call to ?no-platform? the National Front. There was limited stewarding provided by members of Sunderland Fans Against Racism, but the security of this and other ANL events is a serious concern.

The Oldham carnival could certainly be useful as a means of building a movement to undermine racism, but events like it are not, as we were told from the platform, the ?best way to fight the Nazis?. The few thousand who drop in and out of Oldham will obviously have not seriously engaged with those sections of the community who may be drawn to supporting the BNP: they need political answers - and we need a political strategy in order to first win their ears and then their hearts.

A serious cause for concern on September 15 was the effective mothballing of the Socialist Alliance. We need the SA to operate in every political field, including anti-fascist work. In this way we can build on the work of the ANL, adopting a consistent, independent working class approach.

Lawrie Coombs