Where We Stand on…trades unions and anti-fascism

Rail workers: ‘If EDL racists turn up at our stations, we’ll shut them down’

For the last two years this has been the battle cry of rail workers – members of RMT – in London to stop the EDL using Liverpool Street and Kings Cross stations to gather for provocative demonstrations in the East End.

This is a powerful demonstration of how organised workers can fight back against the fascists, and help to deprive them of the means to organise.

The far right is well known for its hostility and hatred towards independent trade unions. In Germany in the 1930s it was the labour movement that the Nazis sought to destroy first. In 21st century Britain, the EDL has threatened to attack individual trade unionists, and picket lines, though most have failed to materialise.

In addition to the kind of direct action taken by RMT, trade unions have been in the forefront of the struggle against fascism, both locally and nationally. Brighton and Hove Trades Council and its affiliated unions played a major part in mobilising union members against the EDL-linked March for England in Brighton last April.  In places where the BNP have tried to mount an electoral challenge, unions have used their political funds to resource campaigns against them.

Although the far right hates trade unionism, this has not stopped them trying to join unions on occasions, and it is only recently that unions have started to change their rulebooks to enable them to expel members of fascist organisations.  At its conference in June, Unison finally amended its rules to allow it to keep fascists out.  The message we need to keep proclaiming is that the aims of fascists are completely at odds with the aims and values of the trade union movement.

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