protesters with placards Stand Up To Racism demonstration against Tommy Robinson's presence at the Leave Means Leave event, March 2019. Photo: Stand Up To Racism

Broad anti-fascist mobilisation is needed to smash the racists empowered by the government’s Brexit mess, writes Chris Nineham

As Theresa May’s withdrawal plan was voted down again on Friday some of the dangers posed by the Brexit impasse were in evidence evening outside parliament. In chaotic scenes thousands of pro-leave protestors filled Parliament Square and the bottom of Whitehall. Among them were hundreds of far right thugs who had once again come to Westminster to support Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the fascist thug who calls himself Tommy Robinson. MPs were advised to leave parliament because of the melee.

The main stage in Parliament Square was run by the Leave Means Leave campaign which featured a range of speakers from Kate Hoey to Nigel Farage and scores of Union Jack flags. The crowd there included people with many different strands of politics united in their support for Brexit and their sense that parliament and the political elite were letting them down. Apparently Yaxley-Lennon had hoped to speak on the main stage but was refused.

A second stage in Whitehall was channelling a rather more openly toxic politics. It was run by UKIP and it was there that Tommy Robinson got to speak. Amidst the UKIP flags large numbers of EDL supporters stripped to the waist mixed with more respectable-looking UKIP supporters. The mood was edgy. To loud cheers, speakers called for the creation of a movement to take on a broken parliamentary system.

Stand up to Racism organised a demonstration a few hundred strong to protest against Tommy Robinson’s presence which featured speakers and banners from a number of unions including the RMT and the NEU. As the demonstration assembled it was confronted by 20 or 30 fired up racist thugs but after the police removed them the protest moved into Whitehall itself. Speakers underlined the need for a broad based anti-fascist campaign to expose and drive the fascist elements around Yaxley Lennon of our streets.

The danger is that the fascists will be able to grow in a much wider milieu who feel betrayed and ignored by a Westminster elite many of whom are committed to overturning the result of the referendum. The sense from today’s events is that if the impasse continues - and certainly if there is a second referendum - politics is likely to spill on to the streets.

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.