The huge show of solidarity with Bookmarks bookshop on Saturday shows that the left can unite to defeat the far right argues Isabel Carr
Hundreds of people from across the labour movement answered the call for a show of solidarity with Bookmarks the Socialist Bookshop, made after they were subject to a shocking physical attack from the far right the preceding weekend.
The amazing turn-out and atmosphere - at an event called less than a week beforehand - shows the spirit and commitment we have as a movement. Recent attacks by the far right have shown us what we’re up against - but the response has shown us the strength, breadth and depth of solidarity we have to respond with. And the call from all sides on Saturday was for building on that with movement-wide anti-fascist organisation. Now.
Writer and historian Louise Raw kicked-off proceedings brilliantly, setting the tone for the whole day - calling on our history and our traditions to show us the way forward, and calling the fascist thugs out for what they are. Speakers came from right across the movement: author David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists’ Group, who also read out a message of solidarity from Jeremy Corbyn; John Rees from People’s Assembly, who spoke powerfully about our shared history of resistance; Ruth Levitas who brought a message of solidarity from her uncle Max Levitas, veteran of the Battle of Cable Street.
We heard from Louise Regan of NEU, Roger Huddle of Rock Against Racism, Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition, Weyman Bennet of Unite Against Fascism, and many more. And Bookmarks’ manager Dave Gilchrist read out a poem Michael Rosen wrote for Bookmarks in response to the attack. Speakers did double stints in Bloomsbury Baptist Church - which had to be hired because of the sheer numbers of comrades attending - and at the bookshop itself. The venues were packed; the street between the two was packed.
The day also provided an unscheduled illustration of why we were there. Almost on cue, an hour or two in, a handful of far right thugs thought they’d come and ‘intimidate’ us. But comrades were out there - many of them in sandals or flip-flops instead of bovver boots - and soon saw them off. The video footage of this really is brilliant but, as UAF have since re-stated, the threat is real. These thugs often record the faces of anti-fascists to attempt to set them up for future assault, by circulating the images to their far right groups.
The symbolism of the attack on Bookmarks on Saturday 4th August is not lost on anyone. To ransack a bookshop of the left, in the ignorant almost farcical way that they did (see that video footage, if you can stand to watch them) - to feel emboldened enough to cross that boundary so soon after the attack on the RMT’s Steve Hedley and comrades after the counter-demonstration against Tommy Robinson’s supporters on July 14th - has echoes of the rise of the far right in the mid-twentieth century.
And it’s no surprise this is happening. We have a Tory establishment kowtowing to Trump - and an alt-right who are proactively pushing their organisational agenda across Europe. Meanwhile, the UK mainstream media peddle a spectacularly irresponsible line in undermining the most fundamentally anti-racist major political party leader this country has ever seen. That much of the ammunition for this media onslaught emanates from the right wing of the Labour Party itself is disgraceful, reckless and is actually putting trade unionists, socialists and activists in physical danger now.
The overall event itself was joyous - a stand, a celebration and a call-to-arms. Tony Benn called Bookmarks the ‘university for activists’. It is that, and on Saturday the movement showed it is ready to fight for that and everything it represents.
Bring it on. No Pasaran.
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