The attack on Bookmarks shows how emboldened the far right are and why the debate on how to stop them is so urgent argues Pete Morgan
This wasn’t a ‘protest’, it was an attack, and if these men had been brown they’d have been dubbed terrorists.
J K Rowling
I have been in this Bookshop a hundred times, done a host of readings and performances there, always welcoming, always time to talk, they’ve published 3 of my books. When we fight for this Bookshop, we fight for all bookshops. The farkakhte fascists must not win.
Just spent £20 in Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop off Tottenham Court Rd attacked by far right thugs. Glad to see they are open & unfazed… Straight out of 1930s Germany - right-wing thugs attack a socialist bookshop. They will be burning the books next.
Andrew Adonis (Labour Peer)
The Nazis targeted books because they knew how important radical ideas are for challenging racism and fascism. The same is true today, and that is why we have to show that we won’t be intimidated.
The attack on Bookmarks the socialist bookshop at the weekend was an attack on us all. Twelve men, one of whom was wearing a Donald Trump mask, entered the Central London shop as staff were closing for the day, knocking over displays and ripping up magazines while chanting far-right slogans. Since then a spokesman for the shop said it had been inundated with messages of support.
Credit to the Guardian for carrying a comment piece by the bookshop's manager, Dave Gilchrist. Ironically it was printed in their ‘Comment is Free’ section of the paper - the perpetrators of this attack would, as their actions show, deny freedom of speech given half a chance.
The attack is not unique. In April, Gay’s the Word, the renowned LGBT+ bookshop in Bloomsbury, Central London, had its windows smashed. Again, no one was hurt, and there’s no reason to think the attacks are related, but they certainly take place in an atmosphere in which racists, bigots and the far right in general feel emboldened.
As Dave said in his article:
Donald Trump’s election as United States president has released a feeling among some on the hard right that it’s now OK to say out loud things that had been made unacceptable – and that feeling can easily turn into violence, as we found on Saturday.
We must not forget the rhetoric coming from the US. Donald Trump’s attacks on the media have been condemned by experts at the United Nations, who warned that the US president’s vitriolic rhetoric could result in violence against journalists. In a joint statement, two experts on freedom of expression – David Kaye, who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, and Edison Lanza, who holds the corresponding position at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said:
These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law. [Trump’s] attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts.
We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.
And not to be out-done, Boris Johnson once again confirmed his racist credentials this week. The former foreign secretary used his weekly newspaper column in The Sunday Telegraph to launch a vicious diatribe against Muslim women who wear the burka.
Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell Mama, which campaigns against anti-Muslim violence, said Johnson’s comments amounted to Islamophobia. “These are the kind of comments we have seen that have been made by extremist far-right groups and people who have been maliciously attacking Muslims,” he said.
“A mass assertion of progressive values”
Thankfully it’s not all going in the same direction. When Trump visited Britain last month we saw enormous demonstrations. London had a carnival atmosphere as hundreds of thousands marched for women’s rights, against homophobia and transphobia, against racism, climate change and war.
Daniel Jakopovich, one of the organisers of the march, said of that day:
The enormous scale of the demonstration against Trump greatly weakens Theresa May's effort to legitimise her pro-war ‘special relationship’ with his far-right administration. As a mass assertion of progressive values and progressive politics, it is also a powerful response to the ongoing attempt to construct a fascist movement in Britain… The mass mobilisation against Trump's reactionary politics has shown how we can effectively challenge the ‘special relationship’ with the US regime and put an end to the brutal pro-war government in Britain. By building people power we are laying the foundation for a new, more peaceful and humane world.
And there is opposition from the US. This was Michael Moore on Facebook speaking out against Trump last night (07/08/18):
The debate over how to stop the right will continue.
Some may agree with John McDonnell who asked yesterday if
it’s time for an Anti-Nazi League-type cultural and political campaign to resist because we can no longer ignore the rise of far-right politics in our society…We should seriously look at emulating the work of the ANL and Rock Against Racism at a time when the far right once again poses a genuine threat to our society
Some may agree with Owen Jones who said recently:
The far right is on the march, and it is being legitimised and enabled by parts of the mainstream media… It’s not just the BBC, of course. Piers Morgan, a preening disgraced former newspaper editor reinvented as a fawning cheerleader for the Nazi-condoning, alleged sexual predator in the White House, conducted a toadying interview with Bannon on ITV.
Wiser words were written by Paul Foot back in 1994, who said:
We have to treat the blackshirts of today with the same implacable opposition that they met when they tried their intimidatory racist marches in London’s East End in the 1930s… In the 1930s, as in the 1970s, the opponents of the British fascists confronted Mosley’s marches, picketed their meetings, hassled their appearances on the media, and, at the same time, campaigned against landlords, tycoons and media moguls. The combination worked both times, and it can work again.
The debate will, by necessity, continue. But in the meantime, take the advice of a wise, clever film-maker and socialist who tweeted at the weekend:
Bookmarks is absolutely indispensable. We urge all friends to go there and buy at least one book in the next few days...
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