Delegates packed into UAF’s annual national conference to discuss the fight against racism an fascism in 2012.
The 440 delegates, including trade unionists, students, black and Asian activists and campaigners came from as far afield as Scotland to Conway Hall in London’s Red Lion Square.
The conference heard UAF national officer Martin Smith set out the tasks in the months ahead. Antifascist mobilisations had seen the English Defence League confined and pushed back over the last 12 months, but there was no room for complacency, he said.
UAF would also focus on kicking the British National Party out of its remaining seats at the Local elections, with removing Richard Barnbrook – who was elected on a BNP ticket – from the Greater Lonon Assembly a key priority.
Antifascists would also target the British Freedom Party – a lash-up between disgruntled former BNP members and the EDL, Martin said.
The conference set the fight against fascism in the context of a climate of institutional and public racism. UAF joint secretary Weyman Bennett warned that institutional racism was ‘opening up’ space for the fascists.
A number of black and Muslim speakers, among others, highlighted the increasing level of public racism, whether directe at women wearing hijab or black footballers. Farooq Murad from the Muslim Council of Britain spoke out against politicians who ‘use Islamophobia to buy cheap votes’.
Former professional footballer Leroy Rosenior, from Show Racism the Red Card, made a moving speech that was a highlight of the day, discussing his own experience of racism and the need to take on racist – and homophobic – arguments.
Many speakers from the floor contributed to a lively but very fraternal debate over whether antifascists should call for EDL marches to be banned or not. All agreed that despite differing views on this question, we should all unite to mobilise on the streets against the fascists.
The conference also heard from Hugh Lanning, deputy general secretary of the PCS civil service union, who paid tribute to Kevin Gately, who was killed on an antifascist demonstration in Red Lion Square – outside the conference hall – in 1974.
Communication Workers Union general ecretary Billy Hayes, National Union of Teachers deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney, Jeremy Corbyn MP, and student activists also among the speakers.
And Roma rights campaigners from Amnesty International and organisations in Hungary and Italy spoke at an international session.