On Saturday 23rd February, comrades selling the Socialist Appeal newspaper in the centre of Leeds were attacked by a group of far-right thugs.
We had been selling the paper to great response beforehand. But it was towards the end of the sale that a group of seven middle-aged men approached the table. They saw that I was alone and decided to come and give me some verbal abuse. The men then attacked the stall, grabbing the table and throwing it to the floor, scattering the materials all across the street.
This attack in broad daylight in a busy city centre has not been the only incident of targeted attacks by the far right. One comrade, selling the paper in their workplace, has been subject to physical and verbal intimidation by members of the EDL. These thugs have also taken it upon themselves to target buyers and subscribers to the paper.
These incidents have come as part of a wider upsurge in far-right activity in Leeds. Last summer, the city became the unlikely hotbed for Tommy Robinson supporters when the EDL founder’s trial was set to conclude in Leeds High Court.
More recently, Socialist Appeal activists participated in a counter-protest to a ‘yellow vests’ demonstration in January. Those who participated in the demonstration were very different from their French cousins, quickly revealing their reactionary character. Their main demand was an end to ‘globalisation’, and among the crowd there were some protestors proudly doing Nazi salutes.
The ongoing political and economic crises across the world has created a polarisation in society. Added to this is the vile rhetoric of the gutter press, owned by a handful of billionaires, and the xenophobia whipped up by the Tories, seeking to divide the working class on racial and nationalistic lines.
We must not let these far-right thugs become emboldened. Their attack was not motivated by personal reasons. Rather, it was because I was identifying myself as a socialist and a left-wing supporter of the Labour Party. Any activist could have been the victim - an injury to one is an injury to all.
Now more than ever there is a need for the organisations of the labour movement to mobilise and fight the far-right. They must be chased off our streets.
In response to this intimidation and harassment of socialist activists, the Labour Party and trade unions in Leeds should link up with existing anti-fascist organisations and organise a mass rally to show these thugs where the real power in society lies: on the side of the organised working class
It is also essential that the Labour Party put forward a bold socialist programme to tackle head on the xenophobia and racism promoted by the ruling class. This can only be done by addressing the symptoms of the capitalist system’s decay, providing a socialist solution to the shortage of housing, jobs, and public services. The working class must be united on class lines, not separated on the basis of race and nationality.
Leeds Socialist Appeal say: From the Pennines to the sea, Yorkshire will be fascist free!