A good few days for the British left

Anti-Trump protests in London, July 13,

Donald Trump is the rallying symbol for the new nationalist hard right globally. Andy Stowe writes that his visit to England and Scotland on the weekend of July 13and 14 was an opportunity to gauge just how much he is loathed.

It was a test of strength between the left and neo-fascist right in Scotland as well as several English town and cities. It was a big victory for the left.

In Scotland it wasn’t even a contest. The right didn’t mobilise to welcome Trump and the left was out in force. Even the Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson sent messages indicating her support to the participants in the Pride march and the anti-Trump protests, reminding them to drink water and use sunscreen.

July 13 in London involved what was the largest demonstration in the city since 2 million marched against the war in Iraq in 2003. The police estimate that 250,000 people took to the streets to show Trump he’s despised and unwanted. Even the Evening Standard, edited by former Tory Chancellor the Exchequer George Osborne, had a front page which conveniently doubled as an anti-Trump placard.

Few of the marchers would have been natural Tory supporters. While thousands of organisations were represented, the most striking feature of the day was the huge number of homemade signs, placards and banners — always an indication that what you are seeing is a real movement of people who are organising themselves.

Trafalgar Square was the first of Jeremy Corbyn’s two major speaking engagements of the weekend. Addressing the demonstration, his speech marked a major departure from previous Labour leaders’ practice of grovelling to American presidents. He is an internationalist and anti-racist and he was not prepared to compromise on these things.

The next day was another major working-class demonstration, the Durham Miners’ Gala. It was attended by more than 200,000 people and Corbyn spoke at that too.

So, in two days the labour movement got more than 450,000 people onto the streets in a celebration of trade union solidarity and to reject a racist imperialist president.

While this was happening, Tory Prime Minister Theresa May was watching her days-old Brexit deal disintegrate in front of her eyes. The ever-helpful Trump had told the world that he thinks she’s useless and would prefer to have Boris Johnson as prime minister.

Just over a month before, a significant neo-fascist movement managed its largest mobilisation in some years when about 10,000 had turned up demanding the release of its figurehead Tommy Robinson.

On that occasion, the anti-fascists were heavily outnumbered. They were on the streets again on July 14 and this time the numbers were more evenly matched. About 5000 Robinson and Trump fans turned up. The smaller event shared some features with the earlier one. UK Independence Party (UKIP) was there; it was extremely Islamophobic and there was more evidence that they are co-ordinating internationally.

Their major coup was Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon calling for Robinson’s release on a radio show hosted by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. On air, Bannon more or less said he wants to see racial violence in Britain: “You’re going to have to fight to take your country back, every day.”

This will have been understood by his neo-fascist followers as an encouragement to physically attack immigrants and Muslims.

The anti-Trump protests were another reminder that British politics is polarised between a pro-Brexit, nationalist, often racist alliance that includes Farage, hard-right Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and Tommy Robinson’s supporters on one hand and, on the other, a leftward moving Labour Party pulling together the internationalists and anti-racists, the overwhelming majority of whom are anti-Brexit.

Its challenge now is to capitalise on the success of these mobilisations to get the Tories out.

[Abridged from Socialist Resistance.]