Disruption of Leeds Socialist Party meeting shows need for unions to lead real struggle

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Statement by Leeds Socialist Party

Leeds Socialist Party’s branch meeting was harassed by individuals calling themselves “Antifa Watch” on the evening of Monday 7 January. They entered our meeting place, filming, and threatening our members and supporters verbally and physically.

Socialist Party members did not rise to the provocation, and bar staff assisted by escorting the disruptive group out of the venue. No one was hurt during the incident.

During their interruption of our meeting, they pushed and threatened to assault our members. They also accused us of campaigning against women and children who are victims of abuse, calling us “paedophiles” and “nonces.”

As one of our members correctly pointed out during the incident, we are in favour of people who have committed these crimes being punished accordingly. This did not appear in the edit of the video ‘Antifa Watch’ released online.

In fact, Leeds Socialist Party actively campaigns against the bedroom tax, closure of specialist care homes, cuts to emergency accommodation for people fleeing violence, and cuts to social care services. We fight for no-cuts council budgets to guarantee the facilities that allow vulnerable people to escape abuse.

Conversely, ‘Tommy Robinson’, founder of the far-right racist English Defence League (EDL), was charged with contempt of court for potentially sabotaging the effective prosecution of alleged perpetrators of grooming and child sexual exploitation. Robinson is a figure we are sure this small grouping follows.

Sexual exploitation is a very serious and complex crime, rooted in the prejudices and power imbalances perpetuated by capitalism. But establishment media and politicians have tried to distract from this reality by selectively highlighting the ethnicity of some of those alleged groomers who do come to court.

It is clear that far-right figures are not interested in taking real steps to tackle this important issue, as compared to the constructive campaigns of the Socialist Party. This is also shown by the attempted intimidation of striking rail workers, organised by transport union RMT, by a small group mobilised by the EDL in Manchester on Saturday 5 January.

Incidents like these show what the far right is really about. Far from being anti-establishment, its leaders seek to attack and divide the working class – a gift to the capitalist establishment. The Socialist Party seeks to unite the working class in struggle against our true enemy – the super-rich bosses and their politicians, who are attacking our jobs, homes and services for profit.

The Socialist Party will not be intimidated by the actions of this group or any other right-wing group.

But this incident underlines the importance of the trade union leaders and organised working class taking the lead in the struggle against austerity and the capitalist establishment. Without a clear working-class programme and action to transform living and working conditions, a minority can turn in desperation to the far right.

We will continue to campaign alongside working-class people in fighting for vital public services, homes for all, and good jobs with good pay and conditions. We link this to the fight for a society led by the working class, owned and democratically planned by all, in the interests of the 99%, not the billionaires.

Leeds Socialist Party thanks the staff at our meeting venue for their response to the incident, and we thank the trade union and socialist movement for the solidarity already shown.

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