Because I was involved in the organising of the Unite Against Fascism defence of Harrow Mosque, people have asked me about my position, as a Green Party member, on the issue of combating the far-right.
When I was a member, in the 1970s and 80s, of ALTARF (All London Teachers Against Racism and Fascism) we made a distinction between the hard-core racists and fascists, with clear ideological commitment to those ideas, and those who got involved with them because of feelings of powerlessness, poverty or oppression. Along with others in the movement we saw our role as separating the latter from the former through a process of education and engagement.
Currently there are all sorts of reasons for disaffection that are being exploited by the far-right: the economic recession with loss of jobs and homes,the lack of social housing, bankers' bonuses being subsidised by taxpayers' money and politicians apparently feathering their own nests. These domestic issues are accompanied by the rhetoric surrounding the 'war on terror' which too often slides into apparent condemnation of all Muslims and the increasing unpopularity of the war in Afghanistan and confusion about 'why are we there.' The international issues fuel the racists' Islamaphobia and alienate many of the Muslim population and lead some to extremist acts.
Tackling inequality, both economic and social, therefore, must be a major priority. The Green Party has a strong social justice approach with policies aimed at reforming the financial system, saving money by scrapping Trident and ID cards, creating more Green jobs through public investment, establishing a Living Wage (above the level of the Minimum Wage), and supporting co-operative and mutual businesses. Greens would bring empty private homes back into use as well as provide more affordable housing. We would invest in sustainable housing by fitting free insulation in all homes that need it and invest in our children's health by providing nutritious free midday meals for all pupils.
Internationally Greens opposed the Iraq War and at the recent conference called for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Our MEPs have fought tirelessly for Europe to put pressure on Israel to stop the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories and the building of Israeli settlements.
I cannot pretend that these policies would solve all the problems but I do think they are a pre-condition of combating the extreme right. It is no use government ministers calling up memories of Cable Street while they preside over policies that have increased inequality and cause divisions.
So, you may be asking, what about the hard-right ideologues that you wrote about earlier? If they are never going to change and their aim is violence against particular sections of the population, then we have to oppose them by the kind of mass united community mobilisation we saw in Harrow.