5,000 anti-racists take to streets of Aarhus
Last weekend, the English Defence League (EDL) tried to give racists in its Danish sister organisation, Danish Defence League (DDL), a boost by holding a demonstration in Aarhus, Denmark. But despite long preparation and mobilisation by supporters from all over Europe, the EDL were only able to assemble no more than 150 racists from England, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and other countries.
The anti-racist demonstration saw 5,000 anti-racists march through Aarhus. They forced the police, at the last minute, to withdraw permission for the EDL to demonstrate. Instead, the EDL supporters had to stand in one spot for several hours and were finally driven away in two buses.
These events showed, once again, the strong opposition against racism that exists. The campaign, ‘Aarhus for Diversity’, which organised the counter- demonstration, is a broad coalition of organisations, including socialist school students and student organisations. It has strong support from local trade unions and political parties, including Enhedslisten (Red-Green Alliance), the Communist Party and immigrant associations and networks.
However, the EDL racists and supporters were able to hold their rally relatively undisturbed, even if they did not march. The anti-racists’ victory would have been greater if the aim of the campaign had been to stop the racists. Instead, the organisers called for a "peaceful, festive and colorful" demonstration. The International Socialists group (which is linked to the Socialist Workers Party in Britain) was the group behind this de-politicising approach. The IS did everything it could to block initiatives to actually stop the racists.
Towards the end of the large counter-demonstration, some ‘autonomous-anarchist’ protesters broke away and attacked a bus used to transport away the EDL supporters. Danish TV news decided to focus on this incident and several TV channels made their ‘analyses from this one event.
“It worked well at the beginning of the demonstration, but then some of the demonstrators decided to attack. A decision bad for democracy”, remarked the chief of police. The mayor of
Aarhus was quick to praise the police: “The police behaved well and arrested the right people. They defended our freedom and collective freedom. This is the democratic rights that also apply to EDL and DDL.”
Police arbitrary attack
However, the police arbitrary attacked and arrested anti-racists and journalists present. At the end of the demonstration, the police arrested Elias Theodorsson, a photographer from Offensiv, newspaper of the CWI in Sweden, as he documented the police action against demonstrators. Others were arrested by the police without having participated in the demonstration.
“I saw how the police attacked a guy who came out of the 7-Eleven, after he finished work. They beat him on the chest with batons until he fell to the ground”, reported Thomas Duch, from Enhedslisten, to Offensiv.
Other protesters testify that people passing by on the streets were held behind police lines and arrested.
Per Jensen, one of the main organisers of the anti-racist march denounced the violence: “The day has been good in general, but I’m feeling bad over a small group that went on the attack.”
Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) and the CWI in Denmark believes that any attempt to establish right-wing extremist organisations and racist groups must be met with zero tolerance. No platform for racism means mass mobilisation, with a strong local presence to stop racist rallies, meetings and demonstrations.
RS and the CWI stress the need to explain why it is important to stop the racists and Nazis from assembling and demonstrating. The Defence League racists from different countries gathered with the aim of dividing and disorientating working people and youth on the basis of posionous, right wing and racist ideas. Ideologically, they stand for essentially the same ideas as the mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, in Norway. Like Breivik, they regard socialists, trade unions and women activists as their enemies.
That is why trade unions, the Left, and labor organizations must be at the head of the struggle against racism. If the existence of racist and far right groups is not regarded as part and parcel of capitalist class society, the question of how to combat them is turned into an abstract and ‘moral’ question. But racist ideas are a product of class society and capitalism and must be combated as part of the struggle to fundamentally change society, by ending poverty, unemployment, low pay, poor housing and other social ills.
Stop racism and all cuts!
Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) and the CWI in Denmark share the aim of building a broad protest movement against the far right and racism but a movement does not become greater through avoiding politics. To mobilise broader layers of the population to stop the racists, the movement needs to demands jobs, an end to cuts and privatisations and others social demands. The link between racism and the EU governments’ drastic austerity policies, carried out to safeguard the huge profits of big corporations and banks’, must be made clear. This is what Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) and the CWI in Denmark proposed to protesters in Aarhus. The good reception we received indicates that many workers and youth are actively seeking how to most effectively combat racism and to end the social conditions that give rise to racist and far right ideas. In contrast, the Danish Communist Party and the International Socialists’ non-socialist profile, and their attempt to ally themselves with the cuts-making politicians in the fight against racism, provide no answers.
An anti-racist mobilisation in Aarhus, under slogans like, "Fight against racism and right-wing politics", with the stated intention of actually stopping the EDL and DDL’s march, would have been possible, considering the broad trade union network of support for the counter-demonstration. We were 5,000 and the EDL and assorted racists only had 150 supporters. But the largely de-politicised “festival” saw the counter-protest fail to reach its full potential. The police would have hesitated to attack a large, disciplined and well-stewarded demonstration of workers and youth determined to firmly counter the racists.
If the demonstration had clearly focused on how to stop the racists, by acting collectively, with organised resistance to the racists, the anarchists’ breakaway and individualistic acts would probably have been avoided. If the leadership of the anti-far right and anti-racist movement fails to offer a mass alternative, isolated groups will inevitably try to take shortcuts to stop the racists.
Last Saturday’s events in Aarhus still represent a welcome setback for the racists and EDL and DDL and an impressive show of strength by the anti-racists. But we should also be honest and say that concerts and “festivals” alone are not sufficient to isolate and stop racism. Only working class-based anti-racist mass actions can successfully combat and ultimately provide the basis of rooting out racism, by struggling against this poison with class slogans and the fight to do away with capitalist society and for a socialist society.