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ON April 23 1979, socialist, anti-racist and National Union of Teachers member Blair Peach was murdered by the Metropolitan Police’s Special Patrol Group while opposing the fascist National Front in Southall.
Blair Peach was one of thousands who had taken part in the Anti-Nazi League demonstrations that day, and was tragically beaten to death by police officers. Unsurprisingly, no member of the Metropolitan Police has ever been bought to justice.
The legacy of Peach lives on in our union. Throughout the National Union of Teachers, and now in the National Education Union, every year someone receives an award in Peach’s name.
This year, teacher, feminist and anti-racist Kauser Jan is receiving the award. An award most deserved for her tireless work in the community.
The legacy of Peach lives in Kauser. However, his legacy must live on in each and every one of us.
Forty years since his murder, and the fascist threat is still real. While the National Front has been sent to the dustbin of history, fascism takes different forms.
We must never separate different forms of racism into a hierarchy. One type of racism is not more worthy of fighting than another. All racism, whether against black people, migrants and refugees, Jewish people or Gypsy travellers — any at all — must be fought with vigour. However, we must recognise that the dominant racism that has emerged in our society is that of anti-Muslim racism: Islamophobia.
It is through vicious Islamophobia that the far right is and has been mobilising and organising. The far right has not only been emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency but mobilised by a constant drip drip of racism from our daily tabloids and political elites who have used Islamophobia to reconcile the public mind with illegal wars in the Middle East for nearly two decades.
As a result, Muslim people and predominantly Muslim women are more likely to be a victim of hate crime than anyone else. We have seen the far right, be it through Tommy Robinson or the DFLA, mobilise up to tens of thousands in recent months.
There has been a radicalisation of society, that starts with tabloids and ends in white supremacist massacres like the one we witnessed in Christchurch.
As the British state tries to negotiate its current Brexit crisis, we must continue to be wary of the fascist menace. At the last general election, I was pleased to see the Ukip vote collapse and Labour take important steps forward.
However, I fear — and polls are suggesting — that moves to support a second referendum will see a resurgence in Ukip: a Ukip that, with Gerard Batten and Tommy Robinson, has moved towards the far right.
The time is now to get organised. No ifs, no buts. The legacy of Blair Peach has to live on in us all, as the future of our children depends on that organisation.
We must be ambitious in this fight — if the far right can mobilise 10,000, we must mobilise 10,000 more, as it is only on the streets we will break and demoralise them.
We will not win in this struggle if we are divided. It is only through our collective endeavour that we will win. That means action in unity. Stand up to Racism has been, and continues to be, a necessary and vital organisation to combat the racism and fascism that is manifesting in our communities.
Join your local group, and support it nationally. But most importantly, have the courage of Blair Peach, and when the far right come to your community, turn out on the streets against them.
Daniel Kebede is a member of the national executive committee of the NEU.
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