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LAST weekend a group of RMT officials and members were attacked by fascist supporters of Tommy Robinson in a premeditated act of violence in broad daylight on the streets of London.
It was a brutal assault that left our senior assistant general secretary Steve Hedley in hospital while others sustained injuries as bottles, glasses and chairs rained down on them.
I will repeat again, this fascist attack was launched against a group of activists from Britain’s leading transport union in broad daylight on the streets of Westminster as they were enjoying a quiet drink in the sunshine after taking part in a peaceful demonstration.
As Steve rightly said this was an attack on the entire trade union movement, proving that the far right have singled out the organised working class as a prime target as they seek to sow division and hatred in our communities.
As you are recharging your batteries at yet another fantastic Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival this weekend do not be under any illusions — the threat from the enemies of everything that we stand for as a trade union movement is growing and we need to be stepping up our campaigning and organising work to stop its poison from spreading any further.
The threat is nothing new. From the Spanish Civil War, Cable Street, the rise of the NF in the 1970s and the BNP in the 1990s it has always fallen to the trade union movement to educate and mobilise against the far right but this modern version comes loaded with cash from the so-called “Alt-Right” in the USA and with the tools of social media at their disposal. But the traditional tactic of street violence remains at their core.
They hate us because we offer a vision of an inclusive and equal society where the resources are harnessed for the benefit of the many and not the few and they particularly hate my union because we demonstrate week in and week out that workers standing together in a militant and progressive organisation can win on the issues of jobs, wages and workplace justice. That threatens the narrow, twisted and divisive agenda that they seek to promote.
From the guards’ rail safety campaign, to the fight for genuine a living wage for cleaner’s across the transport sector and through to the ongoing battle for jobs and pay justice in the shipping industry, RMT is taking our message out on all fronts and we are enjoying massive public support.
Just look at the polling on public ownership of the railways where nearly three quarters of the British people have taken a look at the shambles of privatisation with its rip-off fairs and unreliable services and decided to back the trade union campaign for nationalisation instead. That massive groundswell of public opinion has been won over through sheer hard work and determination.
Our members at the Train Operating Companies who have fought for over two years for the guard guarantee and safe and accessible railways for all deserve the support and solidarity they have received from across the trade union movement which has helped sustain them in a battle that is far from over. I know that we can rely on you to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with us.
But I started off with last weekend’s events in plain sight on the streets of London and I want to ask you to remember that it wasn’t just a brutal attack on a small group of transport workers — it was an attack on us all.
So I’m using this column in the Morning Star this weekend as an opportunity to send out an appeal to the entire trade union and labour movement to recognise the threat that confronts us and to call for and urgent and united campaign — engaging workplaces and communities the length and breadth of the country — that mobilises in the same way that our forebears mobilised when faced with the same hate-filled mobs.
Let that work begin right now.
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