Solidarity against a fascist attack in London

August 8, 2018

On August 4, a group of far-right thugs attacked the Bookmarks socialist bookstore in London. Approximately a dozen people — some wearing “Make Britain Great Again” hats and carrying placards reading “British Bolshevik Cult,” and one in a Donald Trump mask — ransacked the store’s displays, ripping and tearing books and magazines.

One staff member told the Independent, “Books on Islamophobia were ridiculed and thrown around. They chanted about Muslims and pedophilia, and called us traitors.” The attackers also made threats to return and “show what they can do.” They were so confident that they even filmed themselves before the attack, describing their plans for the “ambush,” as one called it.

Bookmarks is the largest socialist store in Britain and the official bookseller for the Trades Union Congress. As manager Dave Gilchrist said following the attack: “This horrific attack on a radical bookshop should send shivers down the spine of anyone who knows their history. The Nazis targeted books because they knew how important radical ideas are for challenging racism and fascism. The same is true today, and that is why we have to unite and show that we won’t be intimidated.”

In the statement below, the International Socialist Organization, publisher of Socialist Worker, expresses its solidarity with Bookmarks in the face of this fascist assault.

THE INTERNATIONAL Socialist Organization condemns the August 4 attack on the Bookmarks bookshop in London and expresses our solidarity with Bookmarks, its staff and its customers.

In a period in which far right is growing both here in the U.S. and internationally, the ability of the left to come together in solidarity to challenge the politics of hate and division is key.

The attack by a group of thugs wearing “Make Britain Great Again” hats, and one in a Trump mask, took obvious inspiration from the current U.S. president and his politics of bigotry, division and violence. As the infamous photos of Nazis burning books in the 1930s remind us, attacks on left-wing books and literature have long been a feature of the far right, which sees left-wing ideas — in particular socialist ideas — as a threat to be smashed.

Bookmarks bookshop in London
Bookmarks bookshop in London

It has been discovered that at least several of those involved in the attack are members of the far-right UK Independence Party. In response, UKIP suspended three members. This disingenuous move does nothing to stop the climate of racist scapegoating, immigrant-bashing and anti-left sentiment that UKIP’s politics are built on fostering.

The far right uses the pretense of “free speech” to spread its bigoted ideas, but as the attack on Bookmarks shows, it wants to terrorize the left into silence.

We saw that here in the U.S. one year ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the fascists tried to take the streets. Their car attack on anti-racist marchers injured a number of people and took the life of Heather Heyer. In recent days, the far right has again attempted to regroup and march — holding rallies in Portland, Oregon, and Berkeley, California, and planning for a “White Civil Rights Rally” in Washington, D.C., on the anniversary of Charlottesville.

Here in the U.S., we take heart from the mass protests organized in Britain and elsewhere when Trump recently visited, and from the ongoing work in defense of migrant and refugee rights, against Islamophobia and to oppose fascists and the right. Here in the U.S., we seek to build a strong united front against fascism wherever such forces attempt to march and grow.

We will not allow their hate to spread unopposed.

We stand in solidarity with Bookmarks and with all who are fighting the threat of the far right. We are inspired by the large outpouring of solidarity with the bookstore following the attack, and support of Bookmarks’ plans for its August 11 public solidarity event.

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