A socialist bookshop got ransacked by an openly "anti-left" group of Tommy Robinson supporters on Friday evening. And if we don't organise now, this could be the future.
Men destroying books will never stop being a chilling reminder of the horrors of Nazi Germany and the horrors that preceded the Holocaust.
So hearing about 12 thugs, wearing masks, storming into the Bookmarks bookshop in central London left me frozen to the core.
Bookmarks has been a Bloomsbury institution for decades and a bastion in the fight against soulless bookselling giants. It has also always been openly and unashamedly supporting socialist and progressive principles from its inception.
Video footage and eyewitness accounts recounted how the group, carrying alt-right placards and “Make Britain Great Again” hats, stormed into the shop chanting “Trump” and threatening staff and clients. It then proceeded to destroy materials in the shop, including books, pamphlets and placards.
One of the booksellers added that the group also “chanted about Muslims and pedophilia, and called us traitors.”
Bookmarks manager Dave Gilchrist commented on the event saying:
“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 show that we won’t be intimidated.”
No arrests were made on the day.
The group behind the despicable actions is allegedly the People’s Charter Foundation, an openly anti-left “patriot movement”, which supports a series of far-right causes.
They are strong climate change deniers, hardcore Brexiteers, and supporters of the #FreeTommy campaign that rose around former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson’s imprisonment for contempt of court.
It is not hyperbole when we say that the rise of right wing populism in the US and parts of eastern Europe has emboldened fascist groups in Britain.
Footage from Friday’s attack on Bookmarks shows members of the group explaining why they will storm the shop. The group’s website calls out for a “stand against Marxism” and that the People’s Charter Foundation “heavily research politics, and have familiarity with what drives the left-wing radicals who want to destroy Britain.” It also adds the menacing: “We will do EVERYTHING it takes to Make Britain Great Again!”
A confident far right will attack progressives and socialists, destroy books, assault trade unionists and spread terror across communities. It will, most worryingly, feel that it can act with impunity, and those that are at most risk of their violent “activism” will be those already must vulnerable in society, such as people of colour, Muslims, and the LGBT community.
The situation is only set to worsen as Tommy Robinson has been released from jail and Brexit negotiations drive Westminster further into chaos. A mediocre male with a messianic complex set loose on a country in a constitutional crisis is a clear festering ground for all sorts of racist, xenophobic and misogynistic vermin.
It is thus paramount that the left organises not only to oppose these actions but also to defend these communities. To stand up for our freedoms as well as those of our neighbours.
There is now a renewed need to contradict the vile ideas of the People’s Charter Foundation and all its sibling groups, not just with words but also with bodies on the ground. Show these neo-Nazis, as well as the country as a whole, that there is no space for bigotry in Britain.
As Labour MP David Lammy very well tweeted:
“The normalisation of far right politics is already leading to chaos and vandalism on our streets. Fascist thugs attacking book shops is the logical conclusion to a political movement which rejects facts and experts. We need to be vigilant.”
Bookmarks will be holding a solidarity event on Saturday, 11 August from 2pm, with readings by prominent authors and solidarity speeches from members of the labour movement.
We need to attend solidarity events like these, but also start considering what we can do in our local communities, in our local radical bookshops, to send out our message. In south London we are organising an anti-racist action group – what could you organise in your neighbourhood?
Because if we don’t, if we are complacent with this type of toxic rhetoric and violent action, then attacks on socialist shops and men ripping books apart could no longer be just an occasional monstrosity. It might well turn into the tragedy of our future.
Joana Ramiro is a reporter for Left Foot Forward. You can follow her on Twitter for all sorts of rants here.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.