This weekend the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) – the largest left wing student network of education workers and students in the UK – – held a national student conference in London. At the closing plenary I gave a speech and read a poem, ‘L’homme est mort’, followed by a minute’s silence in memory of murdered student, Clement Meric, who was beaten to death on the 5th June by fascist thugs in Paris. Below is the speech. There are photos from the conference and a rally on Sunday, 9th June, at the International brigades monument in Waterloo, London.
Clement Meric a jamais l’un des notres!
On Wednesday evening of this week, the 5th of June, a young student militant, Clement Meric, was shopping with his friends. They had an exchange with some individuals who were members of far right organisations. Later on they confronted Clement and his friends. They severely beat Clement, using a knuckle duster. He was knocked unconscious, and after being hospitalised, was later pronounced brain dead in the early hours of Thursday morning.
This is a tragedy, and heartbreaking. Our condolences go to Clement’s family and his friends.
What struck me about this is that it could have been any single one of us in this room who are politically engaged. Clement was 19 years old, studying at Science Po university, he was known for being calm and thoughtful. He was interested in politics, he was dedicating his life to building a better world.
In this country you have the EDL and BNP growing, spreading digusting islamaphobia, and you have the rise of the racist UKIP, and the three main parties are intent on scaremongering – this amidst the government leading a decline in the living standards of the majority. Across the UK today fascists are marching on our streets.
Fascism is a violent movement, which aims to take power, and is dedicated to civil war against our organisations – be they student or worker – the left and oppressed groups, and must be met as such. We should not hesitate to use force in response to their force. And we cannot rely on the existing state, which serves the same interests as fascism, to do it for us. We need self-organised direct action that physically confronts fascist groups – which stops their activities and their work. This happened recently against the BNP in London, and stands in the best tradition of those that fought fascists in East London’s Cable Street to beat off Oswald Mosley’s gang in 1936, and in Lewisham, South London, in 1977. We need to send a clear message to the EDL that its racism is not welcome on the streets of our communities.
I would also, however, stress the idea that physical force is not enough. We need to respond to fascism by fighting the social causes feeding it – the crisis, unemployment, destruction of services – and the system breeding it – capitalism. When working-class people lose hope, they lash out at easy scapegoats – immigrants, or neighbours and workmates from different ethnic backgrounds. Only by uniting against our real enemy – the bosses, and the cuts-happy politicians who represent them – can we cut the roots of racism. Unless we change the social conditions that allow far right groups to grow then we will just be fire fighting.
I have been very touched by what happened in Paris. And it got me thinking is that we must do as Clement was. That the best way to destroy fascism is to dedicate yourself to fighting the system which creates it, and for a society providing for human need in which all forms of oppression and exploitation can be abolished.
The poem, L’homme est mort –
A man is dead, who had no other weapon
Than his arms that were open to life
A man is dead who had no other road
Than that of those who hate guns
A man is dead, who is struggling on
Against death against forgetting
Because all that he wanted
We want it too
We want it today
We want happiness to be the light
That shines in our eyes that shines in our hearts
And justice on the earth
There are words that give life
And these words are innocent
The word warmth the word trust
Love justice and the word freedom
The word child and the word kindness
And certain names of flowers and certain names of fruits
The word brother and the word comrade
And certain names of countries of villages
And certain names of women and friends
Let us add the name Clement Meric
Clement Meric is dead for that which gives us life
Let us call him friend his chest is shot through
But thanks to him we know ourselves better
Let us call him friend his hope is alive