Last Saturday (June 1st) a small group of British National Party supporters, apparently 150 of them (it looked about 40), had a pen to protest in outside parliament. Across the country on this day there were a total of 55 protests held by the BNP, English Defence League, National Front, and other racists hoping to pass off the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by an extremist Muslim as representative of Islam, and as the fault of immigration. All but two of these protests were outnumbered by counter-demos, mostly organised by Unite Against Fascism. It was great to see many SWP and ex-SWP members around, as well as our old sign The BNP is a Nazi Party – Smash the BNP. Many members of the Socialist Party were present, as well as Unison and PCS activists.
We managed, by refusing to be moved, to prevent the BNP from marching for five hours (midday to 5pm). When the police managed to get them marching, only 15 of them remained. Some activists against the badger cull managed to finally break them up! Human rights activist Peter Tatchell later recommended on twitter later that UAF use a “sitting protest” rather than the usual “macho methods”. Some of the ‘Anonymous’ protesters tried this, for about five minutes. It is a liberal tactic that achieves nothing more than a chalk drawing of a peace symbol. By allowing the fash to march freely, we would be guilty of giving them a platform. Most of the 58 antifascists who were arrested and dealt with so violently were protesting peacefully and defending democracy. [Relevant reading from ’77: In Defence of Violence]
Another strong reminder is that the police force often does not act in the interests of the majority. Defending property and arbitrary orders is apparently much more important than defending people. For multicultural London there was a disturbingly strong majority of white police officers. It makes me want to learn the answer to one of our chants: “1 2, 1 2 3, how many cops in the BNP?”
The relative success of UAF was the focus of the Party Council of the Socialist Workers Party (2nd June), held at the University of London Union. I was one of many delegates for this event. Wayman Bennett addressed the council, saying that every town in the country should have a UAF branch. 10,000 antifascists were demonstrating on the 1st, but we should be aiming for five times that. The far-right may be factionalising just as fast as socialists are, but it doesn’t mean necessarily that their street movement won’t continue to grow and further normalise Islamopbobia. Wayman also noted the importance of opposing all anti-immigrant feeling and right-wing populism. UKIP cannot realistically be described as a fascist party, but their many ties with the NF and some other links in Europe cannot be taken lightly. The suggestion was to launch a “Stand Up to Ukip” campaign, and to add a section on the party to an updated version of the pamphlet The EDL Unmasked. The UAF’s ‘No Platform’ policy is something that comes under much criticism, with constant tedious criticisms that this ignores freedom of speech: “The antifascists are the real fascists here!” So another speaker suggested that some material be published explaining this important policy, to be given out at stalls and other events.
Many vague statements were made about unity and not splitting the Socialist Workers Party. As I didn’t know most of the speakers, it wasn’t always clear that these were Central Committee loyalists, attempting to trivialise criticisms of the party’s leadership and their rape apologism. It seemed incredibly dishonest for these members to present themselves as the open-minded comrades pulling the party together, rather than fighting over something petty. There has been much discussion of the meaning of a “Leninist party” lately, and the importance of mobilising all kinds of socialists. This does not mean unwillingness to accept criticism however. Nothing could be more liberal. Another important reminder was to not be slack if Ed Milliband becomes the PM in 2015, even if the “Labour left” is having a significant influence. Anti-capitalists and anti-racists need to be in this for the long-haul, as social democracy in Europe shows no signs of opposing austerity or the rise of the far-right, as in Sweden or the Netherlands.
Today from 11am-1pm or later I will be helping out with a UAF stall in Thanet. As seven out of eight recently elected councillors there are Ukippers, it is most likely a town with a great deal of racism or ignorance about immigration, so we’re expecting a lot of confrontation. However as long as someone isn’t a hardline nationalist, it is fairly easy to persuade people against voting UKIP.