2012: Lessons for anti-fascistsTagged as: antifa bnp edl
Taking the piss out of the fascists is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel and because they are so good at making of mess of what they do it often seems that there isn’t much for anti-fascists to do. However, thanks to the support of the popular media and political discourse for increasingly authoritarian and reactionary politics on immigration, the “undeserving” poor and ethnic and cultural minorities, fertile ground for far right recruitment has been created. It only takes the far right to stop screwing up for a little while for them to find something that works and take off with it. For example:
The chameleon-like ability of the far right to infiltrate local politics with their own brand of fascist politics is one of the major threats that they pose. The biggest success for the EDL and the BNP in the East Midlands this year was the Thurnby Lodge protests in Leicester against the takeover of a disused scout hut by a local Muslim group.
The BNP and EDL exploited existing community tensions and a well-founded distrust of the local council to spin a dispute over community resources into an anti-Muslim crusade. At times, hundreds of local residents were involved in nightly pickets of a community centre where the As Salaam group had their prayer meetings. The crowds were addressed by BNP leader, Nick Griffin, on one occasion, although some residents distanced themselves from far right groups in public. The far right helped the process along by making up a story about Christians being forced to cover up a cross whilst Muslim prayers were being held. The story was discovered to have been made up but not before additional hysteria had been whipped up.
The pickets have now been going on for many months under the leadership of EDL activist Chris Hopewell, who has been photographed shaking hands with Leicester’s mayor. Members of As Salaam have complained of intimidation by protestors at the nightly pickets and in response the police have started imposing S.14 restrictions on numbers present at and the location of protests. They have also arrested several people they suspect of being organisers of unauthorised protests, including BNP members. A pigs head has been left at the doors of the community centre in an attempt to insult the Muslim group in response to the crackdown and now 4 people have been arrested for religiously-aggravated public order offences.
While the state crackdown will almost certainly drive a wedge between the extreme racist hardcore and most local residents, the fact that the far right have been subverting this campaign for so long (and doubtless recruiting and spreading their poisonous ideas) is a failure for anti-fascists. These kind of successes are the sort of thing we should be nipping in the bud, not by accusing everyone involved of being a racist, but by separating the legitimate concerns from divisive and paranoid ones.
Whilst not explicitly far right in nature, Dean Everitt’s anti-immigration demo in Boston was relatively successful and left some of the far right supporters who turned up eager for more. Again, the issue is one where many local people have legitimate concerns – the latest census results showed that Boston has seen a higher level of immigration than anywhere else over the last decade and local resources are clearly stretched. The issue undoubtedly plays on racist fears as well though. Given that Everitt himself is a supporter of far right groups and many of the people who were invited were from the EDL and BNP, it is fair to say the far right has some influence on this movement.
There has been talk of a future anti-immigration demo in Spalding in the new year. We need to make sure we continue to expose the involvement of the far right in this movement.
As the organised far right fragments it can be predicted that there will be more incidents of fascists acting on their own, without any restrictions imposed by a larger organisation. Indeed, the number of racist attacks, particularly against Muslims, appears to be on the rise. Lincolnshire police have reported a sharp rise in racist incidents as have schools in Derbyshire. There have also been some high profile attacks on Muslims in Leicester, Northants, Lincoln and Bingham, often involving people with links to far right organisations.
Many people wrongly think that the police will deal with these isolated incidents. In reality, Notts police were criticised for their extremely racist stop and search profiling and Leicestershire cops were were highlighted for the racist way in which they policed the EDL demo in February.
Anti-fascism will only succeed if the wider struggle against racial and religious divisions within society is also strong. There is no point in beating off organised fascism while the seeds of its rebirth are being sown all around us.
2012 saw a long-awaited resurgence of confidence in street-level anti-fascism. This was in no small part due to an increased militancy of UAF in tackling the EDL but also thanks to the growth of the decentralised Anti-Fascist Network. Anti-fascists had a number of victories over the fading EDL, most notably in Walthamstow where they blocked the EDL’s march and the fascists had to be kettled for their own safety.
That said, there is still a lot of poor analysis in the broader anti-fascist movement which tends to see fascism as one element of “extremism”, a label which is as likely to include people fighting for freedom as fascists. This can lead to our movement being appropriated by populist politicians for their own ends. If anti-fascism is not also against our authoritarian, racist state then it doesn’t deserve the name.
There is also a tendency towards anti-working class prejudice in some quarters, with the EDL and co being mocked as thick simply because they don’t express themselves in a suitably Guardian-reading manner. Anti-fascism should be a grassroots movement welcoming of all those who are sick of the divisions in our communities not an elitist sneering club.
Locally, anti-fascists had a relatively low profile although a successful benefit gig for anti-fascist prisoners was held in Nottingham, the Lincoln Underground Collective hosted a discussion on anti-fascism and Leicester anti-fascists took action against a coach company used by the EDL. It is harder to mobilise against the fascists when they are weak and don’t seem to pose much of a threat but that is exactly what we need to do to if we really want to stamp them out. If we can’t beat them when they are weak we will have no chance by the time they are strong again.
There is a lot to be done so support your local anti-fascist group and help build the Anti-Fascist Network.