Saturday, 2 October 2010

From anarchism in Manchester to fighting fascism in Liverpool, reflections on an interesting day

As I mentioned in a previous post, today I went to the Anarchist Bookfair in Manchester, as well as a PCS anti-cuts demonstration nearby. Meanwhile, the BNP returned to Liverpool City Centre. Luckilly, I caught the end of that particular event - and it was little short of epic.

The Bookfair was a fairly laid-back event. Lots of groups and lots of comrades were present, the aim being to promote solidarity and the ideas of anarchism.

As well as stalls containing books, pamphlets, and merchandise from various organisations - Solidarity Federation, Anarchist Federation, Class War, The Commune, The IWW, Manchester Anti-Fascist Alliance, etc - there were a variety of interesting talks on. It also offered, as I mentioned in the week, a reprieve from activism whilst still being around people of like mind.

The only downer was that whilst there I learned of the BNP being in Liverpool. I rang around a few others to spread the word, but being so far away was frustrating to say the least.

The PCS demonstration was also something of a muted affair. There were a number of speakers including a rather interesting socialist rapper and (shamefully) a Labour councillor. But it was more about encouraging people to get involved and doing something than making a scene, which was good.

Taking a leaf from that book, I took the opportunity to hand out free copies of Catalyst, and make the argument to my fellow PCS members for a more radical, i.e. anarcho-syndicalist approach.

Though, in hindsight, referring to Mark Serwotka as a "bloated bureaucratic gasbag" may have been far too inflammatory a closing remark. I stand by the point within it, but occasionally passion (not to mention a couple of pints) numbs my sense of tact and diplomacy. Oh well.

I got off the train to Liverpool at quarter to six, and headed into town to see if the fascists were still around. What I saw was truly astounding to behold.

Two weeks ago, when the BNP tried to hold a stall in the City Centre, they were met with spontaneous resistance from over 200 people, more considering that people came and went during the day. As a result, last week they retreated to their comfort zone in Huyton, but today they tried once again to claim the streets of Liverpool for the far-right. What a mistake that was.

As two weeks before, phone calls and text messages saw local antifascists mobilise in opposition. And once again, their ranks were swelled by great swathes of the public, particularly young people.

However, today far eclipsed the events of a fortnight ago, and the police were unable to prevent the fascists from being entirely surrounded and blocked from public view.

Earlier on in the day, activists from Liverpool Antifascists gave out several thousand leaflets to largely receptive passers-by. Some people did angrily reject the leaflets - only to come back and apologise when they realised they weren't BNP!

They also received genuine thanks from people, especially those from ethnic minorities, for the work we were doing. 

There was some trouble later in the day when fireworks were thrown. One exploded on the BNP's stall table, collapsing it. Another exploded within the ranks of antifascists. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured. BNP "super-activist" Peter Tierney hurt his foot, though given that he attacked an antifascist from behind with a camera tripod, we find sympathy difficult.

The thrower of the fireworks, a silly and incendiary act which I could have gotten any number of innocent people hurt, was not identified.
The BNP, however, were on top form.

Their activists got in the faces of teenagers and youngsters, with Andrew Tierney at one point breaking ranks to chase a young girl, only to be physically restrained. One fascist shoved a man holding his young daughter in has arms. And Jamie Luby was seen telling the same young girl to "find him in O'Neill's" if she wanted to fight him.

Most telling of all, however, was Andrew Tierney's threat that - because an unknown individual had thrown fireworks (one at antifascists, we hasten to add) everyone who opposed the BNP was now "fair game."

Organiser Mike Whitby also promised that when they took pictures of those opposing the BNP, they would end up "on a site far worse than Redwatch."

This shows that the BNP have far from outgrown their violent roots, and that they are still more than willing to intimidate and attack opponents. As Peter Tierney, of course, showed us when he picked up that camera tripod.

But the threats didn't work on local people. Even children, some no older than eleven, stood up to the thugs. At one point, they jumped on a raised podium to block Andrew Tierney's view of the girl he had been shouting at when he tried to take a picture of her.

Eventually, the BNP gave in, packed up and loaded their propaganda into two cars, to much jeering. But this time, people did not simply watch them go. Motivated by the success of the day, and antagonism from the fascists, people surrounded the police and the cars and literally ran them out of town.

This really was one of the best things I have ever seen, and it made my day. It also demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt that militant direct action is the greatest weapon against fascism.