Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 in anti-fascism

For the British National Party and the English Defence League, 2011 was the year of their decline. The previous year had already ended with their reactionary message being sidelined by the struggle against the cuts, and this year they would fail to regain momentum. But in their place, once more, hardline elements have revived the Mosley-ite tactic of "controlling the streets."

This became clear when Jon Shaw - better known as Snowy and a leading figure in the EDL splinter group The Infidels - issued a "message to reds and militants." In a declaration of war against the left, he said "we have decided to put all our efforts into opposing everything you do regardless of the issue at hand." Now, "every event you hold will be a potential target along with your meetings, fund raisers and social events." With all pretence of "peacefully protesting militant Islam" abandoned, traditional fascist tactics were back on the table - and the "reds" identified as the real enemy.

Nor has it just been the Infidels who took up this call. Even before they parted ways with the EDL leadership, the Liverpool Division wholeheartedly embraced this tactic - invading News from Nowhere and the offices of Unite the Union, mobilising opposition to anti-cuts demonstrations, a march by female asylum seekers and anybody else they could identify as a "lefty." Then there was the Occupy movement, with Liverpool's camp becoming just the latest targeted for fascist violence.

Their threat to oppose the demonstrations during the November 30 strike transpired as a ludicrous sideshow to a remarkable demonstration of working class power. But it did confirm what we'd long suspected: that the resurgence of street fascism had brought together members of various far-right groups. Liverpool Division (no longer EDL) stood alongside BNP loyalists Andrew Tierney and Gary Lucas, as well as more openly neo-Nazi thugs like Liam Pinkham. If they had crossed over and hung around each other before, now they made no bones about it. As Liverpool Division put it, in their own semi-coherent way, they "are not an EDL division we are a division of united nationalists."

As for the organisations they came from, it is worth a quick word on their decline. The BNP, we know, were already in turmoil over the splits caused by a challenge to Nick Griffin's leadership - ultimately resulting in the formation of the British Freedom Party. Griffin's victory over Andrew Brons in an internal election supposedly solved that problem, but they have since only slid further into obscurity.

In Liverpool, the Party's activism consisted of harassing shop-keepers in Huyton, Peter Tierney getting arrested for harassing Labour Party members, and a demonstration at the filming of Question Time which once more saw them chased from the city. They fared abysmally in the local elections and Tierney's brother Andrew was tagged for an assault on an anti-fascist in the City Centre a year before - pretty much confirming that as an electoral force they are spent.

For the EDL, their threat to form a ring of steel around the Royal Wedding didn't materialise, whilst numbers at national demonstrations continued to decline. Tommy Robinson aligned the group to the BFP as an attempt to restore some credibility amongst the more moderate elements, but in the process managed to completely drive out the hardcore fascists. With the story of Tommy's "beating" earning further ridicule amongst anti-fascists and EDL splitters alike, it is hard to see how the EDL can recover from this year's set-backs.

Of course, it is likely that the BNP or EDL could see a reversal of fortunes in the coming year, or perhaps a last gasp of influence. But it remains the case that the street gangs are presently the main threat posed by fascism in this country. And even less so that the collapsing organisations they emerged from, they will not be defeated by state bans and counter demonstrations at a distance.

If the fight against fascism in 2011 leaves any mark, it is the reminder that - ultimately - fascism is an ideology based in violence and must be physically resisted.