Saturday, 10 March 2012

Fascists met with spontaneous opposition in Liverpool

Today, the British National Party held a stall in Liverpool City Centre. Much like the last time they did this in 2010, it was met with spontaneously organised opposition from local anti-fascists and members of the public. The event is instructive with regards to recent developments in the fight against fascism.

The International Women's Day march a number of anti-fascists were on before heading to confront the BNP
Firstly, and crucially, it is worth noting that the BNP presence was next to nothing. Their numbers were tripled by the presence of the self-styled "Scouse nationalists," and it was probably still generous to say they numbered thirty at their height. Aside from highlighting the ground the BNP is losing to street fascism, it also underlines that the far-right's recent strength has come mostly from mobilising nationally under the banner of populist causes. With no nationwide call out, and without being able to claim they are out against paedophiles or the IRA, they simply didn't have the numbers to dominate the streets.

The anti-fascists, on the other hand, should have been at a disadvantage. We only knew about the stall once it appeared on Church Street. Most of the local left was out of town for the protest against the Liberal Democrat party conference and those that weren't were attending the march to commemorate International Women's Day. Yet still, when a number of us broke away from the march to seek out the fascists, rapid text and email callouts meant that we arrived to find about fifty people already standing in opposition to them. Apart from the nearby Socialist Party stall and Circle of Silence refugee vigil, neither of which were actively standing against the BNP right under their noses.

This doesn't, for a second mean that the fascists can be dismissed. Clearly, if their strength is in national mobilisations against populist causes, this is what they will continue to do. And if they are able to do that with any success, it will give them the confidence to be more aggressive and pro-active at spontaneous local actions, which could catch anti-fascists off guard if we take our ability to outnumber them at that level for granted. This would not only damage the anti-fascist cause, but put the wider class struggle - from picket lines and occupations to street stalls - under threat of attack.

Today was an easy victory for anti-fascists. Our numbers were quickly bolstered by members of the public, making it impossible for the police to enforce Section 14 of the Public Order Act and move us away from our opponents. This was important because we have seen, both at anti-cuts events and against the far-right, whose side the police are on when we don't have the numbers to impede them. That we were able to stand our ground and surround them was the reason that the fascists ended their day complaining of "Nationalism oppressed by the anti British left wing of Liverpool." [sic] This is definitely a positive, but it always needs to be measured against other recent actions which show the cost of complacency.

The far-right can and must be beaten by mass mobilisations of the organised working class. But this is not something that just happens, or that we can leave to others. Fighting fascism is a task for us all, and when the North West Infidels demonstrate on the 24 March we have to show that we're serious about this task, or face the dire consequences.