On Thursday May 10, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers took strike action around the country. Amongst these was my own workplace, with one of the largest and liveliest picket lines at least in Bootle. It was also the scene of a brief clash with fascists intent on disrupting proceedings.
On the whole, the strike was an astounding success. From a building of 1500 people, well over 1400 took part in the strike. Whilst most picket lines were on from 7 til 11 at the latest, we stayed on til 5.30 due to the evening shift in our building. Across the course of the day, around 40 PCS members and supporters took part in the picket, with a solid block of 25 people for most of the morning.
Around 3pm, we got word that Paul James/Walsh - booted out of the army for robbing houses and until recently second-in-command of the Combined Ex Forces would be leading a bunch of fascists down to visit us. Their target, predictably enough, was me. They had been threatening revenge ever since Liverpool Antifascists picketed Quiggins Attique and kept Peter Tierney closed until two in the afternoon. Now, with me stood outside work on strike action, they apparently saw their chance.
About half an hour later, we spotted them moving down Stanley Road towards the picket. There were six of them - the only unknown being a lad with a rottweiler. As they reached us, they all started shouting my name and gobbing off about supporting paedophiles. Paul Walsh was the first to step forward, whisky on his breath and white marks around his flaring nostrils, and start screaming that I was scum.
The initial confrontation lasted about a minute, if that. The pickets gave as good as they got, holding their ground in a block whilst the fascists jumped around screaming, trying to single people out. Particularly noteworthy is that whilst they're quick to gob off about being "real men" and the "smell of testosterone" (whilst the enemy are just "effeminate feminists"), it was the women of the group who were the most vocal and the first to get in their faces. Their macho bullshit wasn't intimidating anybody, least of all those whom they expected to be seen and not heard.
Before anything really kicked off, the police intervened. They had perhaps also gotten wind of what to expect, as a van had been present for much of the afternoon by the building, and it wasn't long before one officer on foot became half a dozen, plus two vans.
Walsh was taken to one side, complaining that he was being reprimanded for calling people paedo supporters whilst we were allowed to call him Nazi scum. Because, obviously, an utterly false allegation against anti-fascists is just the same as an observation about a goon who associates with the openly fascist National Front. Sure enough, he was nicked and taken to the police station under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
Meanwhile, with the police separating the groups, a stand off emerged between the small band of fash and the now-swollen ranks of trade unionists. Whilst senior management from the building came out, bewildered, to see what was going on, police tried to disperse those supporting the picket. One officer in particular was very aggressive, to the point that I had to shout over him to say that the fascists were at the picket line because of me and, since they'd tried to attack, they were the ones who had to fuck off.
After a while, this was the case and the fascists disappeared having achieved little to nothing. Whilst Peter Tierney had been stuck inside Quiggins for four hours as a result of the Liverpool Antifascists picket, we had held our ground when attacked by fascists. Coked up and ready for a brawl, they were able only to hurl idiotic abuse and make dicks of themselves before disappearing.
Today was personal in the sense that it was targeted at me. But it is also not the first time that the far-right in Liverpool have made their anti-working class agenda clear. On the day of the last big pensions strike, they attempted to heckled the march through Liverpool with cries of "communists out," and once more given short shrift. Today, whatever the reasons given, they proved that they have no qualms whatsoever with attacking trade union picket lines.
It needs to be emphasised, over and again, that the threat of the far-right is a physical one that needs to be tackled head on. This isn't the job of "specialist" anti-fascists, but of everyone who wants to ensure that workers' organisations and the left have the space to organise openly. Well done to all who stood their ground today.