Saturday, 28 April 2012

Liverpool Antifascists picket Quiggins Attique

Today was the Infidels of Britain's nationwide day of "direct action." In Liverpool, we were promised that the Scouse Infidels would be "busy bodies," and they even had a special National Front "Vote Quiggins" banner for the occasion. In reality, Liverpool Antifascists got the drop on the far-right, who were nowhere to be seen in the city when it came to it.

In the morning, around 20 anti-fascists headed to Quiggins Attique on Aigburth Road. This is of course the shop owned by NF mayoral candidate Peter Tierney. We arrived at about 10am, with the shop due to open at 10.30, to unfurl our banner in front of the shop and begin handing out leaflets. The leaflets were about the mayoral elections generally and all three fascist candidates, but we did have posters (PDF) which underlined Tierney's standing as a convicted, violent thug, and pointed out to those who took our leaflets exactly what the man was capable of.

Whilst we were there, the response we received from the public was almost universally positive. People took our leaflets, stopped to talk to us about fascism and offer us their thanks and support. The only exceptions were one racist old man who said he would vote for Tierney "if he'll send the coloureds back," and the man who lived above the shop.

He came out with a big dog on a leash and whirling a chain. He was clearly in the mood for a confrontation, though wide-eyed and clearly put out when nobody backed away from him. He accused us of kicking a door in, which was self-evidently false as no doors in the area had been kicked in, before declaring that he wasn't part of anything. He quickly belied that, however, when he tried to threaten a female anti-fascist who gave him short shrift before he disappeared.

Throughout all this, Tierney remained inside the shop. He had been seen entering by the first comrades on the scene, and it was noted that he appeared to recognise at least one of them. After that, we heard nothing from him and the shutters remained down long after the scheduled opening time.

Our picket continued until midday, with leaflets dropped through letterboxes on the neighbouring streets as well as distributed to largely receptive passers-by. We then called it a day and packed up, to head into town with the expectation that the Infidels - who had failed to show in support of the man they'd had a banner made for - would be turning up at some point for their big day out.

Our scouts report that Tierney's shop remained closed for well over an hour after the picket ended, only finally being seen open at 2pm. The wild-eyed upstairs neighbour, "nothing to do with all that," was stood outside with his dog and his chain.

In the City Centre, we met up with anti-fascists who had been taking part in action under another banner. In Childwall, a fifty-strong counter demonstration against anti-abortion zealots was running concurrently with the picket. This, too, was highly successful and everyone was on a high when we reached town. However, the afternoon would be a chilled out one since it emerged that the Infidels had been bussed out to support a demo elsewhere in the North West.

Today underlines, yet again, that there is a world of difference between where the fascists are and where they think they are. The Infidels are the most radical of the active nationalist groups right now, having adopted anarchist tactics such as occupations and banner drops. They have also given a new lease of life to the National Front, formerly dead on its feet and not worth mentioning. But their "big" turnouts still require bussing loads of people in from across the country and - without a populist cause to exploit like paedophiles or "the IRA" - even that is often inadequate.

Not that anti-fascists should be complacent. February 18 happened because we dropped the ball, and subsequent victories were down to actively mobilising people and raising awareness of the physical threat the far-right potentially pose. As the struggle against fascism goes on, we need to keep mobilising people and getting feet on the street otherwise this trend will not continue.

Today was an unqualified victory, and all who took part should be proud. The task now is to continue to build our numbers, and a movement capable of waging effective direct action against the fascists time and time again. As Antifa once said,"we have already shown on numerous occasions that a relatively small number of dedicated antifascists can score decisive victories. Most of our actions and activities go unreported, but the fascists know and fear us. Imagine what a difference it would make if there were thousands of us."

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Stand up for choice this Saturday!

On Saturday 28 April, anti-abortion group The Society For Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) are holding vigils around the country. This nationwide action marks a significant escalation in anti-abortion activism, which has risen to prominence recently with US-style abortion clinic protests. With women's services already under attack from austerity, this movement needs to be opposed.

SPUC is a right-wing, reactionary, religious fundamentalist organisation. This can be seen even in the fact that, despite being a supposedly single-issue organisation, it has launched a "campaign to uphold real marriage." Although it tries to tie this in by claiming that "unborn children are much safer within marriage than outside marriage," a spurious claim at best, the focus of this campaign is same sex marriage and underlines the group's broader politics.

Returning to their anti-abortion stance, SPUC are one of a number of groups seeking to "educate" the public on abortion. But, as the Guardian recently revealed, they are actively peddling misinformation, including the nonsense that abortion causes cancer. All the more disturbing when you consider that the target of this propaganda campaign is schoolchildren.

I am absolutely and unrepentantly pro-choice. There is to my mind no rational reason to deny women complete autonomy over their own bodies and their own reproductive organs. When they don't, the consequences are horrendous - with over 70 thousand maternal deaths and 5 million disabilities per year (PDF), globally, as a result of unsafe, illegal abortions. Meanwhile legal abortion, performed by trained medical personnel is one of the world's safest procedures (PDF). Making it illegal won't make it go away, and if the anti-abortion campaigners really are "pro-life," they may want to consider the fatal consequences of the laws they seek to impose.

The real answer to abortion is greater access to proper education about sex and contraception. As I noted a few years back, this not only improves sexual health but also results in considerably less unwanted pregnancies. But, again, we suffers a problem of definitions. Just as "pro-life" laws are resulting in thousands of deaths worldwide, so the education and contraception that would prevent abortion are opposed by the "anti-abortion" lobby.

According to SPUC;
Contraception does not reduce the number of abortions. Countries in the western world have freely available contraception as well as widespread abortion. Ms Jean Malcolm, director of a Brook Advisory Centre, told the Edinburgh and Lothian Post: "It's partly because of a greater availability of contraception that there are more pregnancies. I suppose it's almost inevitable." (11 January 1992)

Contraception may also result in an anti-child mentality, such that unplanned babies are regarded merely as the undesirable results of contraceptive failure.
So, I guess, we should all just get to making babies in heterosexual marriages then...

I've written before about how "God's culture warriors are also the state's foot soldiers." It is no coincidence that we're seeing US-style anti-abortion protests at a time when abortion services, and other health services, are under threat as part of the austerity agenda. Joseph Kay discusses this as well in "bodies as a site of class struggle."

Which brings us back to SPUC's vigils. In themselves, they are relatively harmless - no different than the God botherers in any City Centre who most people ignore and gangs of kids take the piss out of. Except that they're helping the government justify policy which is extremely detrimental to women, and outside abortion clinics they're getting in the face of and harassing women who already have enough to deal with without some zealot telling them they're going to go to hell (and get cancer) as a result.

That's why a number of these vigils will be met with opposition, and that number will hopefully grow before Saturday comes around. Especially in places (like Liverpool) where the anti-choice movement is rearing its head for the first time, its message needs to be drowned out in defence of reproductive autonomy.

Here are the details of counter-protests organised so far. If there's one near you, go along. If there's not, but there will be a vigil that needs countering, organise it yourself!

Bath: 10.30am, Bath Abbey

Brighton: 10.30, Preston Park

Liverpool: 10.45am, Childwall Health Centre

Edinburgh: 11am, Lothian Road/Lauriston Place

Sheffield: 10.30am Vulcan Road

Cardiff: 11am, location to be confirmed

Newcastle: 11am, Tyne Bridge

Oxford: 12pm, Cornmarket (there's no SPUC demo in Oxford, but it's a good day to do some pro-choice leafletting anyway!)


To add your event to the list email Abortion Rights with the details or contact them on Twitter – they're happy to spread the word!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Liverpool Antifascists clash with National Front and the Infidels

Last night, as a result of pressure from students and the threat of a disruptive anti-fascist demonstration, Liverpool University cancelled today's mayoral debate. It was to feature the National Front, BNP and English Democrats, and stopping it was decisively a victory. Liverpool Antifascists held a rally today to underline this point.

Upon hearing that the debate was definitely cancelled, Unite Against Fascism called off their own demonstration set for today. This was undoubtedly the reason that far less people turned up than would have otherwise, but there was little to be done about that. For LiverAF, our concerns were simple: that fascists would likely still be in town looking to cause trouble, and that the absence of anti-fascists would only give them more confidence - even after their candidates in the elections had been denied a platform.

Outside the Liverpool Guild of Students, there was an extremely short rally whereby a LiverAF speaker explained why we hold a no platform position, and leaflets about the mayoral election were handed out. Then we got the news that we had expected: around twenty fascists were in town and headed our way.

Knowing that they would be looking to cause affray, we quickly decided that we didn't want to present a static target and ought to confront them head on. We headed away from the Guild, with a couple of nervous police liason officers following us at a distance, in the direction they had been spotted. Sure enough, once we reached the Metropolitan Cathedral, there were cries of "there they are," as the boneheads came storming out of a side street.

Liam Pinkham and Joe Killen - BNP candidate for Tranmere and Birkenhead - led the charge. They threw a milkshake in our general direction, whilst Pinkham and Killen both went for me. They held my arms down and, as near as I can tell, gave me a group hug. There were a couple of punches thrown, and I actually felt the one that touched my neck. "Touched" being the operative word.

The love-in lasted seconds, though I was vaguely aware of other scuffles close by, before they were pushed back and the police stepped in to drag them over the road. Needless to say, we followed and the police pushed them back further. Soon after, perhaps realising the stupidity of trying to assault someone in view of CCTV and police, they disappeared back into the crowd. There were a few local faces in there, but most were National Front members bussed in from around the region. They had an NF banner with David Lane's fourteen words on it, a union flag and a George's Cross. One NF woman also sported an absolutely darling union flag mini top hat!

With the police now planted between the opposing sides, the result was a really loud and aggressive slanging match. This lasted for a while before a police van blocked the two groups from each other's sight and silence descended over the confrontation. The fascists broke it by crossing the road and moving forward so we once more faced each other, but the police soon blocked this and shoved them back to where they stood.

Anti-fascists then took the initiative, continually crossing the road to break police lines and move forward so that the cops had to force the fascists back to keep us apart. Eventually, they were forced to herd them away altogether whilst we kept pushing forward. They retaliated for this by nicking a comrade for a public order offence, leading to a stand off with the police. We marked our territory by declaring that we weren't leaving until he was released, which caused them to hesitate. However, eventually one officer accused us of blackmail and the van drove off.

We then decided to march away from the police, and regroup at St Anne's Police station in support of our arrested comrade. I imagine the sight of twenty odd anti-fascists in the foyer wasn't too welcome, and after delaying as long as possible they were released without charge.

What today underlines is that we are returning to the politics of physical force on the streets. The far-right have given up on any attempts at "respectability," and are in this for violent confrontation with the left and the organised working class. Against that, we need to always be willing to confront them and to take direct action against fascism.

All in all, today wasn't a good day for the fascists. Around the country, members of the Infidels have been picked off by anti-terror police. In Liverpool, their candidates' star turn was shut down. And when they took to the streets, matching our numbers only by bussing people in, Liverpool Antifascists met them head on and saw them forced off the streets. Well done to all anti-fascists involved today, and let's hope that more are willing to get stuck in next time around.

More reports on today's events can be read on and One Solution Revolution.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Cynical reflections ahead of the next public sector strike

After the non-starter that was 28 March, it now looks like we will see two big strikes in the next two months. The teachers unions NUT and NASUWT have started the ball rolling for an as-yet-unspecified date in June, whilst more immediately a number of unions are set to strike on 10 May.

The Unite health sector was the first to announce the 10 May date. As ever, the rhetoric is far more charged and bellicose than the actual fight. Despite the headline, this doesn't "step up" the dispute except with the proviso that doing nothing since November 30 was a step down and so they are returning to where they were. Workers are clearly itching for a fight, with a 94% vote for action, but despite talking tough this is just the second day of action for Unite members in over a year since pension attacks were announced.

PCS members at a rally in Bootle during industrial action last June
My own union, PCS, is little different. Again, the press release speaks of a "programme of ongoing action," but it remains to be seen what form this will take. Especially as the same rhetoric has been bandied about in a year where all we've had are two one day strikes, months apart. If the "co-ordinated, targeted industrial action in employer groups and sectors" does emerge, then it remains to be seen how effective this will be - especially as the previous reticence of the ruling Left Unity faction to adopt such tactics boils down to their botching them previously. I personally remain to be convinced until something other than another single day protest strike actually happens.

It goes without saying that I'm more than a little cynical on what can now be achieved in the pensions fight. As I've said on innumerable occasions, periodic one day strikes will not make the government budge. It is pressing ahead with austerity so rapidly and viciously quite simply because it feels strong enough to get away with it. To convince them otherwise, workers need to exercise serious disruptive power as a class. What we've seen so far simply isn't that.

Of course, a number of factors have led to us seeing far more militancy than we might have. In the main, this has been rank-and-file pressure - workers realising the scale of the attacks they are facing and, quite rightly, demanding something be done against that. This has been helped considerably by the strength of the grassroots movements outside of the trade unions - from the students movement and UK Uncut to the ongoing workfare campaign - creating a climate where the working class was regaining confidence in itself. The IWW's Cleaners Branch and Solfed's victory against Office Angels demonstrated what impact such forms of organisation could have industrially.

However, this has been tempered by the fact that within the mainstream unions there has been no similar rank-and-file empowerment. The Sparks are a vital exception, and to be sure there are those of us trying to kick start similar initiatives. But as a general rule, though there is certainly discontent with how the unions are plodding along, there is no real organisation to give it tangible form.

That is the long-running task of militants in the workplace, to build the networks and committees that get such rank-and-file organisation off the ground. However, for most shop stewards and lay activists, it'll mainly be a case of overcoming a general sense of defeatism and making the case for the next one day strike rather than drawing people into a rank-and-file group empowered to push beyond those limitations. Such is the benefit to union officials of managed defeat; not only does it ensure their position at the top table selling industrial peace, it makes it that much harder for control of the struggle to be wrested from their grasp.

I'll still be on the picket line when strike day comes, and I'll still be arguing passionately for workers to lead our own fight. But, ultimately, real militancy against austerity will come from outside the unions and - short of something bloody spectacular - the pensions dispute will end in defeat at the hands of our class enemies. Those in government and those at the top of the unions.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Passé? Why Sarah Malm is an idiot

A "passé" picket line at Shorfields, Liverpool
Writing for the Independent, journalism student Sarah Malm asks "how would you classify a group of people that take hostages to make themselves heard?" The answer, it appears, is "workers' unions." Thus begins one of the most appealing pieces of crap ever to pass itself off as political commentary.

Malm takes issue with the NUT and NASUWT in particular, over news that both have voted in favour of further coordinated strike action, starting with a one-day strike in June. Given their reasons for not going out on March 28, PCS are likely to follow suit - meaning that Malm presumably also has an issue with workers such as myself. Though, admittedly, strikes by civil servants give less opportunity to shriek "won't someone think of the children!"

So, what's the problem with the strike, then? "It is a selfish, disgraceful and, quite frankly, passé behaviour which has no place in a market economy, especially not one four years into a recession." In particular for parents, "strikes prevent hardworking people from putting food on their tables, they confine them to their homes and, yes, hold economic growth and opportunities hostage for all of us."

Just think of all those poor parents having to take a day off work or having to arrange care because their kids won't be in school. I mean, it's not like they're going to be given plenty of notice about it, is it? Or most employers will recognise the potential of the strike to affect their own workforce and make arrangements accordingly. Or there's such a thing as the right to time off when you need to look after a dependant. What do you mean this has happened twice in the past year alone and the world didn't end as a result of it?

Malm continues in much the same vein. What about "small business owners with no one to pile their workload on?" Because, obviously, the right of those who own capital (even a small amount) to exploit wage labour for profit is far more important than the right of those who have nothing to sell but their labour to withdraw it when their employer is taking the piss. You know how in your "six years working entry-level jobs" you had pretty shit conditions, "unlike you union workers"? That's cause you and your fellow workers weren't organised. Combining, exercising our labour power and - yes - "hold[ing] economic growth and opportunities hostage" is the reason why we have decent pay and conditions to defend in the first place.

It's also the reason that the working class more broadly has everything from the minimum wage to maternity leave. It's the reason that employers' disciplinary procedures are no longer part of criminal law. It's a reason that the government has such a long list when it looks at rolling back the gains made by the working class.

But it wasn't just our willingness to "stomp your feet," as you have it. It was the basic principle of support and solidarity for each other as a class. The teachers are actually a pretty good example of how an injury to one is an injury to all, because a driving motive behind pension reform is greater privatisation. In education, that means academies and free schools - which are bad for the kids who have to go to them and the parents with nowhere else to take them.

The parents of Shorefields School, in the Dingle, could understand that. That's why, when the teachers went on strike, parents and pupils joined the picket line in support of their "elfish, disgraceful and, quite frankly, passé behaviour." The levels of public support for the teachers strike - and, especially in cities like Liverpool, for pretty much every industrial action - show that they're far from alone in being able to grasp that basic principle of working class solidarity.

Malm clearly doesn't, though. Instead, she pours scorn and ridicule on those who dare to stand up for themselves against attacks from the bosses. She is almost as bad as a scab, and indeed will probably become one if pay and conditions in her own job come under attack. That is what's really "disgraceful, selfish and, quite frankly, passé."

Monday, 9 April 2012

Anti-fascist demonstration – Thursday 19 April

UPDATE: Since this was first posted, the Liverpool Guild of Students have refused to host the debates due to the presence of fascists on the platform. Liverpool University has confirmed the new venue for the debate as the Sherrington Building on Ashton Street. Liverpool Antifascists' demonstration has moved accordingly. Map here.

Reposted from Liverpool Antifascists

On Thursday 19th April, Mountford Hall is playing host to a live debate amongst all of the prospective candidates for Liverpool’s first directly elected mayor. This includes the three fascist candidates for the British National Party, English Democrats and National Front.

Liverpool Antifascists are calling for a demonstration at this event as a show of the city’s opposition to the divisive politics of racism and fascism.

There can be no doubt that Liverpool is suffering at the hands of the present government, wilfully enabled by the City Council. From austerity to workfare, class warfare is being waged against us on nearly every front, and Liverpool Antifascists is proud to say its members are fully involved in the various struggles against these policies.

However, the far-right have no answer to these attacks. Instead, they offer us division – telling us that different sections of the working class are to blame because of their ethnicity, religion or country of origin. Whilst the people of Liverpool wage a real fightback with strikes, pickets and demonstrations, all they can do is wave flags and point to scapegoats. National Front candidate Peter Tierney even wants us to whitewash this city’s history and heritage by abolishing the Slavery Museum!

We know where this kind of politics leads. The Liverpool Irish community saw it in February when a parade into the City Centre was turned back by a mob of fascists shouting “IRA scum.” In the City Centre, ethnic minority Big Issue sellers have been attacked with spray paint by racist thugs. In Childwall, only yesterday, a sign saying Welcome to Gatacre was graffitied with the slogan “n*ggers not wanted.” If the far-right get a foothold in these elections, such hate will only escalate.

Liverpool Antifascists call on all anti-racists and anti-fascists to join us outside the mayoral debates. Bring banners, flags and signs. Make your voice heard, and show the world that fascism is not welcome in this city.

Anti-fascist Demonstration at the Liverpool Mayoral Debates
Thursday 19 April, 5pm-8pm
Mountford Hall, Liverpool Guild of Students, 160 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5TR

RSVP on Facebook here.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Anarcho-blogging roundup #12

Via Deviant Art
This latest roundup is in honour, more than anything else, of the fact that I've reduced my blogging output quite dramatically so far this year. This is due simply to the fact that my previous output was unsustainable without abandoning life to sit on the internet. As such, it's worth pointing readers around the blogosphere towards those talking about the things I'm not.

Fellow Scouse anarcho Anna has been writing some cracking stuff of late - in particular her post on manarchism, which deserves to be read by pretty much every male activist out there. Her latest piece, on the word cunt, is also worthy of a gander.

Cautiously Pessimistic talks about the 89% - those outside and ignored by the unions, the role of "socialists" in trade union bureaucracies and the recent PCS climbdown, and smears against anarchists. Adam Ford has been quite prolific, and has blogs on NHS defeatism, the budget, Occupy Oakland, the NHS risk register, Game occupations in Ireland and the anniversary of the Falklands war.

The Trial By Fire has posted a really interesting video of Kristian Williams from Occupy Wall Street talking about the idea that the police are part of "the 99%." The Vast Minority covers rising tensions between OWS and police here. 1solutionrevolution tells us why they continue to cover their face at demonstrations. And, to round of the subject of the police and attitudes towards them, it is worth noting as the police look set to march against cuts in Britain that the Phoenix Class War Council have adopted the slogan "defend Arizona workers, abolish the police unions."

Stavvers is someone I don't read quite enough of. Nor do you, if you don't know who I'm on about. See her posts on Samantha Brick, a recent pro-choice demonstration and abstinence education for a quick sample of work. On the subject of abortion, Joseph Kay has an interesting piece on bodies as a site of class struggle. This also (shameless plug klaxon) prompted me to look at the rise of the culture wars in Britain.

Freedom in the 21st covers the death of Trayvon Martin and the re-election of George Galloway. Nat at Forty Shades of Grey attempts to answer whether sex work would exist in a capitalist society as well as looking at rape and the Twitter hashtag #Ididnotreport (trigger warning).

Johnny Void continues to be the best source for the struggles of the unemployed. As well as reports from the Solfed day of action against workfare, he offers excellent in-depth analysis of the Work Programme, a lengthy piece on the big brother state and Universal Credit, and details of the new Youth Contract. Finally, if you want to know where all this is headed, read ‘Bout to explode: a day in the life of a precarious worker by Juan Conatz.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Liverpool BNP collapses after National Front defection

It was interesting to see, as the candidates in the Liverpool Mayoral Elections were announced, that there would be three fascist candidates standing. Liverpool organiser Mike Whitby is the British National Party candidate and ex-BNP man Paul Rimmer is standing for the English Democrats. But the surprise candidate is Peter Tierney...for the National Front.

Tierney has, for the past few years, been a stalwart of Liverpool BNP. Hailed as a "super-activist" in the past, perhaps for his bank account as much as his actions on the ground, he has been visible at virtually every BNP activity. He demonstrated his credentials by viciously attacking an anti-fascist protester in 2009 and he was more than willing to get his hands dirty for Nick Griffin during the splits in the party in 2010. Throw in the harassment of Asian shopkeepers and you have the portrait of a dedicated fascist lunatic.

He was rewarded with considerable support off Griffin, even when he went off the deep end. A key example being his arrest for harrassing Labour Party members about paedophilia. In short, no matter what he did, he remained a darling of the party and could count on support from the top table.

Something clearly went wrong, however, as he has now thrown his lot in with the all-but-dead and more openly neo-Nazi National Front. Rumours are that a spat with Mike Whitby is at the heart of this, with one nationalist blog even going so far as to declare Whitby a secret Labour Party activist. But it has also been noted that some in the party have been forging closer links with the North West Infidels - both Tierneys, Gary Lucas and Andrew Leary all being present at their farce of a demo in Bolton.

All appear to have defected to the NF alongside Peter. His brother Andrew - with his own record of assault and racist hi-jinks - is standing as NF in the local elections for Stockbridge Ward, whilst Lucas and Leary appear content to not put their head above the parapet just yet. But with all of the big names gone from the local BNP, the only other candidate alongside Whitby is complete unknown Chris Beatson.

Elsewhere, the British Freedom Party and the English democrats are both exploiting the gap left by the BNP. Each is offering up 5 candidates, virtually all former BNP members. The question is whether they will be able to exploit this gap without the "brand recognition" that the party they split from had. This is an open question and one that most likely won't be answered until the results are in. It's a safe bet, however, that the Tierneys using the NF brand will be a spectacular flop and proof that in some cases brand recognition is definitely not a good thing.

Both the mayoral and local council elections will undoubtedly prove a busy time for anti-fascists. However, both the complete disintegration of the BNP and the fact that their offshoots remain largely obscure work in our favour. The next month should prove to be quite interesting.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Alerta! Alerta! – anti-fascist benefit gig

Reposted from Liverpool Antifascists

On Saturday 21 April, the Next to Nowhere social centre plays host to an anti-fascist benefit gig. Come down and bring your friends for a fun, hectic night of Indie, Punk and Grime.

Doors at 6.45pm
Sam Talley 7.00-7.30pm
Reaper 7.45-8.15pm
The Visitors 8.30-9.00pm
The Probes 9.15-22.00pm

Entrance £3. All proceed go to the social centre and to Liverpool Antifascists. 

You can RSVP on Facebook here.

Map here.