Saturday 15th August saw a resounding victory for anti-fascists against the White Man March (WMM), an openly neo-Nazi demonstration, in Liverpool. Whilst earlier in the year the WMM was able to march in Newcastle, the story was very different in the North-West. This time, rather than being arrested for inciting racial hatred, its main organisers, National Action (NA), spent the best part of the afternoon cowering in the left luggage section of Liverpool Lime Street station protected from a huge counter-mobilisation by the police. Despite their own very strange write up of the day, NA seem unlikely to be successfully offering leadership to the scattered far right scene any time soon. The turn-out, split between two demonstrations, one called by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) – whose rally, rather worryingly, saw Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson call for powers to ban political marches (which was met with widespread applause) – and the Antifascist Network (AFN) was very large. Over the course of the day we estimate around one thousand people participated in the counter-mobilisation with the majority being concerned locals. Numbers for the White Man March are hard to assess but look unlikely to have been more than 60 – 80.
On the day the two counter-mobilisations pursued very different strategies. Whilst the UAF held a rally and marched in the opposite direction to the Nazis, the AFN took advantage of surprisingly sloppy policing and quickly moved from their assembly point to blockade the pub the Nazis were meeting in, trapping their core members and forcing other would-be attendees to disappear into the background. The scenes of fascists physically confronted and chased out of Liverpool by a hail of eggs and bananas made national news, with the coverage being pretty much universally positive. For a more in depth analysis of the victory in Liverpool (and political analysis of what it means) we suggest you read AFN’s report here.
This is the second successful mobilisation in the North-West in recent months and builds upon the successful opposition to the March for England which Plan C MCR were involved in organising for. Whilst we can’t mobilise for every tiny “flash mob” style event the far right organise, it is encouraging to see that with enough mobilisation time we can significantly disrupt or even halt their larger and more visible manifestations.
These victories however are rarely spontaneous. It usually takes lots of organising, on the ground and within organised structures, to pull off something so successful. In Liverpool, the presence of organised and cohesive groups really helped to make sure people’s outrage and anger was turned into tactically useful activity. Plan C members and some groups played a small role in making this event happen and we are really happy to have done that. However we want to congratulate AFN in particular on a very successful action. The day benefited from the leadership of a group prepared to confidently take public direct action against the fascists and we hope they can build on this victory, both tactically and politically, moving forward into a period where right wing threats seem unlikely to disappear. The gradual disappearance of UAF (not helped in Liverpool by its tactical choices on the day) has produced a vacuum which the AFN appear to increasingly be filling, which can only be a positive development for anti-fascism.
Whilst this is likely a crushing defeat for National Action, groups of their ilk in the UK, I.E. explicit Neo-Nazis, are an easier foe than other nationalist groups. The Eastern European Neo-Nazi scene which National Action were/are trying to emulate always seemed unlikely to gain traction in the current climate here in the UK (the fairly frequent scenes of EDL members fighting Nazis for carrying Swastikas is one indication of this) and seems to pose little threat beyond a direct, localised physical danger from violent fantasists in their organisations and wider circles. The real dangers, politically rather than physically, in the current UK far right ecology are the national populist groups and parties (including UKIP) trying to mobilise popular support around topics such as migration and the European Union – not to mention the attack on migrants by the Convervative government in the upcoming Immigration Bill. These are larger political threats to our organising than isolated neo-Nazis and have the capacity, at certain times and on certain topics, to significantly shift the political terrain we are operating on.
The intensification of the humanitarian crisis in Calais is an example of one of these moments. The dominant response to this crisis has been a nationalist and racist one with migrants compared to “cockroaches” and murmurings for the army to be sent in growing louder. On September 12th a hodge-podge of what remains of the increasingly splintered far right will be in Dover attempting to profit off the current crisis by calling for the border to be closed. The AFN are mobilising for this and we would encourage people to organise and join them. This mobilisation, alongside organised aid convoys to Calais and campaigns such as Movement for Justice’s against Yarl’s Wood Detention Prison– as well as the everyday organising we are seeing in London against UK Border Agency raids – are moments when we can use our collective strength (as it exists right now) to attempt to change the political discourse and the current balance of power on these topics. Whilst articulating our own visions of the future and building our own counter-power, we need to ensure we are working hard to stop the far right drastically shifting the current political terrain even farther to the right.
Some members of Plan C who organised for and participated in opposing the White Man March.