- Category: Fighting Oppression
- Published on Saturday, 3 May 2014
- Written by ISN
Last Sunday saw the latest attempt of the floundering British fascist movement to “take back the streets” under the banner of March for England in Brighton. However, in what has become a yearly ritual humiliation for the “Master Race”, over a thousand anti-fascists chased the tiny far-right gathering out of Brighton, most of them only getting out in one piece thanks to the enormous presence of Sussex Police.
2014 is the seventh time March for England has shown up in Brighton. It has in the past attempted to present itself as a non-racist, patriotic and cultural celebration, while in reality being little more than a front for an assortment of British fascist and racist groups to march with a veneer of respectability – the membership of MfE has a significant correlation with that of the EDL and Casuals United, for instance. This year’s march in contrast did little to attempt to hide its political base – a “unite the right” project involving groups such as Britain First, English Volunteer Force and the Infidels. The “unite the right” project, which has seen joint demonstrations and work amongst fascist grouplets such as the National Front, British Movement and the Infidels, has attempted to capitalise on the decline of the BNP and the EDL to forge a more militant, racially aware and unified fascist movement. This latest demo is another sign that there are groups that, with much smaller pulling power but more militant, will attempt to fill the vacuum left by the increasingly redundant EDL.
Sunday’s demonstration bore all the hallmarks of such a process – through the decline of the EDL, coupled with an extremely successful campaign against them from anti-fascists in Brighton, the demonstration was reduced to a hardcore of fascists. No more than 50 attended the MfE itself, with little more than small groups dotted around the Brighton pubs. Considering the stated aim of the march this time round was to “Stand tall” against Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and to “smash” Antifa, the only reason the majority of MfE left with a full set of teeth was the hundreds of Sussex Police that had shown up as the fascists personal escort. From their first assembly at the nearby Wetherspoons, through their march and eventual herding onto the train, MfE was surrounded by cavalcade of horses, riot vans and officers. This didn’t stop the march being under continual threat from anti-fascists, as the police were pulled all over the place ensuring the security of the march. From the outset, when the march was confronted by over a thousand protesters on the sea front, MfE was harassed, confronted and prevented from moving freely. Splinter groups were forced to keep to the pubs (including one group that got a rigorous welcoming reception outside the Dorset Pub) and were continually confronted by groups of antifascists. At different points leading up to the train station barricades were erected by hundreds of protesters to again prevent their easy passage through the city. It wouldn’t be surprising if the fascists came away from that demonstration under the impression that the entire population of Brighton wanted them out of the city on a one way train.
The demonstration was particularly notable in that the success of confronting MfE, on Sunday and in the years previous, flew completely in the face of the position often put by the moderate and liberal sections of the anti-fascist movement. It showed that an anti-fascist movement which puts direct action and militant confrontation at the core of its politics is capable of scoring big victories against the far-right. The credit for the success in gradually reducing the fascist demonstration to the hardcore lies with those antifascists that have confronted MfE year in, year out. It demonstrated that militant anti-fascism is not solely dependent on a numbers game – a movement that embraces a diversity of tactics and refuses to accept the police’s prescriptions for the day is more than capable of being effective, even when outnumbered. Year in year out anti-fascists have given both fascists and the police the run round and been very successful in doing so. It also showed that unity does not have to come at the price of our politics – a “united front” whose political basis is that which bureaucrats and politicians can sign up to and which seeks to prevent action is not a united front in any sense. Brighton showed that a significant section of anti-fascists and anti-racists can be won to militant tactics and politics provided there are activists there to put them. Increasingly, the Anti-Fascist Network and the activists within it are showing the capacity to score victories, and it is essential we continue the work of building AFN around the country on the basis of working class politics and direct action.
For the fascists, it would be difficult to see this as anything other than a disaster. It neither saw a significant mobilisation nor did it show the fascists capacity for “reclaiming the streets”. It’s seen MfE reduced to a small rabble, and may well be the last time the fascists make the mistake of going to Brighton under the banner of MfE. While fascist demonstrations will no doubt continue to be a constant, the past years increasingly small demonstrations and ineffectiveness may see those gathered in the smaller groups move to a more militant and violent approach – attacking meetings and stalls more frequently or targeting activists and communities. The approach of Britain First, for instance, in their door step protests and ‘Christian Patrols’, while not unique, may become more common amongst those groups gathered under the banner of the United British Patriots. If that’s the case the anti-fascist movement will need to respond accordingly. For the time being, we can celebrate a disastrous weekend for the British fascists, and a well earned victory for the anti-fascist movement.