Insulting: the rally at the war memorial
The previous Saturday, cops arrested thirteen members of the British National Party in Whitechapel, Liverpool city centre, on suspicion of distributing racist material, namely their 'Racism Cuts Both Ways' pamphlets. This came only a few days after it was revealed that Constable Steve Bettley of Prenton, Birkenhead was a member of the far-right party, an organisation that serving police are barred from. Immediately following the arrests, BNP websites started claiming that their members had been "tortured", and linking Merseyside "thought police" to "Stalinist Communism". They then began planning a "mass mobilisation" of BNP activists to protest the arrests. A counter-demonstration was called by Unite Against Fascism and Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism, which spread quickly across several websites, including 'non-political' forums.
With the BNP expected at 11am, the counter demonstration rally began an hour earlier, on the corner of Bold Street and Renshaw Street. One of the first announcements was that the Attorney General had decided that 'Racism Cuts Both Ways' is not racist, and therefore the BNP are allowed to distribute it. This prompted Merseyside Police's decision that the thirteen arrestees were not to be charged, which Alec McFadden loudly condemned as "fucking disgusting".
There is no doubt that 'Racism Cuts Both Ways' is itself racist. The reason for this is not its title (of course it does!), but the way the text condemns specific alleged attacks by ethnic minority British residents on white people (including a majority where no racist motive has been found), offers no explanation of the behaviour, then claims this proves "there are serious problems festering at the heart of the ‘multi-racial experiment’". In other words, if some non-white people attack white people, this proves ALL non-white people are unable to co-exist peacefully with white people. Subtle maybe, racist definitely!
There then followed appeals to stop BNP chairman Nick Griffin being elected as North West Member of the European Parliament next June, a speech from Kirkdale Labour councillor Beatrice Fraenkel (a 'regeneration' bigwig and property developer who in her former life as a Lib Dem headed their Capital of Culture bid team), and some music, which McFadden interrupted by telling the crowd that "At the moment we're not doing anything", which apparently meant people should step away from the Co-operative Bank entrance. Police then moved in to get protesters onto the Bold Street pavement. "We've been given the freedom to stand on Bold Street", claimed McFadden, as if it were some kind of gain.
Shortly after 11am, police informed the organisers that the BNP had not shown up in Liverpool. McFadden bizarrely declared this "Liverpool anti-fascists 23, BNP 0", and announced a "victory parade". In practice, many of the approximately two hundred and fifty anti-fascists wandered off, as did McFadden himself, who was bound for a Trades Union Congress conference in Manchester, in his capacity as local TUC president.
The police would later protect the one hundred and fifty strong BNP contingent at St George's Plateau in Lime Street - where Griffin gave a short speech, and one anti-fascist was taken away by cops for interrupting Belle Vale candidate Pete Molloy. But at that moment they were either at or on their way to Whitechapel, the very same spot where the self-styled 'Liverpool 13' had been arrested on the previous Saturday. There they began handing out the very same racist lies, damned lies and statistics.
Very soon, the word got out, and anti-fascists came streaming back. For about half an hour, the crowd chanted slogans such as "Smash the BNP", "We are black, white, Asian and we're Jews", and "We know where you live", a reference to the leaked BNP membership list. Throughout this time, two lines of police separated the two demonstrations, and despite the best efforts of police, anti-fascist numbers were swelled by people who had been Christmas shopping.
Then, armed with a megaphone on the frontline, Weyman Bennett of Unite Against Fascism began negotiating with police. He made some shambling comments about people having to disperse, but these were very quickly drowned out by hecklers, and chants of "No pasaran" (Spanish for 'they shall not pass') went up. Bennett seemed shaken by this indignant response, but he had another word with the senior police officer and negotiated "five more minutes". This was met with more anger from protesters, one of whom shouted "We didn't give them five more minutes in Madrid" (another Spanish revolution reference), while others denounced him as a "traitor" for holding such discussions with cops. But some began to leave, and the police's push down Church Street and back into Bold Street was inevitable.
So what lessons can we learn? Well, for a start, the police are not neutral upholders of democratically-determined laws. They lie. They cannot be trusted. They have their own interests, but they mostly follow what their government paymasters tell them to do. The Labour hierarchy has apparently decided that the BNP must be treated as a legitimate party, just like the Weimar governments did in 1920s and 30s Germany. 'Keep out the BNP' is a convenient way of mobilising people to vote Labour, even those who hate their anti-working class, pro-war policies.
To stay in his role as local TUC president, Alec McFadden has to retain the confidence of those he negotiates with. That means he must maintain a commitment to legalism, and a friendly working relationship with the police.
Weyman Bennett is a member of the Socialist Workers Party's central committee. This group claims it is in favour of revolution, but its methods are reformist, and it has a track record of taking over genuine grassroots movements and turning them into recruitment drives and paper sales. Similarly, Unite Against Fascism like to work within the system. A look at their extremely out of date and badly spelled supporters list shows many MPs (including prospective Tory Prime Minister David Cameron), and even former chief of the Metropolitan Black Police Association Leroy Logan.
No doubt this article will be posted on nationalist websites, and some nationalists will gain courage from the idea that anti-fascists are fighting amongst themselves. Such people should remember that this 'national mobilisation' drew only a very small percentage of their ten thousand members. They were outnumbered.
However, people like McFadden and Bennett are the enemies within. Because of the way their organisations are structured in relation to the working class, they ultimately uphold the profit system that breeds conflict between people of different ethnicities and nationalities.
The solution will not be applauded by politicians or establishment figures. The solution will not kowtow to hired agents of the capitalist state. The solution is working class internationalism and solidarity.
Leaders collaborate with police and lose the day for Liverpool anti-fascists
Report of anti-fascist demonstration 29 November 2008 by James from Liverpool
Saturday 22 November saw the BNP mobilise twelve of their thugs from across the north-west to hand out the vile ‘racism cuts both ways’ pamphlet on Church Street in the centre of Liverpool. Eager to clear their name after having at least one officer exposed as a member of the fascist organisation Merseyside Police swooped in and arrested them.
The following week saw BNP outrage at the arrests, with articles on their website referring to the police as the Merseyside KGB, and more worryingly their call for a demonstration on the streets of Liverpool on November 29th. Despite short notice, Liverpool anti-fascist activists acted quickly and spent the intervening week organising a counter-demonstration to begin at 10am that morning, an hour before the BNP planned to arrive.
On arrival we were informed by Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism (MCARF) spokesperson, Alec McFadden, that earlier in the morning the Attorney General had, unsurprisingly, intervened to overturn the charges against the BNP members. Crowds continued to gather around the sound system that had been set up at the bottom of Bold Street. We listened to several speakers talking about the need to keep Merseyside free of fascists before it was announced by McFadden (shortly after 11am) that the BNP had not come to town and we could claim ‘victory’. It quickly became clear that this information had been supplied by the police to mislead us, and stupidly was passed on to the crowd by McFadden and Weyman Bennett, a leader of Unite Against Fascism and the Socialist Workers Party.
The announcement directly conflicted with information from those activists who had been walking around watching out for the fascists. It was clear from the police presence that the BNP were indeed still in town, and sure enough at 11.30am a group of us spotted around 50 of them marching (with a police escort of course!) from St. Georges Gardens to Church St. Immediately it became clear that we had been followed by the police, and as soon as we reached for our phones we were stopped and harassed.
Despite this setback, those thirty to forty activists who had remained after the premature declaration of victory managed to regroup and confront the fascists, who had by now begun leafleting. The police quickly and forcefully separated us and began reinforcing their lines between us and the fascists. Within half an hour the crowd confronting the BNP had swelled to between 200 and 250, most of whom were members of the public. As the crowd grew it became clear that the police were organising to break up our demonstration, whilst at the same time giving BNP photographers (among them known fascist psychopath Joe Owens) free reign to picture and video us. However, despite intimidation from the police and the fascists the crowd continued to grow in size and militancy, chanting "We know where you live! We know where you live!" and "One, two, one two three, how many cops in the BNP!" Alongside the standard battle-cry of "nazi-scum, off our streets!"
At this point Weyman Bennett returned, megaphone aloft (having conspicuously disappeared once it became clear a confrontation was on the cards) to do the police’s job for them. In a combined display of misjudged machismo, blatant opportunism and treacherous collaboration, Bennett assured the crowd "I’m a man who normally likes to settle things with his fists" before warning us that if we didn’t leave in five minutes we would all be arrested. Despite meeting vocal opposition from the crowd, Bennett continued to try and split us, telling the clique of UAF sycophants who had patronisingly hushed the crowd to turn their backs on the other demonstrators and do what the police told them. As he led people away a new unit of cops were moved in at the front of the three further lines that had been formed, and they began to forcefully disperse us.
After ten minutes of trying to hold off the police offensive, they managed to isolate those who had been agitating for us to hold our ground, we were read a section of the Public Order Act before being frog marched to where Bennett had obediently reassembled the demonstration (nearly a kilometre from the fascists) and released. At this point the crowd (now numbering around one hundred) had been completely hemmed in by the police, whilst the BNP marched back across town and held a rally on the steps of St. George’s Hall, declaring the they had "reclaimed the streets of Liverpool."
What we saw on Saturday was defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. At all points we outnumbered the fascists, there were many among us prepared to confront them and physically drive them off the streets of Liverpool, and we won the support of many members of the public. However, the incompetence of Alec McFadden and the treachery of Weyman Bennett left an isolated group of activists (including many young first-timers) to be brutally attacked by the police whilst bravely upholding the principle of No Platform.
This is a story we hear time and time again about the "leaders" of the anti-fascist movement who limit their no-platform policies and radical rhetoric to reliance on the racist police and courts of law. The reason is simple - their strategy is to limit action to what is acceptable to trade union leaders, Labour and even Tory MPs. REVOLUTION fights both within and outside of groups like MCARF, UAF and Searchlight for a community and working class anti-fascist organisation. We put forward our strategy to a demonstration in Leeds with enormous success – proving in practice the kind of anti-fascist movement we must build.