Brexit is dead, the Tories have killed it. Over the last
three years the Tories have accelerated their decades long habit of eating
their own faces over Europe culminating in a chaotic week in which Johnson has kicked out 21 of his own MPs and
2 more, including a cabinet minister, left of their own accord. What they
should have been doing is negotiating a deal that suited the country, not one
designed to hold their own party together.
I voted Leave in 2016, like many leave voters I’ve never voted Tory in my life,
I’ve not often voted for Labour either or anyone else for that matter. The
Labour party before Corbyn didn’t have much to say to me, I grew up in a house
where the Tories were considered evil and I’ve no idea what the Libdems stand
for but I suspect it’s nothing at all. My disdain for political parties is
based largely on the conviction that we, that is ordinary people who have to
work for a living, get what we fight for and win, we’re handed nothing.
I watched the election of Corbyn with interest, mainly
because I thought I was going to witness the explosion of the Labour party and
I love explosions especially of a party that has been dining out on the
creation of the NHS over half a century ago but in my lifetime gave us the Iraq
war and ATOS assessments, I wasn’t going to mourn them.
My change of heart over the Labour party was gradual at
first, I liked what Corbyn had to say, repeal of anti trade union laws, taking
the railways back into public control, renationalising the utilities basically
the same things, according to polling,
most people like. The moment I knew the attempt to change the Labour party into
something deserving the name was real came on a frosty January morning in 2017.
I’d become involved in a very minor way in the British Airways Mixed Fleet
cabin crew strike and travelled to Heathrow to support them on a picket line.
Everyone met at Bedfont FC before going
to the airport. John McDonnell turned up, on his own, met the workers on strike
and travelled with us to the picket line. I said to him that if someone had
told me two years before I’d be stood on
a picket line with a Labour shadow chancellor I’d have laughed in their faces,
he said he’d have been pretty surprised himself. I’ve been a member of the
party ever since.
What I voted for in 2016 was change. I am no fan at all of the European Union,
the basis of the treaties that underpin its existence are inherently anti
working people viewing us as little more than another commodity and I voted
against the political establishment the vast majority of which, from the Prime
Minister down, urged me to vote Remain. Given this mandate from the people the
Tories have negotiated a withdrawal agreement that Yanis Varoufakis described
as something only a country defeated in war would sign. We’re not at war with
the EU, despite the rhetoric coming from the head bangers who run Facebook
pages like LeaveEU and disturbingly from the Prime Minister. Despite his
bluster Johnson voted for that withdrawal agreement in March and for all his
grandiose claims of getting a better deal all he’s asked to change is the
Northern Ireland backstop, like his
Predecessor his interest isn’t the country, it’s his party. A typical self
I still want change every bit as much as I did in 2016 when I
voted leave but the only way I’m going to get change worth having is through a
Labour Government. Whether that results in the UK remaining in the EU or not is
purely incidental. There’s far more important things going on, however much
Johnson and the editors of the Daily Mail and The Sun claim otherwise.
I want a government headed up by people who will support workers in dispute and have a plan to transform the economy so it works for ordinary people. We’ve never had a government like that before, it’s worth more than any Brexit and definitely the calamity the Tories have cooked up.
The Free Tommy bag is a lie. Fake News, there isn’t one, there isn’t going to be one. What we’re doing now for all Sabcat Dissident T-Shirt orders is aswell as our free Tory Rat or Born in the NHS tote bag, we’re also giving the option of a donation to Refugee Support Europe who work supporting refugees in camps in Greece or if you prefer something closer to home you can donate to Solstar, a left wing, antifascist, women led fighting gym in London.
[This piece came out of observations on recent events by activists with experience of AFA in the 90s, Antifa UK (the closed group 2004 – 2009), and community, trade union lead mobilisations and is posted here by request]
Why are you planning an antifascist action or event?
This may seem obvious: because fascists are doing something, and need to be opposed. This is basically correct, and is definitely a good answer to give to others who question your actions, but it is not enough. There are a range of fascists, and a range of responses. Why are you doing what you are planning to do about this specific problem? The real answers may surprise you or those you are working with.
The major reason we have an entire category of activity called antifascism, is self-serving. For the left, it is self defence, because they attack us when they get confident, and also the removal of competitors who seek to exploit discontent to seize power from the right, just like we seek to use discontent to seize power from the left. You can disagree with the words ‘seize power’, but whether you want a workers’ state or a network of communes, we want the overthrow and replacement of the current system, which is of course illegal, and this is why we pay attention to other people who also occupy this radical space: the fascists.
So actually antifascism is a building tool. Ever since the Anti Nazi League brought a fresh wave of young worker militants into the SWP in the late 1970s, this has been the case for the left. Today is no different. By the early 00s antifascism was dominated by anarchists, and despite the difference that they didn’t have a party to recruit to, it was essentially the same deal – copying developments in Europe, young people were brought into the anarchist scene via antifascism, and the concept of antifascism was blended with anarchist aesthetics like black blocks and the red and black flag.
Recruiting via antifascism is absolutely correct. We intend to change the world we live in and the way we do politics in a way that requires people to be willing to go beyond the law for their beliefs, and requires we can defend ourselves and our events. Whilst surges of struggle and leaps in political awareness can break out suddenly, like the Miners Strike and the Poll Tax rebellion, or like the student revolt in 2010 or the anti capitalist riots of the 90s and early 00s, antifascism is a great way to attract militants and maintain a militant edge indefinitely. Then when these surges happen we are ready guide and defend them.
Racism and fascism are products of capitalist imperialism – to literally defeat them, we need some kind of socialism. To have that, we need a movement – a movement that beats off its fascist competitors for the position of ‘main opponent to the government’, a movement that will go beyond the law when needed, a movement that attracts disaffected people who will become militants, and a movement that converts its more liberal followers into militants through assertive, confident, activities. That is why you do antifascism.
How will you measure victory? How will you assess that your goals were met?
The main goal is how it looks and feels: to you, the antifascists, to them, the fascists, and to the public. Go back to ‘why’: will what you have planned meet these aims? Will your action look better than the fascists? How are you going to make sure it does, whatever happens on the streets? Some shortcuts here are to make sure your action matches your means – for that, see the next question ‘what’; the other shortcut is to CONTROL THE NARRATIVE.
Make it crystal clear to all those that are involved that there is to be a central narrative, a main story, and have this set in advance of the activity, based on your hoped for outcome. If you are willing to risk a brick in the gob, your gob should be willing to control the narrative. If you cannot get an agreement to follow the central narrative from one source, the organisers website or page for instance, then at least make it really clear that no one is to commit the cardinal sin: making the activity look like a fail by posting their own tale of woe.
If 500 antifascists overrun 300 fascists, that story can be obscured by one idiot posting pictures of their cuts and bruises and talking about how scared they were. Not only is the story of nasty Nazi thugs a better one for the media than the story of nice, caring, left-wing people standing up to Nazis despite the law, the people doing the leg-work and securing the victories are very unlikely to post their own stories or pictures, because they prize security and anonymity. Make it clear then that not only is it taboo to circulate a woe-is-me account, it will be followed up if you do it. By angry antifascsists.
How you do things must be primarily about making sure you look and feel good, and the opposition look and feel bad. The fascists are generally very sad types and will help you out enormously – it’s an open goal. Want to make the left look cool? Have them trounce some no-mark racists. If you cannot think how that’s going to happen, stop thinking about it and do something else entirely.
What are you going to do?
If you have a small number of people and you are mismatched, if they are militants then use guerilla tactics – harry your enemy and move on. Classic AFA style antifascism like this is has not been defeated by CCTV, but if it does become public, that will probably be after the fact, and probably won’t take place on a public demo but at a time and place of our choosing.
If you have a small number of people and they are not militants,you cannot carry out public antifascism. A community demo can be useful to meet potential new recruits or supporters, but if the event cannot defend itself without the protection of the police this should not be done under the name of “antifascism”. If your action will only convince the enemy their opposition is weak, and give them a laugh and a confidence boost, you have scored an own goal.
If you do have the numbers and the plans in place to score a victory, empower the people on your activity, and spread the idea of legitimacy resting with the broad masses and the left, rather than the police and ‘the system’, go for it.
Remember to brand it if you do; if you are socialists, make sure you carry red flags, and follow up with propaganda that uses the victory as a jumping off point: “after the people rose up to defeat the fascists in… we now say….” Use the victory as much as possible; it is rare that we, the underdog, get to convincingly portray ourselves as having power. The left has to constantly try to present itself as more than a whine about what is wrong, but an alternative to what is wrong; when you think about what you are going to do, think about that. Does your alternative appeal?
Who is coming on your event? Who are the opposition?
The latter should dictate the former. Your side needs to be matched to the opposition, in your favour. How do you assess this? If you do not expect or want a confrontation, but think it is important to still turn out, make sure you fulfil the central criteria – you present an appealing alternative to politics as usual; turning up dressed as latter-day ninjas to a rally organised by the Labour Party, Greens, and the NUT is the opposite of this. If that is what you want, go hunt sabbing, get it out your system.
There is every reason to support and organise a community rally that avoids confrontation, but it should not be done under the banner of ‘antifascism’, which should be reserved for militant, assertive action. Even if you attend incognito, be very, very wary of picking up any of the politics that may be at a mainstream rally and associating them with ‘antifascism’ which must remain pro-worker and socialist. A lot of the politics at these rallies will be the communitarian, ‘multicultaralist’ type of liberalism, developed in the 1980s: capitalism is fine as long as all races are ‘included’ in it, equality is having a handful of rich brown and black people, not economic equality for all races.
By supporting this kind of event, you might well be playing into the Far Right’s hands, helping the elite gloss over the real problems with capitalism by ‘opposing the racists’. Yes, the EDL are by and large racists, and the NF etc. are outright Nazi racists: but racism itself comes from capitalist imperialism and its need to justify the economic exploitation of the Global South. The elite often use racist, fascist no-hopers as scapegoats to hide this. Do not help them. Working class people have a right to be angry, things are not okay. We need to channel that anger in the correct direction, not fire-fight for the establishment. If you cannot make your voice heard as a pro-worker entity, it might be best to stay away from a pro-elite back-slapping event. It can be very hard to stop trade unions from endorsing these events without a pro-worker alternative, but if you cannot win the argument, the same applies: do not let your union branch banner or your socialist or antifascist flag be seen on events that fundamentally contradict what they mean.
If you do expect confrontation, you should know almost exactly who you have on side, to come out on top; there should be no question of hoping for the best, hoping the opposition isn’t interested or is weakened by some chance occurrence. Whilst there is a role for everyone, if you expect confrontation, that role is not on the street; you should be in a militant mindset from the moment you leave home, ready to stand your ground under attack.
This is not a lefty demo, even a spikey lefty demo – getting pushed around by the police, in the way that has become a core ritual for some sections of the left, is not the same as getting pushed around by the Far Right, who will use the experience to embolden their side and mock the left. They might even get it on video. There is little worse than being seen as having lost a fight of your own making. The general public might sympathise with an ‘innocent bystander’ assaulted by the opposition, but if your event made a big noise about smashing fascism, and fascism smashed you, they will judge you harshly. Same as any other confrontation.
Recently there has been the suggestion that it is ‘mainly a numbers game’ and the most important thing is to get out on the streets. If you have read this far, you will understand why we think that is dangerous bullshit, not just for the people who might get a traumatic (and we mean traumatic) kicking, but for all of us, who have the narrative taken away from us by something bad happening to someone who should not have been in the antifascist group. Anyone who is going to panic and go to pieces, can and will spread panic and defeatism, even amongst really confident antifascist activists. Defeats also mean it is more likely that the fascist will be violent in future, now they know they can get away with it, and this idea will spread to other fascists; so think long and hard, because your defeat might be the start of a whole wave of aggression towards other people too.
There is absolutely no shame whatsoever in not being up to the task; whilst confrontation can be exhilarating, it is also very draining, and can lead to a loss of clarity generally. There are lots of other roles that can be filled, not least building the political alternative that antifascism is only one part of. Not being ‘hard’ is not a bad thing, and no one should feel under pressure to be hard; but they should respect other people’s skills and strengths too.
Too many times have nasty, vindictive, and bitter insults been thrown at people on the left by others who are struggling with their unnecessary guilt at not being a street militant. Cut that out. Let people do what they are good at, and do what you are good at. No one is judging you so long as you are honest: say ‘I can’t stand violence, it leaves me in pieces – but I respect that it is necessary’, and nobody can give you a hard time. Macho bullying is to be opposed, as is passive aggressive bullying and character assassination.
If you have to speak to the public or media, what is your line?
Your line must counter the Far Right’s line, and those sympathetic to their arguments. The truth is most Far Right movements do fizzle out in the UK and antifascism is rarely the primary factor in their collapse, though it does have a major impact on their conduct; it can keep them occupied with combative events rather than political growth, keep them on or off the streets, and keep others safe from their attention. Mainly they fold due to infighting or state subversion, and our electoral system preventing small parties from gaining representation. The other truth we should really cotton on to is that the level of racial diversity and mixed race children in the UK now means there is little chance of a classic fascist, Nazi style race-based march to power and racial genocide. This is why they have adopted the much thornier issues of Islamic extremism and mass migration, rather than the ‘death of the white race’. Instead of following them into that territory, stick to core messages.
We have covered the real reasons for antifascism as a militant edge of the left, you need to think about your public face: say – these people are racists, they need to be stopped. That will probably be met with more questions, so here’s a suggested guide to parrying them:
1) “But everyone has a right to their opinion” – if you are non-white, mixed race, or have a family member or partner who is, get that in straight away – these people want to tell me we aren’t welcome here? Link the group to racist attacks, say that racist attacks always spike after their events, point out that there are known violent racists in their group: you are here to protect yourself and others. Opinions don’t come into it.
2) “But what about migration, don’t you think…” Cut them off, see above answer. Opinions don’t come into it.
3) “But these people are just trying to have a peaceful march about Islamification” – this is the more EDL type event – say they are not peaceful, the whole idea of marching through a town centre or an Asian area with a Muslim population is to provoke a violent reaction. And anyway, their events always end up in violence; go back to the first points. This is self defence.
4) “What about Anjem Choudary and ISIS supporters? What about other forms of fascism [let’s have a debate on what fascism is]?”If you see them, they will be opposed too. Simple. Point out it is socialists and anarchists making up the volunteers fighting ISIS, not drunk racists. And you aren’t here to debate what fascism is – go back to point one.
5) “So you think we should let them all in?” Don’t answer this. It isn’t relevant what your views on migration are, you are opposed to violent racists. Go back to question one. This needs stressing: it is irrelevant what your views are, so do not push No Borders rhetoric on antifascist events, because it is a deliberately radical and alienating concept to the majority of the working class right now, and will be seized upon by the opposition.
This includes banners or placards that carry any slogans like ‘let them in’ or ‘no borders’ – do not make or carry anything like this. If you want to make the case for No Borders, i.e. dissolving national borders before we have abolished capitalism, then take it to the workers’ movement, and try and get it adopted by the unions. It is not the debate you need to be having in areas that are already showing sympathy for the Far Right.
Are you sure of yourself, are you sure of the people around you? Are you sure this is the best use of your time?
There are lots of other things you could do. The main thing you could do instead of building antifascism as a militant edge and pole of attraction, is build other things the left needs – like proactive, confident left wing groups and campaigns doing inspiring and positive activism. Trade unionism is the backbone of the left and of antifascism too – are you properly engaged there? You should be.
If you are not going to do a public antifascist event as laid out above, but you still want to help antifascism, then intelligence is a good activity. You can do this online or in real life, and here is where the people who aren’t obvious street militants can come into their own.
People will open up with all sorts of info if they don’t feel wary of you or if they want to take you home to show you their Skrewdriver collection. Online, you will be amazed how much people will make something they want to be true, true – and hey presto your Aryan model profile is party to inside info.
Other online roles are fighting it out in the comments sections – make the simplest cases for socialism, and using multiple profiles (real or fake) to make it again and again. If the government has money for war, they have money for housing. There’d be no competition for jobs if there were more jobs. If the City of London wasn’t economically bleeding out the developing world, its inhabitants wouldn’t need to move to the city of London.
At all times show respect for each other, and especially those with experience. Do not chase the ambulance; despair is not a left wing impulse. Humour, camaraderie and bravery are to be your currency. Take everything seriously but not too seriously, and always be ready to reassign people’s roles, politely and firmly, and be ready have your own role reassigned. Antifascism remains the key way to raise the militancy and consciousness of left, and recruit the already conscious or militant to the left; it is the best way to show that ‘the system’ is not just a concept we need to overcome in our heads, but that there are literal enemies that need beating, and beating them is our task.
The so called “Battle of Orgreave” was a moment in British history that doesn’t get the prominence it deserves, it’s not old enough yet but every bit as much as the Newport Rising or Peterloo it’s an event that illustrates the relationship between workers and power, the attitude of the government to the governed. The big difference is that many of the people involved with Orgreave are still alive. It’s not controversial to condemn William Hutton, the magistrate who ordered the cavalry into the crowd at Peterloo, he’s long dead. Senior police officers responsible for the violence at Orgreave and falsifying statements afterwards are still drawing their pensions.
The resistance to a proper inquiry into Orgreave is strong, in the 5 years we’ve supported the Orgreave truth and Justice Campaign we’ve had Theresa May as Home secretary on a t-shirt, then Amber Rudd and now, Sajid Javid. We may be naïve but when this Tory government inevitably collapses under the weight of its own incompetence, if an inquiry hasn’t already started we’re confident we won’t need to put a Labour Home Secretary’s name on a t-shirt. Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister will back an inquiry just as he has in opposition.
Over the last year we have raised over £2,000 with our T-Shirts supporting the campaign. Show your support and grab one of the updated designs below. All profits from sales of these t-shirts go directly to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
In English local elections you lose when you win and coming third makes you the biggest winner, coming second makes you the next best to third. At least that’s the way the media appear to be reporting the results for this year’s local elections. The Libdems are apparently the big winners despite only getting only a third of the seats that Labour won. The Tories result, winning just over half as many seats as Labour is enough to secure May’s top job running the country into the ground.
At least everyone agrees that UKIP losing all but 3 of the 126 seats they were defending actually lost and we’re sure everyone reading this email is pleased about that.
As for the seats that the Tories successfully defended, with few exceptions, we think it’s fair to say will remain Tory until the end of time. Any presumed failure by Labour to take them can’t be placed at the door of Corbyn, if Marx, Engles, Jesus and Elvis came back to jointly lead the Labour party leafy suburbs like Sutton Coldfield would reject them.
What do these numbers mean for the next general election? In the 2016 local elections Labour lost 18 councillors and this was reported to signal Armageddon for the party in a general election. The party gained 30 MPs a year later. Yesterday voters gave Labour an additional 59 councillors and this is again reported to signal that Corbyn’s Labour party has run out of steam. Don’t believe a word of it. Everything is still there to be won.
Thursday is local election day in England, a confusing array of authorities are holding elections. There’s metropolitan borough councils, non metropolitan district councils the London boroughs, unitary authorities and some mayoral elections. Some authorities contest all of their seats, some half and others, including London, all of their seats. The most confusing thing about these elections though is that as the results come in through the night on Thursday and on Friday we will learn that some people will have voted Tory.
These Tory voters will be spread all over the country, in every ward and borough they will be scurrying to the polling station, hearts filled with darkness and hatred. They will have cackled with glee at the stories of the Windrush generation being denied access to services and been positively aroused by reports of deportation. The Tory voters will be proud that the libraries have closed, the disabled starved and slightly miffed that the poor haven’t dumped into ditches dug by teenagers doing national service. Yet.
Facebook has removed the pages of Britain First and banned their leaders. In some ways this seems like a victory and it is. There’s no doubt that Britain First made very effective use of Facebook to peddle their brand of nationalism and racism. Cynically interspersing their predictions of Islamic based doom befalling our green and pleasant land with appeals to stand up against cruelty to dogs because no one likes cruelty to dogs. Denied the platform of Facebook Britain First are very likely to wither away to nothing. Paul Golding, who looks much older than his 36 years, clearly racism takes it out of a person, will likely soon be forgotten, another foot note in the history of the British far right like Nick Griffin and that other one, Simon what’s his name.
In other ways though the banning of Britain First also feels like a threat. After all, they only peddled an over heated version of the output of sections of the mainstream press so the ideas haven’t gone away or become any less widespread. The removal of their pages by Facebook also highlights the importance of Facebook as a platform for political discourse, this isn’t a victory of community anti-fascism, this is the decision of an executive somewhere aligning with anti-fascism and not necessarily motivated by it. If it’s an attempt to sterilise the platform are we going to see other pages with a more left wing view removed, Red London, Nobody Likes a Tory? We just don’t know.
After the vote in parliament last night if you’re poor you’re probably more concerned with how to feed your children than the vagaries of Facebook decisions over far right pages. For all their bluster and hate, the far right aren’t the ones waging a war of attrition on the poor and the vulnerable. The Tories are the real vermin. As they always have been.
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21st Century PUNX Deconstructors, Trouble Making Agitators, DIY noise insurgents & Manufacturers of Dissident Political Wear.
PUNX.UK was formed by a Manchester anarcho punk collective in 2013 as a webzine sharing info on local gigs and bands.
Originally focusing on creating a DIY gig guide for our city we then expanded to cover the whole of the UK scene in 2014.
Since then we've faithfully tried to promote all the events, blogs, websites and sounds of resistance throughout the country and beyond.
In 2016 we partnered with Sabcat Workers Cooperative to produce dissident political wear providing financial support to the activist causes, benefits, unions, bands, and community groups that we work with.