Exclusive: Britain’s Street Protests – What is Going On? (Part Two of Four)
by ADRIAN MORGAN
September 29, 2009
The Blame Game
On Friday September 11th, Britain's Communities Secretary John Denham spoke of the recent protests which have been linked to the EDL and other factions. In an article reproduced in the Guardian newspaper, Denham said: "If you look at the types of demonstrations they've organized … it looks pretty clear that it's a tactic designed to provoke and get a response, and hopefully create violence."
When examined, the logic of the argument is bizarre. At face value, it is no different from the self-justifications of the wife batterer: "See what you have made me do to you?" Such an argument imputes to the march organizers a level of political sophistication that is not supported by (visible) evidence.
The protesters on the ground have an "issue" that they want to angrily project, an "issue" that they seem unable to clearly define. From all that I have observed, the protesters cannot state with clarity whether they are against Muslim people, Islam as a religion, political Islam (Islamism), Islam as a vector for a societal and political transformation that they resent, or merely against anyone who is not "the same" as them. It is unlikely that those who shout on the streets are thinking so far ahead that they are trying to set up an "overreaction" against themselves for an ultimate greater purpose.
The people at the very top of the chains of command within EDL, those in the shadows, may be politically sophisticated. The leadership of SIOE England appears to be too politically uncontrived to engage in this level of deep (and ultimately self-destructive) manipulation.
The far Left is a movement with decades of experience fomenting and manipulating social unrest to promote its own agenda for political change – the "perpetual revolution" propounded by Marx and Trotsky. Elements of the left appear now to be wanting to escalate the levels of confrontation, perhaps to have criticism of Islam outlawed altogether, perhaps to discredit the far Right BNP party to damage their chances in the upcoming 2010 general election.
Counter-protesters, left-wing media pundits and the UAF demonize all critics of Islam/Islamism as "BNP" members, despite protestations to the contrary. The BNP tries to disassociate itself from the EDL and vice versa. When "Stop the BNP" placards are carried by UAF counter-protesters, to deliberately misattribute the protesters' political affiliations, the political agenda of the far Left becomes apparent. The Muslims whom the far Left claims to support are just pawns in a larger political chess game. Their hopes, dreams and fears are cravenly manipulated by elements within the far Left.
The BNP has officially distanced itself from the EDL protests, claiming, "It is completely malicious and unwarranted to blame the supposed activities of organizations such as the EDL on the BNP, when there is no common ground between the two groups at all." A representative of the BNP added that anyone from his group would be disciplined for partaking in any EDL activities. Despite the EDL and the BNP both denouncing each other's methods, the "anti-fascists" who aim to disrupt EDL protests persist in claiming that the protesters are "Nazis" "BNP" or "NF" (National Front).
The BNP maintains that it is a political party that "does not march in the streets but rather campaigns in an ordinary democratic fashion." The BNP claims to be patriotic, but its membership policy has excluded non-whites, including non-whites who may be equally patriotic. In the light of the British government's return of Libyan terrorist Megrahi, there are questions that the BNP leader – Nick Griffin – has never properly explained his own dealings with Libya's Islamist dictator. Wikipedia relates that in September 1988, Griffin and two others of the NF visited Libya as guests of the Gaddafi regime.
Griffin's 1988 visit to Gaddafi happened two months before Megrahi blew up Pan AM Flight 103, killing 270 people over Lockerbie. But already Gaddafi was known to be an enemy of Britain – British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was been shot and killed by a gunman from the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984. Her killer was allowed to return to Libya and was never put on trial. Gaddafi was busy arming international terrorists at that time, including the IRA. In 1985, two years before Griffin's trip to Libya, Gaddafi told the Nation of Islam that he would fund a black army to destroy white America.
Griffin's party established its first headquarters in Welling, south London, in 1989. It grew from the National Front, which in the 1970s had a high membership and engaged in marches through areas inhabited by non-whites, chanting overtly racist slogans. Griffin himself had been in the National Front when it was under the tutelage of Martin Webster and John Tyndall. The National Front still exists, and its current leader is Tom Holmes. There is some crossover of support, but Holmes is critical of the BNP for allowing a Sikh to write a column.
The BNP claims that it is not racist The fact that BNP is only now considering lifting membership restrictions that exclude "non-indigenous" Britons, and then only because of legal pressure, indicates that it has never shed its racist agenda. Nick Griffin presents a public front of condemning racist attacks and being "against" racism. However, when the descendant of a Greek-Armenian immigrant was selected to represent the party in 2006, many party members engaged in a verbal revolt. The BNP attempts now to present itself as a political party – it has two out of the 72 British representatives in the European Parliament. One of these is Griffin.
The ideas of the BNP, making the assumption that is has a political "ideology" other than merely presenting a reactive response to social problems, are not clearly laid out. The party attracted 943,598 votes in the European Parliament elections, representing 6.2 percent of all ballots cast nationally. The two regions where the BNP won seats were in the north of England. In the North West region, the BNP gained 8 percent of the votes, and thus gained one of the region's eight seats at the European Parliament. This was won by Nick Griffin. In 2004, the party had received 6.4 percent of the North West region's total votes. In Yorkshire and Humber, where there were six available seats, the BNP gained 9.8 percent of the votes.* This compared to 8 percent in 2004. Former National Front member Andrew Brons gained 120,139 votes for the BNP in this region, and gained a seat as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). (* source: Telegraph newspaper, June 9, 2009, p. 7)
The BNP's current "popularity" seems attributable to voters' disaffection from mainstream politics, rather than the lure of any rational, coherent policies. Many senior politicians in Britain, such as Alan Johnson, the current Home Secretary, refuse to share a platform with "fascists." Perhaps if more people had publicly engaged with and ideologically challenged the emerging "politicians" of Germany's National Socialists in the early 1930s, Europe would not have endured the scourge of Nazism.
Some of the senior figures within the BNP are people who seem immune from any attempts to remove the stains of unrestrained bigotry from the party. One of these is a man called Jeff Marshall, who is the BNP's organizer for Central London who in April this year that appeared to favor eugenics. Ivan, the 6-year-old disabled son of the Tory leader David Cameron, had died. When the news broke, Marshall wrote: "We live in a country today which is unhealthily dominated by an excess of sentimentality towards the weak and unproductive. No good will come of it."
Unite Against Fascism (UAF)
The UAF declares that its main aim is to stop the BNP from gaining political seats. The upcoming general election must be held before the end of June 2010. The UAF's own strategy of throwing eggs at Nick Griffin, (creating a fracas that caused two people to be taken to hospital) is hardly a mature and responsible challenge to all that the BNP stands for. Such tactics are no different to those employed by the Nazis themselves at the start of their trajectory to power.
Weyman Bennett of the UAF said: "Wherever Nick Griffin or the BNP exist we will stand up with other people and say that the politics of fascism and Nazism have no place in the 21st century. These types of politics don’t represent the majority of this country and the majority of people have to speak up for a decent society."
Sarah Kavanagh of PCS Union is a spokesperson for the UAF. She organized the protest outside parliament on June 9th, in which Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons were pelted with eggs. Speaking to the BBC attempted to justify the disorder that her group created outside parliament, and refused to condemn the egg throwing.
A group which has a far longer history of not only opposing fascist groups but infiltrating and analyzing their membership is called Searchlight. This group was founded in 1962. It garners respect in circles beyond the far left, due to its methods of gathering accurate information on the "state of play" of fascism and pro-fascist groups in Britain. Sometimes this information is gathered by placing infiltrators within far-right groups. Searchlight's spokesman, Nick Lowles, said: "We need to harness people’s anger in a constructive way, rather than throwing eggs at the BNP."
Searchlight initially joined forces with UAF when the latter body was founded in 2003. However, it decided to part ways with UAF in July 2005, stating that "We have found it impossible to work with UAF in any meaningful sense for some considerable period of time," adding: "And because fascism is about more than racism we simply do not believe that UAF’s concept of black leadership is appropriate for an anti-fascist organization. Racism is just one part of what fascism is about and it cannot be reduced to it. Also, there was only ever so long that we could participate in an organization which had leading figures conduct a whispering campaign about Searchlight being 'Zionists.'" In an official letter of resignation, Searchlight declared that "We recognize that there are good anti-fascists within UAF, but feel that our own involvement helps neither Searchlight nor the UAF."
The UAF is now manipulating groups of young Muslims to create "counter-protests" at demonstrations that are convened by people who claim to be opposed to the spread of Islam in Britain. The fact that young Muslims may end up with criminal records for being involved in acts of violence does not seem to be an issue of concern for the UAF. The UAF's chairman is Ken Livingstone, and its joint secretaries are Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu. Dhalu is from NAAR, the National Assembly Against Racism, which (according to a Wikipedia stub) has the belief that "the anti-racism movement should be black-led".
It is obvious that Searchlight disagrees with this position, and to any outside observer it smacks of the racial stereotyping of apartheid South Africa. In the 1980s when I was briefly working for a group funded by the Inner London Education Authority, the same ethos was upheld by union members. Their mantra was that racism has a power basis, and therefore "only white people can be racist, because black people have no power." Perhaps, when UAF views the world in terms of cheap racial stereotypes, it becomes easier to understand why it has no appreciation of the actual differences between its perceived opponents. Anyone who opposes the UAF must be "racists" or "fascists." Like a racist, the UAF must dehumanize its opponents into cheap two-dimensional stereotypes to gain the upper hand.
Such methods may work in the short term to demonize one's opponent. The only way to truly defeat a political opponent is to gain entry to the mindset of one's erstwhile foe and change the person's opinion. Even Martin Smith of the Socialist Workers' Party has tried to analyze the demographic and class position of BNP membership as a key to understanding it. The Jesuits studied cultures like those of the Yucatec Mayans in meticulous detail, in order to more effectively impose Catholicism upon them.
Smith observes: "In part the BNP has been able to grow because of the failure of Labour to address working people’s problems. This is another reason why the slogan 'Vote Labour to keep out the BNP' does not work. For many people the reason they are going to vote BNP is precisely as a protest against the mainstream parties. Sadly there is no short cut for the left; the only answer to that question is the creation of a genuine party to the left of Labour."
Since 2007, Weyman Bennett of the UAF has also been the national organizer of the Anti-Nazi League, which was revived in 1992 to combat the rise of the BNP. The Anti-Nazi League had been originally founded under the aegis of the Socialist Worker Party, and Weyman Bennett is currently a member of the Socialist Workers' Party's Central Committee. The key to understanding the current confrontational agenda of the UAF is to look at the involvement of the Socialist Worker Party in public rioting that took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
SWP and the Anti-Nazi League
The Socialist Worker Party (SWP) came into being in 1977, evolved from a grouping called International Socialists. IS had been founded half a century ago by Tony Cliff (born as Ygael Gluckstein in 1917 in Palestine). Cliff died in 2000 but had an influence upon the left in Britain's Labour Party, including Michael Foot.
I was living in Hackney, east London, at that time. My first clear impression of SWP, beyond amusement at the strident "class war" language in their newsletters was of a scene I witnessed on a sunny Saturday in Dalston Junction. I was waiting to cross the road. A frumpily dressed woman was standing near the corner, trying to sell SWP leaflets. She thrust a leaflet in front of a black teenager who was at the crossing, urging him to buy it. He tried to ignore her. She even pursued him half-way across the road before giving up. Her sales pitch was memorable: "You must buy it! It's all about racism!" The notion of a white middle-class woman trying to lecture a young black male about racism – and expecting him to pay for information on what he would then have experienced daily – left me amused but aghast.
The SWP would hijack existing social and industrial disputes and turn them into causes to promote their own agenda. One of the first involved a strike at the Grunwick mail order film-processing laboratory in North London. This dispute over working conditions had begun in August 1976 and officially ended in July 1978. The strike was led by a South Asian woman, Jayaben Desai. Through their activities on picket lines outside Grunwicks, the SWP joined forces with militant members of trade unions. Even though the trade union movement is now diminished, SWP affiliations still proliferate among its ranks.
The Socialist Worker Party had about 30,000 members in 1977 when it began. In the same year, the Anti-Nazi Leaque (ANL) was formed by the SWP, with assistance from trade union leaders, including Peter Hain (who had been a prominent anti-apartheid campaigner) and Ernest Roberts (1912-1994). Hain and Roberts would later become Labour Members of Parliament.
In April 1977, a large NF march took place in Wood Green, north London, and was met with opposition. This would lead to the formation of an umbrella group for many smaller anti-racist groups. This body called itself the "All London Anti-Racist Anti-Fascist Coordinating Committee" (ARAFCC) and was affiliated with the long-established think-tank called the Institute of Race Relations.
The SWP's politics of intimidation became apparent soon after their launch. The first major example of the SWP engaging in acts of street violence came on Saturday August 13, 1977, in an event that is still eulogized by the left as the "Battle of Lewisham" and falsely compared to the Battle of Cable Street. The National Front had planned to stage a march through the southeast London borough, but were greatly outnumbered by ANL and SWP members, who threw missiles. The police were able to separate the NF from the SWP/ANL, and escort them to trains at New Cross to leave. The SWP members then attacked police, and for the first time in the UK, riot shields were employed.
The local campaigners against racism, the All Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism had wanted a peaceful show of opposition to the NF, with no direct confrontation. Their desires were ignored by the SWP whose desires for confrontation followed its own agenda. A total of 2,500 police officers were employed to deal with the rioting. Two-hundred-seventy police were injured, with 57 of these needing to go to hospital. 57 members of the public were injured, and 214 individuals were arrested. Two-hundred-two of these were charged.
The confrontational tactics of the SWP in their dealings with the National Front led to the raising of questions in Parliament. Alan Clark asked on December 15, 1977: "Leaving aside all the humbug about racialism, will the Home Secretary tell the House how many members of the so-called Socialist, so-called Workers' Party have been charged with violence against the police, and how many members of the National Front have been charged with violence against the police?"
An account of some of the developments of that time, from an SWP/ANL perspective, can be found here. The same author (David Renton) was a member of both the SWP and the Anti-Nazi League (ANL). His account of the ANL movement can be found here. The history of SWP and the ANL was not all about violent confrontation. On May 1, 1977, just after the Wood Green NF protest, the first "fanzine" of a movement called "Rock Against Racism" (RAR) was produced.
Many of the bands within the RAR movement were involved with punk and reggae/ska. The punk scene was kicking off at that time and to RAR's credit, its links to the emerging scene may have had some benign social influence. Most participants at their gigs had no interest in the party politics of the SWP and were bored by podium speeches. However, I recall those concerts – particularly the one featuring The Clash and X-Ray Specs at Victoria Park – as enjoyable. They brought diverse people together under a positive common purpose. RAR wound down in 1981, and the ANL itself slowly wound down its activities in the mid-1980s, convinced that fascism (in the form of the NF) had been beaten.
Recently, an attempt has been made to revive the RAR ethos, through a movemet called Love Music, Hate Racism (LMHR) whose aim is specifically tied to putting down the BNP.
Southall 1979 and the Riots of 1981
Before the BNP evolved as a grouping, there were several communities who were made to feel vulnerable by the National Front's marches, rallies and leafleting campaigns. In April 1979, the Southall Riots were a turning point for South Asian communities who had frequently been the passive victims on the receiving end of NF and racist predation. In June 1976 Gurdip Singh Chaggar, an 18-year-old Sikh, was stabbed to death by white racists outside a cinema in Southall, west London. Gurdip's killers, who were widely believed to be NF supporters, were never brought to justice.
The 1979 general election brought an end to the failing Labour government, placing Margaret Thatcher's Conservative party in power. In the lead-up to this election, the NF decided to use Southall Town Hall for its political activism. This action was seen as a provocation too far, and led to a massive protest. On April 23rd, numbers of local South Asians, accompanied by ANL affiliates, had been intending to march to the Town Hall. Access to the civic building was blocked to them by uniformed police officers and a riot ensued. The police response was widely condemned for involving disproportionate violence. One ANL protester, a New Zealand-born teacher called Blair Peach, was killed, apparently by blows from a police baton.
Thirty years on, and a secret report into the death of Blair Peach still remains unpublished. At the time members of the police Special Patrol Group (SPG), a tactical unit, were assumed to have been responsible for Blair Peach's death. The 1979 Southall riots were seen as a turning point for South Asian communities. When on April 2, 1981, a skinhead band called the 4Skins arrived in Southall with 200 supporters to hold a concert of "Oi!" music at the Hamborough Tavern, the venue was burned down by Asian youths.
Afro-Caribbean communities were frequently a target of police racism. In the lead-up to the riots of 1981, the SPG units were seen to inflame tensions. The so-called "Sus Laws" allowed anyone to be arrested on suspicion of loitering with intent to commit a crime. These laws were often applied by police against black people. Additionally, suspicion of drug possession was a pretext for arrests. On April 2, 1980 arrests at the Afro-Caribbean-owned "Black and White" cafe in St. Paul’s region of Bristol, southwest England, led to rioting on April 3rd.
In London, a tragedy sparked resentments in the black community. On January 18, 1981, a fire broke out at a party which was held in New Cross, southeast London. Thirteen young black partygoers, all under the age of 20, died. Police said it was an arson attack, and many believed it was racially motivated. A popular slogan arose: "13 dead, nothing said." On March 2nd, black protesters marched from New Cross to Hyde Park. TV footage at the time – on both BBC and independent TV – showed disturbing images. As the procession crossed the Thames, police officers were seen to jump on individual marchers. Each time this happened, the cameras turned away.
Heavy-handed policing took place at Railton Road in Brixton, a street which gained the sobriquet "The Frontline." Police had been mounting an increase of arrests under "Operation Swamp 81", a policy to tackle an increase in burglary and theft. Over six days, 943 individuals had been stopped and questioned, leading to resentments. This area erupted in rioting which began after police were seen tending to an injured black man on April 10, 1981. The man was "rescued" by 50 youths and this led to riots over the next two days. More than 300 people were injured. On the evening of April 11, 279 policemen and 45 civilians were injured. The Brixton riots were the first time that Molotov cocktails were used on the mainland.
There followed a succession of disturbances around the country. On July 4, 1981, rioting broke out in Toxteth, Liverpool, lasting four days. On July 7th, black and white activists attacked police in Wood Green, North London, riots erupted in Liverpool's Moss Side on July 8th. On July 10, 1981 in what what can only have been a planned campaign, there were disturbances in "Southall, Battersea, Dalston, Streatham and Walthamstow in London, Handsworth in Birmingham, Chapeltown in Leeds, Highfields in Leicester, Ellesmere Port, Luton, Leicester, Sheffield, Portsmouth, Preston, Newcastle, Derby, Southampton, Nottingham, High Wycombe, Bedford, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton, Stockport, Blackburn, Huddersfield, Reading, Chester, and Aldershot."
At that time I lived in Stamford HIll, near Dalston. Everyone knew the riots were going to happen on July 10th. For weeks before, graffiti had been painted on walls in white letters: "SWP - Black and White Unite and Fight." Immediately before the riots in Dalston, shopkeepers in Kingsland Road had boarded up their premises. I heeded the warnings from friends about the upcoming riot and stayed at home on July 10th. The rioting broke out near Ridley Road market, and shoppers had fled for safety to the Rio Cinema. A man who had been running youth musical events at the cinema for more than a decade tried to act as an intermediary with the police. This individual, a reggae musician called Sir Collins, was talking to a senior officer outside the cinema on how the people inside could be taken away from the scene of unrest. Sir Collins was a flamboyant character who waved his arms about when talking. He was then pounced upon by another group of officers who hit him around the head with truncheons, leaving him bleeding from a head wound in the road. Sir Collins had lost his son Stephen in the New Cross Fire earlier that year and still tried to help the community, yet was rewarded with violence. The Dalston riot is now only a footnote in social history and mostly forgotten, apart from featuring as a small motif on a street mural.
More riots followed, and also more attempts to stir up riots. The Scarman Report, commissioned after the first 1981 Brixton riot, blamed economics for the outbreak of rioting, rather than "institutional racism" on the part of the police. Police racism was self-evident at that time. From my window in Stamford Hill, I witnessed police assaulting and breaking the arm of a young black man in the road below. This happened in July 1981, days before the national day of rioting. It was not until 1999 and the Macpherson Report that London's Metropolitan Police Force was branded as being "institutionally racist," That report was commissioned to examine the reasons why the April 22, 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence, a young black male who wanted to be a graphic designer, had been so badly handled by police. Lawrence's racist killers had been allowed to escape justice.
On the issue of racism, the police forces of Britain are now greatly improved, compared to how they were in 1981. The unrest of 1981 was partly economic, partly a response to police authoritarian tactics, but in some part a result of deliberate political agitation by the far left. It is for this reason that I am so concerned for the current situation. The SWP (Socialist Worker Party) were mentioned in 1981 in the Houses of Parliament as being instigators of some of the 1981 unrest. On October 22, 1981, Lord Gridley brought to the attention of the House of Lords the agitations of SWP in areas that became riot spots.
The UAF that is now attempting to exacerbate tensions at meetings by those it deems "racist" has strong links with the same SWP party. Unless checked, UAF tactics could lead to disaster and create far more racial division and social unrest than if they stopped trying to manipulate social tensions. Condemning the tactics of the UAF does not exonerate the actions of the EDL, Casuals United, March for Luton etc, as some of their number appear to be similarly looking to create violence on Britain's streets.
In Part Three, I will present the unabridged results of my questionnaire, and also examine the role of the Labour government in the current affair. In 2001, after riots took place in Muslim neighborhoods of northern English towns, John Denham, who was then a Home Office minister, wrote a report on the conditions that led to the 2001 unrest. Denham is now Communities Secretary for the government and he is tasked to shepherd the current near crisis to a peaceful resolution. I will be examining his 2001 findings in the light of what has happened in the intervening years, and examining his plans to bring some form of social cohesion to Britain's riven society.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Adrian Morgan is a British-based writer and artist who has written for Western Resistance since its inception. He also writes for Spero News. He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society. He is currently compiling a book on the demise of democracy and the growth of extremism in Britain. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org.