Thursday, July 21, 2011

Anti-fascist prisoners

Everybody Hates a Tourist: Supporting Anti-fascist Prisoners. See also Leeds ABC.


Peter Risdon said...

'The masked and hooded demonstrators lined a railway platform waiting for their targets to get off a train, and attacked on hearing the command: "Kill the Nazis", the court heard.

Patrick O'Donovan was punched and kicked to the ground and his companion Michael Heihl was chased onto the tracks at Welling station, Kent, the jury was told'

Do you really support this?

Ned said...

I kind of thought the same thing Peter. "Kill the Nazis" is pretty heavy, not to mention foolish when you're risking arrest! Of course, the ES doesn't report who gave the evidence that they shouted that. I think murdering political opponents is unacceptable, but a violent attack itself, and the masked and hooded part I don't have a problem with though.

Blood and Honour is a neo-Nazi organisation, with close links to violent terrorist organisations like Combat 18. Its members revel in violence against non-whites and Jews, and talk about race war. I think that giving them a taste of that medicine is far more effective than calling on the government to tell them off, which only gives grist to their anti-liberal mill, and letting them flourish is just not an option. They are a shadow of what they once were, but that's because of the constant harassment and violence they've faced from people like these prisoners, whose bravery and/or fanaticism enables the rest of us to sleep at night. Hoods etc are a sensible precaution for people breaking the law. Obviously, that wasn't enough in this instance...

bob said...

Peter, I guess actually I feel more or less the same as Ned. I didn't like the "kill the Nazis" bit, but I don't have a problem with people beating up Blood and Honour types. As Hitler said, “Only one thing could have stopped us – if our adversaries had, from the first day, smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our movement.”

skidmarx said...

You can disagree with their tactics, but still think that they're on the right side.
Oftentimes when someone is in prison isn't the best time to lecture them politically.
For some reason I'm reminded of the words of, I think, Thoreau, who when asked by a friend "why are you in there" when asked by a friend when he'd been jailed for a night for failing to pay a poll tax, replied "what are you doing out there?"

Trotsky says somewhere something like that there are times when the only debate you can have with a fascist is to acquaint his head with the pavement; though I believe the phrase current on the left back in the day for this sort of thing was "squadism", and while there may have been good reasons to disagree with it, I think this is an occasion for solidarity, not lectures.

A squadist said...

Bit weird to see someone from SWP supporting "squadism" and saying solidarity not lectures. Did you give the people banged up in Dover in 1997 any solidarity? Did you give the those nicked in 1992 at the battle of Waterloo any solidarity? To name just two out of dozens of examples. No, you spread lies about "squadism", and said it was just macho posturing. But now Hope Not Hate is gaining ground, the UAF realises it needs a USP, and has struck up a "militant" pose. Grow up.

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Ned Of course, the ES doesn't report who gave the evidence that they shouted that. I think murdering political opponents is unacceptable, but a violent attack itself, and the masked and hooded part I don't have a problem with though.

If it was shouted, I'm minded to see it as rhetoric (of the kind you see at football matches), as opposed to a serious statement of intent.

When stuff has kicked off to the level of murders, that's always been in the context of a wider street war, historically speaking. To the best of my knowledge, the only time a neonazi has ever been murdered in the UK was by other neonazis, as part of the C18 internal spat.

skidmarx said...

@A squadist - I seem to be damned if I do, and damned if I don't with you.
I expect your comrades inside would probably be a little less gung-ho about being sectarian towards those that might offer sympathy. The idea that I am acting on behalf of UAF to creates its USP is laughable, and given the infantilism of your comment, I am surprised you can write "Grow up" without self-consciousness.

But I don't want to turn this into a slanging match for the reasons given in my first comment. Breaking News, victim of latest EDL attack quite happy to talk to Socialist Worker, as they in turn try and build for Tower Hamlets demo on September 3rd.

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Skidmarx

While I do welcome the solidarity you've shown here, you do have to realise the hostility and mistrust towards the SWP from squadists (way more than any other Trot group gets. You don't get it with the SP say) doesn't spring from nowhere.

As opposed to giving you a laundry list of grievances people have, I'll give you just one that illustrates what I'm talking about.

As you probably know, some of the squadists who formed AFA and Red Action were expelled from the SWP back in the late 70's. Specifically, they were expelled from factionalism. Despite the fact not all of the people expelled even knew each other. Worse, several people were expelled, while in jail for attacking fascists. That's all a matter of public record by now. Lindsey German was a major player in that, incidentally.

So, quite honestly, the level of vitriol isn't a simple matter of sectarianism or even a matter of political disagreements about tactics. It stems from the SWP's practise and actions in this area. And the fact that a lot of us have either been treated badly by the SWP or at the very least have friends and comrades who have.

A squadist said...

Imams and SWP hanging out together is not news!

Yes, those inside would appreciate solidarity, and I don't damn you for that. I do find it amusing that the SWP poses as militant these days, after slagging off "squadists" for three decades, and failing to give any solidarity to our prisoners, but giving us plenty of lectures instead.

skidmarx said...

A squadist - I don't actually claim to speak for the SWP, or the UAF for that matter.
Imams and SWP hanging out together is not news!
So EDL attacks aren't your concern if they are on places where the superstitious congregate?

Waterloo Sunset - I'm vaguely aware of some of the history. Obviously the SP/Tommy Sheridan get more of a kicking from anarchists (which I realise are not necessarily identical with anarchists) over the Poll Tax Riot.
Yes, it's understandable that in matters of such importance, memories are long, and grievances are remembered. I'd say that since squaddism is pretty much incompatible with the SWP's beliefs and their democratic centralism, such expulsions would have been inevitable [though expelling them for factionalism when the actual "offence" would be acting in a way incompatible with membership doesn't look right], but that distancing themselves from political prisoners is unfortunate.
There are obviously a lot of people who don't like the SWP, sometimes with good reason, sometimes with very bad ones. I don't expect to be able to wave a magic wand to either change the SWP or the perceptions of it.
I'd go along with this, only I don't know whose judgement to place any greater trust in.

skidmarx said...

Should be "identical with squaddists"

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Skidmarx

So EDL attacks aren't your concern if they are on places where the superstitious congregate?

I think there's a more complex question here. The UAF do seem to be more and more orientating towards Imans (and other communal figureheads) as opposed to Muslim youth actually on the ground. And the two are sometimes mutually exclusive. If we look at recent EDL mobilisations, the "community leaders" have generally played a conservative role, trying to persuade young Muslims not to confront the EDL. On top of that, because of their liberal cross-class nature, the UAF aren't really in a position to appeal to working class Muslims on class (as opposed to religious) grounds. And I think that's absolutely vital in the current situation.

Obviously the SP/Tommy Sheridan get more of a kicking from anarchists (which I realise are not necessarily identical with anarchists) over the Poll Tax Riot.

Yes and no. Realistically, what that actually consists of is a bit of back and forth taunting, then everybody gets on with stuff, at least in my experience.

I'm not some kind of anarchist purist. I do work with the rest of the left, including the SWP, on anti-cuts stuff locally. And I have to say that my honest personal experience is that the SP are a hell of a lot easier to work with, partly because they have a much more working class base, which gives us some common ground. And I've heard enough similar stories to make me assume this isn't just a local aberration.

I understand this wasn't people's experience of Militant, but that was a bit before my time.

I'd say that since squaddism is pretty much incompatible with the SWP's beliefs and their democratic centralism, such expulsions would have been inevitable

Actually, the steward's groups, which were basically the start of the squads, were set up by John Deason, who was a central committee member at the time. There's a wider issue here though. Obviously I'm not a dem cent, but I don't think the SWP are great at being so either. For a long time, what it actually meant was "What Tony Cliff currently thinks". On this subject, I've seen absolutely no evidence of a proper debate about the right course having taken place within the SWP at the time. Instead this change (and it was a change) in SWP strategy seems to have been decided by a very small number of people.

This is best seen as part of a wider pattern within the SWP at the time. The SWP were getting increasingly uneasy about the fact that they had recently got an influx of working class recruits and felt unable to control them. The instinct that led to the outlawing of the squaddists is the same one that led to the closing down of the rank and file organisations.

skidmarx said...

WS - on your first paragraph, I think there is a leap from the SWP relating to Imams to them being complicit in attempts to demobilise Muslim youth. And they seem to do a better job of relating to Muslim youth than many of those with hang-ups about Islam (this isn't meant as a personal slight). I remember over Bolton that the UAF was getting it from both sides, that they were too confrontational and not enough, while the fact that Weyman was facing charges was largely ignored (perhaps you might say that's payback for the last 30 years,but...).
I might also dispute "liberal cross-class nature", but I can't be arsed this morning.

That the SP are commonly accounted easier to work with is interesting, and gives pause for thought.

I think the abandonment of rank-and-file organisation was due to Cliff's analysis that a downturn in working class militancy had occured, certainly half a decade later there was general agreement across the party that he'd been right. People agreed with him because he was very persuasive and seemed to be right a lot, not because there was any sort of undemocratic cult thing going on. I think.

A squadist said...

First, I am not a democratic centralist, but "squadism" as such is not imcompatible with democratic centralsm, as is clear from Trotksy's own defence of the militia. Democratic centralism, I thought, was a party democratically deciding on a course of action and then everyone submitting to it. True, the squadists in the SWP refused to submit to the party winding up the ANL and squads, but squadism as such is simply delegation to squads of the task of physical anti-fascism.

Whether SWP was genuinely democratic centrist from this period, as opposed to just centralist, is in my view debatable, and several currents within the party had to be kicked out to create unity once Cliff had laid down the downturn line and ordered the retreat from rank and file industrial militancy and anti-fascist militancy. This policy shift accompanied a shift from democratic party to cult. Yes he was persuasive and charismatic, but so are many (most) cult leaders.

My view is that the middle class leadership feared the working class self-activity they had helped mobilise in factories and the squads, and so defused them both, and switched to recruiting middle class students who were more compliant, and that the downturn line was a justification for this, rather than the other way around. See the excellent pamphlet "Carry on Recruiting".

A squadist said...

I don't think the UAF are "complicit in attempts to demobilise Muslim youth". I think they're trying to face two ways at once: with one face creating a populist liberal cross-class popular front to "defend multiculturalism", and pandering to reactionary communal leaders in doing so. And with another face playing with a "militant" image, mobilising Muslim youth and putting them in dangerous situations. (And in some cases, playing with fire by working with the Muslim Defence League(s), although that story is too messed up for me to be able to untangle.)

Probably true to say UAF are more successful so far in reaching both these constituencies than other left or anarcho groups, unfortunately, and this is mainly because of their completely opportunistic unprincipled take on things like "Zionism", secularism, etc.