Eyewitness Report of Derbyshire Anti-Fascist Demo

‘I’ve got my stick and I’ve got my foot’ were the words of one demonstrator from the Nottinghamshire Stop the BNP (NSBNP) campaign. She understood the need to seriously confront the fascists. Unfortunately, that did not happen at the anti-fascist demonstration on Saturday, 16 August in the village of Denby, Derbyshire, where the British National Party (BNP) held its ‘Red, White and Blue’ festival from 15 – 17 August.

The annual fascist get-together at the farm of BNP member Alan Warner is a major event for Nazi scumbags in Britain and beyond. Among the attendees of the ‘festival’ was Petra Edelmannova, chair of the Czech National Party, who advocates a ‘final solution’ for Roma in the Czech Republic.

NSBNP was the main organiser of the protest, but with little national cooperation, only about 400 people turned up. Much of the blame belongs to Unite Against Fascism (UAF), one of the Socialist Workers Party’s (SWP) front groups, which called a similar demonstration at the same place but at a different time than the one organised by NSBNP. UAF failed to organise coaches from London, which might have significantly increased the size of the demonstration.

Comrades from the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) travelled up from London with the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union). We arrived just before 11am at the assembly point in the village of Codnor. In addition to the IBT and the SWP, the left groups represented at the protest included the Socialist Party, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Communist Party of Britain, International Socialist Group, Permanent Revolution and Workers Power.

NSBNP set up a platform for speakers before the march towards Denby was to begin at about 11.45 am. But UAF irresponsibly started to march before the speakers had finished, thereby temporarily splitting the demonstration. There was further tension over whether UAF or NSBNP banners should be at the front of the march.

The demonstration was heavily policed, and Derbyshire cops came prepared with public order acts to restrict the number of protesters to 700. Police formed a line about one mile from the farm to prevent demonstrators from marching closer. Anger and frustration mounted, and there was one unsuccessful attempt to break through the line. There were more speeches at this point, including by Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT. Meanwhile, a group of about 40, led by UAF, marched closer to the farm, escorted by the police.

As the march made its way back to Codnor, it briefly split in two when one half of the demonstration stopped to confront a BNP photographer while the other half at first obediently moved on under instructions from the police. (They eventually halted after several people shouted for them to stop.) Unfortunately, many demonstrators seemed to have illusions in the police, who arrested 33 protesters that day. The Socialist Party, which is involved in NSBNP, has contributed to the confusion with their promotion of the false belief that cops are simply ‘workers in uniform’. (See our pamphlet, Marxism vs. ‘Militant’ Reformism.)

Not everyone saw the need for militant action against the fascists, who brazenly hung about the demonstration, down side streets and at the assembly point. Combat 18, the military wing of the British neo-Nazi organisation Blood & Honour, were rumoured to be guarding the farm. Yet the demonstration organisers had evidently made no serious provision for self-defence, and it was apparent that they had no real intention of actually preventing the fascists from holding their hate-fest, despite the SWP’s claim to want ‘to stop [the] Nazi BNP rally’ (Socialist Worker, 16 August). Some people were foolish enough to bring small children on the march.

Back in Codnor, Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR), another SWP front group, had already set up stalls and a stage with music, but most of the crowd dispersed soon after returning to the site. After this frustrating protest, which left the fascists unscathed to carry on with their business, it is perhaps not surprising that LMHR was unable to bring ‘people together through music’. ‘Moral witnessing’, reliance on cops and sectarian division do not make for successful anti-fascist actions.

United action against the BNP is both necessary and possible. A united front to stop the Nazis should be organised around one or two simple slogans to maximise the possibility of mobilising broad layers of the population, most importantly the organised working class, to drive out the fascists. Close tactical cooperation between stewards from each participating organisation could be achieved without blurring the political lines between them, as each group would be free to put forward its own programme in its own name.

Posted: 21 August 2008