On Saturday, 29th November, Merseyside Police protected around one hundred and fifty British National Party members from the people of Liverpool and other anti-fascists. In doing so, they allowed racist material to be openly distributed in Liverpool city centre on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. However, Alec McFadden of Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism and Weyman Bennett of Unite Against Fascism must shoulder some of the responsibility for this horrifying turn of events.
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. But the truth remains 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.