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Brief thoughts on the recent antifascist demo in London

Respect to everyone who organised the antifascist demo in London last night and to everyone who turned out.

It was really good and necessary that it happened. There had been quite a lot of hype about the violence the far-right were going to dish out. So extra kudos to the people that participated anyway.

As it happens, the riots and violence the far-right were promising turned out to be a damp squib. All we saw we were gaggles of far right goons in the pubs down Whitehall.

We got about 200 antifascists at the International Brigades memorial on the South Bank having some speeches on the theme of anti-fascist internationalism and a little march about.

In the current context this was a good morale boosting thing. In the spectrum of things that could have happened this was up the top end of possible outcomes. I was imagining potentially being faced with large numbers of angry violent DFLA thugs in the dark.

As it turned out, there was a non-embarrasing number of us, basically no fascist presence and we got to have a march and a shout. About 25 fash in little groups tried to have a go at the demo – pulling sieg heil salutes and yelling. It was nice to have them there as if to confirm our raison d’etre.

Some brief constructive criticism:

Once we realised there was minimal presence of organised far-right on the streets, it might have been good if we had tried to march over the bridge to Westminster rather than just around Waterloo.

All the sticks along the sides stuff that seems to now be compulsory at antifascist demos was a little pointless. It’s funny when innovation gets turned into a mindless repetition so quickly. The sticks thing is useful to defend against cops or fash getting into the crowd and to demarcate our space, but it has disadvantages too. It’s slow, it traps us in a block where we can’t move quickly or fluidly. Tactics need to be considered case by case – was it useful in this situation?

It would have been good to have more visible banners to explain what we were. The combination of being dressed all in black masked up in the dark with black flags shouting in foreign languages confused a lot of passers-by who had no idea whether we were racists or anti-racists. It was only the RCG people with a big Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! banner that made it clear.

We also could also have had leaflets to give to passers by to explain what we’re doing. There’s a lot of goodwill we are missing out on by people not knowing who the fuck we are. Everyone I talked to was on-side once it was explained who the weirdos in black were and what they were shouting about.

Finally, it was all a bit black bloc-ish. We desperately need to expand antifascism beyond the sub-cultural black bloc crowd. It happened a bit last year with the Feminist Antifascist mobilisation, and since then we seem to have gone back into a small scene.

Yesterday was fine but we’ll be trying to reinvent the wheel all over again the next time Tommy Robinson calls a big demo and we panic that we can only get out 200 people. We need to work to mobilise larger numbers of people which doesn’t mean going all liberal, abandoning militancy or diluting our politics. If we follow the example of the Feminist Antifascists and the excellent Pop Mob in Portland we can expand antifascism beyond this black bloc masked up militant thing, get larger numbers on the streets, and be more effective as a social force and as a militant force.

This is a personal account from yesterday’s London is Antifascist, Antifascism is International demo. It is reposted (with mild edits) from While Rome Burns.

Photo: Guy Smallman

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