Racism and fascism, punks and police: here and there, now and then…

Uphold the Reich

Three men have been charged with crimes allegedly committed during an assault upon a Jewish man, Menachem Vorchheimer, in Melbourne last October. One has been charged with intentionally and recklessly causing serious injury, assault and using insulting words; another with theft and using insulting words; and the third with using insulting words. The three, members of the Ocean Grove football club, were on an end-of-season bus trip to Caulfield races at the time.

Unsurprisingly, the off-duty policeman who was driving the bus — and tried to piss off quick-smart following the assault — will not be facing charges; which is apparently partly why Vorchheimer has chosen to pursue a civil action of his own. In relation to the criminal case, it’ll be interesting to see if club coach Matthew Sproule will swear under oath that Vorchheimer’s hats were removed “accidentally” in a tussle through the bus window — which is what he claimed at the time of the incident; note also that the only reason the off-duty policeman in question wasn’t able to make a quick getaway after the (other) brave young men on board the bus shouted racist abuse is ‘cos some other driver blocked the bus with his car.

See ‘Three face charges over attack on Jewish man’, ninemsn, March 6, 2007; ‘Police charge three over antisemitic attack’, Melissa Singer, Australian Jewish News, March 6, 2007; ‘Trio charged over race attack’, Herald Sun, March 6, 2007; ‘Footballers charged over race attack’, AAP, The Age, March 6, 2007; ‘Officer cleared after witnessing racial attack’, Richard Kerbaj, The Australian, March 6, 2007.

Anti-Nazi League: 30 Years On

Ed Vulliamy has written an interesting article to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the ANL: ‘Blood and glory’ (The Observer, March 4, 2007). It’s worthwhile comparing his account with that provided in a pamphlet published by the Colin Roach Centre in 1995: ANTI NAZI LEAGUE: A Critical Examination: 1977-81/2 and 1992-95. Both recall the riot against police and non-uniformed fascists at Lewisham in 1977 as a key turning-point in the fight against the National Front.


Lewisham is carved on the heart of every British anti-fascist of that time, for it was the neighbourhood through which the Front intended to stage its ‘Anti-Mugging March’ on 13 August 1977, after a singularly vile police rounding up of black kids supposedly stealing wallets. [Paul Holborrow: “This was an area with a large black population, where some police operated a policy known among officers as PNH – ‘Police Nigger Hunt’.] But the NF’s march was assailed and ultimately stopped by a counter-demonstration of some 10,000 anti-racists. It was quite a moment: the ‘Honour Guard’ of thugs brandishing Union Jacks, their besieged route denied and then reforged by an advanced guard of police officers acting as official stewards, swinging into New Cross Road, where the running street battles began. [Maeve Landman: “And the police were really abusive. One said to me, ‘If I wasn’t in this uniform, I’d show you, nigger’.”]

Jim Kelly (Colin Roach Centre):

Lewisham was to become the largest violent political event in many years. Many thousands of people had turned out to oppose the fascists. This was despite an earlier march that took people away from the fascists’ assembly point. The CP was part of that march, as were the official labour movement. However the [Socialist Workers’ Party] were able to lead a significant part of the march to Clifton Rise, the starting point for the NF march.

Large numbers of police were mobilised to protect the march. As the march turned out of Clifton Rise a hail of bricks and bottles met it, but it still managed to continue on its route. There’s no doubt in my mind that, despite the artillery raining down on them, the police were still in control and disciplined enough to drag the cowering nazis to their destination.

It was at this point that the whole situation was transformed by one act of individual courage by Peter Chapel, a leading member of the ‘George Davis is innocent’ campaign. Peter, I believe, had recently joined the SWP. He launched himself into the front of the march. The sight of the Union Jacks shooting into the air and nazis scattering broke the impasse. Chapel was quickly followed by a group of his friends and counter demonstrators.

Within seconds our group of SWP members linked arms (a form of ritual left wing bonding much loved by the generation influenced by the events in Paris in 1968), and moved across the road. The march was breached just behind the so-called ‘Honour Guard’, a phalanx of nazi thugs. This was followed by a few minutes of vicious fighting, not with arms still linked I hasten to add. The nazis were physically hammered. Many were clearly terrified of what had just taken place. The NF march disintegrated, with fascists running around in blind panic. Most ran away, a few stood their ground and got overwhelmed by the sheer weight of anti-fascists, including many local Afro-Caribbean residents who had turned out…

Fast forward to 1992.


But where did it all go? Why, if it was victorious, did the ANL need to relaunch itself in 1992 and why does the BNP harvest with relative success and virtually unchallenged?

A statement by the ANL announcing its re-formation is available on its website.

Mark Metcalf:

It is not clear who took the decision to re-launch the ANL. The SWP CC did agree to its re-launch but this appears to have happened after the leader of the SWP, Tony Cliff, announced it at a SWP branch meeting in Stoke Newington, Hackney. It seems that Cliff discussed the idea informally with a very small number of close colleagues (Cliff was once quoted as saying that on really important decisions he would consult with only two other people in the SWP, Duncan Hallas being one) and then he decided it should be re-launched.

Whatever the exact circumstances, it is a fact that less than two months after their national conference at which no discussion or vote was taken on launching the ANL, the SWP leadership were sitting in the House of Commons with Labour MPs proclaiming the virtues of ANL Mark II.

Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), on the other hand, was established in 1985, collapsed as a national network sometime between then and 1989, was re-launched as such in 1989, and in 1992, the year of the ANL’s re-launch, was big enough and ugly enough to have staged both large demonstrations (5,000 in Tower Hamlets in November, 1991) and gigs (10,000 in London in September, 1991). Thus according to Metcalf:

The other factors in [the ANL’s re-launch] were AFA’s relative success in mobilising a number of young people, including from within the ranks of the SWP itself. In addition, in December 1991, a crowd of almost 1,000 went to Charing Cross to protest outside the hotel of French Front National leader Jean Marie Le Pen. Many young people turned out. The re-launch of the ANL thus became an attractive prospect to the SWP leadership…

A wave of media interest heralded the launch of the ANL Mark II and thousands of leaflets and posters reminded those who had missed it. Fascism became the key issue of SWP members. Young people with hardly any previous record of involvement became professed experts, almost overnight, about how to defeat fascism…

Of course, in September 1992, AFA also played a decisive role in Blood & Honour meeting its Waterloo:

In September 1992 the Blood and Honour music network announced that it intended to host a major gig involving Skrewdriver and six other fascist bands. Around 1,500 fascists and racists were expected, and for security reasons the venue was to be revealed only on arrival at Waterloo Station. AFA immediately called for anti-fascists to rally at 4pm, one hour before the majority of fascists were anticipated to arrive. Blood and Honour stewards were supposed to make the area safe and ensure that “music-lovers” could be transported to the pre-arranged venue.

Earlier in the day, the ANL held a demo in south-east London, attracting about 1,000. This standard activity of chanting, leaflet distribution and paper selling attracted no opposition from the fascists. AFA leafleted the demo and requested support for the later event.

AFA were able to mobilise over 1,000 anti-fascists to Waterloo and AFA security stewards were able to remove, at an early stage, fascists drinking in the bars of Waterloo Station. Fascist stewards were noticeable by their absence. Many anarchists turned out, as well as members of the Turkish Revolutionary Group, Dev-Sol, who had even brought their children. Their leader was to later remark that he hadn’t realised there was a difference between AFA and the ANL, and he thought Waterloo would be a re-run of the passive anti-fascist/nazi activities he had attended with the ANL.

In the events that followed, the fascist’s plans were severely dented. The large majority were scattered, a leading Millwall football gang leader suffered a heart attack, Waterloo Station and the area’s transport system was brought to a halt, and only by finally surrounding and imprisoning the main AFA group were the police able to control the situation, four hours after it started. The fascists did manage to hold a much smaller gig at which trouble broke out over who was most to blame for the fiasco.

The SWP/ANL brought at most, 100 to Waterloo, and they stayed out of harms’ way, preferring to stand close to the police rather than get stuck in to the fascists. This, however, did not stop them lying about events at Waterloo by listing it as one of their successes in the programme they produced for the massive (200,000) ANL carnival in south London in 1994.

A similar ‘success’ of the ANL was the battering of fascists at the end of Brick Lane in September 1993, which they also listed in their carnival programme. The reality was that the ANL/SWP were on the opposite side of the road to where the fascists sold papers with no plans to ‘take the fascist’s pitch’…

Fast forward to 2006/7:

While B&H in Belgium are killing people and planning to blow up others, in Melbourne, Blood & Honour Australia most recently staged a ‘secret’ gig last September to commemorate the long-overdue death in 1993 of Skrewdriver vocalist Ian Stuart Donaldson: subsequently, on the night of the gig, a local (black) woman was racially abused by a gang of boneheads. The venue was The Birmingham Hotel, and while the local council — dominated by ‘progressives’ (feminists, Greens and socialists) — has done bugger-all to address the issue of the existence of a fascist venue in Fitzroy (‘The Birmy’ has happily staged fascist gigs previously), a number of local ‘punk’ bands — The Assailants, The Blurters, Bulldog Spirit, Charter 77, Distorted Truth, Marching Orders, PBG, Slick 46 and The Worsthave responded by throwing their support behind the venue.

The more things change…

‘St. Petersburg: Activist Stabbed 20 Times’
Galina Stolyarova
St. Petersburg Times
January 15, 2007

A twenty-one-year-old antifascist campaigner was stabbed twenty times on Sunday night in south-western St. Petersburg in an apparent attack by [fascists].

Ivan Yelin was taken to the intensive care unit of St. Petersburg Hospital No. 26 on Ulitsa Kostyushko, where his condition is described as severe. Yelin underwent an operation for wounds sustained to his liver, kidney, solar plexus and other areas, suffering massive blood loss.

The St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office has opened a criminal case for attempted murder. No suspects have yet been detained.

Immediately prior to the attack on Sunday, Yelin had been taking part in an international humanitarian initiative titled [Food Not Bombs] giving food to the local homeless people and street kids just outside Vladimirskaya metro station in central St. Petersburg.

The initiative takes place on a regular basis at several fixed places, including areas close to Vladimirskaya and Vasileostrovskaya metro stations.

The attack took place between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. near Yelin’s home on the corner of Ulitsa Ziny Portnovoi and Leninsky Prospekt in a south-western district of the city.

Antifascist campaigners are convinced that local [fascists] are behind the attack.

“Members of [bonehead] gangs routinely show up at antifascist and human rights meetings,” said Ruslan Linkov, head of the St. Petersburg organization Democratic Russia. “[Fascists] take photographs of the participants and also follow human rights activists to their homes.”

“On Sunday, Ivan was more noticeable than the others: he was putting food into bowls and giving it to people, and naturally drew more attention,” said fellow antifascist campaigner Oleg, who asked that his real name not be used because of fears for his safety. “After they finished, most volunteers went to a rock concert in a nearby club but Ivan went home on his own, making himself an obvious target.”

Timur Kacharava, a frequent participant in antifascist meetings who was stabbed to death outside a bookstore on Ligovsky Prospekt in November 2005, was also reportedly followed after taking part in a “Food, Not Bombs” event.

As [bonehead] violence against foreigners and ethnic minorities rises in Russia, growing numbers of antifascist campaigners are considering giving up street politics, they say.

Not only do they fear physical attack by [boneheads], but they say they are treated with suspicion and hostility by the police, while adding that the political elite and general public are indifferent to their goals. Most depressingly, they say, at their own rallies they are usually outnumbered by police and [fascists].

“We have to face it: ordinary citizens prefer to stay away from human rights or antifascist meetings,” said Iosif Skakovsky of the human rights group Memorial. “It does not help things that the authorities and law-enforcement organizations both on a local and federal level demonstrate an outrageous lack of leadership and seem to be content with the state of denial they have adopted about hate crimes.”

As a result, many antifascist activists are losing faith that they can make a difference.

“More and more of us are strongly considering giving up the fight,” Oleg said. “I have personally been attacked by [boneheads] who kicked me in the head with their heavy boots. But it is not the fear of a physical assault that makes me doubtful about defending the cause. Rather, it is our failure to make a difference in the minds of ordinary Russians that is most frustrating.”

Those who want to continue their activism are thinking of changing strategies as street fights between antifascist campaigners and [fascists] are becoming increasingly common. The most recent clash between members of [an antifa] group and [fascists] took place in September. The street fights broke out when activists from Antifa [sic] tried to disrupt a meeting of the [fascist] Movement Against Illegal Immigration.

“After the murder of Timur Kacharava we figured that the only way to stop the fascists is to counter them physically,” said antifascist campaigner Mikhail. “If the authorities do nothing, we have nothing left to do but fight.”

Linkov is worried by the tendency of the authorities and the mainstream media to portray antifascist campaigners as yet another breed of extremist.

“They think things would look better if this were seen as the problem of youngsters drinking too much, rather than the problem of [fascist] groups getting stronger,” Linkov said. “They seem to be trying to spread the responsibility for street violence more evenly among various political forces.”

Below : A Russian pensioner expresses her appreciation for the efforts of a Russian policeman in safe-guarding Russian democracy from the vice-like grip of the Russian people, St. Petersburg, March 3, 2007. (Shake of balaclava : Lumpen)

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
This entry was posted in Anti-fascism, History, Music, State / Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Racism and fascism, punks and police: here and there, now and then…

  1. lumpnboy says:

    Good post. In the early nineties I had some small contact with people in AFA, and also in the odd but then sort-of interesting Red Action group. Their commitment to trying to find an effective form of militant anti-fascism could not really be questioned (though much else could of course). By contrast the evolution of ANL into the re-launched ANL Mark II – if that doesn\’t overstate the continuity – was always an opportunistic political game by SWP types.

    Also significant for thinking about the present situation in Britain (and several other countries with emerging or already strong eurofascist tendencies), perhaps, would be the fundamental debates around AFA strategy which took place later in the nineties, partly as a consequence of the change in BNP strategy toward quasi-eurofascist \’respectability\’: I\’m sure there are some of the papers on-line, though maybe not from all of the \’sides\’ within the AFA – does anyone else remember the \’Real AFA\’?

    Neither ANL I nor AFA in its heyday should be romanticised into immunity from political critique, of course – far from it – but the uselessness of ANL II, the effective dissolution of the anti-fascist activity of most of the AFA networks, even the effective dissolution of Red Action into the IWCA and the trajectory of that phenomenon: all of these trends require some explanation and are significant in understanding the terrain of \’militant anti-fascism\’ and the Left in Britain.

    I used to have hard copies of some of the papers from mid-to-late nineties AFA strategy debate: let me know if you\’ve seen these debates – otherwise if I find them I\’ll try to scan and send them – you might find them interesting.

  2. Lumpen says:

    Totally unrelated, but thought you’d like this: http://adage.com/article?article_id=115287&rf=23m

  3. @ndy says:

    It’s lump! It’s lump! It’s lump! They’re on my blog…

    ‘No Retreat’ by Steve Tilzey and Dave Hann provides an informative account of both early-period ANL (Tilzey) and later-period AFA (Hann), including the manner in which, even in its earlier incarnation, the SWP was extremely wary of ‘squadism’, which I read as being basically concerned with (stunting) the development of an independent working class socialist politic.

    Broadly speaking, the ‘squadists’ — after having largely defeated the fascists on the streets, and in the process gained a sense of their own power and autonomy — were basically shafted by the SWP leadership, and forced to choose b/w resuming the party line or pissing off altogether. Many chose the latter course of action — and a number of these then went on to est Red Action — while many of the anarchists and other libertarian socialists, joined by a new generation of antifa, later helped est AFA: the two currents working together, often productively, but — outside of a commitment to physically confronting the fascists — with otherwise quite different approaches to and understandings of social change under capitalism.

    In essence, then, I think that AFA was in some ways a victim of its own success.

    So: I’m reasonably familiar with the history and politics of both AFA and Red Action — having read many issues of ‘Fighting Talk’ and other AFA txts, for example, as well as having persued RA’s site, in addition to being in contact with @s involved in these sorts of activities in the UK during this period (late ’80s — mid ’90s). As far as I can tell, RA’s ‘downfall’ was intimately connected to a number of its members being pinged for involvement in the INLA. But both RA and AFA more generally — as well as the ANL and ‘the left’ more generally — having won, in large measure, the fight on the streets, esp vs the scum in the NF, failed to develop an effective strategy to combat the electoral turn of the BNP. I think that their ability to do so was not merely a ‘failure of politics’, but was also severely compromised by the shift to the right of Labor: a long-term trend, obviously, and not necessarily a problem in-and-of-itself, but one which had and continues to have much broader political effects, esp on working class politics. In fact, it’s only now, I think — ie, post-Thatcher — that this process is beginning to be felt on a national level, and — most worryingly for Labor anyway — in its (now de-industrialised) heartlands. (I don’t suppose the SWP and other grp’s refrain of ‘Vote Labor, but without illusions’ blah blah blah helped much either, even if there’s also recently emerged an independent electoral alt. in the form of the Respec’ Coalition.)

    More broadly, the guts of both Labor and the industrial wing of the labour movement has been ripped out and thrown to the dogs in the last few decades — the ‘decline of social democracy’ ‘n’ all that — and some of the mangiest of the pack, esp in the shape of the BNP, have simply been feasting on the entrails. The IWCA, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to have exp anything like a similar degree of success in winning over the (white) working class. As for current militant antifa in the UK, while there are obviously numerous forces opposed to the BNP and other expressions of organised racism and xenophobia, the only grp I’m aware of are the fine folk at antifa.org.uk. Finally, as for disco papers, I’ve read a few, but nothing much substantial of late.

  4. lumpnboy says:


    Likewise I havent seen anything very substantial out of the UK in the last few years, with the rapid decline in discussion and activity seeming to coincide broadly with the collapse of the AFAs.

    Im not sure about all of your characterisation of the situation of the BNP, Respect and IWCA. Though Respect did get Galloway elected obviously, outside of that particular area and the religious etc alliances present, Respect has actually in some ways done much worse electorally than the IWCA, who I think have actually demonstrated at times a capacity to attract fairly broad electoral support from the working classes in particular areas. (In some ways that parallel the fortunes of Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Party in Australia, with the latter, like the IWCA, doing well only in the particular areas in which they have done a lot of work over time, with a kind of localism functioning for them as for the IWCA, while Respect and Socialist Alliance have many more activists and run in more places but almost always with much worse results.) What this support is being attracted to politically is another matter, but the IWCA managed a series of electoral results way way above those of Respect in most places – seeming to average twenty to thirty percent in a bunch of local elections IIRC, sometimes more and sometimes coming ahead of, or just second to, Labor.

    I realise that you didnt actually directly compare the IWCA and Respect, but rather contrasted the BNP and the IWCA. I think the biggest direct electoral contest in which they were both involved was when both went up against Livingstone for the London Mayor spot. Again IIRC, IWCA got less then one percent while the BNP got five or six even though another far Right party, UKIP, split the far Right vote pretty much evenly. (Can we say Livingstone split the Left vote by getting seventy times what the IWCA got? If he counts as a Left vote I suppose…)

    Politically all three are quite different but actually also all very unattractive. I dont mean electorally here, I just mean to me.

  5. @ndy says:

    Cheers BobFromBrockley!

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