It’s time I put the text of my speech to the South London Anti-Fascist Group’s AGM online.
The talk nearly did not happen. Much to my surprise, Hope Not Hate objected to me speaking, describing my presence as ‘intolerable’. Hope Not Hate’s predecessor organisation, Searchlight , long enjoyed a monopoly over media coverage of the far-right – it is worrying if Hope Not Hate believe they have a similar monoply over analysis of fascism, or even of opposition to it?
Anyway, after the AGM’s business those present had a talk by Hackney Unites on their work in east London, and performances by Dean Atta and the Ruby Kid . That gave me the most difficult slot of all – the last one. Here’s what I said:
Talk To South London Anti-Fascists
I am slightly embarrassed at being described as an activist. I’m as active as anyone with 3 part time jobs, twin sons and a PhD to finish.
I was very active for best part of two decades, a member of Class War for 16 years, I was involved with Anti-Fascist Action on an occasional basis (those who remember Red Action will know Anarchists were always kept in reserve for when the numbers were short, we were the auxillary force) and a founder member of No Platform and Antifa.
If I have theme this evening it is that things are very different today to 1992 or 1993 – but in some ways they can still be rather similar.
In 1993 anti-fascists had to contend with a large, fluid group of disparate young men, ostensibly protesting about terrorism. Their numbers certainly contained organised fascists, loyalists and ex-soldiers, but also from football firms, people with little or no political background, and people looking for a scrap. Those anti-IRA demonstrations – the cries of No Surrender – were the precursors of the EDL demonstrations of today.
Those demonstrations passed. Indeed they were a distraction from doing what was necessary – reaching a mature peace in Ireland. And the EDL are a similar distraction
- The first is that they will stimulate racist attacks – either on lone Muslims on the fringes of demonstrations, or as we have seen in Luton in an attack on a mosque.
- That EDL actions will stimulate racist attacks by Muslims on whites. At the counter-demo to the EDL in Birmingham at least one white passer by was beaten up, with footage of the incident displayed across the papers.
With hindsight, there are other dangers we could perhaps add, although I have to say the idea of the EDL as an electoral force conjoined with the British Freedom Party is one that at this stage I don’t fear. Social movements tend to lose something, some of their sparkle when they try and become political parties.
3. The third danger I saw, which is by far the biggest, is that the EDL retard debate about Islam, and more importantly Islamism, in the UK. There is something different potentially about the EDL to the anti-IRA – read anti-Irish - demonstrations of the 1990s.
Lets consider where the EDL emerges – in Luton – following the Al-Mujihiroun demonstration against the Royal Anglian Regiment. Historically Luton is a town with comparatively good race relations. It has good relations between white and black, and good relations between Irish and British. It has very poor relations between Muslim and non-Muslim. Those problems long predate the EDL.
In 2009 I argued the presence of the EDL runs the risk of dividing debate into racists on one side, and professional anti-racists and Muslim representative organisations on the other, with little or no space for anyone else to operate in. Melanie Phillips on one side and the Muslim Council of Britain on the other. And that divide excludes the vast majority of people in this community, and indeed the UK.
There is a problem, for people on the left, in considering issues in those terms. Look at the hysterical reactions from some on the left when, I think it was Nick Lowles, made the comment that Al-Mujihiroun and the EDL were two sides of the same coin. It was hardly a bizarre comparison to make.
There are problems, and indeed real concerns with some of the brands of Islam we now see in the UK. In Tower Hamlets, the most important political institution is not the Labour Party, trades unions or a particular community group – it is East London Mosque. How we articulate and discuss these issues is an even bigger challenge than dealing with the EDL. They are another distraction from where we want to go, from where we want society to be.
I want to say a few things about multi-culturalism. It is something I suspect everyone in this room is comfortable with. As an Englishman of Irish descent with an African wife, I know I am. A London where we get on with our neighbours and our workmates precisely because they are our neighbours and colleagues. That gives us shared interests and things in common. A multi-culturalism where we see people as people, not as representatives of particular ethnic or religious groups, to be spoken to and interacted with on those terms.
I don’t usually see the need to articulate most of the problems of London in racial terms. That is not to say racism does not exist – it does. But there are two types of multi-culturalism. Kenan Malik’s attack on a top down multi-culturalism, where identities are imposed by authorities – read his book From Fatwa to Jihad – is I think essential reading. He sets out how in Birmingham identities were imposed, by the local authority, and funding and power allocated on that basis. And within two decades, you have blacks and Muslims fighting each other in the streets. In the 1980s they had been fighting alongside one another against the police.
Onto the contemporary far-right. As in the early 1990s, the main far right party is underachieving. The spivvy nature of Griffin’s BNP has been understood by his own supporters, taking a lot of his base away. Griffin’s sole priority is probably to get re-elected as an MEP – those who have served two terms in the European Parliament get a very significant pension. It is hard, but not impossible to see him getting the BNP back to where it was.
These are still challenging times though for anti-fascists. I would recommend to you some of the work Matthew Goodwin of Nottingham University has done on far-right voting patterns and opinion poll data across Europe. In most countries the populist (read fascist) party has a rising vote – Norway and the UK being the most noticeable exceptions. It is not hard to see why the vote is collapsing in Norway – in Anders Breivik, they have seen fascism in action. In France and Austria the majority of white working class voters indicated they would vote for the ‘populist’ party.
I am not sure anything about a trend ensures its continuation. To me, a whole series of dangers exist, but one of the most dangerous is to play into the hands of fascists. If there is such a thing as ‘the black community’ or the ‘Vietnamese community’ or the ‘Muslim community’, with fixed leaders, structures and needs, can we really wet our pants in shock and distress when someone says “I represent the white community vote for me”?
Yes we need multi-culturalism. It is what I live. But we need a bottom up multi-culturalism, not a top down government approach that plays into the hands of our enemies.
No Platform, which I tried to uphold for two decades, is harder than ever to implement. Firstly because of police repression – consider the six Antifa members jailed last year, the amount of CCTV, the limitless expenses these specialist police units seem to have. Secondly look at the rise of social media and the Internet – the BNP could be prevented from leafleting, but that same leaflet placed online and seen by hundreds of people within minutes. Which makes no platform more of an occasional tactic than part of a sustainable, permanent programme.
We have to beat the fascists in argument. And we can. Our ideas are better than theirs.
Thank you for listening.
Fifteen complete editions of Anti Fascist Action’s journal ‘Fighting Talk’ in PDF format are now available to download. A great rarity now finding these so well worth a look back at the UK’s most successful militant anti-fascist organisation to date. Nice one Libcom.
Click on image.
We are very pleased to be able to announce that two of the UK antifascists sent down last year were released on 30/12/11 on ‘Home Detention Curfew’ (electronic ‘tag’). We wish sean Cregan and Andy Baker the very best of luck and hope that they can successfully rebuild their lives. Thank you to the many groups and individuals who have allowed us to properly support these comrades. For the moment, the other three antifascists sentenced in relation to the same case remain inside and in need of support.
A recent article by Sean Cregan:
“Mick, Sean’s up at the bloody window!”
My dad took the stairs three at a time and caught me just before I fell. The window was nailed shut with six-inch nails… That was my earliest bid for freedom. I was not yet a year old but somehow I had made it up to that ledge, as my folks nattered to the neighbours downstairs.
Looking from that point to this, my own struggle for freedom has been and still is a major factor in who I am as a person today. Indeed it is the reason why I write this from a prison cell.
Born to Irish parents, growing up on south London’s housing estates was always going tbe a challenge. I loved my Irish roots but to other “real” Irish I was just a “plastic Paddy”. The English hated me for being Irish. I couldn’t win. My feeling of always supporting the underdog, the downtrodden, probably took root at that early age and has never waned. If a human or animal had no voice and was being mistreated, I’d be there to fight for what I believed to be right.
In my late teens the world of punk rock opened up a whole new world for me. I listened to bands that sang with anger and passion about the way humans and animals were treated. The “safe” music in the charts didn’t rock the boat and that’s how the authorities liked it. Punk music had such a profound impact. It made me aware of things I’d been ignorant of. I was inspired to form my own band to add my voice to the call for freedom and justice.
I naturally gravitated toward like-minded people: people who questioned everything they were told; people who did not blindly accept what they were told; people that cared for others outside the immediate circle of family and friends. These were heady days for me and I felt alive and part of something good and exciting.
In time I moved into the squatting “scene” and started to attend demos and actions, from CND marches to animal rights and anti-nazi demonstrations. I met punks, hippies, crusties and junkies! Many colourful people, some from privileged backgrounds and from all over the world. I found lots of common ground as well as uncommon ground. My working-class roots found some of the people a bit rich. Literally!
Most of my new-found friends considered themselves as anarchists/activists. After a while it became clear that many of these folk used that label to look the part but actually do little more than take drugs and do nothing; a part of the problem not the solution. I remember one time at a squat in Tooting we were sat smoking weed and putting the world to rights when the doorbell rang. I swear not one of us would-be revolutionaries could be bothered to answer the door! I never smoked another joint. It made me paranoid anyway. There were other drugs that I liked better; speed and acid, mushrooms and pills. We were having the time of our lives, squatting rent free, going to gigs and travelling the country to actions of every description. It was a bit hedonistic but I was happy.
The feeling of living in those squatted communities was one of belonging. It was as if I’d found my second family, my tribe even. We believed in freedom of expression, mutual respect and activism against the oppressive system. We shared a common hatred of the state; the futile wars fought in our names, the corrupt politicians, the greed of big business and the sad consumer materialistic society that had grown in the wake of the Thatcher era. What really was free? Not much as far as we were concerned unless you were part of the privileged few.
We live in this western “democracy” and believe we are truly free, and compared to some countries it may well seem that we are, but that is a skewed way of looking at things. In our society today we are more controlled, restricted, spied upon and monitored than at any time in our history. The last twenty years have seen more
and more of our rights taken away from us under new laws that the government stealthily introduce, by for instance telling us it’s for our own protection in the case of powers granted to the police in the fight against terrorism. It may
initially be used for one section of society but could have a range of implications for the public as a whole. We have more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in Europe. We are constantly watched and tracked, and with “smart” phones the authorities can pinpoint you to a place in seconds while Oyster cards keepa handy record of where we have been.
Our mainstream media is largely run by a handful of millionaires that feed us whatever party line they support through their papers; a nice cosy arrangement with the politicians who in turn get their media mates to bury news they don’t want us to know about. We are given a set of rules, laws to abide by. They claim to be for the common good but we are constantly shown that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. A truly fair and equal society would indeed be free. Free from injustice and a place where we could all meet and live as equals sharing our collective wealth, but that is just not the case. Something like five per cent of the population own ninety per cent of the land! How did these people get to own land in the first place? By taking it by force manyyears ago. I’ve personally always thought that owning the land is a ridiculous notion but their laws ensure that we have no freedom to roam where we choose.
We are told it’s wrong to steal and yet we are robbed every single day by landlords, banks, big business marking up huge profits, taxed to death by the government – the list is endless. Most working people are lucky to have enough to get them through to the next week and once they’ve paid out the bills there is preciouslittle left. And that’s just the way the state wants the lower classes to be: reliant wage slaves, given just enough but not nearly enough!
We are also bombarded with the lives of the rich and famous. The TV and magazines like OK and Hellosell us glimpses into their luxury lifestyles. The ever-pouting Posh Spice and her gormless jet-set equals Paris Hilton et al
flaunt their unbelievable wealth in our faces while doing absolutely nothing to earn it. The poor lap it all up and long to be them, knowing the likelihood of that ever happening is zero. The uber-rich live in countries where they can
avoid paying their taxes – so it would seem freedom is obtainable at the right price. If you have the money you can buy it!
Violence, we are told, is not permitted in a civilised society. Yet we watch as those in power sell masses of arms to corrupt regimes around the world that end up in the slaughter of innocents. When there is money at stake and oil to be controlled it would seem that people’s freedom is way down the list where the men of Mammon are concerned. How many indigenous people have been crushed, uprooted and in some cases eradicated in the name of oil, timber or whatever commodity it is that they desire?
There is only the freedom that tyrants and despots around the globe allow us to have. Their double standards and hypocrisy are disgusting and how they still manage to pull the wool over the masses’ eyes is a mystery to many.
As the years passed my involvement in direct action increased. I became a hunt saboteur and regularly attended hunts in defence of the animals’ liberty. The rich and infamous took exception to their “sport” being disrupted and violence was never far away. Arrests inevitably followed with the law firmly on the side of the well-to-do hunters.
I lost my freedom after being sent to prison for kicking a police riot shield on a May Day protest demo. The police had held us for over six hours using the new “kettling” tactic for the first time. We had been crushed and bashed with batons all day and my temper broke loose with one kick. I was sentenced to six months. This did little to deter me and only underlined the injustice of law and order. Losing my liberty was the worst feeling ever.
In recent years my political life has been dominated by the fight against the rise of the far right. On a wet weekend in March 2009 myself and fellow anti-fascists tried to stop a concert by the extreme nazi organisation Blood and Honour. Given the chance, these fascists would deny many of us our freedom. Their message is one of intolerance and hatred. As the police seemed indifferent we felt it was our duty to try and stop these vile people preaching their politics of hate.
I was involved in a fight with one of the “master race” and myself and twenty-two others were arrested in dawn raids in a massive operation by the authorities.We were charged with conspiring to commit violent disorder. Six were found guilty and sentenced to twenty-one months.
I try to make some sense of why I am sitting in this cell. It seems that those who are prepared to stand up for what is right are treated as criminals. I don’t know if losing my own freedom in defence of others’ freedom is too high a price, but I will always believe freedom is worth fighting for. How I carry on that fight remains to be seen.”
While Cameron and Co hand out medals to the posh and corrupt lets recognize some folks who really are deserving of them but are instead fitted up and jailed in the fight against fascism.
Andy Baker, Thomas Blak, Sean Cregan, Phil De Sousa, Ravi Gill, Austen Jackson as well as all those jailed in the struggle against the far-right everywhere, we stand with you in solidarity.
70 years ago they’d have been called heroes, today they’re labelled criminals and extremists.
………….When he or she is an Anarchist.
By Paul Stott from his blog I Intend To Escape…And Come Back Again
I guess at my age I should be too old to get annoyed by the Socialist Workers Party, or indeed by the wider socialist/marxist milieu in the UK, of which the SWP is representative. Every now and then however they still manage to press my buttons, in a way that it surprises me how much I can still rage at their idiocy and perversion of ideals.
The Socialist Worker website currently has an article and list of prisoners it suggests we write to over Christmas. It is a mixed list of those jailed in the student revolt, alleged and actual miscarriage of justice cases, plus a couple of examples of very long term prisoners who have been in correspondence with left wing groups for many years.
Needless to say the five anti-fascists still in UK jails for attacking members of the fascist Blood and Honour organisation in 2009 , do not get a mention. I can think of no reason for this other than the fact they are Anarchists. They simply do not exist in Socialist Worker’s ethos.
One thing that does exist in that rose-tinted view of the world is a ‘war against Islam’. Curiously two of the men who were allegedly behind the most important British Jihadist website, Azzam.com are listed on the SWP’s support list. Azzam.com, named after the spiritual founder of Al-Qaeda, Abdullah Azzam, played a key role in supporting the struggle to establish an Islamic theocracy in Chechnya, receiving praise from the likes of Ibn ul Khattab .
This article sums up the level the last century left has slumped to. Five working class men in jail for fighting Nazis on the streets of London are not worthy of a mention, yet a veteran of the Bosnian Mujahideen, like Babar Ahmad, is .
I have never really believed the argument that concepts of a ‘left’ and a ‘right’ in British politics are no longer relevant. However, on this type of evidence, and more generally on issues surrounding race and religion (especially Islam) I really can’t see where the divide exists any more. That a division between the gullible and the realist exists, I am sure. How to articulate that it wider political terms, I am, at this stage, less sure about. Perhaps my PhD is a step towards doing that.
Paul Stott can also be followed on Twitter here https://twitter.com/#!/MrPaulStott
Antifascist Sean Cregan will be having his birthday in prison this year on the 6th December…how about sending him a card…won’t take you 5 minutes…
Don’t forget to put your name and address on the back of the envelope or he won’t get it.
Details of how Sean and 6 others found themselves with heavy sentences can be found here http://antifascistprisonersupportuk.wordpress.com/about-2/
A list of the other prisoners and their contact details can be found here http://antifascistprisonersupportuk.wordpress.com/addresses/
Please write to them. Advice on writing to prisoners can be found here http://www.brightonabc.org.uk/writing.html
They’re inside for us…we’re outside for them!
NCAG members travelled down the A11 to HMP Wayland to visit Ravi Gill, one of the seven antifascists jailed for twenty one months last June. For those unfamiliar with the trial and how they were fitted up, a website by supporters has been set up here http://antifascistprisonersupportuk.wordpress.com/about-2/ .
Ravi is in good spirits and sends his thanks and best wishes to all who’ve been sending him mail and financial help in the form of postal orders while he’s banged up.
However we believe that the initial abundance of solidarity has of late tailed off somewhat and we’d urge that people continue to write to all the prisoners regularly in order to help keep them positive in the knowledge that they’ve not been forgotten.
While we all lead busy lives it’s often too easy to put off writing until a later date, but bear in mind though that being locked in a cell for much of the day gives a lot of time for thought and naturally negativity will sometimes set in, hence the importance of staying in touch and remembering the old adage…
“They’re inside for us…we’re outside for them.”
Full details on how to stay in touch with the Welling Seven can be found here http://antifascistprisonersupportuk.wordpress.com/addresses/
Anti-fascist prisoner Austen Jackson has now been moved out of Wormwood Scrubbs to HMP Stocken in Rutland.
His new address is:
Stocken Hall Road
For further details on the anti-fascist prisoners keep an eye out here http://antifascistprisonersupportuk.wordpress.com
Beating the Fascists: The untold story of Anti-Fascist Action, by Sean Birchall (Freedom Press), reviewed by Ben Aylott
A couple of reviews below about the recently published account of militant anti-fascism over two decades in the UK by Anti Fascist Action…a must read on so many levels for all those professing to understand fascism, anti-fascism and the working class in the UK.
Beating the Fascists is a highly readable and uncompromising account of two decades of militant anti-fascism with important lessons for today. Beginning with the background to the formation of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) in the late 1970s and the expulsion of the ‘squaddist’ street-fighters from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in 1981, Birchall takes us on a tour of the following 20 years of Anti Fascist Action (AFA).
The book is a real page-turner, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. The description of the often brutal treatment of the fascists at the hands of the militants is graphic to the point of absurdity at times. But Birchall also has some serious points to make.
There is a sense of setting the record straight: principally in Birchall’s argument that AFA, and the militant anti-fascism it espoused, had the most devastating impact on fascism in mainland Britain in the period and that it directly contributed to the BNP’s eventual retreat, in the mid 1990s, from the Mosleyite dogma of the necessity of controlling the streets. Indeed, Birchall claims a continuity between AFA and the 43 Group of Jewish ex-servicemen, who confronted Mosley’s attempts at a fascist resurgence in the immediate post-war period.
The publication of this book has inevitably been controversial, not least because of its critical account of ‘constitutional’ anti-fascist organisations, in particular the SWP. Its recurring criticism of the British left in general is that it is largely to blame for the alienation of working-class voters who are getting behind the BNP, an argument that has taken on renewed relevance in the debate about the significance and role of the English Defence League.
Street politics: ‘Beating the fascists’
For two decades British anti-fascists fought a cold blooded battle for control of the streets against burgeoning far-right movements, Brian Whelan meets the authors of a controversial new book by activists who were there on the frontlines.
Just last year the BNP put forward 338 candidates for the UK parliamentary election, the biggest fielding by the far right the country had ever seen, topping the National Front’s 303 candidates in 1979.
The party gambled and lost, failing to win any seats and losing their 12 seats on Barking Council. The British left declared the BNP to have been finally defeated, decimated and no longer a threat.
However, veteran members of Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) have a different analysis, they point out that the BNP have more than tripled their vote and say things are going to get a lot worse.
Joe and Ian are veterans from AFA’s war against the far-right, meeting in a bar in their former stomping ground of Islington, North London, they say they must protect their identities for fear of reprisals to this day.
Their book Beating the Fascists has caused a huge stir in the UK; published by Freedom Press, the book pulls no punches in its accounts of the physical fight against fascism on the streets and the internal political tensions that often threatened to tear the group apart.
Over ten years in the making Beating the Fascists not only chronicles the bloody street battles and political squabbles but also points out how fascist filled a vacuum for a radical alternative that the left has failed to.
The BNP’s turn to electoralism and attempt to become, on the surface, a respectable political party, was a direct result of the remorseless violence they were met with by AFA in the early 90s, the authors claim.
They explain that the BNP’s decision to abandon their Mosleyite strategy of winning control of the streets through menace was due in no small part to AFA’s violent counter-strategy.
However, they say AFA always argued that unless the left could undermine the far-right’s political constituency in the white working class they would never be truly beaten.
“The NF, C18 and BNP all had the same Mosleyite strategy to win control of the streets and after that the wider political narrative would kick in,” Joe explains.
“That was their plan so I mean there was a flaw in that if they were met by equal or superior violence they would be left in a limbo and that’s the position they found themselves in in the mid-90s, so they stepped off”.
The book is an often disturbing read, each chapter switching from graphic details of violent operations with militaristic discipline against fascists to analysis of the political decisions they faced.
When questioned on whether they have exaggerated for bravado or omitted stories of fights lost, the authors claim that the book is true to events as they happened.
“The punches are pulled on a number of instances to be fair, it’s a proper history and the violence and subjective perspective of the participants is presented to allow people to see that anti-fascism wasn’t a non violent affair,” Joe explained.
They reveal inside accounts of events such as ‘Battle for Brick Lane’, a series of running battles spanning 1990-1993 which saw the far-right lose one of their strongholds in London’s East End.
“Initially fascists were operating in kings cross – we wiped them out and after that their paper sales in chapel market were destroyed,” author Joe explained.
“We had boundaries and there were no prisoners taken, once we set up north London – west London divide we started moving into east London knowing we could retreat back.”
“We had a safe area here in Islington, North London became a stronghold for us, it was a prototype for clearing out fascists.”
This strategy was expanded nationally and the group enjoyed varying success in Manchester, Leeds and Scotland.
“When we went to brick lane, it was very symbolic for the BNP, they had been there from 1979 and hadn’t been touched, then suddenly they had to fight for their pitch and lose.”
The book crudely details how members of the far-right were ambushed leaving their pubs, attacked with bricks on demonstrations and kept under watch in extensive files.
The Irish diaspora played a central role in this battle as republican marches and the Irish community became a prime target for attack by skinhead thugs.
“There were trips to Belfast by members but not by AFA officially, there is no denying it,” Joe confesses.
“There was support there for Irish republicanism. People visited militant republicans in Belfast and friendships developed.”
“There were also people involved who had a more hands on role in republican movement – stuff that was learned over there was used against state operations over here and gave us an edge on the streets.”
The authors say that the political climate allows no place for violent confrontation in Britain at present, but they express no remorse for their past activities.
“It had to be violent because the opponent was violent – if they’re going to use violence you can’t use non-violence against that, you’ll be battered into the ground.”
They still see the BNP as a great threat pointing out that after they “fought them to a standstill” the party adopted a more respectable electoral approach pushed by Nick Griffin.
“I don’t think there is room for fighting them anymore, if the BNP stand 800 candidates to be effective you’d have to confront all 800,” Joe added.
“Would that damage anti-fascism or improve it if someone is running for election and you’re kicking in their door and setting fire to their cars people will ask what you are standing for?”
Having spent a decade fighting the far right on the streets Joe now believes they are now more dangerous than ever, as they hold elected positions.
He explains that alongside the war stories the book explains how AFA predicted almost two decades ago that the BNP would inevitably make serious electoral breakthroughs.
Over the last ten years of producing their book they have seen their predictions and worst fears for the BNP’s success realised.
“You can keep saying they’re not a threat up until the point you’re walking into the camps,” Joe adds.
“Things will get worse but how it turns out in the end is anyone’s guess, nobody can disguise the fact that the left are completely finished now in London.”
“They are bereft of ideas and bereft of constituency. Unfortunately groups like the BNP are now the official radical opposition.”
Ian adds that they believe the BNP are currently only experiencing setbacks and to write them off as a threat is a great mistake.
“The left should understand what the BNP are trying to achieve is very difficult – trying to bring nationalism in from the cold.”
“That’s something the left has entirely failed to do with communist politics. Its not going to be overnight, they’re going to have setbacks and recover ground.”
Beating the Fascists could be two separate books, appealing to very different audiences. The first a brutally violent story bragging of hard man conquests, the other a vital political analysis of the rise of the BNP and detailed history of the groups that fought them.
Antifascist Prisoner Sean Cregan takes a look at benefits culture.
Every year, hundreds of benefit nights take place for a myriad of good causes across the country. This article focuses on who actually benefits from these nights.
I have helped organize many fund-raisers over the years, mainly on the punk/oi scene, and have also played benefits myself. Personally, I or any band I’ve been in have never asked for any payment for doing a benefit gig: The clue’s in the name ‘BENEFIT’! I’m not saying that anyone in a band is ‘well off’, far from it, but when I hear stories of bands on the ‘scene’ wanting hundreds of pounds for playing, it makes me think ‘for whose benefit’?!
While I feel it is fair that a band are reimbursed for any travel costs and maybe given a few drinks, I don’t feel they should be paid any fee [any more than the people organizing the event and taking the cash on the door should – Typissed]. This is not big business! Most corporate whores that play at ‘set piece’ benefits are paid huge amounts and only do it to look good and boost record sales.
Our ‘movement’ however is miniscule in comparison and the bands that play are usually people you admire with integrity, and lyrics that are anti-establishment. Why then do some bands feel the need to be paid for supporting a worthy cause?
This is by no means indicative of ALL bands on the scene, and many are rightfully just glad to help raise money and awareness of the cause. But there are some who feel a pay day is due to them from these gigs, and it is to these bands this article is directed.
Putting on a benefit is hard work. From experience, I can tell you that the costs are substantial. First you have to find a venue, and you are very lucky if you find one that will let you use the room for free. If it’s a big event (e.g. an all-dayer), there’s no way this will be the case. In my opinion, these places make enough money out of the gig-goers to be able to afford doing this, but they are a business and it rarely happens.
The cost of the P.A. and backline (if the venue has these) should be included in the room hire. Then there’s the sound engineer, again all well and good if they will work for nowt, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Printing flyers is another expense to add to the list. If it’s a squat party then add a hefty outlay for the bar, but if it’s a good night this should make a profit for the cause. These are most of the initial outlays. Let’s say, on the night, that two hundred people turn up to a medium-sized gig and pay a fiver in, that’s a Grand. Deduct from that the outlay, and then say five bands play that want a hundred quid each. You’ll be lucky to make a few hundred quid for the benefit.
Now I’m not saying people should be made to pay to play, but the payments should be kept to a minimum and bands should be happy to support the benefit and take only travel expenses. Paying loads of money to a band to travel from abroad, for example, makes no economic sense! If bands want to play the benefit, maybe they should book a few more gigs in that town, making it worth their while doing the benefit.
Some so-called punk bands are just outrageous in what they want to be paid. These fuckers should be ostracized and told to fuck off in my opinion. Making money on the back of others misfortune is just low and they should be ashamed of themselves. The simple message to bands is this: Play if you support the benefit, but don’t expect to be paid.
Some tips for putting on a benefit:
1) Ask around for help printing flyers, you may find someone willing to do it for free.
2) Always haggle with the venue, some will waive any room/backline charge if enough punters are guzzling their drinks.
3) Agree any expenses beforehand with the bands and don’t be talked into paying more on the night. Any damage to equipment, etc can be discussed afterwards.
4) Do not allow guest lists at benefit nights. I’ve always paid to get into gigs I’ve put on. If people moan they haven’t enough, point out that they appear to have enough money for beer! Usually works.
5) Always clean up after. It doesn’t hurt to keep relations with the landlord on a good footing.
6) Try a raffle or passing round a tin, it will make a bit extra.
7) [Consider using local bands instead of ‘big names’, keeping travel expenses and the chances of breaking down miles away to a minimum. Local bands also bring their mates – Typissed.]
Sean is a long-standing Anarchist and antifascist activist, currently imprisoned, along with five other comrades, for ‘Conspiracy to Commit Violent Disorder’. The details of the other antifascists can be found on this website. If you are interested in playing a benefit gig in support of these comrades, or even in organizing a benefit event yourself, please contact Leeds ABC – firstname.lastname@example.org . It doesn’t matter where you are geographically because we can put you in touch with other supporters.
A row between members of Norwich SWP and supporters of the Norwich Community Action Group (NCAG) has the potential to damage anti-fascist unity in the city, and undermine working-class solidarity so vital for effective action against the cuts.
Bitter argument developed after NCAG supporters responded to a belated appeal by the SWP for physical support outside a public meeting the SWP had advertised to discuss ‘How to stop the EDL’.
Upwards of thirty EDLers, not all of them white, arrived at the meeting-venue. NCAG supporters were outnumbered, and a dangerous situation could easily have turned violent. In the end police arrived with dogs, and the SWP meeting was cancelled at the advertised venue, though it may have taken place elsewhere. Lack of forethought by the SWP, and their failure to take basic precautions over how to present, advertise and ensure security at their meeting, put NCAG members at significant risk on the night and left them exposed to reprisals.
An account of events posted on the NCAG website made clear the extent of anger felt towards the SWP. It has drawn a long series of comments, some of which are from declared EDLers. The article was also picked up by an EDL-supporting blog. Some SWPers are now claiming that because NCAG has allowed this exchange on their website, and because some NCAG members engaged EDLers in discussion, they are apologists for fascism.
NCAG are within their rights to criticise the SWP’s failure to take the EDL seriously as an organisation capable of mobilising members in local areas to confront the left. Lessons do not seem to have been learned from what happened in Brighton in June, when EDL members disrupted a UAF meeting in the town. Norwich SWP’s meeting about the EDL was advertised openly. The Socialist Worker website even says all are welcome to such meetings. Yet Norwich SWPers know from their own anti-fascist work that fascists are active in parts of the county. A brief look at the EDL website would have told them its ‘East Anglian division’ claims over a hundred members. This figure may well be exaggerated, but the possibility that EDL members might take the ‘All welcome” tag at face-value and arrive at the meeting should have been considered, and planned for well in advance.
The SWP’s characterisation of all EDL members as hardened fascists allows the SWP to dismiss the option in any circumstances of formally debating with EDL members, or even of talking to them. It seems to have provoked some Norwich SWPers into demonising those in NCAG who spoke with EDLers, or who engaged in online debate with them. This in spite of the fact that the same NCAG members turned out in response to the SWP’s late solidarity-appeal and put themselves physically on the line in order to protect an SWP meeting!
The nationalism of EDLer arguments must be countered with those that begin by staking out the common ground between workers on the basis of their shared class-interest. This means understanding and exposing the reactionary role of religion under capitalism, as well as countering racist, sexist and homophobic ideas as divisive of the class. The cross-class approach practised by UAF, and understood to be sanctioned by the SWP, serves to repel rather than inspire layers of the working-class. It aids the fascists who look to organise and mobilise via the EDL.
Last night the SWP held a meeting entitled ‘What To Do About The EDL’..or rather they would have done, if they weren’t forced to leave the Golden Star pub on Duke Street because EDL members were already there waiting to join in the debate.
Clearly the Socialist Workers Party’s internal communications department is not fit for purpose as someone obviously forgot to tell the Norwich branch that holding and advertising these kind of meetings encourages the EDL to attend which has been happening to the SWP across the country. Either that or the Norwich branch are just idiots. We think we’ll go with the latter.
30 or more members of the EDL turned out, more than the whole membership of the SWP in Norfolk and Suffolk.
And SWP numbers were only slightly swelled last night because begging posts had gone out on Facebook for ‘solidarity attendance’ once they’d found out the EDL were definitely going to be making an appearance.
By calling this meeting publicly without a thought for peoples security, without a thought for the safety of members of the public or the bar staff of the two pubs the SWP were thrown out of, they have exposed themselves once again to be the most clueless, manipulative and amateur organisation that exists on the left today.
Not only have their actions narrowly avoided serious harm to individuals, they compromised at least two anti-fascists from NCAG who found themselves having to engage in debate with EDL members in order to try and get people away safely from a situation that was growing more dangerous by the minute. The term ‘lambs to the slaughter’ springs to mind. Having said that, it was apparent that the older EDL members wanted to do nothing other than discuss and on several occasions prevented younger members from ‘piling in’.
A word of advice to less experienced folks..next time the SWP send you ‘messages of solidarity’ in other words ‘help us out’, reply with ‘fuck off’ and steer well clear…
Because if a group organises a meeting called ‘What To Do About The EDL’ and the EDL turn up and rout the meeting, clearly the organisers of said meeting don’t have a fucking clue what THEY’RE doing never mind what the EDL are up to!
Perhaps if the SWP gained the slightest understanding of the ‘white working-class’ instead of spending all their time giving platforms to ‘mad mullahs’ and marching alongside idiots dressed up as suicide bombers things would be a lot clearer?
And then again pigs might fly…
One thing is clear. Due to the SWP’s idiocy and amateur behavior, the EDL in this part of East Anglia will be buoyed up by last nights events, and unlikely to be disappearing from view anytime soon…
The story of Jock Plafreeman
It’s been three and a half years now since Jock Palfreeman has been imprisoned after saving the lives of two young Roma boys in Bulgaria!
In short Jock ran to the aid of the two boys when he was witness to a vicious and racist attack inflicted on them by around sixteen drunken football hooligans. Jock held them at bay for long enough for the two Roma boys to run away but the group turned on him. Jock was set upon and literally had to fight to save his own life. During the fight one of the group, Andrei Monov, was accidentally killed. Jock was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment and the equivelent of a £250,000 fine! (for the full story please go to http://www.freejock.com).
Support for Jock has now reached an international level.
Anarchists and Antifascists have started campaigns aound the globe including Australia, UK, Russia, Poland, France, Austria, Greece, and more… Strangely, Bulgaria is not in that list.
Suprised? So were we!
We went to the website of FAB (Bulgarian Anarchist Federation) to see if there was any mention of Jock. To our astonishment we found that not only had the FAB decided not to support Jock, they had decided to go out of thier way to publically condemn him! They claimed that Andrei Monov was thier friend and that Jock was a killer who deserved the maximum prison sentence!
(see the google translation below)
”Federation of Anarchists in Bulgaria condemns any kind of street violence and joined grieving relatives and friends of the slain boy.
Prompt the authorities to fulfill their obligations to conduct a full investigation of the case and the guilty receive fair and appropriate punishment to his grave crime.
Andrei was also a friend and we share the grief of relatives and friends.
Rest in peace, Andrei!”
Not only did this make us rage to the core, it also made us question the FABs idea of Anarchy. Why on earth would people who call themselves Anarchists be in favour of a prison sentence for a man who had taken Antifascist action? And why did they so openly associate themselves with Monov when he had clearly been involved in a savage and outnumbered racist attack on two young Roma boys?
We got in touch with AF (Anarchist Federation UK), FABs sister organisation. We wanted to know if they knew what was going on in regards to the statement on FABs website and also where they stood in regards to supporting Jock.
They emailed us back to say that they would investigate. Infact that was all they said.
Months passed along with more emails from us and all they would say was that they were investigating. Eventually they just stopped replying and we realised that we were wasting our time.
However, a spokesperson for AF did contact a mutual friend and comrade who has also been campaigning for Jock. Firstly they wanted confirmation that AS were a trustworthy and genuine Anarchist group. They were given the confirmation they asked for, but then decided that the word of our comrade was not good enough (an insult to say the least) and rejected the verification.
AF then wrote again to our comrade stating that Jock was a soldier that had been involved in a drunken fight and had killed a friend of the FAB. They claimed that Monov was ”not a Nazi”. They also stated that the only people who claim that Monov was a nazi are the fascists themselves!…
So let us get this straight, (we’ll get to the soldier bit in a minute), Monov, who was out with at least fifteen other (known locally to be fascist) football fans, drunk, and invoved in such a savage racist attack on the two Roma boys, does not qualify as fascist in the opinion of AF or FAB?
The grieving friends of Monov who were at the funeral (alongside members of the Bulgarian government, cheif of police, judges and other ‘important and influental’ people) who are reffered to by the AF and FAB as Bulgarian fascists and the far right are falsely claiming that Monov was their friend?
We don’t get it!!
It beggs the question: What would FAB and AF have to say if it were one of the Roma boys who had been killed that night? Because as far as we can see that is exactly what would have happened if Jock had not run to thier aid.
Would FAB still claim that thier beloved Andrei Monov was thier friend if he had been involved in a savage racist attack resulting in the death of the victim?
We’d like to know! So if any FAB or AF would like to answer our questions feel free. (you’ve got our email address)
Now, the controversial claims about Jock ‘being a soldier’…
Firstly, lets get one thing clear, Jock has never claimed to be an Anarchist, Activist or Antifascist. He was a young lad travelling and making friends.
He decided to join the British Army towards the end of 2007, his visa was coming to an end and he saw it as an opportunity to stay in the UK. He completed four weeks training and then went on leave for christmas. He was on holiday in Bulgaria.
So did we know Jock is a soldier?
Well he’s not! He never completed his training.
Did we know that Jock had joined the British Army in 2007?
Yes we did! And quite frankly we don’t care!! The decisions Jock made before the incident in question do not interest us one bit. As far as we are concerned those decisions are completeley irrelevant to what happened on the night of the 28th December 2007. Jock unfortunately found himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and he did the right thing!!
Thats enough for us.
It is abundantly clear that the whole case has been completely manipulated by Monovs father and his high ranking friends, all of the court proceedings to date have been a complete farce, there has been absolutely no sense whatsoever of a fair trial and it is so blindingly obvious that Jock has been completely stitched up!
Jock Palfreeman is an incredibly brave and courageous man who took outstanding Antifascist action and he needs our support.
Which side are you on?
For more info about Jocks case and how you can support him please go to: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/specials/conviction/default.htm
Also you can join the facebook page Freedom For Jock.
sent in by Arthur Brick
Last Sunday evening I was visiting a friend who lives just down the road from me when we were disturbed by a commotion from the street.
After a minute or two of growing concern it became apparent that the loudmouth wasn’t just a high spirited drunk but was in fact shouting racist abuse.
A few of us went out on to the street to check for signs of trouble and saw that a solitarily moron had been following a group of six black men and women up the road and hurling a tirade of insults.
We were not the only ones to have been angered by what we’d heard and in fact about seven people, myself and friends included, had come out onto the street to investigate and assist.
When we reached the other residents they told us that the racist, now skulking behind and a lot less vocal, had attempted to assault one of the group, only to be knocked down and receive a light kicking for his trouble. He resumed his ranting briefly before being told in no uncertain terms to “fuck off”, which he promptly did.
No one, the assailant aside, was injured so we agreed that he’d got what was deserved and that there was no reason to call the police. After making sure that he’d gone and warning other passers-by of the idiot’s presence in the area we dispersed.
The readiness of members of the community to get involved sends a strong message, there are still those who’ll stand up and be counted…and racism will not be tolerated!
Here’s just a few names of the many who’ve lost their lives over the last decade, killed at the hands of fascists and neo-nazis. We’ll add further names when we collate them…
16th March 2003. 26-year-old Italian anti-fascist Davide Cesare is
stabbed to death by fascists after leaving a bar in Rome.
13th November 2005. 20-year-old Russian anti-fascist Timur Kacharava
is murdered by fascists in St Petersburg after a Food Not Bombs action.
16th April 2006. 19-year-old Russian anti-fascist Alexander Ryuchin is
stabbed in the heart by fascists on his way to a concert.
21st July 2007. 21-year-old Russian anti-fascist Ilya Borodaenko is
attacked by fascists during the night at a protest camp and dies from
12th November 2007. 16-year-old Spanish anti-fascist Carlos Javier
Palomino is stabbed in the heart by fascists while on his way to a
demonstration in Madrid.
18th January 2008. 18-year-old Czech anti-fascist Jan Kučera is
stabbed to death after confronting a knife-wielding fascist.
In October of 2009, in East St.Louis, Anthony Rice was a victim of intentional vehicular homicide when neo-Nazi skinheads affiliated with the City Nights strip club tasered him and his brother, threw stones at him, and capped off their racist assault by hopping in a truck, driving after him, and brutally running him over.
16th November 2009. 26-year-old Russian anti-fascist Ivan Khutorskoy
is shot to death by fascists at the entrance to his home.
Stanislav Markelov, 34, a lawyer and Anastasiya Baburova, 25, a trainee reporter at the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, in January 2009 were shot dead on a side street in the Kropotkinskaya district of central Moscow.