Anecdotes from pamphlet Bash the Fash listing other short tales from the struggle against fascism in the UK.
The history of anti-fascism in Britain has countless other significant, and sometimes comical, episodes. Here are a few I’ve heard about.
During a large AFA meeting at Conway Hall the fascists sent in a scout. He was spotted by AFA stewards who escorted him to a quiet room for questioning. On the way to the room, expecting an imminent beating, he completely lost control of his mental faculties and his anal sphincter. He was babbling and blubbing like a hopeless psychiatric case, and the stink from the shit which filled his trousers kept the AFA stewards at arms length until he was ejected from Conway Hall. That fascist was sometimes referred to afterwards as ‘our first prisoner of war!’
When John Tyndall, BNP leader, stood as a candidate in a Dagenham by-election in about 1995 the fascists tried to do numerous leafleting sessions in the local area. AFA mobilised 50-100 people several times to give them a hard time. On one occasion an AFA scout stood next to some BNP members who were giving an interview to some journalists. The BNPer was saying in his most shocked and self-pitying voice “yes… the BNP get blamed for all the violence, but it is us who always end up in hospital!” It’s just not cricket.
In 1988 (I think) the fascists tried to celebrate the anniversary of William of Orange landing in Devon. Something to do with the protestants triumph over those pesky papists. The fascists intended to have a march around the town (Exeter) and the anti-fascists intended to cause havoc as usual, thereby getting the march cancelled. What the fascists had not realised though was that the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall was a bit of a liberal (in relative terms!). He was not like the other Chief Constables around Britain who go out of their way to help the fascists. In other words the NF and the BNP normally have masses of police protection, and sympathy and apparently, cross-membership. Anyway, on this occasion the NF arrived by train in Exeter and there was only one copper standing there, plus some anti-fascists nearby. The leading fascist went up to the copper and said cockily “We are the National Front and we are having a march here today. Where are the rest of the police?” To the fascists’ despair, the copper replied “that’s OK, you carry on with your march”. At the thought of no police protection the fascists promptly got back on the train and fucked off. This incident is another example of the truth of Albert Meltzer’s maxim that there is no such thing as a fascist march, only a police march.
A DAM comrade told me about a fracas in Islington High Street he was involved in, in about 1985. Red Action and some DAM members were having a few beers one Saturday night when someone rushed into the pub to say that 20 or so fascists were outside a nearby pub giving grief to two lads wearing Celtic shirts. The anti-fascists drank up and marched round there double quick. On arriving, half the fascists tried to flee into the pub but to their dismay the landlord had locked the doors. A massive scrap ensued with pint glasses, fists and boots flying everywhere. After a few minutes loads of police vehicles screeched up, so everyone dispersed.
A well-known member of Red Action was walking away down a quiet road when a car with two blokes in it pulled alongside and one of the occupants shouted “that’s him!”. The anti-fascist ran but the car chased him until he was knackered then the two men jumped out and gave him the biggest kicking imaginable. I saw him the next day and his face was a mess. Obviously he thought that all this was the work of the fascists, but somehow it was discovered that they were plain-clothes police (I think witnesses took the car registration and identified them later). I think the incident did result in an official police apology, and the comrade got a compensation payment.
Another comrade, who was arrested, overheard one of the fascists, a soldier, in the police station giving a pitiful account of the incident. He whinged on like a big baby “…it was them who started it… it’s not fair… etc.etc”. The Master Race my arse.
In the National Front’s heyday from the early ‘70s until 1979 one of the anti-fascist movements bravest souls burrowed away as an infiltrator. This anarchist comrade did such a convincing job that he became the head of security protecting the leadership. To reach this position NF members have to fight each other to see who is the toughest. Well, our anti-fascist hero was quite handy in this department (I think he had had unarmed combat training previously) so it was quite a pleasure to batter various arrogant fascists, a bit like killing two birds with one stone. On the occasions when the NF leadership actually needed some protection (i.e. when they were being attacked by anti-fascists) our hero would take a dive and feign injury.
Our comrades career as an infiltrator came to an end one day when he drugged all the leadership and was preparing to steal all the National Fronts documents and money from their safe. Unfortunately one of the fascists woke up early and called the police. The police arrested the anti-fascist comrade on charges of administering a noxious substance and he had to do several years in prison.
Incidentally, during this period our comrade would privately advocate to anti-fascists that they should open a branch of the National Front because each new branch was given £250 as a start-up grant. This policy would have gradually bankrupted and demoralised the NF, but I don’t know if anybody did it.
Following the racist murder of Rolan Adams in Thamesmead there was a large protest march in about 1991. At the march Red Action passed the word around that there would be the opportunity for ‘further activities’ later that evening in London. Searchlight had printed some replica tickets to a League of St. George meeting and given them to the Reds. Half the membership of the League of St. George were old racist British Empire codgers, and half were boot-and-braces skinheads. A match made in heaven!
Assorted people from the Rolan Adams march tagged along, instead of it being an invitation-only thing. The Reds kept the location secret until everyone arrived at Kensington Town Hall. There were a few skinheads guarding the door and there was a bit of argy-bargy until Gerry Gable stepped in and said the skinheads were in fact working under cover for Searchlight.
So the anti-fascists piled into the meeting. Only half-a-dozen old duffers were there and they were told to sit down and shut up while Gable gave them a lecture on fascism. Other League of St. George members arrived in dribs and drabs and were thrown down the stairs or given a slap depending on how much resistance they put up. Some went and listened meekly to Gable but some made quite a rumpus. One noisy bastard who wouldn’t keep quiet had to be locked in a cupboard, alone to lick his wounds.
By this time, with blood dripping down the stairs, some of the more delicate anti-fascists, in particular some students from Leeds, started to get panicky. They didn’t realise that anti-fascism involves fighting fire with fire, and they wanted to leave. This would have compromised everything so a certain person told them to sit down and shut the fuck up. But eventually the students were getting really jumpy and it was decided that all our side had to leave together.
Upon leaving the Town Hall police cars started screeching up. Everyone dispersed, some by taxi. Gable and one of the leading lights in the Reds were arrested.
In about 1992 Madness were playing a gig in Finsbury Park, North London. Although they are a kosher band they had one member who was ex-NF, so fascists liked to go to their gigs for a little dance. Or maybe the fascists do have some good taste in music despite being silly as arseholes in every other department. Either way, AFA mobilised because the fash were expected to be there.
Red Action, DAM and a few others were holed up in a pub called the Enkell Arms. Some DAM members went scouting and found the fascists in another pub nearby. They nipped back to the Enkell Arms to ‘gather the troops’. Unfortunately there was a lot of dithering by certain people, and before you could say “Freedom For Tooting” the fascists had found the Enkell Arms.
In no time bricks were flying through the windows. Uncharacteristically most of Red Action ran into the back room leaving the anarchists to defend the place using pool cues, furniture and those heavy pub ashtrays. In fact our heroes probably smashed more of the pub windows with those ashtrays than the fascists did! There was one hilarious moment as a certain DAM comrade fulfilled a lifetime ambition and used the bar as a springboard just like in those Wild West movies. The cops were there pretty quick, just as the anarchists were getting into their stride, but nobody was arrested fortunately.
In the early ‘90s the BNP candidate Derek Beackon was standing for the post of councillor in Tower Hamlets. AFA comrades had noticed that he walked across his local park every Sunday morning, on his way to the BNP paper-sale at Brick Lane. So 3-4 comrades dressed up in tracksuits one Sunday and pretended to be warming-up/training in the park. Unfortunately Beackon was later than usual that morning so the comrades felt really foolish jogging about for an hour or so. Eventually Beackon came into the park and the AFA comrades came up behind him, masked up, carrying iron bars. As he turned round he screamed like a pig as the first blows started to fall. However, two men passing by (one black, one white) thought Beackon was the victim in a mugging attempt and steamed in to help him (the irony of it!). Beackon ran away with one shoe and was saved the humiliation of standing at the hustings in bandages and plaster. At the election the following week he was victorious by 7 votes after three re-counts. There were rumours and circumstantial evidence that vote-rigging had occurred (e.g. vote early and vote often).
On the subject, what must the fascists think as their wounds are being tended to in hospital by different coloured nurses, or horror of horrors, Jewish medical staff!
Occasionally AFA would come across the BNP transport parked up – usually a transit van. Every conceivable thing was done to those vans, externally and under the bonnet. Once a load of recordings of Hitler’s speeches were found in the back. Needless to say, they went straight into a nearby canal.
A life-long anarchist and anti-fascist called Jim (now deceased) from Bolton told me a story from the ‘70s. The NF were due to have a march through the town the following Saturday and there was considerable excitement about this. Jim’s teenage son, fancying a bit of action, gingerly said to his Dad that he was thinking of joining the NF march. Jim thought for a moment then said “have you asked your grandmother about this?”. Jim’s son was puzzled, and asked “what has it got to do with her?” Jim replied “…because you’ll be living round there from now on!” The son never did go on the march.
Chapter 3.22 of Beating the
Chapter 3.22 of Beating the fascists: the untold story of Anti-Fascist Action by Sean Birchall has a contrating account of the attack on the Enkel Arms, with eyewitness accounts from both sides.
You can get it from Freedom: http://www.freedompress.org.uk/news/products-page/books/beating-the-fascists-the-untold-story-of-anti-fascist-action/