The Socialist 2 September 2008 |
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Opposing the far right
THE BIGGEST demonstration the village of Codnor has seen in recent years marched towards the far-right BNP's Red White and Blue Festival (RWB) on 16 August. Trade union banners and flags mixed with placards as over 500 people came up the police lines at the bottom of Codnor Denby Lane, the festival site.
By a Notts anti-fascist
The day of protest was the culmination of months of activity by the local broad-based campaign, Notts Stop the BNP, and other East Midlands anti-fascist groups. The local campaign put out around 40,000 leaflets, played a key role in preventing Amber Valley council granting the BNP a music and alcohol licence, and helped to set up local groups opposed to them in the area.
The Stop the BNP campaign held a successful rolling meeting for two hours before the demo set off. Speakers from trade unions, the Socialist Party, Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE), the Stop the BNP campaign and others explained their opposition to the Red, White and Blue camp. Socialist Party members explained the reasons for the BNP's growth, which include a lack of essential services for large parts of the community and a lack of genuine political representation.
The protest and march were subjected to unprecedented control by the police. They invoked the Public Order Act which restricted meeting and activities in a five-mile radius around the RWB festival to a small area in Codnor. Many arrests were reported around the RWB site.
The police would only allow 30 protesters up to the festival site. This was agreed in meetings between the police and the organisation Unite Against Fascism (UAF) who unfortunately coordinated the demonstration without consultation with the local campaign.
Meanwhile, police lines blocked the main road between Codnor and Heanor for approaching an hour. The UAF held a rally upon the march's return to Codnor.
The day's action was a great success. However, questions still remain about how to succeed against the BNP. The SWP-led UAF refused to negotiate with the local campaign for months and only allowed a speaker from the campaign to address the demo at the last minute when under pressure.
They went to the head of the march and set off while a speaker was in mid flow. This left even the UAF secretary slightly taken aback. This 'control freakery' is not only sectarian but potentially puts people at risk.
SWP members' chanting of slogans like "fascist scum get off our streets" to local people who are not BNP supporters can only alienate people. There was irony too. The chanters and the UAF did not allow a newly formed local campaign group to have a banner at the front of the march, nor placards from the Notts campaign. Those who claimed that Codnor were "our streets" then promptly left in their buses to head away from local activity.
A conference called by a network of Stop the BNP and other East Midlands anti-fascist groups on 27 September will discuss how best to campaign effectively against the BNP, and how to build on existing links with local trade unions and activists.