Saturday, October 12, 2013

South London Anti-Fascists AGM

The past year has seen South London Anti Fascists grow from a largely dormant email list to a significant force in London anti-racist politics. When racist groups like the BNP and EDL tried to exploit the killing of Lee Rigby in Woolwich earlier this year, South London Anti Fascists stepped up with similar groups elsewhere (now organised as the Anti Fascist Network) to mobilise opposition. In some cases the numbers they have mobilised have exceeded those pulled out by more established groups like Unite Against Fascism.

They have paid a heavy price, as the police have met this new generation of militant anti-fascists head on with mass arrests in Whitehall (58 arrests on 1 June anti-BNP protest) and again in Tower Hamlets on September 7th when 286 people were arrested for demonstrating against the English Defence League.

South London Anti-Fascists banner in Tower Hamlets on September 7th 2013
Within South London, they have helped ensure that small demonstrations in Croydon by the 'English Volunteer Force' on 27 July and by Croydon & Sutton British National Party on 5 October have been countered and well-outnumbered. Both demonstrations were at Lunar House incidentally, the Immigration Enforcement (formerly named UK Border Agency) processing centre in Croydon. I've never quite understood why fascists want to protest there, I would have thought they'd be queuing up to work for an Agency that goes around locking up and deporting migrants in a way the BNP and co. can only dream of.

Arguably South London Anti Fascists' most significant intervention was in mobilising for something that never happened - the BNP's planned march from Woolwich to Lewisham Islamic Centre on 1 June 2013. Their mobilising (along with others) built up a huge momentum in the week leading up to the demonstration, and it is plain that the fear of where this might lead prompted the banning of the BNP march in this area.

South London Anti Fascists will face the same arguments that many of us had throughout the 1990s - should the priority be organising amongst the communities threatened by the far right, or amongst the people the fascists are trying to recuit from? How much effort should be expended in countering tiny groups of racists compared with countering racist official immigration powers? How can you combine a broad, inclusive approach with being prepared to sometimes physically stand up to fascists? While it was and is important to discuss these, my experience is that bitter tactical disagreements between competing groups tend to be fruitless - at the end of the day there is no single correct approach, and any and all of the above will be required.

So far, South London Anti Fascists seem to have avoided this trap, recognising the need for a diversity of tactics and combining a militant street presence with some genuine community outreach (e.g. at the only meeting I have been to of their's, they had representatives from Lewisham Islamic Centre and the Nigerian Mosque on the Old Kent Road along to discuss the situation in the context of recent attacks on such places)

South London Anti Fascists have been meeting regularly in New Cross and tomorrow afternoon (Sunday 13 October, 2:15 pm) they will be holding their Annual General Meeting locally - for details of venue please email

Anti-fascists in the pub? - spotted at the Amersham Arms

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