There are already a lot of reports of what happened in Dover on Saturday knocking about, so we’ll keep ours short and sweet, and focus on the analysis. What does Dover mean for the Antifascist Movement in this country?
The day started with a 150-strong bloc of locals and AFN gathering in Pencester Gardens, forming up behind a large “Open the Borders” banner, and marching to occupy the fascists’ RV point at the Castle Inn.
Things kicked off almost immediately with the main group of fascists, numbering 200-250, arriving and attempting to force the antifascists back with a shower of bottles, fireworks and bananas. Antifascists responded in kind, and the police ended up pushing the fascists back. The main group of nazis then march around the back of the pub, and attacked from a different direction. The police line briefly failed, and fist-fighting broke out in the car park opposite the pub. The fascists took a few injuries and where taxed a flag, then retreated behind a police line and began showering the antifascists with bricks and bottles, leading to a number of injuries on our side.
After these clashes, police kettled the antifascists in an attempt to get the nazi march started. In an audacious move, antifascists broke out of the kettle and moved back onto the route of the NF march. This led to their march being delayed by another 40 minutes or so (the start had already been delayed by our actions at the pub). Eventually, the police kettled us again, forced us back and marched the fascists past, up to their rally point. They briefly broke out of their kettle and tried to confront us, but lost their nerve and retreated back behind the police, to shower us with bricks and lumps of metal again. After this, antifascists marched through the centre of dover, and back to Pencester Gardens, to disperse safely.
So, now on to the analysis. How did this happen? Why were there so many neo-nazis and what can we do about it?
Well, the first thing to point out was that, for them, this was everybody. The far-right pulled out all the stops to mobilise for this, whilst we, as a movement, were slightly hamstrung by mainstream NGOs deciding to call a massive protest in central London. It’s fantastic that nearly 100,000 people marched in support of refugees and migrants, but if only 1/100 of those people had made the choice to come to Dover, the day would have been very different. The far-right see this as their issue, and are therefore willing to work very hard to mobilise around it. We need to match that energy.
In many ways, this re-emergence of open white supremacism in the UK is a direct result of the rise of the EDL. The EDL gave these groups confidence, and made nationalist demonstrations a normal sight on our streets again. Because we didn’t stop the EDL quickly enough, we now have openly nazi groups like National Action and Saturday’s mob operating on our streets in numbers for the first time since the early 90s. We must learn this lesson, and put this genie back into the bottle before it gets worse.
Across Europe, the far-right have been organising around this issue. In Hungary, the presence of the fascist Jobbik party in Parliament is one of the factors in the Hungarian Government’s far-right anti-refugee stance, and on the streets, migrants have been subject to attack by Jobbik linked hooligans (and in one case, a Jobbik supporting reporter). In Germany, arsons of refugee hostles have become common, and in Heidenau, neo-nazis rioted against refugees coming in by bus. The far-right PEGIDA movement has also re-emerged. In Northern Italy, African Migrants have been unable to leave their shelter after neo-nazis and locals attacked them with stones and bananas. In Calais, where refugees and migrants gather to try and make the journey into England, the fascist group Sauvons Calais (Save Calais) have attacked both migrants and solidarity activists over the last few years.
It is clear our home-grown fascists want to replicate this violence, and the demo in Dover was just one attempt at that. So what can we do to halt this growing tide of fascism?
First thing’s first, NOW is the time to either get involved in your local group, or start one if there isn’t already one in your community. Get your mates together, talk about the refugee and migrant crisis, far right violence and what you can do about it. The AFN can and will help you. We can help with the costs of printing leaflets and posters, we can steward meetings, we can provide materials and speakers. Email us or read the “Get Involved” section of our website for more info.
Secondly, we need to take this growing tide of fascism seriously. Yes, 200 is not a huge number compared to the thousands that marched in central london, but it would be unthinkable for 200 open neo-nazis to march like they did in Dover just a few years ago. We need to re-state the case for militant antifascism, and point out to people that ignoring them or mocking them online is not enough. They must be actively combatted or they will only grow in numbers and confidence. Every successful demo for them makes it more likely that their next demo will be bigger and more violent. But we can beat them. Successful community mobilisations like Stop the March for England in Brighton and StopWMM in Liverpool show that we can break the spine of their movement if we work hard in our local communities and act together and militantly on the streets.
The next AFN mobilisation is in Colchester, Essex, against the rump of the EDL on the 26th September. See you there!