On 15 August, for the second year running, anti-fascists staged a mass demonstration against the British National Party’s “Red, White and Blue Festival”. The demonstration, called by the regional TUC, local anti-fascist campaigns and the SWP’s Unite Against Fascism group, mobilised 1500 protestors to rural Derbyshire for a day of action against the BNP.
Shortly after the event, BNP deputy leader Simon Darby told the press that they would be considering another venue next year — a sign of their considerable discomfort at the protest.
The RWB is the BNP’s biggest annual event, attracting over one thousand members and supporters and drawing in leading fascists from across Europe. The fascists use the event to ideologically solidify existing supporters and to recruit new members. The BNP themselves describe the event as a “family festival” aimed at celebrating the “British” cultural traditions. Judging by the attractions and activities on offer over the weekend — including the opportunity to throw wet sponges at an Obama effigy, and listening to speeches by the Italian neo-fascist Roberto Fiore — the BNP’s definition of “culture” is nothing more than white supremacism.
As a result of direct pressure from Amber Valley activists on the Home Office, US white supremacist Preston Wiginton was barred from entry to the country to attend the festival.
Anti-fascists began gathering early in the morning in nearby Codnor, with the aim of maintaining a protest as BNP supporters arrived at the festival. Official trade union delegations, local groups and residents mainly gathered at this point.
Speaking from the platform Pete Radcliff, AWL member and anti-fascist activist representing Notts Stop the BNP, told the protest, “We need mass action and build democratic local campaigns with real roots in the working class and broader community.” The Notts Stop the BNP campaign marched behind a banner reading “Jobs and Homes not Racism”.
Daniel Randall, also an AWL member and speaking to the rally as a student activist, advocated socialist policies to defeat the fascists. To applause Daniel said, “We need to have socialist answers for workers and youth who face poverty, unemployment and a deep-running housing crisis.”
An important result of last year’s action was the formation of a local organisation — Amber Valley Campaign Against Racism and Fascism — to fight the BNP and again this year local residents and campaigners were given the opportunity to speak out at an open rally run throughout the morning.
At the same time, some hundreds of people organised by SWP/UAF gathered separately to blockade the road leading to the RWB festival grounds. Their actions disrupted the start of the BNP’s event, preventing supporters and speakers from arriving on time. The pity is that SWP/UAF acted unilaterally, without coordinating with the local campaigns.
Later the main demonstration marched close to the entrance of the festival grounds. After some jostling from UAF, local campaigners from Amber Valley and Derby led the demonstration for the bulk of the procession.
Many marchers joined in chants led by Workers’ Liberty stewards. As the march neared the entrance to the lane where the festival was being staged, and joined with a second group of anti-fascists who had been blockading the road, large numbers of black and white youth took up the chant, “The workers, united, will never be defeated!”
As the demonstration was stopped by a police blockade just short of the festival entrance angry marchers surged forward towards police lines.
The police, as we knew they were going to, used massive numbers to protect the BNP festival from any chance of the marchers getting closer. Certainly, after the surge, it became clear to everyone on the demonstration that this was the police’s role.
Around a dozen activists were arrested during the day, about half at this point. Four have been charged. There was no violence. The campaigns should call for the charges to be dropped.
One local activist celebrated the protest and thanked those that had come to demonstrate their opposition to the BNP. She said, “The unions and left have made an important step forward today. We mobilised significant numbers to oppose the fascists. Now we need a real, open, democratic and radical campaign at national level.”
That’s right. Let’s take inspiration from this march and the direct action which disrupted the BNP’s event.