On Saturday 21 July, a march to commemorate the birth of the Liverpool-born Irish socialist and trade unionist Jim Larkin, was met with a violent counter demonstration by a coalition of right wing, fascist, Loyalist and veterans’ organisations.
The march had been called by the Irish Republican marching band, the Liverpool Irish Patriots, in response to a similar incident in February where their annual march through north Liverpool was harassed, blockaded and prevented from entering the city centre by around 250 far-right activists.
The Patriots, whose activity seems to consist of routine commemorative marches rather than direct political activity, called this march under the banner of ‘Working Class Unity Against Racism and Fascism’. By routing the march from Larkin’s birthplace in South Liverpool through the predominantly black and migrant area of Toxteth, they intended to forge links with those communities.
Unfortunately the march was poorly attended, (100 at the start rising to maybe 200 by the end), overwhelmingly white, and largely the Patriots themselves plus the “usual suspects” of the Liverpool left.
This reflects damningly on the organisational weakness of the left and the labour movement, especially among black communities. Basic things like leafletting, stalls and meetings were either not done or done woefully late in the day.
However, the most damaging failure was political: the counter demonstrators were able to successfully cast the demonstration as “pro-IRA”. This was absolutely disastrous.
The far right in Liverpool has recently been of a state of disarray; the “IRA” issue whips up a wider periphery for them.
The most vocal and physically threatening group on the day were the significant number of former soldiers.
They focused on the children killed in the Warrington bombing in 1993 (something that was indefensible).
These people do not turn out for the pet causes of far-right cranks (“opposing Muslim paedophiles” etc).
The left has no interest in giving them the opportunity to mobilise or link up with the fascists.
We need to link the fight against the far right to the police harassment of black communities, the vicious border regime and the smashing up of the welfare state, not a series of set-piece rucks.
Any honest appraisal of how the fascists/loyalists were able to surround and harass the march must conclude that it was only the heavy police presence which prevented everyone getting beaten up.
The most bizarre and depressing experience was when some young black teenagers joined in to hurl abuse at the left. The majority of the rally was eventually bussed out under police protection, as gangs of skinheads with regimental tattoos roamed the city centre.
Anti-fascists in Liverpool have a lot to discuss.