After Dover, where next?
I WROTE ABOUT THE KENT ANTI-RACISM NETWORK for Briefing last month. At the time we were preparing for a counter-mobilisation against the ‘Unity’ demo on 30 January organised by a ragtag of fascist groups including Combat 18 and the National Front. These groups disingenuously claimed that their demo was to “support our truckers”. On the day, while there were a lot of swastikas, Iron Cross flags, fascist salutes, Heil Hitlers and anti-refugee slogans, there was, curiously, no mention of the truckers at all.
There’s been a lot of talk since about the success of the day. We had a fantastic rally in the town centre attended by a cross-section of the community – from churches to local CLPs to trade union groups – at which Diane Abbott and others spoke. Once this finished many people moved up the road to block the route of the fascists. This would have been peaceful and successful had the police not failed to secure the grounds of Dover College school meaning that armed fascists were able to cut through and attack the counter-demo from side roads.
Of course a lot of the press focused on the violence, but I think we have to be clear and proud about what we achieved that day, while acknowledging that there is much more work to do.
» Firstly we have started a process of engaging and mobilising the local community. The cross-section of people attending on the day was really inspiring and many of the young people who came along are keen to get more involved in futureevents.
» Secondly we engaged students from Canterbury Christchurch University and the University of Kent. Political activism has been on the decline in those universities for a while but the rise of fascism locally has been a catalyst for re-engaging the student body. On 12 February students from the University of Kent led a very successful march of 700 people in support of the local Muslim community after Britain First protested outside Canterbury Mosque. This is really encouraging and is the sort of locally based solidarity that will ultimately push back the fascists.
» We got support for the rally from all three local CLPs and now others in Kent are asking how they can show their support in the future. Local Momentum groups also gave their support and were key players in building for the day.
» Local trades councils got involved and Medway and Bromley sent delegations. We need to build on this but the spirit of solidarity among these comrades was fantastic.
» Finally the fascists did not move freely on the day and they received significant opposition – that has to be celebrated as well as built on.
There has been a lot of debate about the different approaches of groups like Unite Against Fascism and the Anti-Fascist Network. We were very grateful to both groups for their support and see a clear need for people to come together to discuss how we can combine our efforts to defeat the far right.
While the support of local groups has been brilliant, the Dover demonstrations by the fascists are of national importance. The best way of ensuring any future counter-demonstrations aren’t violent is for us to have such overwhelming numbers that the fascists are totally dwarfed. With London so close by this shouldn’t be impossible to achieve. We need London comrades to get down to Dover the next time the fascists demonstrate.
We urgently need a conference to bring together groups to share skills with local activists and to discuss how we build on what we have already achieved. If you’re interested in being involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org