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Nazi boneheads get a beating

BNP leader Tyndal dragged off with blood on his face

The Nazi British National Party (BNP) has made east London the national focus of its racist campaigns. It was in Tower Hamlets that they briefly won their only council seat in the country, when Derek Beakon was elected in the Isle of Dogs.In two east London constituencies that the BNP got its largest votes in last May's general election.

The BNP is not just another political party. Its tactics are to try to physically intimidate and smash the black and Asian communities. It uses elections and other public events to build up a base among racist white gangs, and it has been a major factor in the high levels of racist attacks in east London, as well as in the area around its headquarters in south-east London, where there was a series of racist murders between 1991 and 1993.

On 20 September the BNP planned to hold a rally at an undisclosed location in east London. Members of a number of anti-racist groups met in Tower Hamlets to oppose their plans. The low turn-out reflected the lack of co-ordination between anti-fascist groups and frustration that many anti-fascist mobilisations in the last four years have turned into ineffective protests. Nevertheless, the Movement for Justice supporters and many of the other anti-fascists who turned up had no doubt that their aim should be physically to stop the fascists meeting and to drive them out of east London.

The self-appointed organisers from the National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR) had a different view. They wanted an entirely passive, low-profile 'protest', and absolutely no confrontation with the BNP. They wanted to look as though they were doing something, while making sure that nothing happened. They were happy as long as people were kept waiting around for information or small groups were chasing after rumoured sightings of the fascists.

Only the Movement for Justice produced and distributed a leaflet explaining to the local community what was happening and why it was important to stop the fascists. We were also the only people giving out legal rights 'bust cards' with solicitors emergency numbers in case of arrest. The leaflet and the card both proved very popular.

At 3pm NAAR's functionaries, relieved that nobody had found the fascists or their meeting place, told everyone to go home - but they were immediately thrown into a panic, when just at that point information came through that the BNP was in Stratford. Movement for Justice supporters argued that everyone should stick together and go immediately to join up with the group of Anti-Nazi League supporters who were heading for Stratford.

NAAR's Asian supporters, who had spent much of the day trying to find the BNP, argued for the same course of action, because they were determined to try and stop the fascists holding a meeting. Other NAAR leaders desperately tried to disperse everyone, but couldn't decide between heading for the tube in the hope that people would follow them out of the area, or hanging round to argue so that they could delay people making for Stratford! In the end most of the anti-fascists they thought they were organising went to Stratford, where the BNP (which had only been able to mobilise twenty or so members) was planning to hold a meeting in a pub in Stratford Broadway.

John Tyndal, and one of its notorious thugs, Ian Dell, were planning to address the meeting of hard-core fascists. Their attempt to hold a meeting was forcibly and decisively broken up. Half of them jumped into a van and fled as fast as they could, leaving their leadership to face the music. Tyndal, the would-be leader of British fascism, ended up badly bruised and blood-spattered by the experience. He had to be escorted out of the area in a police van, accompanied by the despondent remnant of his followers, with the jeers of the jubilant crowd that had quickly gathered outside the pub ringing in their ears. It was the most important defeat the Nazis have suffered in east London since they were driven off their Brick Lane sales pitch.

It's an important set-back for the BNP's 'hard man' image and the cult of the strong leader, and is bound to lead to bitter internal recriminations. More important though it showed anti-fascists that it is possible to stop the fascists carrying out activities, even in areas where they have a base of support. Having seen it done in once they will see no reason why it can't be done again. It will increase their confidence in a 'No Platform for Fascists' policy, and make it more difficult for their leaders, to argue that it is impossible, too dangerous, or premature.

Supporters of NAAR who have seen the role of some of their leaders played on 20 September must insist at their AGM, on 8 November, that in future they are part of the fight to stop the fascists instead of putting obstacles in the way.

Now is the time to build on the victory in Stratford. We need a campaign of action by youth, black and Asian people and workers in the local community to drive the fascists off the streets and out of the area, and organise worker/community defence to stop racist attacks. We need to build a Movement for Justice group in east London that can organise such a struggle and make it part of the whole fight against racism and injustice.

Updated (4/2/1998) from November 1997 Movement for Justice magazine

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