Quick notes on the Free Tommy mob – Manchester, London, and beyond

A few statements have come out in the wake of last weekend’s events, when a Free Tommy demonstration in Manchester, seemingly totally unopposed, trashed a lefty stall in the town centre.

From Plan C London:

“Plan C LDN stands in solidarity with our comrades in the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) Manchester who were attacked by supporters of Tommy Robinson over the weekend.

Last Saturday, 27th July, over 100 Tommy Robinson supporters marched through Manchester city centre unhindered by a small police presence, to hold an impromptu rally inside the city’s Arndale shopping centre. After unfurling some shit banners and threatening members of the public, the mob attacked comrades in the RCG who were hosting a stall on the street outside to celebrate Cuba’s Revolution Day; hurling physical threats and racially abuse whilst trashing the Group’s table and materials. Unsurprisingly, Greater Manchester Police did nothing to stop the vicious attack despite requests for assistance – no arrests or charges have been made.

This is the latest in a series of attacks against members of the left by Tommy Robinson’s supporters, who have once again been given a free pass by the Police. In July 2018, a gang of 20 nazi thugs attacked a group of Trade Unionists from the RMT in London who were enjoying a drink after an anti-fascist rally. Several workers were hospitalised after defending themselves from the attack.

The far right will plan to march in London on Saturday 3rd August once again under the banner of ‘Free Tommy’. We will be there alongside comrades in antifascist, feminist, and migrant solidarity groups to oppose the politics of Tommy Robinson and to show the far right we will never let them have the streets. London is anti-fascist.

Plan C LDN”

The Stop Tommy demo in London is meeting at Piccadilly Circus at 10:30 sharp on Saturday morning.

From Football Lads and Lasses Against Fascism:

“In Manchester, 57 years ago, Oswald Mosley & his resurgent fascist movement were quite literally put on their arses & run out of the city. Last Saturday, the far-right were able to parade around the Arndale & Manchester city centre without opposition. Mancunia has a proud tradition of militant anti-fascism, from the 43 Group to the 62 Group to the ANL Squadists & AFA (Anti-Fascist Action). In the absence of effective political or physical opposition to fascism in Manchester, FLAF will commit itself to reviving the real traditions of militant anti-fascism in the city.”

There was also one from the city’s “161 Crew”, which reads quite a lot like a throwing in of the towel:

“Social Duty –
161 Crew MCR have repeatedly set out its position regarding how militant anti fascism responds to discharging a social duty.

Working Class Organising with Trade Unions –
That social duty has many facets, meaning working class communities must organise from its roots of working class resistance to rise a force that can meet and counter the rise of right wing hatred either on the streets or in their communities.

The communities must look to the Trade Union movement, Labour, and left wing grass roots groups such as Momentum to assist in putting a visible opposition on the streets to counter the right wing presence. This should be well defended but not lead inexperienced members of the public into unnecessary danger or arrest.

When the right wing attacked an RMT picket, at Manchester Victoria Station on the 5th January 2019. We saw working class community mobilisation involving Trade Unions and left wing groups the following week. This demonstrates that relationship already exists, and must be built upon.

State Controlled Theatre –
Groups who set up stalls and put on events should only do so if they are confident of defending themselves. Groups should cease expecting militant anti fascists to attend city centres and play superhero bodyguards.

Such a theatre is controlled by the police both overtly and covertly. It allows for the easy identification of activists by police and often leads to avoidable arrests which would jeopardise the ongoing vital working class community cohesion programmes that activists may be advancing.

Not an Emergency Service –
161 Crew MCR have repeatedly made clear, the theatre of engagement is chose by them, and them alone. Engaging with fascists should be done when discreet and opportune, in the tradition of Anti Fascist Action/Red Action. The situation is not critical enough to warrant another wave of unnecessary court cases and bail conditions.

Media –
Most propaganda from the right in the modern era takes place online. The streets is no longer the main concern for the right. They know they can reach far more via the web. We cannot no platform someone on YouTube or social media. The answer is to develop an alternative media operation and develop media personalities.

161 Squads are not a rent a mob or some kind of emergency service for the left, and never will be.

We stand with working class communities, to advance community cohesion.

P.R.O. 161 Crew MCR.”

Aside from the fact that this seems to totally rely on Labour and Momentum to provide political guidance and leadership for the antifascist movement, I can appreciate why people might want to stay off CCTV and engage in more covert activities instead, but whatever quiet stuff they’ve been getting up to doesn’t seem to have dented the confidence of Manchester’s fascists much. As the 161 Crew admit, last weekend’s events didn’t come out of nowhere, but are a continuation of a solid campaign of far-right activity in the city with little opposition – going back and revisiting the video of the fascists abusing the RMT picket from January, it’s notable that some of the loudest voices are scousers complaining that they can’t operate in Liverpool. There’s clearly a lot of work that needs doing if we’re to ensure that fascists don’t see any of our towns and cities as soft touches.

If you can make it to London on the 3rd, that’ll be a good start; but beyond that, let’s make sure that last weekend is the last time a regional “Free Tommy” demo get to throw their weight around totally unopposed.

About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
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4 Responses to Quick notes on the Free Tommy mob – Manchester, London, and beyond

  1. Reblogged this on Wessex Solidarity and commented:
    The RCG have done some good work towards prison abolition – though not in Cuba or Venezuela – and against austerity, but they are, to all intents and purposes, Bolsheviks, who continued to advocate for the ultra-conservative people’s democracies until their failure. So this is essentially a clash between two gangs of authoritarians that could only resolve to a test of brute force.

    Unconditional support for any pocket Hitler in a bullet-proof Mercedes who happens to wave two fingers at the yanks doesn’t seem to me any more sensible than following an orange narcissist with a gold crapper.

    As for the Mcr 161 crew, I don’t know who’s in it now, but I broadly agree with the sentiments expressed. If ‘the left’, especially those who consider themselves revolutionaries, cannot arrange their own security their energies are misplaced. Likewise the trade unions, in the 20th century they expected no quarter from the fash or the cops and always gave a good account of themselves.

    The old AFA Manchester disbanded some years ago as a victim of its own success. That success came from well prepared, targeted actions against significant individuals or groups, which unfortunately drew an uncomfortable level of attention from the Babylon.

    Even allowing for the presence of dedicated squaddists, antifascism needs to be ‘holistic’ in the sense that it needs a social base in Working Class communities. It needs to come from folk who are embedded in grassroots social struggles, and practical mutual aid, such that a significant number of locals care about them personally and want to defend what they do. Sad to say, most Working Class people don’t care much if a group of trots or tankies get the bum’s rush.

    • On the RCG – yeah, I’m not a fan of them personally, but surely the point is that the fash weren’t having a go at them because they thought their position on anti-imperialism was too simplistic, but because it’s getting one over on “the reds” or “the antifa terrorists” or “the great unwashed” or whatever, and any time they do shit like that and get away with it, it gives them more confidence for next time, when they might equally well go after you, me, striking workers stood on a picket line or anyone else. I think the old line about “an injury to one [even if we really don’t like that one very much] is an injury to all” is worth following here.

      On the MCR 161 statement, there were two separate things I didn’t like about it – one being the stuff about Labour and Momentum. Admittedly, it’s hard for me, having had my instincts mostly formed by the pre-2015 days when the idea of a grassroots left in Labour was a complete joke, to adjust to today’s situation, but even so… I mean, the last two times I’ve been on anti-fascist stuff in real life Momentum organised and turned people out, and we were still outnumbered both times, so relying on them only gets you so far.
      The other is there’s a sort of general “we know best and we are the best” swagger about it, and maybe that attitude was totally justified at the time the old Manchester AFA disbanded, and perhaps for a good few years after that, but in 2019, when you have fascists from across the region turning up in your city because it’s seen as a soft touch compared to other places, I’m not sure you still get to swagger.

      Totally agree with your last paragraph, though – comparing the size of the response to the RMT getting hassled back in January (see for instance: https://twitter.com/PCS_Northwest/status/1084033980624764928 ) to this latest incident says a fair bit.

  2. Obviously we don’t want to see the fash throwing their weight about, but the issue for me is whether anarchists should defend a movement that has never offered us anything but treachery, repression and slander. If the fash were beating up cops would we dash to their aid and express solidarity with them?

    Latter-day Leninist and Trotskyist sects are authoritarians without authority. If they were actually a force to be reckoned with, we would be fighting them tooth and claw because they would be actively seeking our annihilation, as they did throughout their history. Whenever anarchists sought to collaborate with Bolshevik parties against a common enemy they have been betrayed and taken advantage of, slaughtered without compunction and blamed for the resulting failure.

    In apologising for demagogues who consistently killed more of their own side than the enemy, who had to build walls to keep their subjects in, the Bolshevik embarrassments give right-populists a stick with which to beat the left, it’s too fucking easy. Why do I regularly have to spend half an hour explaining why Pol Pot wasn’t a communist?

    This cult that turned Working Class militants into sycophants, gangsters and pimps was the real tragedy of the twentieth century. Even if you don’t accept that Bolshevism provided the template for fascism, it’s inarguable that in striving for a monopoly on class struggle, by systematically sabotaging every outbreak of Working Class self-organisation or co-opting it into their great deception, they left the door open for cruder forms of totalitarianism requiring even less intellectual effort on the part of the masses.

    In the cold war era, it offered a foil to the most ruthless manifestations of capitalism, allowing its proponents to demonise socialism as an idea, while presenting their inhuman marketplace as an ideology in its own right, packaged with liberal democracy and things we ought to take for granted anyway like freedom of expression and association. When the Russian empire collapsed, the bourgeoisie thought they’d won the class war!

    No-one wants to admit they’ve been talking bollocks all their life, I had to do it. As a disaffected young man I too was seduced by the symbolism, by the romance of revolutionary authority, the illusion that somewhere in the world capitalism had already been defeated and those who were ruining my life exerted no influence. Che Guevara may have been a psychopath but he was our psychopath. One of the saddest things you can read is the Jack Murphy archive.

    I’ve worked with these people, away from their groups, I’ll lend them books and discuss Marx, but something has congealed over the last few years, perhaps because memory is fading, and the Corbyn thing has made it worse. So it’s tempting to say let the authoritarians duke it out amongst themselves and deal with whatever’s left.

  3. Pingback: The end of the affair: some reflections on 2019 | Cautiously pessimistic

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