You don’t defeat fascism with a conga line

A police line at Brideswell Police station
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The hostile reaction to the Bristol protest shows how unprepared English people are for what’s coming. You don’t shut down a fascist uprising with a conga line. And no, the suffragettes didn’t win the vote with a tap dance. Every struggle against oppression requires a fight, because oppressors will injure, imprison and kill you to advance their interests. The UK government is attempting to make protest that causes disruption of any kind a criminal offence that could put you in jail for up to a decade. It’s time to wake up and resist. Or at the very least, support those who do.

Snitch culture

It’s snitch culture that kills solidarity and suppresses dissent in England. When any group rises to defy authority, fellow subjects of the Crown rally to denounce them.

Before a true account of events in Bristol had been established, England’s snitch culture was up and running. Local media outlets launched their assault on protesters.

Labour MPs and Labour Mayor Marvin Rees were falling over themselves to attack the protesters.


But footage and eyewitness accounts suggested a quite different reality. One in which the police were not heroic defenders of the peace.


The liberal bastardisation of history

According to liberals, only peaceful protest brings change. And by ‘peaceful’, they mean causing zero annoyance or inconvenience to anyone at all. The historically ignorant, liberal rhetoric of the day could be summarised as:

The people marched with extremely witty puns on their placards, and the fascists laughed so hard they forgot about their plans for dominion. Everyone lived happily ever after.

Reality says otherwise.

Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse at Derby Day. Nelson Mandela wasn’t removed from US terror watch lists until 2008. And Martin Luther King Jr spent time in jail for civil disobedience.

In fact, it’s tough to find a successful movement that didn’t use force when necessary.

The ANC’s struggle against apartheid in South Africa was strictly non-violent until 1960. Why did things change? Because of the Sharpeville massacre on 21st March 1960. When 5,000 peaceful protesters chanted outside a police station against systems of oppression, the police response was to gun them down. By the end of the attack, police had killed 69 people.

As Mandela said, from his prison cell on Robin Island, of his own part in violent resistance:

“‘The armed struggle [with the authorities] was forced on us by the government.’”

In the real world

For many communities targeted by police violence, the white, middle class tendency to treat police as their mates is honestly galling. Those of us who have faced harassment and violence at the hands of police know it’s an institutional issue. We know we shouldn’t trust police accounts automatically. And honestly, given the revelations of past decades, neither should everyone else.

In the past year alone, we’ve seen police officer Oliver Banfield using his training to assault a woman as she walked home. Even with the attack caught on film, she had to fight for any semblance of justice.

We are years into the Black Lives Matter movement, which has exposed endemic mistreatment of Black people by police. And those of us who’ve actually taken part in real protests have also seen the reality of police brutality.

Wakey wakey

Your response to the Bristol protests largely hinges on your grasp of the danger we are in. For people still living in the fantasy that the UK is a liberal democracy, any resistance more forceful than a nice walk with some samba drums playing is ‘going too far’. But for those keenly aware of both history and the current reality, the complacency of others is horrifying.

  • The government’s refusal to take timely action on coronavirus cost at least 50,000 lives
  • Infant mortality is 35.9 per cent higher for England’s poorest 10% than the rest of the country
  • There are half a million more UK children living in poverty today than in 2010
  • A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), found 130,000 UK deaths linked to bogus austerity since 2010
  • The Spycops inquiry into undercover police abusing women looks set to further victimise survivors
  • The government can engage in open corruption and cronyism with impunity

And now we have sinister laws being passed that grant enormous powers to police, while criminalising protest.

What will it take for these fantasists to actually stand up and take action?

The answer, I suspect, is nothing. There is nothing short of an attack on them personally that would have them risk putting their head above the parapet.

That’s how holocausts happen, that’s how apartheid happens, and that’s how every horror show in human history happened. Because despite people promising “Never again”, the complacency of the privileged allows history to repeat itself.

If you think I sound angry, you’re right. I’m furious. I find it unconscionable that so many look upon this horror and abdicate responsibility for dealing with it. And worse, they turn on the ones who are trying to rescue us from it.

First they came for the socialists

German pastor and theologian Martin Niemöller penned a famous poem about his regret for acting too late against the Nazi threat.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The same complacency that allowed the rise of fascism in Germany is on display in England right now. Either we wake up to that and fight, or we go the same way. What’s happening is fascism. You don’t play nice with fascism, you kick the ever-living shit out of it. Or it kills you. 

Featured image via Eliza Egret for The Canary

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  • Show Comments
    1. Keep it up Kerry. With idiots like you the left will be out of power for generations. Please explain how the UK is Fascist and then explain where you’d rather live. North Korea, Venezuela or perhaps Russia. Steve Topple was after all funded with Kremlin slush funds. Maybe Iran would be a good shout? I’d genuinely like to know where you dotards think you’d be able to exercise your student politics and anti establishment antics without getting a kicking from the authorities or being locked up.
      Have a good look in the mirror. You and your chums are the fascists. You ban books, opinions and speakers with whom you disagree. You encourage and support street violence. The left is riddled with anti semitism, sexism and racism. Orwell was right when he said the Fascists of the future will call themselves anti fascists. I fully support your right to air your opinions and views, but that gives us the right to criticise your abundant hypocrisy and your role in removing any effective opposition.

    2. Orwell was right: fascism won’t come to the UK in jackboots but with civility: little by little rights will be taken away in the name of order, until order means the common folk have no rights. Once, employees had the right to call union meetings and vote for action by a show of hands. Now, there has to be a ballot with a threshold no political party can reach. Johnson can be PM on well below 50% of the votes, but if you want to withdraw your labour, YOUR labour, it belongs to you, the employer just buys it, then it’s a different matter. One step at a time. Authoritarianism by stealth. And done in the name of social peace and justice. That’s how people learn to love Big Brother. Everyone who has been on a demo has seen it: peaceful folk making their point turned angry by heavy-handed police intervention. But we must be careful. We are the people of peace. We do not want violence. We want equal rights for all and freedom of expression and organisation. We must find ways to outwit the forces of order because in a face to face confrontation, we will lose. MLK was right: if we aren’t morally opposed to violence we should be tactically opposed. We are much more intelligent than our enemies. We have mobile phones. It’s easy to have twenty little demos across a city and to be gone before the police get to you. You all assemble in one place, so do the police. Make them scatter and be one step ahead. And in Banksy’s city, the place should have been covered in radical graffiti.

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