News - December 2000


27th December 2000

Reproduced from Anti-Fascist Action (19th December)

Last month an entry on this website asked the question "where is anti-fascism going?". It ended with the comment, referring to the failure of the Left to discuss anti-fascist strategy, "their silence is deafening".

Since then the Weekly Worker, paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), has gone into print on the subject and in stark contrast to the CPGB speaker at AFA's October Rally (who said the Left owed AFA "a debt of honour") is openly hostile.

Two points in particular stand out. Commenting on the Preston bye-election, where the Socialist Alliance candidate polled over 5% compared to the BNP getting just over 1%, they say: "This result ought to scotch once and for all the notion that extreme right-wing groups like the BNP are about to make a breakthrough ... for too long the left has spent too much time chasing tiny bands of fascists instead of putting forward our own positive alternative. The most infamous example of this was the SWP campaign in the mid-1990s, calling on workers, 'Don't Vote Nazi' - with the implicit suggestion that they should continue to vote for Labour". (Weekly Worker, 30/11/00)

"Tiny bands of fascists" is a curious term to use, especially in reference to the Isle of Dogs, because at the very time they refer to, the BNP won a local election and got a councillor elected - Derek Beackon. More recently these 'tiny bands of fascists' received 80,000 votes in the GLA elections, 27% in Tipton, 23% in Bexley, 21% in Burnley ... so let's not be too dismissive! With racist attacks as high in Britain as anywhere else in Europe, and recent polls suggesting 80% of the population are opposed to refugees, the reservoir of reaction is sizeable and the Far Right, following the successful strategy of their European counterparts, are looking to exploit it. These are facts. But a stupid remark downplaying the threat from the Far Right is then included with an accurate criticism of the ANL. No distinction is drawn between the different strategies. Militant anti-fascism is dismissed.

Their criticism of the ANL's 'Anyone But Fascist' approach on the Isle of Dogs is perfectly valid, and a point that AFA made at the time, and since 1995 AFA has argued for a 'Filling The Vacuum' strategy to challenge the BNP, precisely to promote a "positive alternative", as opposed to chasing after the tiny NF, which is the ANL alternative. So despite AFA making the very same criticisms of ANL policy, and making them many years before, the CPGB choose to ignore this and present themselves as something superior. This arrogance is surprising seeing as how the CPGB toyed with the idea of joining AFA in the early 90s, only to jump on board the ANL when the SWP relaunched it in 1992. They then mobilised their members for the ill-fated first leaflet session in Whitechapel which ended up in the ANL walking into the most obvious ambush AFA scouts have ever seen and getting badly beaten. Not what you would describe as a good call.

The idea that the Left have spent "too much time" fighting fascism is laughable, and clearly this is a veiled attack on AFA. But AFA, who make no apology for taking anti-fascism seriously, have spent considerable time and effort trying to get the Left to realise that the tactics employed against the fascists in the 70s, 80s and early 90s are no longer appropriate.

This leads on to the second point which appeared in the following week's paper (Weekly Worker, 7/12/00) where the CPGB come out in support of Searchlight, dismissing AFA's criticisms with the comment "... before the politically correct left decided it [Searchlight] was a state tool for infiltrating them".

AFA has not said that Searchlight is "a state tool for infiltrating them [the Left]", rather that Searchlight work closely with the State, in particular sitting on the police's Racial and Violent Crime Task Force. This, coupled with their willingness to work with anyone so long as they're not fascists means they inevitably have some very reactionary bedfellows. Being identified with the status quo, and the police and intelligence services, not only identifies 'anti-fascism' as conservative in the eyes of many working class people, but surely presents some problems for a organisation like the CPGB that describes itself as 'revolutionary'? Given the fact that the State and its security forces have played a consistent, and often brutal, anti-working class role (eg. the Miners Strike) it would be naive to imagine that their influence is harmless.

In Germany, whose police work closely with their British counterparts, anti-fascists have been targetted by the State in a sustained manner. Activists from the militant AA(M) in Gottingen were targetted over a 5 year period which culminated in 17 doors getting kicked down in dawn raids and the group suffering long term damage. In Britain AFA has been the subject of harassment, intimidation and attempted criminalisation at the hands of the police and intelligence services. And for what? For upholding the militant anti-fascist tradition in this country which stretches from Cable Street to Lewisham and beyond; a tradition which most of the Left are happy to pay lip service to.

Do the CPGB seriously suggest we should work with these people, or their allies in Searchlight? Resistance groups in Nazi-occupied Europe in the last war paid a heavy price for similar reliance on State-sponsored support, being manipulated for interests other than their own, often fatally.

Despite their links with the police and intelligence services, manipulation of the anti-fascist movement, and their support for the status quo - criticised in the Weekly Worker the week before - AFA's criticisms are dismissed as being "politically correct".

It is not clear why the CPGB have decided to attack AFA, but they would do well to remember that their ability to operate with relative safety from fascist attack was brought about by AFA winning the battle of the streets in the early 90s, a luxury many left-wingers no longer enjoy in many parts of Europe.


19th December 2000

Below is the text of a letter emailed to Weekly Worker but not printed.

‘You Bastards’

Responding to criticism of the Socialist Party, Kiern Edwards in a letter entitled ‘You Bastards’ (Weekly Worker Nov 9) describes the CPGB as ‘a Stalinist rump’ and went on; “Hitler came to power because of you bastards and you would have probably denounced us for fighting him.” The implication being that Trotskyists, Social Democrats [SPD] and liberals all fought the Nazis, while the ‘Stalinist German Communist Party’ (KPD), when not openly collaborating with the fascists stood idly by. This is a grotesque Trotskyist falsification of fifty years standing, and it is time it was put to bed.

Writing in The Guardian on June 3 Paul Foot, makes the not dissimilar claim that Hitler could have been easily defeated were it not for the obstinate sectarianism/collusion of the KPD.

"Though their combined vote [SPD/KPD] and their influence in the country was substantially greater than those of the Nazis, both sides - especially the communists - rigidly refused to form a united front against the fascists. The communists, who at one stage were getting 6 million votes, renamed the social democrats `social fascists'. So great was the sectarian divide in those crucial months before the deluge that the communists preferred even to link up and stage strikes with the fascists rather than campaign in the country and the factories for a unified force against fascism. `After Hitler, our turn' was the boast of communist leader Ernest Thalmann. After Hitler as it happened communists and social democrats were at last united - in the concentration camps."

Paul Foot is a highly respected and indeed influential journalist, but as a simple statement of fact, it is in almost every respect false. Worse it is false not through ignorance, but through concerted effort.

Paul Foot, not to put too fine a point on it, is a liar - and given the level of research available on the subject - a brazen one to boot.

Let's deal first with his claim that support for the Communist and Social Democrats "combined had substantially greater influence in the country generally than the Nazis". The facts differ starkly. In November 1932 the Nazis took 33.1% of the vote. In this election the Communists were big gainers with 16.9%. This put them little more than 3% behind the Social Democrats on 20.4%. In all, a combined Left total produced 37.3%, a mere 4.2% more than the Nazis. Substantially greater? And this was in a reduced poll. Only three months earlier, in July, the Nazis themselves had received 37.4%! So comparing the results over the two elections reveals the differential to be - 0.1% - and that in favour of the fascists! So Foot's inference that by merely casting aside `sectarian differences'. Hitler could have been stopped, is exposed as nonsense.

As well, in making it clear whose sectarianism was at fault, it is evident whom, in the name of `unity', Foot believes should have eaten crow. Again this skates over, the striking fact that from 1928 onward, SPD support in working class areas was in free fall. In 1928, the SPD took 29.8% of the national vote, while the Communists took just 10.6%, a differential of just under 20%. Four years later it had been whittled down to just over 3%. Even the banning of their Communist rivals couldn't stop the SPD meltdown, which dropped a further 2% to 18.3% in 1933. Had the KPD not been banned, it is not inconceivable that it would have become the larger party electorally. But according to Foot it is nevertheless the failing reformists to whom the KPD should have politically capitulated? Not withstanding the fact is the KPD vote and recruitment was directly at the expense of the SDP, if judged by nothing more than voting trends, it would have been strategically insane to do so.

Next like Edwards, (and SWP Central Committee member Chris Bambery on another occasion) Foot draws on the SWP canard of routine communist fraternisation, or as he puts it, the "communist preference" for creating alliances with the Nazis rather than the social democrats. Foot alleges that the communists preferred "to stage strikes and link up with the Nazis rather than argue for a united front in the country and the factories against the fascists". Once again this too is almost 100% fabrication.

On the one notable occasion the Nazis joined a Communist picket line it was in support of the Berlin Transport Workers Strike in 1932. The Nazis, who at the time, for entirely tactical reasons were emphasising the `socialist' over the `national' in their strap line, felt they had no option but to support the strike. Otherwise their support from among the German working class (something else the SWP deny incidentally) would have been seriously shaken. "We are in by no means an envious position,” Goebbells wrote at the time. "Many bourgeois circles are frightened off by our participation in the strike.” As Goebbels makes plain, it was the Nazis who were forced with gritted teeth, to temporarily adapt to a communist-led class war agenda, not as Foot alleges, the other way round.

Right at the heart of the revisionism, is an unchallenged assumption in the ability of a talismanic `united front' to `stop Hitler' by itself. Numbers alone, (regardless of tactics, which are deliberately never mentioned) would, Foot implies, have been sufficient. We have already identified more than one gaping hole in that theory. But there's more. Of those, who, to quote Pastor Niemoller, "stood up" to the Nazis, it was according to Foot, the "rigid refusal" of working class Communist street-fighters to bond with the Social Democrats, which more than any other factor was responsible for handing the Nazis victory on a plate.

Yet even when leaving aside (for another time) the pivotal political question of `unity on whose terms', (revolution v reform etc), the very best in the circumstances SPD/KPD unity as proposed by Foot could possibly have provided, was - electoral unity only! Yet "a united front" on such a limited basis, Trotsky was absolutely adamant, "decides nothing", particularly when the real `battle was for control of the streets'. Accordingly for Trotsky the real "value of the united front", was "when Communist detachments come to the help of Socialist detachments and vice a versa".

And as a cursory reading of history bears out, controlling the streets was strategically pivotal, a reality the official record of injuries and fatalities bears out. In 1932, the year before Hitler took power, the authorities reported that between January and September of that year, seventy Nazis, fifty-four Communists, ten Social Democrats and twenty `others' were killed in clashes - in Prussia alone. As guns were used only rarely, the level of the fatalities are a testimony to the ferocity of the hand-to-hand clashes, and also signify that the level and nature of the struggle was both persistent and intense. A low level form of civil war in fact. Other statistics give a sense of the scale of the conflict. Red Aid a communist support organisation committed to looking after victims, prisoners and dependents, reported that, between 1930 and 1931, no fewer than 18,000 communist volunteers were wounded in such skirmishing.

Not only does the level of struggle give a lie to the Foot prognosis that this could have all been sorted constitutionally and possibly even more ridiculously by implication - on the result of that one election - it also exposes the Trotskyist myth of the united front on an electoral basis providing any form of remedy. Indeed as Trotsky himself repeatedly emphasised, the primary value of the united front, was not some poxy electoral alliance, but was almost exclusively a - paramilitary one!

A yet more devastating truth is hidden within the dry statistics. Though a mere detail, it nevertheless explodes the myth of communist intransigence, and emphatically reverses the finger of blame. What the official records show, is that far from communists being `especially sectarian', or having a `preference for linking up with Nazis' the commitment of the far smaller organisation to the fight against fascism, dwarfed and shamed, (though not in Foot or Edward's eyes) the strikingly larger Social Democrat Party. Staggeringly, the Communists had more of their fighters (54) killed in Prussia in the first nine months of 1932, than the 52 the SPD lost across - the whole of Germany - in the previous eight years! Figures all the more extraordinary, when you consider that in 1928 the Communists had a membership of only 130,000 while around the same time, the SPD boasted a membership 30,000 - short of a million!

Had the strikingly larger SPD even matched the KPD kill record; ‘corrected the papa's son's patriots in their own way’ as Trotsky put it, not just in the "crucial few months before the deluge" that Foot typically refers to, but in the eight years from 1925 onwards when battle was joined, neither party, whether `united' or otherwise would have ended up in the camps.

Cold statistics such as this utterly demolish the Foot argument that it was the communists who were guilty of not pulling their weight. On the contrary it is the “flabby pacifism” of the SPD that emboldened the Nazis. And whatever else Stalin and the Comintern might have wanted Communists in Germany fought hard, and more to the point, fought almost alone.

To sum up, a compound of the 'Jews first' 'hardmen responsible' revisionism favoured by liberals and Trotskyists alike, produces a unitary view of events, that is both grotesque and Orwellian. Working class communists are written out of history on the one hand, at the same time as being held to account for it's darkest chapter on the other.

To then use this 'false memory' "to arm us against any repetition of similar horrors in the future", to recommend as Foot does, that it be employed as the template for current anti- racist/fascist strategies, is lunatic, criminal, and almost certainly suicidal.

‘You bastards?’ Indeed.

Joe Reilly
Red Action


16th December 2000

The article below is reproduced from Weekly Worker, December 14th

The meeting [London Socialist Alliance Steering Committee] also voted down two resolutions from Red Action. One a rather carping complaint against "OTT propaganda" deserved defeat. The other in - amended form - was supported by the CPGB delegate. This called for an approach on the issues of fighting racism and chauvinism to be "critically re-evaluated" by the manifesto sub-committee and the Liason Committee executive. Predictably, the unproductive debate that ensued revolved around the use of the slogan, 'Refugees are welcome here', with SWPers in particular suggesting that those questioning its use were guilty of attempting to "duck" a sensitive issue.

In fact, the CPGB comrades out on the knocker during some of the recent election contests have reported quite a bit of 'ducking' on this issue - but from those forces who expressed alarm and outrage that the slogan could be questioned. As we pointed out, the uncomfortable truth is that, across wide swathes of our class refugeees have not been welcome. What is the use of a slogan which is palpably untrue? Some comrades actually suggested that its purpose was to provide a degree of comfort to the communities and groups being targeted. As a sentiment this is quiet laudable - it is "a statement of human solidarity" as comrade Mountford put it. As a political slogan, a response to a real problem in our class as a whole, it is absolutely hopeless. As comrade Heemskirk of the SP correctly observed: "Who does it convince?" It seems to imply that the battle is won - clearly untrue. This resolution was lost by three votes to 10, but is bound to resurface. It will be forced onto the agenda as the Socialist Alliance increasingly engage with the working class itself.

Mark Fisher


13th December 2000

by an RA member

What's Peter Manson on? - In a leading article he trumpets: "This result (Preston By-election) ought to scotch once and for all the notion that...the BNP are about to make a breakthrough" ("Weekly Worker" 30th November) Hello? While the Preston and West Bromwich results would have been a disappointment for the BNP, Peter appears to have a short memory. Has he forgotten that the BNP scooped up 80,000 votes in May's London Mayoral contest and 47,000 in the GLA poll - double that of the LSA. In Last years Euro election the BNP gained 102,000 votes, edging in front of the number reached by a combined Left vote. The London results were the highest for the far right since the NF peaked in 1977, and this time around we have witnessed much lower turnouts. Where the BNP are rewarded is at local ward level where their hard work has gained dividends, most notably in Tipton last may finishing second to New Labour on 24%. If left unchallenged this success locally could boost their performances at the next General Election, and let's not forget the UKIP's three MEP's.

As for the recent Socialist results - Peter thinks they're "excellent" - I would suggest a more reasoned assumption would be that they avoided embarrassment. Keep your feet on the ground comrades, and leave the triumphantalism to "Socialist Worker".

Ivan Doyle


10th December 2000

By Nicholas Watt (Reproduced from The Guardian, 6th December)

Tony Blair came under pressure last night to dismantle the British army's high-profile security bases along the Irish border when the IRA said it was up to the government to break the deadlock in the peace process. In a statement issued only days before President Clinton's visit to Northern Ireland, the IRA made clear that republicans were unwilling to offer any further gestures on disarmament until the government fully implements the Good Friday agreement.

The IRA, which stressed its continuing support for the peace process, said that it was still committed to putting its arms beyond use.

But the republican leadership made clear that the ball was now in the government's court. Republicans are angry with the government for its alleged watering down of the Patten report on policing and for its alleged failure to scale down security measures across the province.

The IRA's tough language indicates that republicans are unlikely to step up their disarmament efforts until the government reduces the army's presence. Sinn Fein has made clear that as a first step the government should remove a series of high-profile security bases along Northern Ireland's border.

The government attempted to take heart from the IRA statement, saying that it was encouraged that the republicans had reaffirmed their commitment to putting their arms beyond use.

However, government sources indicated that they were unlikely to meet the IRA's demand for border security bases to be closed, because of the threat from dissident republicans.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000


10th December 2000

by Jim Dee ( Reproduced from the Boston Herald, 6th December )

The Irish Republican Army yesterday announced that it is committed to decommissioning its clandestine weapons arsenal, but not on terms dictated by the North's pro-British unionists or by Britain.

In a statement reiterating pledges it made in May, the IRA said it remained ready to take steps to ``completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use . . . in a way to avoid risk to the public, misappropriation by others and ensure reasonable maximum public confidence.''

But the IRA, which has been on cease-fire since July 1997, also insisted this ``cannot and will not happen on terms dictated by the British government or the unionists.''

The IRA previously offered to put its weapons ``beyond use'' and allow inspections of some of its arsenal last May in response to British commitments to lift a four-month suspension of the North's cross-community Cabinet and fully implement the Good Friday peace pact by next June.

Since then, international arms monitors have twice inspected some of its weapons caches.

However, repeating an allegation it made in October, the IRA yesterday accused Britain of reneging on May's British Army demilitarization pledges, which the IRA said were pivotal in securing its initial disarmament gesture.

The IRA also claimed Britain two weeks ago failed to honor its May promises on police reform by passing watered-down police reform legislation.

In late October, Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, who heads the North's Cabinet, banned Cabinet ministers of the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party from all-Ireland Ministerial Council meetings until the IRA restarts talks with a commission trying to disarm it.

The UUP also said that unless the IRA signs up to a specific disarmament timetable, it would progressively quit institutions created under 1998's Good Friday peace pact, a move that could scuttle the peace process.

Earlier in October, the IRA said that, while it had reopened contacts with the Independent International Commission on (Weapons) Decommissioning, full disarmament talks wouldn't begin unless they would advance the peace process.

The IRA is claiming its disarmament talks position is unchanged, a stance likely to anger Trimble and set the stage for a final showdown on the issue in the coming weeks.

Copyright by the Boston Herald and Herald Interactive Advertising Systems, Inc


10th December 2000

By David McKittrick ( Reproduced from The Independent, 6th December )

One week before Bill Clinton is due in Belfast, the IRA yesterday declared that it was still prepared to put its weapons beyond use and to talk to the arms decommissioning body.

The organisation accused the British Government of bad faith on key questions such as policing and demilitarisation, but reiterated its own commitment to the peace process and the arms issue.

While the statement broke little new ground, its timing was seen as a considered attempt to set the tone for the US President's visit, and to ward off criticism that Sinn Fein and the IRA have been dragging their feet on the weapons question.

The Ulster Unionists are also competing for presidential goodwill, with the party leader, David Trimble, writing to Mr Clinton urging him to maintain maximum pressure on the republicans to move on guns.

Government sources reject suggestions that Tony Blair and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Mandelson, have dishonoured any commitments given earlier in the year. In particular they maintain the new policing arrangements represent a reasonable compromise that should be acceptable to both communities.

Sinn Fein has recently taken to personally targeting Mr Mandelson, with Martin McGuinness, the party's education minister, saying: "In Peter Mandelson we have a peace wrecker rather than a peace maker. In short he is a disaster."

The Clinton visit is not viewed as a deadline in efforts to clear up any or all of the problems which are dogging the peace process, but it is seen as potentially useful in focusing minds on them. In talks leading up to the visit, republicans are expected to press for a further and faster easing of security measures, particularly in the always problematic south Armagh area, and for concessions on policing plans. Republican sources yesterday said lack of movement on these issues was both holding up progress on arms and "causing anger and frustration within the IRA's activist base".

Unionists, above all, will demand a new arms initiative from the IRA, arguing that they need immediate progress rather than talk of movement at an unspecified future date.

The IRA said in its statement: "We remain prepared to initiate a process which would completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use and to do so in a way to avoid risk to the public, misappropriation by others and ensure maximum public confidence." It added, however, that its actions would not be on "terms dictated by the British Government or the Unionists".

Meanwhile Seamus Mallon, the Deputy First Minister, said yesterday that he would not be standing again for the Belfast assembly. Mr Mallon said he expected many familiar faces to disappear from the political scene in the next few years.

© 2000 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd.


8th December 2000

Reproduced from RM Distribution (5th December)

The following is the text of a statement issued today by Oglaigh na hEireann (the IRA).

The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann want to reiterate our commitment to the resolution of the issue of arms and our view that this is a necessary step in a genuine peace process.

We remain prepared to initiate a process which would completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use and to do so in a way to avoid risk to the public, misappropriation by others and ensure maximum public confidence.

On May 6 in a considered statement we provided a clear and reasonable context in which this could take place.

It cannot and will not happen on terms dictated by the British government or the unionists. A British military/securocrat agenda will not work and should have no part in a genuine peace process.

In May we also gave a number of undertakings which were premised on the speedy and full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and other commitments made by the two governments.

The British government for its part committed itself to:

* the implementation of Patten

* to progressively take all the necessary steps to demilitarise the situation

* to deal with matters relating to human rights, equality and justice

* to resolve issues which remain outstanding at this stage in the development of the peace process.

* The British government has not honoured these commitments.

* The IRA re-established contact with the IICD and put in place a confidence-building measure which entailed the inspection of a number of our arms dumps by agreed third parties.

* We have since facilitated a further inspection of these arms dumps. Immediately after this Cyril Ramaphosa and Martti Ahtisaari, the two agreed third parties, affirmed their conviction in the IRA's commitment to the peace process. After this re-inspection, attempts by the leadership of the Ulster Unionists, to set more preconditions on political progress has only served to compound the impasse.

We have not broken off contact with the IICD and we remain committed to discussions with them on the basis we have set out.

The British government's approach to demilitarisation and their refusal to address the Good Friday Agreement's requirements for a new beginning to policing and other matters represents a failure by them to honour their commitments.

The political responsibility for advancing the current situation clearly lies with Tony Blair who must honour all commitments.

The IRA has honoured its commitments and will continue to do so.

P. O'Neill.


8th December 2000

By Christopher Walker (Reproduced from The Times, 6th December)

THE IRA yesterday increased the pressure on the Government over the stalled peace process in an attempt to influence President Clinton's final trip to Northern Ireland next week.

In a statement issued by the organisation's seven-man Army Council in the traditional fictitious name of P.O'Neill, the IRA accused the Government of failing to honour its commitment in May to implement the Patten policing reforms and progressively to scale down military installations in the Province. The statement was accompanied by thinly disguised hints about the long-term future of the 1997 ceasefire. A senior republican source said that Britain's stand was now causing "anger and frustration within the IRA's activist base".

Similar anti-British rhetoric preceded the February 1996 Docklands bomb that killed two people.

The statement said: "The political responsibility for advancing the current situation clearly lies with Tony Blair, who must honour all commitments. The IRA has honoured its commitments and will continue to do so."

Peter Mandelson, the Northern Ireland Secretary, reacted angrily to the IRA charges. "I do not think that the blame game is going to get us any further forward."

According to well-placed security officials, the IRA statement was part motivated by its continuing struggle to have the multimillion- pound complex of 13 security watchtowers removed from the hills of South Armagh.

The organisation described Ulster Unionist sanctions against Sinn Fein to achieve IRA decommissioning as "preconditions on progress" which served only to compound the political impasse.

The IRA said: "We have not broken off contact with the IICD (decommissioning body) and we remain committed to discussions with them on the basis we have set out."

The IRA statement, couched in familiar ambiguous language, failed to take the terrorist organisation's stand on decommissioning any further forward than a similar series of pledges issued on May 6 after the decision to revive the Stormont Executive.

It said that it would resume talks with General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body, last staged in the form of a phone call in June, only if Britain pushed through the RUC reforms and quickened the pace of demilitarisation.The IRA said yesterday: "We remain prepared to initiate a process which would completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use, and to do so in a way to avoid risk to the public, misappropriation by others and ensure maximum public confidence. On May 6, in a considered statement we provided a clear and reasonable context in which this could take place. It cannot and will not happen on terms dictated by the British Government or the Unionists."

There have been recent reports that senior British Army officers have threatened to resign if the protection network is removed. British sources claim that it cannot be dismantled at present because of the growing threat from dissident IRA forces active in the border area, many consisting of defectors from the Provisional IRA.

Yesterday's IRA statement was designed to raise the stakes before Mr Clinton's arrival in Northern Ireland on December 12. President Clinton said in a recorded interview with members of a Northern Ireland integrated school recorded yesterday that the peace process had been "a beacon of hope". He added: "We have got to finish the job."

Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd.


8th December 2000

By Jim Cusack (Reproduced from, 6th December)

Yesterday's statement by the IRA outlines, for the first time openly, its terms for further decommissioning.

It states that, as its part of the agreement, the British government has to fulfil three commitments. These concern the implementation of the Patten policing reforms; the closure of more British army bases; and the legal status of IRA members "on the run" from the Northern Ireland courts.

The IRA's reference to "anger and frustration" among its members may be to continuing agitation, particularly in the Border area of south Armagh, about the remaining British army observation posts there.

The army recently made it known that it believes any further reduction of its physical presence in the area could jeopardise security-force lives.

While there is evidence that the dissident "Real IRA" is growing in strength, republicans believe this is being as used as an excuse to maintain a military presence in south Armagh.

Security sources on both sides of the Border say there is no evidence to suggest that the IRA's belligerent statement is an indication that it intends returning to violence.

This year has seen probably the lowest levels of IRA activity since the organisation was formed in 1970. It was responsible for shooting dead four men: three drug-dealers and a member of the "Real IRA".

The whole area of IRA "finance" is likely to come under scrutiny in the coming years as Sinn Féin moves further into mainstream politics.

According to gardaí, the IRA had built up a very substantial financial support structure by the time of the ceasefires. Its earnings were initially from illegal means such as smuggling and other forms of racketeering. But, increasingly, it had begun investing its finances in property and other legitimate "front" businesses.

According to security sources on both sides of the Border, many IRA figures have drifted off into both legitimate and illicit activities. The sources say the organisation has reduced its recruitment and training. New members are said to be training only in the use of short arms. There are no indications that it is training any longer in the use of mortars or bombs.

However, IRA members have been seen carrying out very obvious surveillance of British army and RUC barracks in Border areas. According to security sources this is merely a form of intimidation.

© 2000


2nd December 2000

Reproduced from Anti-Fascist Action (30th November)

The NF picketed the Cock Tavern (near Euston station, north London) on 28th November following a widely publicised Irish Republican meeting a few days previously. In line with their current strategy the ANL called a counter-demonstration. On the night itself 11 NF were opposed by 70 anti-fascists and the whole event was controlled by over 100 police. Predictably the ANL claimed it was a "humiliation" for the nazis, while the NF, somewhat bizarrely, reckoned they "still rule the streets".

The one unusual factor was the appearance of a group of anti-fascists (not ANL) who succeeded in attacking the NF. AFA's position on the NF is well known, but if anti-fascists do mobilise against them clearly this type of activity will create the NF more problems than the lollipop brigade. A number of anti-fascists were arrested and AFA will support these people; having said that there are still critical points to be made. The arrests were largely due to tactical inexperience, and the whole episode does seem to appear as an act of desperation - a desire to be seen as more militant than the ANL, but still within the wrong arena. In other words the cutting edge against fascism today is the ability to confront the political progress of the BNP in working class communities, rather than physically oppose the NF.

The fact that underlines this analysis is that only 11 NF were present. Compare this to the 80,000 votes the BNP received in the GLA election, or the 80% who resent the presence of refugees (in a recent MORI poll), and you start to see the big picture. So while AFA can identify with the actions of the militants at the Cock Tavern there needs to be more, much more.

One of the main problems for anti-fascists is the lack of opportunity to discuss the different strategies on offer. AFA tried to initiate discussion at this year's October Rally but the Left boycotted the event. In contrast their has been some discussion on one of the left-wing discussion sites on the internet (UK Left Network), even involving members of the SWP/ANL. Although there has been some 'silliness', others have suggested the need for unity among anti-fascists and have voiced criticisms of the ANL's links with the pro-State Searchlight operation. AFA would welcome a development of this discussion because an understanding of the role of anti-fascism at the present time gets to the very heart of the problem - the battle for working class hearts and minds.


2nd December 2000

Reproduced from Anti-Fascist Action (20th November)

The Anti Nazi League counter-demonstration to the NF's Remembrance Day march serves to highlight the inadequacy of the anti-fascism supported by most of the British Left. According to the ANL: "Over 150 Anti-nazis protested against the Nazi National Front in central London today. The NF had been given permission by the police to march to the Cenotaph ... Around 70 Nazis marched but, unlike in previous years, their "one minute silence" was drowned out by cries of "Nazi scum!" Veterans and members of the public looked on in horror as the Nazis laid their wreath. Many took ANL stickers. The ANL protesters included members of the Jewish Socialist Group, Searchlight and the Socialist Party ... The NF place a great deal of importance on the Cenotaph demonstration. It is crucial that we start to campaign now to get them stopped next November. Write and complain to the British Legion. The campaign starts now!"

What exactly does the Left think it is doing? In the 80s, when British Fascism relied on controlling the streets, AFA met the fascists head on and brought the Remembrance Sunday marches to a close. In those days all the fascist groups (NF, BNP, Blood & Honour) posed a similar level of threat and the chosen area of conflict was the streets. Militant anti-fascism won the day. Nowadays the main fascist threat comes from the BNP who in certain target areas are winning over 20% of the vote. The best the NF can do is travel around the country with about 50 supporters. But the ANL's resources, supported by the Left, are put into mobilising against the NF rather than challenging the BNP.

And what was achieved? The NF certainly weren't stopped. If the churches and other liberal groups held a protest against the NF on Remembrance Sunday then AFA would have a very different attitude, but the protest organisers (with the obvious exception of Searchlight) would all claim to be radical (if not revolutionary) working class organisations. As the Far Right pick up working class support across Europe is this the best that the 'Far Left' can do? Unable and unwilling to stop the fascists, they demand that the State stops them next year and in the meantime encourage anti-fascists to write to the British Legion.

Not content with promoting the sideshow over and above the main event, the ANL misrepresent these liberal protests as militant actions. A recent demonstration (26/10/00) against an FPO speaker at Oxford University was presented in glowing terms: "Over 150 Anti-Nazi demonstrators ensured that the Oxford University European Affairs Society's platform for leading FPO MEP Peter Sichrovsky was a complete flop today! ... Fascist sympathisers failed to gain entry because the ANL blockaded the building ... Anti-Nazis ensured that those in the meeting, security guards and police were unable to leave the building for over three hours ... Sichrovsky was finally smuggled out of the building in humiliation, abandoning his car in the process."

Contrast that with Oxford AFA's account of the day: "Passers-by were treated to the spectacle of handbags at 20 paces between 40 screaming middle class students waving ANL 'Haider is Hitler' lollipops and FPO sympathising Hooray Henry's. Two far from burly police officers kept the opposing factions apart. While this choreographed charade was enthusiastically played out on the steps of the University a handful of protesters were brushed aside to let Sichrovsky's chauffeur driven hire car in through the side gate. One young woman suffered a damaged foot trying to block the car.

The following day's Oxford Mail carried the front-page headline "Violence on the streets, bricks thrown in protest at 'Nazi' visitor" and had the ANL bizarrely claiming that holding a wholly ineffective picket, allowing Haider's deputy and his fan club in and out of the venue whilst chanting "No Platform For Nazis" was some kind of victory. Unsurprisingly the bricks that sent Sichrovsky's chauffeur scuttling from his vehicle like a startled rat were not the responsibility of the ANL."

To compound the problem the Left refuse to discuss anti-fascism and accept that there are alternatives. With the exception of Class War and the CPGB who sent speakers to AFA's October Rally, the rest of the Left are prepared to allow the SWP/ANL take anti-fascism up a dead-end. Essentially we are faced with a situation where the Far Right are picking up disillusioned working class support but the anti-fascism of the 'revolutionary' Left is content to avoid the issue, preferring instead to claim the role of anti-fascists is to chase after the miniscule NF. (And that is without even going in to the absurdity of 'revolutionaries' working hand in hand with the police and Intelligence services through Searchlight magazine.) Their silence is deafening.