Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Lessons of 11 November

As noted in the previous blog post the counterdemonstration against the fascist march in Warsaw on 11 November was a great success and breakthrough for the anti-fascist movement in Poland. This was the largest demonstration against a fascist march that I can remember in Warsaw and it was successful in diverting the fascists from their planned route. However a number of repucussions have arisen from this march and a discussion is underway within the anti-fascist movement about what the best tactics are to take in future events. Without being privy to all of these discussions here are my views on this matter.

The anti-fascist movement managed to mobilise thousands of people, many of whom would not have been on such a demonstration before. The demonstrators attempted to block the march and prevent the fascists from demonstrating. Once the march had been diverted then the counterdemonstrators followed the march to its new route and again sought to block its path. This resulted in violent skirmishes between the demonstrators and with the police. A number of counterdemonstrators were arrested - amongst them the prominent campaigner against homophobia Robert Biedron. Biedron - who was observing the march - has since accused the police of beating him (you can show your support for him here).

The anti-fascist movement now faces a dilemna about what tactics it should adopt in the future. On the one hand it needs to build on the momentum gained from this event and try to make its events larger and broader. It has to show that it represents the vast marjority of people in Warsaw who are opposed to the fascists and repulsed by their presence on Warsaw's streets. However, many of these people will be put off from attending such demonstrations if they fear that they will degenerate into a violent battle between the two sides. The media has already begun to portray the counterdemonstrators as being comprised of 'extremists' and 'hooligans'. In turn the fascists are trying to show themselves as being the victims.
The movement has to work out a way of mobilising larger numbers than the fascists and not reducing itself to a small group of activists who are focussed soley on violently confronting the fascists. This is not a route to success and will reduce the anti-fascist majority to an isolated minority. It is in this context that the tactics for future marches should be worked out. One thing that was obvious from last weeks march was the poor level of stewarding and the often chaotic nature of the event. The organisers need to work out a clear strategy for these events and then enforce this through well organised and disciplined stewarding.

Last weeks event was a great success- the challenge now is to build a sustained and growing movement against fascism.

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