Tuesday, 24 February 2009

An Anti Fascist Action (AFA) day out in London, Part One

The following is probably a bit self-indulgent of Gombeen Man. But it’s an interesting, true story, set in a time when he was an economic migrant in London and was in a group called Anti Fascist Action (AFA). At the time, fascist groups were gaining a foothold in working-class areas, carrying out assaults on minorities and political opponents, and getting councillors elected. It’s quite a long account, so for that reason it will be in two parts – the first today and the next tomorrow or the day after, if a bit of time presents itself.

Part One

Now and again, Gombeen Man likes to reminisce on days long gone. Not in a myth-making Gaelic Ireland kind of way, you understand, but on the past experiences that have made him the wistful, circumspect individual that he is. Also, because sometimes it can get a bit one-dimensional forever commenting on the plentiful supply of half-wits in Irish life and their dodgy doings. So… cue cinematic wavy, underwater-type screen effects as we go back in time to London, Saturday January 15th, 1994, and an anti-fascist day out.

Readers will know that I’m not the most nationalistic or patriotic of people, considering nationalism (including local variations such as loyalism), racism and religion to be the three greatest impediments to human advancement in existence. The National Front and the British National Party were the most glaring examples of the genre in Britain back then - the BNP also had its C18 offshoot (pronounced “one-eight” after Hitler’s initials). Then there was Blood and Honour, which was a musical front featuring far-right skinhead Oi bands containing members of all of the above.

I’m not going to exaggerate my part in this, as I joined Anti Fascist Action after the biggest rout of the fascists, known as “The Battle of Waterloo”, after which the boneheads were a lot more careful about organising, having developed a healthy respect for the anti-fascists of AFA, who presented a disincentive to them organising at street level; unlike many of the so-called left, such as ANL, who waved lollipop placards about and presented a soft target for the fascists.

First off, let me say that some of the most decent people I came across while in London were in AFA, and most of them were ordinary, decent working-class sorts, who cared enough for their class and their communities to stand up to the fash – putting themselves at considerable physical risk in the process. Indeed, one – a gentle, modest lump of a bloke (until he saw a fascist, that is) – had spent two years in prison for his pains, after a physical confrontation that left B&H poster boy, Nicky Crane (see pic), feeling the worse for wear.

But I digress. On this particular day we all met up in Islington, a motley crew of AFA, Red Action, and assorted anarchists, with a few freelance anti-fash for good measure. It was in the days before mobile phones were common, but someone got reports that the fash were holed up in a pub in the Bow Road, East London. So three of us hopped into the staff car, driven by your very own Gombeen Man (Ms Gombeen also in attendance), and set out on a scouting mission to the venue in question. We knew the area as we lived about a mile or two down the road from the pub.

A short while later, it was confirmed. We passed the Little Driver and the boneheads were visible milling about the environs – the pub being selected as their centre of operations for the day, with the aim of setting up a gig in honour of gladly departed Skrewdriver singer Ian Donaldson, and raise money for the neo-nazi scene. There were three of us in our battered old Nissan Bluebird, including a lad from Luton we had never met up with before, and the adrenalin was beginning to flow as we did a quick about-turn at the Bow Flyover, parked the car in a side road, and got the tube back to Islington (quicker) to confirm the rumours and gather the troops.

Once there, it was straight off to our nerve centre (also a pub... at least we had one thing in common with the fash) to report the news. It’s a weird feeling, to watch groups of anti fascists emerge from various hostelries in Islington, alerted by scouts bringing the message to mobilise, merging into one group of about 150 anti fascist militants. We made our way down the tube platform at Angel, and headed in the direction of East London, Bow Road, and the Little Driver.

It’s also a weird feeling, looking around the carriage at your anti-fash compatriots. Knowing that you are on your way to confront a pub full of fascists, and you might need to count on them, as it’s unlikely any resultant clash of opinions is going to be confined to a verbal debate…

Story continued on:

Anti-Fascist day out in London, part two

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Ella said...

Hi Mr & Ms GM, Respect.

The Gombeen Man said...

Thank you Ella. Though you might well be biased (politically).

Anonymous said...


Seemingly we should lay off Bono because we are hurting his feelings dontcha know..........

The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks for the Bono tip. Did something on it:


Anonymous said...

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