Yesterday’s papers carried news of clashes Saturday afternoon at the anti-lockdown ‘Let Ireland Live’ demonstration. Unusually, the media also largely admitted to have been instigated by Left street activists through an informal alliance of football ultras and Left Republicans. Billed as an explicitly Nationalist event, the planned demo occurred fairly successfully, despite a marked increased left-wing threat at the gates of Leinster House.

To recap, this summer has witnessed a rather embarrassing string of defeats for street level antifascists, with various public and humiliating routs occurring upon attempts to disrupt patriotic gatherings. The effect has been to damage the street cred of the community far more than it cares to admit, with very clear fissures appearing between the Republican-inclined Antifascist outfits and the more SJW-orientated Left. 

A general rule of thumb is that the taxonomy of Antifascist activism in Ireland is bifurcated between more streetwise, albeit crime adjacent, Left Republicans, and the dregs of the idpol Left, glued together by a common cause and monied NGO activism.

While scheduled for 1pm that afternoon, clashes soon erupted ten minutes before the planned start time upon the arrival of a large contingent of masked antifascists who had gathered prior to that near the GPO. Mimicking fairly standard black bloc tactics, they then proceeded to engage physically against the assembled Nationalist gathering before both crowds were separated by the Public Order Unit, with flash bombs being deployed in the process. 

Following initial scuffles, the situation stabilised with numbers on the Nationalist side increasing to outnumber the left by day’s end, despite the threat of violence and Garda cordons around the vicinity.

With successful orations given by the National Party’s Justin Barrett and other figures the day, despite aggravation, proceeded well, with the starting skirmish merely guaranteeing public attention rather than preventing the demo to occur. If the previous half-dozen Nationalist demos the past 6 months were victories for the Right, this had the appearance of an effective stalemate with the resulting media storm heavily benefiting the Right.

For the Left, they arguably attained a small psychological boost. However even at their strongest, they were unable to prevent a medium-sized Nationalist demonstration with their attempts at disruption. Instead, they just catapulted the event centre stage, allowing the Right to profit from anti-lockdown disquiet.

Ironically even the liberal press gallery were forced to report on the very clear violent nature of the black bloc assembled, as opposed to the generally more peaceable Nationalist attendees. Online commentary from the left focused on targeting journalists who had the temerity to air the fact that violence was the sole responsibility of the Left and the Left alone, who came with the aim of disrupting a lawful gathering.

Without the added variable of the left-wing protests, the event would have occurred below the media radar, with the presence of the black bloc merely propelling the demo to the frontpage of national consciousness, with largely sympathetic coverage to boot.

With arrests made on the Antifascist side and random passersbys accidentally assaulted by Left hooligans, the smart money among their ranks knows mass mobilisations like these are an exhaustive tactic. Four years after antifascists shipped in English muscle to assault attendees at the 2016 PEGIDA rallies, many Left activists still find themselves hounded by legal bills for their part in the violence. Ultimately a total victory is required to make black bloc tactics worthwhile.  Anything short scores a considerable media own goal for the Left.

The Gardai are generally ambivalent towards right-wing demos, even if the seniority of the force desire to clamp down on any rise in Irish Nationalism through political policing and hate speech lawfare. By having to call upon football hooligans and bussed in Northern Republicans, the Left is tapping into their final reserves with their temporary jubilation at merely opposing a Nationalist event being in sad proportion to the extent they have dropped the ball collectively the past year.

For Left Republicans opposing the Nationalist Right is the consolation prize for an ultimately moribund movement. While Republicans get rings run around them by British intelligence, with infiltration at the highest level being exposed, and drug cartels gaining a  hold in formerly working class Republican strongholds, the last avenue for the movement is opposing genuine patriotic groups. Physical force Republicans in years gone by put the shivers up a complacent Irish elite, but even despite performative hatred shown towards Sinn Féin by state and corporate media, the sting has been taken out of the fading Provos. 

The simple truth of the matter was summed up in Left Republican blog the Pensive Quill on the limitations of physical confrontation with the Nationalist Right.

The dividends of decades of provisional struggle is a Mary Lou Tanistry gradually melting away into the globalist milieu, with any radicalism departing the party and likely becoming the equivalent of Fianna Fáil a decade hence. While Left Republicans perpetuate the psyop that all opposing mass immigration must be loyalist apologists, Sinn Féin leadership literally bend the knee in taking audiences with Prince Charles and are slowly backing away from perennial opposition towards opposing the Special Criminal Court or assisting the PSNI. Dissident Republicans, if they are not engaged in overt criminality, have mishandled the armed struggle despite the gift of Brexit to the point that it’s at its lowest ebb since the end of Operation Harvest.

For the Nationalist Right the lesson is clear: it must not to get addicted to street demos. The ability to conduct patriotic demos publicly in Ireland has been proven, much to the surprise of this author, repeatedly again and again the past year, as the Left has crumbled and continues to crumble despite the artificial muscle shown Saturday.

Getting addicted to demo culture and the transient adrenaline rush it brings is the cardinal mistake made by Nationalist movements the world over ignoring the fact the real fight is in the communities and building the prerequisite infrastructure to support a populist movement and the culture war in general. 

The difference between the farcical English Defence League, which never amounted to more than loutish behavior, and Austria’s FPO or Spain’s Vox, which offer examples of how a professionalised authentic Right can attain power, is avoiding the easy mistakes like wasting time on the streets.

The aim of Antifascist activity is less to physically crush the Right but to drag it into the gutter and politically ghettoise it. As is becoming clearer, the ability of the populist Right in Ireland to increase its political purchase even without Oireachtas representation is snowballing, and may become the most important political story of this decade, especially with the Covid crisis leaving our society in tatters. Engaging in weekly violent street theatre is one way to exhaust this potential, and something most are prudent to avoid.

Ultimately, the momentum garnered the past year has made some degree of a radical Right impact on Irish political life inevitable this decade, whatever form it takes. In marshalling more street muscle, the Antifascist Left has reached its final limits, ironically assisting the Right due to the media coverage generated. While a cult of victimhood is naturally to be avoided, the quickest way to puncture Antifascist street violence is offering a mirror to the public as to how these thugs operate. What helped propel positive coverage ironically were journalists being on the literal same side of the police barricades to witness communist and hooligan violence first hand.

Through a variety of parties and initiatives, the political striking ability of the populist Right is gradually increasing and looks set to continue as the situation in this nation decays culturally, economically and politically. Saturday’s standoff and scenes of Antifascist violence were the last chance saloon for the Left, which despite the faux machismo, was unable to stop Nationalists holding the streets and handed a surprising media victory by their strong armed approach. However it is incumbent on the Right to aim their sights higher than a weekly brawl with the dregs of the Left.

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

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