Left Luggage

The socialist strategy site

Archive for the ‘Anti-fascism’ Category

Leftovers #13 – Debating anti-fascist strategy

Posted by Left Luggage on July 11, 2009

The debate about the lessons to be learned from the British National Party’s (BNP) victories in the European elections continues to loom large on the Left. We recently provided an analysis of trends and problems within mainstream anti-fascism, and others have been adding to the discussion. Unfortunately many are continuing to argue for the same ineffective strategies that have failed to halt the BNP’s rise up to now. Here’s a summary of what’s being said.

“Electoral fronts are not enough”

First up is Kofi Kyerewaa writing at The Commune on the notion of “no platform”. No doubt the tack of the article was inspired by the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) action outside the Palace of Westminster that saw BNP leader Nick Griffin’s press conference curtailed under a hail of eggs, placards and chants of “Nazi scum, off our streets”, along with the potential prosecution of the party by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Kyerewaa places the origin of “no platform” with National Union of Students’ policy of the early 1990s, a point those with a history in the militant anti-fascist movement might resist. He argues strongly that the Left should oppose attempts to encourage forms of state action against the BNP:

Electoral victories for the BNP shows that it isn’t working. Such adherence to the principle of being willing to physically fight but not ideologically fight the BNP is absurd when they are close to controlling councils and have elected members of the European Parliament. The BNP are not going to be banned. Neither should we clamour for it: fascist ideas are not defeated by state diktat.

Though the idea that the Left as a whole is currently willing to “physically fight” the far-right is rather odd (and it would be a ridiculous strategy if it were the case), we must take the point that we need to combat the far-right ideologically and in practice. At present although the Left is willing to do the former (contra what Kyerewaa suggests) the problem is that the Left is stymied by its strategies and priorities. Ideology is inherently related to action and it is on both fronts that the Left is weak. Kyerewaa ably stresses this point, and proposes some attractive solutions that have long been avoided:

When socialists are campaigning on bread and butter issues like council housing or unemployment, working class people are dealt out rhetoric and propagandistic activity rather than mutual aid and support. The hard-left’s love-hate affair with the Labour Party has crippled it in acting independently on delivering social solutions. The BNP have been growing steadily in councillors, a prelude of bigger electoral gains, because they canvass through door-knocking much more than the radical left. Electoral fronts are not enough: we need a political project that is long-term in thinking and is relentless in building a constituency in communities and not just in remote trade union bureaucrats’ offices. […]
-Keep reading>


Posted in Anti-fascism, Strategy, Working class | 2 Comments »

Where now for anti-fascism?

Posted by Left Luggage on July 5, 2009

Following the initial attempts by mainstream anti-fascists to spin the European election results, are there any indications that lessons have been learned from BNP’s victory?

There are differences in the strategic approaches of Searchlight and Unite Against Fascism, but in the past, mainstream anti-BNP campaigns have shared a number of features. What are these features, and are they still intact following the Euro elections?

1) “Denying them the respectability they crave.”

This element of the strategy is aimed at those who might be tempted to vote BNP – presumably those on low incomes, who hold hardline anti-immigration views and who are disenchanted with establishment politics. The goal is to put off potential BNP voters by creating the impression that the Party is “beyond the pale” of what is respectable. Elements of this strategy include emphasising the “Nazi” pedigree of certain BNP leaders, listing BNP members’ criminal convictions and arguing that they’re somehow trying to “take advantage” of the democratic process in order to undermine it. To the degree this tactic is successful, it has the useful side effect of legitimising arguments for legal restrictions on the BNP. If they are not a “normal” political party, there is no reason to extend to them the rights enjoyed by other parties. This argument for legal restrictions is often referred to as the “No Platform” argument (although militant anti-fascists might protest that “no platform” means something quite different).

In the case of UAF, all three elements of this strategy appear to have survivived the Euro election car crash in tact, judging from the interview SWP and UAF leader Martin Smith gave to Channel 4 News. Searchlight, however, seems to have abandoned this strategy on the grounds that the BNP has already achieved respectablity. The organisation’s founder, Nick Lowles, admitted:

We also have to accept that the political landscape has shifted. Searchlight comes from a proud tradition of No Platform, a belief that fascism should not be allowed to air its politics of hate publicly. We have always opposed legitimising fascism through public debate and where fascists try to incite hatred within communities through provocative marches and actions, we have backed mobilisations against them.

While I still adhere to this in principle I also believe that we have to accept a new reality. Firstly the BNP has MEPs and whether we like it or not Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons will appear more regularly on television. No platform agreements between political parties were already breaking down before the election, with only Labour holding to them, and this process is likely to quicken now.

Although Searchlight seem to have quietly shelved “No Platform”, there is no sign that UAF will do the same. The group’s main constituent organisation – the Socialist Workers’ Party – hinted at its intentions with a passage in its open letter to the Left:

The Nazis’ success will encourage those within the BNP urging a “return to the streets”.

This would mean marches targeting multiracial areas and increased racist attacks. We need to be ready to mobilise to stop that occurring.

The BNP’s “real aim” (so the SWP story goes) is not to win elections, but to use street violence to foment racial tension. Therefore, it should be treated as a Nazi criminal conspiracy rather than a political party. Tactics appropriate for dealing with a rival party (refuting your opponent’s arguments and trying to convince people of your own worldview and arguments) are pointless because they do nothing to stop the BNP achieving its real aims. Instead, our focus should be on the street-level activities of the far right. Its public marches should be robustly countered with “shows of force” that will demoralise the fascists. A glance at UAF’s “events” page shows how the group’s activities revolve almost entirely around demonstrations and rallies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Anti-fascism, Strategy | 10 Comments »

Leftovers #11

Posted by Left Luggage on June 21, 2009

Before this month’s European elections, the No2EU platform had been both written off as an undemocratic, nationalist stitch up and vaunted as laying the promising foundations for a new workers’ party. All of this became rather academic once the results came in and No2EU joined the long list of far left contenders to have received a derisory vote in national elections.

Gregor Gall produced a detailed analysis last week of the reasons for No2EU’s failure. In his view, these include the low level of understanding in Britain about the EU’s neoliberal role, the fact that No2EU chose to target the EU rather than the New Labour government, the absence of a British referendum on the EU (which would have polarised views and created an opportunity for anti-EU arguments) and the way the platform’s name was phrased to obscure any “class message”.

Given all this, there is a danger that, instead of advancing the struggle against new Labour and neoliberalism, No2EU actually sets it back.

A disappointing vote for a left-of-Labour project can dent the willingness of other forces to get involved in creating a united and progressive radical front because people’s confidence in the viability of such a project has been undermined.

As we reported previously, the disappointing performance of No2EU and the success of the BNP have lead to renewed calls for “unity” on the Left. Respect’s Salma Yaqoob has shown interest in a coalition with the Greens, while the Socialist Workers’ Party issued an “open letter to the Left” indicating the Party’s willingness to resurrect a Socialist Alliance-style initiative.

The debate (such as it is) on how to go about constructing an alliance has so far been narrow in scope, but there does seem to be some evidence of a divergence between those like Yaqoob, who aim to align themselves with liberal “progressives” and those who seek a coalition of the “hard Left”. (There does not so far appear to be much awareness of the need to address broader questions such as the way the Left is organised, its priorities and the best strategies for building support.)
-Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, Leftovers, New workers' party, Socialism, Strategy | Leave a Comment »

Amateur psephology and the rise of the far-right

Posted by Left Luggage on June 13, 2009

There have been a number of attempts to downplay the scale of the British National Party’s success in the Euro elections last week. One of the main arguments which has been put forward is that while the BNP won two Euro seats, it’s number of votes actually dropped, proving that people are not turning to the far-right.

There’s a possiblity here of reading the results for the narrative we hope find, rather than facing the true extent of the challenge for the Left and the shape of likely developments to come. It’s correct we need to avoid hysteria, but at the same time we need good analysis to form effective strategies. Despite the risk of engaging in amateur psephology, and the danger of getting some of our calculations wrong, we want to try to break down some of the figures to find out if BNP support is static or if the party is still on the march. So, let’s look at the two seats where the BNP won.

First, the North West. In 2004, the BNP won 134,958 votes (6.4%) out of 2,115,163 votes cast. This time around, the BNP attained 132,094 votes (8%) out of 1,651,825. So here we have a 1.6% increase in vote percentage but a slight drop in support of 2,864 votes between the two elections. However, this must be set against a decline in turnout of more than 21%! In this context, the BNP’s total number of votes dropped about 2%.

Second, Yorkshire and the Humber. In 2004, the BNP won 126,538 votes (8%) out of 1,573,201 votes cast. This time around, the BNP attained 120,139 votes (9.8%) out of 1,226,180. Here we have a similar picture. The BNP’s share of the vote is up 1.8% but its absolute number of votes is down by 6,399. But again the turnout fell by more than 22% while the BNP’s total number of votes fell by just over 5%. -Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, Class, European Union | 3 Comments »

Leftovers #10

Posted by Left Luggage on June 12, 2009

It has been a busy week in the Left blogosphere with the Euro elections, the meltdown of Labour and the BNP’s victory. Plenty of questions have been thrown up, but most central is the need for the Left to get its house in order and begin rebuilding. This was addressed in a call by the Socialist Workers Party for a new left-wing political initiative to combat the BNP and to resist cuts to services and jobs in the next few years as the Government begins to introduce measures to cut national debt. Although there are some problems with this letter, it’s worth highlighting three important points that the SWP recognises:

Those who campaigned against the BNP in the elections know that when they said to people, “Don’t vote Nazi” they were often then asked who people should vote for. […]

The European election results demonstrate that the left of Labour vote was small, fragmented and dispersed. […]

The SWP is all too aware of the differences and difficulties involved in constructing such an alternative. We do not believe we have all the answers or a perfect prescription for a left wing alternative.

Many people will immediately cite the experience of both the Socialist Alliance and Respect – the Unity Coalition as evidence of the immpossibility of such a union being formed. Clearly the severe problems these organisations encountered were not unconnected to the groups involved and their modes of operation. Louis Proyect makes the point well in a post on Socialist Unity, arguing that another “united front” style formation with different “tendencies” coexisting, or contending, would be disastrous. Instead he suggests the Left should leave aside questions of socialist dogma, become more democratic, and begin to address the immediate problems facing the working class:

-Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, Labour Party, Leftovers, New workers' party, Strategy | 5 Comments »

Labour and BNP – both got what they deserved

Posted by Left Luggage on June 11, 2009

While posts on its website are a rare phenomenon at best, the Independent Working Class Association consistently produces startling content. Considering the recent Euro election results, the IWCA argues along similar lines to Left Luggage that the BNP’s victory (which it undoubtedly was, despite attempts to minimize it extent) demonstrates conclusively that the Left now needs to adopt a “strategy of winning-over rather than side-lining the alienated working class voter”. In other words, the way forward is for a genuine political alternative from the Left to be built. And, as we have highlighted, the IWCA admits there are lessons to be learned from the BNP’s success:

Ideology aside, the BNP has established a benchmark for how smaller parties can advance. There are lessons to be learned there and it is futile to deny it.

The IWCA also points to Labour’s historic drubbing and the hollowing out of the party’s activist base as presenting a historic opportunity for the Left, but it is without organisational or ideological presence or coherence:

to say that progressive elements are ill-prepared to take advantage is to underestimate the scale of the disarray. Putting it bluntly, the working class and its allies are utterly adrift. […] For the first time in living memory there is no identifiable working class/left leadership visible anywhere in Britain.

Furthermore, the IWCA points to the failure of Left groups to have learned the lessons from the BNP’s early successes or the IWCA’s own pilot-schemes where the group had members. We recently highlighted some of the problems of Left sects focus on party-building at the expense of the working class. The IWCA say:
-Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, New workers' party, Socialism, Strategy | 3 Comments »

Lessons from the elections

Posted by Left Luggage on June 9, 2009

As predicted, the British National Party picked up its first seats in the European Parliament yesterday. With 6.2% of the vote, they won more than five times as much support as the best placed Left challenger. No2EU performed disasterously, and suffered the humiliation of getting 20,000 fewer votes than Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party. Bob Crow’s platform barely managed 1% of the vote.

Add to this another strong showing from UKIP and the surprise success of the English Democrats (who won the Doncaster mayoral election and polled at over 2% in the Euros), and this was a very bad election for the British Left. The combined UKIP, BNP and English Democrat vote was 25%, compared to just under 11% for the Greens, No2EU and the SLP.

There are, however, no limits to the capacity of liberals for denial over the failure of the campaign against the BNP. Both Andy Newman and Respect Party Leader Salma Yaqoob in part blame No2EU for taking votes from the Greens in the North West. Others, such as Searchlight’s Sonia Gable, chose to concentrate on the fact that the numerical vote for the BNP fell. Perhaps most ludicrously, blogger Sunny Hundal argues on The Guardian‘s site that the BNP’s success is actually a good thing because it allows us to “expose them in a different way”. He reassures us at the end of his piece:

Most people have enough contact with someone of an ethnic minority to know how stupid racism is. That personal knowledge will always override whatever the BNP says.

All of this is rather like pointing to the fact that 700 people survived the sinking of the Titanic while ignoring the 1,500 that drowned. -Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, Elections, Strategy | Leave a Comment »

Political field wide open to challengers

Posted by Left Luggage on June 4, 2009

Well, the votes for the Euro elections are in. Apparently we will learn of the results on Sunday. In the meantime, and away from the latest in the macabre spectacle from the living dead of Britain’s political classes, we came across this interesting report by the University of Manchester on support for the far-right.

What’s remarkable about this survey is the size of the sample: close to 200,000 people were interviewed by polling company Ipsos Mori. So it can be considered fairly reflective of attitudes among the British population. Apparently the study showed widespread support for many British National Party policies among the population, including “the re-imposition of the death penalty, a total halt to migration and large expansions in police powers.” However, the study found that the BNP suffers from an “image problem” insofar as when many people learn of a connection to the party, they immediately become more hostile to a policy. One of the researchers, Dr Rob Ford said:

The data shows that many Britons are in favour of the sort of draconian measures regularly proposed by the BNP, such as a complete halt to migration, the denial of benefits to migrants and even repatriation of settled migrants. It suggests the BNP could appeal to an electorate far larger than it currently wins over – perhaps as many as 15-20 per cent of voters. […]

Most British voters hold very negative views about the BNP, and one recent survey suggested that British voters become more reluctant to endorse a policy when they become aware of a BNP connection.

This would seem to give some support to the advocates of anti-fascist strategies that focus on “exposing the BNP” or “unmasking them as Nazis” etc., contrary to the approach we have advocated. Yet this was not the most significant part of the findings, because the research shows that even with this so-called “image problem” the BNP is theoretically capable of building support among as much as a fifth of the electorate in the future. Clearly to prevent the far-right reaching this level of support, we require other strategies such as filling the political vacuum left by Labour’s desertion of the working class. -Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, Strategy, Working class | 5 Comments »

Leftovers #8

Posted by Left Luggage on May 27, 2009

In this week’s Leftovers, we feature the latest developments around the RMT-backed No2EU platform, strategic differences around combatting the BNP, as well as some analysis on trade union militancy, the latest unofficial walkouts, and student occupations.

Plenty has been written about the forthcoming European elections on June 4, though much of it either regarding the failings of No2EU or the possibility of the BNP winning seats.

First, regarding No2EU, an interview with the platform’s Dave Hill (also of Socialist Resistance, which garnered a mention on Left Luggage last week) on Liam MacUaid’s blog has some interesting points and deals with some of the biggest questions that have been raised about No2EU. (It is from the Weekly Worker, however, so does contain some utterly barmy questions.) Regarding the platform’s attitude towards British capitalism and the accusation of Left nationalism, he says:

in my view the enemy is capitalism, based in both the European Union and in Britain. They are the same. What I have been arguing for in the meetings I’ve been involved in is workers’ internationalism with no illusions in the sanctity of British capital. We’re a movement seeking to replace capitalism with socialism – and I’m not just talking about neoliberalism, which is simply the current version of the class war from above.

Regarding immigration and the “no borders” position:

My view is that this is not a time to have completely open borders. On the other hand, I think that the current controls are racist and that people who are in this country should be treated with full human rights and have full workers’ rights. The conditions under which many refugees and asylum-seekers live are horrendous.

He also suggests the platform should become something more permanent rather than disbanding on June 5, as is its stated intention. He also advocated the idea of a “workers’ MP on a workers’ wage”, which is an advance on No2EU’s intention of not taking up seats in the European parliament if elected.
-Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, Elections, European Union, Leftovers, Unions, Workers' struggles | 1 Comment »

Poll suggests Labour will stagger on

Posted by Left Luggage on May 22, 2009

ICM pollAre these not the epoch-changing times for British politics that some have predicted?

A story on The Guardian website today is headlined “Quarter of voters to reject mainstream parties at EU elecions”, based on an ICM poll that puts the combined total (from those who expressed a preference) for Labour, Tories and Lib Dems at 72%. But reading beyond the headline to the data itself, what seems really extraordinary is that the poll indicates an increase in support for all three main parties compared with the 2004 European elections. The Tories are up +3% to 30%, Lib Dems have increased in support +3% to 18%, and even Labour has gained +1% to take the party to 24%. Given the depth of the public anger over the recent MPs expenses revelations this is most unexpected. While the Guardian report attempts to exaggerate the poll’s findings somewhat, it seems that the predicted meltdown of support for Labour is not quite upon us. This polls seem to indicate the possibility of its staggering on in the same grim fashion, rather than anything more terminal.

It also shows support for the British National Party is lower than many had expected, at only 1% according to the ICM figure, although this is likely to be an underestimate due to the reluctance of those polled to own up to supporting the BNP. At present this is down from the 5% it achieved in 2004. From the (admittedly small sample of) data gathered by ICM in another recent poll (pdf), support for the far right seems to be highest among men, those aged 18 to 24, and voters in social class C2 (skilled manual workers), showing again that the far-right’s support is strongest among working class people. They also seem to be stronger in the Midlands than the North or South. Clearly it is to be welcomed if the BNP do suffer a decline in support, but it should not distract from the Left’s task: building of working class political organisation to fill the vacuum the far-right is attempting to exploit. A poor BNP showing cannot be a charter for the “anyone but the BNP” strategies of mainstream anti-fascism to persist.

Other notable figures from the EU election poll are the increase in support for the Green Party, which is up +3% on its 2004 result at 9%, and the decline in stated support for UKIP, down -6% at 10%.

It’s worth being cautious about all these figures, not only because they produce counterintuitive results. The full data sets are not yet available on ICM’s website, but it seems certain that the sample will have included a large percentage of “don’t knows” that could radically alter this picture, or put a cross by the BNP on polling day.

One thing is certain, however: yet again the Left has let an opportunity slip. In the midst of both the largest economic and political crises in generations, there is no credible challenge from the Left whatsoever. The electoral platform No2EU doesn’t register even 1% in the poll, which should be unsurprising given how late in the day they launched their campaign. In any case, once again the Left is out of contention.

Posted in Anti-fascism, Elections, European Union, Labour Party, News | 2 Comments »

Leftovers #7

Posted by Left Luggage on May 20, 2009

There’s been a lot of discussion recently of the role of unions in any potential rebuilding of a leftwing political culture in the UK. The RMT’s entry into the political arena through the No2EU platform for the European elections has stimulated some heated debate, and a number of trade unionists are involved in the promotion of the People’s Charter campaign. The latter initiative was the subject of a piece by former Morning Star editor John Haylett on Socialist Unity last week. Haylett was at pains to stress that the Charter is designed to gain the support of the trade union movement:

The entire charter can be read on the website http://www.thepeoplescharter.com and it reads a little like the roll call of motions carried at any trade union conference, which is certainly no coincidence.

Those who drew up the charter wanted to base the call for action not on a collection of left policies worked out among a small group of like-minded comrades, which could then be presented to the labour movement like biblical tablets of stone as the one true path to salvation, but on decisions that have already been taken by trade unionists themselves.

As with the many other Charter campaigns in the last two decades, the demands are broad, social-democratic and calculated to appeal to disillusioned former Labour voters. Many of the Left will have doubts about the campaign’s strategy, revealed in the concluding passage of Haylett’s article:

There is no political difference between Brown and Milburn, Clarke, Blunkett or the rest of yesterday’s windbags.

There is, however, a political choice to be made between Brown’s steady-as-she-sinks approach, which guarantees a trouncing in next month’s Euro election and next year’s general election, and a unifying, campaigning document that could enthuse the mass of alienated previous Labour voters by attracting a million signatures and serving notice on the government that an alternative way exists and must be tried.

The task is to build a tidal wave of public opinion that will either force Labour to change direction and save its electoral bacon or lay the basis for a united labour movement fightback to frustrate the Tories and work to deliver a government that would put principles and people before private profit.

The aim – at least for Haylett – appears to be to use the Charter to lobby the Labour leadership in the hope that this will push the Party leftwards and save it from itself. Judging from the article, it appears that the campaign is concentrating at present on getting union leaders to sign the Charter, rather than -Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, Community, Labour Party, Leftovers, Unions, Workers' struggles | Leave a Comment »

Great Green hope?

Posted by Left Luggage on May 11, 2009

The Green Party are talking themselves up as the best hope to prevent the BNP gaining seats at next month’s Euro elections. Green candidate for the North West region Peter Cranie argues that it is Green votes, and not Labour votes, that will keep the far right out:

Anti-racist votes in the North West region for Labour, the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives will certainly count. No one can dispute this, as those parties will claim seven out of the eight regional seats. But it’s the eighth seat that Griffin is aiming for. Calling on everyone to once again get out and vote for red/yellow/blue simply won’t work on voters already disillusioned with the Westminster parties. But those few extra thousand votes could keep the Greens ahead of the BNP – and that is the scenario with the best chance of keeping Griffin out.

This argument is correct in the sense that if the Greens get more votes than the BNP, it is they and not the fascists who will claim the final seat for the North West region. However, is the Green Party convincing as an alternative to the BNP for those “disillusioned with the Westminster parties”? This would imply that Greens are capable of winning support in working class communities by providing progressive solutions to pressing social problems.

There has long been a tension within the Green Party, and within mainstream environmentalism more generally, between left and right. Although the Green Left is active and well organised, the right of the Party has traditionally dominated, with the consequence that many see the Greens as a middle class party out of touch with the concerns of working class people. One Green Left activist summed up the problem incisively in a post on one of our articles:

The problem the Green Party has is not chiefly its policy, but its class composition and image – these are what make it difficult for that Party to reach out in working class areas, not people already being aware of the intricacies of its policies – though some of these still need a lot of work. Chief amongst the issues that Greens need to address are the good points made by socialists about the effects of Green Taxes, restrictions and increased costs falling chiefly on the poorest.

A kind of Bloomsbury self-righteous middle/upper class hair shirtery is unfortunately still alive and well in some quarters of the Green Party, and I speak as someone with long experience of membership of that Party!

The point about green taxes reminds us of the debate over the introduction of London’s Congestion Charge in  2003. Allegations  from the right that the Charge was a “Poll Tax on wheels” can be taken with a pinch of salt, given that many of the denunciations came from those who previously idolised the inventor of the original Poll Tax. Nevertheless, there were some more thoughful analyses from those on the Left that accepted traffic congestion was a huge problem but pointed out the regressive nature of the Charge. These arguments are supported by research from 2008 that found 66% of respondents from social class DE thought the rise in Congestion Charge from £5 to £8 was “unfair”, compared to 64% from ABs. The figures appear all the more striking when we take into account that 79% of DE respondents to the same survey say they never had to pay the Charge, suggesting that they were opposed in principle.

Whether or not Greens support flat rate charges, there may be an entrenched perception that associates environmentalism with policies that call upon individuals of whatever social class to make sacrifices to protect the environment. This, in turn, may be due to what the poster cited above calls the “self-righteous middle/upper class hair shirtery” prevalent within the Green movement. Some environmentalists subscribe to a world view that sees environmental degradation as the result of a culture of materialism and greed, and places the responsibility for redressing this degradation on individuals who must make better, more moral choices.

It is certainly true that everyone has a personal responsibility to consider the environmental, as well as social and political, consequences of their actions. However, unless Greens stress that those who do most to destroy the environment – namely big businesses – must make the biggest sacrifices, their policies are unlikely to go down well in working class areas. More importantly, Greens need to facilitate community campaigns to protect and improve local, working class environments in order to build grassroots working class support for environmentalism.

Posted in Anti-fascism, Environmentalism, Strategy | 4 Comments »

Leftovers #5

Posted by Left Luggage on May 5, 2009

This week, the mainstream and Left media have spent of lot of time covering the exploits of the British National Party. In June, the far right have their best ever chance of gaining a seat in the European Parliament, and with it hundreds of thousands of euros to fund the BNP’s activities.

Gone are the days when the liberal left attempted to deal with the rise of the BNP solely by painting them as criminals, sociopaths and “Nazis”. This strategy – developed by groups like Searchlight and the Anti-Nazi League – is still sometimes deployed, but anti-fascists now generally agree that the causes of ultra right growth must also be addressed.

ANL founder and former New Labour minister Peter Hain is frank about the scale of the threat posed. He begins his Guardian article by warning: “Unless the rest of us get our act together, the British National party could easily win three seats – and quite possibly six or more – in June’s European elections.” By “the rest of us”, Hain seems to mean liberal and decent-minded members of society from across the political spectrum, who should come together to stop the poisonous minority of fascists leading sections of the unwitting public astray. Hain does depart from liberal orthodoxy by referring to some of the underlying social causes of the BNP’s rise:

With unemployment and job insecurity rising, some major construction sites appearing to bar local unionised labour, and affordable housing in short supply, there are classic conditions for the BNP’s racist and fascist politics to thrive.

However, later in the article he suggests that the campaign against the BNP should be orchestrated by the Labour Party, which is partly responsible for creating the lamentable social conditions Hain refers to.

Hain’s article is contradictory throughout. He mentions the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, when anti-fascists prevented Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts marching through London’s East End, as an example of how to fight the BNP, but ignores the fact -Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, Leftovers, Strategy | 10 Comments »