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. […]