September 01, 2009

Which way for anti-fascism?

Red Pepper magazine is currently running a debate on the future of anti-fascism, one we'd like to bring to the Lancaster Unity community. With Red Pepper's agreement we will be republishing three articles over the next few days, each with a different take on the way forward. Read on...

Anti-fascism isn’t working

The British National Party’s continuing electoral advances have propelled the party onto the national stage and initiated a debate about why it is achieving historically unprecedented results for the far right in Britain. What is driving its recent successes, how might it be stopped and what is the role of the left in this effort? This debate is essentially over strategy: about our relation to anti-fascism and what it ought to be in today’s conditions. There is one question that is not being asked, though: is ‘anti-fascism’ the answer to the BNP? Keiron Farrow says it isn’t

The statistics are telling. The BNP now has 60 local councillors and a similar number of parish councillors. By comparison, previous fascist groups had managed three councillors in total in the previous 80 years (this is without counting the seats won and subsequently lost by the BNP). The party has one member on the London Assembly, and now two MEPs in Europe.

Its overall vote has risen in successive local, general and European elections. At locals it has risen to an average of around 15 per cent, while in the European elections the party polled 943,598 votes nationally, 6.2 per cent of the total (up 1.3 per cent on 2004). At Westminster level there are three constituencies where the aggregate ward votes at the 2008 local elections put it in first place.

The BNP had 10,000 members at the end of 2007 – a figure that is likely to have risen since – providing it with a large and expanding activist base. It is not, by national standards, a huge organisation; it is a ‘large small party’ – at best the sixth biggest in the country. Nor, despite its advances, does it pose any immediate threat of gaining serious power. The real danger lies elsewhere, as will be outlined later.

Nonetheless, if the BNP’s absolute vote is giving pause for concern, it is its trajectory that is truly worrying. The European elections saw its national vote rise by almost a fifth against a background of falling turnout. The small falls in its absolute vote in some areas, including the North West and Yorkshire and Humber, where it won its seats, are misleading as they ignore the lower turnout and factors such as the impact of moving from an all-postal ballot to a traditional election. To exaggerate the significance of these absolute figures risks obscuring the party’s continued increase in its vote nationwide and breakthrough successes in county council level.

Failed approaches

Contemporary anti-fascism is represented by two main groups, with broadly similar approaches. First, there is Hope not Hate, an umbrella group for unions and individuals within the broad labour movement but open to all. This group was formed by the Searchlight Network. Second, Unite Against Fascism (UAF), an organisation set up by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and National Assembly Against Racism, which also has some union and other backing. For the SWP, UAF is clearly designed to continue in a similar vein to the Anti-Nazi League, and is not shy of drawing on the ANL’s reputation and experience.

Both groups concentrate their activities on two main approaches: first, exposing the criminal records, past activities and political beliefs of leading BNP members, candidates and activists; and second, calling on people not to ‘vote Nazi’. Instead electors are urged to vote anyone but BNP (with slight differences in how this is interpreted by each group), in an attempt to raise turnout and block the BNP electorally. This approach formed the basis of both groups’ failed interventions into the London mayoral and European elections.

What is wrong with these two approaches? The most obvious objection is that they don’t work. They don’t work today and they haven’t worked for some time. This isn’t to say that they haven’t worked in the past, just that they cannot form the central core of an anti-BNP strategy in today’s conditions.

Exposing the BNP’s various criminal and political records has had no discernible impact. In a country in which more than 40 per cent of all men can expect to have some form of criminal conviction during their lifetime, pointing out to voters in the sort of areas the BNP targets that a candidate has a conviction for assault or theft is likely to have a limited impact. If this were not the case we would today be seeing declining BNP votes and councillors not being returned post-exposure. But we’re not. We’re seeing a steadily rising vote and increasing re-elections.

This tactic has been pursued over the past decade on a scale never seen before. Every section of the media has got in on the game, every candidate has been hammering home their BNP opponents’ convictions. If this strategy was ever to make an impact it would have done so in these almost ideal conditions; instead the far right vote continues to rise. We have to conclude that this approach is ineffective.

Exposing past political views – for instance, BNP leader Nick Griffin’s association with Holocaust denial in the 1990s and earlier – has suffered a similar fate. Griffin has proved adept at moderating his most extreme opinions for the benefit of the media. He will now acknowledge the Holocaust as a historical ‘fact’ and, as he put it to the Observer in 2002, he claims that the only reason ‘people like me’ are not always ‘polite and reasonable’ on the subject is ‘frustration with how it is used to prevent any genuine debate on questions to do with immigration, ethnicity and the cultural survival of the western nations’.

In doing so, he can effectively neutralise the issue. If, despite his denial of Holocaust denial, an interviewer presses on regardless, it permits Griffin to turn the tables and ask if he or she wants to talk about politics. The same thing happens on a larger scale electorally

As with the exposure of BNP candidates’ criminal convictions, if this approach of bringing up the death camps and Nazi Germany was going to have any impact it would have done so in the especially favourable conditions of recent fevered mass media scrutiny of the BNP. This approach did find success in the three or four decades after the second world war, when a real folk memory of the sacrifices made by millions was still alive. Today, in different conditions, it cannot, has not and will not make the same inroads on BNP support.

Appealing to the status quo

These, though, are merely tactical problems, bred by past success and turned into conservative substitutes for effective intervention. Far more damaging on a strategic level is the second approach, calling on the electorate to ‘vote anyone but BNP’.

This position is a de facto appeal to support the status quo. It effectively calls on people to support the social conditions that have given rise to their radical discontent – to support the very same parties that have introduced and are pledged to maintain those conditions. In the bluntest terms, people will simply not vote for the parties they now blame for their situation and no amount of cajoling or mentions of the Holocaust will change that. The collapse in the Labour vote over the past few years makes this patently clear. The ‘anyone but BNP’ approach helps ensure that the conditions that are producing the BNP are going to remain in place. So we’re back at square one. And it allows the BNP to make all the running as the anti-establishment party during a once-in-a-lifetime time opportunity for anti-establishment parties to make a real breakthrough.

The way to undercut this is to work towards dealing with the root causes of the BNP support: in particular, the political abandonment of much of the working class in pursuit of the narrow section of the electorate classified as ‘swing voters’. Parties have privileged the interests of a section of the electorate that rarely shares the same interests as ‘core’ Labour voters in working-class areas. And this has led to the setting of parts of the same communities at each other’s throats in the fight for resources under the name of multiculturalism; the closing down of schools and hospitals; wages being driven down; debt; sub-standard housing; rising rents; under-funded services – all the conditions of our social life being attacked and commercialised by a class that has shown itself incapable, in the most basic terms, of being able to run the system for the benefit of all. This is what needs to be challenged as a priority, not people’s reactions to those planned and deliberate failures known as neoliberalism.

And this is where pro-status quo anti-fascism is falling down and demonstrating both a misunderstanding of where we are today and a real lack of political courage. A call to ‘vote to stop the BNP’ is, in most areas where it is raised, a barely-disguised call to vote Labour. That is why the unions are funding the millions of leaflets delivered by Hope Not Hate. (We can dismiss the suggestion that this slogan is also a call to vote Green. The BNP and Greens are not competing for the same vote. Nor need we dwell on those areas where the slogan translates into voting Tory or Lib Dem beyond imagining how an implied call to ‘Vote Thatcher to stop the National Front!’ would have been met.) An anti-fascism tied to support for the parties that have imposed the conditions people are protesting against is a failing anti-fascism. It is sacrificing all credibility by joining hands with the very establishment that people are so fed up with.

The combined party membership of mainstream parties has dropped from more than three million in the 1960s to barely half a million today and it is still falling. In conditions where large sections of the electorate are abandoning all the mainstream parties, for anti-fascists not to be supporting or initiating local projects that are prepared to confront rather than support the Labour Party is to politically abandon those communities to the BNP.

No platform?

Other aspects of current anti-fascist activism should also be questioned. This includes the widespread policy of ‘no platform for fascists’. Following the egging of Nick Griffin on College Green, at Westminster, the day after his election as an MEP, it has become evident that – beyond the confines of those who are already politically opposed to the BNP – ‘no platform’ has very little popular support.

In a country where the myths of democracy and freedom have a great hold over the public political imagination, a ‘no platform’ approach to the BNP is dangerous in a number of ways. First, via the functioning of that democratic myth, it associates the left with authoritarianism, violence and telling people what they can and cannot hear or read – exactly the sort of high-handed arrogance that is leading many people to reject the mainstream parties. Second, it acts as cover and support for top-down or state-led manoeuvres such as the closure of the BNP’s bank accounts by Barclays, which led to a Palestinian solidarity account being closed as well, or the plans by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to investigate the party’s constitution and membership rules.

How easy would it be to turn these initiatives against us? Already there are calls for a Berufsverbot for public sector workers, banning BNP members from those professions. This plays directly into the hands of the establishment. Of course, a community-led and supported refusal to allow the BNP to operate in their area is a very different matter, but we’re currently seeing a top-down version of ‘no platform’ substituted for this effective grass-roots one.

On a related note, Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) is an attempt to continue the cultural fight of the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism by holding music festivals and similar events. Again, questions need to be asked. The problem is that today they simply attract those who are already against the BNP. In the past they were real arenas of conflict, battlegrounds for the hearts of young people. Today that context no longer exists and the far right has no hold over the young – it lost that battle years ago. Energy and resources channelled into LMHR would be better off directed at helping to deal with the problems working-class communities face as part and parcel of squeezing the BNP.

Missing the real danger

What all the current anti-fascist approaches have in common is that they miss the real danger. This doesn’t lie in the BNP taking power, in the possibility of concentration camps or any of the other scare stories we’ve been hearing recently. It lies more immediately in the far right colonising the anti-mainstream vote and developing party loyalty, thereby blocking the development of an independent working-class politics capable of defending our conditions and challenging neoliberalism.

The BNP’s politics is being normalised, with the consequent racialisation of social issues and a massive shift to the right. Each step they take forwards knocks the ‘left’ backwards. This represents an immense defeat for the left – one that could take us decades to recover from and leave us as outsiders (even more so than today) in working-class communities, the very places that we all recognise as being key to real social change. That is what will happen unless the job of defending the needs of those communities is seriously taken on and our counter-productive, outdated ‘anti-fascism’ is discarded.

I offer a few positive suggestions towards a new approach.

1 Community unions

We could form ‘community unions’, unconnected to Labour, possibly funded by trade unions but with organisational independence assured, that would work directly on helping to meet the needs of those politically abandoned working-class communities where conditions are deteriorating by the day. These would be based around the self-identified needs and plans of those communities – which can only pit them head-to-head against the BNP and the political mainstream.

The types of small victories that can be won on this terrain should be viewed not only as being worthwhile in themselves, but also as contributing to the re-emergence of community confidence in political self-assertion, the necessary first steps towards achieving further-reaching change. There are already existing groups engaged in this sort of practical activity, such as the London Coalition Against Poverty, Haringey Solidarity and the Oxford and Islington Working Class Associations (see Red Pepper Oct/Nov 2007).

The need for these to be open membership union-type organisations rather than party membership-type groups is a simple practical one. People will join unions at work as they recognise collective needs that exist over and above the heads of political disagreements, and the same is true of community needs. And once there is widespread identification (even passive) of the needs of an area/workplace with the existence of a union it becomes very hard to shift; that identification becomes a power in itself. Parties are too narrow to play this role under today’s conditions – they exist on a different level – but there is no reason why they cannot play a role within these broader open groups.

2 Focus on policy

We should develop the ‘expose them’ model into one that, instead of revealing ineffective details about individuals, concentrates on why their polices will not deal with the social problems driving people into their arms. If we cannot make this clear to those already intensely concerned with these issues then our propaganda is failing and is at best talking to those who would never vote BNP anyway. This will require a direct challenge to Searchlight/UAF and other mainstream anti-fascists as they continue to empty their publications of all but the most inane type of content criticised above. This, of course, needs to be linked to the activity of the ‘community union’ type groups mentioned above.

3 Abandon Labour

Searchlight need to abandon their default pro-Labour position and use their existing networks and resources to get behind local campaigns, actively challenging the conditions that are breeding support for the far right. (This seems unlikely to happen.)

4 End the marches

Stop the marches, labelling, shouting, and so on. Marching into an area that you do not know and have no continuing interest in and shouting what’s right for that area is alienating and counter-productive. People do not like being told what’s best for them and will kick back against or simply ignore this sort of activity.

All of this can be performed without capitulating to racism and without writing off vast swathes of the population. It has to be.

With thanks to Red Pepper


Anonymous said...

How long's this guy been an antifascist? 10 minutes?

He sounds like he thinks the BNP will take over next week and wants us to do everthing that'll help them do it.

Get it right, old pal. We BEAT the fuckers in June. Our strategy WORKED. They got 2%, less than that, more than last time but only because Labour MP's had their hands in the sweetie jar.

Who fucked up big time was Labour, not antis, either UAF or Searchlight.

M. Barton said...

"...pointing out to voters in the sort of areas the BNP targets that a candidate has a conviction for assault or theft is likely to have a limited impact. If this were not the case we would today be seeing...councillors not being returned post-exposure...We’re seeing...increasing re-elections."

Sorry, I don't believe that and without seeing evidence for it, I won't. The BNP rarely gets a second bite at the same cherry, partly because its coucillors are inept and partly because research and publicity from that research causes voters to lose interest in them.

The first commenter is right - Labour is fucking up and it's THAT that is driving the BNP. If Labour returned to its roots in the working class the BNP would wither and die in a very short space of time.

Mike said...

"Stop the marches, labelling, shouting, and so on. Marching into an area that you do not know and have no continuing interest in and shouting what’s right for that area is alienating and counter-productive. People do not like being told what’s best for them and will kick back against or simply ignore this sort of activity."

I'd be willing to bet this guy doesn't live in Codnor, where the BNP has dumped itself on the local community without having any interest in it or caring whether it welcomes the party. Judging by the residents who applauded the marchers to the RWB, we were a welcome sight. It would, in my opinion, be counter-productive in the extreme to stop marching against the BNP because people will look and say "where's the opposition?".

Anonymous said...

A well written balanced article

Sue said...

"We could form ‘community unions’, unconnected to Labour, possibly funded by trade unions but with organisational independence assured"

It would need to be unconnected to every Organisation connected to Labour, including Unions.

Why not ask Cameron for funding?

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with what the first three readers said but

"Searchlight need to abandon their default pro-Labour position and use their existing networks and resources to get behind local campaigns, actively challenging the conditions that are breeding support for the far right."

Searchlight does get behind local campaigns as us who have regularly been involved in them know. Also I'm sure the last time I looked Searchlight was asking people to vote for anyone except the BNP and even if that's not their default position what the hell has that got to do with Red Pepper? People and groups support whoever they support. All we anti-fascists need to know is that they're against the BNP, NF etc. Personally I'd rather work with someone who backed Labour (as detestable as they are) than the SWP because they're a lot worse.

M. Lynch said...

Whilst I agree that marches etc have to stop, the criticisms of HnH are completely wrong and based on sectarian nonsense.

There's only one how in town, and this is defeatism. I think proper antifascsim is working very well

Joe Chapman said...

I'm not too keen on this article, too many assumptions and generalisations. I think scrapping entire tactics because there appears to be no visible benefit is dangerous. We have no way of really knowing if all the exposing limits votes for the BNP (well, actually some statistical analysis can help but not that much). How do we know that if we had not have done what we have done over the past 20 years the BNP would not have made any more gains than it has?

Nice and thought provoking but it's business as usual for me.

Anonymous said...

I think the article broadly gets it right.

UK Fightback said...

This article is frankly so stupid that it should never have been posted by Lancaster Unity. For whatever reason/s, Red Pepper seem to have ignored one very important fact - 35% voted in the Euro 2009 election and 6% of them voted BNP. 6% of 35% = 2% of the overall population, meaning that 98% of the population still oppose the BNP.

Yes BNP support is growing and that is very alarming. Yes of course new strategies should be debated and (where appropriate) pursued. However, to suggest that existing strategies have "failed", and (even worse) to imply they should be abandoned, because strategies that previously worked at 99% efficiency are now "only" working at 98% efficiency is logically and strategically risible.

Most Anti-Fascists are simply not in a position to wave a magic wand and conjure up council housing in deprived areas, or to solve the deprivation that's plagued cities like Oldham and Bradford for nearly 200 years, but yes of course we should pursue "root cause" solutions, but these differing strategies are NOT mutually exclusive and should be pursued simulteously...

Wes said...

I agree changes needs to be made, but the writter seems to think that everything that has been done has had little or no effect. Who can honestly say what would have happened to the BNP vote without the actions of the UAF, Hope not Hate etc.

For myself the writter makes a great point in the vote anybody but the BNP message that was sent out. I was always uneasy with it. The time has come that we should form a political alliance/party, and in PR elections actually stand to attract those voters who want to vote anti-BNP but wont vote the other main parties. I realise there is little chance of us actually winning an election, but the added publicity we would get as a movment make it worth the effort,and dont forget we would be diluting the BNPs vote with every vote we got.

The writter mentioned demos and marches, whilst I agree in part I do not want to see the end of them full stop - but a change in the way they are held/managed.

I enjoyed the sight of Griffin being forced from Parliament Green by the protest, but afterwards thought how this makes us look. Let me just say that I dont believe any of our protests are planned to be militant or violent in nature, but due to the high level of feelings/provocation they often end this way. This makes us look little better than the BNP to a lot of the public who only form an opinion of us from the minute or so they see of us on the news. So when they see the running battles of Birmingham etc they form the wrong image of us, one it will be hard to change.

Griffin also uses, as the writter pointed out any type of force used agasint him to rally his own people, but most importantly to appeal to the British publics sense of fair play.

So what to do? Simple protest protest protest - but do not allow our protests to go beyond a protest - no chasing his car, no throwing eggs, no attempts to climb over fences, no violent confrontations. In the publics eye these actions put us in the same category as the May Day protestors, and most of the people we want to reach out to will not emphasise with a group they see like this. Whilst they may share our broad aims, they will not join us, nor actively support us.

The future can be a good one, we have already shown that people are willing and want to stand upto the BNP. We have to now change the way we work, the time has come for theevolution of the movment.

marginalised anti-fascist said...

In West London Labour were putting out leaflets on the eve of the Euro poll telling voters that if they wanted to keep out the BNP they had to vote Labour.

The inference was that if you are a disillusioned Labour supporter who is inclined to vote Green, Lib Dem, No2EU or even UKIP as a protest then you shouldn't bother but should stay at home instead.

I'm not sure whether anything similar went out in Yorksire or Lancashire, but if it did there is a very real chance that Labour actually contributed to the BNP gaining seats. At the very least the intent was there.

There is something decidedly illogical about dedicated anti-fascists giving their support to a party which is prepared to use the presence of the BNP to its own short-term electoral advantage rather than place the cause of defeating fascism above all else.

I don't entirely agree with the Red Pepper article and have nothing but respect and admiration for the good work of LU, HnH and Searchlight, but in my view some anti-fascists need to take a good long look at the situation as it stands.

Who they vote for privately is their own business, but to support Labour organisationally when its commitment to anti-fascism is clearly secondary to its own selfish interest undermines everything we fight for.

AA said...

The BNP's fake psychic spoonbender conman John Dutton is obviously helping keep Cyclops in champagne, and yet, the One Eyed Monster has the audacity to keep on churning out the fucking cheeky begging letters from his gullable lackeys (members) despite this secret stream of income.

Gri££in must be seriously raking it in. No wander the BNP's webmasters demanded a share of the clickable profits, which of course Gri££in refused.

The BNP is only about one stingy baqckstabbing weasel of a man, and he is an extemely wealthy pig-farmer fron Welshpool (who may also be on the payroll of MI5).

Fake politicians, fake causes, fake laywers, fake clergy, fake designer goods, fake psychics, what does the BNP have to offer the public that isn't fucking fake, for shit's sake?

martin said...

this article is excellent and highlights where anti fascism has been getting things very wrong, but the comments below indicate even more the utterly myopia and delusion of the UAF/HnH. UK fighback notes only 6% of 35% voted BNP and this is only 2% therefore 89% are NOT BNP. While this is true this is by a country mile the best a fascist party has ever done in the UK and with no sign they are tiring. But i do not believe in the long term the BNP are a threat. There damage is in diverting attention and deflecting from the real problems in society and diving those who those problems affect. The vast energy that was put into UAF/HnH activity over the year wouod have reaped far greater rewards, both for communities and in terms of driving back the BNP IF that energy had been put into actually doing useful constructive creative community work. BTW get into Urban75 if you wish to debate this instead of just commenting

Benny said...

Most Northern support for the BNP didn't come from Oldham or Bradford but from new places to race hate, Barnsley, Doncaster and Wigan, small all-white towns that have lost their major industries, whrere few people know one who isn't white.

These small monocultural towns have been overlooked by Labour.

Barbara said...

To maf at 11.10:
I campaigned side-by-side with stalwart Labour supporters in Norfolk, and I have to say they were scrupulous in separating their own political agenda from that of the HOPE not hate/anti-BNP agenda in every way.
That attitude made it possible for supporters of other parties (and none) to come and canvass together, and it was wonderful for people of different political persuasions to be united against the BNP in this way.
I'm sorry for your experience which was different, but that was not my experience at all.

Anonymous said...

This article is a recipe for doing sweet F A.

Leaving aside their effectiveness, public activities of all kinds are needed to maintian the impetus and cohesion of the antifascist alliance.

If we do nothing, we'll simply disintegrate and dissappear.

I agree that the Labour Party in its present form is part of the problem. The $64000 question is how do we make it part of the solution.

marginalised anti-fascist said...

@ Barbara

I envy you your experience, this is how anti-fascism ought to be. No chance of that happening here unfortunately.

Denise said...

@ UK fight back

"This article is frankly so stupid that it should never have been posted by Lancaster Unity. For whatever reason/s, Red Pepper seem to have ignored one very important fact - 35% voted in the Euro 2009 election and 6% of them voted BNP. 6% of 35% = 2% of the overall population, meaning that 98% of the population still oppose the BNP."

This isn't Red Pepper's view, but that of the author - though it is one I have heard from "Nu anti-fascists" of late.

As for the article appearing here, the qualifying words at the head of the article were "... we will be republishing three articles over the next few days, each with a different take on the way forward."

I agree with those who think the author to be astonishingly naive, and certainly with the first visitor comment that the failure in June was Labour's (or mostly Labour's). The expenses scandal without doubt turned real failure on the part of the BNP into apparent success.

Let the series run its course (BNP court cases allowing), and should you continue to feel at odds with what is said then you are free to compose your own article and to send it to us for consideration.

Anonymous said...

Red Pepper seem to have ignored one very important fact - 35% voted in the Euro 2009 election and 6% of them voted BNP. 6% of 35% = 2% of the overall population, meaning that 98% of the population still oppose the BNP.

No more than the vast majority opposed any single party. The BNP's potential voter either couldn't be bothered/were steered towards UKIP as a safer protest (deliberately by the media and in my opinion was the most effective campaign).

The worry is, as the article points out, the tricks will wear off or even suddenly fail i.e. UKIP can only muster votes in an EU election. We need to target the BNP voter and explain why their vote is wasted. Well done for some new thinking.

marginalised anti-fascist said...

The bottom line is that people's allegiances to the major political parties are breaking down and have been for decades, although in recent years that process has accelerated and Labour seems to have been the most ready victim.

Regrettably many anti-fascists refuse to see the proverbial elephant in the living room, which is the fact that self-organised communities have become the most effective barrier to fascism gaining a foothold. No, the "ordinary Joes" (or Joannes) may not be ideologically pure or easy to control but they are the people who vote and when they reject the BNP, the BNP stays rejected.

It is unreasonable to expect Labour or the other political parties to assist in their own demise by encouraging community self-help, so those of us who are anti-fascists before party activists must do it without them. This need not preclude us from campaigning alongside Labour nor any party that is supportive, but we should do so with anti-fascism ultimately setting the agenda rather than party interest.

Cumbria Antifascist said...

The article is brilliant. Take a look over at nation-of-duncan.wordpress, he's also go this article up. I think everyone is getting too defensive about the criticism this article poses and really needs to take a step back and look at things pragmatically. Take a view from the working class for those of you who aren't and then re-read the article, it's very good.

Anonymous said...

It would need to be unconnected to every Organisation connected to Labour, including Unions.

Why not ask Cameron for funding?

Because he only signed up the the UAF to get it off his back that's why. He's trying to find a way to sever links.

Phil Dickens said...

There are some fallacies in the article, but there are also some important points in there. To dismiss it, or for that matter any and all criticism of UAF / HnH / Searchlight, etc, as sectarianism is the equaivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and saying "la la la I'm not listening."

The fact is that the Unions have become too reformist and tied up with political power, whilst Labour have utterly abandoned their working class roots. In the void this has created, the BNP are capitalising, and simply saying "the BNP are fascist" or other slogans isn't going to do much.

By peddling nationalist myths, and at that the same ones as the media offer, they're sowing disunity and division within the working class. This makes it harder to organise and unite against real threats like the rollback of public services, the abandonment of the poorest, the growing power of capital over labour, etc. Anti-fascists need to be consistently active in communities, not only in exposing these myths for what they are but also as part of the fight against the real problems in our society.

As long as we fail to do that, then not only are we failing to properly combat fascism, but we're letting the ruling party off the hook for the mess that they've got us into and their betrayal of ordinary people.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn't realise that Red Pepper was still being published.

UK Fightback said...

Without going into personal details (and just in case anyone was wondering) I personally am not "Nu Anti-Fascist" as such, but successful Anti-Fascist campaigning will and must attract new "recruits". As the rise of the BNP pushes Anti-Fascism further up the national agenda, then (predictably) some left-wing groups will seek to discredit other Anti-Fascists and their strategies, as rival factions compete for ideological domination of an increasingly important Anti-Fascist movement - personally I wish they wouldn't!

The Red Pepper article does make a FEW good points, but mostly bad points. To reiterate, the primary claim that the "Don't vote BNP" strategy has "failed" is factually false, logically incoherent, and is defeatist and divisive as a result, for the simple fact that 98% of the population still don't vote BNP. For that reason alone this claim should never have survived editorial scrutiny by Lancaster Unity, and (nice try "Cumbria Antifascist", but) this claim is still factually inaccurate even if you look at it from a "working-class" point of view!

The subsidiary claim that exposing the criminality and racism at the heart of the BNP doesn't work is also false because while many people may have brushes with the law over issues like minor traffic offences, most working-class people still do not attack immigrants, abuse children or plant nail-bombs, and most working-class people are still disgusted by the BNP's association with Nazism...

UK Fightback said...

... The claim that "No Platform" policies are counter-productive is true insofar as the BNP now have major platforms on-line and on TV whether UAF etc like it or not, true insofar as UAF etc refusing to debate the BNP in arenas where the BNP already has platforms undermines the credibility and debating skills of Anti-Fascists, and true insofar as left-wing authoritarianism is a PR asset for the BNP, but that still doesn't mean that UAF etc shouldn't do anything but discourage institutions and organisations from offering MORE platforms to the BNP.

Taking all that into account, what we need to do is to focus our energies on strategies that do still work, making sure that they are sufficiently resourced and well-applied to work MORE efficiently... alongside devising new adaptations and strategies as well.

So, here's a suggestion! People who are good at engaging with popular new media (as the BNP themselves are) and at publicising BNP racism and criminality should do that. People who have the confidence to engage with "ordinary" voters on the doorstep should do that. People who have the courage to physically oppose racist attackers should do that. People who are good at building grass-roots campaigns that re-fill the vacuums exploited by the BNP should do that; etc, etc. And maybe we can stop trying to undermine each other's efforts with factually inaccurate arguments and try to encourage each other a bit more instead?!

Anonymous said...

"Get it right, old pal. We BEAT the fuckers in June. Our strategy WORKED. They got 2%"

They also got 2 MEPs. If they had got none then you may be bale to claim what you do.

2 MEPs is the icing on British nazism's cake (cack>). Its taken 70years, from Mosley through the Front to the BNP for them to hoodwink the public at sucha level but it has happened.

And they did that against a mssive anti campaign. Think again anonymous friend

Anonymous said...

Joe Chapman:-
"How do we know that if we had not have done what we have done over the past 20 years the BNP would not have made any more gains than it has?

but it's business as usual for me."

That's a bit blinkered and the let's do what we've been doing for the last 20 years part worries me, I think we (you) are stuck in a rut, perversely enough i can imagine Tyndall saying much the same as you did about "business as usual" when he was challanged by Griffin for leadership.

There is nothing wrong with new ideas, new personalities and a new regime, the BNP got one and they took off.

It's matural as we age to stick with what we are familiar and become resentful of outside criticism, oh dear again just as Tyndall was.

Is the penny starting to drop? We NEED to change like the BNP realised it had to.

Anonymous said...

I am broadly supportive of the SearchLight/HNH campaign over other campaigns such as the UAF. The problem with the SL/HNH campaign though are their clear links to the thoroughly compromised and discredited Labour Party. When somebody says to them, "I agree with you for the most part but who do I vote for then?", the reply, "anybody but the BNP" does raise a definite problem as the establishment parties are a major reason that the BNP are doing fairly well in the first place.

Sure, it would be great if a progressive alternative did exist that we could all say vote for but one doesn't (RESPECT was a busted flush and I can't see the Greens attracting support in blighted working class areas). The issues with the UAF are obvious. They are largely influenced by the SWP, who still cling to the shrill, 60's style form of protest and see the ANL of the 70's as their template. However, politics have changed since then and the internet means that the fascists no longer have to have street presence in order to distribute their propaganda. A few clicks of the mouse and you have reams of fascist propaganda on the screen in front of you. Politics doesn't take much effort these days. That said I think that anti-Facsists are largely doing a good job. We should beat ourselves up too much.

The best scenario in the next few years is a Labour party in opposition that will ditch Blairism and reconnect with their former constituencies. The incoming Tory government look like instituting a vicious round of spending cuts that may prompt resistance from organised labour. Politics could "return to normal" so to speak. In this terrain the BNP could find it difficult to operate as their race-based obsessions would largely fall on stony ground.

The alternative is that the BNP go on to replace the LibDems as Britain's third party by 2015.

Anonymous said...

"Is the penny starting to drop? We NEED to change like the BNP realised it had to."

What do you suggest we do then?

Denise said...

A lot of nonsense is being talked here, some of it clearly coming from BNP Griffinites concerned to perpetuate the illusion that Griffin = Success.

In the best conditions ever the BNP gained 1.7%. A tiny percentage, and that scraped only because voters stayed at home in their millions.

Since then 2.7% in Norwich North and huge vote losses in four local by-elections where their performance can be measured against previous outings have given us a truer perspective.

It's true, we did beat them in July. Such success as they had came courtesy of others.

Anonymous said...

"A lot of nonsense is being talked here....... In the best conditions ever the BNP gained 1.7%. It's true, we did beat them in July. Such success as they had came courtesy of others."

I predicted the BNP would win no seats, some may recall and i was convinced of that as their votes had been going down for some time before, therefore I do not see the gain of 2 BNP seats as a "win" for us. Nor were the conditions for the BNP "the best ever", the expense fall out favoured UKIP, the BNP despite that still took seats. A hollow victory then for us as it opens up new opportunities for the BNP including TV and media appearances which wont help no platfrom.

marginalised anti-fascist said...

"It's true, we did beat them in July. Such success as they had came courtesy of others."

Which was my point entirely.

Anonymous said...

"I predicted the BNP would win no seats, some may recall and i was convinced of that as their votes had been going down for some time before, therefore I do not see the gain of 2 BNP seats as a "win" for us. Nor were the conditions for the BNP "the best ever", the expense fall out favoured UKIP, the BNP despite that still took seats. A hollow victory then for us as it opens up new opportunities for the BNP including TV and media appearances which wont help no platfrom."

So who the eff are you, straight from from Griffin central peddling the crap they're putting out to the members.

FACT: even the BNP thought this was their best chance ever.

FACT: their vote hardly rose

FACT: the antifacist campaigns worked like a dream

Come back after the General Election with your BS.

Jewish Lad said...

I disagree with Anonymous's assertion that Red Pepper's article in any way represents "new" thinking - Antifa have been peddling the exact same "analysis" for years in their never-ending quest to find fault with their ideological opponents, and that analysis is no less ridiculous just because it happens to have been re-hashed by Red Pepper. To respond to the postings by Cumbria Antifascist, pointing out that Red Pepper's analysis is logically and factually wrong IS looking at things "pragmatically" and is NOT therefore being "defensive", and to defend the flaws in your own argument on grounds of social class (as opposed to whether the arguments are correct or not) is grasping at straws and sounds like something out of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" (2 + 2 = 5 because we're PROLETARIAN, Comrade).

As to the original article, its few attempts at constructive proposals, eg - about how "we COULD form community unions" are absolutely fantastic! When the article's author has the first community union up, running, and successfully rescuing working people in the area where he lives from the evil clutches of the BNP, perhaps he could drop us a line...

While I agree that the BNP has prospered PARTLY because Nick Griffin cosmetically "modernised" the BNP, BNP growth has been mainly achieved through luck rather than judgement - the main source of BNP luck being the gift of the 9.11 attacks and mostly 7.7 bombings, even before corrupt Labour Party politicans handed the BNP their 2 European Parliamentary seats on a flippin' plate. Obviously new ideas are good WHERE THEY ARE ACTUALLY NEEDED, but mis-representing the fact that 98% of Brits oppose the BNP as some sort of "failure" for Anti-Fascist methodology is definitely not the best way to start a constructive debate about how to improve our campaigns against the BNP.

Anonymous said...

"Business as usual", sounds a bit complacent.

Anonymous said...

"FACT: the antifacist campaigns worked like a dream"

Brons and Gri££in sitting in Europe is more like a nightmare

Anonymous said...

"FACT: even the BNP thought this was their best chance ever."

FACT: For the first time ever they have won seats in Europe.

How is that a "success" for us?

Anonymous said...

I am wondering why no-one has mentioned or commented on the electoral voting system used during the 'EU Election'?

The proportional representation voting system and voter apathy is what elected Griffin and Brons. Not a failure of Anti-Fascist tactics.

In the 2010 UK general election the BNP will be an abject failure using the first past the post system.

Anonymous said...

Q: "For the first time ever they (the BNP) have won seats in Europe. How is that a "success" for us?"

A: Because the BNP circulated 27 MILLION LEAFLETS and their net vote only increased a tiny bit!

Obviously the Anti-Fascist movement cannot control the Labour MPs whose corruption enabled Griffin and Brons to get elected, but the Anti-Fascist movement can oppose Fascist propaganda and did so very successfully

Green Gordon said...

What is this 98% rub? That's not how maths works. just because 98% did not vote BNP does not mean they don't support them. I've studied the British Electoral Survey for 2005. My recollection is that party support in advance of an election (i.e. as a percentage) is roughly the same as the party support among the people who actually vote. What is all this backslapping. They got two bloody MEPs. Sorry, I'm not a fan of the UAF's tactics. They're swappie splitters and their tactics fail again and again. More Councillors, an AM, 2 MEPs, even if the BNP do embarassingly compared with their own predictions, they should not be enjoying any level of success, and their success should not be increasing! It's not the percents that matter, it's the number of bloody representatives!

Anonymous said...

My experience of a 15 years of anti-fascist campaigning does not support dropping current tactics as suggested by the Red pepper article.
Most recently the debate around "no platform" was strongly debated when Griffin was invited to debate "Freedom of speech" at the Oxford Union in 2007, along with nazi historian David Irving. The BNP wanted to set up BNP cells as in Universities as funded societies and the debate was a major push to overturn this and establish BNP groups in Universities.
Around a thousand people backed the UAF called protest and the headline of the Independant the next day was "Uprising against fascism", as opposed to the headline that Griffin sought giving him the credibility of having debated in Oxford, and having overturned the no platform position held in Oxford. We defended it and the BNP have made no further gains in establishing funded societies in universities.
The local Liberal MP defended the debate with Griffin and Irving and went on to criticise the police for not preventing protesters sucessfully disrupting the "debate". he ended up siding with the nzis against the diversity of Oxford outside - from council and car workers, to muslim school students, jewish and islamic societies and many other groups.
We labelled the BNP fascists then and in the 2009 Euro elections. The vote in the South East region grew by 50%, but where we mounted UAF leafletting campaigns the BNP vote was diminished. In Oxford we circulated 12,000 aflets and the BNP vote dropped to 2.4%.
We did similar with the NF in local elections in Bicester several years ago and they gave up never securing any significant vote over two years despite a rise in racist rhetoric around a proposed asylum centre - because people won't vote nazi if they know it is nazis that are standing.
The BNP had initialy infiltrated the racist NIMBY cmpaign but melted awy when confronted.
When the nazis or their cover organisations like the EDL march we should confront them. Ultimately they seek power by controlling the streets. The turn to electorlism is only a temporary phase while they seek to turn voters into organisers and street fighters.
To say we should give up the streets to fascists by not marching against them is suicide.
The NF tried to intimidate Reading Pride today. We could have stayed at home and let them - we didn't, instead we mobilised as many as we could to defend pride. As "outsiders" we were welcomed and gained support for further anti-fascist work.