This week the Student Assembly almost unanimously voted in favour of reaffirming our no platform policy for fascist organisations. I’d like to explain exactly what this means, to debunk some common myths, and why it is so important.
What does “No Platform” mean?
In essence this policy means that the Students’ Union will not allow any activity by fascist organisations to take place on campus at Goldsmiths. This ranges from setting up fascist societies to inviting fascists to speak or debate on campus.
Why is this important?
We don’t “no platform” racists/sexists/homophobes since these views stem from ignorance, which should be confronted and challenged. However, fascism is something completely different. Fascism doesn’t stem from ignorance, it is a carefully thought out political ideology which fundamentally rests on violence to terrorise ethnic minorities, religious groups, and LGBT people.
It is not a normal political ideology which accepts the democratic process, but instead uses democracy to destroy it. The examples are all too numerous, but everywhere fascism has got to power, democracy has always been the first victim.
Therefore, allowing fascist organisations the legitimacy to speak or organise on our campus is to indirectly help their growth. We have a responsibility to defend all students, and black, ethnic, religious and LGBT groups have a right to study in an environment free of danger to their wellbeing.
Isn’t this denying free speech?
In essence it is. In the same way that laws deny us complete freedom so as to preserve freedoms for everyone, we deny fascists freedom of speech since their goal is to destroy it. Is this contradictory? Not really, it is the foundation of freedom.
For example, we don’t have the freedom to murder, since that would infringe on people’s right to live. Equally, students have a right to study free from fear, and since fascism exists to deny this freedom it is imperative that we stand against it.
We don’t “no platform” fascists because we disagree with their views. We “no platform” them because they pose a physical threat to students at Goldsmiths.
How are fascists a threat?
The English Defence League organise marches, mainly in predominately Muslim areas of the UK. When they march they terrorise the local Asian populations, in Stoke, Luton, Dudley and Leicester, over the past year, Asian shops, religious places, and people have been physically attacked on EDL marches.
EDL members in Dudley and London have put pigs’ heads outside Mosques, reminiscent of how the National Front used to throw bacon on Jewish graves in the 1970s.
Aren’t Universities a place for diverse views?
As stated above, the threat organisations like the BNP and EDL pose is a physical one, not an intellectual one. Fascist groups in Rome just a few years ago attempted to storm a meeting on campus with iron bars. These same fascist groups regularly loiter outside the gay district of Rome, ready to attack people leaving bars in the area. Intellectual debate cannot take place in an environment where people feel physically threatened for who they are.
Won’t this make victims out of fascists?
The key for fascist groups such as the EDL and BNP is to look legitimate, and to some extent respectable. This strategy has worked wonders for fascists in Europe, where in places like France, Italy and Austria, they actually hold serious power within government. Appearing on mainstream media, speaking on university campuses, and winning local elections are all important ways of gaining such legitimacy; looking like victims is not one of them. This would assume people felt sorry for Hitler when he began losing the war, or Mussolini when he was deposed from Italy. Some people may disagree with the tactic of no platform, but the idea that upholding this policy will then drive these same people into the arms of the fascists is simply not true.
Is it legal?
The National Union of Students hold a no platform policy, Goldsmiths SU has held it for over three years now. It has never been challenged on a legal basis, and never will be as no platform breaks no laws.
We are hoping to host a debate on no platform in the new year, so watch this space and be part of the debate!
James Haywood at Goldsmiths Students’ Union
Many thanks to NewsHound for the heads-up