September 04, 2009

A winning formula

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...

Paul Meszaros of Hope not Hate says that Keiron Farrow’s analysis of the BNP threat is complacent and self-indulgent

We recognise that there needs to be a debate concerning the efficacy of different approaches to undermining support for the far right if we are to refine our intervention. Unfortunately, Keiron Farrow offers little in terms of a positive way forward. His piece casually runs together the Hope not Hate (HNH) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) campaigns, two organisations he says have ‘broadly similar approaches’, and in doing so blatantly confuses their methods and approaches.

The first important thing to say regarding HNH is that it is a constantly evolving campaign. Because we are not stuck with any old dogma we are able to gauge what works, refine those elements that are helpful and move away from tactics that do not work. For a long period, especially during the 1990s, anti-fascism was something of a minority interest, with a few committed groups and individuals either spying on or beating the far right. This approach might be described as proportional as the BNP offered no political threat in those days, although they posed a physical threat to those they targeted. This changed in the early years of this decade as the BNP for a number of reasons was able, under Nick Griffin’s leadership, to present itself increasingly as a political solution to the problems faced in certain communities.

Since that time we have seen a growth in the far-right vote that is without precedent. During this period the anti-fascist movement has had to learn how to deal with a party that knows how to win elections. We have also had to deal with an organisation that has moved out of its traditional strongholds and is able to gather a sizeable vote almost anywhere. The BNP vote can now longer be dismissed as a protest; rather, the BNP has become the first choice for a significant number of voters.

Certainly, 10 or 15 years ago, the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight would highlight the criminal convictions of far-right activists and candidates. However, this tactic is used far more sparingly these days as we know it has a limited appeal. Rather what we have seen is a growing realisation and understanding that anti-fascism has to address the political, social and economic issues that are giving rise to the far right.

At HNH we know that most people who vote BNP are not Nazis, and we also know that there is a whole host of issues on which they feel ignored. Even here, though, there is an ongoing debate about what these social issues are. We are told often that it revolves around job and housing insecurity. These clearly play a part, but it is also about other less tangible discontents. We are sometimes told that the question is about identity and in particular English and working-class identities ... but are we really being told, in a polite way, that the big issue is immigration? The BNP has managed to give racial ideology and, in particular, fear of immigration a growing political outlet. It is tapping into large reservoirs of racism that have for too long gone unchallenged.

For HNH, taking on the BNP is primarily about working with those communities under threat from the BNP. We have seen in some of our exemplary work, such as in Keighley, that grass-roots campaigning where local people take ownership of the fight against the BNP can be absolutely effective in defeating them. Keighley went from being a BNP ‘capital’ in 2004 to having no BNP organisation or even candidates by 2007. This was achieved by some old-fashioned proper community development work with residents on the threatened estate. Ironically, the leaders of that particular community came from the mums at the local Sure Start, which suggest to me that it is vital to defend what working-class communities have gained what has been gained over recent years, something Farrow neglects to mention. It is through this careful and patient work that the broad-based alliances necessary to defeat the BNP can be built.

There is also the point that third-party campaigning is limited in what it can achieve. For the BNP to lose an election, another party has to win. Hope not Hate is not an appendage of the Labour Party, but clearly it is often the case that Labour that needs to get more votes than the BNP for the BNP to lose! We disagree entirely with the claim that the BNP can never fulfil its programme and that its real crime is delaying the rise of independent working-class opposition. This seems both complacent and self-indulgent. It almost seems that Farrow believes that voting Labour is a worse crime than voting BNP. What is astonishing is that our hard-left critics have not managed to make any headway over the past few years; their derisory election scores are indicative of how irrelevant they are to the working class of which they speak so much and understand so little.

Farrow is right to suggest that the battle for hearts and minds continues on the estates devoid of the far left. But if at the end of this the working people reject the hate of the BNP and vote Labour it will be called a victory. The election of Griffin and Brons as MEPs is devastating, but we must bear in mind that there was no massive surge to the BNP. Rather, the Labour vote collapsed. It is worth remarking, however, that in Bradford, for example, where HNH is long established, the BNP vote went down while the Labour vote went up. Intelligent community-based campaigning exposes the BNP for what it is, as well as providing a defence of civil society.

Paul Meszaros, Hope Not Hate Yorkshirehq[at]

With thanks to Red Pepper


Anonymous said...

Good reply and I agree with most of it - HNH though is still too close to Labour though - A lot of ordinary people, who are unused to the political nuances in 'LeftLand', could still see HNH as just a 'vote Labour' campaign.

"He who pays the piper...."

a somebody said...

One thing's for sure, Cyclops won't remain leader of the BNP for long as most members who use Stormfront won't belong to a multiracial BNP any more than Satanists taking up the cross, lol

It's slippery slope time for Old Cyclops as if any of the uncle toms or anti-fash spies who join the bnp happen to be discriminated against in the slightest way, including failure to be considered for jobs within the BNP, the party will be sued for millions just like any other fully commercial organisation would be.

Gri££in is only about money, and this once and for all proves it.

I, like anyone else, loathe the BNP for everything it stands for, but I cannot for the life of me know why Gri££in gave up so easily without a fight, which does indeed suggest he doesn't, and never did give a monkeys about the party which he leads, the BNP.

Gri££in's an egotistical racist twat and a nasty piece of work, but he's only in politics to get rich quick on the back of the rank and file BNP members.

All those things the so-called rebels said about the BNP seem to be coming true.

rossy said...

If and when the BNP take in non-white members into their organisation, it will have to be squeaky clean every step of the way, or face huge lawsuits for sexual as well as racial discrimination, which suggests its days are limited.

When non-whites were allowed to join South Africa's National Party (who brought apartheid into being), it didn't take many months before the party was rendered worthless as a vehicle of white supemacy.

Without funding from the likes of Don Black, the BNP will lose all funding AND all purpose leading to the rapid disintegration of the party.

The black and Asian "party observers" will wreck the party from within, and if allied BNP thugs try to intimidate them, the police will be in like a shot leading to mass arrests, prohibitive fines, and the final bancrupting of the party.

The BNP are finished, but we must be vigilant to ensure the hardcore neo-Nazis don't vanish into the ether, or straight into the ranks of the EDL Casuals.

? said...

I'd like to surmise whgat's running through child-abusing Hitler-loving neo-Nazi Mark Collett's head right now, as Gri££in sells the party down the river to protect his own personal fortune!

Anonymous said...

I hate Cyclops but don't want to see him assasinated by the majority of violent extremists within his own party, as its hard to believe the death threats aren't already in the post.

Copelands are already putting pen to paper, and plotting violent revenge.

It's to be hoped Griffin has already cut a deal with Special Branch to ensure his long term safety from his former friends who he has betrayed.

Red Flag said...

People could well see (Anon) HnH as being a vote Labour campaign but for the same reason if he Tories can beat the BNP in a seat, HnH could quite easily be seen as a Vote Tory campaign.

Meszaros is spot on. Having read the UAF saying one must read a document written by Trotsky in some ungodly year is exactly why the left cannot fill any vaccum that the Labour Party has created.

And yet, it is still HnH that tackles the BNP in their actual heartlands.

Brummie said...

HnH actually participated in meetings with the policy unit at Conservative Central Office ahead of the European elections. How does that make them pro-Labour?

Admittedly where the threat from the BNP are strongest is where HnH do work with Labour and the center-left. Though if it were the Tories that were best placed to beat the fash in certain areas, I'm sure HnH would work with them bolstering up the anti-BNP vote.

UK Fightback said...

Keiron Farrow's original article completely ignored obvious and very hard evidence that, far from "not" working, "traditional" Anti-Fascist methods are still extremely effective at discouraging 98% of British people from voting BNP. In some cases new ideas are needed to engage the growing number of BNP supporters who are not reached by traditional campaigning methods, but recommending that Anti-Fascists throw the baby out with the bath-water is foolish and dangerous, as in many cases traditional methods still work but haven't succeeded for the somewhat less sensational reason that they are simply under-resourced.

I reiterate there is nothing new about Keiron Farrow's central analysis, as for instance (much as I respect the bravery of militant Anti-Fascists) for years the militant Antifa England* group have promoted the view that because liberal Anti-Fascism has not halted slow growth in the BNP, liberal Anti-Fascism has therefore "failed" (the irony being that by the exact same logic militant Anti-Fascism has also failed). Hope not Hate themselves are certainly not beyond criticism (either in the past or now) but Paul Meszaros is right to say that "what is astonishing is that (Hope not Hate's) hard-left critics have not managed to make any headway over the past few years", describing the hard left as "irrelevant" to the working class. The reason for drawing attention to the logical fallacies mentioned above is to suggest that the hard left has become irrelevant to working people because of its preference for ideological dogma over logic and hard facts.

Some critics of liberal Anti-Fascism seem more motivated by a desire to make their own groups, ideologies and publications seem important, than they are by any real desire to face hard facts, and (without going into details) some readers may know the BNP used a scam called "Real AFA" to try to exacerbate internal left-wing conflict over "ownership" of Anti-Fascism. Anti-Fascism is not best served by journalistic sensationalism, and Anti-Fascism is far too important to allow it to become victim to left-wing turf wars. Everyone talks the talk when it comes to being "united" against Fascism, but not all Anti-Fascists walk the walk. In order to be achieve the practical impact that comes from being genuinely united, left-wing Anti-Fascists need to ditch their historic grudges and ideological baggage and be prepared to at least tolerate other liberal, leftist and even right-wing Anti-Fascists who don't share their views.

(*as distinct from the broader world-wide Antifa movement)

Anonymous said...

I think commentators have missed the point. Gri££in tried to get the BNP to drop its whites only policy a few years back. He obviously had his reasons then and I think the Court action has given him the perfect excuse to revisit that policy. That he chooses to jump ship now before being forced means he won't get bogged down in a costly defence that he ultimately cannot win? He must have calculated that the wilder fringe will leave (rather than stay and try and oust him) but perhaps he wants that?