Below is a short piece written by anti Fascist campaigner David Landau in which he notes that the whilst there have been some progress in the struggle against the BNP, the fascist tide has not been turned and the anti fascist movement faces challenges after the BNP gained there first seat on the London assembly.
Uniting the Anti-Fascists?
By Dave Landau
Much hard work, some of it good, some of it not so good, was done in
campaigning against the fascists. But the fascist tide has not been turned. Many
reasons some of which are to do with anti-fascists the campaigns. Problems:
Sectarianism Some of activity was done by independent anti-fascist
anti-racist groups, but much was done under the rival umbrellas of Unite Against
Fascism and Hope Not Hate/Together. Clearly there is a problem in being both
united and together! In some parts of the country people are happy link up with
both umbrella’s. In places like London however, differences are stronger.
South East Region of the TUC (SERTUC) played the role of a super-umbrella
supporting initiatives of both UAF and Together.
The absurdity of this particular split to me is that there are no substantial
differences – much is at the level of talking up differences or painting the
other in a version that does not reflect the truth. Now I am not for unity at
any price. If, for example, an anti-fascist campaign adopted the Beverley
Hughes/New Labour position that you need stronger immigration controls because
immigration feeds the BNP – yes there are people in the anti-fascist movement
(in my own local campaign) who are otherwise good in many other ways who think
this is the way to take the ground from the fascists – then I don’t think that
I could be part of it. But these are not the kinds of differences that
divide the umbrellas (see later on immigration). So one thing that I want to fight
for is to end this silly conflict.
Popular Frontism Both UAF and Together are into engaging with the Tories,
having them on the platform, whilst in some cases not having Left List or
Respect on the platform (not a great loss perhaps but the principle of the thing
when they are standing in the election but you have the Tories up there), an
emphasis on celebrity endorsements, using the phrases like ‘Defending the Britain
We Love’ (I had to swallow hard to give that leaflet out). Now I am not
dogmatic about who you involve – I was very pleased that the Bishop of Barking put
out a statement asking people to vote against the BNP, some would call this
popular frontism but I don’t care. Its when you don’t criticize the mainstream
whose policies have created the despair that feeds fascism and whose racism
maintains the framework in which the fascists operate.
We need a movement based on trades unions, grass roots communities and those
under attack from the fascists; the kind of genuine anti-fascist United Front
which stopped the fascists in Cable Street in 1936 and in Lewisham in 1977.
United Fronts are frayed at the edges A theoretical pause. United Fronts
are very dialectical creatures. Whilst we can have a strict definition of the
United Front as an Aristotelean category, going through a series of campaigns
and movements saying ‘this one is a united front whilst thats a popular front,
and those lot are bloody 3rd period sectarians’, the reality doesn’t work like
this. On the one (right) hand our partners in a united front will be class
collaborationists or at least their leadership is. Sometimes the social
democrats, even ‘left social democrats’, are running the local state. So in order to
form an alliance with them, we have enter popular front type formations and
try and make them into united fronts. On the other (left) hand defeating
fascism is conditional on a fight for a socialist alternative. We can argue that
this is the job of the (non-existent) workers’ party which should not foist its
program on a UF. However, a united front in action, can be the embodiment
of that socialist alternative – workers controlling the streets or linking with
other struggles which when added together are all about a socialist
Immigration lies at the heart of fascist propaganda now and for always. So
the challenge to the legitimacy of illegality, them and us, national and
racial identities and so forth is fundamental to defeating their ideas. Now, it
would not generally be right to try and impose a position of no immigration
controls on a united front campaign. A mass campaign will necessarily embrace people
who have differing positions on this question (although a Nottingham
Anti-Fascist Conference agreed to sponsor the 29th March Conference against
immigration controls which is great). On the other hand it is down to the socialists and
other anti-racist campaigners to take these arguments up. In particular we
must fight against these campaigns adopting other positions on immigration such
as advocating ‘non-racist fair controls’. It was noticable that Strangers
Into Citizens were given a prominent position at the Love Music Hate Racism
Carnival. No One is Illegal, No Borders or Campaign Against Immigration Controls
were not invited to speak or to lead the march – no surprise there then.
SERTUC and Searchlight also work closely with Strangers….
Local Roots One of the big problems when UAF was set up was that it expected
local campaigns to simply fall into line. This was one of the reasons for
the acrimony and whey the Hope Not Hate/Together network coalesced around
Searchlight. UAF put out national material it expected everybody to use. More
recently Hope Not Hate has caught the UAF disease and groups tend to not produce
their own material but instead distribute material produced centrally by
Searchlight. Central material is a useful resource for local groups but we need to
produce stuff which addresses what the BNP is saying locally and relates our
campaign to local issues like a hospital closure or whatever. If the money that
the umbrellas both raise from TUs and other benefactors could be made
available to local groups to produce their material that would be very handy. Not
all of us have a local Trades Council and some of them are broke anyway.
So What Do We Want? The anti-fascist movement needs to re-group, needs to
relate to new forces. In London we face a big challenge with them having a seat
on the London Assembly. In places like Stoke-on-Trent there are similar
challenges. SERTUC or equivalents elsewhere to call a conference of all
anti-fascists to knock heads together but also discuss the POLITICS of the way forward.
Then some genuine differences of substance will come out but will hopefully
be debated constructively.
When Do We Want It? As soon as bloody possible.
PS Love Music Hate Racism have called a demo tomorrow night (Tuesday)
6pm at City Hall, the first London Assembly meeting with BNP member Barnbrook. Don’t know
who else is supporting it but we should be.