What are anti-fascists scared of?
I’ve done some work, perhaps not as much as I should, with Unite Against Fascism over the years. I fully support their obvious key demand; that the BNP should be resisted from entering power at any level. Most of those within UAF would, I hope, like to speak of the inalienable right to free speech, and yes, its true the BNP oppose this right for a substantial proportion of the UK population, if not all of us. But are they really going about this in the right way?
The problem comes when we get down to tactics. These are often not debated in any real way, due to the hierarchical nature of the organisation, and perhaps also the breadth of the coalition they’ve built. I’d like to point to a few things that are currently concerning me, and may even begin to prevent me working with UAF in the future.That the BNP has gotten a lot smarter in recent years is not up for question. They’re tactics have changed dramatically, and they now pull off an air of respectability. They are now prepared to quote Orwell in their defence and see Universities as a key area for growth. UAF still seems to work on a very peasant-focused approach, no offence to peasants.
Many groups claim to have a “No Platform” policy. What does this mean? In theory it means that the group does not allow the BNP to use it in anyway to gain credibility. We don’t invite them to speak their mind on the NHS while discussing Blair’s plans for privatisation. We don’t include them in our coalitions, because of the positive press this would give them.
When someone expresses an opinion we don’t like, surely the correct response of to argue back, to prove ourselves more right, rather than to show we possess more might. There seems to be a wider problem going on here. Somehow unity in the left has come to mean over-simplification and the crushing of free debate. If our only proof of greatness against them is to have shouted loudest, what does that say about us? We all know a fascist has a brain the size of a pea, so why do we fear the open debate? We could so easily discredit them in such a situation.
Instead, anti-fascists are gaining a reputation for just standing and screaming at the BNP, looking like small children on temper tantrums, while the BNP walks taller and argues more philosophically. We cannot change society in this way, and if we don’t change society, then the BNP will keep gaining more power.
Is it right to stand outside a courtroom and demand a judge find someone guilty of hate crimes? The judge in one of the recent cases at Leeds Combined Courts didn’t agree, and accused those present of politicising the court process and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Did he not perhaps have a point? While its good to use the courts to establish real justice, and any crime, such as those of stockpiling chemical weapons, should be tried with vigour, but not for ideological reasons. What he has done is morally wrong regardless.
At one of the Leeds court protests (perhaps more, but I don’t recall seeing it more than once) the BNP held up a banner with a quote from George Orwell about banning political parties. Perhaps the BNP had a point. The “means to an ends”, “you don’t get an omelette without breaking eggs” attitudes of the old left are rearing their ugly heads. If we’re prepared to ban one political party, are we really sure we don’t want to ban any more? Where do we draw the line? Isn’t this the most dangerous precedent to set?
I have voted to defend the right of Hizbut Tahrir to attend NUS conference, but not because I agree with them. I do it because I believe that we can overcome without being overcome. If we banned the BNP, would we ban Hizbut as well, and thus push muslims in Britain even further out of society?
I think what I’m trying to get at here is the idea that the Left still hasn’t exorcised a few of the demons of Stalinism. Often ‘we’ still seek to change the world by force, knowing full well this has never worked for our benefit. ‘We’ still put universal economic redistribution above universal human rights and have yet to fully understand the need for political inclusion. Above all, amidst the shouts of “thin end of the wedge” at cuts and privatisation, we forget that we too could enact the thin end of wedges equally, if not more, scary than those the Tories managed in the 1980’s.
Last year a lecturer in Leeds attempted to publish work claiming that black people had lower IQ’s than white people. The response was a rush to the barricades. Even I could probably write a counter-paper. Lets see: IQ can be developed through childhood, black families lack financial and historical means to increase IQ of their children generation on generation, if they were given that means, they’d have the same IQ as the rest of us. If I wasn’t skint, I’d offer a research grant for someone to prove my hypothesis.
Surely we know the guy is talking nonsense. Surely we believe in our ability to prove him wrong? Surely we believe that we could win on his terms, so why don’t we get on with researching the evidence till its all dead and buried? Academic freedom is one of the highest attainments of our society, and yet the left believes it can over-ride it. What do they think the British public is? Stupid?