Friday, 12 June 2009

Anti-fascism with egg on its face

Let's be clear about Tuesday's 'action' by the SWP-dominated Unite Against Fascism that involved throwing egg at Nick Griffin in front of the world's media: it was a shambles, an embarrassment, completely counter-productive and no way of defeating fascism.

Aggression generally doesn't go down well with the public, particularly a seemingly unprovoked attack. After all, SWP egg-throwing tactics did not defeat John Major in the 1992 election, when his image got a massive boost as he stood on his soapbox braving the taunts and eggs as he fought the election on the streets - in the end, securing more votes than any government in history. Griffin has made great capital out of the SWP/UAF 'action', achieving top billing on television news with his barely concealed smug delight; the press conference may never have made the news otherwise.

These sort of egg-throwing antics come with the territory as far as politicians are concerned - Mandelson, for instance, recently shrugged off a green custard attack. Most take it in their stride, although the idea that in an age of global terrorism a British government minister can be attacked in the street is worrying. So the histrionics by Julian Leppert about an "attack on democracy itself" make the BNP look like a bunch of wimps.

But what does this public temper tantrum achieve and what does it reveal about the UAF? The SWP central committee has, as always, determined the course of action and will not be swayed. Judging by the ineloquent reaction of the amoeba-brained bizarre-looking Martin Smith on Newsnight and his pathetic attack on Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes accusing him of being responsible for the BNP's infamous 1993 Millwall by-election win, they are too arrogant and stupid to consider non-violent, rational debate. It is worthwhile noting that Smith has a reputation for reacting to criticism with violence - notably his violent attack on a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain a couple of years ago.

Simon Hughes made the point that "the protest was a failure because it enabled BNP members to portray themselves as free speech victims – it played right into their hands." Labour MP Ann Cryer, who Griffin failed to beat in the 2005 general election, told the Independent: "At one stage of the campaign. I had to phone a couple of groups to ask them not to come up because I knew the kind of protests they [carry out] would only give the BNP the headlines that it craves."

But one suspects that the SWP doesn't really want to defeat the BNP. It has found something to latch its relentless yet floundering recruitment campaign onto and found a tactic that wins them headlines. Why should they give a damn about the consequences, particularly when it has considerable financial largesse and Establishment clout behind it?

Yes, it was galling to see the BNP win two seats in the European Parliament. But it could have been far worse and it is worth getting things into perspective. The result was far fewer than the five or six the BNP had mooted in the weeks before the election and their number of votes actually fell! In the council elections, they won three seats in the hundreds up for election, none of which were in Essex. So the rise in the BNP vote has stalled and the party has not managed to repeat the performance of the Greens in 1989 or UKIP in 2004 and 2009. In terms of percentage of the vote, it remains in low single figures. The campaign on doorsteps and the media was relatively successful. The BNP could not fully exploit the "perfect storm" and when the recession is over, by this time next year the storm clouds will be clearing and the rationale for the BNP will start to diminish.

The worst thing that could happen now is for the juvenile antics of SWP student politics to monopolise anti-fascist opposition just when there is light at the end of the tunnel. And intimidation and threats of violence will backfire. Not only is it unethical, it tells the nearly 950,000 people who voted for that party that they could also face the same fate if they dare utter a word of support for the BNP. That's a hell of a lot of people to alienate. There's nothing that will consolidate more support behind the fascists than a bunch of amateur Trotskyists going apeshit. In fact, the BNP is loving it, especially since it has a security detail comprised of veteran football hooligans and gangsters that could smash the living daylights out of a bunch of snotty Trots who couldn't punch their way out of a paper bag.

In truth, the SWP/UAF mafia hunger for a re-enactment of the Battle of Cable Street rather than a defeat of fascism. It is a sexual fantasy for many of these armchair cheer-leaders for Hamas and Hezbollah. They want to ensure that there is no way many intelligent opponents of fascism can occur by imposing a "no-platform" doctrine on others - to the extent that these anti-fascists find themselves accused of being bourgeois krypto-Nazis.

It was a disagreement on tactics between the SWP and Searchlight that led to the latter being forced out of the UAF for supposedly being Zionist, pandering to racism and its objection to the SWP's insistence on the concept of black leadership in anti-fascism. Writing in the Independent, Jerome Taylor explains: "Activists from UAF are generally more willing to resort to direct action tactics, while members of Searchlight, which specialises in infiltrating the BNP and publishing exposés of its activities in the group's magazine, are wary of doing anything that hands the BNP extra publicity."

While the BNP likes to conflate the UAF with Searchlight, it is really rather more afraid of the latter's community-oriented, grassroots approach that puts more emphasis on intelligence-gathering than grandstanding. But the SWP are happy to throw that away in their drive to use the UAF as a vehicle for left-wing sectarian recruitment.

The Alliance for Workers Liberty - a left-wing group that is highly critical of the SWP - has noted the lack of internal democracy in the UAF. Pete Radcliff wrote: "For a long time sponsorship of Unite Against Fascism has been the token gesture of the trade union movement. No questions are asked about how decisions are taken in UAF, how democratic local groups are, how open they are to those the SWP doesn’t like and what alliances the SWP make on behalf of UAF ... Of course those actively sought to be a part and to front that alliance are chosen by the SWP and sometimes this causes reaction from trade union sponsors ... [T]he policy of UAF remains to ignore anti-government dissent on low wage employment, welfare services and the issues behind the racism that the BNP cashes in on. UAF does not attempt to build ongoing democratic campaigns in the areas where the BNP exist. In Nottingham, as probably in most places, one-off, haphazard leafleting is announced. Nothing is said about who has organised it. In reality it is arranged by the SWP and largely dealt with as a party building stunt. UAF is essentially an adjunct of the SWP."

The SWP is bullying and alienating people out of anti-fascist activism by refusing to acknowledge common sense. It did the same in the Stop the War Coalition, RESPECT, Globalise Resistance and a number of other left-wing causes it has infiltrated, gutted and destroyed through its bull-headed attitude towards disagreement. It will do the same with anti-fascism if it is given half the chance.

I know that there are many local anti-fascists who have reacted with dismay at the UAF's fake militancy, concerned that if this SWP front turned up in Loughton or Waltham Abbey doing their screaming lunatic act the BNP's fortunes locally will be boosted. The UAF could, in just one day, undo all the progress that has been achieved in beating back the BNP by democratic means and by the written word.

Just as we don't want the BNP in Epping Forest, we don't want their ideological mirror image here stirring up problems for us. So, if there is any member of the UAF reading this, please stay away. You are not welcome. Leave your sectarian brawls to your tawdry Marxism 2009 conference. I know that the local BNP is reading this and is perhaps upset that the UAF bandwagon won't be passing to give it support. But there is not one anti-fascist in this community who has said that aggression is a good way of combatting the BNP. And any stupid egg-throwing, nuisance phone calls or attempts at intimidation or violence are wrong. They are wrong because they don't achieve anything and they are wrong because it is precisely this kind of violent politics that we are meant to be opposing.

And I'll go further. If I or one of my colleagues finds anyone intending to carry out such acts on BNP supporters, we will go straight to the police. You cannot fight fire with fire. You cannot sink into the gutter in order to fight the gutter politics. Anti-fascists are meant to be better than that. Bear this in mind: whoever throws the first punch will lose the fight.


Anonymous said...

BNP watch or SWP watch? you twat!

Epping Forest BNP Watch said...

Often it is difficult to tell them apart. But I've seen the SWP ruin too many good causes and I'm damned if I'm going to be silenced because the SWP central committee wants unity on its terms.

Epping Forest BNP Watch said...

If the SWP wants to set out its own platform and seek to argue its case it can deliver its own leaflets instead of having this parasitic relationship with other organisations. And it can always stand for election - something it has never done on its own. Instead it has pilfered other groups' resources and hiding behind the guise of a 'front' and when someone raises a disagreement it uses its position to expel them. The SWP is poison. It will destroy anti-fascist activism unless people start standing up to it.

Anonymous said...

I have been involved in the anti-fascist movement since the days the SWP called themselves the International Socialists. Based on my experience, I think everything you say about the SWP is spot on.

Anonymous said...

The SWP are massive twats. Why can't they just go away forever. They make me cringe SO MUCH. Are they a State set up or something???????