Published on Tuesday, 08 January 2013 21:28 Written by Gerry Gable
What a start to the New Year. Nick Lowles, the overpaid, jetsetting Chief Executive of Hope not hate, has spoken out in his blog against the policy of giving No Platform to fascists, something that has been a cornerstone of antifascism ever since fascism appeared in this country. I can only think he wishes to put some distance between his policy of cosying up to right-wing Labour and Searchlight’s ongoing success in using intelligence from live sources to keep the antifascist movement up to date with hard information and analysis of what the fascist enemy are up to.
I am sure Lowles will recall a conversation between us on this very matter some years ago and I sent him off with a flea in his ear. Now he has new friends and HnH has gradually adopted a fluffy approach to dealing with fascism.
Lowles asked readers to let him know their thoughts. Searchlight has existed for 49 years and has surely earned the right to have, and express, an opinion on the issue, so I posted a comment. It did not appear.
Unusually a few opposing comments did appear. One, by Kelvin, pointed out that although antifascists cannot prevent every BNP or EDL activity, “We do not see BNP/EDL stalls in most towns and cities across the country because of the opposition they would face. The EDL marches are more often than not opposed by counter protests which seriously hinder their ability to build either in numbers or confidence. Norwich, Brighton, and Walthamstow are but a few examples.”
Kelvin went on: “Only recently the now imprisoned leader of the EDL Robinson was prevented from attending a meeting at London’s Conway Hall because of a ‘No Platform' campaign by anti-fascists”. In fact it was Searchlight that discovered the event, planned by a group called the Muslim Debate Initiative and the BNP had also been invited to share the platform with the MDI. We passed the information to the UAF, which was about to put out a call for a picket of the venue, and they in turn contacted student unions and local trade unions.
Such a meeting, had it gone ahead, could only have given credibility to the fascists. Even if they had lost the debate the mere fact that their opponents were prepared to take their views seriously – as worth discussing, as a valid position that should have an equal right to be heard – would have been a victory for fascism.
In the end the trustees of Conway Hall cancelled the event because of the threat of direct action to stop the fascists gaining a platform.
Hope not hate were silent about this proposed debate and have not been seen at, nor called for support for any of the major actions against the EDL during the past year, which have attracted wide trade union participation.
At the end of November, Kevin Scott, the former BNP officer who runs a group that he calls Civil Liberty, was due to take part in a debate on free speech at the Cambridge Union Society. Scott is one of the major players in the British Democratic Party, the new far-right party being launched nationally by Andrew Brons, the former BNP MEP, next month. Again Searchlight found out about the event and contacted Aaron Kiely, the NUS Black Students’ officer. He and the UAF very quickly obtained the signatures of a large number of student union officers on a letter urging the Cambridge Union to withdraw the invitation. That turned out not to be necessary as Scott took himself off, blaming Searchlight for “drawing attention” to the debate.
Again silence from Lowles and HnH. Replying to Kelvin, Lowles said: “I would never share a platform with the BNP nor would I recommend anyone else doing it”. It seems that while he would not recommend sharing a platform with fascists, he has no objection to others doing so.
I leave readers to judge for themselves whether the comment I tried to add to the debate, which was partly a reply to a comment by Lee Newell about Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, merited suppression.
“I think Lee Newell is totally ignoring the facts. Griffin’s internal party problems existed prior to his appearance on Question Time. The BBC was put under a lot of pressure to have him on. It was not about freedom of speech, but about the programme’s independent production company cajoling the BBC into inviting more controversial figures in an effort to push up the flagging viewing figures.
“The programme did not turn the general public against Griffin as at the following general election the BNP's vote increased greatly.
“There is a dangerous arrogance on the part of some posers in the anti-fascist camp who think all nazis and fascists are brain dead and can be beaten into the ground by debate. The truth is that what is seeing off the BNP and EDL, and the organisations that might follow on from them, is good inside live intelligence sources whose work can be properly analysed and used in campaigns against them and in building local resistance through joint local campaigns such as We are Luton, Norwich, Waltham Forest, Cambridge, and anywhere else they turn up. As Hope not hate sadly appears to have walked away from such initiatives and activities, they are now not unhappy about sharing platforms with at least one academic who invited the leader of the English Democrats to address his students, yes that's the organisation packed full of key former BNP officers and activists and which sent a speaker to address the openly nazi British Movement in Yorkshire recently.
“I see that Glasgow City Council has decided to work with Hope not hate, now I wonder how the strong Trade Union-led anti-fascist movement there will take to that. They have a glorious track record of physically stopping any attempts by the far right to peddle their hate on the streets of their city, and the local police do not appear to be concerned about their actions, they probably realise that what Glaswegians want is no space or platforms for nazis and racists. Too much talk and not enough action makes for a bad anti-fascist response.”