Saturday, 30 May 2009

LMHR Memories

As I write, Stoke is playing host to a massive Love Music Hate Racism festival. Among those playing are Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Pete Doherty and Kelly Rowland. Rumours abound of Robbie Williams and Keith Richards coming in for a guest slot. Some Stoke Socialist Party comrades headed down there earlier to see if a No2EU stall was possible - who knows what reception they got? Also a couple of LMHR photos have hit the web so far (here and here).

Politically speaking I do wonder if LMHR is a useful weapon against the BNP, especially when the Stoke concert comes just five days before polling. Seeing as the anti-fascism on offer will be of the most liberal of kinds I'm not entirely convinced. But anyway, it gives me an excuse to dust off a really old article back from the days when I traded under the Phil Hamilton monicker for the
Weekly Worker. This piece, from September 2003, has the occasional flourish of ultra-left snarking and one or two moments where Peter Manson makes an editorial intervention, but overall its points on hope not hate-style politics remain valid.

Good Music, Crap Politics
The May local elections saw the first British National Party councillor elected in the Potteries. Riding on the back of a general antipathy toward asylum-seekers, the BNP is looking for another victory at the September 18 by-election in Stoke-on-Trent’s Abbey Green ward. The left in the city has reacted to this by leafleting the area under the aegis of the North Staffs Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (Norscarf - see
Weekly Worker April 3, 2003), and the Socialist Party is going one step further by challenging the fascists with its own candidate.

As part of the campaign against the BNP, Fenton Sixth Form College was host to the travelling Love Music, Hate Racism road show on Sunday September 7. The Anti-Nazi League and the local paper predicted that thousands of people would turn up for the afternoon. In the end the mixture of music, dancing and speeches attracted some 500 or so. Compared with turnouts at other LMHR carnivals elsewhere, this was disappointing - but unsurprising, given the lack of advance publicity and extensive flyposting. Nonetheless, most of the local left was present in the form of Norscarf, trade union,
Socialist Workers Party and SP stalls. Particularly striking was the amount of ‘imported’ comrades both the latter organisations had mobilised, and their general muted presence. Young activists happily handed out liberal-sounding anti-fascist and anti-war leaflets, but you had to actually approach the stalls if you fancied a copy of Socialist Worker.

The sets began around midday. The main stage catered for a variety of tastes, from the rap-funk of Dirty Money to the home-grown ‘baggy punk’ of controversial rockers, Big Cash Prizes. Politics therefore were very much confined to banter between songs. Ben of student band Friends of Ken called for all present to use their vote to drive the BNP out of the council chamber. Unfortunately his advice to under-18s was a meek “Just wait until you’re old enough to vote”. Thankfully socialist rapper Paracat of The Unpeople made up for this. The comrade eloquently raged over the poverty, war and fascism endemic to capitalism, and rapped about the revolutionary action required to over come them.

The halfway point of the day was marked by a series of speeches. The mayor, Mike Wolfe, made a surprisingly good contribution. He argued that racism was based on the lie of racial superiority, and was believed by a lot of people. Wolfe also noted how the hostility toward asylum-seekers cut across racial lines, perhaps reflecting the success of Blair’s project of an ‘inclusive Britishness’. The link between scape-goating and poverty was made, but the mayor’s solution was to try and secure more investment for Stoke. He suggested that, if we could just believe in ourselves, the BNP would not get anywhere: “They’d never beguile us with their lies,” he concluded.

Next was Joan Whalley MP. She continued with the investment theme, pledging to work together with everyone and anyone in parliament to get Stoke regenerated. Deputy council leader and Norscarf president Chris Wood focussed more on the character of the BNP, with the usual fare about “thugs in suits”. The way to combat them was to turn out on September 18 and prevent them from using apathy to get in. Finally a speaker from the Racial Equality Council made the point that music transcends racial boundaries, depending on and celebrating multiculturalism.

Overall the carnival was of some value, despite the relatively low attendance. It was important that a number of leading local bands and DJs made an anti-racist stand by playing the event, going against the tide of general opinion in the city. However, from the communist point of view, the SP missed the opportunity to publicise its candidate, and the left failed to put forward a unified working class answer to the BNP’s ‘radicalism’. It was very much the case of good music, crap politics.


Infantile and Disorderly said...

Yeah, I think good music, crap politics is a pretty fair summary (although I suspect you might also be being a bit generous about the quality of the music!)

Darren said...


have you seen Phil's taste in music?

Anonymous said...

i think crap music crap politics. but we all have different tastes.

i saw a leaflet, handed to me by local swp (in lecester, for an event in stoke!), and the leaflet wasn't even really anti-fascist, i don't think it mentioned the bnp in fact.

it was purely anti-racist. nothing wrong with that. but is it the job of socialists to heavily promote this event which is devoid of politics? why can't the daily mirror, the independent, the pcs, unite etc do this? they have far more money and advertising capacity.

intervene in it, yes that's sensible. but promoting it with apolitical leaflets is pointless, given how few socialists there are we don't have time to promote music concerts.


Phil BC said...

One of the reasons the BNP weren't specifically mentioned was because of the clout they have on the council. The city council cannot be seen to be doing anything "political".

But yes, KS, I agree with your point. Unusually for a UAF/LMHR event political stalls were allowed. I'm told the SWP had plenty of stalls up thanks to the numbers of imported comrades drafted in, Socialist Resistance comrades were doing their bit with Respect and doling out No2EU material, and our branch was there too flogging papers and promoting No2EU (predictably, we were the ones that got hassle off the organisers - does anyone else come in for stick when they turn up at UAF/LMHR events?)

Politically I'm even more convinced events of these sorts are not effective. If it manages to draw young people into anti-fascist activity, then that's good. But holding it scant days before the election isn't conducive to building a movement capable of decisively effecting the outcome. Wouldn't the tens of thousands of pounds of union money that has been funneled into LMHR have been better deployed elsewhere?

And Darren, if you ever approved of any of my choon choices then I'm going wrong somewhere!

Phil BC said...

For comrades' info, Jenny, one of the my comrades from N Staffs TUC was at LMHR yesterday. Her blog about it is here.

Anonymous said...

I'm quite flabbergasted that someone can describe something 'purely anti-racist' as 'devoid of politics'. I always thought that being anti-racist was actually a political stance myself. It certainly felt that way when I was a kid. (How ignorant I was..)

I' also a bit flabbergasted that such a big event wasn't considered worthy of a visit by Stokes Socilaist voice on the web.

swoppie teacher.

Phil BC said...

Enough of the faux outrage Swoppie, we're all old hacks here.

I had other things that needed to be done hence my non-attendance - some of us do have responsibilities outside of politics you know. ..

LMHR of course espouses politics - liberal politics. I understand SWP stalls at the event were decked out with 'Smash the BNP' slogans. And how would you go about this? By calling on would-be BNP voters to vote for the very parties responsible for putting them in a position where the BNP is seen as an attractive option? said...

Phil, I have a question about your research into SWP activists, but couldn't find a functioning email address, and its kind of linked to LMHR, so here goes:

In your interviews with SWP members, did you interview any who joined in the early-to-mid-1980s? And narrowing the question, did any of them mention the ANL/RAR (or its legacy) as a reason for them joining?

Also, have you published anything on your research yet?

Cheers, E

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Surely better to do something rather than nothing?

Phil BC said...

Sorry for not writing, E. I did interview a couple of comrades who got involved around that time. For one of them anti-racism was particularly important but, if memory serves, it wasn't specifically ANL activity. I'll have a look when I'm in tomorrow. I haven't published anything on it yet.

Daniel, that might be true but the question has to be asked if the resources poured into this event could have been more effective if deployed elsewhere - a question mark that hangs over all Hope not Hate-style campaigns. said...

Thanks for the reply Phil. I'm writing up a paper on the legacy of the ANL/RAR in the 1980s and I suspected that while the ANL was an important story for SWP members, it wasn't a recruiting tool by then, as many more immediate factors, like Thatcherism, were getting people involved in left-wing politics.