Sunday 6 September 2009

The Sky is Not Falling Down

Most readers will now know the BBC is entertaining the possibility of inviting Nick Griffin onto Question Time. As you would imagine this has sent some sections of the left into howls of rage. Some have argued this gives the BNP the layer of "legitimacy" and "acceptance" they crave. Others have said Griffin should not be afforded a platform to spout his racist drivel.

This is the stock response we should expect from establishment anti-fascism. No doubt tomorrow's press release from
Unite Against Fascism will wag its finger at the BBC and ask if the editors know the BNP is a Nazi organisation full of Holocaust-denying freaks and people with criminal records. Nor would I be surprised if the UAF commit itself to picketing future Question Times Nazi Nick has been invited to.

The problem with all this is it plays right into the BNP's hands. We may not like it but the BNP has successfully built up a semi-stable, semi-localised electoral base who are receptive to what the fascists have to say. A core element of their propaganda is a persecution complex where the BNP are victimised by powerful forces for daring to tell the "truth". This is compounded by anti-fascists attempting to no platform the BNP without offering a rebuttal of their racist narrative. In the minds of casual BNP supporters it looks as though they have the establishment running scared.

Underlying this commitment to a no platformist strategy is a thinly veiled belief the BNP's target audience - white working class people - have a hard time thinking for themselves. They need shielding from their Nazi lies because there's a danger at any moment they'll become slobbering racists.

I for one have much more faith in working class people. If they can see through the bollocks regularly churned out by Gordon Brown and co, they are more than able to see Griffin for the thick, prejudiced tosser he is.


Dave Semple said...

I accept that you have your opinion, Phil - but your attacks on "establishment anti-fascism" ring a little false, since you don't include the Socialist Party in that. The SP - while I was a member - have been vigorous proponents of the No Platform policies in students unions - one reason I always had respect for their activists. So it's not just UAF and "establishment anti-fascism".

Nor is it simply a matter of debate and trust in working class people. I have a profound trust in working class people - and have ended up getting myself a few beatings as a result of it - but the BNP are simply going to lie. And when called on it, they'll play the persecuted card. So either way, that's how they're going to spin it to their followers.

On the other hand, if Labour and the anti-fascist groups conducted a campaign to no-platform Griffin and then used the platform to explain their position, without giving him the opportunity to advance his arguments, I can't really see a problem.

You're right: the sky isn't going to fall down if Griffin is permitted to speak on QT. But why give him national media access to advance his bullshit? That's the argument we should take to the working class, via QT and in other ways too.

Anonymous said...

I think maybe you are taking the anti-no platform argument too far. It can still be useful in many cases, particularly where the BNP don't have a base as a method to stop them getting anywhere in gaining one. The main problem with Griffin on the telly will be that the mainstream politicians will have very little to expose him with. Their policies having been responsible for growth of his party in the first place.

Phil Brighton

EFComrade said...

the problem I see with much of the left and anti-fascist campaigns is a misunderstanding of what 'no platform' actually means.

No platform is a tactic and not a principle, it means just what it says on the tin, not to give them a platform to spout their filth. We have to recognize that having 2 MEPs elected is a sizeable platform in and o itself. The BNP are clearly going to get more and more publicity and we have to judge each situation on an individual basis rather than having a pre-recorded no platform chant

Phil said...

Dave I've always argued no platform is a tactic, not a principle and one we should apply flexibly. You are quite right about the SP's position of no platform for fascists in student unions and it is one I entirely support. Fascists have no place in labour movement organisations, which after all the student union is (just!) part of.

But the wider argument of no platform doesn't hold water any more. Admittedly my experience of this is coloured by what's happened locally where no platforming and failure to put out arguments tackling the BNP's lies head on has done little to stem the tide. Hopefully this will change in time for the general election seeing as the local anti-fascist group have become more interested in the targeted and localised strategy favoured by Searchlight rather than the don't vote Nazi fare still peddled by UAF.

As for Griffin on QT, the BBC gave them a real easy ride in the lead up to the European elections - even more so than the right wing press! If he's on QT his bollocks will get at least challenged, which is more than can be said for what happens on the BBC at the moment.

Phil said...

Incidentally one thing that never ceases to sicken me is seeing New Labour cabinet ministers line up and condemn the BNP. As foul and as rancid they are the BNP haven't deported a single asylum seeker or participated in the killing of tens of thousands of Muslims in the Middle East. Motes and beams spring to mind.

JaneWatkinson said...

I agree. I think that if we accept them as a political organisation, we need to allow them to take part in political debate as other parties do, and through that we would be able to highlight how wrong and flawed their arguments are. In sheltering them from proper debates we are actually helping them gain support. We can't allow them to get seats and then ban them from programmes all other political parties are involved in even if they are a racist corrupt party. We can beat them through politics.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I'm all for it, enables the daft twat to show himself up and for his paper thin policies to be torn to bits.

Bring it on!

Anonymous said...

It's depressing how quickly this debate has polarised around the question of 'should we allow them/shouldn't we' with little or not reflection on how the BNP has arrived at this point, i.e. appearing as legitimate political representatives on the back of 900,000 votes in the Euros.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Well Duncan, perhaps but you know 900,000 thousand idiots is actually less idiots than I thought they were out there.

skidmarx said...

Fewer idiots.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Yourself included?

Anonymous said...

I'm less worried about the effect on the working class who, as you point out, will deal with the BNP in the same way they deal with all party politics, and more worried about the energising effect this will have on BNP supporters, who will claim mor elegitimacy for their views in the workplaces, in public services and in the media generally by being able to say "well, the BBC respects our views.".

Phil said...

I don't think it will energise the BNP's support. Were SWP members of Respect buoyed up and inspired when Galloway turned up on Question Time? Probably not.

In fact I would imagine a QT with Griffin on could be unworkable. Protests outside, protesters smuggling themselves into the audience ... it could all be a bloody mess that might have the BBC think twice before inviting him again.

Phil said...

Just a few thoughts to the response the re-post got on Socialist Unity, which I post here as well:

What I have not done is

* Defended the BBC's decision to let Griffin on Question Time
* Said the BNP have a right to "free speech"
* Repudiated the necessity for the BNP to be dealt with by the labour movement
* Pretended to have written a serious analytical piece.

But I'm not convinced the traditional no platformist strategy (i.e the raising of no platform from a tactic to a principle by some sections of the anti-fascist movement) is the best way of countering the BNP, especially when they *already have* a platform. It also worries me that too many comrades seem to think dishing out leaflets about the holocaust-denying proclivities of BNP candidates strikes major blows against them. Sure it annoys and rattles the BNP's activists but it does not challenge their political arguments. If I'm not politically savvy and some of the things I read in a BNP leaflet *appears* to chime with my experience, is a leaflet informing me of Nazi Nick's 1998 race hate conviction going to convince me to give one of the mainstream parties a punt?

To me, anti-fascism appears to dwell too much on containment. It is a reactive and sometime moral approach to anti-fascism when what we need is politics.

Lastly, the post suggests there is an element of what #49 calls prolefear underlying some strands of anti-fascism. I mainly have Labour and liberal-left types in mind here who denounced the 900,000 who voted for the BNP in shrill and elitist tones.

skidmarx said...

Phil BC - so should these protestors at QT be no platforming Griffin, or proclaiming "I defend your right to free speech, but I'd like to shout you down anyway"?
I generally think that saying no platform should apply to labour movement organisations ,but elsewhere palys into the hands of the BNP would be out of place in a serious analtical piece, but I now accept that wasn't your intention here.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill- that's for others to judge. By the way 900,000 thousand is nearly a billion.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Yeah cuz attacking a typo makes you look REAL good.