“no Platform” Policy is Outdated

Interesting recent blog post from Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate:

Saying that we historically understood as ‘No Platform’ is outdated is a simple fact. And of course I still would not give a platform to Nick Griffin or the BNP but others do and enforcing it is no longer a central plank of our work. I say all this for three reasons:

1. The British National Party has won elections and so it has a platform regardless of what we think or would like. Many people got understandably upset when Nick Griffin appeared on BBC’s Question Time but that was a consequence of him getting elected to the European Parliament. The BNP are, or at least were, in council chambers, so what should we do? Under No Platform we would demand that people refuse to sit in the chamber with them or council staff refuse to work for them but that is clearly impossible. Councils have to operate and staff would get sacked if they refused to follow orders.

2. New technology has made ‘No Platform’ increasingly redundant. Back in the 1980s groups like the BNP and National Front would only reach the public by holding papersales on street corners or public meetings at elections. Both gave anti-fascists an opportunity to drive them away and so prevent the public from hearing their racist diatribe. With the advert of the internet and social media that has now all changed. Anyone can now access racist and fascist material without leaving their house or exposing their interest to the wider public.

The rise of the Internet and social media has been accompanied with changing attitudes to freedom of expression and censorship. Arguments about silencing ideas are far less acceptable now than they once were. This was vividly recognised back in 2009 when the BNP tried to hold a fundraising event in Leigh, near Manchester. HOPE not hate joined a community campaign which helped force the venue owner to withdraw the invitation. Success, so we thought. However, a few BNP supporters did turn up and were attacked by anti-fascists, one with a hammer. What began as a great success story turned into a PR disaster as images of the beaten man dominated local, regional and even national news for three days.

3. Hate and hate speech is changing and not all the groups we now oppose are fascists who follow an ideology that is so repugnant that it is easy to explain why they should not be allowed to have a platform. This is especially the case with the emerging anti-Muslim extremists, those in the self-defined Counter-Jihad movement. And it is these groups and individuals who are a far more dangerous threat to local communities than the tiny neo-nazi parties like the British People’s Party or the Racial Volunteer Force. All too often those who profess to be militant anti-fascists ignore these more dangerous racist groups in preference for opposing the miniscule nazi grouplets.

Whether we like it or not the old strategy of No Platform is increasingly redundant, not least because it is no longer enforceable. Despite all best efforts of those who stick to traditional ‘No Platform’ BNP councillors still sit in council chambers, their local branches meet, leaflet and hold street stalls quite openly; the English Defence League march and campaign across the country and anti-Muslim groups oppose mosques and Islam with impunity.

But there is one further point I would like to make. Whilst I still would not debate with Nick Griffin, because at heart he remains the fascist he always was, I also recognise that he and his party do not articulate their true beliefs publicly. Rather, they go into local communities and try to tap into local issues, disillusionment and economic pessimism. That is why I argue that our most important task is to go into these very communities and take on their ideas and arguments.

And this is what HOPE not hate tries to do. We might not always get things right but we go where the problem is. We have consistently taken the BNP on in places like Burnley, Bradford and Sandwell. We produce community leaflets and newspapers in places like Dudley, Croydon and Leeds. In Barking & Dagenham we distributed 355,000 pieces of literature in just five months which helped defeat them in 2010. In Luton, more recently, we have consistently leafleted and campaigned on the estates where the EDL receives its support. The list of our community engagement could go on.

No Platform was a policy we backed in the 1980s and 1990s but it is no longer the same issue or has the same relevance today. But a different type of ‘No Platform’ does exist today and it is one that I do subscribe to. It is a No Platform which means we deny fascists, organised racists and other haters the freedom to spread their poison within communities unchallenged. Just as the BNP have moderated their public views to win the hearts and minds of local people so we must also change. It is about defeating thier ideas rather than just beating them. Working in the communities targeted by racists and fascists, engaging with ordinary people and persuading them to not support these groups is now our priority.

153 comments on ““no Platform” Policy is Outdated

  1. “oppose mosques and Islam with impunity.”

    A person should be able to oppose Islam with “impunity” just as they should be allowed to oppose any religion without being punished. Those of us who think monotheism credulous should not be bracketed with racism scum.

  2. cliff foot on said:

    Another move to the right by the ‘Progress’ people who effectively run Hope Not Hate. A staggering line says much, ‘the Edl march…with impunity’, ?! Walthamstow, Norwich, Brighton…wake up, HnH. Uaf and others organised good opposition to them, not just publish pictures on Facebook, ala HnH. Their jibe at ‘militant anti fascists’ is rich coming from people who openly collaborate with the police against anti Edl protestors. Good for Searchlight for their critique of HnH, on Searchlight’s website.

  3. James Bloodworth: A person should be able to oppose Islam with “impunity” just as they should be allowed to oppose any religion without being punished. Those of us who think monotheism credulous should not be bracketed with racism scum.

    Clearly the distinction is that some people specifically oppose Islam, but don’t opose other religions, precisely because they are “racist scum”

    You distinction about monotheism suprised me, you are seemingly Ok with Hindism then?

  4. Andy Newman: Clearly the distinction is that some people specifically oppose Islam, but don’t opose other religions, precisely because they are “racist scum”

    You distinction about monotheism suprised me, you are seemingly Ok with Hindism then?

    Not necessarily. Obviously the EDL use Islam as a proxy for race, but ex-Muslims who are more vocal about Islam, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, are not so because they are racists. Being against religion does not mean viewing all religions as exactly the same. That would be absurd.

    I’m not “seemingly ok” with Hinduism. I dislike it as I dislike all religions. I am more familiar with Christianity and Islam, however, hence why I referred to monotheism.

  5. John:
    James Bloodworth,

    Some Muslims seem to disagree with you, James. It appears you’re gaining quite a reputation for focusing your ire on Islam to the exclusion of the other monotheistic religions.

    Why is that?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/myriam-francois/islamophobia-orwellian-do_b_1664304.html

    If they didn’t disagree with my assessment of Islam they wouldn’t be Muslims, would they?

    Your cheap insinuation is also indicative of your lack of an argument.

  6. James Bloodworth: ex-Muslims who are more vocal about Islam, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, are not so because they are racists. Being against religion does not mean viewing all religions as exactly the same. That would be absurd.

    Yeah, but someone is an ex-Muslim is likely to be more agitated about Islam, because that is their own cultural and religious heritage, and what they know most about.

    Of course some people who reject their heritage religion actually do become bigots, like Gilad Atzmon, who argues that Judaism is an inherently wicked religion, and has long ago set sail in the good ship anti-Semitism.

    While not all religions are the same, it seems to me that those who have a particular animus against any one particular religion are usually displaying some bias that needs accounting for.

    Somoene who opposed a MOsque, but would not e.g. oppose a Gurdwara, probably is informed by some prejudice

    Incidently, you are responding specifically to an article by Nick Lowles, who himslef has courted some controversy by saying the anti-fascist movement should also target Jihadi groups.

  7. Andy Newman: Yeah, but someone is an ex-Muslim is likely to be more agitated about Islam, because that is their own cultural and religious heritage, and what they know most about.

    Of course some people who reject their heritage religion actually do become bigots, like Gilad Atzmon, who argues that Judaism is an inherently wicked religion, and has long ago set sail in the good ship anti-Semitism.

    While not all religions are the same, it seems to me that those who have a particular animus against any one particular religion are usually displaying some bias that needs accounting for.

    Somoene who opposed a MOsque, but would not e.g. oppose a Gurdwara, probably is informed by some prejudice

    Incidently, you are responding specifically to an article by Nick Lowles, who himslef has courted some controversy by saying the anti-fascist movement should also target Jihadi groups.

    I would agree that someone who targeted Mosques and no other religious institutions would probably be a bigot. I don’t think that point is contentious at all.

    “While not all religions are the same, it seems to me that those who have a particular animus against any one particular religion are usually displaying some bias that needs accounting for.”

    Sometimes yes and sometimes no. The problem with this inquisitorial notion of “motive” is that you can never really know, which is why it’s important to be very specific with language, which I don’t think the original piece was.

  8. John,

    Interesting article by Myriam Francois-Cerrah that you cite there John.

    It is worth noting that she quotes Martin Amis, who said:

    These remarks echo the controversial comments [Amis] made during an interview in 2006. On the subject of curbing terrorism, he said: ‘There is a definite urge – don’t you have it? – to say, “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order”.
    ‘Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan. Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.’

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-488239/Martin-Amis-launches-fresh-attack-Muslim-faith-saying-Islamic-states-evolved.html#ixzz2I8xmzD5G

    Specifically AWL member, Jim Denham, said that he did not think that Amis was a racist for saying this, and Jim Denham went further to say that he agreed with Amis.

    The AWL have never distanced themselves from Denham over this, depsite claiming to be an anti-racist organisation.

  9. James Bloodworth: Your cheap insinuation is also indicative of your lack of an argument.

    Sorry you see it that way. I’m willing to have the debate. This is why I asked why it is you exert so much of your work on attacking Islam?

    What I think you miss is the role of the West in shaping a precis of Islam which conforms to a geopolitical agenda. Islam has been politicised to the extent that it is a reflex against modernity represented by the West, experienced by a large swathe of the Muslim world as colonialism/imperialism, military intervention, and the chaos and strife that continues to engulf their societies.

  10. Finally. Apart from anything else, no platform is as outdated as the SWP internal secrecy in the internet age.

  11. Andy Newman: Well what is your personal motive for objecting to the concept of Islamophobia?

    I prefer anti-Muslim bigotry. Islamophobia implies that a fear of Islam (or a fear of religion itself, as the same would apply to most religions), is somehow irrational. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case (although of course it might be). A mild fear of religion is quite healthy considering the history of religious movements.

  12. John: Sorry you see it that way. I’m willing to have the debate. This is why I asked why it is you exert so much of your work on attacking Islam?

    What I think you miss is the role of the West in shaping a precis of Islam which conforms to a geopolitical agenda. Islam has been politicised to the extent that it is a reflex against modernity represented by the West, experienced by a large swathe of the Muslim world as colonialism/imperialism, military intervention, and the chaos and strife that continues to engulf their societies.

    Firstly, I didn’t realise I did.

    Secondly, you appear to have pulled your reply from an academic jargon generator. Either that, or you don’t really know what you mean.

  13. James Bloodworth: I prefer anti-Muslim bigotry.

    Fair enough. For perhaps a different reason, I think the term Anti-Semitism carries some specific baggage that doesn’t match the actual phenomenon of Jew-haters.

    However, apart from slitting hairs about words, do you agree that hostility to Islam is often i) a proxy for racism; and ii) implying that Islam is “worse” than other religions?

  14. Manzil on said:

    Nick Griffin will be attempting to come to the Oxford Union tomorrow night to share his filthy, toxic politics on its gay rights debate. What does Hope Not Hate suggest people do about that?

    Should we not try to stop it or ensure it’s so messy it is unlikely to happen again, should we not oppose him, because the BNP have won elections, or because email happens to exist, or because of a dozen other peripheral issues that avoid the central issue: Fascism is about control of public spheres, it is fundamentally about an attack on our right to act and organise collectively. That counts just as much for the ‘counter-jihadist’ gutter trash as it does the explicitly ‘neo-nazi’ formations.

    They should be stopped not because they are racist – half the Tory party are just as bad. Not because they mutter nasty things about migrants or women; they can exercise whatever degree of neanderthal views they want inside their own caves. Not because they are scabby little anti-worker tools of the bosses. No, it is because of what they are capable of when they are out in the open: they are not a movement with which it is possible to coexist within the realm of organised politics. One fascist is a tragedy, two is a criminal conspiracy,

    What does Nick Lowles suggest we do? Tweet about it? Maybe get the Mirror to provide us some T-shirts? HNH seems to be evolving into the reverse image of the useless UAF strategy of ‘exposing’ fascism – accepting its claims to legality on face value and limiting ourselves to some liberal, pluralist strategy of ‘defeating their arguments’.

    No, I’m sorry, this is one step too far.

  15. Andy Newman: Fair enough. For perhaps a different reason, I think the term Anti-Semitism carries some specific baggage that doesn’t match the actual phenomenon of Jew-haters.

    However, apart from slitting hairs about words, do you agree that hostility to Islam is often i) a proxy for racism; and ii) implying that Islam is “worse” than other religions?

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with splitting hairs about words, by the way. I think it’s very important to be specific about what we mean with these things.

    1) On the far-Right hostility to Islam is indeed a proxy for racism, but most of the time that’s blindingly obvious. It’s almost almost always accompanied by straightforward anti-Muslim bigotry.

    2) Hostility to Islam may or may not imply that Islam is worse than other religions. Even if a person believes it is that does not automatically convict them of bigotry. Different religions respond differently at different times. For example, Catholicism would have been objectively “worse” than other religions in Spain at the time of the inquisition. Pointing that out does not equate to bigotry.

  16. James Bloodworth: For example, Catholicism would have been objectively “worse” than other religions in Spain at the time of the inquisition. Pointing that out does not equate to bigotry.

    We won’t get anywhere looking at historical examples; but only by reference to contemporary practice

  17. James Bloodworth: Even if a person believes it is that does not automatically convict them of bigotry.

    It does, because it essentialises all adherents of that religion, which covers a multitude of interpretations, cultural mores, and worldviews.

    The Catholic Church has informed liberation theology and accommodation with fascism and right wing dictatorship.

    It requires far more nuance and material analysis than you are ascribing.

  18. Andy Newman: We won’t get anywhere looking at historical examples; but only by reference to contemporary practice

    Looking at historical examples of contemporary phenomenon is extremely useful. How on earth could it not be?

  19. John: It does, because it essentialises all adherents of that religion, which covers a multitude of interpretations, cultural mores, and worldviews.

    The Catholic Church has informed liberation theology and accommodation with fascism and right wing dictatorship.

    It requires far more nuance and material analysis than you are ascribing.

    Even if what you say were true that would not, in any sense, constitute bigotry. Simplification maybe, but not bigotry.

  20. James Bloodworth: Simplification maybe, but not bigotry.

    But if you begin with the premise that Islam is bad, regressive, evil…then it follows that Muslims are bad, regressive, evil.

    For me the simplification lies in writing off a religion with hundreds of millions of adherents around the world. I prefer to understand why Islam plays such an important role in the cultures and lives of so many.

    Don’t you see anything progressive in Islam or any religion at all?

    And, too, why Islam and why Islam in this particular time and place?

  21. James Bloodworth: Looking at historical examples of contemporary phenomenon is extremely useful. How on earth could it not be?

    That is an evasive response. There is almost no contemporary legacy into modern Catholicism or Islam in discussing the Inquisition’s suppression of the Cordoba Caliphate

  22. Leaving aside the rights or wrongs of the article, or the specific incident, I don’t think an a story where a fascist was attacked with a hammer would ever have escaped hostile comment and publicity for anti-fascists.

    I can still remember the mainstream press reporting on the famous Lewisham demo (just- I’m 50 in a couple of months) and I can assure anyone not around at the time that it wasn’t all about courageous anti-fascists taking on the nazi hoards- far from it.

    And the pitched battles that often took place in town centres when fascists attempted paper sales were generally not welcomed by people trying to get on with their shopping.

    That’s not to make a point about the rights and wrongs but to suggest that the question of whether and when physical confrontation is acceptable has always been a matter for argument (one of my closest friends was expelled in the early ’80s from a certain organisation referred to on other threads while in jail as a result of certain incidents), and while the appearance or even the nature of the enemy may have changed, this is still the case.

    Apart from anything else, the right to use force in self-defence is still enshrined in law, force being defined as reasonable in the circumstances genuinely perceived. While I reject ultra-left posturing, I also believe that nothing should be said that has the effect unwittingly of undermining that right.

    The points about working in communities I entirely agree with.

  23. James Bloodworth: For example, Catholicism would have been objectively “worse” than other religions in Spain at the time of the inquisition. Pointing that out does not equate to bigotry.

    Objectively Catholicism was pretty much the only religion in Spain at the time. The forced conversion and expulsions ensured that. Unless you think the conversos continued to secretly practice Islam or Juduaism in which case I’d have to say it seems to me that the majority did not. Nor do the Conversos seem to have been condemned to helotry unlike say Irish Catholics in Ireland.

    The Inquisition was popular with the poor as a protection against exploitation and appropriation. It enjoys a ‘protestant’ reputation in the anglosphere. Indeed we might usefully ask where was C16th protestantisms Barthomelew De Casas?

    I’m saying your choice of historical example is poor.

    More though is the sort of person who might find C16th Spanish Catholicism uniquely appalling the same sort of person who would find C21st Islam uniquely appalling and if so what would that tell us about their grasp of history or indeed starting point?

  24. Television still carries alot of weight in influencing those who may not actively seek Fascist/racist material via the internet so NO PLATFORM must remain as a foundation of relevant anti-fascist activism.

  25. SA: the sort of person who might find C16th Spanish Catholicism uniquely appalling

    I have on my bookshelf as we speak “Historical Tales for Young Protestants” which is strangely all about Catholicism. Are you saying that it is not all true?

  26. As for the point about the EDL oply opposing mosques and Islam openly, surely HnH has been involved in campaigns for specific EDL events to be banned, to the disaproval of some on the left who believe that ‘we’ should impose no platform and not call for the state to intervene.

    Personally I think there is a case for arguing that the EDL and other such groups are criminal conspiracies to commit and encourage hate crime and should be banned as organisations.

  27. I’ve seen a copy Andy though sadly I don’t own one and yes its in a long tradition of great propoganda.

    I’m with Vanya, and Alex Maskey too, on the substantive issue but Omar makes a very good point about TV, it does legitimise. Its a tactical issue.

    Oh and the hammer story strikes me as unlikely too.

  28. There clearly needs to be some kind of no platform approach to neo-nazi groups and other violent organisations such as the EDL where racist attacks and other crimes follow them everywhere. But I do see a point that the same strategy can be counter productive with groups such as the BNP who are, at least trying to appear, to be interested in the legal route and have been elected many times.

  29. Manzil on said:

    @ George W

    The EDL should be subject to no platform but not the BNP, because the latter have been successful in getting elected?

    If anything that makes them more dangerous as far as I’m concerned. You don’t become a fascist because you daub a swastika on an underpass, and cease to be one when the presiding officer has finished speaking.

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

    And HNH are dropping this as a principle, not just saying it’s tactically counter-productive in certain situations. It’s depressing to see them come out with the same line as Labour MPs and liberal journos did over the Question Time controversy.

  30. George W,

    Well, I don’t know if there’s been any stats collected, but I’d be willing to bet racial attacks have increased where BNP have been elected.

  31. Jellytot on said:

    @4Good for Searchlight for their critique of HnH, on Searchlight’s website.

    Err…Weren’t you lot mercilessly slagging off Searchlight a few years ago?….the Left is a funny old world at times.

    @4wake up, HnH. Uaf and others organised good opposition to them.

    HnH have woken up to new political realities and societal changes in the 21st Century and are proposing a new strategy for new times.

    I admit that are some things here that don’t sit too comfortably with me and I need to take time and think about the implications and ramifications, however, HnH’s willingness to think outside the box is laudable and a miles better than the UAF, which essentially takes it’s lead from the “ANL circa 1977″ playbook, using the same language, slogans and tactics, on the basis of “If it worked then, it will work now”. To hear a speech by Weymann Bennett (somebody who strikes me as incapable to formulating an original political thought) gives me the impression that he has read a load of SR’s and ISJ’s from the late 70’s and has just regurgitated the contents.

    The reasons behind the failure of the EDL is multi-faceted and involved internal factors as well as external ones (much like the BNP’s demise) but if there was an anti-fascist component to it I am confident in stating that it was the campaigning for a ban in Bradford and Tower Hamlets that proved crucial. It should be remembered too that there were a lot of good, local stakeholders who supported the campaign.

    UAF actions were negligible (although I applaud any anti-fascist who would turn out on an individual level) and as Martin Smith said last year regarding UAF demos, “For every good one there is a terrible one”.

    What I think Nick Lowles is getting at is not putting ourselves in a position whereby we have to have “terrible ones” in future.

    In the end it’s all about knocking out the fash!

  32. Feodor on said:

    This is an interesting discussion to have, and one which could do without knee-jerk reactions on both sides. The ‘no platform’ position certainly has validity, but there might be a case for some nuance in its application.

    E.g., should we draw a distinction between ‘fascist’ (mass) marches and a lone ‘fascist’ speaking in a public forum? Moreover, does anti-fascist counter-mobilisation always require physical confrontation, or in some situations is it simply enough to mobilise the local community to show there is widespread opposition to ‘fascism’ in a specific area?

    In some cases, it does seem like militant anti-fascism could actually be counter-productive, though not in all cases or even the majority of them.

  33. Feodor on said:

    It’s also worth noting that the objection to making fascist mobilisations a policing issue has previously rested on the well-founded understanding that the police wouldn’t police them – the KPD in Weimar Germany, e.g., strongly criticised the SPD-controlled Prussian Sipo for targeting Communists instead of Nazis. But this doesn’t mean this will always be the case or is now.

    A degree of flexibility is needed, me thinks.

  34. Jellytot on said:

    @34And HNH are dropping this as a principle, not just saying it’s tactically counter-productive in certain situations.

    Where ‘No Platform’ is practicable, at such places like college campuses, HnH support localised and targeted campaigns. I beleive that they just see it as redundant as an over-arching principle and shibboleth in the digital age of mass, immediate communication.

    Anti-fascists need to wake up to the fact that the “battle to control the streets” is not a priority for the more wised-up fascists groups now.

    If they can dominate the discourse over the net and dictate the overall narrative (and reap the rewards at the ballot box) they’ll be happy to cede the street corner to a Trot paper seller.

  35. cliff foot on said:

    Jellytot,

    Uaf … ‘negligable’, ask the Edl at walthamstow, Norwich, Tower Hamlets, Birmingham, Harrow… that question. That aint how they see it. ‘new strategy for new times’, very Marxism today/New Labour, the Progress creeps who are so influential in HnH, make good bedfellows for you.

  36. Manzil on said:

    Might have known this would immediately turn into bashing ‘Trot paper sellers’. Can we just have one fucking discussion on this website without this petty sectarianism raising its head? Christ…

    Feodor: It’s also worth noting that the objection to making fascist mobilisations a policing issue has previously rested on the well-founded understanding that the police wouldn’t police them – the KPD in Weimar Germany, e.g., strongly criticised the SPD-controlled Prussian Sipo for targeting Communists instead of Nazis. But this doesn’t mean this will always be the case or is now.

    Or in this country. Strongly recommend people take a look at the late Dave Hann’s ‘Physical Resistance’, to see some fantastic personal accounts and reminiscences from working-class Brits and communists, on how the police dealt with an actual mass fascist movement and its anti-fascist opponents.

    There is obviously a difference between the ‘football hooligan’ model of politics which the EDL practices and can successfully be dealt with, (in the right context of a public campaign against racism and bigotry) by otherwise conservative forces in the police, the government etc. – anyway, there is a difference between that, and how the state acted in the epoch of ‘classical fascism’, where such groups couldn’t be dismissed as a bunch of drongos and were implicitly part of a much broader nationalist campaign to tackle the organised working class. So co-option of the Home Office or Chief Constables in dealing with the EDL should be aware it’s a tactical thing, contingent on circumstances, not a case of ‘democracy’ against ‘the thugs’.

    A uniform defence of using the state to tackle the far-right would be as mistaken as pretending that no platform, in and of itself, will defeat them.

    But I am not prepared to accept that this decision by HNH is about renewing anti-fascism and making it more effective – it is nothing but the first step on a long road to complete irrelevance. The de-politicising of fascism by a completely uncritical liberal narrative that views the criminal justice system and the mass media as the bulwarks to to the far-right is cutting the ground from under our feet.

  37. Jellytot on said:

    @41Might have known this would immediately turn into bashing ‘Trot paper sellers’

    I’m not bashing Trot Paper Sellers. I’m just suggesting that the successors to the BNP mantle that we will have to deal with down the road will know that for every paper sold in such a manner they’ll be getting a 1000 clicks on their websites.

    @41A uniform defence of using the state to tackle the far-right would be as mistaken as pretending that no platform, in and of itself, will defeat them.

    I wouldn’t disagree with this.

    @41But I am not prepared to accept that this decision by HNH is about renewing anti-fascism and making it more effective – it is nothing but the first step on a long road to complete irrelevance. The de-politicising of fascism by a completely uncritical liberal narrative that views the criminal justice system and the mass media as the bulwarks to to the far-right is cutting the ground from under our feet.

    HNH’s strategy and tactics are incredibly political in the truest sense. They are acutely aware that the leadership of groups like the BNP are fascists but what will mark them out in future is there willingness to deviate from the strategy and tactics of “classical fascism”. Hitler and Mussolini were contemptuous of the concept of “free speech” whereas the likes of Griffin will pose as its stauchest defender. This willingness of fascists to cloak themselves in the rhetorical clothes of liberalism (and to play the ‘victim card’) is a profound and important break. HnH’s ideas are designed, in part, to confront this.

  38. Manzil,

    Omar,

    All I wrote was “But I do see a point that the same strategy CAN(!) be counter productive with groups such as the BNP who are, AT LEAST TRYING TO APPEAR, to be interested in the legal route and have been elected many times.”

    Of course racist attacks increase where the BNP are elected and just because someone has been elected somewhere doesn’t change the matter.

    I support no platform in all cases where we are strong and where it is effective. But it can be counter-productive where fascist groups are PERCEIVED to be just a right wing political party playing the legal game, especially in areas where this approach means there is already a significant level of fascist support.

    If ordinary people living in run down areas are angry and see no campaigns being waged to improve conditions, it is easy for the BNP to get in there and blame it all on immigrants. If such ordinary people vote BNP and see them as a respectable political party who are on BBC television debating with MPs, who have elected local councilors and even the regional MEP, is it a good idea to come along and twat their local candidate? Would this win over the hearts and minds of those ordinary people? I think it probably wouldn’t.

    Nick raises an interesting point that “rather, they go into local communities and try to tap into local issues, disillusionment and economic pessimism. That is why I argue that our most important task is to go into these very communities and take on their ideas and arguments.”

    I hate to bring back an argument from earlier but I think we, the labour movement, are severely bad at going into communities that either have been or are ripe for being poisoned by BNP propaganda. As I read in the new book about Phil Piratin, for all the lofty grandstanding anti-fascists in the east end did on the day of Cable Street they spend many, many more hours organizing in their communities and focusing anger about bad housing and low wages into campaigns. They even joined gyms where fascist supporters hung out and won them round by debate.

    I hate to say it again (and I hope I don’t get called a racist yet again) but we shouldn’t just see anti-fascist work as combative ‘no platform’ style demonstrating. We should see organizing labour movement campaigns in neglected communities where the BNP do well to channel bitterness about social problems into constructive campaigns. If we are absent the fascists will be there and eagerly play the racism card.

    In this sense, we shouldn’t see “no platform” as a principle, but a tactic. I think it is a good tactic generally and ideally would be used in all cases. It is an easy case to make in schools, colleges, universities-with anti-racist policies…etc It is a good idea when fascist groups with a track record of violence want to march, especially through immigrant areas.

    But is ‘no platform’ the best strategy in a BNP supporting estate?

  39. #38 That is correct about the attitude of the SPD to the KPD, and in respect of how that impacted on policing in areas where the SPD were in charge of the police.

    However, let’s not forget that the KPD was infected with ultra leftism throughout the period from its inception to the nazi takeover, which was a factor notwithstanding the 3rd period line ‘imposed’ by Moscow, for which reason the split to its right (the co-thinkers of one of the components of the POUM in Spain) was more significant than any to its left. The implantation of a party of the working class within the state should have been used tactically as an advantage which would have been far more possible had the KPD been prepared to offer a united front and the SPD been prepared to reciprocate.

    The situation is clearly different in Britain today, and certainly in Greece where one of the most sinister features seems to be the implantation of the far right in the Police.

    #42 I agree about the bashing, but it makes me smile (and sad at the loss, but as a friend of Dave, I can recall a few choice words he had about paper sellers, trot or otherwise.

    As an aside, if anyone knew Dave or is familiar with his work and wants to do anything as a mark of respect, donations to the International Brigade Memorial Trust (and/ or get an FC United of Manchester season ticket).

  40. #48 The implantation of a party of the working class within the state, should have read, ‘within part of the state apparatus’.

  41. Jellytot on said:

    @47In Greece, especially right now, the very essence of ‘No Platform’ is critical.

    What marks Greece out, in terms of fascism and anti-fascism, is the relative atypicality of ‘Golden Dawn’ in relation to Western and Northern Europe.

    Do you think that if the BNP, or more likely whatever successor group replaces it in the future in Britain, adopted torchlit parades, skinheads in black tshirts and physical attacks on MP’s it would gain any traction whatsoever with the electorate?

  42. Vanya,

    Never knew the fella but donations to the International Brigade Memorial Trust and/or get an FC United of Manchester season ticket are great ideas anyway!

  43. #50 Someone may point out that if they only had UAF in Greece then they wouldn’t have such a problem with fascism.

    I hope nobody does of course because it would be either stupid or facecious and we need to have a sensible discussion about this issue.

  44. Jellytot on said:

    @52Someone may point out that if they only had UAF in Greece then they wouldn’t have such a problem with fascism.

    I think it was Paul Holborow who stated, at the time of the ANL relaunch in 1991/92, that one of the reasons they were doing it was to show anti-fascists on the Continent how it should be done.

    The narcissism and conceit of people from that tradition is breathtaking at times.

  45. George W,

    I did actually argue in favour of the ban on the EDL march in the East End and I’ve always been in favour of a tactical approach, but whatever respectable/democratic veneer fascist groups hide behind, their violent and criminal pasts along with the historic horrors of Fascism in government must always be highlighted combined with a willingness to shut them down at every opportunity.If we can get the state to do that job, then fine, but arguments mentioned above must, ultimately, have as their goal to create the conditions for the latter action. It is the language Fascists understand (i.e., they will scurry back to their holes once they realise they cannot safely march,speak, go on a rampage).The safety of minority communities cannot be abandoned at the altar of “democratic debate.”

  46. Feodor on said:

    Jellytot:
    Hitler and Mussolini were contemptuous of the concept of “free speech” whereas the likes of Griffin will pose as its stauchest defender. This willingness of fascists to cloak themselves in therhetorical clothes of liberalism (and to play the ‘victim card’) is a profound and important break.

    You’re overplaying the break here. E.g., after the Munich Beer Hall debacle and the subsequent short-term ban on Hitler giving public speeches after he was released from prison, the Nazis ran an election campaign with pictures of Hitler gagged, the caption reading something like ‘of the 60 million people in Germany, only one isn’t allowed to speak’. (I had a quick look, but Google images didn’t come up with the poster – can’t remember exactly which election it was, somewhere between 1924 and 1928 though.) I’ve no idea how influential this narrative was (if I could remember which election that might help: the Nazis certainly did well in the May 1924 and 1928 Reichstag elections, though not the Dec 1924 election.) Nevertheless, when I first saw them I was quite struck by how powerful the posters were in terms of effective propaganda. And moreover, how much continuity there was between that narrative and modern far-right ‘free speech’ narratives.

    And Vanya, yes the KPD could have done a lot more to build unity with the SPD, though there’s a good argument that if they’d been more supportive of SPD administrations, more workers would have defected to Nazism. There were solid sociological reasons via a vis internal German dynamics for the strength of the ‘social fascist’ thesis, it wasn’t just an import from Moscow. Many working people really had little time for Weimar democracy, indeed the SPD struggled even to get its own supporters to come out in defence of it. Furthermore, they made next to no effort to reform the Prussian state machinery, esp. the police, which formed a hotbed of nationalist sentiment, though not necessarily fascist. And their failures here can’t really be placed at the KPD’s door. After all, they were happy to ban the RFB after May 1929, but shied away from dealing with the SA, which in the end cost them dearly, as the failure to preserve public order was the pretext used to remove the SPD-led Prussian administration in 1931 or 32. (My own view, given the SPD’s unwillingness to use the Reichsbanner effectively, is that they should have disbanded it and worked to have all paramilitary groups disbanded. Because the ambiguous mix of verbal militancy and practical legality left them very confused strategically – impotent is the word that springs to mind.)

    In any case, my point was that we’ve come a long way since then: the state shows far more interest in prosecuting the far-right than it does the far-left. In fact in small areas UAF can count on a broad spectrum of political support, including conservative and liberal politicians. Ultra-left posturing is therefore really out of place in contemporary Britain, and I agree with George that the main battle in contemporary Britain is intellectual not physical. Fighting fascism in the streets will often lead to us looking like the thugs, not them.

  47. I would also add that if we come off as the bad guys for shutting fascists down, then those bleeding hearts or casual racists who may have sympathies with the BNP/EDL need to be reminded of the historical lineage of these groups (heck, remind them of the Blitz if you have to!) and that in 21st century, multicultural Britain certain ideas and speech are unacceptable as they are incitements to violence and disorder.

  48. Feodor,

    Indeed.

    I suppose it was/easier for communists in Britain to advocate alliances with the Labour party around certain issues, such as the popular front against fascism because the Labour party has never authorised the execution of British communists. The same cannot be said in Germany. In 1929 it was only ten years previously that Ebert used the Freikorps on the German revolutionaries.

  49. Manzil on said:

    George W,

    Didn’t mean to sound like I was having a go! I pretty much agree with you – all I’d say is that, whereas you are arguing no platform is a ‘good tactic generally and ideally would be used in all cases’, and is mainly counter-productive due to the weakness of the labour movement in areas which fascists target (I can hear the accusations of racism coming any moment), what HNH are doing here are saying there has been a more fundamental shift in society which now precludes it, as a tactic, principle or whatever.

    On that I disagree with them vehemently. I think they’ve essentially decided that the current state of the far right is what it’s always going to be like, rather than a unique approach they’ve adopted in response to very definite conditions, and which could change just as easily and require different methods of combating.

    Jellytot,

    But fascism is not just Nick Griffin the media personality. His personal shtick may veer off into UKIP Nigel Farage-like ‘ordinary bloke’ right-wing populism, but I’m not prepared to pretend there aren’t complete thugs and lunatics out there, just because dear leader likes to wear snappy suits. Saying that a media-based, ‘moderate’, legal strategy is going to work in all cases is ridiculous.

    Feodor,

    Who’s posturing? As you note, even UAF’s strategy has been aimed at a broad democratic coalition and a liberal, ‘mainstream’ audience including decisively non-left elements. (Why does debate on this website always have to involve the construction of two gigantic straw men so that people can appear to be the voice of reason! It’s called Socialist Unity ffs; we’re all equally bonkers.)

  50. Jellytot on said:

    @55You’re overplaying the break here.

    With respect I don’t think I am. The Speech by BNP organiser Lecomber in 1994, when he spoke about the BNP no longer engaging in “Marches and Punch Ups because the Public don’t like it” was one of the most important events in post-war British fascism IMHO. Lecomber’s speech set in place a process which eventually saw Griffin overthrow Tyndall (Lecomber was a Griffin supporter) and promote a modernisation process where old policies were dropped and a new approach adopted.

    ‘No Platform’ is always dependent, somewhat, on the readiness of the opposition to ‘mix it’ on the streets; take that away and the tactic is fundamentally hamstrung. Indeed, the fact that the BNP did no engage in any marches or any mass activity, where they could be physically got at, was always problematic for the ANL MARK 2/UAF.

    @55I’ve no idea how influential this narrative was (if I could remember which election that might help: the Nazis certainly did well in the May 1924 and 1928 Reichstag elections, though not the Dec 1924 election.)

    It wasn’t a constant narrative. In this speech from July 1932, Hitler speaks openly about doing away with Germany’s opposition political parties:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sKyAmzeDVI

  51. Feodor on said:

    Manzil:
    Who’s posturing?

    Perhaps that was a little strong. What I mean by it, however, is that UAF actually does a lot of good work building wide alliances, as you note, yet when you see SWP people speaking about it, they tend to overlook this and focus more on militant rhetoric etc.

    Broadly speaking, I think the practice is often very good, esp. in smaller locales, whereas the narrative that generally accompanies it isn’t so good. I don’t think I can put that any more diplomatically! ;)

    And George, ‘In 1929 it was only ten years previously that Ebert used the Freikorps on the German revolutionaries’ – not to mention 1929 was also the year of Blutmai. There were also many other ‘smaller’ issues: SPD trade unionists recommending Communists for the sack was one, the experience of coalition in 1924 in Saxony and Thuringia another (the ‘social fascist’ line was pretty much adopted as a direct result of this, though it is generally wrongly attributed to the so-called Third Period)

    I highly recommend Ben Fowkes, Communism in Germany under the Weimar Republic – v good chronological account of the development of the KPD, helps to put a lot of these issues in their proper context.

  52. Feodor on said:

    Jellytot, fair enough. The change in tactics is v significant. I was thinking more specifically along the lines of a particular narrative which draws upon liberalism – after all, part of the Nazi attacks on the ‘Jewish’ press was because they said this silenced ‘real’ Germans. But I accept your correction nevertheless. :)

  53. Manzil on said:

    Feodor,

    Fair ’nuff.

    Having had to listen to Weymann Bennet and Comrade De- Martin Smith pontificate on anti-fascism, with a straight face, I’m not going to pretend they’re not living in a different world.

  54. StevieB on said:

    Lowles’s position is just a logical step in his move from anti-fascist campaigning to a campaign against “extremism”. It is the reason for the split with Searchlight, who correctly want to continue organising against the fascists.

    Equating Muslim organisations with fascists has led Lowles and company to campaign for the banning of a major Muslim conference, because he objected to alleged extremist speakers. This “victory” was shared with the EDL and BNP who also campaigned for the ban.

    Presumably the anti-extremism is some sort of explanation for the HnH position that there is scientific proof that Muslim men are more likely to engage in child abuse than other (white) men.

    HnH told us to stay at home when the EDL came to town. Fortunately communities around the country ignored such leadership, mobilised, and busted the dynamic of the EDL.

    Thank goodness we have UAF and Searchlight. The blows that have been dealt to the fascists are important. But the whole political situation lays the basis for their regroupment. A Labour government carrying out austerity will renew their momentum. We must strengthen our anti-fascist organisations because, despite the drivel from Lowles, we are certainly going to need them.

  55. Jellytot on said:

    @58I think they’ve essentially decided that the current state of the far right is what it’s always going to be like

    I think that it’s fairly safe to state that the Euro-Nationalist approach mixed with the outlook of figures like Geert Wilders will be the hallmark of the most high profile far-right electoral force in Britain in future. These people aren’t stupid and I see no reason for them to regress.

    This is without touching on the subject of UKIP.

    @63HnH told us to stay at home when the EDL came to town.

    No they didn’t hence the “We are Bradford” Campaign that mobilised on the day but advised not to physically confront the EDL.

    They argued, and won, the debate for a ban on the EDL which completely ruined their attempted mobilisations in Bradford (the so-called “Big One”) and Tower Hamlets. The latter call was supported by such major local figures like Mayor Lutfur Rahman

    http://www.socialistunity.com/mayor-lutfur-rahman-welcomes-ban-on-edl-march/

  56. Paul Reissner on said:

    @64

    In the August 2010 edition of Searchlight magazine and in the Morning Star newspaper, by Hope Not Hate organiser Nick Lowles argued against opposing the EDL on the day they came to Bradford, saying that banning the EDL march in Bradford “….is our only option and sole focus. If thousands of EDL supporters manage to get into Bradford then we have already lost.”
    http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/article/28/the-case-against-a-counter-demo

    Unite Against Fascism in unity with ‘We Are Bradford’ organise a peaceful, multicultural focus on the day as a political alternative to the EDL’s anti Muslim hatred.

    As UAF argued at the time, “But we believe that a disorganised and chaotic response to the EDL coming to Bradford is more likely if the antifascist movement does not fulfill its duty on the 28 August to organise a safe place for all those people who will undoubtedly wish to make their voices heard against the threat of the EDL and in support of our multicultural society. The issue is whether the response to the EDL’s presence is properly stewarded and channeled to a peaceful, positive event – not whether there will be a response. Failure to organise such a response would also send a signal to the EDL that they are free to escalate their actions against the Muslim and other communities without any expression of the breadth of opposition to their message of hate.”
    http://uaf.org.uk/2010/08/why-it-is-right-to-peacefully-oppose-the-edl-in-bradford/

  57. The obvious truth in Lowles’ article is that, logistically, it’s not possible to implement no platform on the Internet. With the benefit of hindsight, the early 90’s call by Fighting Talk for “anti-fascist geeks” to take out websites is touchingly naive.

    Equally, he’s right to suggest that work in communities is vital; that ideological as well as physical confrontation is needed. You’d be hard-pressed to find a militant anti-fascist that would argue otherwise, as Phil Dickens points out in the comments. In fact, I’ve always thought that HnH’s current analysis owes an unacknowledged debt to Filling the Vacuum (minus the focus on class and the anti Labour Party stuff).

    But the first of those points is tactical and the second is widely accepted anyway. None of this means that no platform is no longer important. Stopping the far right using the ‘march and grow’ tactic is still important. (Especially as I think there’s a good chance the BNP will move back towards this now that their electoral options seem to have stalled).

    Vanya:
    Leaving aside the rights or wrongs of the article, or the specific incident, I don’t think an a story where a fascist was attacked with a hammer would ever have escaped hostile comment and publicity for anti-fascists.

    Yeah, precisely. This is part of a standard pattern, where physical force anti-fascism is praised but only if it’s safely in the past, not the here and now. So AFA got attacked by the same people that would idolise the 43 Group and Cable street. Ironically, AFA seem to be starting to be ‘rehabilitated’ now they’re a matter of historical interest.

    The hammer attack has been referenced a lot by HnH and their supporters though, so it’s worth looking at a few points round that.

    Firstly, the BNP were actively heading towards the UAF demonstration when the incident in question happened. Both the hammer attack and the UAF turning over the landrover happened after that. What Lowles’ argument actually is, consciously or not, is that battered and bloodied anti-fascist demonstrators would have better for propaganda purposes. Even if that’s true, it’s not a price I’m prepared to pay.

    More importantly, there’s been no evidence that the hammer attack in any way benefited the BNP. I accept that it was probably “bad PR” with the genteel middle class types who provide a lot of HnH’s funding and petition signatories. But that’s really not my problem.

    What I care about is how the attack played with BNP supporters, actual and potential. If you looked at the fascist websites after the attack, they weren’t triumphalist about it, to say the least. The second is harder to gage, but I’ve seen no evidence that there was actually a leap in support for the BNP after this, either in terms of votes or non-electoral stuff like an upsurge in membership figures.

    Jellytot:
    HnH have woken up to new political realities and societal changes in the 21st Century and are proposing a new strategy for new times.

    I’m curious. How do you see this as different from past liberal anti-fascist strategies practised by groups like ARA?

    The reasons behind the failure of the EDL is multi-faceted and involved internal factors as well as external ones (much like the BNP’s demise) but if there was an anti-fascist component to it I am confident in stating that it was the campaigning for a ban in Bradford and Tower Hamlets that proved crucial.

    You can’t look at the demise of the EDL without also acknowledging Cardiff, Edinburgh, Brighton, Walthamstow etc. Also, HnH’s stated position before Bradford was that there was no need for a counter-mobilisation because the EDL would not be coming for Bradford. That wasn’t the case. So, if we judge the success of HnH’s tactics there by the conditions they had previously chosen for themselves, it was a failure. Rewriting the conditions for victory after the event is pushing it. For someone so critical of the far left, you seem to have picked up some of their worst habits.

    Vanya:

    The implantation of a party of the working class within the state should have been used tactically as an advantage which would have been far more possible had the KPD been prepared to offer a united front and the SPD been prepared to reciprocate.

    The KPD made some major mistakes. The “social fascists” stuff was stupid, not least because it led to misunderstanding the nature of fascism.

    But you’re overstating the potential here. There was no critical mass of anti-fascist workers in the SPD, being held back from having a go at the Nazis by their leaders. If you look at the figures from the time, it’s inarguable that the KPD were doing all the heavy lifting there, despite being a much smaller party.

  58. Hoom:
    There was no critical mass of anti-fascist workers in the SPD, being held back from having a go at the Nazis by their leaders.

    This is nonsense. You should acquaint yourself with the arguments of the SPD left, esp. in Berlin. Moreover, in purely quantitative terms, the Reichsbanner at times claimed a membership of around 1 million, which does suggest a ‘critical mass of anti-fascist workers … being held back from having a go at the Nazis by their leaders’.

    It’s also worth noting that it was the SPD which defeated the Kapp putsch, whereas the KPD’s original line on the general strike was ambiguous as best – they quite openly declared there was little point in defending democracy and that Weimar was ‘fascist’ anyway.

  59. Feodor: This is nonsense. You should acquaint yourself with the arguments of the SPD left, esp. in Berlin. Moreover, in purely quantitative terms, the Reichsbanner at times claimed a membership of around 1 million, which does suggest a ‘critical mass of anti-fascist workers … being held back from having a go at the Nazis by their leaders’.

    The question is then why they neither did so nor jumped ship to the KPD.

    The figures speak for themselves. In 1932, the KPD had 54 fighters killed in Prussia in the first nine months of the year. The SPD had 52 killed across the whole of Germany, in the previous eight years. That’s staggering enough, but then you have to take into account how tiny the KPD was in comparison to the KPD for most of those years.

    You’re entirely right on the Kapp putsch (note that I hold little brief in general for the official Communist Parties, I’m solely talking about the KPD’s anti-fascist activity here). But, when we’re specifically looking at anti-Nazi activity, the KPD were the only game in town.

  60. Jellytot on said:

    @66In fact, I’ve always thought that HnH’s current analysis owes an unacknowledged debt to Filling the Vacuum (minus the focus on class and the anti Labour Party stuff).

    I agree that a lot of RA/AFA writing from that period is prescient – for what good it did them.

    @66(Especially as I think there’s a good chance the BNP will move back towards this now that their electoral options seem to have stalled).

    Have they as yet? They don’t seem to have the boots on the ground and enough young members to make that happen. Also Griffin is still an MEP and wants to be re-elected as one at the next Euros (if only to secure full pension rights). Any return to ‘march and grow’ could jepardise that. Anyway, I feel Griffin and the BNP are a busted flush – If the far-right do grow in future the next group to get traction will be a break from the Jordan/NF/BNP line and something even further away from traditional fascism.

    I’m curious. How do you see this as different from past liberal anti-fascist strategies practised by groups like ARA?

    The early/mid 1990’s was a strange time as you had the bizarre scenario of about 4 major anti-fascist groups operating simultaneously; they being AFA/ANL/YRE and ARA and although the fascists were moving towards new thinking they were still broadly utilising the tactics of the 70’s NF. Looking back ARA’s ideas were interesting but maybe could be considered a bit before their time given the nature of the opposition back then. Anyway, didn’t ARA stress BME leadership?

    You can’t look at the demise of the EDL without also acknowledging Cardiff, Edinburgh, Brighton, Walthamstow etc.

    No offence but haven’t the fascists always regarded Scotland and Wales as sideshows? By the time of Brighton and certainly The Stow the EDL were on a downward trajectory anyway. Numbers were dropping off way before then.

    Also, HnH’s stated position before Bradford was that there was no need for a counter-mobilisation because the EDL would not be coming for Bradford. That wasn’t the case. So, if we judge the success of HnH’s tactics there by the conditions they had previously chosen for themselves, it was a failure.

    The EDL were on the rise at the time of Bradford and they were conciously seeking a re-run of the riots of 2001. They were openly talking up Bradford as being the “Big One”. The ban led the numbers in attendance to be small, led to them being kettled whereby they attacked the police and it was the first time we saw them fighting amoung themselves.

    The fact that major disorder was averted was a vindication for the HnH strategy – a repeat of 2001 would have been a disaster.

  61. Jellytot on said:

    Paul Reissner

    Wasn’t the rather sane, sensible and non-confrontational tone of the UAF announcement on Bradford (that you quote in #65) delivered under pressure from the Socialist Action component of that group?

    They, and others within UAF, had done this as a response to the SWP driven shenanigans in Bolton the previous March.

  62. Feodor on said:

    Hoom: The question is then why they neither did so nor jumped ship to the KPD.

    There’s plenty of evidence of both: in many places, SPD and KPD members worked together to confront fascism, in spite of their leaderships not because of them; and moreover, psephology has shown that (from 1929 on) the KPD gained members and supporters at the expense of the SPD, with most Nazi support coming from those previously affiliated with the ‘bourgeois’ parties.

    There’s no question that the KPD was the most militantly anti-fascist group and that it suffered the greatest losses, but that doesn’t mean SPD-affiliated workers did nothing. Nor, to go back to your original claim, does it mean that there was ‘no critical mass of anti-fascist workers in the SPD’.

    It’s also worth noting that your average SPD member was a lot older than his typical KPD counterpart and that the SPD had great trouble recruiting Weimar youth. People over 50 are always liable to be less inclined to go out looking for fights, though they were happy to defend meetings, campaign against fascism, etc.

    Without question both parties made mistakes, but they were pretty much the only* two parties who were consistently anti-fascist in theory and practice. Focusing on their mistakes often means people overlook this, yet it is something they both deserve praise for.

    *The left-liberals (DDP) could also be included in this statement, but by the early 1930s they were so small as to be almost irrelevant.

  63. daneil Young on said:

    Religion and capitalism for all socialist thinking minds is a power control of the means of production.

  64. Jellytot: Wasn’t the rather sane, sensible and non-confrontational tone of the UAF announcement on Bradford (that you quote in #65) delivered under pressure from the Socialist Action component of that group?

    This is of course the rub. UAF have a difficult problem in that the leadership on committees in London in sensible, and gets the politics, limitations of “smash the nazis of the streets” rhetoric, and the need to politically contain the EDL

    BUt on the ground, the UAF is often just the SWP wearing a different hat

  65. prianikoff on said:

    Feodor #55
    “….given the SPD’s unwillingness to use the Reichsbanner effectively, is that they should have disbanded it and worked to have all paramilitary groups disbanded.”

    You’re certainly consistent in your support for the capitalist state!

    Doing that would have just achieved what the Nazis wanted, but done so voluntarily!

    The SPD leadership saw both the Nazis and KPD as equal threats. Because it was paralysed by its belief in the neutrality of the capitalist state, the Reichsbanner wasn’t mobilised against Hitler’s seizure of power.

    The KPD should have approached the SPD leadership along the following lines:-

    “We may disagree with you on the path to socialism.
    But if the Nazis are allowed to destroy all democratic rights, socialism will be an impossiblity.
    Therefore, we propose a common struggle with you.
    * Together our parties have a majority of the popular vote.
    * Together, the Reichsbanner and Red Front will organise mass street demonstrations to stop the Nazis taking power.
    * Together we will drive the SA off the streets.
    * Together, we will form a Workers Government which will end unemployment and re-build the economy”

    Of course the KPD leadership were far too sectarian to have adopted such a position.

  66. prianikoff,

    Jesus talk about wish list politics. While you are at it; we should approach the Labour Party with the following lines:

    -immiediate implementation of full communism, overnight.
    – erm… That’s it sorted.

    As I mentioned before it is quite hard to achieve anything beyond unity on the ground in certain areas with a political party responsible for executing your members and embarking on repression that left many of your people dead.

    I know some on the left feel its their duty to tell people in other countries and other times what they should be doing, but you have to take into account context and the fact that you have the benefit of hindsight.

    But yeah typical ‘Stalinists’ always being sectarian and not working with the social democrats and trade union bureaucracy, apart from when they are typically cosying up to the social democrats and trade union bureaucracy and again when they are typically not doing either of the above. The bastards!

  67. Jellytot:
    I agree that a lot of RA/AFA writing from that period is prescient – for what good it did them.

    The issue I have with how HnH are using it is that I think they’ve dropped some of the most important parts. Specifically, the necessity of providing an alternative. Without that, HnH are attempting to do a positive campaign, without actually offering anything concrete other than “don’t vote fascist”. Fine, but that’s at best a stopgap solution. At worst, it allows the far right to present themselves as the radical anti-establishment. Thankfully, they’re currently either too weak (BNP) or too ideologically muddled (EDL and their offshoots) to capitalise on that. But it’s still a real issue in the long-term.

    Have they as yet? They don’t seem to have the boots on the ground and enough young members to make that happen. Also Griffin is still an MEP and wants to be re-elected as one at the next Euros (if only to secure full pension rights). Any return to ‘march and grow’ could jepardise that.

    Small signs of it, the Liverpool incident being one of the best known. You hit on a good point here though. What’s actually happening at the moment is that they’re not recruiting much; far right activists that would have previously been BNP are going to the NF or the Infidels instead. And both of those groups are attempting street activity at the moment, mainly in the north.

    Anyway, I feel Griffin and the BNP are a busted flush – If the far-right do grow in future the next group to get traction will be a break from the Jordan/NF/BNP line and something even further away from traditional fascism.

    I’d cautiously agree about the BNP. Unless the BNP suddenly get new competent leadership (which is unlikely, as Griffin has expelled most of the likely candidates already), they’re probably not going to be the main players in the future. However, the BFP don’t seem to be going anywhere at the moment either. Things are somewhat unpredictable on the far right at the moment.

    It’s worth remembering that the EDL are an anomaly. Generally, the far right only grow under a Labour government, not a Tory one. And if that happens, it’s difficult to predict what form it will take next time.

    The early/mid 1990′s was a strange time as you had the bizarre scenario of about 4 major anti-fascist groups operating simultaneously

    I don’t think it’s that bizarre; the four groups had very different perspectives and tactics. As an aside, I always found YRE easiest to work with back in the day. (I was AFA but I suspect you’ve already clocked that). To play to stereotype, the Away Team were a bit tasty as well. The SP should relaunch ‘em.

    Looking back ARA’s ideas were interesting but maybe could be considered a bit before their time given the nature of the opposition back then. Anyway, didn’t ARA stress BME leadership?

    The BME leadership issue was the main difference I’d see. What they did do, which HnH also seem to be doing, is have active local groups, which I see as a good thing. The other main commonality is the attempt to enlist the ‘great and good’ to speak out against fascism. That’s where HnH fall down; that may make people feel good about themselves, but it does nothing to harm the enemy. “Oh, shit, Eddie Izzard doesn’t like us. Let’s pack it in guys”.

    No offence but haven’t the fascists always regarded Scotland and Wales as sideshows?

    Not in the case of the EDL, because of the whole football hooligan “we go where we want” attitude. Cardiff is especially symbolic because of Jeff Marsh’s background there. I’d suggest that the Soul Crew turning against the EDL hurt them badly.

    By the time of Brighton and certainly The Stow the EDL were on a downward trajectory anyway. Numbers were dropping off way before then.

    Partly because they’d splintered by that point. Also though, that was always going to happen with a group with its origins in the football firms. You might remember the previous firm that was set up to attack Irish republican marches. Similarly, that burnt out after a few years. But I’d suggest that’s an argument for physical confrontation where tactically feasible. A lot of the EDL rank and file simply don’t have the ideological commitment to keep going under difficult conditions.

    The ban led the numbers in attendance to be small, led to them being kettled whereby they attacked the police and it was the first time we saw them fighting amoung themselves.

    Nah, they’d already started punching each other in Stoke previously.

    The fact that major disorder was averted was a vindication for the HnH strategy – a repeat of 2001 would have been a disaster.

    It’s not an either/or proposition. It’s an argument for discipline and stewarding, not for not directly opposing the EDL. Somewhat mischievously, I’d also suggest it could equally be an argument for *sotto voice* squadism. (Which, in fact, was the case on the day anyway).

    It begs the question though. If HnH’s goal was to keep the EDL on a static demo as opposed to a march, why was that not mentioned before the event?

  68. mahrooq on said:

    People have mentioned that Progress have come to exert significant influence in HNH. What is the basis for this suggestion?

  69. Feodor on said:

    prianikoff:
    You’re certainly consistent in your support for the capitalist state!

    Lol.

    Let’s try some facts, shall we?

    1) The majority SPD leadership had serious reservations about employing paramilitary violence, esp. as they thought their own paramilitary force (whether combined with the KPD’s or not) would be little match for the combined forces of the SA, Reichswehr and other nationalist groups. The example of Austria in 1934 suggests they probably weren’t wrong.

    2) The stability of the ‘capitalist state’ you refer to, which incidentally most employers decried as a ‘trade-union state’, was severely undermined by constant paramilitary violence. Indeed the Prussian SPD administration was deposed on the pretext that it wasn’t able to effectively tackle this.

    Therefore, given both of the above and the SPD’s more general commitment to legalism, their strategy of riding two horses at once undermined their ability to do anything effective. Personally, I think I would have preferred it if they had chosen to raise arms and go out in a blaze of glory rather than with a whimper. But given the general trajectory of the SPD, a campaign to disband all paramilitaries would probably have been more realistic and, perhaps, more successful.

    You seem unable of analysing things in their context and of realising that the rest of the world doesn’t operate according to your ideological biases. This, I believe, is called idealism.

    prianikoff:
    Doing that would have just achieved what the Nazis wanted, but done so voluntarily!

    Yet, conversely, banning the SA and imposing harsh criminal sanctions on its members would have devastated the Nazi movement more than the Reichsbanner ever did, as SA street terror was central to creating the public disorder that the Nazis claimed they would put an end to once in power.

    prianikoff:
    The SPD leadership saw both the Nazis and KPD as equal threats.

    Some evidence of this please. Primary evidence, not the conjecture of some hack.

    Btw, excessive targeting of the KPD does not prove this: it only shows that the SPD-led authorities believed they were an easier target, not that they considered them an ‘equal threat’.

    prianikoff:
    …if the Nazis are allowed to destroy all democratic rights, socialism will be an impossiblity.

    The KPD did not think this. Never did, probably never would. (They were calling Weimar ‘fascist’ by the early 20s, after all.)

    prianikoff:
    Together our parties have a majority of the popular vote.

    No they didn’t. Indeed – and without double-checking, it should be said – I’m almost positive that the combined left never had a majority of the popular vote in any Weimar election; they certainly didn’t after 1929.

    prianikoff:
    Together, the Reichsbanner and Red Front will organise mass street demonstrations to stop the Nazis taking power.

    The RFB had been banned since 1929. You don’t really know what you are talking about.

    prianikoff:
    Of course the KPD leadership were far too sectarian to have adopted such a position.

    Indeed. They were strongly rooted in the Leninist tradition of opposing united fronts, after all – the later Popular Front strategy required a fundamental break with orthodoxy. Then there’s also the bitter history of conflict on the German left which made unity more or less impossible…

    Also, it’s rather amusing to see you decry my support for ‘the capitalist state’, then turn around and propose that the KPD should have entered a coalition government with the SPD in that very state!

    ‘Oh’, you’ll doubtless squeal, ‘that would be a “Workers Government”!’ At least the KPD were consistent in claiming a revolution was needed, instead of just entering a coalition with SPD. Yours are just the ramblings of a fantasist.

  70. mahrooq: People have mentioned that Progress have come to exert significant influence in HNH. What is the basis for this suggestion?

    I have been waiting for someone to substantiate that claim!

  71. Feodor: They were strongly rooted in the Leninist tradition of opposing united fronts, afer all

    I am not sure about that, I believe that Lenin’s “Two Tactics of Social Democracy” advocates what later became known as “united fronts”

  72. Feodor on said:

    Andy Newman: I am not sure about that, I believe that Lenin’s “Two Tactics of Social Democracy” advocates what later became known as “united fronts”

    That’s from 1905 though. From 1914 on, and esp. after Feb 1917, the Bolshevik Party and its international affiliates were presented as the only legitimate parties of the working class, esp. in the places where they had any size or strength. Occasionally they’d engage in ‘united front’ work, but the main thrust was always to go it alone.

  73. Paul Reissner on said:

    @74

    Andy, your  understanding of what is happening on the ground is at odds with reality and reveals very inaccurate sources of information.

    In politics, it is more useful to judge people by what they do rather than what someone thinks another person thinks. 

    In the face of the EDL’s anti Muslim hatred, Unite Against Fascism has worked successfully with local communities to organise a huge number of events to celebrate and defend multicultural society whereever the EDL has sought to demonstrate.

    Whilst this important work has been undertaken, both HNH and Socialist Unity have not covered these EDL actions nor evaluated the lessons of these successful multicultural events. An approach to its credit which has not been shared by Searchlight.

    But much more serious than this abstentionism is HNH’s attempt to mislead the anti fascist movement with its ‘Plague on both your houses’ or ‘Opposite sides of the same coin’ strategy about both the cause and the best way to defeat the EDL and the BNP.

    Blaming some Muslims for the rise of the EDL legitimises the latter’s agenda that but for so called ‘extreme Muslims’ the EDL would not need to exist.

    HNH also tries to mislead the movement on the fascists use of ‘grooming’ as an issue. The problems with this are well explained by Liz Fekete from the IRR, “Given the current climate, in which the far Right accuses the anti-racist lobby of imposing a conspiracy of silence about Muslim involvement in ‘on-street grooming’, I was quite surprised to see you [Nick Lowles] similarly accuse the ‘left’ and anti-racists of being ‘too quick to try and silence any discussion’ and of turning a blind eye to the fact that the bulk of perpetrators of what you describe as ‘on-street grooming’ come from the British-Pakistani community.” http://www.irr.org.uk/news/grooming-an-open-letter-to-nick-lowles/

    We can only stop fascism in Britain by consistently opposing racism and showing in practice that the vast majority of people reject it. At the core of that campaign must be the labour movement and all those communities under attack.

    By blaming a section of the Muslim community for the rise of the EDL and the BNP, HNH breaks up the unity necessary to stop fascism.

    In a period of austerity there is a real danger of a resurgence of British fascism. It is a good job for the anti fascist movement that HNH does not have the capacity to spread their divisive messages in the towns and cities targeted by the EDL and other fascists.

  74. prianikoff on said:

    re Feodor#79
    There’s so much wrong with what you write, that it’s hard to know where to start.

    The KPD’s policy in the 1930’s wasn’t “Leninist” at all.
    Under Lenin, the Bolsheviks adopted a United Front policy during the Kornilov putsch.

    If they’d adopted the same arguments that the KPD-Comintern did in Germany during the 1930s’s, the PG would have been overthrown by Kornilov, the Soviets would have been drowned in blood and there would have been no October Revolution.

    re. the Popular vote in Germany:-
    In the November 1932 election, the combined vote of the SPD and KPD was 13,156,140 votes (37%), 221 seats
    Whereas the Nazis had 11,737,021 votes (33.09%) and 196 seats.

    i.e. the two workers organisations were the largest political bloc and the Nazi vote had peaked.

    Under such circumstances, the correct policy was to form a united front and to issue a joint appeal to stop the Nazis.
    By 1933, no other force in German society was capable of doing this. The German state and army were far too compromised with them. As was shown when Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor.
    Only after this had happened, in the March ’33 elections, did the Nazi vote exceed the combined votes of the SPD-KPD.

    It was Hitler, with the assistance of the High Command of the Army, who finally disbanded all the militias -including the SA itself.

    Your argument; that the SPD should have dissolved the Reichsbanner, in the interests of consistency, is just ludicrous.

  75. Jellytot on said:

    @74In the face of the EDL’s anti Muslim hatred, Unite Against Fascism has worked successfully with local communities to organise a huge number of events to celebrate and defend multicultural society whereever the EDL has sought to demonstrate.

    Your de-facto leader on the ground, Martin Smith, has admitted that 50% of UAF mobilisations are “terrible ones” and involve few people beside the committed ‘parachuting’ themselves into a locale:

    47 min 30 sec in here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uv3sLBHhm0&list=PL5AE70FB0F5E7C1D9&index=50

    Blaming some Muslims for the rise of the EDL legitimises the latter’s agenda that but for so called ‘extreme Muslims’ the EDL would not need to exist.

    It’s a statement of fact that the activites of Al-Muhajiroun (or whatever they were called at the time) led directly to the formation of United Peoples of Luton, from which the EDL grew. I’ll accept that there were wider currents at work but it is a historical fact that the anti army parade demos by Islamists were the catalyst.

    HNH also tries to mislead the movement on the fascists use of ‘grooming’ as an issue.

    The BNP’s use of the grooming issue led them to buck their recent run of poor results and get a reasonable vote in Rotherham.

    Running away from inconvient matters (matters that the fascists’ target constituency are well aware of) won’t make those issues go away.

    For too long the Left have tried to ‘police’ what can and what cannot be discussed in their rapidly shrinking world.

    HnH has seen the traction that certain “incomfortable” issues can get on the ground and have (bravely) put their heads above the parapet and are attempting the address them in a progressive manner that takes away the racism and hysteria.

    These things exist and do so despite some sections of the Left not wanting to confront them.

  76. Jellytot on said:

    People have mentioned that Progress have come to exert significant influence in HNH. What is the basis for this suggestion?

    HnH as the “Reichsbanner” of New Labour?! I’d too like to see some evidence.

  77. Feodor on said:

    prianikoff:
    The KPD’s policy in the 1930′s wasn’t “Leninist” at all.

    Of course not my darling. Just like the Archbishop of Canterbury isn’t a ‘real’ Christian.

    prianikoff:
    Under Lenin, the Bolsheviks adopted a United Front policy during the Kornilov putsch.

    A position that is temporarily held, albeit one that is significant, is nevertheless not indicative of a more generalised practice.

    Before 1917, the Bolsheviks had very uneasy relations with other socialist and left-‘bourgeois’ groups. After 1917, the prevailing view was that the Bolshevik Party and its international affiliates represented the only legitimate parties of the working class.

    At least in the industrialised world, united fronts and coalitions with socialist parties were, on the occasions they occurred, aberrations, not standard practice.

    When will people realise that what Lenin wrote doesn’t automatically correspond with what he did?

    prianikoff:
    In the November 1932 election, the combined vote of the SPD and KPD was 13,156,140 votes (37%)…

    Since when does 37% translate into ‘a majority of the popular vote’?

    To form a government, they either would have needed to make up support from the other parties, or get Hindenburg’s consent. Neither was a possibility.

    prianikoff:
    Under such circumstances, the correct policy was to form a united front and to issue a joint appeal to stop the Nazis.

    Plenty of people issued plenty of appeals. Moreover, all negotiations in this direction broke down.

    There are solid (sociological and historical) reasons for this. It was not just a question of bad political choices – i.e. Trotsky’s boilerplate about the crisis being one of leadership, which reduces historical phenomena to the decisions taken by ‘great men’.

    prianikoff:
    By 1933, no other force in German society was capable of doing this.

    Highly debatable. Both in the sense that the German left, united or divided, had the means of stopping Hitler – unemployment meant a general strike was unlikely to be successful as in 1920, and you don’t need to be a military strategist to realise that the left was not well-equipped for a civil war (see the Austrian example in 1934, where there was a stronger and less divided labour movement). And in the sense that no one else could have stopped Hitler – a military dictatorship/coup was a real possibly, and the DNVP and the economy were also showing signs of a partial recovery. It’s one of those strange things that Hitler was jobbed into office just at the point when the Nazis seemed to have spent their load.

    prianikoff:
    Your argument; that the SPD should have dissolved the Reichsbanner, in the interests of consistency, is just ludicrous.

    Yet this is the best you can do to discredit it? I suppose it’s not worth the effort, ay? Just as it’s not worth the effort to respond to the other points I raised…

    In fact, ‘There’s so much wrong with what you write’, prianikoff, that I don’t see the point in responding to any future posts of yours, esp. as it’s ultimately a diversion from the serious issues of contemporary politics others are debating in this thread.

  78. Manzil on said:

    Feodor: Since when does 37% translate into ‘a majority of the popular vote’?

    To form a government, they either would have needed to make up support from the other parties, or get Hindenburg’s consent. Neither was a possibility.

    The point is surely that between them the Social Democrats and Communists constituted a vast majority of the most politically conscious part of the organised working class, the one force potentially capable of imposing its rule over the wishes of the upper classes. Is it not reasonable to assume that, had they acted in concert and with boldness against the right, they could have defeated the Nazis – who, for all their mass support, were nevertheless less organised and capable of mobilising that support (on account of their typical social backgrounds and outlooks), even if their ‘hard core’ of street-fighting cadre was in many cases, especially in the countryside, much larger than the left’s.

    Offering a decisive lead against Germany could quite easily have drawn in behind the existing left considerably more forces – the anti-fascist support for the Socialists and Communists was in spite of rather than due to their leaderships’ policies, given the profoundly different but equally counter-productive strategies of the workers’ parties in opposing Hitler. But let’s just assume for a moment that the combined electoral vote was in fact the high watermark of their support, and that a united front of the workers’ parties would have alienated the more anti-Communist Social Democrats…

    (On that note: I think prianikoff overstates it, but you would agree that, especially during the period of ‘grand coalitions’ in the twenties, the SPD regarded the Communists as an unacceptable, unlawful force, as opposed to the liberal parties of the ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie who they worked alongside in office, and even the official conservatives whose rule they nevertheless recognised as legitimate?)

    …anyway, let’s accept that proposition. We can nevertheless show that the policy that was adopted, of constitutional opposition to fascism, failed. Alternative histories being mainly guesswork, we can nevertheless probably assume that, even had the SPD-KPD won 51% of the vote and agreed to form a government, the republic’s survival would still have been endangered. From the onset of the Depression and the lapse of parliamentary government, Weimar lacked the potential for resolving its crisis through official channels. The steady descent into Bonapartist rule by the elite prepared the ground for Hitler. Indeed, even before that, the SPD’s conspiracy with the officer caste in 1918-19 ensured that the bureaucracy and the army couldn’t be relied on to respect a legal socialist government.

    A workers’ government could not have ended the menace from above. It would not have enjoyed the confidence of the army and police necessary to suppress the Nazis. But calling for it would have meant increased awareness that a direct, probably ‘illegal’ confrontation between the workers and its enemies – in the militarised state, and the fascist right – was unavoidable, and would have helped break down working-class beliefs in the sustainability and neutrality of the republican machinery. That in itself would have been a step forward compared to their passive acceptance of the right’s ‘coup in slow motion’.

    Saying that the workers’ movement shouldn’t have acted because it lacked a technical parliamentary majority is an after-the-fact endorsement of the left’s passive acquiescence to the ruling class lash-up with Nazism. The SPD had followed a policy of supporting the democratic capitalist parties since 1918; their role in the suppression of the revolutionary movement alongside the freikorps had established the pattern of the SPD mistaking the outlook of the other parties. They saw them as allies (or at least honest rivals); in essence they were opponents, who melted away into the reactionary parties when the crash meant German capital could no longer afford concessions to the workers.

    By basing their project for building a democratic republic on a cross-class platform with the bourgeois democrats, the Socialists ensured that the gains of Weimar were purely formal rather than substantive, because it had quite literally been established at the expense of the most advanced workers.

    As the world went into crisis, the ‘hollow republic’ was steadily removed from even the limited means of accountability that had been conceded immediately after the war’s end. If anything I think the ‘ultra-leftism’ of the Communists is over-played. Even Trotsky’s call for the united front was predicated on cooperation at the rank and file level, rather than overtures to the SPD leadership. Sociologically the Socialists were obviously a proletarian organisation; but its role in the war and the German revolution had left it with an objectively pro-capitalist policy at the decisive hour of confrontation.

    The argument that a different KPD policy would have transformed the situation should not be mistaken for a call for illusions in the programme of the SPD. It is that a bold and open-minded Communist policy would have carried the flower of the Socialist working class behind them. By its sectarianism the KPD left the Social Democrats with no leadership but their own, impotent leaders. As George W said at#57, we shouldn’t ignore the disgusting, murderous role of the SPD in the previous decade.

    I know you said at #87 you didn’t want to debate this further with prianikoff, but I hope you’ll indulge me instead, if I promise not to accuse you of supporting baby-killing capitalism. :)

  79. Andy Newman: I have been waiting for someone to substantiate that claim!

    Well, Ruth Smeeth certainly has influence on the direction of HnH at least.

  80. Manzil:
    I know you said at #87 you didn’t want to debate this further with prianikoff, but I hope you’ll indulge me instead, if I promise not to accuse you of supporting baby-killing capitalism.

    Go on then, I just can’t resist that smile of yours. ;)

    Before I reply to anything specific though, just so you know where I’m coming from, I’m rather pessimistic about, (a) what a united left could of achieved, and (b) what a KPD-SPD alliance could of achieved that the SPD couldn’t have done on its own. Donna Harsch described the SPD as a ‘giant with feet of mud’, I think that’s apt, and moreover, I think overcoming its internal inertia and confusion was something that the SPD had to more or less do by itself. Hence my suggestion about campaigning for all paramilitary formations to be disbanded: it’s not necessarily what I would consider ideal, but instead seems the most coherent and possibly successful strategy the SPD could have pursued given the direction it had gone over the past decade or so.

    I should say that, if at times this seems like a long-winded defence of the SPD, which overlooks what they did in 1918/19 etc., this is only because that portion of the story is well-known to everyone on the left (though in a greatly mythologised form), as is what happened in the Third Period. Generally speaking, however, people are less attuned to what went on between 1919 and 1929, yet this is no less important to an understanding of the issues under discussion. Moreover, even left-wing historians seem disinclined towards studying the SPD: the KPD is more ‘glamorous’, I guess.

    Is it not reasonable to assume that, had they acted in concert and with boldness against the right, they could have defeated the Nazis

    Possibly. Best case scenario, however, was probably that a concerted left-wing campaign would have made the German ruling class think twice about backing the Nazis, and deeming the possibility of civil war too great a threat, pursued a different course – military coup, continued rule by Presidential decree, etc., take your pick.

    Imo, the argument advanced by a number of left-wing historians (Dick Geary and Richard Bessel, e.g.), that the size of the German left obscures its weakness both in terms of its industrial and military/fighting capacity and also relative to its enemies, is a strong one. Furthermore, the KPD was increasingly tied only to certain localities, while the SPD was an ageing party, and neither had significant support in the countryside. And as I’ve already said, the hostility between the two parties was deeply held and based on solid historical and sociological foundations.

    Make no mistake, these were huge – perhaps insurmountable – obstacles, whatever strategy was pursued. (The Austrian example is instructive in this context: far less hurdles, but defeat nevertheless.)

    …you would agree that, especially during the period of ‘grand coalitions’ in the twenties, the SPD regarded the Communists as an unacceptable, unlawful force, as opposed to the liberal parties of the ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie who they worked alongside in office, and even the official conservatives whose rule they nevertheless recognised as legitimate?

    Debatable. The SPD-left was open to coalitions, and on a local scale they were created from time to time: Saxony and Thuringia in 1923, e.g., and also over the issue of compensation for the princes’ estates in 1927/28. Moreover, the KPD hardly acquitted themselves well in these coalitions: one of their worst habits was to outline a set of ‘minimum’ demands, yet include a few obviously ‘maximum’ demands within, which could then be used as a pretext to denounce the SPD and storm out in a huff.

    Indeed after 1929 the KPD seemed, on some issues, happier to campaign with nationalists – e.g. on the fascist plebiscite to remove the SPD Prussian gov. in 31 or 32, which was transformed into a ‘red plebiscite’ by Moscow, against the muted objections of Thaelmann, it should be noted. And even in the early 20s, they generally took a very different foreign policy line than the SPD, one which was based on stopping any kind of rapprochement between Germany and the west, whereas the SPD wanted to join the League of Nations etc.

    Without going on endlessly, suffice to say neither side was always in the right and always in the wrong, but nevertheless your claim is a little unfair on the SPD: the KPD didn’t make working with them easy, nor were they interested in working with the SPD during most of the period, they preferred to denounce them. (In fact the biggest stumbling block in united front negotiations was pretty much always the SPD’s insistence on a ‘truce on criticism’. They just didn’t like being labelled as fascists and enemies of the working class. I can’t say I blame them, though they should have just said this rather than talking about abstract truces which implied they wouldn’t tolerate any political critique).

    It’s also worth noting that the SPD was out of national government during most of Weimar, and left the ‘grand coalition’ over the question of cutting employment relief. They did work with ‘bourgeois’ parties – though the DNVP generally refused to work with them, except during the (brief-ish) ‘grand coalition’ – but it was, broadly speaking, on a principled basis in which they did not give in to those parties all that often. (The only horse-trading that really sticks out was over the issue of school secularisation, where they yielded to the Catholic Zentrum in order to ensure its support of welfare reforms – hardly something that deserves great criticism.)

    A workers’ government could not have ended the menace from above…

    I don’t disagree with most of what you’re saying here. But a salient point is that neither the KPD or SPD really had any clue about how to deal with the economic issue. For the KPD, it was all after the revolution we’ll sort it out. For the SPD, the inflation crisis and the general poverty of German economic thought meant that counter-cyclical measures weren’t proposed until late 1932.

    And irrespective of the appeal of a gov committed to stopping fascism, the economic crisis was the issue which would have determined whether they could form a gov or not, and they simply lacked an answer to this. (The Nazis were pretty much the only group that did have an ‘answer’, though this was basically promising all things to everyone, Jews excepted, of course.)

    Plus, I just don’t see how, given their histories, the SPD and KPD would have ever formed such a gov – it’s a pipedream. But I would say the SPD alone, or perhaps with Zentrum and left-liberal support, could have formed a working gov, though they were confused over a number of issues, not least how to revive the economy.

    The SPD had followed a policy of supporting the democratic capitalist parties since 1918…

    That’s unfair. They had a policy of creating a democratic welfare state in line with their principles, which they did, more or less. Though I agree with the rest of what you say in respect of how they didn’t quite grasp the nature of the other ‘bourgeois’ parties. And ‘toleration’ was a disastrous policy.

    …the Socialists ensured that the gains of Weimar were purely formal rather than substantive

    Uh? The 8-hour day, the ZAG and other employer-employee agreements, unemployment insurance, etc. – these were pretty substantive, the type of things contemporary socialists are today trying to defend from being dismantled.

    …it had quite literally been established at the expense of the most advanced workers.

    There’s a lot of debate about the 1918/19 revolutions, and in particular how much support the short-lived ‘Soviet republics’ had. It’s certainly the case that many of the mutinying sailors and revolutionary shop stewards thought they were premature, as did Luxemburg, Radek and others (though not Liebknecht), and that, moreover, they’ve kind of been idealised and mystified in the years since.

    That’s not to excuse the role played by the SPD leadership, but the issue is a whole lot more complex than received far-left wisdom suggests.

    …the ‘hollow republic’

    Is that one of Trotsky’s phrases?

    I think this is a dangerous line of reasoning. Have a look at some of the things in the Weimar Constitution – it wasn’t all that dissimilar to the Russian. There was certainly a lot achieved and a lot worth defending. In fact it would in many cases be a progressive advance on what we have in this country now.

    …its role in the war and the German revolution had left it with an objectively pro-capitalist policy at the decisive hour of confrontation.

    Pov thing. But I think pro-(‘bourgeois’)democratic policy is a more apt description.

    It’s also worth noting that the SPD was far from monolithic (unlike the KPD post-1925ish), yet in these kinds of debates that always seems the implicit assumption. By the mid-20s, many of the USPD leaders had rejoined, and the party had undergone some important changes.

    Moreover, while the 1918/19 rev played an important role in the Communist narrative, ‘social fascism’ became a dominant thesis in 1924, after the experience of coalition in Saxony and Thuringia. Therefore the KPD’s position cannot really be justified by reference to events before that: those events were the extra toppings, so to speak. They weren’t as much of an obstacle in the way of unity as people think. Indeed the KPD of the late 20s/early 30s had few members with any links to 1918/19 – they’d been mostly expelled by that point.

    Also, the Chinese situation and the events of 1927 had a huge impact on the KPD line. Yet one would be hard-pressed to say the SPD were anything like Kuomintang or that the Chinese situation was directly relevant to the German, though I’m sure there are still some people who hold to such a view.

  81. So not General Secretary or any thing like that then? I have not seen her name on any articles or anything that would suggest anything other than she works there.

  82. I just thought as well, many people would say a big problem with ‘actually existing socialism’ was a lack of democracy and respect for rule of law. German (and Austrian) Social Democracy had many faults, without question, but had a very laudable commitment to both these issues, to the point that people often criticise them for being too committed to them!

    I don’t really like to pick sides in the Communism versus Social Democracy debate – it strikes me that there’s things that can be learnt from both, but that requires proper evaluation of their histories.

  83. Jellytot on said:

    @77The issue I have with how HnH are using it is that I think they’ve dropped some of the most important parts. Specifically, the necessity of providing an alternative. Without that, HnH are attempting to do a positive campaign, without actually offering anything concrete other than “don’t vote fascist”. Fine, but that’s at best a stopgap solution. At worst, it allows the far right to present themselves as the radical anti-establishment. Thankfully, they’re currently either too weak (BNP) or too ideologically muddled (EDL and their offshoots) to capitalise on that. But it’s still a real issue in the long-term.

    I agree that it is an issue but HnH are a single issue focused campaign and, as such, it is not really under their remit to provide an economic or political plan of action (much less a worldview) to directly deal with the structural causes of fascism and other forms of reactionary extremism. They could do, I suppose, but it would nullify their message and they might as well become a formal political party.

    They certainly can explain why such things occur but I don’t beleive such deep politics should be a major part of their propaganda aimed at ‘Joe Public’. I feel it would fall on stoney ground given the present levels of consciousness and the propaganda materiels of HnH (working with the Mirror) get it roughly about right.

    By their very nature such campaigns are stopgap affairs that can be one of the factors that retard the fascist advance, stop them influencing the narrative and can help provide the political space for traditions such as ours to grow and prosper. However, I don’t think it can realistically go much beyond that.

  84. Jellytot on said:

    Feodor

    Also, the Chinese situation and the events of 1927 had a huge impact on the KPD line. Yet one would be hard-pressed to say the SPD were anything like Kuomintang or that the Chinese situation was directly relevant to the German, though I’m sure there are still some people who hold to such a view.

    Really?

    Weren’t the leadership of the SPD actually overseeing the massacring of the Communists a mere ten years before the period you’re discussing?

    Surely this must have had a conscious effect on the willingness of KPD members to unite with them?

  85. Jellytot, in that one respect, I guess.

    Though it should be noted that the old Imperial elite basically abdicated responsibility in 1918 rather than face up to their failure. They basically said to Ebert and co. ‘it’s your mess now’.

    In the meantime, there were small, isolated uprisings, many of which even the Communists thought were premature – don’t pick fights you can’t win, in essence. And moreover, in places like Bavaria, there was a quite liberal use of death penalty on the Communist side. (Not to mention the news that was filtering out of Russia by this time about how Lenin and co. had been dealing with their opponents, other socialists included.)

    Ebert and co. were under a great deal of pressure to stop the country from disintegrating and the western powers from invading. They needed to restore public order and therefore called upon the Freikorps. But, Noske aside, they don’t seem to have taken great pleasure in this, and much of the Freikorps’ activities went beyond what they had been charged to do. While it was the imperial judiciary that dealt with the aftermath, largely independent of SPD influence. (I’m not saying I agree with any of this, btw, just trying to underline the fluidity and complexity of the situation.)

    At the same time, many on the left-wing of Social Democracy thought the events represented a great tragedy – yet it was precisely the SPD-left who were later painted as the ‘main enemy’, not the SPD-right.

    It was a mini civil war in which few came out with their honour completely intact. Bernstein put it best when he said it represented ‘socialist against socialists’. :(

    I don’t think that really compares with what was happening in China, though my knowledge of those events is far more limited.

  86. Jellytot:
    Surely this must have had a conscious effect on the willingness of KPD members to unite with them?

    Alternate, shorter answer: it didn’t seem to have much effect in 1923 or 1928 when the Comintern deemed unity was ok.

  87. Also, one could make the case that the events in Germany in 1918/19 were in some cases similar to those at Kronsdadt. In both cases a more diplomatic solution should have been sought by the governments in question, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the isolated uprisings could or should have lasted.

  88. Mackem Lad on said:

    Feodor: It was a mini civil war in which few came out with their honour completely intact. Bernstein put it best when he said it represented ‘socialist against socialists’.

    Were Ruth Smeeth and Nick Lowles involved?

  89. Manzil on said:

    Andy Newman,

    I know as much as you. Nor do I particularly feel the ‘Progress takeover’ argument is credible, either.

    The Gable-Lowles spat seems to have been about control over the money and media contacts, and competing egos, as much as political strategy. And the information we do have comes from dodgy ‘para-political’ conspiracy theorist sites and the Indymedia lunatic fringe.

    Even if we accept the idea: has HNH’s position (apart from no-platform) changed since the (supposedly Progress inspired?) break with Searchlight? I don’t think so. In which case, who cares?

  90. prianikoff on said:

    Manzil # 88

    ” If anything I think the ‘ultra-leftism’ of the Communists is over-played.”

    If anything, it’s underplayed.
    The KPD’s branches were strongly discouraged from working with the SPD at rank and file level and attempts to create United Fronts with them eg. by Schneeweiss were usually met with expulsions. They did more work trying to win over rank and file SA members!

    “Even Trotsky’s call for the united front was predicated on cooperation at the rank and file level, rather than overtures to the SPD leadership.”

    Trotsky did propose overtures to the SPD leadership in order to create a united front.
    Just as the Bolsheviks had joined committees of revolutionary defence against Kornilov, led by the Mensheviks and SR’s.
    It was the Stalinist leadership of the KPD which rejected this policy.
    Only after they’d realised the scale of their defeat did they change this position.
    At this point they made proposals to the SPD leadership for a complete non-aggression pact.
    – They got it wrong on both counts.

    BTW, I’m not trying to divert attention from contemporary events with this. I didn’t raise it in the first place

  91. prianikoff on said:

    “In 1932 the KPD expelled Helmut Schneeweiss, the local leader of the Anti-Fascist League of Struggle in Oranienberg, on the grounds of alleged membership of the Left Opposition. This was the culmination of differences on the question of the United Front, which had been gathering for some time. Fifty-six other members of the League were also expelled. Only after the expulsions had been made known in the Rote Fahne did the group around Schneeweiss (which had been courted by several oppositional Communist organisations) join the LO.”

    From “Zur Politik and Geschichte der deutschen Trotzkisten ab 1930″ a research thesis by Wolfgang Alles, submitted to the University of Mannheim in 1978.

  92. Manzil on said:

    Feodor,

    Trotsky’s phrase? No, that’s all Manzil, baby. I can see how you’d mistake us, though.

    It’s the hair, isn’t it?

    In terms of the nature of the republic, surely it’s splitting hairs to dispute whether the Socialist policy was pro-democratic or specifically bourgeois-democratic, whether it was pro-capitalist or just anti-revolutionary etc. In essence they amount to the same thing.

    The Socialists – or at least their leadership, which is what we have to deal with, rather than its left wing – believed the republic could be a tool for the German labour movement. They believed it was the most advanced form of government available, that it was sustainable despite the first European and later worldwide crises which beset it, and that it was the ideal means of asserting working-class power. On all those things I vehemently disagree – but that isn’t intended as a blanket endorsement of the Communist position, any more than I think you are engaged in an apologia for the Social Democracy.

    I don’t think the Austrian example should be held up as a justification for legality, any more than the defeat of the Spanish Republic. They lost. It happens. That they were forced into fighting shows however the bankruptcy of the constitutional path, given the massive coalitions of the upper classes and extreme right which confronted European workers in the inter-war period.

    I think there is a danger of mistaking the wood for the trees. Individual reforms were passed, objectively in the interests of workers and the poor. Great. Did Lloyd George’s people’s budget change the class nature of the British state? Did Bismarck’s social insurance systems? Parliamentary and legislative developments reflect rather than precede decisive periods of the class struggle. The fact is that power in the German republic remained largely in the hands of the imperial ruling class. It was not broken by the war or the attempted revolution – precisely because fundamental economic change is possibly only after the political question has been resolved. Whereas the SPD line was, essentially, to suppress the class struggle within the big tent of the democratic republic and pursue reform through parliamentary means, when that system was not, could not, be the neutral tool which their strategy depended on.

    And while we can accuse individual judges, generals, industrialists and bureaucrats or having been responsible for particular obstructions of progress, the Socialists were instrumental to the process of saving the unreconstructed government administration and officer corps from reform or abolition. The levers of power remained in elite hands. That, and not Noske’s turd-like personality or Ebert’s weakness, is the serious issue and the great indictment of SPD policy. Does it matter whether they took ‘pleasure’ in suppressing the revolts? The very deference shown to issues of public order and legality highlight, as much as their disgraceful behaviour over the war, that the Socialists were objectively pursuing a radical bourgeois position – given the maturity of German labour, a fundamentally reactionary position.

    Anyway, generally agree with the thrust of your post. It’s not a clear-cut case either way. I just think that understandable criticisms of the ‘Third Period’ are sometimes generalised into a delegitimising of the (agree with them or not, consistent) Marxist criticisms of the theory and practice of the SDP.

  93. Manzil on said:

    prianikoff,

    But the Kornilov example is precisely my point – its equivalent in Germany would have been a unity in action, between Communist and Socialist workers, in spite of the SPD apparatus. Thus the talk of ‘forcing social democracy into a bloc’ against fascism. My point wasn’t to defend the KPD but to suggest that that a principled front with the Social Democracy itself was impossible – they may have both been workers’ parties, but their outlook (not to mention bloody history) created an insurmountable division.

    prianikoff: BTW, I’m not trying to divert attention from contemporary events with this. I didn’t raise it in the first place

    I didn’t accuse you of doing so! I for one love diverting attention from contemporary events, which are profoundly depressing.

  94. Morning Star reader on said:

    Prianikoff (105), of course the KPD got it wrong on both counts, even when they do what you (or Trotsky) suggest they should have done. And of course Manzil has underestimated the scale of the KPD’s mistakes. We all underestimate the mistakes of Communist Parties, it seems, except you.
    It is a constant theme of almost all of your contributions in every thread that ALL Communist Parties in ALL countries in ALL conditions on ALL issues have got everything disastrously wrong from 1925 to the present day.
    If you weren’t so obviously consumed by an obsessive anti-Communism, more of us might take your views more seriously. As it is, they are suspect because it is clear that you take no account of any arguments or sources that do not support anti-Communist conclusions. That’s a pity, because the historical record should be examined critically in every respect.

  95. prianikoff on said:

    #108 “the Kornilov example is precisely my point – its equivalent in Germany would have been a unity in action, between Communist and Socialist workers, in spite of the SPD apparatus.”

    Not according to Trotsky. He says that after he’d been bailed out of prison by the trade unions in August 1917, he went directly to the Committee for National Defense

    “where I discussed and adopted decisions regarding the struggle against Kornilov with the Menshevik Dan and the Social Revolutionary Gotz, allies of Kerensky who had kept me in prison.”

    #109 “obsessive anti-Communism”

    Don’t be a silly-billy. These disputes over policy in Germany were mostly conducted within the CP.

  96. Morning Star reader on said:

    Dear comrade Priankikoff, my reference to your ‘obsessive anti-Communism’ was in relation to all of your contributions, not just on this issue. There were indeed controversies inside Communist Parties including the KPD, and there still are. And certainly, especially in the past, these were often conducted with the emphasis on centralism rather than on democracy. But your contributions indicate that you have an obsessively one-sided, anti-Communist view on this matter as well.
    I enjoy reading your articles, and find some of your sources useful, but then I’m the kind of Stalinist silly-billy who thinks that not everything said and done by another political tradition on the left is without merit.

  97. Manzil on said:

    @ Prianikoff – and yet the Bolsheviks explicitly refused to join the Provisional Government, called for the release of the revolutionaries still in its jails etc. Trotsky told the Kronstadt delegation who visited him in prison to protect Kerensky today and arrest him tomorrow. There was no subordination to the political objectives of the right-wing socialists.

    Morning Star reader: And of course Manzil has underestimated the scale of the KPD’s mistakes. We all underestimate the mistakes of Communist Parties, it seems, except you.

    I don’t know whether to be encouraged or offended!

  98. Feodor on said:

    Manzil:
    It’s not a clear-cut case either way.

    Totally agree.

    Studying Weimar and the Weimar left in particular has been the main focus of what I’ve done in university over the past couple of years. And the more you read, the more you realise that things weren’t as cut and dry as you think. Last night, e.g., I was reading Rosa Levine-Meyer’s memoirs, and as ever found out some things I’d never known before.

    E.g., it seems the remnants of the ‘right opposition’ and/or ‘Conciliators’ were still bubbling under the surface in the early 1930s, with many people having a lot of respect for Thaelmann as good activist, but despairing at the fact that a man so theoretically limited was in charge of the party. By his own admission, it seems he really didn’t know how to respond to events. On a purely human level, it struck me as quite tragic that such a committed man was promoted to a position he wasn’t fit for.

    It also seems that in the 1932 Presidential elections Pieck might have made some secret overtures towards the SPD to unconditionally back a socialist candidate, yet the seeds of distrust had already blossomed into a forest of hatred.

    Moreover, to my surprise, it seems the KPD were willing to back Braun in 1925, though Maslow’s conditions, delivered too late, were nevertheless designed in a way that would undermine this in practice. Both the election results (KPD voters voting for Marx in the second round) and the feeling on factory floors seems to indicate many people strongly objected to KPD strategy in 1925 – until now I’d thought a lot of the objections were after the fact judgements by historians, because I hadn’t come across any primary evidence which suggested it. (Admittedly one memoir doesn’t constitute definitive proof.)

    Thus, while I accept your point about having to deal with SPD leadership not its unempowered factions (and the KPD’s, for that matter), the twists and turns of politics over the course of a decade means that at various points different groups held the balance of power, which makes treating each as a monolith much more difficult. By the time Ebert died, Bernstein, Kautsky and others had rejoined the SPD, and some of the KPD ‘right opposition’ later followed them (Levi e.g., possibly Brandler as well, can’t remember). Thus there might of been a small opportunity in 1925 to overcome past differences, yet this was precisely the period when the Maslow-Fischer ultra-left were dominating KPD politics. Yet if Ernst Meyer had replaced them rather than Thaelmann, perhaps things would have turned out differently. I’ve long thought that the KPD right and SPD left were the groups that had the best analysis of events, so it greatly interests me as to why neither prevailed.

    I agree with the thrust of your critique about Weimar, the only reason I think this dangerous is that such arguments were used by the left to justify not defending it. With hindsight, we can avoid such mistakes and learn from them, but I still think there’s a danger in the here and now of dismissing democratic gains and therefore not defending them when they’re under attack. You’re far too sophisticated to fall into any such trap, but it’s a delicate balance that many people seem on occasions to get wrong.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree over Austria – I really do think it’s an instructive example of what was and wasn’t possible. Moreover, the problem I’d say wasn’t the constitutional route per se, but that the main leadership was all Vienna based, and thus were slow in responding to developments in the other provinces, esp. Styria.

    I also think you overestimate the ‘maturity’ of the German left and its strength relative to its opponents. After all, across Europe in 1914 both the bulk of the leadership and the bulk of the rank and file got caught up in the patriotic fever, which suggests socialist consciousness was often only skin deep. Also, reforming the state apparatus is no easy task – as even the Bolsheviks realised, a state needs a lot of its specialists to function. And there certainly wasn’t a majority in favour of socialist transformation in Germany in 1918/19, not even a majority among the working class – Russia, of course, was the complete opposite, about 90% of the pop. backed a socialist party of some stripe.

    In any case I’m a nobody, will never achieve anything nor lead anyone, so I always think it best to temper my criticisms with an acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation others faced. Every Englishman you ever talk to can pick a starting XI which would win a world cup: in reality, however, apart from that one fluke on home soil, you’re always abysmal, whether an Englishman or a ‘Jonhny foreigner’ picks the side. ;)

    Now that’s a depressing analogy: socialism as the England team of international politics!!!

    Marx as Bobby Moore, Lenin as Geoff Hurst, Tony Cliff as Beckham… and Martin Smith as John Terry!?

  99. Jellytot on said:

    @104The Gable-Lowles spat seems to have been about control over the money and media contacts, and competing egos, as much as political strategy.

    You’re probably right although I possess no inside knowledge.

    I’ve always liked Gable (still do) and he has obviously built up a lot of political capital over the years. I found the split and subsequent spat profoundly depressing.

  100. Manzil on said:

    Feodor: Martin Smith as John Terry!?

    C’mon, admit it: that wasn’t a random comparison was it. :P

    You’ve a far stronger stomach than I to argue the toss about your academic area online. I’ve focused on British India for the past four years or so and don’t think I could bring myself to talk about it in my spare time!! Anyway, I don’t think there’s much more than a disagreement of emphasis (apart from your disgraceful ‘consistent support for the capitalist state’!) so I won’t argue for the sake of it.

    One point – I think that, crucial to understanding the mistakes made by the workers (whether over-estimating their strength in Austria, or under-estimating the danger in Germany) is extending due consideration to the fact they didn’t have the benefit of hindsight. Critiquing their performance, without taking that into account, is almost an inverse of the ‘condescension of posterity’ – demanding super-human performances from people who did the best they could in their own estimation.

    @ Jellytot – I share your feelings. That the latest disagreement over no platform seems to have turned personal is particularly disappointing. I think the well has been well and truly poisoned. Even Searchlight’s split from UAF was largely kept from hampering the effectiveness of anti-fascists.

  101. Feodor: Every Englishman you ever talk to can pick a starting XI which would win a world cup: in reality, however, apart from that one fluke on home soil, you’re always abysmal, whether an Englishman or a ‘Jonhny foreigner’ picks the side.

    Now that’s a depressing analogy: socialism as the England team of international politics!!!

    Stalin is reputed to have observed that building socialism in Poland was like saddling a cow.
    He might have thought that building a socialist movement in Britain is like saddling a hobby horse

  102. StevieB on said:

    #114 – How very revealing that a Hope not Hate enthusiast like Jellytot does not understand the split with Searchlight. There may have been an argument about money, but isn’t it blindingly obvious that there was a political difference?

    Just read the noxious magazine published by HnH. It is a strange mixture as someone struggles to make real the aim to be a campaign against “extremism”. The last issue of 2012 contains a revolting article which claims that Muslim men are more likely to carry out child abuse. Other issues contain articles attacking Muslim organisations which are supposed to be as big a problem as the fascists of the BNP, and the Islamophobic pogromists of the EDL.

    Searchlight’s break with HnH wasn’t “depressing”. It was highly progressive. It refused to sink into a messy hybrid organisation with no obvious purpose. Searchlight refused to give up its commitment to anti-fascism. That is why Searchlight and Unite against Fascism are working together. Plenty of room to discuss different types of activity if you share a principal of opposing the fascists by any means necessary.

    So tomorrow Searchlight and UAF will be demonstrating with others in solidarity with the people of Greece against the fascists of New Dawn. HnH will perhaps be doing something else – maybe campaigning again to have a conference of Muslims banned?

    And on March 2nd UAF and One Society Many Cultures will be holding a conference at the TUC to, among other things, plan the ejection of Griffin and Brons in the 2014 Euro elections. Doubtless the Searchlight stall and activists will be there, helping to forge the broadest unity of the anti-fascist movement.

  103. Jellytot on said:

    @118How very revealing that a Hope not Hate enthusiast like Jellytot does not understand the split with Searchlight.

    Not really. Whilst I will pay attention to this internecine “movement” stuff, I am more interested in broader themes that matter out there in society. That is why I think the article by Lowles in a worthwhile contribution to the debate and I’m broadly supportive of its themes.

    @118That is why Searchlight and Unite against Fascism are working together.

    I’m pleased that you’re bestest friends….it’s good to have friends and the SWP needs all it can get at the moment….I hope you’ll be very happy together.

    @118Just read the noxious magazine published by HnH. It is a strange mixture as someone struggles to make real the aim to be a campaign against “extremism”. The last issue of 2012 contains a revolting article which claims that Muslim men are more likely to carry out child abuse. Other issues contain articles attacking Muslim organisations which are supposed to be as big a problem as the fascists of the BNP, and the Islamophobic pogromists of the EDL.

    It is ironic that people like you were directing these exact same criticisms, almost word for word, against Searchlight 3 years ago, before the split.

    P.S. StevieB, your tone and writing style is very redolent of somebody else who used to post on here about this stuff; not that he/she would ever dream of using another handle :-)

  104. Jellytot on said:

    @118That is why Searchlight and Unite against Fascism are working together.

    “We are at war with Eastasia. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”

    @120 – Thanks for the correction. The rather sneering tone threw me for a moment.

  105. Manzil: C’mon, admit it: that wasn’t a random comparison was it.

    I plead the fifth! ;)

    If Smith ever interviewed him for Socialist Worker, it would make a great headline: Mockney meets Cockney; (alleged) rapist meets (alleged) racist.

    I reckon I’d make a good headline writer for the Sun… or the Weekly Worker. :)

    v good point on hindsight as well, esp. pertinent when dealing with the German left.

  106. I always liked Lowles. I believe the reason for the split was to put the mad man out to graze.

    Evidence of late would suggest that was the most wise of decisions Lowles ever made.

    Those of us that remember his contribution to Anti-fascism recall how he spent most of his time attacking Palestinian activists, black activists,Muslim activists and so on. Now at his final hour he has changed his tune and more fool the SWP if they are desperate enough to get suckered in this way.

    Like many others I walked away from Searchlight when Gable was yapping about how to criticise Israel was collaborating with Nazis a claim he repeated late last year in a dreadful speech to Northampton University who wound up their anti extremism unit soon after. Probably through shame.

  107. Manzil on said:

    Paolo: a claim he repeated late last year in a dreadful speech to Northampton University who wound up their anti extremism unit soon after.

    Oh? That speech available online anywhere?

    A quick search just comes up with a lot of links to St***front. I don’t want to read it that much!

  108. #113 Have you read anything by/ about Carl von Ossietzky? I’d never heard of him until I came across a book called ‘The Stolen Republic’ in a second hand lefty bookshop a few years ago.

  109. Feodor on said:

    Vanya:
    #113 Have you read anything by/ about Carl von Ossietzky? I’d never heard of him until I came across a book called ‘The Stolen Republic’ in a second hand lefty bookshop a few years ago.

    I’ve got something called The Weimar Sourcebook in the house. It’s a sizeable edited collection of short pieces by various Weimar figures and includes a few pieces by him. He seems to have been an impressive investigative journalist. A lifelong (?) pacifist and SPD supporter/member if memory serves me correctly, he wrote a series of articles exposing the covert rearmament of the German military in the early 20s; ended up being sentenced to 18 months in prison for his troubles.

    The book you mention rings a bell, but I’ve not read it. Did you buy it and read it? What was your impression?

    Another really good Weimar journalist whose work I’ve read quite a bit of, is Joseph Roth. Brilliant prose, insightful mind, if you ever come across anything about him, it’s well worth a read: the type of writer who can describe a local park in a way that gets the cogs of your brain to turn at one hell of a speed.

  110. prianikoff on said:

    Manzil #112
    “The Bolsheviks explicitly refused to join the Provisional Government, called for the release of the revolutionaries still in its jails etc. Trotsky told the Kronstadt delegation who visited him in prison to protect Kerensky today and arrest him tomorrow. There was no subordination to the political objectives of the right-wing socialists.”

    Yes, but my point was this was a United Front, which Feodor suggested the Bolsheviks never engaged in.
    Just before this example, in the very same paragraph, Trotsky wrote:-

    “…the Bolsheviks proposed the united front struggle to the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries and created together with them joint organizations of struggle.”

    “For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism”
    (December 1931) – (Once Again on the Russian Experience)
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/311208.htm

    In Russia there were already mass Soviets vying for power and the Provisional Government hadn’t even drawn up a new Constitution.
    That wasn’t the situation in Germany during the 1920’s-30’s.
    Parliamentary democracy was relatively well-embedded.
    There had been examples of coalitions between the SPD and KPD in the early 20’s.
    Therefore the Workers Government slogan still had some purchase as a transitional demand, which is why the slogan was adopted at the 4th Comintern Congress.

    See John Riddell’s article on this here:-
    http://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/a-workers-government-as-a-step-toward-socialism/

    Trotsky didn’t adopt the slogan in his writings on the 1930’s, perhaps because it was associated with the Brandlerites.
    But I think that it was a logical consequence of his call for a United Front, especially after the November ’32 election. It’s also applicable to the current political situation in Greece.

  111. #127 The book was published by Lawrence and Wishart in 1971.

    Ossietzky seems to have been quite complex, and developed sympathies for the KPD. For instance he supported Thaelman for president rather than Hindenburg against the SPD position.

    I suspect he would probably have been expelled as a rightist if he’d joined the KPD though, although they may have tolerated him because of his quite impressive journalistic skills.

    Interesting stuff about the campaigns around All Quiet on the Western Front.

    He differed from the KPD on the question of relations with the West, which I suppose reflected his pacifism.

    I’ve only dipped into it- haven’t found time to read cover to cover. If you might find it useful with your studies pass on your contact details to admin and I’ll send it you.

  112. Feodor on said:

    Vanya:
    If you might find it useful with your studies pass on your contact details to admin and I’ll send it you.

    Thanks for the offer Vanya, that’s very kind of you. :)

    But it turns out there’s a copy in my university library, will have to take it out. From what you say it certainly seems worth a read.

    Re him being tolerated within the party, you’re probably right. The KPD did have quite a few celebrity sympathisers so to speak. Hans Eisler, e.g., who composed the battle song of the RFB, was one. Indeed it’s one of the more interesting things about Third Period Communism in Germany in particular and 1930s Communism more generally that it exerted a very strong appeal on some very talented intellectuals and artists. Christopher Isherwood was another of course.

  113. red snapper on said:

    @Red Rob.
    True, as a freelance have done some commissioned work for them from time to time, at really crappy, well below NUJ rates especially considering the personal risks involved. But then do you always agree with your employers?

  114. #132 Isherwood’s account of the counter demo in defence of the kpd hq in Berlin is interesting.

  115. red snapper on said:

    @Red Rob.
    Its in my interest to be “chummy” with my employers, it doesn’t mean I agree with them. May have my differences with HnH and others I work for but FFS they are hardly the Daily Mail are they?
    @Andy. I didn’t say that. My point is that Ruth is shall we say very pro Israel and that may well have an influence on HnH’s direction, hence all that “Muslim extremist” nonsense. What about Zionist extremism? What about organisations who fund Israeli state terrorism, support illegal settlements? What about the British people who volunteer for service in the IDF? Any mention of them? And on the subject of right wing extremism what about those vile Ulster Loyalists whose connections with the far right in Britain are well known? HnH get a lot of trade union funding and I have just been told by a TU branch secretary that her branch may well stop giving them any more money because of the direction they are taking.

  116. Red Rob on said:

    Wow, Cosying up to HNH for the money? Your chums there will be quite upset to hear that.As far as I can tell HNH do a lot of work exposing fascists and unionists. I have seen more work from them on that front than any other group. Good work too by the looks of their latest mag.

    And now we also have Gable calling the left nazis for campaigning against Israel apparently. And now according to Red he was never really chums with HNH because they do not like people who are amongst the most sexist and indeed fascist but are apparently more like another group of racists and fascists? How bizarre.

  117. red snapper on said:

    @Rob. Never said that they don’t do good and necessary work as do Searchlight, UAF, antifa, etc. I am not being sectarian, just expressing the same concerns as many others here that HnH are taking a backward step and getting far too close to New Labour and their reactionary view of the world and “my chums” are still “my chums” and they know full well what I think and agree to disagree and just get on with the job. “Cosying up for the money”? What planet are you on? We all have to try and make a living and I sure don’t do this for the money. But no worker should have to work for nothing, I too have to cover expenses, eat, pay bills, etc. The rest of what you said doesn’t make a lot of sense? What are you on about?

  118. Red Rob on said:

    You said you do not like HNH’s work against extremist Muslim groups and complain they do nothing against Zionists or loyalist when in fact I see them doing good work against the EDL Zionist connection and the fascist unionist connection. Do you not actually read your ex-chums work? That is all i meant to ask.

  119. crowsnest on said:

    I wonder how many people who spend so many hours spouting about enforcing no platform have actually had to do it, and I don’t mean standing behind a police barrier I mean “acquainting heads with the pavement”? Enforcing the policy across the country week in week out with the EDL in full flow was just not possible. If anything, despite the call being worthy and indeed a noble one and one which I too endorse, evidence on the demonstrations I attended ‘on the inside” in Stoke, Bolton and many others showed that all too frequently the only thing in the way of the EDL was the police. And believe me this pains me. The reality on the ground is that there are just not enough people to enforce it nationally. Sure there are in pockets and where it happens it is exhilarating, but let’s not be deluded this has not happen anywhere near enough. Calls for No Platform when an EDL demo goes ahead makes us look weak if it is not enforced, totally and this means preventing them even mustering and having a static demo – unless in a coach park miles from anywhere and prying eyes…

    I am sad about Red Snapper not getting the union rate, but it was a charity/campaign organisation he was working for not the Sun or Reuters. It would have been great for him to get the full pay for the job but then what about his colleagues on the days he went out – some of them were volunteers perhaps they should have down tools for the full rate…it is a hard life living on the scraps from unions, other charities, private donations and subs or from wherever money can be gleaned in this economic period. I bet the SP pay top dollar and the SWP and Morning Star are known for their largesse in the pay packet?

    As for Ruth her views on Israel are up to her, what I do know she is committed to fighting fascism in the UK.

    On matter of grooming Hnh’s analysis is right, ignoring it does not help communities hit by it are being polarised, there are a number of cases yet to hit the headlines and courts it needed to be discussed not ignored – and it is uncomfortable.

  120. Jellytot on said:

    @141If anything, despite the call being worthy and indeed a noble one and one which I too endorse, evidence on the demonstrations I attended ‘on the inside” in Stoke, Bolton and many others showed that all too frequently the only thing in the way of the EDL was the police. And believe me this pains me.

    Yes, at some of the big 2010 demos, when the EDL had the momentum, you had the spectacle of anti-fascists chanting “Police Protect the Fascists!” while themselves being protected from larger numbers of far-right football hooligans.

    We should be grateful for the professionalism of the regional Police forces in this particular instance – In a similar situation in, say, Greece the Police may have melted away in this instance.

  121. Red Rob on said:

    I hear that HNH actually employ people to mind their photographers backs. Did/does Red Snapper avail himself to this service?

  122. #141 I sympathise with much of what you say but I really don’t understand why grooming, whatever the truth about it, is an issue for anti-fascists as such.

    To take it up as anti-fascists smacks to me of placing conditionality on your demands.

  123. crowsnest:
    I wonder how many people who spend so many hours spouting about enforcing no platform have actually had to do it, and I don’t mean standing behind a police barrier I mean “acquainting heads with the pavement”?

    Aye. Although I’m not going to pretend I was anything but a bit player in AFA, not one of the ‘faces’ Obviously though, I’m not going to give times and dates. So it’s entirely reasonable if you choose not to believe me.

    If anything, despite the call being worthy and indeed a noble one and one which I too endorse, evidence on the demonstrations I attended ‘on the inside” in Stoke, Bolton and many others showed that all too frequently the only thing in the way of the EDL was the police.

    There were some scuffles off the radar at some of those. Which makes sense. Even if the balance of forces are in your favour, getting yourself kettled by OB is going to preclude any militant activity in 99% of cases. The stuff that happened at Cardiff mainly took place away from the main demo.

    let’s not be deluded this has not happen anywhere near enough.

    Absolutely. So, the question for me is, how do we get from where we are now to where we need to be. And, in the context of this discussion, does HnH’s “anti-extremism” strategy help us move towards that aim. I’d suggest, in fact, it does the opposite.

    Calls for No Platform when an EDL demo goes ahead makes us look weak if it is not enforced, totally and this means preventing them even mustering and having a static demo – unless in a coach park miles from anywhere and prying eyes…

    Equally, calling for a ban on an EDL demonstration (leaving aside the old argument about whether anti-fascists should be asking the state to carry out what anti-fascism should be doing) looks weak if you get a partial ban. To quote you “this means preventing them even mustering and having a static demo”. To put it another way, neither liberal nor militant anti-fascists are where we want to be at the moment. And both camps need to stop claiming faux victories.

    As for Ruth her views on Israel are up to her, what I do know she is committed to fighting fascism in the UK.

    She’s introduced a lot of fash to the pavement, has she? More seriously, the issue is going to be the one that arises for any Labour Party members, let alone a rising star. Is anti-fascism a priority above and beyond party interest. (That includes calling for Labour Party votes in areas where disillusionment in the Labour Party is leading to a rise in far right support). I’ve known some good Labour Party people who are prepared to put anti-fascist tactical considerations above that. But not many, frankly. On this issue, a lot of Labour people are as bad as the worst stereotype of any Trot group. “Oh, no, I can’t do that. I might get kicked out of the party”. Party above class.

    On matter of grooming Hnh’s analysis is right, ignoring it does not help communities hit by it are being polarised, there are a number of cases yet to hit the headlines and courts it needed to be discussed not ignored – and it is uncomfortable.

    I’d cautiously agree here. Taking community concerns seriously is an important part of ideological confrontation.

  124. Yes, at some of the big 2010 demos, when the EDL had the momentum, you had the spectacle of anti-fascists chanting “Police Protect the Fascists!” while themselves being protected from larger numbers of far-right football hooligans.

    Let’s not overstate the EDL capabilities, even in their heyday. What you describe is mainly a symptom of the weakness of militant anti-fascism, as opposed to the EDL being particularly competent. Plastic casuals, most of them, not seasoned hoolies.

    What we’ve seen with them isn’t that different from the past, when a firm was set up specifically to attack Irish republican marches. That eventually fizzled out after they faced some fierce opposition. The same applies here. Outside the core, a lot of EDL members don’t have the stomach to carry on if they aren’t consistently winning. In fact, as you’ve pointed out, we’ve already seen a serious drop in their turnout. I’d suggest that’s at least partly for that very reason.

  125. Hoom: Equally, calling for a ban on an EDL demonstration (leaving aside the old argument about whether anti-fascists should be asking the state to carry out what anti-fascism should be doing) looks weak if you get a partial ban.

    No, if you get a partial ban and there’s trouble you condemn the state for not banning it fully and then you use that as part of the argument for getting a full ban (and preferably the permanent ban of the EDL -if the kind of incidents associated with EDL events happened in relatiom to the activities of a Muslim group they would be banned before you could say enticetment to hate crime).

    Hoom: Taking community concerns seriously is an important part of ideological confrontation.

    Anything else as well as grooming? Why pick on that (as anti-fascists I mean).

  126. Jellytot on said:

    @145Equally, calling for a ban on an EDL demonstration (leaving aside the old argument about whether anti-fascists should be asking the state to carry out what anti-fascism should be doing) looks weak if you get a partial ban.

    I think the bans at Bradford and Tower Hamlets (two of the pivotal demos) were important looking back. Static demos are far easier to police and control and the EDL were conciously seeking to march in order to wind up and goad the locals and provoke a re-run of 2001 which saw scores of locals arrested and many jailed.

    I also suspect that some on the Left wanted to see the fascists march so they could re-enact their “Lewisham” or “Cable Street” fantasies without regard to the effect on community relations long after those self-same Left-wingers had gone home. Indeed you almost detected a feeling of disappointment when the bans were enacted.

    Unlike “Squadism” (which must be tremendously daring, exciting and radical for the tiny number of people who are willing and able to engage in it), strategies like HnH’s may seem mundane and ‘liberal’ but I would argue they are much more effective in the round.

    Representative local voices supported the calls for a ban and while not perfect, on balance, both Braford and TH could have been a lot, lot worse.

    @145She’s introduced a lot of fash to the pavement, has she?

    This sort of language is very redolent of the 80’s and early 90’s. Haven’t we gone beyond all this?

  127. Vanya:

    No, if you get a partial ban and there’s trouble you condemn the state for not banning it fully and then you use that as part of the argument for getting a full ban

    Has that ever been successful in the long term? The state shows no sign of banning the Racial Volunteer Force, so the EDL getting banned seems highly unlikely.

    Anything else as well as grooming? Why pick on that (as anti-fascists I mean).

    Yes, absolutely. It’s about undermining the far right’s arguments at source. If housing is a big local issue, you should definitely discuss it, without falling into pandering to racism. It’s a fine line (and grooming is even moreso), but I think it’s possible.

  128. Jellytot:

    I think the bans at Bradford and Tower Hamlets (two of the pivotal demos) were important looking back. Static demos are far easier to police and control and the EDL were conciously seeking to march in order to wind up and goad the locals and provoke a re-run of 2001 which saw scores of locals arrested and many jailed.

    But the fact they were there was still a provocation, surely?

    Indeed you almost detected a feeling of disappointment when the bans were enacted.

    For myself, I can only say that the bans or otherwise make very little difference overall. I don’t call for them because I think that’s tactically unsound. I don’t beat myself up about them happening though.

    Unlike “Squadism” (which must be tremendously daring, exciting and radical for the tiny number of people who are willing and able to engage in it), strategies like HnH’s may seem mundane and ‘liberal’ but I would argue they are much more effective in the round.

    This would be the crux of our disagreement then. I’d argue that both physical and ideological confrontation are needed. The BNP abandoning the streets was a direct response to “squadism”. And I’d see HnH’s tactics as very good at rallying people who were opposed to the EDL anyway, not at undermining the EDL among their potential supporters, nor at disillusioning their activists.

    This sort of language is very redolent of the 80′s and early 90′s. Haven’t we gone beyond all this?

    Read back the first line of the post I was responding to. That wasn’t a serious comment. ;)

  129. Hoom: Anything else as well as grooming? Why pick on that (as anti-fascists I mean).
    Yes, absolutely. It’s about undermining the far right’s arguments at source.

    Which arguments? And what specifically do anti-fascists have to say about those arguments?

    If people commit crimes against vulnerable people they should be punished by the law, and it makes no difference what their ethnicity or religion is. End of. I don’t see why anything more needs to be said. Present the ‘true’ figures and percentages by religion and ethnicity of perpetrators? Why? What difference does it make?

    If your’re building a political movement or party with a wider programme that may be a different question.

    Hoom: Has that ever been successful in the long term?

    Well the state has certainly banned certain muslim organistations, which smacks of double standards given what happens whenever the EDL show their faces (or have them coverered with ballies).

    And I suspect if the RVF was anything approaching the size of the EDL it would be banned pretty sharpish (these are the ‘roast a rabbi’ lot aren’t they?). After all, I can’t see much anyone could do to further the cause of the RVF without coming into conflict with one law or another.

    Whrther it’s likely to happen it should be a demand in my opinion. I don’t hold to the view that ‘we’ shouldn’t call for bans because they can be used against ‘us’. ‘We’ aren’t doing anything wrong, and if ‘we’ are, ‘we’ take ‘our’ choice, as a good few people I may or may not have known over the years have done (and don’t forget that self-defence is (literally) no offence).

    Peaceful innocent people should be protected by the state in going about their lawful business, no matter what their religion or ethnicity, and even if you believe that isn’t going to happen I think you still have a responsibility to demand it because it’s about equality, fairness and human rights- a vital part of the reason for opposing fascism in the first place.

  130. red snapper on said:

    Post 141. “As for Ruth her views on Israel are up to her, what I do know she is committed to fighting fascism in the UK.”

    What about Israeli fascism. If mass ethnic cleansing and racist mass murder of Palestinians including deliberately targetting children isn’t fascism what is?

    More on Ms Smeeth. Some evidence that she may be a CIA spook too:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8304495/WikiLeaks-cables-Gordon-Brown-forced-to-scrap-plan-for-snap-election.html

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