Beyond the BNP, The future of HOPE not hate
By Nick Lowles | Tuesday, 6 December 2011
The HOPE not hate campaign has become one of the largest and most successful political action groups in the country since, it was founded in 2004. Over 165,000 people have participated in our campaigns; we have 50,000 supporters on Facebook and 8,000 followers in twitter.
This incredible level of support has enabled us to achieve some fantastic successes. Our constant and localised grassroots campaigning has seen the BNP defeated in many of its heartlands, most notably in Barking & Dagenham (2010) and Stoke-on-Trent (2011).
We have consistently brought communities together, around positive shared identities, to resist the hatred of the EDL. In March 2011, we convinced the Daily Star to stop its favourable reporting of the EDL, and, in August 2011, we helped persuade the Metropolitan Police to request a ban on an EDL demonstration in Tower Hamlets.
Guiding and underpinning these campaigns has been an excellent research and media team. The current problems of both the BNP and the EDL owe much to our ability to combine research and intelligence gathering with both localised and national campaigns.
The HOPE not hate campaign was launched as a direct response to the emergence of the British National Party as a political force in the northern mill towns. HOPE not hate – with our logo of the smiling sun – was established as the perfect antidote to the BNP’s politics of hate.
While we have traditionally focused on the far right, we also recognise that hate and organised intolerance can come in other forms as well. Just as we stand up to white extremists whose views divide and spread fear amongst communities so we should have the courage to oppose others who seek to spread hatred and intolerance.
The HOPE not hate campaign can be proud of its practical achievements but for many of our supporters it has become something far more important, in that it encapsulates a vision of how society should respect one another. HOPE stands for decency, tolerance, fairness and togetherness. Hate represents division, fear, intolerance and superiority. What began as a snappy slogan to appeal to mainstream voters in the northern mill towns has taken on a far greater significance.
The greatest success of the HOPE not hate campaign has been the success of local communities uniting in the face of hatred and adversity.
We come from – and remain part of – a proud anti-fascist tradition but we are acutely aware that defeating the hatemongers of today requires more than simply firefighting. We currently deal with problems once they appear rather than attempting to stop them occurring in the first place. Whilst we will continue to prevent the BNP from winning council seats and stopping the EDL from setting our communities alight, we also want to be more proactive and unite communities around a positive, united vision of society. We need to be more vociferous in defending basic human rights and promoting a civic identity in which everyone has a place regardless of race, religion or ethnic or cultural background. Standing up for our values – decency, fairness and tolerance – will become ever more important as fear and hatred rise as economic conditions worsen.
As our recent Fear and HOPE report graphically highlighted, there is a clear connection between economic insecurity and pessimism with suspicion and hatred of outsiders. There will clearly be a far-right revival over the next few years, both at the ballot box and on the street, and the HOPE not hate campaign needs to be ready to meet this renewed threat.
To help us achieve all this HOPE not hate will be launching a series of initiatives in the New Year:
- In the 2012 elections we have identified 23 wards at risk to the far right. In London, we will stop the BNP gaining a seat on the London Assembly by mobilising those communities we have identified as being anti-BNP.
- we will launch a new publication for the HOPE not hate campaign.
- We will supplement the magazine with more pamphlets on specific areas of research.
- We will start producing a weekly on-line International Digest to give our supporters up-to-date news about extremism across the world.
- We will be seeking to engage more actively in public policy debates, such as Prevent and Integration strategies, but do so in a more innovative way that involves our supporters in the discussions and developing responses.
- We will expand our research team to monitor a greater range of hate groups.
- We will conduct further research into the vital Identity Ambivalent tribe our Fear and HOPE report identified. This group, made up of the skilled and semi-skilled, contain the bulk of those who work in the public sector, who are worried about immigration because of their economic insecurity. The research will help us build a firewall to stop this group drifting over to the far right, where they will join the hardline racists.
- We will also begin a research project into the growing international anti-Muslim networks. This will look at the relationships between the financiers, the bloggers, the politicians and the street armies.
- Next summer we will host the “Great British Party” as an initiative to unite communities and help develop shared identities in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. Backed up by over 100 local community newspapers and a new Community Champion award, this has the potential to be our biggest project yet.
- We develop an online community organising project which will help train and advise local people to organise against fear and hatred in their own communities.
These are exciting times for the HOPE not hate campaign. We have come a long way from our simple beginnings in 2004 and in the process our initiative has caught the imagination, hope and aspirations of thousands of people. With the deepening economic gloom engulfing Europe it is also essential we are ready to face new and growing challenges. Whilst our tactics have evolved, and our targets and vision have expanded, we will continue to do what our title suggests – namely to provide a positive antidote to hate.