Nottinghamshire Stop the BNP group, together with similar organisations, is planning a conference some time in March to create a network of groups, national materials and resources for the upcoming struggles against the BNP and EDL.
We need a working class campaign against racism and fascism. This means campaigning to mobilise the working class, through trade unions and community campaigns, on the basis of their own politics. This means building open, democratic political and organisational structures where they do not exist.
For organised socialists, this means educating and organising those around us in the confidence that our ideas can beat the racists and fascists back.
In its current form Unite Against Fascism (UAF) is incapable of fulfilling this task. There are, however, local groups emerging around the country that reject the approach of UAF and the other “official” anti-fascism of “Hope Not Hate”. These groups, though not politically united on all issues, share a common commitment to organising differently, discussing politics and building effective campaigns.
You could have hoped that the UAF conference, due in London on 13 February, would help tackle the issues. But when is a conference not, in fact, a conference? When it’s largely controlled by the Socialist Workers Party, of course.
The opening weeks of 2010 should be an opportunity for mature, rational reflection and preparation for the urgent task of preventing the British National Party from getting an MP. Anti-fascists, socialist organisations and the unions should be able to discuss and debate why our movement has failed to stem the growth of the BNP and failed to win their supporters — close to a million of them at last June’s Euro elections — to working class politics.
But on 13 February there will be no motions, there will be no real debate, there will be no meaningful votes or holding to account. The UAF conference will be yet another rally. Such unaccountability would not be tolerated in a pub quiz team, and should not be tolerated in a largely trade union funded campaign.
That the 13 February conference will be like that is a consequence of the real and legitimate divisions amongst anti-fascists — and the socialists involved — and the readiness of the trade union officialdom to unquestioningly outsource such necessary activity.
It is also a measure of the lack of democracy and transparency that persists at the heart of the SWP. UAF’s biggest asset, and its only real objective reason for continuing existence, is the funding it enjoys from national trade unions. If the success of such a campaign were measured by the existence of actual grass-roots, on-the-ground democratic organisation, then UAF would surely score poorly. But the problems extend well beyond the organisational.
UAF stands for “uniting everyone” — be they David Cameron, a religious reactionary or trade union activist — who opposes the BNP. For socialists, such “unity” is politically meaningless. UAF is a popular front. The nature of the campaign leaves the sharp political ground coveted by the BNP — their racist appeal to workers, their criticisms of New Labour, the effort they put into community work — uncontested.
We need a different approach to combating the BNP and groups like the racist English Defence League.
• See nottmstopbnp.wordpress.com for more information.