For the second year running anti-fascists from Nottingham, Derby and Amber Valley have called a national demonstration to oppose the British National Party’s annual summer event, the “Red, White and Blue Festival” (RWB) in Derbyshire.
Last year's demonstration attracted up to five hundred demonstrators and the support of local and national trade unions.
The RWB event will be the first major show of force for the fascists after the election of Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons to the European Parliament. The BNP invests a considerable amount of energy into building the RWB and we can expect to see in excess of the one thousand the BNP claimed attended last year.
Such gatherings are used to “educate” members and recruit new ones. The BNP will want to bring many hundreds of supporters closer to their politics over the weekend.
The RWB also has a considerable local impact. Although the BNP failed to win a Euro or county council seat in the East Midlands, their vote was high and in some areas almost certainly responsible for unseating many Labour councillors. Some of the BNP’s most impressive votes were in the wards surrounding Codnor, where the RWB is to be held.
Many local people are sickened by the levels of support for the BNP and are determined to show their opposition. and there is a more important job at hand than just “opposing” this event — the labour movement and the left must organise to shut it down.
One recurrent disagreement between liberal opponents of fascism and radicals and socialists revolves around the “legitimacy” of trying to stop BNP and other fascist events.
In the days after his victory Nick Griffin appeared on College Green in Westminster to talk to the press. As the press conference started, anti-fascists organised by the Socialist Workers Party’s front group “Unite Against Fascism” attacked Griffin and his entourage with eggs and drove them from the Green.
Speaking on BBC 2’s Newsnight, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes condemned UAF for drawing attention to the BNP, as if his appearance on the television wasn’t. Others criticised the “thuggish” behaviour and drew comparisons between the anti-fascists and fascists. They claimed that attempting to deny the “free speech” of fascists is a contradiction in terms. In contrast the Sun found the whole thing hilarious and posted a “pelt Griffin” game on their website.
Many on the left are confused about the politics of “no platform” — using direct action or legal proscription to prevent fascists gaining an audience. For anarchists in particular, “no platform” is the guiding principal of anti-fascism.
why shut down rwb?
Socialists are militant defenders of free speech. We oppose legal restrictions that bar free expression and the exchange of ideas. At the same time we are not suicidal lemmings.
Giving the BNP a platform to spread their ideas does not just cause “offence”, although it surely does. It’s not what BNP say that’s dangerous but what flows from being allowed to say it — building organisational structures and dangerous actions.
Fascist organisations like the BNP pose an existential threat to socialists, the labour movement and to ethnic and sexual minority groups. Attacks on individual anti-fascists, the existence of the “Red Watch” website which prints photographs and the personal details of anti-fascists, and the racist violence that follows the BNP around demonstrate as much.
We defend free speech but there can be no “civil peace” so long as fascists attempt to organise.
The demonstration against the RWB in 2008 was in some ways a success but was severely limited by a number of factors. We could not disrupt the festival, due to a lack of numbers and a lack of coordination on the day. Mobilising five hundred people from across the country to a small, rural location was a triumph in itself, but faced with heavy policing this number of people could not get close to the RWB itself. The demonstration did cause some major inconvenience to BNP members attempting to get to Codnor, and gave BNP leaders a bit of worry. And the demonstration attracted large numbers of local people, some of whom went on to form a local anti-fascist group.
There were political problems in the run-up to the RWB and on the day of the demonstration. The SWP/UAF refused point-blank to work with local campaigners to build the demonstration, calling a rally at a different time and attempting to split the march. Although the SWP/UAF gave apologies for not attending a recent planning meeting, it is almost certain the same pattern will be repeated.
What this means for the SWP’s recent call for “left unity” is clear: “unity” on their terms, or no “unity” at all. Local campaigners will continue to encourage the SWP/UAF to be involved in the planning, but they are under no illusions.
We need to have a massive turnout of anti-fascists on 15 August. Larger sections of the labour movement will have to be mobilised and united under a coherent set of politics. This means activists raising the issue in local groups and trade union branches, winning support and funding, booking coaches.
Socialists also need to convince those who come on the demonstration and others who were revolted by the BNP’s electoral gains that independent working class politics and working class anti-fascism are the only effective tools with which to combat fascism. We have a responsibility to explain the roots of fascism and organise political action to stem its growth.
Sheffield Emergency Meeting to Stop the BNP
Thursday 2 July 7 pm.
Victoria Hall, Chapel Walk, Sheffield
In the wake of the victory of Andrew Brons as MEP for Yorkshire we are organising against the racism of the BNP and their exploitation of the problems faced by working class communities in our city.