Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
We recognise that there needs to be a debate concerning the efficacy of different approaches to undermining support for the far right if we are to refine our intervention. Unfortunately, Keiron Farrow offers little in terms of a positive way forward.
His piece casually runs together the Hope not Hate (HNH) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) campaigns, two organisations he says have ‘broadly similar approaches’, and in doing so blatantly confuses their methods and approaches.
The first important thing to say regarding HNH is that it is a constantly evolving campaign. Because we are not stuck with any old dogma we are able to gauge what works, refine those elements that are helpful and move away from tactics that do not work. For a long period, especially during the 1990s, anti-fascism was something of a minority interest, with a few committed groups and individuals either spying on or beating the far right. This approach might be described as proportional as the BNP offered no political threat in those days, although they posed a physical threat to those they targeted.
This changed in the early years of this decade as the BNP for a number of reasons was able, under Nick Griffin’s leadership, to present itself increasingly as a political solution to the problems faced in certain communities.
Since that time we have seen a growth in the far-right vote that is without precedent. During this period the anti-fascist movement has had to learn how to deal with a party that knows how to win elections. We have also had to deal with an organisation that has moved out of its traditional strongholds and is able to gather a sizeable vote almost anywhere. The BNP vote can now longer be dismissed as a protest; rather, the BNP has become the first choice for a significant number of voters.
Certainly, 10 or 15 years ago, the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight would highlight the criminal convictions of far-right activists and candidates. However, this tactic is used far more sparingly these days as we know it has a limited appeal. Rather what we have seen is a growing realisation and understanding that anti-fascism has to address the political, social and economic issues that are giving rise to the far right.
At HNH we know that most people who vote BNP are not Nazis, and we also know that there is a whole host of issues on which they feel ignored. Even here, though, there is an ongoing debate about what these social issues are. We are told often that it revolves around job and housing insecurity. These clearly play a part, but it is also about other less tangible discontents.
We are sometimes told that the question is about identity and in particular English and working-class identities … but are we really being told, in a polite way, that the big issue is immigration? The BNP has managed to give racial ideology and, in particular, fear of immigration a growing political outlet. It is tapping into large reservoirs of racism that have for too long gone unchallenged.
For HNH, taking on the BNP is primarily about working with those communities under threat from the BNP. We have seen in some of our exemplary work, such as in Keighley, that grass-roots campaigning where local people take ownership of the fight against the BNP can be absolutely effective in defeating them. Keighley went from being a BNP ‘capital’ in 2004 to having no BNP organisation or even candidates by 2007. This was achieved by some old-fashioned proper community development work with residents on the threatened estate. Ironically, the leaders of that particular community came from the mums at the local Sure Start, which suggest to me that it is vital to defend what working-class communities have gained what has been gained over recent years, something Farrow neglects to mention. It is through this careful and patient work that the broad-based alliances necessary to defeat the BNP can be built.
There is also the point that third-party campaigning is limited in what it can achieve. For the BNP to lose an election, another party has to win. Hope not Hate is not an appendage of the Labour Party, but clearly it is often the case that Labour that needs to get more votes than the BNP for the BNP to lose!
We disagree entirely with the claim that the BNP can never fulfil its programme and that its real crime is delaying the rise of independent working-class opposition. This seems both complacent and self-indulgent. It almost seems that Farrow believes that voting Labour is a worse crime than voting BNP. What is astonishing is that our hard-left critics have not managed to make any headway over the past few years; their derisory election scores are indicative of how irrelevant they are to the working class of which they speak so much and understand so little.
Farrow is right to suggest that the battle for hearts and minds continues on the estates devoid of the far left. But if at the end of this the working people reject the hate of the BNP and vote Labour it will be called a victory.
The election of Griffin and Brons as MEPs is devastating, but we must bear in mind that there was no massive surge to the BNP. Rather, the Labour vote collapsed. It is worth remarking, however, that in Bradford, for example, where HNH is long established, the BNP vote went down while the Labour vote went up. Intelligent community-based campaigning exposes the BNP for what it is, as well as providing a defence of civil society.
Paul Meszaros, Hope Not Hate Yorkshirehq[at]hopeyorks.org.uk
See also Paul White’s response
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency
Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy
Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences