‘Hope Not Hate’ and the cheek of Harman

The simpering and patronising Harriet Harman has once again seen fit to sully public discourse with some of her thoughts.  The darling of middle class feminists everywhere has bravely decided to highlight the dangers of the nasty old BNP, launching New Labour’s election campaign with the lamentable and hypocritical slogan ‘fairness not fear’.  I’m sure innocent Muslims languishing in jails on trumped up ‘terrorism’ charges, victims of the climate of fear the Government has tried to whip up over the ‘terrorist threat’, will be delighted to hear of this change of direction for the New Labout project.

This is all part of the mobilisation against the BNP for the European Elections in June, and there’s nothing New Labourite careerists love more than to play up the threat of the BNP and ascend to the moral high ground to condemn Nick Griffin and his gang of thugs and inadequates.  A few years ago I had the misfortune to attend the NUS conference in Blackpool, where the Labour and ‘Organised Independents’ (that is, Labour but pretends not to be) spent the entire time attacking the left in the most vicious terms, using every bureaucratic manoeuvre to try and stymie any attempts to challenge the Government over issues such as tuition fees, justice for Trade Unionists in Colombia, ID cards, and the war in Iraq.

They quickly changed their tone when it came to a discussion on anti-fascism, when all the rightwing gremlins came up to courageously inform us how terrible racism is and what a nasty bunch of characters the BNP are.  And you could really see the sense of self-satisfaction that they were experiencing as they courageously attacked an organisation which everyone in the conference hall despised.  I see the same look in the eyes of people like Hazel Blears when they do something similar.  And the outrage which is provoked whenever anyone points out the obvious – that New Labour, with its consistent anti-working class policies over the last 12 years of government, has created the conditions which has allowed the BNP to grow.

But most mainstream anti-fascist campaigns don’t recognise this.  The most respectable ones (and I use respectable as an insult here) are Unite Against Fascism and Searchlight.  They are both deeply problematic, and personally I won’t have anything to do with them, preferring grassroots local campaigns, which generally have better politics, and certainly have a greater awareness of the nature of BNP support in their areas, and how best to seperate the hard-core proper fascists from the soft racists and the disgruntled.  Unite Against Fascism is a Socialist Workers Party front organisation, which is founded on the idea that only the largest organisation can be effective, and only the broadest platform can lead to mass membership or adherence.

This is why they encourage Tories and New Labourites to participate, and this is why the message is reduced to a vague ‘don’t vote BNP, vote for someone else’, which doesn’t really work if people vote BNP in exasperation at the mainstream parties, who don’t even speak for workers in their rhetoric anymore, much less enact pro-worker policies.  The Searchlight message of ‘Hope Not Hate’ is a similar dead end, but perhaps an even more insulting one than UAF.  It implies that people are not sufficiently aware of the wondrous improvements New Labour and/or their Lib Dem/Tory/Labour council has made to their lives, or they are ungrateful.

Hope Not Hate presupposes that there is any hope to be found in the messages and programmes of the mainstream parties (and I include the Greens in this), and that to vote for the BNP would be a vote against the hope provided by the still-undiluted neo-liberalism of mainstream bourgeouis politics.  To this I would say what hope is provided by your council flogging off your council house?  What hope is provided by mass unemployment and a few McJobs?  What hope is there when you have to spend most of your income privately renting some shithole with not enough bedrooms, damp and a bastard for a landlord?  I could go on.

Winston Smith was right when he realised that ‘hope lies in the proles’.  While I apologise for being one of those lefties who has only ever read fiction by Orwell, the message is clear – the hope lies in the working class and it’s ability to organise, industrially and politically to build a better world.  New, democratic, industrial organisation and action, coupled with a political party based on, and run by workers up and down the country and internationally, would do a thousand times more to destroy the likes of the BNP than millions of glossy leaflets, television broadcasts by leading politicians, bishops and entertainers.

But of course what Harman really wants is to spread a little fear of her own, overstating the importance and threat of the BNP, in order to scare workers to voting Labour just to keep Nick’s Nazis out of elected office.  Come June 5th, not a word more will be spoken of ‘fairness’, but the fearmongering and attacks on workers of all colours will continue apace.

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8 Responses to ‘Hope Not Hate’ and the cheek of Harman

  1. Duncan says:

    I’ve been arguing for a bit that the majority of the anti-fascist ‘movement’ in this country is at best a waste of time and at worst totally counter-productive in halting the rise of the extreme right.

    Criticisms like the above are welcome and encouraging to read but people have been writing stuff about the need for a working-class political iniative to challenge the rise of the BNP for over a decade now.

    I’m guily of this sort of thing as well but the second last paragraph about the sort of approach needed is very vague. It’s well overdue but what is needed is concrete proposals for action, something for people to do in the same way that people who want to oppose the BNP can approach UAF, ask what action to take and be given a bunch of leaflets name-checking David Copeland and John Tyndall.

    It’s not much use appealing to those who continue to back the stategies of Hope not Hate or UAF, the fact they’ve committed to that form of activity in the face of mounting evidence that it does not work illustrates. Instead, it would be good to have practical examples to illustrate why the strategy you have outlined is superior and more effective.

  2. vengeanceandfashion says:

    I think you’re right Duncan, I don’t pretend that what I have written in this post is particularly new or insightful, I thought it was a good time to reiterate the arguments and have an enjoyable swipe at New Labour in the process.

    What I say is vague, and that’s generally because the ideas I have about this are quite vague, rather than an inability to get my thoughts down clearly.

    The need for an explicitly pro-worker party in actions as well as words, and for a thoroughgoing democratisation of the trade unions, as part of a process in making the unions more combative and political.

    There’s no quick fix as you know, but I’m open to all sorts of ideas and genuine initiatives, and will post on this issue again when perhaps I get a bit more flesh on the bone in terms of practical proposals.

  3. Duncan says:

    That’s fair enough V&F.

    As far as I can see, there are probably only two organisations in England and Wales with something approaching the necessary political conclusions and the social base to combat the BNP.

    I’m biased as I’m a member of one but these are Socialist Party and the Independent Working Class Association along with some smaller organisations which have split from these, such as Hackney Independent, and retained the same basic political orientation.

  4. vengeanceandfashion says:

    I’m not aware of Hackney Independent, but I agree with you about the Socialist Party and the IWCA.

  5. Duncan says:

    If I remember rightly, Hackney Independent used to be the IWCA branch in Hackney but split away a few years ago.

  6. “A few years ago I had the misfortune to attend the NUS conference in Blackpool, where the Labour and ‘Organised Independents’ (that is, Labour but pretends not to be) spent the entire time attacking the left in the most vicious terms, using every bureaucratic manoeuvre to try and stymie any attempts to challenge the Government over issues such as tuition fees, justice for Trade Unionists in Colombia, ID cards, and the war in Iraq.”

    You too, huh.

    NUS leadership this year spent a lot of time pushing the ‘Hope Not Hate’ campaign – I think I was the only person to attack that ‘strategy’ at the conference when I made my block of fifteen speech

  7. Left Luggage says:

    I agree with your comments, V&F. As Duncan says, there has been discussion around this point for a while now.

    I seem to remember a few years ago, when the IWCA was making some headway in Oxford, Searchlight starting to talk about the need to fill the political vacuum created by Labour’s abandonment of the working class. Clearly, this was never a serious strategic position, given the organisation’s closeness to Labour, but there seemed to be some recognition of the political factors at play and a need to respond to them, at least rhetorically.

    There’s very little “hope” at all to be found on Hope Not Hate’s website; it’s just more of the same “Anyone but the BNP” strategy that has shown itself to be a dead-end.

    Clearly there is a need to “fill the vacuum” and not only to combat the far-right, but to begin to win victories for working class peopple and start to tilt the scales in our favour. This is already happening to some degree, with community-focussed groups springing up all over the place. Many are small-scale and relatively isolated, but perhaps there is a possibility of such organistions coalescing in the future.

  8. […] the rise of fascism continues over at the relatively new blog Vengeance and Fashion. The article savages Searchlight’s “Hope not Hate” campaign and the SWP-led Unite Against Fascism for defending the […]

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