Friday, 23 July 2010

Unite Against Fascism: Help or Hindrance to the BNP?

Anti-fascist campaign group ‘Unite Against Fascism’ (UAF) have once again been in the news successfully opposing “Nick Griffin appearing anywhere in public” after the British National Party (BNP) leader was refused admittance to the Royal garden party. This outright ban on a democratically elected politician shows unwarranted paternalism, gives the fascist party unmerited publicity and most worryingly of all bring us a step closer to the sort of society the BNP would like to implement and UAF are supposedly against.

Readers may recall that Griffin was set to attend the same garden party last year as a guest of BNP member of the London assembly, Richard Barnbrook. The outcry stimulated by UAF eventually led to Griffin pulling out claiming he had “no wish to embarrass the Queen.” Though Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, saw through this “political stunt”, the whole affair allowed the fascist leader to come out the other end as the bigger man. It is a sick twist of irony that it is only because of UAF that this was allowed to happen and they have now done the same thing this year.

Mr. Griffin did though get closer to the palace this time round being eventually denied entrance for apparently using “his personal invitation for party political purpose through the media.” A rather weak argument when you consider that there was absolutely no rule against appearing on GMTV etc. Once more Griffin is left to traipse around the news circuits playing the victim card describing the decision as “an absolute scandal.” The saddest truth of all though must be that he is probably right. If anyone were invited to a party with 8,000 guests and were the only one turned away at the door on the basis of some flimsy rule it is hard not to feel a bit of sympathy.

This is not to be confused though with sympathy for the BNP as a whole. It is true that Griffin has greater legitimacy this year as an MEP for the North-West but his is still a party infested with convicted criminals and people who cast judgments on other human beings based on the colour of their skin. It is a shame that such a vile organisation has taken root in the UK but it is a credit to our society that we tolerate views from all sides of the political spectrum.

It is this level of tolerance which the BNP, at heart, detests. Intolerance is imprinted on the ideological DNA of the entire movement. Make no mistake, if they were ever to attain power there would be no more tolerance, no more elections and no more political parties. Why then have we begun building such an awful society now by placing a ban on what is ultimately a legitimate political movement?

When I describe the BNP as legitimate that is not to say that they are right. As an ideology fascism consists of little more than irrational and opportunistic politics and the violence advocated is nihilistic. Hardly a strong position to adopt and one that is easily dismantled. UAF though seem to believe that the public are not capable of such basic critique. Before Griffin’s appearance on BBC Question Time last October a UAF leaflet claimed that “more airtime for the BNP will lead to more racist attacks on the street.”

Frankly I am insulted that UAF think so little of the general public that even the mere sight of a fascist turns us into a racist mob. Those who actually watched the appearance will know that Griffin did not perform well, was exposed as the vile individual that he is and was ridiculed for days and weeks after. The appearance also confirmed the over-inflated awe within which UAF hold Griffin, and the BNP, to be unjustified. It is this lack of faith both in the public and the group’s own ability to convince which culminates in the political cowardice demonstrated by the UAF.

Instead, why not give the BNP absolutely free rein to spout their bile and allow the public to make up their own mind. Of course this could backfire and the BNP could enjoy a surge in support but wouldn’t this be a more damning indictment of the state of politics in our own country more than anything else?

If the public are allowed to make up their own minds it also means that the BNP will become accountable to real political criticism rather than the continual, unintelligent tirade of calls for the organisation to simply be banned altogether. This is the more effective tactic to deal with the BNP as shown by Question Time and also by Peter Tatchell who confronted Nick Griffin yesterday, outside the BBC studios. The scuffle concluded with Tatchell summarising as follows: “You saw Nick Griffin. I asked him a question. He ran away. He’s a gutless coward.” It’s hard to disagree and it is also probably true to say that Tatchell did more to embarrass and delegitimize the BNP in those 44 seconds than UAF have done in all their years of campaigning.

Demanding that fascists do not deserve a platform is a poor excuse for shying away from debate. Experience shows that the best way to deal with those who attack the vulnerable is to confront them in the open. UAF may not like this but the only real way to beat the BNP is through unfettered freedom of speech.