But looking at UAF's analysis document, you also can't help but wonder if the anti-fascists are making life difficult for themselves. Do not get me wrong, the UAF are doing important work, but it seems they are flirting with ideas that could well damage the anti-fascist campaign and undermine the hard work being done by the movement.
In the document, UAF hinted at their tactics for combating fascism in the elections by encouraging people to get out and vote:
"Throughout the campaign we put out 2.5 million leaflets and newspapers pushing a consistent message – that the BNP was a fascist party, that there was a serious danger of them winning seats, and that they could be stopped if enough people turned out to vote against them."
While this is undoubtedly vital it is only half the battle. What about the people who do and will vote BNP? Combating fascism isn't simply a case of winning more votes than the fascists, but engaging with those who, for whatever reasons, support the BNP. Focusing on winning more votes does nothing to tackle the existing racism, xenophobia and discontent. A lot of people still voted for the BNP, something the UAF do recognise, and these people are just as important as those who didn't feel inclined to vote at all.
More worrying however, is the belief UAF hold in restricting the BNP access to the media:
“Incidents such as these [racist attacks] highlight the fact that the BNP can¬not be fought on a purely ideological level but must be vigor¬ously confronted and excluded from our democratic culture. One vital aspect of this involves the media. The fact that there are now two BNP Euro MPs will lead to specific pressures on journalists and media workers to treat the party as if it were a legitimate political voice. This could mean interviews with leading BNP figures, invitations onto “Question Time” style panel debates, or even misguided attempts at “exposing” the BNP that end up merely sensationalising them.
“The danger is that the BNP will be allowed to worm its way into the media establishment. It will use any platforms it is granted to consolidate its presence in the political mainstream, normalise its racist arguments, pull the political spectrum to the right and build its organisations on the ground. And as the fascists grow, so do the pressures on people to capitulate to them. The danger today is that the BNP breaks through the “cordon sanitaire” to become a regular fixture in our media.”
How can you define a ‘legitimate political voice’? Is the working class man on a sink estate in the North-west not a ‘legitimate political voice’? Many of the issues they bring up, such as immigration, are ‘legitimate’ political issues and they have every right to air their beliefs.
We [apparently] have something called free speech in this country. As much as people don’t like it, this also applies to the BNP. As Noam Chomsky puts it: “If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise we do not believe in it at all." The BNP have as much a right as the rest of us to talk about issues affecting Britain and if it strays too far and becomes incitement to racial hatred then they’ll be dealt with by the police.
The BNP need to be fought in the open.
Denying them space in the media forces the BNP ‘underground’ where it is harder to tackle the ideas they propagate and plays into the hands of the BNP rhetoric that talks of a ‘liberal conspiracy’ to exclude them from the political discussion in this country. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - let the BNP have their soapbox and then whip it away with reason, logic and well informed arguments. It’s not the medium that normalises the racist argument but the capitulation of a counter-argument.
Many of their policies are based on ignorance, such as the notion that migrants get favoured in social housing. People need to understand what exactly it is the BNP stand for and arm themselves with the arguments that can unravel the BNP. To deny the BNP a platform is to pretend the problem doesn’t exist and further reinforces the idea of a liberal conspiracy against their supporters. If we don’t win the intellectual argument, it vindicates their policies. However, if we do win that argument then we reveal them for the sham they are.