Backchat - June '01


From: Nick Bryant <>
Date: 11 June 2001 22:45

Subject: [UK_Left_Network] Re: The Socialist Alliance isn't working

Compare and contrast: The BNP stood in 33 seats and got 47,000 votes. The
Socialist Alliance stood in 98 seats and got 55,000 votes. In addition, in
the 9 seats where the BNP went head to head with the Socialist Alliance or
another socialist candidate, they won 6 of them.
The average percentage of vote cast for the SA was 1.75% per seat; For the
BNP, the average percentage per seat was 3.9%.

Most interestingly was the contrast in the respective groups post election
statements. The SA statement was totally upbeat, despite the poor showing
and despite the fact that one of their star candidates, Dave Nellist saw his
number of votes decline. On the other hand, the BNP statement, while making
the most of their very good results of course, was very sober in its
assessment of their failings in the election. They also made the point time
and again that this election was only the springboard for next year's
council elections, when they are more than likley to pick up a number of
councillors. The SA, however, said "...the Socialist Alliance made a great
start in building a
nationwide socialist alternative to New Labour."

Again when reading through the BNP's statement, you get an idea of an
organisation working to a planned strategy whereas the SA appear to have no
clear ideas of what to do next other than "prepare for battle
with a pro-capitalist Labour government."

What the above shows about the SA is that its politics are still stuck in
the past. The idea of the SWP saying that there's no need for them to
canvass as "The SA/SSP don't need to persuade people of what they stand for"
is just bizarre. To understand how to make the breakthrough from the
wilderness to mainstream politics look at two very different organisations:
Sinn Fein and the Front National in France. They have both made their gains
through long term community work. To envisage any sort of radical politics
that doesn't involve community work is to opt out from wanting to change
things. Elections aren't won and minds aren't changed by building the
Socialist alternative.

Unless the Socialist Alliance change their strategy, they will go on getting
the same number of votes. At the same time, the BNP will be making serious
inroads to the working class vote.


Date: 12 June 2001 11:00
Subject: [UK_Left_Network] Re: The Socialist Alliance isn't working

In fact despite our small results I think the SA has made an impact.

In Ipswich we got all the activists together and this in itself had
an effect on the target audience - having people from the CWU,
Printers Union, NUT, T & G, NATFHE, send shudders through the Labour
Party. When I joined the SA (Branch Secretary for Town and Saint
Margret's), this got a whole page in the local daily paper. The SA
were in the paper for their pro asylum seekers work, on the local
radio. The comradely atmosphere between people from the SWP, SP,
Independents and ex-Labour Left was excellent.

You can't expect core working class labour voters to suddenly switch
the habits of a lifetime. But even with just a few hundred votes -
spilt because of the 'fat bloke from Bury Saint Edmunds' who stood
for the SLP, we had an impact.

I still recall the council house on Landseer Road festooned with SA
posters, the Suffolk 'bors' who came up to me saying - you're right
Andy (or rather they said 'yoire roight Andy').

IN our town(about 120,000), where there around 600 asylum seekers
awaiting dispersal, we were I hope, able to diffuse potential
conflicts, not least due to the courageous long-term activity of the
candidate, an SWP member, who has campaigned seriously and done all
the work you could imagine on this issue.

So I would not be so negative about the SA.

As an old anti- - going back to Leamington Anti Racist Anti-
Committee in the 70s, I would like to congratulate the SA on
the good work done.

Andrew Coates

From: Nick Bryant <>
Date: 12 June 2001 21:38
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] Re: The Socialist Alliance isn't working

The problem with your reply is that you miss the point. The small vote ,
0.78 in Ipswich for example, is an indication of the lack of impact. The
reason you got a small vote is that you, and the rest of the left think that
Labour voters are the main target. The working class who don't vote should
be the main target but they can only be won over through long sustained work
in these local communities.

You echo the view of the rest of the SA that the organisation should be
geared for the left rather than the working class.

By the way, I notice that you don't deal with anything else in the post.


From: Lawrie Coombs <>
Date: 13 June 2001 10:43
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] Re: The Socialist Alliance isn't working

Actually the problem in part is that comrades such as Nick do not play a
fuller role in the alliance, they carp on about how bad the alliance without
attemptin ot engage with it or shape it.

As it is a healthy minority oppose the orientation of the alliances and take
on board some of the issues brought up by Nick.

During the election there were debates on taking on the fascists, in the
long term and electorally now, building bases in communities. The analysis
Nick and his organisation put forward certainly has some mileage.

Despite low votes in may areas the SA is gearing up to become a relevant
political organisation, there certainly aree faults but however many plus
points as well.

Time to stop moaning and engage in the project, beyond sending a couple of
bods to the LSA steering committee, losing resolutions then slinking off
saying I told you so.


From: Nick Bryant <>
Date: 13 June 2001 23:31
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] Re: The Socialist Alliance isn't working

This is a very disingenuous thing to say Lawrie. Red Action has tried to
shape policy in the Alliance continually since it joined last year and we
have also tried to engage in discussion with its membership. Comments by
myself or other members of AFA or RA are not 'carping' but attempts to
address real problems that exist within the left and the Socialist Alliance.

Unfortunately, every attempt by us to raise issues on the LSA steering
committee were treated with derision and silence, with the exception of the
CPGB on occasion. The hostility towards us isn't important, but the lack of
engagement by the SWP and its groupies in discussing how to move the
alliance forward shows a frightening propensity to ignore reality. The
problem with ignoring reality is that it doesn't ignore you. No matter how
many times the SA say that the election results were a good start, they
won't become that. Neither will the BNP votes go away. If the only answer of
the SWP to the results in Oldham is to picket the count, then they don't
have much of a future. What makes me despair is that the SWP and by
extension, the SA don't have any real strategy for the future and don't
think they need one.

However, the discussion on this list does show that there is a growing
realisation, that a change of direction is needed for the left. This is what
should occupy us in the discussion on what next for the Socialist Alliance,
not whether it should become a party.


> To:
Date: 14 June 2001 00:55
Subject: [UK_Left_Network] Re: The Socialist Alliance isn't working

Nick Bryant wrote: "However, the discussion on this list does show
that there is a growing
> realisation, that a change of direction is needed for the left.
This is what
> should occupy us in the discussion on what next for the Socialist
> not whether it should become a party."

And what do you think is next for the SA Nick?

Given that most of the people on this list who argue that there is a
need for a "change of direction for the left" are not members of the
SA, don't you think it is time for a left strategy which breaks out
of the barriers of established London sects?

Red Action make some well aimed points about the need for grassroots
action in working class communities and have frequently warned of the
dangers prompted by the combined effects of New Labour and New BNP.

Given that in places like Oldham and Burnley the SA and the London
sects are barely present in any sense, don't you think it is time for
something different?

After all if "The Socialist Alliance isn't working" surely you have
to ask the question "can it be fixed?"


From: james.carroll <>
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] Re: The Socialist Alliance isn't working
Date: 14 June 2001 08:13

So, what is the future for the SA. what are the immediate plans in the post
Election period ?. Conference ?. period of discussion, ?. what. as AFA
have pointed out the clock is ticking towards may 2002 and probably the most
determined challenge that we have seen at local level from the far Right in
decades and also we can see pressures building up for strike action in the
Public and Transport sectors. We in Scotland are not directly involved in
the SAs I know but the BNP and Public sector fightbacks have cross border
implications. again, the clock is ticking.



From: Phil Hamilton <>
Date: 15 June 2001 11:14
Subject: [UK_Left_Network] SW on How to stop the BNP

How the BNP can feed off despair

By Matthew Cookson reports

MANY PEOPLE across Britain want an explanation for how the Nazi
British National Party (BNP) could get 12,000 votes in Oldham in the
general election, and how the Nazis can be stopped. Oldham is like
many towns in the north of England whose industries have been

The town is filled with old abandoned cotton mills that used to offer
employment to white and Asian people. This industry, along with
people's lives, was destroyed during the 1970s and 1980s.

Only two weeks ago Zetex Electronics, one of the "new industries"
meant to revitalise the area, announced it was slashing 150 jobs in
its Oldham factory. Ordinary people face cuts in council services,
poor housing, poverty and unemployment.

But often Asian and white people live on separate estates in Oldham.
This situation came about because of the council's institutional
racism. The Commission for Racial Equality found in 1992 that Oldham
council "directly discriminated against Asians by segregating them
from other applicants on certain estates in the centre of Oldham".

The council and the local press have encouraged racist feeling
amongst local people that Asians get more "privileges" than white
people. The Nazis are trying to exploit this feeling. One BNP voter,
Rhona, said, "I feel like nobody is fighting for us. The other
parties don't know what it's like to live in poverty."

Lisa, another BNP voter, said, "The BNP have listened to us while
other parties have not." Some of the BNP voters have black and Asian
friends. The small hard core of racists in the area want to influence
these people's ideas. But support for the BNP on the mainly white
estates of Fitton Hill, Holts and Limeside was largely passive.

There are very few examples of Nazi graffiti and stickering. Inside
the sixth form colleges young white and Asian people study alongside
each other and mix together. The majority of people who voted for the
Nazis are not hardcore racists. Some fell for the idea that voting
BNP was a protest vote.

"Many of the people who voted BNP last week don't realise what the
BNP stand for," said David Roney, the Green Party candidate for
Oldham West. May, a pensioner from Oldham, was horrified when she
read about the real face of the Nazis in an Anti Nazi League leaflet.

"You want somebody to help you out but you don't know what they stand
for. These are the people who sent children to the gas chambers in
the 1940s," said May. "Now they claim there wasn't a Holocaust-well,
they should ask people of my generation. I'm sorry I voted for them.
I wish I could take my vote back."

Working class people in Oldham are angry that they have been
abandoned by successive Tory and Labour governments. The BNP hopes to
turn the votes of these bitter people into an electoral breakthrough
in the council elections in Oldham next year.

The Nazis plan to organise around the white estates of Oldham.
Socialists, trade unionists and activists can stop them. That means
winning the argument with people who voted for the BNP that we need
black, white and Asian unity to fight for better living conditions
for everyone.


Action to stop Nazis

BLACK AND white unity is needed to confront poverty and deprivation
in Oldham Action to stop Nazis ON TWO occasions in the last 25 years
the Nazis have achieved similarly shocking votes.

In 1976 the National Front (NF) polled 44,000 votes in Leicester, and
Nazis got 44 percent in a south London by-election. A year later the
NF won 119,000 votes in the Greater London Council elections, beating
the Liberals into fourth place in a third of seats.

The second time the Nazis made a breakthrough was in 1993, when the
BNP's Derek Beackon won a council by-election on east London's Isle
of Dogs. On both occasions the Nazis hoped they could go on to become
a major national force.

Those hopes might have been fulfilled if people had followed the
complacent attitude of many mainstream politicians and the media.
Fortunately on both occasions there was a different reaction from
wide layers of people. The Nazi success rightly created a sense of
panic, a feeling that unless they were stopped they could continue to
grow. That mood was fuelled by the rise in racist violence that
accompanied the Nazi electoral success.

In the 1970s there were a string of brutal racist murders and
attacks. Eight days before the 1993 Isle of Dogs vote a racist gang
beat 17 year old Quddus Ali to within an inch of his life. Racist
attacks in east London soared by over 300 percent in the months after
Beackon's election. People's shock and anger had to be turned into
effective action. This meant a clear understanding of why Nazis had
won votes and what was needed to turn the tide.

It meant understanding, for example, that areas like the Isle of Dogs
were not "no-go" areas, and that the vast majority of local people
were not Nazis. The vast bulk of those BNP voters were not hardened
Nazis either. They were working class people who felt bitter at the
conditions they lived in and at the failure of mainstream politicians
to deal with the problems they faced.

On the Isle of Dogs unemployment was over 25 percent. The closure of
the docks, which had been the heart of the area, meant people felt
abandoned and betrayed. Housing was the key issue. The government and
council refused to build affordable homes, and people could not dream
of buying the luxury flats being built all around them.

They gazed directly across the street at a fenced-in luxury
development with Porsches coming and going, a private gym, and very
visible tennis courts and private swimming pools.

The Nazis were able to exploit the anger this created by talking
of "Island homes for Island people". They claimed Asian people
got "better treatment", though in reality local Bangladeshi people
were among the very poorest. Against this kind of background, beating
back the Nazis depended on a series of linked battles.

One was to expose the Nazis for what they were, Hitler-loving thugs,
and strip away the veneer of respectability they craved. This meant
confronting them when they tried to march and mobilising the broadest
mass protests against them.

In the 1970s this meant mass mobilisations like the one in 1977 in
Lewisham to stop the National Front marching, and the Anti Nazi
League carnivals which followed. In 1993 and 1994 it meant the 60,000-
strong demonstration against the BNP's HQ and the 50,000-strong TUC
march against racism through east London. Just as important were mass
campaigns on the ground, going to the estates where the Nazis had won

On the Isle of Dogs people went door to door round the estates,
mobilising local people who opposed the Nazis and arguing with the
minority who had been conned into voting for them. Alongside this
socialists and trade unionists had to take up the social issues which
the Nazis sought to feed off. So on the Isle of Dogs socialists had
to put themselves at the heart of a successful fight against a
community centre closure, fight for decent housing, and fight to
defend threatened health facilities.

This kind of twin-track strategy was what beat back the Nazis in
1970s. It meant that six months after Beackon was elected in 1993 he
was booted out, and today the Nazis barely exist in the area. The
lessons of these fights need urgently to be learned and applied today
in Oldham.

From: Nick Bryant <>
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] SW on How to stop the BNP
Date: 15 June 2001 23:01
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] SW on How to stop the BNP

The first article here on Oldham makes some attempt to understand what is
going on, albeit in a confused way, so I'll tackle this first.

It is not enough to keep saying that outside bodies, in this case the
council and the press, are making white working class people feel Asians get
a better deal. This is the perception of people themselves. The key point
here is the quote from Lisa, another BNP voter, [who] said, "The BNP have
listened to us while other parties have not."

This is the first time to my knowledge that the SWP have admitted that
people vote BNP for rational reasons which has to be a good thing.
Unfortunately, the SWP solution, "That means winning the argument with
people who voted for the BNP that we need black, white and Asian unity to
fight for better living conditions for everyone" starts from the wrong
direction. Posing the question of unity first, raises the idea that unity
needs to be gained before you can try to make things better. The best way to
attain any sort of unity is to go for it on a class basis first. All
important issues, anti-social behaviour, drugs, bad housing etc, affect the
working class as a whole, whatever colour. Pick these issues that affect
everyone and you'll begin to find a way to make a difference. However,
working in the community entails a very different way of working that the
SWP and the rest of the Socialist Alliance is used to. It takes years of
long, patient work. However, because it is work of depth, the results are
more profound than winning a few votes in an election without any prior
work. As I've said before, Sinn Fein are the people to look to for lessons
on how to win class votes.

That was the conciliatory part of this email. The 'Action against the Nazis'
article is is one of the most dishonest and disgraceful articles I have ever
seen. It is completely wrong and untrue. When Beackon got elected, the
SWP/ANL didn't try "confronting them when they tried to march and mobilising
the broadest mass protests against them." In fact, that night an SWP
fulltimer got badly beaten by the BNP outside the count and was lucky not to
be killed. This was noticed by lots of people. It only danaged the SWP's
credibility even more.

The background to the election of Beackon was that the working class had
been stitched up by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. There was a real
perception that the Asian community was favoured over the white working
class. What was the answer of the SWP, 'black and white unity'. Fine in
practice but it didn't address the reality of the problems.
When the next election came, according to the SWP, "six months after Beackon
was elected in 1993 he was booted out."
Well, yes... But his vote increased. He only lost because the SWP and the
rest of the left pulled out the non-white vote. How is that any real victory
for the working class. The SWP campaigned for a Labour vote even though
they'd been the cause of the vote for the BNP in the first place. Doh!
This type of nonsense is only propaganda. It doesn't damage the BNP, only
the left. At last year's CPGB 'Communist University', Chris Bambery of the
SWP said that this, calling for a vote for Labour, would be their strategy
wherever the BNP stood. No wonder the BNP can call themselves the 'radical


From: Harry Steele <>
Date: 16 June 2001 08:30
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] SW on How to stop the BNP

Nick wrote: "The SWP campaigned for a Labour vote even though
>they'd been the cause of the vote for the BNP in the first place. Doh!
>This type of nonsense is only propaganda. It doesn't damage the BNP, only
>the left. At last year's CPGB 'Communist University', Chris Bambery of the
>SWP said that this, calling for a vote for Labour, would be their strategy
>wherever the BNP stood. No wonder the BNP can call themselves the 'radical

The problem with Nick's analysis is that like many members of the Socialist
Alliance he appears to believe that standing against Labour and offering a
"radical alternative" is the key to defeating the BNP - I believe this is a

At least unlike the SWP, Nick realises that there is a need for long-term
work to create real and existing unity at a community level, but it seems
that sadly the only logical aim of this work is to boost support for
anti-Labour candidates (should there be any knocking around of course).
There is nothing new in doing grassroots work in order to build the profile
of a party - that is what left groups have been trying to do for decades.

While I generally agree with many aspects of Red Action's critique of
liberal anti-racism there is a serious problem with the strategy Nick seems
to be proposing.

I agree of course that one of the major causes of the BNP's rise in the
areas they have focused on has been the failure of Labour to deliver
benefits to the working class in those towns - both the Blair government and
local councils have failed these communities.

But we should not forget the main reason why people are voting BNP. To
suggest as Nick and others in the SA do that it is because they are
searching around for a 'radical alternative' and so opt for the BNP in the
absence of an SA candidate is only part of the story. Had the SA stood in
Burnley, Oldham or Pendle I am absolutely certain that they would have
polled less than the BNP and I take no pleasure in saying so.

The fact is people do not vote BNP for their social or economic policies or
because they have discovered the right-wing is in control of the Labour
Party and say "well might as well vote for the fascists". Its easy for the
Guardian, Socialist Worker and other papers to find reassuring quotes
suggesting that may be the case. But we all know that we could find plenty
of people who would say that they voted BNP "to stand up for us against the
Pakis", "send them back" etc etc. A vote for the BNP offers racists a chance
to vote for a racist candidate - they haven't had that since the NF were
organised properely in the seventies. To underplay the fact that a vote for
the BNP is a racist vote ignores the unpalatable truth that racism exists
and is thriving in these working class communities.

Millions of working class people also voted for Thatcher in the eighties -
was that because they weren't offered a 'socialist alternative'? I remember
canvassing in Lancashire during the Thatcher era and hearing many people
citing one of the reasons for voting Tory was that Labour were "paki lovers"
and that they perceived Thatcher would stand up for whites.

Racism in these working class communities has existed for a long term -that
is why the BNP has targetted these areas of course.

So what is the right way to go about changing the situation?

It is fine to attack Labour's record as a government and to some extent as
councils in these communities but we should nto fall into the trap of
dismissing left wing people who are involved with Labour in those areas.

Why? Because of the political reality on the ground.

It is easy for those who editorialise from London to tell us "we need a
socialist alternative to Labour", "The SA should stand in these areas" - but
as I have pointed out previously the non-Labour left barely exists in these
areas. You can't wish the SA into existence.

If a real left based in the class managed to get organised in these
communities and be a credible alternative to Labour then fine, this
arguement might then have some sense to it. But the simple fact is that at
this moment in time there is no real Socialist Alliance presence in these
areas (Why the SA have failed to make an impact in struggling working class
communities and are doomed to do so is another matter).

We need a new strategy which rejects the simplistic SWP view that we just
need a few "anti-Nazi" demos, which rejects the prevelant SA view that all
is determined during elections and which challenges the Labour Party's
assumption that working people will always vote for them.

What is needed are what I would call Red Fronts. Not only to challenge the
BNP on the streets in a traditional anti-fascist manner but to challenge the
authorities every single day on a whole range of issues that have nothing to
do with race.

Rather than fantasising about which sects could unite into an electoral bloc
or the futile search for some mythical new party, Fronts would be made up of
*whatever* the left consists of in a given area - that is the only realistic
way to proceed. That could include parties (including SA and Labour lefts),
unions, local campaigns, residents groups and all manner of individuals.

Red Fronts could undertake concrete work on local community issues, fighting
to ensure that the material grievances of the local community are taken up.
Sorting out peoples problems with housing, schools, hospitals, the benefits
office, the police, crime, drug dealers - whatever the issues that need
tackling. But the aim of the work should be to create unity through action
- by sidelining the race factor (while obviously having to deal with the
issues raised) and focusing on class interests.

If the result is a popular and effective Red Front which is capable of
offering an electoral challenge then fine that could be done. It would be
ridiculous for a Front to criticise and harry a useless corrupt local Labour
councillor for example and then call for a vote for him. But on the other
hand if the Front included a significant number of good local Labour
activists (which may well be the case in many towns targetted by the BNP)
then the electoral strategy should take that into account.

The point is a Red Front type strategy would focus on community work because
it is the key to change itself, not because it is merely a 'base' for an
electoral challenge. Those of us who believe that real social change can
only come about by the creation of a vibrant and active working class
movement as opposed to being obsessed with collecting percentages at the
ballot box, should need no convincing of the logic of this.

If the current sectarian SA view that "electoral challenges to Labour"
remains the only way forward I believe that we will be playing into the
BNP's hands in many areas. There is nothing they would love more than to see
the left divided between rival groups spending their energies on fighting
each other in elections while the BNP continue to stir the shit at a
community level.

The main problem with the Labour left in many areas is that it has long
abandoned the day to day work among the class in order to become a voting
machine. I really don't see the logic in the SA following suit.


From: Nick Bryant <>
Date: 16 June 2001 10:54
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] SW on How to stop the BNP

My whole point here and in numerous other emails is that long term community
work from a working class perspective is the only solution. That is the only
way to stop people acting and/or voting from a racial (black, white or
asian) perspective.

From: Harry Steele <>
Date: 16 June 2001 11:53
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] SW on How to stop the BNP

I agree with you Nick and I am glad you see the problem as more than just
voting behaviour - elections are generally a reflection of the balance of
forces and the BNP is still arguably well below its real potential vote in
most areas.

The question is do you see the Socialist Alliance as the organisation that
can undertake "long term community work from a working class perspective"
across the length and breadth of the country?

I can't see how they can be. The SA is an alliance of sects and a protest
group rather than a community based alliance of people and organisations -
which is what I believe we need to develop.

There are perhaps some communities where the SA has taken off and has the
potential to become such a force - but they don't seem to be in that
situation in the areas targetted by the BNP.



Date: 17 June 2001 20:44
Subject: [UK_Left_Network] NEWS FROM THE R.A SITE


After Haider the cry was 'Never Again!' With Mussolini's heirs set to return
to government - 'Not Again!' - may prove the more durable slogan. Analysis by
Joe Reilly.

With a 15 point lead in the run up, Silvio Berlusconi should now be forming
his government following the victory of the Forzia Itialia coalition in the
general election on May 13. Silvio Berlusconi is one of the richest men in
Europe, comparable to Rupert Murdoch over here, in his dominance of the media
in Italy. Berlusconi was also Prime Minister once before in 1994.

However, the coalition of which he was leader collapsed in ignominy. His
political resurrection, and return to power would be of no particular
interest to anyone outside Italy, were it not for the men who he will bring
to power with him. Or put more accurately, the political forces that will
deliver Berlusconi victory. For without the support of the Far-Right Alleanza
Nazionale (AN) and the almost as dodgy Lega Nord, he would never be prime
minister. Because of their role, some expect Gianfranco Fini of the AN, a
party with a lineage direct to Mussolini, and Umberto Rossi leader of the
Lega Nord, to be rewarded with ministerial posts, up to, and possibly even
including deputy Prime Minister.

A second Far-Right party at the centre of government, in the heart of Europe,
makes liberal pretence that Haiders victory last year could be explained away
by reference to 'special conditions in Austria' look more than a little
silly. One fascist party in government might be unlucky, but two in a year
looks more like a trend. Searchlight are surely right when they say that
"such an outcome would redouble the alarm raised by last year's Austrian
elections, which brought Jorg Haiders party to power. Apart from tilting the
political balance in Europe considerably further to the right, this double
dose of 'Le-Penism' could pave the way for an advance of extreme right wing
views and progressively lend political legitimacy to racist and neo-fascist
ideologies throughout Europe".

It is probably inevitable that there will be those, who in an effort to
reassure, will stress that the AN was briefly in government with Berlusconi
back in 1994, and the sky did not fall in. So there is no need to for undue
concern now. But if memory serves, supposedly 'special conditions existing in
Italy' was the palliative employed by them then. And while in 1994, Forzia
Itialia did not survive long enough for the effectiveness of their political
strategy, including Italy's biggest ever post-war demonstration, to be
assessed objectively, this is no longer the case. The strategy of approprium
to be employed against Berlusconi, has been put in use in Austria against the
Freedom Party these twelve months past. Demonstrations have taken place on an
almost daily basis, to no discernible effect. True, the Freedom Party's
support among the working class in the local elections in Vienna this year,
was down. But this was not because of the almost nightly protest by
'anti-fascists', but was instead the price paid by Haider's party, for the
cuts in public spending implemented by it's coalition partner in government.

In reality, and not at all surprisingly, the resistance initiated and shaped
by Austria's liberal elite is 'crumbling'. Less and less people are turning
up for demonstrations at the same time as Haider is consolidating his grip on
power. The Freedom Party are in government to stay. More than that, it will
soon have an ideological and strategical ally in government, in nearby Italy.
So can we expect the strategy employed in Italy be any different from the one
shown to have failed so dismally in Austria? Will, say Searchlight or the SWP
be urging 'new thinking'? Well, in the case of Searchlight, yes (of which
more later), but a firm nein from the SWP. After all, considering the same
cross-class appeal underpins the strategy domestically, such a volte face
would be unthinkable.

During March and April we were all reminded of the danger in indulging SWP
delusions.First there was the scandal of the SWP forcing through the decision
to back Labour in Beckton. Confronted for the first time by the BNP in a
by-election in the borough of Newham, the SWP-dominated east London Socialist
Alliance branch took fright, and immediately rushed behind New Labour skirts.
This logic of a united front against the BNP was followed through to the
point of insisting the LSA actively campaign for New Labour. Followed by, on
two successive Saturdays the toe-curling embarassment of the anti-nazi demos
in Bermondsey. Beckton taken together with the ANL counter demonstration
fronted by local political big-wigs, a couple of vicars and notorious
opportunists such as Trevor Phillips visibly failing against even a minuscule
NF twice over, was rightly felt, to have diminished not just the LSA and the
ANL, but anti-fascism itself.

But such antics from an organisation that believes, probably genuinely, that
"the memory of the Holocaust" and not an organised working class, "is the
biggest barrier to the re-birth of a modern nazi movement", should raise few
eyebrows. And maybe it is just coincidence, and not baleful SWP dominance,
that come the general election in June, the LSA will not be contesting the
Bermondsey seat either. "A fascist candidacy in Bermondsey is not something
Southwark Socialist Alliance can deal with on its own" wails Weekly Worker

If seemingly a borough-wide organisation like the Southwark Socialist
Alliance cannot even contemplate dealing with a lone NF candidate now, what
of the LSA when the BNP throw down the gauntlet, as it is threatening across
the capital in local elections in 2002?

If not prepared to present itself as a 'radical alternative' where it counts,
what is the LSA actually for? It is a point that found an echo in some
quarters, with RA and AFA earning bouquets for drawing out the implications.
But at the same time there was a sense RA was making a little too much of it.
Afterall, for all the embarrassment, Beckton was due to 'special conditions'
and therefore a one off, was it not? Well, as Southwark have since shown, not
entirely. And what's more this instinct to 'unite' against the BNP, seemingly
regardless of the LSA, is still entirely consistent with SWP leadership
perspectives. Certainly Chris Bambery, during a public debate with the CPGB
last August, responded to questions relating to the BNP 'success' in Bexley
by admitting as much. Despite the LSA, 'the Isle of Dogs paradigm' ('love
your neighbour vote Labour') remained the preferred option of the SWP
leadership if faced with any substantial electoral threat from the Far-Right
he declared.

Unlike the Socialist Alliance who are pouring all their hopes into the
general election campaign the BNP are focused, correctly, on the local
elections in 2002. Once again Searchlight, to be fair, see the danger. This
prompts them, rather desperately, to suggest that 'the lessons learned' on
the Isle of Dogs in 1993 can again be applied, but this time - on a national
basis! Logistics apart, what first are the lessons? "Anti-fascists must learn
from the BNP and like the Nazis engage with the local people on local
issues." (There is a distant echo, but we'll pass.) So where should
anti-fascists do this? Why, in the target wards chosen by the BNP of course,
"the South East region of the BNP is prioritising North End ward in Bexley;
North West Hollingwood in Oldham; the South West; Plymouth; the West
Midlands; Tipton Green, in Sandwell; East London; Barking & Dagenham and
Dewsbury in Yorkshire ." Searchlight's advice to anti-fascists is 'to target
the same areas' and - physically go there.

Quite apart from entirely overlooking that in the three actual council wards
they list, the BNP have already established a considerable base of support
ranging from 19% to 27% there. Of the other BNP target 'areas' one, Barking
and Dagenham is, you may have noticed, a parliamentary constituency, while
Plymouth and Dewsbury are complete towns! If that isn't sufficiently
mind-boggling, "with over twelve months to go" we are instructed "there is
enough time to build up anti-nazi support in each of these areas".

Even supposing 'the lessons of Millwall' were appropriate, (and there not, as
a result of the ANL campaign, the BNP vote actually increased by 30%) where
are the necessary forces to come from? Who would they campaign for? And on
what issues? 'Anti-nazi' ones?

The fact is, liberalism was lucky on the Isle of Dogs and has dined out on it
ever since. In reality, what did for the BNP then, was not anti-nazi parables
but an Asian occupancy of approximately half the 'island' and a general
election style turn-out of 70%. In truth, the real lessons of Millwall were
that 'anti-nazism' so-called, is not enough. Secondly, you need to be in a
community to properly organise it, and thirdly, that there are no quick
fixes. All the real lessons, needless to say, are swept aside in the
Searchlight design.

The Socialist Alliance, on the other hand, have taken the 'anti-nazi lesson'
and simply inverted it. Previously, the Left were perfectly happy to present
their counter arguments in a careful, considered and negative fashion:
'anti-repatriation', 'anti-deportation' and 'anti-nazi'. Back in the 70's the
principle arguments were wholly defensive; immigration numbers were being
'exaggerated to whip up fears'; 'the policies of repatriation are the
politics of Dachau', etc. For reasons best know to themselves (for there has
been little or no real discussion) the decision has been taken, at this of
all times, to place all the emphasis on a counter-attack of careless abandon.
One might have imagined it was the far-Left rather than the far-Right who
were on the march in Europe. Or that unlike the 1970's, the tactical switch
could be justified on the grounds that any political or social cost could now
be effortlessly and painlessly absorbed. As we all know the exact reverse is
true. Collectively the bargaining power and confidence of the British working
class can rarely have been at so low an ebb. In three key areas, housing,
education and health, funding has sunk below even maintenance level. New
figures out show that New Labour is prioritising social housing even less
than Major's government did. In attempting to rubbish such political concerns
The Guardian quotes the Home Office approvingly: "Council tax-payers money is
not being used to house asylum seekers and therefore local people are not
being disadvantaged. We are using properties that do not have a waiting
list". A slippery argument. Particularly as a recent audit commission has
shown London councils have been forced to meet the cost of housing refugees
out of council taxes to the tune of £27 million. Along with that, while
classified as refugees they may well be 'housed in areas that do not have a
waiting list' but that is only prior to being granted citizenship. After that
they often appear to go to the head of the council housing queue. Which is
when the genuine resentments kick in.

But despite all the warnings and it must be said, their own experience, the
Socialist Alliance is set on a course of head-on confrontation with the
working class on the very issue there can be no prospect of winning on. Race.
Where the Right see only bad in immigration, the SA see only good. Where the
BNP call for an end to immigration the SA demand an acceleration in
immigration. Curiously, of the unthinking mediocrity that otherwise permeates
the SA general election manifesto, a call for 'open borders' is the one truly
radical departure. What in real terms the LSA stance on immigration amounts
to, is a preemptive electoral strike against itself, eleven months prior to
what may prove watershed council elections in London in 2002. Whatever the
wisdom of standing by the communist principle of 'open borders' (if
'communist principle' it is, and that is certainly arguable), no effort
whatsoever will be made to explain the tactical value of the working class
supporting a stance of 'infinite and unconditional' immigration, as if for
the all the world, the character building properties of further dividing
already pitiful resources were transparent.

With repeated surveys showing as many as 80% hostile to existing immigration
policy, to then proceed in the face of the facts is on one level infantile.
On another level it is a calculated insult, which in hard-pressed communities
will be regarded as such. You can already envisage our partners in the LSA
rolling their eyes: 'On the one hand we are castigated for not standing
against Labour and the BNP - thus handing to the fascists the mantle of
'radical alternative' - and now we are being attacked on the grounds of being
too radical!'

For the simple minded, such a defence may have an appeal. But when in 1995
AFA stated that the Left must 'out-radicalise the BNP', it had in mind
out-radicalising the far-Right on the basis of what the class itself
considered important. 'Artificial insemination for lesbians' is, rightly or
wrongly, not regarded as an arch priority in places like Bexley, Beckton or
Bermondsey. It follows therefore, that to challenge the BNP on the basis of a
programme relevant to the Left, will do nothing to convince the working class
communities, who haven't, let's remember, seen the Left in any shape or form
for at least quarter of a century, that 'here are people on our side, here
are people that understand us, here are people worth fighting for'.

On the contrary, for the Left to 'show its hand' in such a fashion will hand
'the mantle of radical alternative' to the BNP on a veritable plate. An
electoral intervention so crass must, if only by default, accelerate rather
than retard nationalist influence and ambition. And as we have seen
repeatedly in Europe since 1985, an electoral bridgehead established locally,
can have terminal implications nationally. Meaning, that once
euro-nationalism gets its nose in front, it has proven invulnerable to
demonisation by the liberal Left.

Italy is now at the stage Austria was a year ago. In light of the failure of
'protest' in Austria, what lessons have been learnt? What, to put it in a
nutshell, is plan B? In assessing 'the danger to Italian democracy by
Berlusconi', the SWP's John Foot warns 'anti-fascists to prepare' for the
doomsday scenario: "After Haider's victory in Austria, the world expressed
outrage. In Italy things are much worse, potentially, and anti-fascists and
socialists everywhere should", no sniggering, "be preparing their placards
and their slogans for serious agitation after May 13." (Socialist Review,
April 2001)

Don't be suprised if the same call for a 'commitment to serious agitation' is
top of the London Socialist Alliance agenda, by mid-morning on May 6 2002.

Reproduced from RA Bulletin Volume 4, Issue 11, May/June '01

From: Phil Hamilton <>
Date: 17 June 2001 22:14
Subject: [UK_Left_Network] Re: NEWS FROM THE R.A SITE

Again, a very thought provoking piece from Red Action that deserves
serious treatment from those that continue to pursue the lollipops
and screaming rant approach to anti-fascism.
A question for RA comrades though. Lawrie called upon RA to take
their positions on this subject into the local alliances rather than
just turning up to the London Socialist Alliance's steering committee
when it meets and having motions voted down. The only reply I believe
Nick Bryant made was that Lawrie was being simply disingenuous. But
from what I hear, RA is next to invisible in the SA outside of said
committee. So comrades why not actively intervene in the SA's base if
the tops aren't prepared to listen?

Phil Hamilton


From: anti_nazileague <>
Date: 26 June 2001 20:43
Subject: [ANL] URGENT: Griffin on Newsnight tonight: jam BBC complaints NOW

Nazi BNP leader NIck Griffin is to be interviewed by Jeremy Paxman in
relation to the situation in Burnley on Newsnight tonight.

BBC researchers claim he is being interviewed as a valid commentator, since
he received 16% of the vote at the General Election in a neighbouring Oldham

The ANL and NAAR call for no platform for this Nazi scum and urge all
anti-racists to phone the BBC to complain immediately.
Newsnight's Duty Editor is Peter Lunn, and the telephone number is 08700 100

Please phone NOW.

PO Box 2566
London N4 1WJ
Tel: 020 7924 0333
Fax: 020 7924 0313
phone:020 79240333,
fax:020 79240313,
ANL PO Box 2566 London N4 1WJ

From: james.carroll <>
Date: 26 June 2001 23:22
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] RE: URGENT: Griffin on Newsnight tonight: jam BBC complaints NOW

Am I the only one who feels that blanket "No Platform " is getting a bit
redundant when applied to the present BNP ?


From: James Tait <>
Date: 27 June 2001 00:14
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] RE: URGENT: Griffin on Newsnight tonight: jam BBC complaints NOW

Well Griffin certainly did a good job against the most *feared* interviewer
in the country. "No Platform" in that circumstance would have meant stopping
him getting to the interview or stopping the interview being broadcast
(preferably by Union action at the BBC). As for "sharing a platfrom", I can
see when it would be neccesary with someone like Griffin - BUT it would
have to be the right sort of representative. I fear that if some hysterical
ANL type had been relied on for a counter view it would have done Griffin
even more good!

The BNP will be VERY pleased with that interview, and indeed all the
exposure they have recieved of late. During Tyndall's reign it was decreed
that the BNP would not give interviews, mostly because Tyndall and his lumpy
followers always made such arses of themselves. Griffin's BNP is a very
different kettle of fish and deliberatly sets out to court the media and use
the usual "NAZI!!!" and "Racist"accusations as an opportunity to show how in
fact they are respectable well meaning politicians representing a political
party of a new-type, to coin a phrase. This was used well by Griffin on
Newsnight, for example he reamined calm and polite while Paxman became
increasingly insulting and bad tempered. The only issue where Paxman was
able to make any kind of sustained assault was over whether Griffin would
stop his children having relationships with non-whites. A feeble peice of
liberal "multiracism" that would certainly have no adverse effect on the
constituency that Griffin is courting. Indeed, as he pointed out, there are
many blacks and asians who would also be unhappy about their children having
relations with other races. The simple fact is that a very large minority of
the population support Griffin on this issue, even many ostensible

Griffin was able to point out that his call for "Peace Walls" wasn't about
bringing to Britian the sectarianism of northern Ireland, but an acceptance
of the *fact* that multi-culturalism has failed to the point that Britian is
divided to the level that northern Ireland is.
He was able to say that his Party provided a "safty valve", a political
expression for those who might otherwise resort to racial violence. That his
Party is not racist, that it does not support forcible repatriation and that
it just wants to provide practical solutions to problems that afflict
communties of all races, all of whom have been harmed by the failiure of
"multiculturalism", an experiment that was foisted upon the people by
liberals in government and the media who held no concern for it's
consequences and who were blind to it's failiure.

There can be no doubt that such arguments have a strong resonance with many
people. Lines of screaming students shrieking "BNP - NAZI SCUM" is certainly
no answer to a political problem of this nature.


From: Nick Bryant <>
Date: 27 June 2001 00:15
Subject: [UK_Left_Network] Re: [ANL] URGENT: Griffin on Newsnight tonight: jam BBC complaints NOW[ANL] URGE

The most basic tenet of Marxism is that you have to tell the truth to the
working class. In regard to the BNP, the SWP and its chums in the CPGB, SO,
SP, WP and RDG, don't. At least on the UKLN mailing List, some people
realise the danger in ignoring the BNP. Look at Oldham, Bradford and
Burnley, everywhere there is some degree of racial tension.
There are lots of ways to challenge this but no indication that the left has
any idea how to do this.

Calling for banning just plays into the hands of the fascists.

Why doesn't the Socialist Alliance come up with a plan based on winning over
the 'racist' working class.

And I don't mean "Nazi scum of our streets."


Subject: [UK_Left_Network] BNP-'radical alternative'?
Date: 27 June 2001 13:21

--- In UK_Left_Network@y..., formercommunists@h... wrote:
> --- In UK_Left_Network@y..., "Anti Fascist Action"
> <bryantnicholas@h...> wrote:
> >
> "The so-called 'revolutionary Left' is in fact a conservative
> force. Rather than speak to working class whites as to why they
> BNP,
> it was left to the mainstream media, both liberal and right-wing,
> uncover
> the stories of non-racist BNP voters who felt they had no
> alternative. The
> Left meanwhile were busy concentrating on the Asian community, and
> missed
> the opportunity to do some useful 'market research'."
> I would be very interested in meeting these non-racist BNP voters!!!
> What planet are these people living on?
> I'd be interested to see AFA do some "market research" here in
> Lancashire among the BNP voters.
> These are complicated and difficult times and AFA and others have
> been right to challenge the orthodox views on anti-racism
strategies -
> however they are well off the mark if they think people vote BNP
> any reason other than race.
> HS

As the situation in Europe shows the working class will vote for the
far-right when a) there is no alternative or b) when the far-right
appear to be the 'radical alternative'. Why do the BNP appear to be
radical? Because as the Paxman interview showed last night, they are
politically comfortable with the actuality of the situation in areas
of Oldham, Burnley, Bradford etc when no one else is. Because of this
they appear to have answers - when no one else has. That is why
working class people vote for them. Otherwise, how to explain that
before the tear-up, the BNP did not even have a branch in the area.
And when they stood a candidate in the Hollingwood ward they got 1%
in a council by-election - only last year. Where were all
the 'inherently racist' white working class then? AFA are right. It
is no longer 'a battle for control of the streets' (which AFA won in
1994 anyway) it is instead 'a battle for working class hearts and
The challenge now for genuine anti-fascism is not to support lazily
*opposite* politics to the BNP ala the ANL/SA/SWP, but to present
*better* politics than the BNP. Which is to say class based rather
than race based solutions. But to do that, to find out what the
problems real and imagined are, - and I know this is difficult- it
will prove necessary to actually *talk* and *listen* to what is being
said. In Europe, the Left never took this on board, with the result
that the far-right are now in government in Italy as well as Austria.

If the fall-out from the general election results are any indication,
all the signs are a similarly introspective and conservative left is
pretty determined to conform to the European pattern with the BNP
cast in the role of 'anti-establishment radical alternative' over

Date: 27 June 2001 14:40
Subject: [UK_Left_Network] Re: BNP-'radical alternative'?

--- In UK_Left_Network@y..., gary_ohalloran@y... wrote:
>. It is no longer 'a battle for control of the streets' (which AFA
>won in 1994 anyway)

Err... come again? What happened in 1994 that was so decisive?

I think this is part of the reason why the ANL and others are
unwilling to discuss tactics with groups such as AFA or RA, if they
are told 'the battle was already won seven years ago but we forgot to
tell you...'

The fact that SA canvassers were attacked during the election, as was
a street stall in broad daylight, gives the lie to AFAs pompous macho


From: james.carroll <>
Date: 27 June 2001 21:14
Subject: Re: [UK_Left_Network] Re: BNP-'radical alternative'?

1994 was the year that the BNP moved from the traditional Nazi aim of trying
to dominate the streets to the current overtly political strategy. the
period of the late 1980s early 1990s had seen a bitter contest for the
streets in a number of cities which AFA contend that they had won by 1994.
The situation in Glasgow during that period as I remember very well was very
serious for a time and was a good deal more frightening than a few stalls
getting turned over. Had it not been for the work of AFA and SML during
that period in the Glasgow area it is very likely that the position of the
left in that city would be very different then it is today. There have been
postings on this list on this subject previously but suffice it to say that
the ANL/SWP did not cover itself in glory. On the aatack on the SA
candidates, this was carried out by the NF rather than the BNP. The modern
NF has never deviated from street politics but has neither the organisation
or the numbers to mount the type of street actions that the BNP did in the
pre 1994 period.. The fact that the SA candidates were attacked in an area
where the NF were known to be active tells us little about "macho politics"
but volumes about the incompetance in even basic security of the ANL who
were running a stall right next door to the SA stall that was attacked.

Jim Carroll

Subject: [UK_Left_Network] Re: BNP-'radical alternative'?
Date: 28 June 2001 13:53

'What happened in 1994' you ask. Well, in April of that year to be
precise, the leadership of the BNP called a public press conference
where they announced there would in future "be no more marches
meetings punch-ups". In other words the strategy of 'march and grow'
which had been in vogue since Moseley's day had been abandoned.
Rather than 'get rid of the reds' the strategy would in future be to
circumvent them.

I'm not at all surprised you don't know about this as the ANL/SWP,
along with Searchlight, totally ignored its signifigance at the time,
but in strategical terms are beginning to pay the price for it now.

Who for instance could have looked sillier than the 80 ANL screaming
about 'democracy' outside the election hall in Oldham while thousands
were voting BNP inside it? The BNP strategy has changed. This is
something the SWP still have to come to terms with. More recently,
Searchlight on the other hand, has with typical opportunism slipped
neared the AFA analysis. What both have still to come to terms with
is the political consequences of such changes. Not just for the BNP
and anti-fascist strategies - but for themselves.

Why did the BNP abandon the streets? The answer is two-fold. One, is
to with political ambition, and the inability of the 'march and grow
strategy' to deliver. Two, though as can be imagined, for all sorts
of reasons it was painful for them to admit even to themselves, the
harsh reality, was that by early 1994, in large parts of London,
Glasgow and Edinburgh, and in large parts of the north-west it was
AFA not the BNP who 'controlled the streets'. (Yes, this included
towns like Burnley Rochadale Oldham etc.)
In my opinion, once it became clear the paradign for other areas was
being implemented in the Midlands, as they saw it, the last bastion,
the BNP threw in the towel.

Of course the ANL will claim that if 'the war is over we won it' as
Weyman Bennett did in October 1999. This nonsense was based on the
belief, largely fostered by Searchlight, and swallowed whole by the
ANL, that the reason the BNP lacked a 'street profile' was because
they lacked the people.
In other words, (publicly at least), the pretence was maintained that
for the last seven years, the BNP was always periously near
collapse.That the BNP has not had a march or public meeting since
1994 was ironically offered as testimony to this reality!

Laziness apart, perhaps, the real reason the SWP/ANL/Searchlight
would, or could not admit to the seismic shift in BNP thinking, was
because they knew bitter rivals AFA had been chiefly responsible for
that change. You may still deny this now, but influential BNP
figures, Griffin included, do not.

As early as May 1995, AFA had recognised not only was the change
likely to prove permanent, but that there would be signifigant
changes demanded of AFA strategies as well. For anyone willing to
listen, AFA has been patiently explaining the consequences ever

In October 1999, AFA even invited the ANL to publicly discuss future
strategies. In October 2000 it invited the LSA to do the same, but
despite initially agreeing, the LSA, (with the exception of TWO
people from the CPGB), subsequently boycotted the meeting. So you can
hardly say 'we forgot to tell you'. Indeed what AFA has been critised
for, in Weekly Worker and elsewhere is supposedly *exaggerating*
the threat.

As for SA stall being attacked 'in broad daylight(the nerve!)giving
the lie to AFA's pompous macho boasts' is frankly laughable. One
attack in seven years, and from the NF at that, hardly undermines the
AFA analysis in regard to the BNP. Particularly, as you either do not
know, or have not wish to recall, that prior to the BNP unilateral
ceasefire in April 1994, the SWP were turned over somewhere in the
country -'in broad daylight'- at a minimum of a one a week! And
unlike in Brimingham where the NF confined itself largely
to 'verbals', the damage being inflicted on individual SWP members
was considerable. In fact at one stage it appeared it was only a
matter of time before someone was killed.

In fact the first activity by the ANL after the re-launch in 1992 was
typical of the whole approach to the campaign thereafter. Despite
warnings from senior AFA stewards that there was a large contingent
of BNP in the area, approximately 40 were in a pub that was actually
visible from where the ANL were assembling, the AFA advice was met
with a sneer. The result: serious mayhem, and if I remember correctly
three stabbings. For what its worth, between the beginning of 1992
and April 1994 the sole attempt at *formal* cooperation was again at
AFA's instigation. So searching around for reasons 'pompous' 'macho'
to justify the SWP/ANL's continuing secterianism to AFA just makes
you look as shallow as your analysis.

Finally, considering the honourable and succesful tradition of
physical force anti-fascism that has existed at different periods
throughout the last century, the employment of the 1970's American
feminists by-word 'macho', as a term of abuse for AFA today, is far
more significant than you might possibly imagine.

Across Europe the far-right have stopped acting like 'Hollywood
Nazis', and it's high time the left stopped acting like 'Hollywood