Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Griffin wins this time around

The BNP claimed on their website today that the left's policy of 'No Platform' had been undermined following Nick Griffin's speech to members of the Oxford Union last night. The news article contains an audio clip of the speech which is probably not available anywhere else on the web.

Unite Against Fascism were also claiming victory today:

"The most powerful opposition to fascism came not from within the chamber but from the peaceful demonstration calling for Oxford Union not to become a tool for giving fascists prestigious cover, which were picked up widely in the media."

Firstly, the demonstration was not completely peaceful. A small group of anti-fascists managed to break the security cordons and enter the Union building where they staged a fifteen-minute sit-in. The debate had to be divided in two with Griffin and Irving addressing students in separate rooms. Such a mobilisation may well have been justified for a rally of marching fascists, but not for a middle-aged historian (David Irving) or the suited and booted leader of the BNP.

The UAF quotation assumes that the BNP do not already have 'prestigious cover', yet they ignore the growing support for the far right in many areas of the country where the 'no platform' policy has not trickled down. Their 'victory' will not have the same resonance in those local authorities where electors have voted for BNP candidates in local elections. In spite of last night, the BNP still has over 40 councillors in England and it is still the main opposition on one of the London boroughs. In short, UAF are deluded if they think this demonstration was anything more than a piece of political theatre.

Andrew Smith, the MP for Oxford East, sent a message of support to the protesters: "The true threat to freedom of speech comes from men such as Mr Griffin who argue for the use of ' boots and fists' as political tools." It clearly does not matter to Smith that he was an integral part of the New Labour project which has alienated the party from millions of working class people. If Mr. Smith really wants to challenge the far right, he might like to talk to the people in his own backyard who deserted him at the general election in 2005 slashing his majority from 10,344 to 963.

After Oxford, it's time for anti-fascists to rethink their strategy and to admit that 'no platform' has failed to stop the BNP from gaining nearly 50 councillors. Unfortunately this advice is probably going to fall on deaf ears amongst the UAF and the Labour Party.

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