Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Racism

Anti-racism, secularism, and the fight against anti-semitism today.

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Freedom, Democracy and Secularism.

In the 1990s a section of the anti-racist left in Britain developed a critique of multiculturalism. Groups involved included the Southall Black Sisters and secularist leftists both in the UK. The main reason for this critical stand was the view that ‘community relations’ had become managed by the state.

While praiseworthy efforts were made to tackle inequalities, , and we welcomed legislation to outlaw discrimination,  the approach had some fundamental laws. We argued that multiculturalism far from being opposed to racialism, was the institutionalisation of ‘difference’ through that is funding and promoting ‘community leaders’.  In fact it could be seen as the twin of racist efforts to exclude minority groups by making these distinctions the basis for policies.

Arun Kundnani  for the Institute for Race Relations put it in 2002 (THE DEATH OF MULTICULTURALISM) summarised this view.

While multiculturalist policies institutionalised black culture, it was the practice of ethnicised funding that segmented and divided black communities.

The state’s strategy, it seemed, was to re-form black communities to fit them into the British class system, as a parallel society with their own internal class leadership, which could be relied on to maintain control. A new class of ‘ethnic representatives’ entered the town halls from the mid-1980s onwards, who would be the surrogate voice for their own ethnically defined fiefdoms. They entered into a pact with the authorities; they were to cover up and gloss over black community resistance in return for free rein in preserving their own patriarchy.

It was a colonial arrangement, which prevented community leaders from making radical criticisms, for fear that funding for their pet projects would be jeopardised. Different ethnic groups were pressed into competing for grants for their areas. The result was that black communities became fragmented, horizontally by ethnicity, vertically by class.

This, by Alana Lentin, outlines the position in 2004,

Multiculturalism or anti-racism?

The “top–down” nature of multiculturalist policy–making is illustrated by modern British experience where – as Paul Gilroy’s 1992 essay “The End of Anti–Racism” points out – local governments in the early 1980s instigated it in reaction to the nationalism of Conservative central government. However, the policy’s cultural focus destroyed the autonomous, highly politicised anti–racism of the local “race committees” established in the 1970s in reaction to the far right and institutional racism.

Moreover, the multicultural model is vulnerable to the charge that it uncritically endorses the image of enclosed, internally homogeneous cultural groups, each taking its place in a “mosaic” of equal but different communities – and so ignores both group heterogeneity and the fact that members of minorities often identify with a hybridity of cultural references , including that of the dominant society.

More importantly, multiculturalism’s exclusive focus on culture can present an apolitical picture of “minority” experience and agency that evades the daily realities of institutionalised racism. This emphasis on culture lies at the heart of the problem of multiculturalism, and – I would argue – makes it an unworthy prize for progressive voices now seeking to reclaim it.

Some of those who took this stand were also secularists. That is, we were wary of what we saw as a growing tendency: the acceptance of these divisions on religious grounds.

A  key moment for those who combined this critique with a broader  secularism, had been the defence of Salman Rushdie against the Iranian ‘Fatwa’ in 1989. Reactionary religious, Muslim, demonstrations that included book burnings,  took place in the UK. As Wikipedia notes, “The City of Bradford gained international attention in January 1989 when some of its members organised a public book-burning of The Satanic Verses, evoking as the journalist Robert Winder recalled “images of medieval (not to mention Nazi) intolerance”

After 9/11 there was an explicit shift from ethnic representation towards a ‘multi-faith’ approach. In a process which closely parallels changes in France –  brilliantly analysed in La fabrique du musulman by Nedjib Sidi Moussa (2017) – religion became the obligatory badge of ‘community’.

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters wrote in 2008,  Defending secular spaces

The current drive towards ‘cohesion’ represents the softer side of the ‘war on terror’. At its heart lies the promotion of a notion of integration based on the assumption that organising around race and ethnicity encourages segregation.

At the same time, in the quest for allies, it seeks to reach out to a male religious (largely Muslim) leadership, and it thereby encourages a ‘faith’ based approach to social relations and social issues.

This approach rejects the need for grassroots self organisation on the basis of race and gender inequality but institutionalises the undemocratic power of so called ‘moderate’ (authoritarian if not fundamentalist) religious leaders at all levels of society.

The result is a shift from a ‘multicultural’ to a ‘multi-faith’ society: one in which civil society is actively encouraged to organise around exclusive religious identities, and religious bodies are encouraged to take over spaces once occupied by progressive secular groups and, indeed, by a secular welfare state.

A similar line of criticism was  taken in 2010  in Rumy Hasan’s Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truth. 

However, in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001, multiculturalism morphed into “multifaithism”, resulting in religion-based identity. This fourth phase, Hasan argues, represents multiculturalism’s failure.

Multiculturalism qua multifaithism is the source of all evils. Ironically, initiated as a way of combating racism, multiculturalism has become hostage to special interests represented by community leaders as well as politicians eager to secure votes.

It is a violation and distortion of the democratic ideal of universal rights because it accords privileges to ethnic-religious communities; it increases segregation and ghettoisation; it fans sectarian hatred within communities; it leads to social harm as it restricts or prevents intimate contact with members of the larger society, who feel alienated as a result; it triggers right-wing extremism among “whites” and “chauvinistic faith-based organisations”; it fosters resistance to “mainstream” culture as well as “psychological detachment”, a condition of being in, but not of, British society.

More important, Hasan sees multicultural policy as a successor to the old imperial divide-and-rule strategy. This means that the state remains aloof from serious social problems that occur within immigrant communities, which it shields by accepting their claim to cultural specificity.

Rumy and Southall Black Sisters’  conclusion is that the defence of secular equality is the best alternative.

Many on the British left, by contrast, have focused exclusively on ‘Islamophobia’. That is the view that prejudice against Muslims, that is people, is identical with hostility to a religion, Islam. Far from challenging multi-faithism they embraced it. The political party Respect, founded in 2004, announced that it was the Party for Muslims. While not a Muslim Party as such  A “local election flyer printed in 2004 featured the slogan “George Galloway – Fighting for Muslim Rights!

It was also ‘anti-Zionist’ “According to the party’s national council member Yvonne Ridley  speaking at London’s  Imperial College in February 2006, Respect “is a Zionist-free party… if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out.”

Following Naz Kahn’s appointment as Respect’s women’s officer in Bradford in October 2012, it emerged that Kahn had recently commented on Facebook that “history teachers in our school” were and are “the first to start brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler. What have the Jews done good in this world??” David Aaronovitch in The Jewish Chronicle wrote: “‘What have the Jews done good in this world?’ clearly means ‘The Jews do only bad’. The Jews haven’t suffered as much as they say they have, but insofar as they have suffered it’s their own fault and, in any case, they have gone on to inflict equal or more suffering on others. That’s ‘the Jews’ as a group, not ‘many Jews’, ‘some Jews’ or ‘a few Jews.'”[157] Ron McKay, Galloway’s spokesman, said Kahn’s comments had been written shortly before she joined Respect, on an “unofficial site” (the Respect Bradford Facebook page), and that she “now deeply regrets and repudiates that posting.”


Respect is an extreme example.

But many other forces on the left have had difficulty with dealing with ‘anti-Semitism’, that is hostility to Jewish people. This is  not least because many of those professing support for ‘Islam’, the galaxy of Islamist groups, and (as indicated in the present case in Bradford), some individuals from the left, not least those involved with the Respect Party, have expressed views which are hostile to Jews.

These are not just casual prejudices.

They reflect, in some cases, religious hatred, but more commonly are part of a ‘conspiracy’ outlook on the word, usually linked to the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’ which sees ‘Zionism’ are the root of the world’s problems.

It is a an utter shame that it took a right-wing weekly to print this article.

France, one out of two racist acts are anti-Semite: En France, l’antisémitisme « du quotidien » s’est ancré et se propage (le Monde. 2.11.17)

Below is an important text from the comrades of Ni Patrie Ni Frontièrs. which may help shed some light on the problems involved.

While France has a a different imperial history to Britain, and migration from its former colonies is not the same, some of the same difficulties have arisen.

The clearest distinction is that while French secularism is part of the political establishment, state, political parties, administration and culture, of the country. Some secularist supporters take an arid view, which is entangled with the same kind of  nationalist stans which in the UK is claimed for ‘British values’.


There is the same shift from ethnicity to religion.

There is the same inability of sections of the left to confront Islamism and ethno-religious politics.

By contrast a  minority of the critical French left has, over the years, developed a stand with close parallels to that of the British, and Irish left (which has its own particular battles to fight) secularists outlined above.

It is to the credit of the critical sections of the French anti-racist left that they have been able to steer a course between the State Secularism of the defenders of a mythicised  Republic and the reactionary cultural turn of those who fail to tackle with the use of religion as a market for ‘identity’.

The case of Tariq Ramadan which crystallises many of these issues of religion and identity, with some crying Islamophobia, and others suspecting the hand of ‘Zionists’ behind the affair, perhaps illustrates a further difference.

In France the accusations of rape against the Oxford Professor, the best known promoter of Islam in the French speaking world, are front page news.

In the UK the extremely serious claims  barely ruffled any feathers.

Ramadan was allowed to continue teaching until the start of last week.

It is worth noting that it was Gita Sahgal who comes from the original Southall Black Sisters was the initiator a petition calling for Ramadan’s removal. A petition, which le Monde registered with the article in Oxford’s student paper, Cherwell, (“A la suite de la publication de cet article, une pétition a été lancée, suivie de la mise en congé de l’enseignant.) and has yet to be mentioned in the British media.

The Economist seems about the only UK source to have registered its full importance.

Tariq Ramadan, a star of Europe’s Muslim intelligentsia, confronts accusations of rape

The Oxford professor, who denies the allegations, has taken a leave of absence

To get a sense of the shockwave these developments have triggered, it helps to understand Mr Ramadan’s unique position in the Islamic firmament, as somebody with a high profile both in academia and on the Muslim street.

His Egyptian grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, was the founder of the global Muslim Brotherhood, yet he strongly denies that his own thinking is merely a reiteration of Brotherhood ideology. His theology is quite conservative but he insists that far from self-segregating, European Muslims should play an active role in society. He has suggested that there is a natural role for Muslims as part of a broad-left anti-capitalist coalition.

In 2004 he was unable to take up an academic post at America’s Notre Dame university because the authorities refused his application to enter and work in the United States. He fought a long legal battle to gain admission to that country, which he finally won in 2009. He has held high-profile public debates with famous atheists and secularists including Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the late Christopher Hitchens. He has condemned suicide bombing and other terrorist acts such as the murderous attack onCharlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly. But he also calls for understanding of Muslim grievances, whether in Europe or Islam’s heartlands. He denounced Charlie Hebdo for publishing drawings which upset an already “stigmatised” Muslim community.

The discourse of Mr Ramadan is very traditional, in the sense of paying close attention to Islam’s founding texts, and very hip and modern, as befits somebody who is well attuned to the anti-establishment politics of the 21st century. For young Muslims in the West who are defensive of their identity but want to move on from their parents’ traditional culture, that is a winning combination.

That’s why the outcome of Mr Ramadan’s saga will be followed closely, from the ivory towers of Oxford to the streets of Brussels and Marseille.

Independent anti-racism.

To give a flavour of the views of the independent anti-racist  section of the French Left, Ni Parti Ni Frontièrs, whose Yves Colman is already familiar to readers of this Blog, here are some links.

The first indicates the similarities and differences between the countries’  independent left-wing secularist  anti-racist movements.

The second takes up the Ramadan case.

The most obvious symptom of this evolution is the quasi hegemony of “competitive memories”, so called “double standards”, which inspired many analyses. Since around 2005 various minorities compare their status to others, starting with the Jews’ status. In France the recognition of the specificity of the Judeocide, but also the full involvement of the French state has only emerged in the early eighties, after
immense anti-racist struggles. But less than thirty years later, these fights have disappeared from the collective memory; fascists have imposed a truncated memory in which Jews are, falsely, presented as “privileged” by state anti-racist policies since 1945. All the victories (the historical recognition of the genocide and teaching of the Judeocide in schools, for example), are transformed into “problems”, into
“symptoms” of a support for Israel, or into an attempt to mask other forms of racism.

Harvey Weinstein, Dominique Strauss-Kahn et Tariq Ramadan : un « parallèle » absurde au sous-texte antisémite


Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Left Unity Conference: the Good and the Not-so-Good.

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As Dave Osler has said, Left Unity is a party created not by deals between left groups but primarily by the hard work of activists alone.

Its Manchester Conference is to be congratulated on opening up a space for real debate on the left.

Many of the policy positions of the group, on Europe (it rejects the ‘No’ stand), and on economic policy (firmly anti-neo-liberal), are real steps forward.

“Left Unity opposes all programmes and demands for a British withdrawal from the European Union. By the same measure we oppose the EU of commissioners, corruption and capital. However, as the political, bureaucratic and economic elite has created the reality of a confederal EU, the working class should take it, not the narrow limits of the nation-state, as its decisive point of departure.”

We are for joining with others across Europe to campaign for a different form of European Union, a ‘socialist reconstruction’, as called for by the 4th Congress of the European Left Party.

Left Unity, we learn, would not take a position on the  Nationalist left campaign for a ‘Yes’  vote in the Scottish Referendum.

There are a host of other good policies on green issues such as fracking, Housing, and defending welfare.

In these areas some serious work has borne fruit.

There are wider topics, about the role such a party may take, and its relation to the broader labour movement and the left, that many will not agree on. Above all “coming soon to a Ballot Paper near you”.

These will be discussed here (as no doubt many others will do)  but not today.

But for the moment we have to signal that some material passed by the Conference is less than appealing to every internationalist and socialist. (see here).

The text of the Anti-Racist Commission begins well. It talks of the need to defend migrants, and to fight all forms of racism.

But this is extremely confused, when it is not plain wrong.

Racism against Muslims has deep roots in British history, extending into the colonial era.  Its most recent manifestations can be traced to the period after the ‘Rushdie affair’ when Muslims were increasingly identified as a ‘security’ problem, and a menace to national ‘values’.  Following the riots in northern cities, the government extended this attack to British Asians in general, alleging that they were ‘self-segregating’.

In the context of the ‘war on terror’, these discourses about British Asians were focused on Muslims in particular, and a neo-Powellite argument took hold that ‘multiculturalism’ had failed.  Politicians and media outlets claimed that by allowing diverse ‘cultures’ to ‘do their own thing’, Britain had tolerated islands of extremism in its midst. This counterinsurgency narrative validated a series of high profile attacks on the rights of Muslims, such as the Forest Gate raids in 2006 or the long-term imprisonment without charge and subsequent deportation of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan – only the most severe examples of the day-to-day state repression and racism experienced by the Muslim community.

The language of this ‘new racism’ blames racially oppressed groups themselves for failing to ‘integrate’ or ‘confront extremism’.  In so doing, it both validates racist repression and simultaneously instils fear and discourages resistance to racism.

The fact that it is culture and creed, rather than colour and breed, which is the ideological focus of these measures allows politicians to pretend that they are not racist.  Yet, there is a long history of ‘cultural racism’, which has become especially dominant in the aftermath of Britain’s colonial era.  Even the most biologistic forms of racism have always been supplemented by essentialising cultural stereotypes. The representation of Muslims as a monolithic bloc embodying the most hateful characteristics belongs to this tradition.

As an account of the Rushdie affair its stupidity and reductionism, not to mention the failure to defend Rushdie’s right to free speech, is reactionary in the extreme.

The rest is a completely jumbled up account of this aspect of race-cultural-relations in the UK.

There is not a word for a  strategy that is opposed Islamism.

Islamism may as well not exist.

No words are written on the Sikh, Hindi, or other religious communities (you can guess the obvious absence, it begins with ‘J‘).

Or indeed to defend secularism and advance secularist policies of equality  as the only basis on which a coherent anti-racist position can be built.

Then, while well-intentioned, this is their unreadable conclusion,

For all the negatives in the British situation, there are grounds for optimism.  Popular views on immigration and race are actually far more complex and ambivalent than opinion polls would suggest.  The ambiguities of popular opinion are, moreover, not a concluded fact but raw material which can be worked with by those seeking to draw out the best instinctive responses of ordinary people.  Anti-racism actually forms part of the common sense of millions of working class people who, thanks to decades of large-scale immigration, experience a ‘lived multiculture’ that is remote from the stereotypes of ‘failed multiculturalism’.  A left political articulation that operates on such lived experience, linking a popular anti-racist politics to a wider critique of class injustice, can begin to shift the balance, and offer a counterpoint to the racist Right which the mainstream parties cannot.

Now Tendance Coatesy wholly endorses this aspect of their policy,

Left Unity must challenge racist ideas in the labour movement, and even sections of the socialist movement.  Some openly support or implicitly endorse the idea of “British Jobs for British Workers” – the supposed need for greater and “tougher” immigration controls to defend worker’s rights. Left Unity must contest this wherever it appears.

But the previous material  on religions and multiculturalism?

It is no surprise that we learn that Richard Seymour was behind this confused document – and indeed moved it at the Conference.

He’s obviously been flipping through those 1980s Stuart Hall articles or old Paul Gilory stuff.

And observed nothing since – notably the latter’s critique of multiculturalism,

Like this,

“The fundamental challenge of our time, asserts Paul Gilroy, is to imagine an ethical and just world that truly fulfils the promise of humanism and enacts the idea of universal human rights.”

Update Seymour Addresses the Popular Masses: Pic of him reading out in support of above Motion.

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The SWP and the Anti Nazi League, Some Observations.

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fillesbThe SWP and the Anti Nazi League.

In discussion about the SWP’s crisis the Anti Nazi League (ANL, 1977 – 1981) often figures. It is presented as an example of how the SWP can help create a United Front that is unqualified success. There is no doubt that the campaign against the National Front had a serious impact, not just in drawing tens of thousands to demonstrations, but on the far-right’s electoral fortunes. Rock Against Racism (RAR), launched in co-operation with the ANL, and held a 1978 Carnivals in London attended by hundred of thousands of, mainly young, people. Other RAR events (held all over the country) helped win over a youthful audience to the anti-racist message.

The ANL played a major part in marginalising the organised far-right. Extremely violent street battles made it virtually impossible for the National Front (NF) and other extreme racist groups to assert a public presence. But its role in combating wider racist politics is far from evident. Many people think that Margaret Thatcher’s “authoritarian populism”, which contained a strong appeal to xenophobia, undermined the NF. (1) Faced with determined extra-parliamentary opposition and the consolidation of a House of Commons right the far-right splintered. At the end of the decade, a ‘harder’ group, the British Movement, emerged. It joined the descent of the NF into the wilderness.

Thatcher’s election victory in 1979 marked the beginning of a long process of shifting Britain to the right. With their electoral fortunes ebbing all of the explicit far-right groups were to spend the 1980s embroiled in internal conflicts. There was to be no British parallel to the rise of the French Front National. But it could be said that the right-wing media, the Mail, the Express and the Sun today play the role of domestic Le Pens.

Hate-laden nationalism – focused against ‘Brussels’ and ‘Foreigners’, rather than specific racial or religious minorities – now plays a central role in British politics. Its influence extends from UKIP to the leadership of the Conservative Party. The crisis-ridden British National Party (BNP), like its NF forerunner, has been pushed aside. Other – tiny – racist parties that stand in elections are divided amongst themselves. The ‘street fighting’, English Defence League (EDL), has yet to recover from its own internal crisis.

The SWP, the ANL and the Anti Fascist and Anti Racist Movement, 1976 – 1981.

The ANL and RAR’s achievements should not be forgotten. But there is room to ask whether they should be uncritically celebrated. One aspect of their history that bears on present debates amongst the divided anti-racist movement is how ‘united fronts’ are constructed. In our discussion of the SWP and Leninism we have already cited the criticisms that the SWP faced in the 1970s about its approach to ‘autonomous movements’.

Wikipedia’s entry on the SWP contains this relevant account of the AWL’s formation in 1977,

“Although it was portrayed as a broad initiative supported by the SWP along with wide swathes of the Labour Left and figures from popular culture (singers, musicians, actors etc.), the ANL was seen by many on the left as a self-serving unilateral SWP initiative to seize the leadership of the Anti-Racist Movement and was regarded with suspicion by many Anti-Racist/Anti-Fascist activists. This was particularly true of many in the existing broad-based Anti-Fascist Committees (often with close connections to the local Labour and Trade Union Movement). The fact that local ANL groups were often launched as an SWP-led alternative to existing broad-based Anti-Fascist Committees increased the suspicions of non-SWP activists but a widespread desire not to display public divisions (and a fear of alienating the ANL’s celebrity sponsors) meant that these divisions were kept fairly quiet.”

These issues were discussed at meetings of ‘broad based anti-Fascist groups”. The AWL did not have any democratic internal structure to express them. Many people accepted this, pragmatically, as the basis for national campaigns and for punctual mobilisations against the NF. But this did not stop the search for a wider political approach to the problems that the rise of the far-right posed. These concerns were voiced at conferences to co-ordinate the movement, called for example, at the end of the 1970s by the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF). Although this was not a central concern the Wikipedia entry is entirely accurate to say that the SWP role in the AWL was not universally welcomed.

Leamington Spa Anti-Racist Anti-Fascist Committee.

Doug Lowe has written a short history of how one group (which I was very active in) the Leamington Spa Anti-Racist, Anti-Fascist Committee (LARAFC) responded to these challenges (The Respectable Revolutionaries: Leamington Anti-Racist Anti-Fascist Committee 1977-1981. What Next? 2007). The town, despite its genteel side, had a large working class, often employed in the car industry (like much of the West Midlands), and ethnic minorities from the sub-Continent and the Caribbean. There was also a small but often politically committed student population from Warwick University (over 11 miles away), and a ‘counter-culture’ that sustained an Alternative Bookshop, the Other Branch. On the other side it had an active far-right, which had begin to stand in elections. Most famously it was home to the nationally notorious racist Robert Relf, who put up a sign on his house, “For Sale to Whites Only”.

LARAFC was formed in 1977 with the backing of the local Trades Council and the Labour Party, as well as the Indian Workers’ Association, and the Liberal Party. Unions actively gave aid. We had ties with Warwick University Students’ Union. The Leamington Sikh association supported the Committee. Members of the Communist Party signed up. Its active membership was from the left, from Labour, the local branches of the SWP, the IMG/Socialist Challenge, and Big Flame, a couple of supporters of the forerunner of the AWL, independent socialists, and an active local anarchist association. Feminism was an important influence on LARFC, through the Leamington Women’s Group.

The Committee held weekly meetings on Friday, attended by between fifteen and thirty people. These were extremely democratic – even taking minutes was ‘rotated’. The Women’s Group pushed for, and got, a crèche (not common in the late ‘seventies).

LARAF was in the spotlight in the town – constantly reported in the (daily) Leamington Morning News. We held well-attended Leamington demonstrations. We often leafleted the streets. We sent dozens to every anti-fascist demonstration going, including several ‘magical mystery tours’ when the police kept moving the venue of NF marches. There were pickets of the Leamington and Warwick courts of further Robert Relf cases. We were there in 1978 when the British Movement turned up in force, with the ‘Honour Guard’, to support their racist friends, Cole and Jones, being prosecuted under the Race Relations Act. We found time to have our own Rock Against Racism concerts.

The Newsletter.

The Committee’s Newsletter, which Doug rightly brings to the fore, sold between 500 to 1,000 copies an issue. It was distributed  through a variety of outlets, including door-to-door on the Estates (Doug was a stalwart seller).

The Newsletter (edited, typed-up and printed with the help of the Coventry section of the trade union ASTMS) contained articles on a wide range of subjects. These included the threat of the far-right to  trade unions, immigration controls, women and the far-right, the struggle of our “Asian sisters”, imperialism, and the history of fascism, as well as national anti-Nazi activity. There were debates on the issue of ‘no-Platform’ and the “militarism” of the anti-fascist movement.

Doug adds,

The Newsletter also reflected another vital concern – not to be (and be seen to be) merely reacting to fascist initiatives. Challenging racist implications for the working classes would provide ammunition for readers to use in their everyday lives, with their families, friends, workmates etc.”

LARAFC welcomed the launch of the ANL. However, despite efforts from a minority of the SWP (led by a Warwick University ‘cadre’) it did not become a formal part of the League. Indeed the proposal was not well received at all. LARAFC maintained its political and organisational independence.

As Doug says,

Throughout the country, though, not all socialists/anti-fascists based their work around the core anti-Nazi initiatives undertaken by the extensive network of ANL branches and activity. A handful of local groups developed their own approaches, putting much more emphasis on explicitly socialist anti-racist work. LARAFC was one such organisation. Although concerned to oppose local fascist activity, it considered the most effective way to accomplish this was by addressing the wider issues around racism.”

Class Politics and the United Front.

We were united around class politics without neglecting other aspects of racism, feminism or socialist policies. We developed sensitivity to what is now called “human rights”. At a memorable meeting there was some initial sniggering when it was reported that the Police had beaten the Nazi Robert Relf up in the cells. Comrade Jenny rose up in dignified fury. I can still remember her speech now. She said, “We are against anybody being mistreated by the Police.”

The Committee retained the support of the ‘official’ political parties, not just Labour but even the Liberals (to be frank,  the Liberals were not much of a priority),  despite never hiding our socialist politics.

Doug concludes,

“The organisation was successful in a key objective, though – to isolate the fascists from the widespread “soft” racism in the area. LARAFC also succeeded in mobilising all anti-racist sentiment and activity around it, establishing credibility even amongst clearly non-revolutionary (and even nonsocialist) organisations in the Leamington area, despite the overt socialism of its campaigning.”

LARAFC’s successes (like those of similar groups) cannot be appropriated by the SWP national leadership in its present factional wars.

Many of the activists in LARFC are still around on the left.

It was, and remains, an important, and inspiring, part of our political lives.

Perhaps when people talk about ‘united fronts’ they could look at the experience of groups like LARAFC (which was only one of many during the period).

It would certainly be more helpful than citing the ANL as a “success story” in the SWP’s history.

(1) “In the area of race, ‘Thatcherism’ has had an even more striking success. It has recuperated to the ‘legitimate terrain of parliamentary politics the extremist racism of the National Front, many of whose basic themes were merged into the official party position on race in an intensive campaign in the early months of 1979, whilst being distanced from the more disreputable associations of street fascism.” Popular-Democratic Versus Authoritarian Populism. 1980. Page 145. Stuart Hall the Hard Road to Renewal. Verso. 1988.)

You don’t have to agree with Hall’s wider analysis to take this point.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2013 at 12:08 pm