Little Hope, and not much use against Hate
Today I received through the post a leaflet from 'Hope Not Hate', urging me to oppose the BNP. But frankly, it's a dreadful leaflet which serves only to illustrate what a mess mainstream anti-fascism has got itself into.
The leaflet, entitled NEVER FORGET, attempts to denounce the BNP for abusing and offending the memory of Britain's war dead. I'm all in favour of remembering those who died in wars - preferably with the long-term aim that in future, no-one else will need to do so. But the terms of the HNH leaflet go beyond remembrance of war dead and buy into nationalist and imperialist ideology about those wars.
For example, it refers to those who "gave their lives for this country". The appalling truth is that most of those who died in wars may have thought they were doing so "for this country" (which is a highly debatable phrase anyway), but were in fact doing so having been sent by ruling-class generals and politicians on an imperialist adventure, defending one nation's profiteers against another. Even in the case of wars with some point to them eg. the Second World War, the worthiness of the war was in defeating fascism, rather than in serving some specifically "British" interest.
The leaflet also denounces the BNP for thinking that Winston Churchill was a traitor. I'm not sure I give a toss whether Churchill was a "traitor", as it is not a word that means a lot to me. But I do know that he was a sexist, anti-working-class, imperialist Tory, who before he took on sainthood for his "leadership" in the Second World War sent thousands of young men to unnecessary and unspeakable death at Gallipoli. The working-class people who turfed Churchill out of office at their first opportunity in 1945 might not share HNH's deference to him.
But there is a more significant reason why this leaflet will be not very helpful in the fight against the BNP - its headline description of the BNP as "Not a normal political party". For goodness sake, that's exactly the reason why people are bloody voting for them! They don't want a "normal political party" because normal political parties stink! Hope Not Hate may not have noticed this, but normal political parties are enjoying their worst-ever popularity levels.
Can you imagine arguing with a BNP voter on the doorstep? They are telling you about how no other party gives a toss about them, how run-down their estate is, how they've lost their job, and probably blaming it on immigrants. You're getting nowhere until you say "They're not a normal political party, you know", at which point your interlocutor says, "Oh right, well now I know that, I won't vote for them any more". Honestly, a more unlikely scenario I can not imagine.
This leaflet may have persuaded comfortable people who hold politically-mainstream views and already oppose the BNP to oppose the BNP. But wake up - the BNP is not building among comfortable people with politically-mainstream views. It is building among people who are alienated and ignored by the political mainstream. Condemning them as 'extreme' or 'not normal' for voting BNP may make mainstream anti-fascists feel better, but it will do nothing to contest the BNP's political territory. And that is what we have to do . It is high time for an urgent rethink.