ModernityBlog

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Open Thread On How To Defeat The Fascists.

with 17 comments

There’s a fair amount of discussion on how best to stop the fascists in Britain and Jim makes some very good suggestions in the comments box at Stroppy’s. Over at Liam’s there is a sectarian fit going on (interspersed with some rather lucid and intelligent points).

Martin Ohr points to the AWL’s Where now for anti-fascism? A response to Searchlight

Stroppy hits the nail on the head:

“Over at Liam’s, in what was a good post on the demo and ways forward, the SWP and Respect lot snarl at each other like a couple after a nasty divorce and the left are a bit like the kids, caught in the cross fire and suffering from the bitterness all around.

If the BNP wanders over to some of the left blogs and read this they will be laughing. They have got their act together whilst we snipe.

This shouldn’t be about building the Party, paper selling or fighting each other. Its the BNP we should be fighting and we owe it to those who will suffer the most as they gain seats and credibility while we lose ours.”

It seems to me that the political landscape has moved on in 30 years and tactics which were successful before can no longer be guaranteed to succeed, my concern is that the BNP will somehow transform themselves into a Le Pen type broad based right wing party, with all of its ramifications.

I don’t know how best to stop the Extreme Right nowadays, given the weakness amongst BNP opponents. I’m open to constructive suggestions and any ideas that people might have?

Written by modernityblog

24/06/2008 at 18:31

Posted in Uncategorized

17 Responses

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  1. Modernity,

    I saw this remark of yours on the train-wreck thread on Liam’s blog and wanted to reply directly before it got submerged in all the sectarian crap there:

    would the fight against fascism in Britain (and internationally) be better off with or without the existence of Searchlight, as a magazine?

    Yes it would!

    It makes me bang my head against the wall in despair when I see leftists advocate co-operation with Searchlight.

    If we had an intelligent left in this country able to remember events before the last demo then the very well-documented lies, manipulations and machinations of Searchlight would have ensured they were given the boot long ago.

    I would strongly recommend you read this short text which describes how Searchlight operated between the 1970’s and mid 90’s:

    http://libcom.org/library/searchlight-for-beginners-larry-o-hara

    I don’t trust the information in Searchlight, they use their position to manipulate independent anti-fascists and, in general, don’t check stuff before it is published. Their analysis is generally rubbish, in some issues Combat 18 is a violent Nazi group that MI5/Special Branch need more powers to deal with, in other issues it is a ‘honey-trap’ set up by MI5.

    To give a couple of recent, seemingly trivial, examples from recent issues of Searchlight, with the same content printed on Lancaster Unity and all the other associated blogs, they said in the January that Lancashire organiser Chris Hill had gone with the rebels then went back to Griffin, in fact it was other way round. More importantly, they have never mentioned the past of key BNP rebel Sadie Graham, who is a former left-winger, a hunt sab, a punk and was closely associated with Anti-Fascist Action.

    The information they give out is much less valuable then the information they keep to themselves.

    More seriously, they use their position to pass on information on leftists to the state, smear leftists as fascists when it suits them and have in the past attempted to stir up political violence by circulating hit-lists of leftists to fascists and vice-versa.

    There are very good reasons why some of the most effective and serious anti-fascist groups of the last 20 years, such as Anti-Fascist Action, proscribed working with Searchlight. This wasn’t because of ‘sectarianism’ but acknowledging the role played by them in fucking up the anti-fascist movement so frequently.

    I would advise you in the strongest possible terms not to work with Searchlight or their affiliates, there are plenty of independent anti-fascists with alternative information gathering sources.

    I usually comment online under my own name but unfortunately, given their behaviour toward previous critics, I don’t trust Searchlight to ‘play fair’.

    I now await anonymouse trolls to smear me as a neo-Nazi, an anti-semite or, worst of all, a sectarian!

    Technophobe

    26/06/2008 at 11:09

  2. well, you are entitled to your opinion but as with politics, it is a calculation whatever your view of Searchlight does it usefulness outweigh any reservations you have?

    in your mind you would dispense with Searchlight?

    that seems to me to be an entirely negative and counter-productive position

    I think that the situation is grave enough to warrant all forces against the BNP, if you don’t share that view I can understand, I disagree but I can understand.

    supposing Searchlight vanishes, do you propose anything positive to replace it?

    or ain’t you particularly concerned about the threat of the extreme right?

    modernityblog

    26/06/2008 at 13:31

  3. whatever your view of Searchlight does it usefulness outweigh any reservations you have?

    in your mind you would dispense with Searchlight?

    Thought I’d made myself clear, obviously not.

    I would dispense of Searchlight!

    It is clear that their agenda is not anti-fascism. They operate as sub-contractors for the secret state.

    Some of are old enough to have mates whose details were on those hit-lists circulated by Searchlight to fascists. What you expect me to do, phone up Gable and say ‘Hiya Gerry, let’s forget about that time you tried to have my mates beaten up by C18 or thrown in prison, now the BNP have got some councillors all of that’s forgiven’?

    I think that the situation is grave enough to warrant all forces against the BNP

    The situation is grave but some of us were predicting this in the late 1990’s, we said it would come to pass and Searchlight, ANL and their ilk said the real threat was from a resurgent NF. Well that shows how useful their analysis is.

    However, I’m not interested in uniting with people who will do their best to grass me up to the secret state, if you do then I reckon your some sort of masochist.

    that seems to me to be an entirely negative and counter-productive position

    Only if you think Searchlight play some sort of positive role.

    supposing Searchlight vanishes, do you propose anything positive to replace it?

    In the days of the internet intelligence gathering isn’t hard, I’ve already told you stuff about a former key BNP player that Searchlight would never mention and here’s something else, Sadie Graham used to go out with the organiser of Newcastle Anti-Fascist Action! Stuff like this is well-known to experienced anti-fascists, but if you work with Searchlight these same experienced anti-fascists won’t touch you with a barge pole.

    It’s not hard to set up a website, or even a magazine. This should have been done 10 years ago. Something like the old AFA mag ‘Fighting Talk’ would be good. Shame they stopped doing that.

    or ain’t you particularly concerned about the threat of the extreme right?

    Less of that, I’ve been at this for fucking years and I’m as terrified of the prospect of a BNP or NF government now as I was then. The difference is that now it seems more likely.

    I’ll tell you another reason why I’m ‘concerned’ about Searchlight, say you do work with Searchlight, help set up their groups, believe and spout what you read in their magazine. Well the BNP know the truth about Searchlight and aren’t afraid to tell people so if you put out Searchlight leaflets they can go round and tell people the truth about Searchlight, discrediting you and anti-fascism. Then, you can’t turn round and say ‘that’s just more BNP lies’ because it’s not.

    Now let me ask you a question, what benefits do you think working with Searchlight brings?

    Technophobe

    26/06/2008 at 15:00

  4. whatever your view of Searchlight does it usefulness outweigh any reservations you have?

    in your mind you would dispense with Searchlight?

    Thought I’d made myself clear, obviously not.

    I would dispense of Searchlight!

    It is clear that their agenda is not anti-fascism. They operate as sub-contractors for the secret state.

    Some of are old enough to have mates whose details were on those hit-lists circulated by Searchlight to fascists. What you expect me to do, phone up Gable and say ‘Hiya Gerry, let’s forget about that time you tried to have my mates beaten up by C18 or thrown in prison, now the BNP have got some councillors all of that’s forgiven’?

    I think that the situation is grave enough to warrant all forces against the BNP

    The situation is grave but some of us were predicting this in the late 1990’s, we said it would come to pass and Searchlight, ANL and their ilk said the real threat was from a resurgent NF. Well that shows how useful their analysis is.

    However, I’m not interested in uniting with people who will do their best to grass me up to the secret state, if you do then I reckon your some sort of masochist.

    that seems to me to be an entirely negative and counter-productive position

    Only if you think Searchlight play some sort of positive role.

    supposing Searchlight vanishes, do you propose anything positive to replace it?

    In the days of the internet intelligence gathering isn’t hard, I’ve already told you stuff about a former key BNP player that Searchlight would never mention and here’s something else, Sadie Graham used to go out with the organiser of Newcastle Anti-Fascist Action! Stuff like this is well-known to experienced anti-fascists, but if you work with Searchlight these same experienced anti-fascists won’t touch you with a barge pole.

    It’s not hard to set up a website, or even a magazine. This should have been done 10 years ago. Something like the old AFA mag ‘Fighting Talk’ would be good. Shame they stopped doing that.

    or ain’t you particularly concerned about the threat of the extreme right?

    Less of that, I’ve been at this for fucking years and I’m as terrified of the prospect of a BNP or NF government now as I was then. The difference is that now it seems more likely.

    I’ll tell you another reason why I’m ‘concerned’ about Searchlight, say you do work with Searchlight, help set up their groups, believe and spout what you read in their magazine. Well the BNP know the truth about Searchlight and aren’t afraid to tell people so if you put out Searchlight leaflets they can go round and tell people the truth about Searchlight, discrediting you and anti-fascism. Then, you can’t turn round and say ‘that’s just more BNP lies’ because it’s not.

    Now let me ask you a question, what benefits do you think working with Searchlight brings?

    Technophobe

    26/06/2008 at 15:01

  5. sorry if my points appeared a bit repetitive I just wanted to clarify your views, to make sure I didn’t misrepresent them or misunderstand what you are getting at

    so essentially you see Searchlight as entirely negative, of no use

    but as an alternative you state “It’s not hard to set up a website, or even a magazine. This should have been done 10 years ago. Something like the old AFA mag ‘Fighting Talk’ would be good. Shame they stopped doing that.”

    that being the case, the obvious question is why haven’t critics of Searchlight done such? maybe they can’t be bothered? Maybe it’s far easier to attack Searchlight?

    you wrote:

    “Now let me ask you a question, what benefits do you think working with Searchlight brings?”

    obviously that depends on what you mean by working with?

    my own view is that I am happy to support people doing something productive against fascists, and to be honest having done it for decades and decades and decades (seeing sectarian critics come and go) I am not too fussy about criticising others doing something productive, and that’s my key point: productive

    if someone is doing something to oppose the fascists than I am more than willing to allow them some latitude, I don’t have to agree with their politics, I don’t have to like them, all I have to do is think about the bigger picture and what the rise of the fascists will do

    I found it is very easy to be a critic, much harder doing things productively, that’s what I’m interested in, so if Searchlight is doing good work publicising the nasty activities of fascists fine, if their analysis is less than perfect then maybe those critics should show exactly where it is faulty and what the alternatives are?

    the bigger picture is the fight against fascism, and whoever assists in that particular fight I welcome

    modernityblog

    26/06/2008 at 15:19

  6. the obvious question is why haven’t critics of Searchlight done such? maybe they can’t be bothered? Maybe it’s far easier to attack Searchlight?

    Well that’s three different questions there. There are long and complicated reasons why Fighting Talk is no longer produced and perhaps critics like myself feel there are more useful ways to spend time and energy as even if the stuff in Searchlight was true I’m not sure it would be that useful.

    Also, unfortunately criticising Searchlight is not easy to do. Prominent critics tend to find themselves, plus their pictures, appearing in the next issue of the magazine smeared as ‘neo-Nazis’.

    I don’t see Searchlight as doing anything ‘productive’, they exist to co-opt independent anti-fascists and manipulate them to their own agenda. This means the existence of Searchlight actively prevents the sort of independent anti-fascist initiative based on class politics needed to undermine the BNP.

    It’s also quite hard to work with someone when they’re passing on your details to the police and the fascists as Red Action and AFA found out in the 90’s, don’t you agree?

    The role of Searchlight is not but productive but a destructive one, they have placed themselves in a position of leadership in the anti-fascist movement and have deliberately misled people for decades. This doesn’t seem to bother you as long as they are doing ‘something’.

    After long involvement in anti-fascism my first key principle is: Do no harm, so much effort by the ANL, the UAF and Searchlight is directed into completely counter-productive activity that they have completely undermined the work of experienced anti-fascists.

    the bigger picture is the fight against fascism

    No you’re wrong. The bigger picture is the class struggle and anti-fascism is just another arena of it. If you’re on the side that includes MI5, Special Branch and the assorted enemies of the working-class movement then something has gone very wrong with your politics mate.

    Technophobe

    26/06/2008 at 18:48

  7. sigh,

    you wrote:

    “No you’re wrong. The bigger picture is the class struggle and anti-fascism is just another arena of it. If you’re on the side that includes MI5, Special Branch and the assorted enemies of the working-class movement then something has gone very wrong with your politics mate.”

    do you know why the contemporary Left (including anarchists) in Britain is so small?

    because such people always assume everyone else is wrong, and that they are the only people who know what’s right?

    it is a very English, upper-class English insular mentality, that disregards anyone else’s experiences and imposes theirs on the situation

    and I’ll explain why I react like that, for over four decades I’ve had people battering my ears telling me about class conflict, about agents of the state, etc and they go on ad nauseam, like religious fanatics often screaming at the top of their voices

    Just how many people pay attention to them? nearly zero, a couple of students and middle class misfits

    I remember in the mid-seventies being told by some leading IMGer that he and his group would be part of some future Bolshevik takeover of Britain, and he said this with great glee, supposedly so he could settle some old scores. Later on I found out he was the son of some Peer and had gone off to a very well paid job in the media

    so frankly I’m a little jaded when people rant on how they are right, and I’m wrong.

    I sort of switch off, it is my belligerent working-class reaction, so forgive me if I ignore your pearls of wisdom in the future

    hint: arguing in bad faith is not the best way to win people over to your point of view

    modernityblog

    26/06/2008 at 19:40

  8. […] ModernityBlog: Open thread on how to defeat the fascists […]

  9. Cross-posted this.

    Hi Modernity,

    I think you have hit a nerve (or at least a conundrum) it is far easier to be a critic than to do anything productive. Technophobe fails to realise the reason the libertarian-left is so small in the UK (and even smaller in the US) is the irrelevance of their politics. Living in the UK, the nanny state is the least of your worries. But keep on hyping that ultra-revolutionary jive and see where it gets you with the working-class. Blame your marginalization on their ignorance, etc. etc. etc.

    –TNC

    newcentrist

    28/06/2008 at 20:15

  10. Mod, are you not going to directly respond to any of the allegations about Searchlight? You might want to ask yourself why those of us who are most hostile to Searchlight are, through AFA, those of us on the left who’ve had the most direct experience of them.

    Bluntly, do you accept that falsely accusing anti-fascists who you lose an argument with of being a fascist puts you beyond the pale? Because Searchlight, and specifically Nick Lowles did exactly that.

    To reply to some of your points directly (though obviously I don’t speak for Technophobe)

    so essentially you see Searchlight as entirely negative, of no use

    Yes. In fact I’d go further then that. My experience of Searchlight suggests to me that they are directly counterproductive to antifascism.

    that being the case, the obvious question is why haven’t critics of Searchlight done such? maybe they can’t be bothered? Maybe it’s far easier to attack Searchlight?

    Antifa have both a website and a phone number for collating information on fascist activity, as it happens. But surely you can accept that if a group has links with the state (and Searchlights’ are a matter of public record) then they have access to information that others do not. If you think that’s worth it, fair enough. But it’s a faustian pact at most. Do you really think that SB or the security services have antifascism as a major priority?

    And part of the problem in terms of intelligence is the overeliance of lazy people on Searchlight, despite the repeated failure of their analysis. If you think that should be countered, it follows logically you’ll need to break with Searchlight to do so.

    my own view is that I am happy to support people doing something productive against fascists, and to be honest having done it for decades and decades and decades (seeing sectarian critics come and go) I am not too fussy about criticising others doing something productive, and that’s my key point: productive

    What specifically do you think Searchlight have done that’s damaged the far right?

    if someone is doing something to oppose the fascists than I am more than willing to allow them some latitude, I don’t have to agree with their politics, I don’t have to like them, all I have to do is think about the bigger picture and what the rise of the fascists will do

    Where do you draw the line? Would you support a homophobic anti-fascist?

    I found it is very easy to be a critic, much harder doing things productively, that’s what I’m interested in, so if Searchlight is doing good work publicising the nasty activities of fascists fine, if their analysis is less than perfect then maybe those critics should show exactly where it is faulty and what the alternatives are?

    As has been stated already, it’s not simply a matter of faulty analysis. It’s a matter of falsely smearing anti-fascists, running a disruptive entryist operation within AFA, close links with the state, including passing on information to them about anti-fascists, closing down independent intelligence sources on fascists. I could go on. You seem to be being very evasive about tackling any of these issues directly. Why is this precisely?

    because such people always assume everyone else is wrong, and that they are the only people who know what’s right?<

    it is a very English, upper-class English insular mentality, that disregards anyone else’s experiences and imposes theirs on the situation

    And yet you’re happy to disregard people who’ve had personal experience of their mates being smeared by Searchlight? Do you see the hypocrisy in your position?

    But as you’ve brought it up, what direct experience do you have of either a) Searchlight or b) anti-fascism generally?

    Waterloo Sunset

    04/07/2008 at 20:00

  11. Just for the record, this is the full text of the AFA proscription notice.

    “It is widely recognised within AFA and among large sections of the Left which is any way familiar with anti-fascist politics that Searchlight has a separate agenda to our own and is friendly or hostile to AFA depending on whether it fits in with their
    agenda.

    It has also been established that Searchlight have in the not too distant past used individuals and organisations to manipulate, exploit or subvert AFA policy and initiatives. Searchlight has also targetted organisations and individuals within AFA, employing many of the tactics used against the Far Right. Its reporting of events, particularly involving AFA, is often so dishonest it amounts to black propaganda.

    It provides genuine information only where it sees a benefit to itself. Information concerning the personal safety of individual militant anti-fascists it regards with indifference unless it meets that criteria. Cultivating extensive contacts with Special Branch and MI5 is pert of its remit.

    With the election of a Labour government militant anti-fascism faces a tremendous challenge. All over Europe the Far Right is on the march. Similar ambitions exist over here. Due to the Far Right’s adoption of the Euro-Nationalist strategy a steadily increasing intensity between the protagonists as the ante is upped can be anticipated.

    Over the next five years anti-fascist resistance will be broken or the existing fascist vanguards may collapse. It will prove a fight to the political death. As a consequence routine surveillance by MI5/SB/C11 will be stepped up and more determined efforts to infiltrate AFA wtll be attempted.

    This means: Membership or association with the Searchlight team is incompatible with AFA membership. Any information supplied or approaches made by Searchlight should be reported to the National Office and Regional Delegate immediately.

    Waterloo Sunset

    04/07/2008 at 20:10

  12. I will answer you briefly, because I don’t see much use in this exchange, where I feel that people are using the situation to hit back at Searchlight, you and others are not arguing in good faith, you’re settling scores, I have no interest in that.

    the history of the struggle against the fascists, in Germany and Italy indicate one thing that a divided opposition makes it much easier for fascists to succeed, thus if people put settling their own political scores above the struggle against fascist than I think that is wrong, I think it profoundly wrong, ultimately it plays straight into the hands of the fascists

    and if the BNP succeed, then all of this pettiness will be for nought

    if you or your comrades are in any doubt I suggest reading some literature on Italy and Germany and the Left’s (including the anarchists) reaction to it, and ask yourself why they failed.

    modernityblog

    04/07/2008 at 22:52

  13. I will answer you briefly, because I don’t see much use in this exchange, where I feel that people are using the situation to hit back at Searchlight, you and others are not arguing in good faith, you’re settling scores, I have no interest in that.

    By assuming that any criticisms of Searchlight aren’t genuinely motivated, surely you’re the one arguing in bad faith? Let me spell this one out, I believe that Searchlight are actively harmful to the antifascist movement. Their activities within the antifascist movement have been malign and you can’t expect people to work with those who will falsely accuse people of being fascists.

    But of course you have “no interest” in this subject. I’m fully aware that Searchlight are a sacred leftist cow for many people, hence their refusal to engage with the issues directly. One of the few things you and Newman have in common politically.

    the history of the struggle against the fascists, in Germany and Italy indicate one thing that a divided opposition makes it much easier for fascists to succeed, thus if people put settling their own political scores above the struggle against fascist than I think that is wrong, I think it profoundly wrong, ultimately it plays straight into the hands of the fascists

    We have a more modern example to look at. SOS Racisme in France. Their position of uniting anyone who didn’t like fascism under one liberal banner (which you seem to share) didn’t stop the rise of Le Pen. Worse, it allowed the fascists to present themselves as the ‘real opposition’. I think we’ve seen a similar problem here with the UAF- by having prominent politicans in their ranks, in the areas that the BNP targets, anti fascists are seen as part of the establishment. And if we’re going to look at historical examples, don’t you think the popular front tactic you espouse has failed?

    and if the BNP succeed, then all of this pettiness will be for nought

    I hardly think that suggesting that smearing anti-fascists and setting them up for attack is beyond the pale is “pettiness”.

    if you or your comrades are in any doubt I suggest reading some literature on Italy and Germany and the Left’s (including the anarchists) reaction to it, and ask yourself why they failed.

    They lost the battle of the streets. Pure and simple. I’d respond by suggesting you look at Spain where the “anybody but fascist” strategy you propose was followed (including, wrongly in my view, by the anarchists). We both know how that turned out.

    Aside from that, I think you’re looking too much at history. This is not the same situation as pre fascist Germany/Italy. We need to look at the BNP, as a sophisticated neofascist movement. The BNP are not the NSDAP. The reason I bring up the Front National is because the euronationalist strategy the BNP follow has its roots there.

    And we need to look at why the BNP abandonded the streets and what their strategy is in the first place. Some quotes from an article by Tony Lecomber (then BNP deputy leader):

    In fact, the Left are often to be found supporting that same establishment in the guise of Labour. During the election, members of the far-left Jewish Socialist group, Socialist Workers Party and even fringier outfits in my home town of Ilford were sporting big ‘Vote Labour’ posters and placards in their windows and gardens. And I thought they said that Labour is the class enemy!

    The BNP recognised this historical theme several years ago when it turned its back decisively on the confrontational strategy of its past. The reason for abandoning confrontational street politics was because it hindered our political progress, and was the only thing holding our extreme opponents together.

    The BNP openly gloat about the left allying itself with the establishment. And yet you seem to think that strategy is the correct one. Why precisely?

    Waterloo Sunset

    04/07/2008 at 23:51

  14. “By assuming that any criticisms of Searchlight aren’t genuinely motivated, surely you’re the one arguing in bad faith? ”

    no, and no again.

    I wasn’t suggesting that there aren’t valid criticisms of Searchlight, just that anything I write will be misread or misinterpreted and so it’s not really worthwhile debating with you, or anyone else with a chip on their shoulder concerning Searchlight.

    clear enough? or shall I spell it out again?

    modernityblog

    05/07/2008 at 00:47

  15. Just one comment: there is a magazine that covers anti-fascism &(among other things) & opposes Searchlight from the Left–I edit it, and its called Notes From the Borderland.

    Larry O'Hara

    14/12/2008 at 05:17

  16. maybe so but surely it depends on the REASONS?

    the alternative is complete compulsion, on all things, then you can’t decide what to do with your own life

    that’s what happens in totalitarian states and dictatorships, you would have no legitimate say on these issues, you are required to do what you are told

    can’t say I feel to comfortable with that? what about you?

    modernityblog

    14/12/2008 at 15:27


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