SIDE-STEPPING CUTS, SPOUTING BANALITIES: A RESPONSE TO HOPE NOT HATE

The article below was submitted to Chartist magazine after they printed an article by Hope Not Hate's David Braniff-Herbert, ostensibly presenting Hope Not Hate as in the vanguard of the anti-cuts struggle. This piece below is given added poignancy for two reasons. First, Hope Not Hate subsequently split from Searchlight, and secondly subsequent events have amply proved this 'anti-cuts' stance was a tactical feint, a mere pretence, as substantiated in Notes From the Borderland issue 10 (see especially p.67/72-73)

by Larry O'Hara

In your March/April issue, Chartist again gave space to 'Hope Not Hate' (HNH) organiser David Braniff-Herbert. As a life-long socialist/anti-fascist my response is below.

The BNP is undergoing severe internal problems, welcome news for anti-fascists. However, this does not and should not mean an endorsement of the HNH approach, for reasons both in the article and others not mentioned.

Firstly, simple organisational destruction of the BNP, without addressing directly (not merely rhetorically) the alienated white working class is no solution. Yet that is the main HNH focus, evinced by the claim "we targeted women and ethnic minorities with direct mails". Nothing wrong with that, it is essential--but HNH did not/does not attempt to address the white working class too--and it is they who (sometimes) vote for the BNP, and not (just) against it. Indeed, it is hardly a coincidence that relative BNP decline has gone hand in hand with an increase in EDL street thuggery, including attacks on the Left.

Secondly, it will fool no-one to pretend that HNH has not almost exclusively been focussed (and still is) on supporting the Labour Party, the same one that presided over the destruction of working class communities and our industrial base alike. Herbert is too coy to mention them by name, merely referring to "the guys who introduced [tuition fees] in the first place". Any anti-fascist initiative that does not address the historic betrayal of the working class by New Labour (as did the Independent Working Class Association in its way) will never move beyond a defensive mode.

Thirdly, the fight against fascism is too important to be the concern of one group, or 'franchise' in the HNH model. Yet Herbert makes no mention of the fact that, for all their weaknesses, Unite Against Fascism also took to the streets against the BNP in Barking & Dagenham. Speaking of Barking & Dagenham, the point wasn't that the BNP vote fell spectacularly--though fall it did--more that opponents mobilised. Worryingly, even at this stage, the BNP retains a bedrock of support that the HNH strategy does nothing to address.

Fourthly, Herbert refers to over 120,000 active subscribers to HNH's online campaign--omitting to mention that many were involuntarily 'subscribed' by their unions, or (for example) merely customers of clothing site 'Philosophy Football' whose boss gave their details to HNH voluntarily. Giving a new, virtual (and deracinated) definition of the word 'active'.

Fifthly, Herbert boasts of copying the Obama model--yet the main focus of that model is/was fundraising. Something HNH are very good at--although accountability that is something they don't even begin to approach. This so-called 'National Campaign' with 120,000 "active subscribers" has no democratic structures of any sort: indeed, there is no named bank account these "active subscribers" should send money too. Instead, cash is funnelled into various fronts/cover names for the Searchlight organisation. Hence (as with the Obama campaign) there is no forum whatever for public debate about HNH policy--critical contributions are censored from the HNH web-site, and Searchlight magazine the only (totally controlled) forum for relentlessly upbeat marketing spiel.

Sixth, as if the above wasn't worrying enough, how about this Blair-speak in an article ironically entitled 'Opposing cuts, defending communities'. Herbert declares "the demands of the movement are ironically not anti-cuts, they are for a manifesto of hope: that we can change our community together, that we can create our own answers and hold our Government to account". If anybody can translate that into English, I'd love to see it--hardly something to get the voter's pulses racing is it?

Seventh, speaking of "movement" the arrogant way in which HNH are seeking to insinuate their top-down anti-democratic tactics into the anti-cuts movement should be vigorously resisted at all costs. How does Herbert know what "demands" HNH acolytes have, when they have no means of expressing/discussing them democratically? He neither knows, nor wants to know--their assent is 'assumed'.

Astute readers will have noticed I have not greatly addressed the reasons for fascist support, what I think a legitimate anti-fascist strategy should look like, or indeed the 'Battle For Barking & Dagenham'. Happily, articles addressing all these things are available (free) on the website associated with the parapolitical magazine I edit (Notes From the Borderland). Visit www.borderland.co.uk. Also on that site is a detailed analysis of HNH structure/strategy/tactics which fleshes out some points briefly made here. The bottom line--anti-fascism (and the anti-cuts struggle) are too important to allow either to be hijacked by a clique of politically-suspect viral marketing scammers. The good intentions of most HNH supporters alone, deserves better...

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