Anti-fascism of fools

After a flawed but promising beginning, the North Staffs Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (Norscarf) has undergone a qualitative turn for the worse. Last month saw the resignation of president Jim Cessford after a Socialist Party-sponsored constitution fell. Had it been passed, Norscarf would have been committed to attacking the material roots of the British National Party's support. Unfortunately the Anti-Nazi League 'Nazis are bad' style of politics, pushed since the campaign's relaunch, allowed for the close involvement of sections of the local government elite, and it is therefore unsurprising that the SP constitution was effectively vetoed. To illustrate this emptying of working class content, at the October rally Mike Wolfe (then prospective mayor) turned up at the very end. At the March 31 event, he was chairing it. Held in Stoke's council chambers, it served as a lesson in how not to run an anti-fascist campaign. Despite a few SP and SWP members (wearing their ANL hats) in attendance, a good proportion of the 80 or so present were made up of council mandarins and Labour loyalists. If anything, the platform was worse. Addressing the meeting first, Racial Equality Council chief executive Mohammed Tufail delivered the usual ANL-style fare. He highlighted the BNP's law and order rhetoric and contrasted it with its leading cadres' criminal convictions. He also slammed their anti-woman "solutions" to (white) Britain's declining birth rate, before summing his speech up with reference to the economic contribution made by minority communities. Next to speak was Christopher Hill, the bishop of Stafford. His was an exercise in pious sermonising, peppering the speech with anecdotes about visits to holocaust memorial sites in Poland, and the anti-fascist German pastor, Martin Niemöller. "One can be a patriot without being a Nazi," he concluded. Mike Wolfe then introduced Leon Greenman, a 92-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and five other death camps. He gave a moving talk about his life in Rotterdam before the war, the horrors experienced in the camps and his dedication to the struggle against fascism. The ensuing question-and-answer session saw him expand on the nature of Nazi slave labour, his survival strategies and the death threats he still receives. He argued that a repeat of the holocaust was still possible, and called for the audience to prevent it by joining the ANL and getting involved in the liberal anti-fascist magazine, Searchlight. Winding up the meeting, deputy council leader Chris Wood was interrupted by prominent BNP fellow traveller Jenny Holdcroft, who attacked Greenman's "pack of lies". Julie Waterson of the ANL/SWP, backed up by a number of councillors and ANL activists, wrested the microphone away. Chaos descended into farce when Holdcroft was arrested and led away by about a dozen police. From the perspective of Mike Wolfe and his Labourite allies, the meeting enabled them to display their 'progressive' credentials and the fracas ensured front-page headlines in the local press the following day. But for genuine anti-fascists and communists, it was a missed opportunity. There was a complete absence of politics - let alone those based on a working class programme. There was no strategy on offer beyond the usual 'Don't vote Nazi' call. Looking forward to May, it seems that the BNP will not face a socialist opposition at the polls. Instead Labour candidates are likely to stand on the Norscarf ticket, offering nothing to potential BNP voters but the usual diet of cuts and cronyism, with a dash of official anti-racism. As for Norscarf itself, for all intents and purposes it has become an adjunct of the local government bureaucracy - a symbol of the bankruptcy of ANL class collaborationism. Phil Hamilton