Fundamentally dishonest

Around the web: Anti-Nazi League

With the generalised hostility toward asylum seekers and the absence of a credible left electoral alternative in England and Wales, the British National Party seems likely to do well in the upcoming local elections in May. It comes as no surprise to learn that the Anti-Nazi League (one of the Socialist Workers Party's many fronts) has upped the campaigning tempo to keep the 'Nazis' of the BNP and National Front out of office. Visiting the website, it does look as if the SWP's webmaster has had a hand in its garish design (Weekly Worker December 19). Someone should tell the comrade that grey and yellow just does not go at the best of times. Under the heading 'Don't vote Nazi 2003', there's a link to a list of fascist candidates. This is certainly useful in providing details of where the BNP, NF, and Freedom Party are standing, and a link to the previous year's results. Certain areas have an action link, taking us to a section of the main page where 'don't vote Nazi' campaigning materials can be downloaded in pdf format. Next in this section is 'news', providing information about recent ANL activities (the site was last updated on April 17) and setbacks. At the time of writing, the two chief features are reports about the BNP failure to hold a pre-election meeting at a Liverpool school, and a story about a BNP supporter having to withdraw his candidature at his mum's insistence. There is also an archive of related material going back to March 1999. The rest of the opening section allows one to jump to other sections of the main page, which is a good job really, considering it is 17 screens in length. First up is 'It's time to fight the Nazis'. This piece holds no surprises for comrades familiar with the ANL's liberal anti-fascism, and dwells on the need to expose the BNP as nasty Nazis. At one point it makes the ludicrous claim, "we smashed Mosley's blackshirts in the 1930s"�, and somewhat contentiously takes the laurels for the NF's and BNP's decline in the late '70s and early '90s respectively. Scrolling down past an announcement for a recent ANL action and upcoming gigs, there's 'Organise to stop the BNP'. This gives seven bullet points on how to deal with a fascist presence, ranging from letter writing to the press to gathering intelligence. The top bar carries more material. First is an introduction that sums up everything that is wrong with the ANL's approach to anti-fascism. Their aim is "to stop the Nazis reaching a wider audience and growing. This is done by pinning the label of Nazi clearly on the likes of the BNP and NF."� This is backed up by the ANL's online education pack, an unfortunate exercise in half truth and shoddy scholarship. For example, 'What is fascism?' merely talks about the actions of Mussolini and Hitler and makes no attempt at explaining their rise to power. The piece on scapegoating is of a similar ilk. There is no attempt at understanding its material causes, instead preferring to heap it at the door of Britain's band of fascists (what about the role of the press and New Labour?). 'Who are Britain's Nazi's?' is hopelessly out of date (it was last updated three years ago). Also, pastor Niemoeller's famous "first they came for the communists"� has been dishonestly changed, no doubt to make it more acceptable to the likes of cabinet minister Peter Hain, who still sits on the ANL steering committee. One redeeming feature of the site is a good selection of links. There are domestic and international holocaust and anti-fascist links. I was surprised to see the ANL's most voracious critics - Anti-Fascist Action - listed, as well as the BNP themselves. As a website it is functional and there are far worse sites out there, but as a resource for anti-fascists it is hopeless. The organisation of the poor quality material is informed by a fundamentally dishonest approach. For example, browsing through the news archives I noted how the 2002 news ended at February. I had to use the site's search engine to turn up any material on the BNP's five local election victories, and that was in a throwaway line exhorting us to fight 'the Nazis'. If the ANL is committed to telling the truth about the BNP, it should begin by honestly acknowledging the latter's success. Only then can it begin to plot an effective strategy, instead of running around after the fascists. Phil Hamilton