Saturday, 19 March 2011


With a flurry of media interest the Fear & Hope Report was published by The Searchlight Educational Trust a few weeks ago. SET who are part of the alliance that forms the Hope not Hate campaign are a longstanding anti fascist organisation with a long history of exposing racists and fascists since the 1970s. The Hope not Hate campaign with its networked forms of organising, its ability to mobilise hundreds of young volunteers in constituencies where the BNP has taken a hold has been instrumental in defeating the BNP electorally and building a broad coalition in the process. It has also played a significant role in exposing the EDL and developing tactics on the ground that attempt to build a local consensus of opposition to the EDL and organising events that attempt to draw in the widest possible participation over and against direct confrontation. However, I read the report with considerable unease and felt that it appeared to be giving far too much ground to the agenda of the far right particularly in it's espousal of a 'plague on both your houses' referring to an apparent equal disdain amongst those polled for 'Muslim extremists' and 'extreme nationalists'; this form of questioning it appeared to me, was seriously in danger of feeding rather than challenging the continuing rise of Islamophobia in our society and the media that fuel it, it's pandering to a nationalist agenda with it's emphasis on a 'crisis of English identity' also appeared to me mistaken and giving ground to the right on the argument about Multiculturalism.

Unite Against Fascism are an organisation that tend to conflict with HnH in attitudes to how to confront the BNP electorally and how to organise against the EDL on the ground in the local communities the EDL invades. Sometimes their tactics in relation to the EDL have been frankly disastrous - as in the first EDL invasion of Birmingham in August 2009 and in Bolton in March 2010. However at other times when they have been willing to genuinely cooperate with a lead taken by local faith communities as in Dudley and to a certain extent in Leeds and Bradford they have played a more positive role. I wasn't well received when I spoke at the West Midlands UAF conference last year and outlined some of my concerns with what I saw as mistaken and outdated modes of organising.

However, I have to admit that UAF have come out with an excellent critique of the Fear and Hope report. Sabby Dhalu, who I understand was instrumental in changing the tactics of the UAF in Dudley following the debacle of Bolton, has written a thorough and well argued defence of the necessity of holding fast to an argument for a genuine Multiculturalism and to making sure responsibility for the economic crisis that gives rise to people's fears and concerns is firmly placed on the shoulders of those responsible and not deflected onto Multiculturalism, Islam or immigration. Below is her conclusion but the article 'Celebrate & Defend Our Multi Cultural Society' is well worth reading in its entirety:

The assault on multiculturalism launched by Cameron, and praised by this report for addressing real concerns, in fact feeds these misconceptions and undermines the understanding of the reality of England and Britain today. There is a real danger of rising racism in Britain today, but not because of a crisis of English identity or a failure to confront ‘Islamic extremism’.

The real danger comes from attempts by mainstream politicians to deflect public anger about the impact of the economic crisis, falling living standards and cuts in services, on to innocent scapegoats – immigrants, Muslims, multiculturalism.

Many sections of the population most definitely do feel under attack. This is not because they are ‘English’ or suffering a national identity crisis, but because their living standards really are suffering as a result of austerity, inflation and cuts. It is all too easy to direct people towards a soft target on the basis of racism and an alleged discrimination against the English, when economic and political alternatives seem unavailable.

The launch of this report now, and the participation of key figures on the right of the Labour Party, clearly indicates that one aim is to apply pressure to the Labour Party to adopt this approach.

Much of the discussion around why Labour lost the last election has drifted on to this ground. But this is simply avoiding a more fundamental discussion on how the impact of the previous Labour government’s economic policies and military interventions undermined its support. It is to be hoped that the present Labour leadership rejects this pressure and continues to make the case for diversity and multiculturalism.