Friday, October 23, 2009

No Platform - The Socialist Workers Party Debate

Given the BBC's shameful decision to allow Nazi Nick Griffin onto Question Time - following which, a poll conducted by You Gov for the Daily Telegraph found that one in five respondents are so morally illiterate that they would "seriously consider" voting for the fascist BNP - the No Platform policy has been the subject of intense debate, as the following motions debated at the SWP's national committee a month ago show. The first is the Central Committee motion, which was inevitably carried, the second from one, John Rees.

Motion carried at the SWP National Committee 13 September

BNP and No Platform (CC Motion)

1. The national committee notes the shock and anger when the BNP won two seats in the European elections earlier this year.
2. Since then UAF has been building up the pressure on the BNP with protests from the egging of Nick Griffin outside parliament to the kettling of the Red White and Blue festival in Codnor. There have also been two successful counter protests against the English Defence League in Birmingham.
3. The decision of the BBC to invite Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time has led to a groundswell of anger.
4. The Labour Party will now drop its opposition to sitting on panels with BNP members – they will put a representative up on the Question Time panel.
5. The BBC has indicated that UAF may be invited on the panel.
6. SWP members in UAF will refuse to appear on a panel with Nick Griffin or any other member of the BNP or fascist party.
7. We will redouble our efforts to win the case for no platform for the BNP in the media and build the UAF campaign of protests and pickets to challenge the BBC’s decision – “Pull the plugs on the BNP thugs”

Martin Smith

In Defence of No Platform for Nazis

Party Council notes:

1. The SWP is currently engaged in an important campaign to deny the BNP a public platform in the media and elsewhere. We are campaigning against Nick Griffin onto BBC’s Question Time.
2. But at the last two National Committee meetings of the SWP a majority of the CC who spoke argued that the SWP should be prepared in the future to debate with members of the BNP in the media after Nick Griffin appears on Question Time on October 22nd, thus abandoning the No Platform position.
3. A majority of NC members who spoke supported this position, despite the fact that the last NC reaffirmed No Platform for the moment.
4. The only public reference to this change of position has been a letter from John Molyneux in Socialist Worker (13th June) arguing that we should abandon the No Platform position.
5. The justification for this reversal of the SWP’s traditional stance is tht the election of two BNP MEPs and the change in the position of the BBC means that we have to change our tactics and debate with the BNP. John Molyneux argues that Gramsci had to debate with Fascists in the Italian parliament in the 1920s and that we should adopt the same tactic.
6. The BBC has never operated a No Platform policy for the BNP. The BNP have already appeared on the BBC main news, Newsnight, the Today programme, the Moral Maze and so on. The only change is to extend this policy to Question Time.
7. A large majority of people in the Metro newspaper poll supported the No Platform position. There have been letters and articles in the press from a range of people defending No Platform, including the right wing Labour MP Denis McShane.

Party Council believes:

1. That the election of two BNP MEPs and the change in policy by the BBC does not mark a significant enough shift in the balance of forces between the left and the BNP to justify abandoning No Platform.
2. The return of the BNP to the streets in the guise of the English Defence League actually marks and opportunity to defend No Platform on the grounds that the BNP are really the street thugs that we always said they were.
3. The analogy with Gramsci’s situation is inaccurate. The Italian working class had seen a general strike smashed by the Fascists, left wing organisations attacked by over 2,000 fascist squads, their offices burnt out and 35 fascist MPs elected to the Italian parliament. Nothing resembling this situation exists in Britain today.
4. Labour and other mainstream parties are going along with this development for their own opportunist reasons. This will aid the BNP. If we do not defend No Platform in the media this weaken the resistance, not strengthen it.
5. The BNP will not be beaten by ‘clever’ debates. What they want is legitimacy. If we appear with them, even if we win the argument, we lose the real battle because we add to their legitimacy. The principle at stake here is that the BNP should not be regarded as a legitimate bourgeois party.
6. If we abandon No Platform in the media it will open up the space for an attack on No Platform in the colleges and NUS, in the unions, the civil service and other public bodies. It will be much harder to ban Nazis from various professions and expel them from unions. Everyone from the BNP themselves to the liberals will say ‘if you debate them on TV, why not here?’
7. Revolutionaries will not be the main people debating the BNP. The media will choose cabinet ministers and MPs (Jack Straw is going on Question Time) and they will continue to do so whether or not we put ourselves forward to debate the BNP.
8. Maintaining the No Platform policy does not mean that we are excluded from the media. Most of the media accept that we will be interviewed, often directly after a BNP spokesperson, and do not require that we share a platform with Nazis.

Party Council resolves:

1. That we should maintain our full No Platform for Nazis policy.
2. That we should campaign in the movement against the Nazis and in the unions to sustain this policy.
William Alderson, Richard Allday, Elly Babcock, Sian Barrett, Alex Brooke, Andy Brown, Jane Claveley, Kate Connell, Margie Corcoran, Adam Cornell, Adrian Cousins, Kevin Deane, Anita de Klerk, Tracy Dodds, Noel Douglas, Tony Dowling, Gary Duncan, Sam Fairbairn, Neil Faulkner, Des Freedman, Lindsey German, John Gilmore, Dave Goodfield, Jo Gough, Elaine Graham-Leigh, Louise Harrison, Madeline Heneghan, Joe Henry, Penny Hicks, Dave Holes, David Hughes, Feyzi Ismail, Gerry Jones, Spencer Jordan, Rachel Kendall, David Lowden, Naz Massoumi, Narzanin Massoumi, David McAllister, Jack McGlen, Caron McKenna, James Meadway, Brendan Montague, Viva Msimang, Jackie Mulhallen, Katya Nasim, Chris Newlove, Chris Nineham, Jesse Oldershaw, Edmund Quinn, John Rees, Matthew Richards, Andrew Robbins, Mark Smith, Alex Snowden, Clare Soloman, Alliya Stennett, Lindy Syson, Guy Taylor, Vladimir Unkovski-Korica, Paul Vernell, Carole Vincent, John Whearty, Gordon White, Tom Whittaker, Somaye Zadeh, Andreja Zivkovic.

A couple of things stand out; first John Molyneux is cast, once again, in his familiar role, that of the party's loyal opposition, secondly, there's hardly the proverbial cigarette paper's difference between the motions. Plainly this isn't just about the No Platform policy. There's a factional split bubbling up from the surface of the second motion and it's spelled R-E-E-S.

Eleven months ago, John Rees was unceremoniously booted off the CC prompting resignations from the missus and Chris Nineham. Is this the Reesites last stand and if so, what is the CC going to do about it?


Blogger Stal1ngrad said...

So the main mover behind the RESPECT debacle comes out fighting with a last ditched stand on party Orthodoxy-how dare you manouvre to oust me, I am the backbone of the SWP.

Least he is not baging on about how State Capitalism is the only way to understand Stalinism

10/24/2009 9:39 AM  
Anonymous A Very Public Sociologist said...

There's some funny logic going on here. Molyneux rightly notes Gramsci debated with fascists, to which the reply is this was after the Italian workers' movement had been broken up by the fascists. So should the SWP wait until the far right are so much stronger than us before it decides it's the right time to take their ideas up?

It's crazy. If Newsnight have the BNP on and invite a SWP member to debate them, by screaming no platform the SWP successfully manage to no platform themselves ... while feeling smugly self-satisfied about it.

10/24/2009 12:52 PM  
Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...

AVPS: you're exactly right.

10/24/2009 3:10 PM  
Blogger Madam Miaow said...

Martin Smith "5. The BBC has indicated that UAF may be invited on the panel."

Ah, it is an ill wind, etc.

And yet ...

"6. SWP members in UAF will refuse to appear on a panel with Nick Griffin or any other member of the BNP or fascist party."

To the crackle and fizz of short-circuiting brains.

Is it true that Martin was arrested at Thursday's demo? If so, how does Rees plan to catch up?

Interesting to see how the very people whose accurate 1990s analysis charged them with building a strong left movement took a flamethrower to the movement every time there was a sign of life and now argue over what the toasted corpse should do.

10/25/2009 4:19 AM  
Blogger Crap said...

Lol, socialists really make me laugh.

Why don't you guys go and live in North Korea?

10/25/2009 7:11 AM  
Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...

Who are you saying had the "correct1990s analysis", Miaow?

10/25/2009 11:55 AM  
Blogger Crap said...

Would that be Chairman Miaow?

70 million dead, but if at first you don't succeed...

10/25/2009 3:55 PM  
Blogger Madam Miaow said...

I wrote "accurate", VP, and not the more loaded "correct".

The SWP's take on things around the 1997 election, that the electorate would become disillusioned with Blair and turn to the far right, made good sense. That it was vital to utilise the limited window of opportunity before that happened and build the left/The Movement/Duh Party.

Which was why it was such a shock to see how they then handled matters.

10/25/2009 4:10 PM  
Blogger Red Maria said...

"Crap", your moniker is appropriate. Anyway, you're a frightful bore.

I haven't censored comments on Dolphinarium before but if you carry on boring me, I might just make an exception in your case.

10/25/2009 6:19 PM  
Blogger Crap said...

A frightful bore, fantastic!

10/26/2009 1:40 AM  
Anonymous Dave Riley said...

Granted that there may indeed be more to it than meets the eye in way of internal politics-- but doesn't the determination of many groups to insist that there be no platform for some one amounts to promoting a double edged sword?

I don't give a budgie's arse about what may have been said in the twenties in those circumstances with those line up of forces, No Platform! in effect calls on the bourgeois media or what ever to deny freedom of speech to one group (but hey! don't include us!.)

Of course there may indeed be circumstances and contexts where it does indeed make good sense to campaign specifically like that against fascist or right wing forces but it seems to me that challenging the BNP has to be something in which you promote an alternative POV by pulling apart their political platform logically rather than , let's say, physically.

So trying to prevent the BNP gaining a platform on the BBC or wherever -- and NOT challenging them on polling day amounts to such a level of contradiction that I find most incredible.

10/26/2009 2:43 AM  
Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...


"The electorate" hasn't turned far right though, has it?

You say "accurate", I say "correct", let's call the whole thing off etc... ;-)

10/28/2009 6:05 AM  

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