Last week, news footage of Nigel Farage made its way onto our screens. In it, he was being aggressively hounded by protesters in and out of a pub in Edinburgh. Chanting “UKIP scum, off our streets”, a rephrased version of the old anti-fascist protest slogan. Farage was unable to carry out his planned press conference.
The scene brought to mind the protests against the BNP and EDL which have taken place over the last couple of years. Remember when Nick Griffin got egged outside Westminster? How could you not? It was fucking brilliant. In fact that time when it seemed pretty much the whole country was laughing at the BNP (especially on Question Time) was excellent all round.
The EDL too, despite their growth in the last few years, have seen significant opposition to their hatred almost since the word go. Practically all of their organised demos have seen significant counter protests.
The BNP, EDL and their ilk whinge, piss and moan about their right to free speech and protest when they discover a bunch of people don’t really like them. They also seem to forget about the right of people who find their views abhorrent to counter protest, and exercise their right to free speech. And it generally so happens that those not part of the far right, on the whole, talk more sense.
The UK has a rich, if not disjointed, history of anti-fascism, beginning most notably with the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, when thousands of East Enders of all persuasions prevented Oswald Moseley’s Blackshirts from walking through their area. Volunteers to the International Brigades in Spain fought Franco. Our grandparent’s generation gave everything they had and more fighting against the evil of Nazism in Europe. The movement took a different turn in the seventies and eighties, when reggae, ska and punk music united the younger generation and did much to stigmatise racism and fascist movements, such as the National Front. Long may it continue.
However, seeing anti-fascist style tactics and chants (although, granted, not particularly militant ones) employed against Farage is a different kettle of fish. Despite the fact that UKIP also have a large number of nasty or downright stupid policies, members and voters, they cannot be grouped with organisations such as the EDL or BNP. UKIP are a political party which, as demonstrated in the recent county council elections, have wholeheartedly participated in the legitimate democratic process. They have successfully engaged the disaffected and alienated portion of the electorate. In doing this, they have not only gotten David Cameron pretty worried, but they have also taken votes away from the BNP. And they did this, not by adopting fascistic tactics (such as promoting a gang mentality, heavily utilising symbolism, or exploiting explicit racial differences) but in the time honoured way: exploiting the (real) fears of the electorate, taking advantage of the current climate of cynicism, and, of course, appealing to stupid people.
And as much as many people may not like this, they gained a place on the collective consciousness in a legitimate way: gaining approval in the polls, gaining attention in the media, winning votes, and then gaining further attention in the media.
This does not replicate the methods adopted by organisations such as the BNP and EDL. The EDL’s love of scrapping with anyone who disagrees with them and tearing up the towns they choose to demonstrate in is well known. As are their links to football hooligan crews. The BNP’s shit list of credentials stretches back as far as they have existed, despite their attempts to appear to be a well-founded political party. However, they can probably be summarised with something that Nick Griffin actually thought with his brain and then said with his mouth: “Adolf went a bit too far”.
Therefore, is it appropriate to employ the ‘No Platform’ tactics typically used against groups that can be certainly be described, if not as directly fascist, as sharing fascistic characteristics? While Farage was a banker, he was never associated with the National Front. And treating him as if he was undermines tactics which should be saved for some of the worst in our society. UKIP gained their increasing influence by legitimate political process (well, as legitimate as our political process can be said to be). That is way they should be fought.