BNP and Question Time - Free speech is not the issue

Submitted by Newcastle on 10 September, 2009 - 10:38

The BBC is preparing to invite British National Party leader Nick Griffin to appear on its Question Time programme. We should oppose Griffin speaking.

In general, socialists are for the widest possible freedom of speech. More than any other social force, the working class needs democratic rights in order to organise itself and struggle effectively.

We aim to disrupt and prevent BNP meetings, street activities etc. not because we against fascists having freedom of speech in the abstract, not simply because we loathe their ideas (though we do), but because we know fascist organisations exist to initiate violent civil war against ethnic minorities, LGBT people, the left - and ultimately the whole labour movement.

The issue in this case is different again.

For an organisation to have “freedom of speech” does not require them to be given a spot on Question Time (any more than it requires one of the daily papers to offer Griffin a regular column!) In general such programs give a voice to a very narrow layer of the political and social establishment; when was the last time a striker or grassroots campaigner was invited to speak? So why should Griffin be provided with a megaphone?

The BBC's blasé self-justifications are more evidence of the decline of “liberal” broadcasting and journalism, displaying a lack of the necessary alarm and moral outrage at the growth of fascism in Britain. The BBC tops’ decision to invite Griffin, motivated essentially by the consideration of viewing figures, will help the BNP gain “normality” and build their violently anti-minority and anti-working class organisation. We should demand that they withdraw it.

We support action by unionised BBC workers to refuse to broadcast Griffin, as postal workers have refused to deliver BNP election leaflets.

Whether or not Griffin speaks, however, is hardly the most important issue. The key question is why the BNP are growing.

The type of person generally invited to speak on Question Time means that Griffin, if he speaks, will be confronted by a united “anti-fascist” establishment. The political parties who, through cuts, attacks on the working class and pandering to racism, have created the political, social and economic conditions for the far right to flourish will wag disapproving but ineffectual fingers at those tempted by Griffin’s pseudo-anti-establishment party. No one, on the panel at least, will point out that the BNP defends with racist virulence the same ruling class represented by New Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems.

Our difference with the “mainstream” i.e. bourgeois politicians is not, fundamentally, that they will debate the BNP when we won’t. It is our belief that only a labour movement which struggles against both fascism and the social conditions which allow it to grow can effectively take on the BNP.

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