Oxford union: vigil or demo?

Submitted by AWL on 22 November, 2007 - 10:10 Author: Mike Rowley

As reported in the last Solidarity, a lot is being done in Oxford by local unions, Labour branches, student unions and community groups to stop the Holocaust denier David Irving and the BNP leader Nick Griffin speaking at the Oxford Union student debating society on 26 November. However, the contribution of the Unite Against Fascism national office has been questionable.

At an organising meeting two weeks ago they were put in charge of negotiating with the police. Apparently they told the police we were organising not a mass picket of the Oxford Union building where the fascists would be speaking, but a “candlelit vigil” in another street altogether, to demonstrate that Oxford is a multicultural city, rather than demanding the fascists get out of the city or, heaven forbid, trying to force them out.

This is typical of the wishy-washy popular-front politics of one of UAF’s predecessors, the SWP-controlled second incarnation of the Anti-Nazi League; and indeed Weyman Bennett, the joint head of UAF and a prominent SWP member, is heavily involved. This tradition reduces anti-fascist politics to “don't vote nazi” so vote Tory, or UKIP, or anyone else instead. It rejects the idea of developing a political alternative to the racism and fear that attract working-class voters to the BNP.

When a National Front candidate stood in Bicester, near Oxford, in 2005 to exploit a proposal to build a refugee detention centre there, the SWP proposed appealing to the “soft racists” by organising a nimby campaign against the detention centre, in order to tell people not to vote for the fascist.

However, the latest communique from UAF refers to the action next Monday as a demo, not a “candlelit vigil”, and says it will be outside the Oxford Union building; one of the many people who are fed up with the SWP’s stance must have had a word with them.

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