Taken from Where Now
The emphasis on big set-piece carnivals and central London demos is carved out of a late 1970s politics that is no longer enough to turn the BNP tide so excellently described in Nick Lowles's opening to this discussion.
Two stark statistics sum the situation up. On 1 May 2008 the BNP contested 642 council wards, recording an average of 13.4% of the vote. Gathering in one London park, or Trafalgar Square for that matter is spectacularly inadequate to the task.
Yes of course we need inspiration. Music, film, humour, art and much, much more are vital to that end. But this has to be linked to application, if we cannot connect this to the community-led localised campaigning to turn the BNP tide wherever they stand in elections we are fooling ourselves, and more importantly all those - predominantly young - who turn out tto dance and sing against the BNP. This was the problem with the 'Love Music Hate Racism' Carnival in April. With four days of crucial campaigning left against the BNP time was already short but not a single effort was made to get those present out to leaflet and canvass against the BNP. All that was offered was a carnival programme that advised us to 'Don't Vote Nazi' or 'How to organise a fundraising gig'. Perhaps the organisers were too busy seeking to persuade those present to vote for their 'Left List' . With a crowd of 60-100,000 present just imagine if just 1% of those had turned out on the following Tuesday to help with Searchlight's leafletting of every London tube station against the BNP. Sadly, nothing of the sort happened, an important opportunity wasted that might have just made the difference.
Yes we need inspiration but it must be mixed with application. A month earlier with a tiny fraction of the budget put into the Carnival Philosophy Football with the support of the Fire Brigades Union put on a night for Searchlight. 75 of the 200 present were inspired enough by Billy Bragg, DJ Don Letts, comedian Shappi Khorsandi, grime theatre the Decypher Collective to sign up for Searchlight leafletting. Imagine if we'd had a nationwide tour of such nights, mixing inspiration and application across the country to draw in a new layer of activists.
When I came into anti-fascist politics it was all a matter of rocking against racism followed by demos to stop the nazis marching. The connection between inspiration and application was easy enough to make with bands like The Clash, TRB, Stiff Little Fingers, Steel Pulse providing the ready-made soundtrack of resistance. Today its different, organising locally, door-to-door leafletting and canvassing, the painstaking rebuilding of community organisation is rarely spectacular but we're being dishonest pretending theres any alternative if we're serious about stopping the BNP.
On Saturday 21 June there could be no greater contrast. Love Music Hate Racism with UAF call a 'national parade' through the empty streets of Central London with a couple of thousand of their most committted activists turning out supplemented by new, young, activists expensively bussed in from around the country. Meanwhile 7 miles away the BNP are standing in two crucial by-elections in Barking and Dagenham. I'm glad I chose to leaflet instead of march, proud of doing something practical and effective. I was inspired to do so by that night we'd organised back in March, but what if those 2000 in Central London, or just 10% of them, had joined us, we'd have covered the whole ward instead of one estate.
Inspiration and application, we need both. Each feeding into each other, serving the needs of rebuilding community-led campaigns against the BNP rather than the spectacle of a big turn out in Traflagar Square or some park.
Mark Perryman is the co-founder of www.philosophyfootball.com and editor of Imagined Nation : England after Britain.