Sunday, 13 September 2009

Searchlight Threaten UAF With Legal Action

Just as the threat from the far-Right seems to have found a new voice with the emergence of anti- Muslim protests by the English Defence League, it appears that the ongoing feud between two leading anti-fascist organisations, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Searchlight, has in the words of one side of a new unseemly row, “got out of hand”, and is about to descent into legal action.

Nick Lowles from Searchlight wrote to the UAF Steering Committee on 1 September demanding a public apology for allegations made in a UAF document entitled “Lessons of the 2009 election of the BNP to the European Parliament for anti-fascist strategy”. UAF was given until Friday 11 September to respond with a full retraction and public apology for allegations that Lowles “personally of pandering to racism, spreading racist myths and writing material that ‘would not be out of place on a BNP leaflet’”. Otherwise, steering committee members were warned that Lowles would “pursue this matter further, up to and including legal action against those responsible for the document”. This includes raising the issue with the TUC Congress.

Although copies of this letter have now started to circulate within UAF, no such apology or retraction appears to have been offered.

Assessing the debate over strategy within the anti-fascist movement in the Lessons of the 2009 election document, UAF had argued:

There have been many debates over strategy in the anti-fascist movement…The two poles in this debate have been Searchlight, on the one hand, and the UAF, on the other. Searchlight walked out of the UAF some years ago, splitting the anti-fascist movement, when it was criticised for making concessions to racism by giving credence to myths, rejected by the local Police Service, that a major phenomenon of so called ‘Asian grooming’ of young girls for sex by Muslim men due to their marriage customs, uniquely emerged as a major problem in West Yorkshire.
Criticising Lowles personally for an article he wrote in Searchlight in April 2005 called Tackling Taboo Issues, it goes on:
It did not confront racism, and still less, Islamophobia head on in its campaign, instead over some years making concessions to racist myths. This approach was spelled out particularly clearly some time ago when Nick Knowles wrote: ‘In Keighley, grooming is a real not a perceived problem. In other parts of the country the issues might be Asian gang violence against young whites, Black drug dealers or even alleged preferential funding. It is no point denying that some Asians and young Blacks are involved in crime because they clearly are. It is pointless denying some predominantly ethnic minority communities receive more funding than their white neighbours because, again, they clearly do’ (Searchlight, April 2005). This quote would not be out of place on a BNP leaflet and it has never been repudiated by Searchlight. In reality, of course, racist attacks are overwhelmingly directed against Black, Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish communities; most Black and Asian communities are much less well-funded than the national average on virtually every criterion; and all ethnicities have paedophiles, gangs and criminals.
Aside from spelling his name incorrectly, Lowles has complained of the “selective use of sentences from an article" and that:
...the quote attributed to me in the UAF document never existed in the form that it has now been reproduced. The author(s) has merely taken sentences from two separate paragraphs and added them together, conveniently missing out certain other sentences, which throw a very different light on my article.
In an internal letter to supporters of Searchlight’s HOPE Not Hate campaign, Lowles has added:
I do not want to re-open a feud with the UAF - we have enough to do in fighting the BNP - but I hope you will understand my need to defend my reputation and that of Searchlight/HOPE not hate.
Frankly, the allegations against Lowles are appalling – whatever the disagreement about tactics, Lowles has offered some thoughtful ideas about the way forward and it is hard to comprehend why the SWP dominated UAF would think it appropriate to circulate a paper accusing him of pandering to racism. For the time being at least, it can still be easily downloaded from both the Yorkshire & the Humber UAF website and the Sheffield UAF Facebook page.

But will UAF apologise? Or will this end in the courts? Whatever happens, this is an ugly dispute that needs resolving quickly.


Jim Jay said...

Christ alive this is bad - thanks for bringing this up, this is the first I'd heard of it.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately UAF have become the weakpoint for anti-fascism. The fascists have picked up on it and before anti-fascists have had a chance to sort the situation out.

So, anti-fascism currently faces being deliberately confused with UAF. However, this has been clearly engineered by UAF, the reason I think this is that it's in the way that UAF take over organising ever 'rally', they get in there first and instead of working with other groups they dominate it. They hand out free UAF branded placards which gives the impression that the whole crowd are UAF supporters when in reality they are more likely to be lots of different groups and many individuals who do not belong to any organisation.

What I think has gone wrong is that one group of people have misunderstood what Unity means. The only thing I think should unite us is our condemnation of fascism. That is where the strength lays. Uniting under one organisation is, I think, the wrong thing to do in this case. There will always be disagreements which lead to power struggles which then affect the entire organisation.

The fascists are constantly looking for weak points in their enemies, as soon as any internal problem happens it like all their Christmasses came at once.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't support certain organisations, what I am suggesting is that we need to steer clear of uniting under what is actually front for a far left party, The Socialist Workers' Party. Not that I think there's anything wrong with SOME far left politicals, as long as it's not totalitarian/authoritarian.

If we are more ambiguous as a politcal/tactical entity our anti-fascist message will be stronger in my opinion.

Hanif Leylabi said...

Unite Against Fascism has been the organisation leading on the battle against the BNP on all fronts. Whether its delivering millions of leaflets, organising counter demonstrations, intervening in the Unions or working with its sister campaign Love Music Hate Racism, UAF is there with bells on to fight fascism.

UAF works with many different organisations and worked with searchlight in the past. Searchlight regularly makes snide digs at UAF in their publications and from platforms. We however do not as we are not sectarian. But we won't ignore tactics we think detrimental to the cause.

And such statements from searchlight DO pander to racist ideas. Just like the leaflet where they had Nick Griffin and Abu hamza with the tagline 'two sides of the same coin.'

as if a reactionary Muslim preacher in a non muslim country with a small following has the same potential to incite fear and violence as organised fascists with electoral representation!

The only reason they did that is to pander to racist ideas. Because they are not interested in eradicating racism. They are just interested in getting people to vote Labour instead of the BNP. This tactic will not work and no prinicpled anti-fascist can turn a blind eye to it.

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