By Andy Brooks
EVERYONE on the anti-fascist front knows about the regrettable split, late last year, between Searchlight and the Hope not Hate movement it founded in 2005 to mobilise opinion on the street against the British National Party (BNP). The row that led to the walk-out by the editor, Nick Lowles, and some other contributors, clearly revolved around the direction as well as the day-to-day running of the veteran anti-fascist magazine.
Apart from some minor delays Searchlight has continued to come out with its traditional coverage of the neo-Nazi scene in Britain and across the world. But we had to wait until March for the launch of the new Hope not Hate magazine to see its take on mobilising “communities by providing a positive alternative to the politics of hate”. But is it an “alternative” to Searchlight?
Yes, no and maybe. For a start it’s a 48-page full-colour glossy magazine with an in-your-face lay-out that reflects the style of Hope not Hate’s website and campaigning material. Unlike Searchlight the new magazine is the flag-ship of a broadly-based campaigning movement and also unlike Searchlight it will only come out every other month.
But there’s a familiar feel to Hope not Hate which is not surprising as it’s edited by Nick Lowles and some of the writing team will also be well-known to Searchlight readers. A number of features follow well-worn tracks like the reports on the hidden backers of the BNP and the thuggish followers of the English Defence League. There’s also, as you would expect, some coverage of right-wing extremism in Europe and the rest of the world. But there is a different focus which goes far beyond the confines of anti-fascism.
For instance, the first edition carries three articles on Muslim extremism. Likewise there’s a couple of “what makes an extremist” features, which largely reflect the views of bourgeois liberal social scientists while ignoring the class line which lies behind all the sectarian and racist movements in Britain that are only tolerated because they ultimately serve the interests of the ruling class.
Islamic extremism gets almost as much as the coverage of the BNP, which raises concerns that the journal is pandering to the same Islamophobia that the ruling class exploit and the fascists use to justify their racist doctrines. Now no anti-fascist would argue that these reactionary Muslim clerics are anything but reactionary. But they are bigots not fascists. We only have to look at the occupied north of Ireland, the extreme Zionist factions or the gay-hating bible-punching anti-abortionists to see that bigotry in the United Kingdom is not the exclusive property of the Muslim community.
One reason these clerics have some support from the British Muslim community is because that minority community is under attack. The other is that the ruling class have encouraged all sorts of reactionary Muslim currents, in the past, to use Britain as a base to help subvert the people’s democratic government in Afghanistan during the Cold War and serve the imperialist interest in Algeria, Yemen and most recently, in the overthrow of the Gaddafi government in Libya and imperialism’s current efforts to destroy the Syrian Arab Republic.
Not everyone of Muslim origin in Britain is a practising Muslim and the community as a whole is not united around one banner but reflects the myriad sectarian divisions that exist within Islam as a whole. Furthermore the total number of nominal Muslims in Britain amounts to just five per cent of the entire population. Contrary to the ravings of the BNP and the EDL we are not on the brink of a Muslim takeover.
But the fascist threat is always out there no matter how small they may be now. The fascist movements are the reserve army of the bourgeoisie and when the class struggle sharpens the gloves come off. As the Thirteenth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International correctly said in 1933, fascism in power is nothing more than the “open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital”.
Hope not Hate clearly hopes to win new readers by going far beyond traditional anti-fascist lines but whether articles that would not seem out of place in any existing liberal newspaper or colour supplement are enough to build the subscription base to sustain it over the years remains to be seen.
But judge it for yourselves. Hope not Hate is available in the bookshops at £3.50 a copy or by writing to HOPE not hate, PO Box 67476, London NW3 9RF. For £5 a month you can obtain all Hope not Hate’s publications including an annual subscription to the magazine, a 10 per cent discount on all its merchandise and an invitation to an annual Hope not Hate dinner.