This year Labour Students is partnering with HOPE not hate to provide training workshops to Labour Clubs. Fill in this form to request one.
Nick Spooner, Organiser at HOPE not hate
HOPE not hate (HNH) was founded 15 years ago in order to tackle what was a rapidly evolving far-right threat. On its mission to bring about fascism through the ballot box, the British National Party (BNP) had, for the most part, begun to leave the jackboots at home under the bed and instead donned rosettes and suits to go out door-knocking in communities across the country. This approach focused on speaking with voters about local issues, presenting BNP candidates with opportunities to go on to provide answers aligned with their own twisted and hateful worldview.
Since smashing the BNP’s electoral threat in Barking & Dagenham in 2010 with a resident-led community campaign, our research-focused operation has increasingly diversified, taking in policy and advocacy work, community organising, voter registration, digital campaigning, training and education and much more. As the far-right threat has evolved and adapted its approach, so have we. We need to meet new iterations of this menace head-on; being wedded to one tactical approach can be ineffective in the long-run as the nature of the far-right threat changes.
And the threat we face has changed. Though they have been beaten at the ballot box, the far right have taken their message of hate onto social media, speaking to an audience of potentially millions thanks to the platforms they’ve been given. Certain senior politicians in the UK, as well as USA, have amplified that hateful rhetoric too.
Thanks to these changes, a web of far-right ideologies and conspiracies have been able to span national boundaries. One particular racist conspiracy theory emanated with fringe far-right intellectuals in France in the late 1960s, was then taken up and amplified by a racist youth network active across Europe, and has since been quoted in the ‘manifestos’ of the terror attackers in Christchurch, New Zealand and in the horrendous shootings this month in El Paso, Texas.
Here in the UK, the far right’s co-opting of a false ‘free speech’ narrative (wilfully misinterpreting the concept in their own favour alone) has allowed them to mainstream their message, as well as to portray those who oppose them as “the real fascists”. This is a dangerously defensive position in which antifascists now find themselves.
While Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s (“Tommy Robinson”) star has undoubtedly begun to wane since his humiliating defeat in May’s European elections, in part thanks to targeted campaigning, the hardcore of his supporters have been willing to use violence on demonstrations and to spin disinformation and half-truths through their own social media channels, creating an almost parallel (and conspiratorial) worldview, which is hostile to many mainstream institutions. This is a collection of individuals who seem to have little interest in achieving political power through elections – rather are more interested in increasing their Twitter followers and Facebook live viewers. They are a feature of an evolving online ecology that takes people from “edgy” online content through to much more extreme material and ideologies, encompassing extreme Islamophobic, antisemitic and misogynistic viewpoints.
But it’s not all doom-and-gloom. As my colleague Rosie Carter has shown in our latest Fear & HOPE report, young people hold views that are increasingly open and progressive. All Rosie’s research shows that young people believe that immigration has been a good thing for the country, and that they are more confident with a multicultural and diverse society. Even in these often dark times, these research findings outline reasons to be hopeful. And that sense of hope and optimism is a factor in our partnering with Labour Students for a series of campus-based, online antifascism workshops around the country.
We want to share our knowledge of how the far right is operating online and how we, as antifascists, can do more to tackle them in online spaces together. If this sounds like something you’d like to take part in, then keep an eye on your Labour society and come along to one of the sessions. Or if you’re part of a Labour society and you want to arrange a workshop, contact Labour Students.