From the October 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard
Above all else, the National Front is a party which stands for capitalism. It is fanatically anti-Marxist, although it has never once stated a serious case against the theories of Marx. It is obnoxiously racist, although its average member knows no more about the theory of genetics than did Hitler’s followers at Nuremberg. It is committed to what it calls “law and order”, yet its members are notorious for arguing with their boots instead of their brains. It is allegedly opposed to the policies of the Left, yet it stands for import controls, withdrawal from the Common Market and nationalisation of the banks (all of which would satisfy any card-carrying Communist Party member). Its motto, “Put Britain First”, is a sick joke when it is considered that most of its members and supporters own virtually none of Britain. It claims that unemployment would go away by repatriating black immigrants, even though unemployment has repeatedly occurred in the history of capitalism quite independent of any immigration and is caused in no way by immigration. It even claims that birth control is a conspiracy to diminish the number of what it calls “the British race”. If ever there was a collection of ignorant and irrational clowns, whose arguments would be amusing were they not so extremely dangerous, it is the National Front.
In August of this year the Cambridge Union announced its intention to hold its 500th debate on the motion “That this House would ban the National Front”. The invitation to NF leader Martin Webster, to oppose the motion, ensured the refusal to attend of most of those who might have proposed the motion. Only one speaker agreed to speak in the debate in favour of the motion — a hypocritical act in the extreme when it is considered that he would be speaking against an opponent whom he would wish to ban from speaking. The man in question was Rudy Narayan who is currently the prospective Labour candidate for Handsworth in Birmingham. But Narayan is hardly the man to oppose the racist Webster. According to his comments in a speech in Hackney in 1977, Narayan and Webster have more than a little in common:
The Jews own most of Britain. They have learnt only too well from Hitler that control over the media, including publishing newspapers and broadcasting is absolute . . . They have infiltrated the ranks of the newspapers and publishers with total devastating ruthlessness. Looking at the almost thoughtful placing of world jewry in all these positions of power the world over, one cannot but believe that they operate nationally and internationally to a master plan. It could well be their blueprint for a Jewish takeover of the world.
Narayan’s acceptance to speak was reported in the Guardian. The SPGB Media Committee wrote to the Cambridge Union informing them of Naryan’s opinions and stating that we would oppose Webster, although we would certainly not propose any motion to ban the NF. A copy of our letter was sent to the Guardian which published the facts of Naryan’s anti-semitism in its Diary column. Before long an embarrassed Naryan, still prospective Labour candidate for Handsworth, withdrew from the debate. A week after the SPGB Media Committee had written to the Cambridge Union a ’phone call was received from the Union’s President agreeing to invite two SPGB speakers to propose the motion and to change the wording to ‘This House opposes the activities and ideology of the National Front’. At the time of writing, this invitation still stands as does our acceptance of it. The debate is scheduled for Monday, 12 October.
No sooner was the invitation to Webster announced than various organisations, such as the Union of Jewish Students and the Anti-Nazi League, threatened to prevent the debate from taking place. A similar debate involving the fascist leader, John Tyndall, was cancelled a few years earlier as a result of intimidation from those who did not want free debate to take place.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain is certain that the only way to deal with fascists is to expose their anti-working class ideas. In the field of physical violence the vicious thugs of the NF may be able to beat us, but in the arena of rational debate we are confident that Webster and his team will get the intellectual licking of their lives. We give below the four reasons why the only way to defeat the NF, along with all other of capitalism, is by reason:
1. The sole enemy of socialists is the capitalist system which puts profits before need. We are hostile to all of its upholders, be they allegedly democratic or openly fascist. No defender of capitalism can achieve power without the support of a majority of the working class. To end capitalism, working class ideas must change. The battle, then, is over the minds of the working class.
2. All racist ideas are opposed by socialists because they serve to divide the working class. We do not confine our hostility to racism to the vulgar anti-black propaganda of Webster and his bootboy adherents. We equally oppose the racism and nationalism of the Labour and Tory parties which, when in power, have passed notoriously racist immigration legislation. We also oppose the racism of the Communist Party which ran a campaign in the 1940s to repatriate Polish immigrants. Indeed, in a pamphlet called Looking Ahead in 1947 the CP’s Harry Pollitt wrote:
I ask you, does it make sense that we allow 500,000 of our best young people to put their names down for emigration abroad, when at the same time we employ Poles who ought to be back in their own country, and bring to work in Britain displaced persons who ought to be sent back to their own countries?
3. As soon as one accepts the policy of political censorships, there emerges the important question of who is going to do the censoring. Is it to be the Central Committee of the SWP or the CP? If so, can we be sure that censorship will stop at the NF? In the 1930s the CP referred to the SPGB as ‘fascists’ because we exposed the dictatorial ruthlessness of Stalin. Once the power to decide who may or may not express a point of view is handed over to a minority, whose freedom to speak or publish literature will be assured? Neither does the SPGB accept the view of the authoritarian Left that the government should be given the power to act as a political censor. As soon as governments get in the habit of imprisoning people for stating obnoxious (to them) views we hand over to police, judges and politicians the right to determine what is obnoxious and what is not.
4. Democracy must include the opportunity to make statements which arc objectionable to sections of the community. Socialists will not succeed by banning objectionable ideas—if anything, such action would give objectionable views the popularity of martyrdom. The Anti-Nazi League may feel the need to save the working class from irrational persuasion, just as Mary Whitehouse wants to protect us from seeing reflections of our own bodies on the TV screen. The SPGB has confidence in our fellow workers to listen to both sides of the argument and to reject the pernicious nonsense of the National Front.