Memo to Comrade Smith


So, let’s turn our attention to the local story of the week. This was the splash in the latest Sunday Life, a bona fide scoop.

We’ll return to that in a second, but racism has been on the agenda this week. It got a run-out at the Assembly, where our representatives were keen to show that they’re hip to this new-fangled equality stuff. On the more mundane level, there have been the attacks on Romanians on the Lisburn Road, which has ended up with some forty of them getting ready to get the hell out of the country.

This hasn’t gone unremarked, which I suppose marks some progress. There was a demo on the Lisburn Road where some local residents were bolstered by a startling political formation, what appeared at first sight to be a bloc of the Socialist Party and the Alliance Party. Before anyone gets too excited, Socialist Youth members are apt to turn up at all sorts of things, and it may be that one or two of them live nearby. Meanwhile, for Alliance, we have area MLA Anna Lo, who knows a thing or two about racism and does a fair amount of effective advocacy for ethnic minorities, and who did a lot of the talking on the local news. Unfortunately for our civic image, some yobs, of the sort who you do find in the area, hurled a few bricks and gave Nazi salutes. You always get somebody, don’t you?

Always interesting, by the way, to look at the comments box below Telegraph articles. Though the articles themselves usually say the right things, the comments from punters are maybe a little bit more revealing about our society.

So, back to the scoop. This was the revelation that the BNP’s national call centre is located in an industrial estate in Dundonald. Indeed, it seems that Führer Griffin was over here recently to meet his dedicated workers. Wouldn’t you know there would be some local connection? I’m pleased to see, of course, that some of the anti-fascist sites in Britain have been picking up on this story. But I’m a little impatient for the Unite Against Fascism roadshow to arrive. Much as I enjoy seeing Martin Smith and Weyman Bennett on the telly, I sincerely hope they’re planning a visit to East Belfast. But possibly not in July, lest they get the culture shock of their lives.


  1. Garibaldy said,

    June 17, 2009 at 11:32 am

    I’m somewhat amused at the thought of the reactionary British nationalists ringing up to give the BNP cash getting an Irish accent. I wonder will all of them be able to remember that Irish people are now on the approved list, and not just northern unionists.

  2. Doug said,

    June 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    If Smith and Bennett do visit, can you keep them there. We might have a chance of combatting the BNP then, instead of the counterproductive strategy the UAF lot peddle.

  3. ejh said,

    June 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Or you could have faith in yourself to produce a more attractive and useful strategy instead?

  4. Neil said,

    June 17, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    #3 Hah that old chestnut again. Well at least you’re not going on about ‘crimes of the SWP”.

    One of the peculiarities of the SWP is their strange mixture of arrogance when things are going well for them (“we have led the largest mass movement in British history” L German, or “Imagine if there was no SWP…” every single speech Martin Smith has ever made at the closing rally of Marxism) and then their claims to be too small to matter when they have a big hand in fouling things up for the movement.

    UAF is a major case in point. Who can forget the utter destructive role they played at last years counter-demo against the BNP’s Red, White and Blue Festival in Codnor?

    When UAF failed to do much in the run up to it North Staffs Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (NORSCARF) did exactly what ejh advised and pulled together activists from the local unions, the SP, AWL, anarchists and local people to oppose the festival.
    When all the arrangements were made out of the blue UAF announced a few weeks before the demo they were organising their own demo at the same place at a different time! Frequent requests from NORSCARF to collaborate with them were ignored and when the march eventually happened on the day UAF took off while the NORSCARF rally was going on, splitting an anti BNP march when who knew how many BNPers could have been prowling round. And lets not even get into the community relations disaster that was the sight of UAF supporters bussed in from London and other foreign parts shouting, “Nazi scum get off OUR streets” in the middle of a small town in Derbyshire.

    (That blissfully unaware stupidity reminded me of an anti racist march held in Sunderland a few years ago where SWP members insisted on chanting “Black and White, Unite and Fight”. SP members warned them that “Black and White” would be interpreted by some locals as Newcastle United and asked them not to use it but hey the SWP knows best. Sure enough the SWP had stones thrown at them by teenagers wearing Sunderland shirts)

    On a broader level ejh you are well aware there are other strategies for dealing with the BNP. I can’t speak for other organizations but for the SP a key factor is building a political alternative to New Labour. The collapse in the Labour vote, combined with a section of disillusioned working class people voting for the BNP as a protest vote is what is fuelling the electoral rise of the BNP. Even the SWP seem to have come around to this point of view if some of their public statements are to be believed. Nevertheless we still have the spectacle of UAF in effect, pushing a vote for Labour, which as has been said before, is totally counterproductive in battling the BNP. Added to this the existence of the UAF gives the trade union leaders the pretence of actually doing something about the BNP and serves as a useful left cover for Labour MP’s in marginal constituencies. Put simply UAF is a block on the movement against the BNP because of it’s appalling politics and it’s nature as a creature of the SWP CC.

  5. ejh said,

    June 17, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I started reading that one backwards and got as far as “appalling politics”. Will it get any better if I read it forwards instead?

  6. June 17, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    ejh – If by ‘better’ you mean ‘the line handed to me by the CC’, then no it won’t get better. Personally I think you should take the time to read Neil’s comment, as it seems to me to be a particularly astute critique of UAF and SWP ‘tactics’.

  7. Garibaldy said,

    June 17, 2009 at 11:40 pm


    I think you have EJH all wrong there, as I’m sure he’ll tell you himself.

  8. Michael said,

    June 18, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Quote from Neil @ 5:23PM

    “(That blissfully unaware stupidity reminded me of an anti racist march held in Sunderland a few years ago where SWP members insisted on chanting “Black and White, Unite and Fight”. SP members warned them that “Black and White” would be interpreted by some locals as Newcastle United and asked them not to use it but hey the SWP knows best. Sure enough the SWP had stones thrown at them by teenagers wearing Sunderland shirts)”

    I know it’s a little off topic but that’s probably one of the most hilarious things I’ve read in quite a while!

  9. Neil said,

    June 18, 2009 at 1:18 am

    “I started reading that one backwards…”

    At last a cohearent explanation for all those SWP puzzelers like…

    “1930’s in slow motion”

    “A mass non-payment campaign (of the poll tax) does not exist”

    British troops coming to Northern Ireland is a GOOD thing.

    “There is currently no space for a left of Labour electoral challange before the general election”
    (Woops, now there is!: M Smith)

    To think we wasted all that time using the Marxist method to explain the various gyrations of the SWP down through the years when all we had to do was tell them to read the newspaper the right way up. Don’t I feel like a fool!

  10. ejh said,

    June 18, 2009 at 6:06 am

    I don’t know, Neil. You may, however, plausibly be taxed with having written like one.

  11. ejh said,

    June 18, 2009 at 6:07 am

    G – I could, but would it be worth it?

  12. skidmarx said,

    June 18, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Neil – I think it’s “running the film of reformism backwards” you’re looking for, though that’s Trotsky on state capitalism I believe.

    If you want anyone to listen to you you might want to adopt a more comradely tone,and not make attacks that you know have been answered many times before (The headline of Socialist Worker was “The Barricades Must Stay” when you allege the forerunner of the SWP was saying British troops were a good thing). When you distort the past it renders unconvincing what you have to say about the present (I’m willing to listen to what you have to say about Codnor, but what you say about the past inclines me towards the view that you just disagree with the SWP position on fascism, and report what they do through biased eyeglasses).

    And 1930s doesn’t require an apostrophe.

    because he’s worth it.

  13. Garibaldy said,

    June 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm


    Proof perhaps that your Irish Left Review piece was on the money.

  14. Neil said,

    June 19, 2009 at 10:57 am

    It’s quite amusing that when attempts to engage in a serious discussion are met with facetious one liners and then I respond in kind all that is produced is a sulky one liner.

    If only you had read the original post the right way round we could have avoided all this unpleasantness.

  15. ejh said,

    June 19, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Not all of it perhaps.

  16. Neil said,

    June 19, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Do you write haiku’s as well?

  17. skidmarx said,

    June 19, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Aim your strikes with care.
    Or never hit your target.
    And seem like a fool.

  18. ejh said,

    June 19, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    There is a young comrade called Neil
    Who in his impassioned appeals
    Will denounce all the Trots –
    All except for his lot –
    But he isn’t as smart as he feels.

  19. Neil said,

    June 19, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Bravo! How about an amusing few lines about how a strike goes from being racist to the most pivotal in recent years? Even a pithy one liner would be champion.

  20. Harrods said,

    June 19, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Try reading something of what Justin has actually written – eg!

    You’ll see that your attacking him for things he doesn’t believe.

    (It’s a bit like going “Justin you’re crap because you support Arsenal.” When he doesn’t).

    It’s fun to watch as a spectator sport.

    But a bit cruel.

    And you’re not winning.

  21. ejh said,

    June 20, 2009 at 8:44 am

    I’d do my best, Neil, but I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the subject matter.

  22. Mark P said,

    June 20, 2009 at 4:49 pm


    Ejh is not in the SWP.

    He’s a former SWP member, who therefore takes no responsibility for their politics or their actions. He does however think that somewhere in the heavens the little baby Jesus weeps whenever someone criticises the SWP on the internet. The interaction of these two statements means that there is no point in you trying to discuss the politics of the SWP with him. He won’t defend their point of view – he will attack you for attacking their point of view.

  23. ejh said,

    June 20, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Not at all Mark. He thinks that a civilised discussion does not begin with a screaming denunciation, though he is aware that many veterans of the circuit are no longer able to tell the difference. Some, perhaps, have never been able to.

    But do try, since one of the preconditions for a discussion is the capacity to accept one another’s points of view rather than, for the sake of convenience, deciding that they are saying something else. A touch of #9, perhaps, though Neil, I confess, is more like somebody playing whack-a-mole with the whole list, and winning.

    (Another precondition might be a slightly more generous approach to differing opinion than is normal procedure, in my experience, among SP members. Though there are worse offenders.)

  24. ejh said,

    June 20, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Incidentally if you resally want to know what I think in a short version, and seeing as people are being kind enough to link to my earlier coments, you might try the final paragraph here.

  25. Mark P said,

    June 20, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    I’m already familiar with your views on the transcendental importance of politeness. Thanks for the link though.

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