(Note: I have issues with Searchlight, but think this is a timely initiative.)
I just posted the below long comment at Shiraz Socialist. As it is so long, I thought I'd reproduce it here. Some of the comment refers to this post and its comments thread at Socialist Unity (SU). I have corrected my typos, added a couple of hyperlinks and spelled out the initials and acronyms.
I too have concerns with Searchlight - not Bob Pitt’s nonsense that they are Zionists who pander to anti-black racism - but their 1980s/90s history of divisive stirring in the anti-racist/anti-fascist movement (e.g. effectively forcing the black left to disengage with Anti-Fascist Action [AFA] and join the Socialist Action [SA] front Anti-Racist Alliance [ARA - now merged into the SW's Unite Against Fascism]) and their bizarre smear campaigns against Green Anarchist - actions which led many people to suspect they were dumping on the left in exchange for co-opertaration with the state.
However, I like to think that history is behind them. I agree with most of what Nick Lowles says, of Paul Meszaros’s contribution, and of the perspective Andy Newman puts forward at SU. It seems churlish to point out that this analysis was more or less precisely that made by AFA in the wake of the BNP breakthrough at Millwall, 15 years ago, as set out in their Filling The Vacuum (FTV) document.
Meanwhile, the organised left has spent 15 years following its two most reactionary outlets, SA and the SWP, down the blind alleys of electoralism and big, expensive carnivals that preach to converts and have no impact on the white working class communities that vote BNP, while Searchlight has been slowly moving towards a sensible understanding of the situation.
I guess the difference between AFA’s FTV and what Lowles is proposing is that the former callde for an explictly working class local pole of attraction to fill the vacuum left by the labour movement (hence the formation of the IWCA), while Lowles is proposing something that is basically working class in content, but does not name itself as such, and appeals to all sections of the community.
Fifteen years ago, I would have dismissed Lowles’ cross-class position as Popular Frontism. Whether I’ve gotten more right-wing or the collapse of the labour movement has made stereotyped appeals to class consciousness sound even more dogmatic and out of touch - I don’t know. But I think he’s basically right about working with whatever forces are there on the ground locally, whether they speak the langauge of class or not.
Where I disagree slightly his emphasis, is that he seems still overly focused on the ballot box, without addressing the question of whether or not to basically endorse voting Labour. I think that elections ARE important for the BNP, which is why it remains important to urge people to vote Labour (except in the small number of places where there is any kind of meaningful alternative, such as the Greens in some wards of my own borough Lewisham, independents in some areas, or the left candidates in the tiny number of places where there is a viable left candidate, e.g. parts of Coventry where the Socialist Party still has an electoral base). BUT a shift in focus to the year-round work of community organising is much more valuable.