This is from Workers Liberty, via Shiraz Socialist, reporting on Unite Against Fascism, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) front which is one of the market leaders in what passes for anti-fascism in the UK:
“There has been quite a bit of fuss, including inside the SWP, about the lack of democracy in UAF, and so this year – for the first time since the campaign’s founding in 2003, believe it or not – there were elections for the national committee. However even this small step was largely a formality or, to be blunt, a fake. Rather than a proper open election for a multi-member committee, candidates had to be nominated for a variety of individual positions (chair, vice chair, secretary, assistant secretary, parliamentary officer and so on).You can see a video of Justin here, and read his statement here. Personally, I agree with most of Justin’s sharp critique of the current state of the UAF – it is un-democratic, too reliant on state bans and moralistic denunciations of “bad” fascism, lacks positive demands, lacks a principled basis to the unity it preaches (e.g. seeking endorsement from right-wing politicians with objectively racist policies), and is a top-down body lacking a grassroots base in communities.
“Obviously this will have discouraged people from standing – and, lo and behold, there was only one candidate for each position. (Many of them were nominated by “Love Music Hate Racism” and “One Society Many Cultures” – “organisations” which decide these things how, exactly?) However this was only achieved by excluding Justin Baidoo, a young socialist and trade unionist from South London wishing to challenge SWP full-timer Martin Smith for assistant secretary, on a technicality. (See here.) The chair of his union branch had sent in the nomination, but failed to send in the reaffiliation form.
“Given this is the first time UAF has held elections, and given there were no other contested elections, you might think something could be done? Wouldn’t it have been positive to have a real election? But no, rules are rules – that is, when they allow the UAF leadership to carve out opponents. I guess it would have been particularly embarrassing for the SWP to have Martin Smith attacked from the left by a young, black socialist. (I should say that Justin chose not to get up on the floor of the conference and demand a vote on his exclusion – which I think was a mistake.)
“Nonetheless, surely the election still went ahead, with participants having the chance to vote for ‘Re-Open Nominations’? Don’t be silly! The ‘candidates’ were simply declared elected. I wondered if some SWPers cringed at this total absence of democracy.”
However, I didn’t sign Justin’s statement, because it would have been hypocritical to do so: I have come to see UAF as part of the problem not part of the solution, and will take a huge amount of convincing that it could ever become a different sort of animal. I think re-founding ant-fascism needs to happen outside of and despite UAF, not within it.
Update: A little more from Sacha Ismail's report of the UAF conference: