“No platform” – what it means and what it doesn’t mean. By Mal Content.

A great deal of B.S. has emanated from the chattering classes in recent years around this term. You’d be forgiven for thinking it originated in academia, where vested interests compete for the right/privilege of influencing impressionable minds. We are told that debate is being shut down, that intellectual development will be stunted if student bodies decline to entertain purveyors of hackneyed reactionary views, which might provide a stimulating foil to contemporary orthodoxy. Trouble is, we’ve heard it all before.

Fascism never took off in Britain, in the sense that it never gained the executive and slaughtered or imprisoned a significant proportion of the population, as it did in many other countries. This despite it having a sizeable constituency, being well funded and having the sympathy of the establishment. The bitter experience of Italy, Germany, Portugal and Spain taught that appealing to the bourgeois ‘authorities’ to uphold constitutional values was futile. It turned out they would only ban events that threatened good civic order and commerce.

Such appeals to decency and morality were taken as signs of weakness, and only emboldened the fascists. Physical superiority was central to fascist ideology, so the only way to halt their progress was to beat them at their own game. Time and again, their attempts to insert a respectable presence into a community through paper sales and public meetings were thwarted by Working Class people, not all politically affiliated, who would rather see a riot in their back yard than a fascist parade.

In 1945, after six years of war against Nazi Germany, a British labour government permitted the fascists detained under Regulation 18b to resume their activities, and gave them a police escort wherever they went. They were joined by Axis prisoners of war who were supposedly being rehabilitated. Apart from Spain and Portugal, which retained fascist governments, the only country in Europe where it was legal to glorify Hitler and the holocaust was Britain.

Mosely’s comeback was thwarted by the 43 Group, formed by Jewish ex-service personnel and their allies. Their game was to knock over the speakers’ platform, forcing the cops to shut the event on public order grounds. This task would be accomplished by selected ‘commandoes’, many of whom had actually performed that role during the war. They would quietly take their places in the hall, then at a pre-arranged signal charge in wedge formation at the line of stewards protecting the platform. A large and well-stewarded meeting could require several wedges, precisely timed and co-ordinated. Other supporters would heckle and pick fights in the audience.

Nor did they set out to stifle debate. In his eponymous history of the 43 Group (highly recommended) Morris Beckman recalls that often dialogue with fascist supporters commenced after they had received a good hiding, and there were defections at all levels. Politicians and other worthies wrung their hands in shame as the Working Class cleaned up its own mess.

Rough justice was similarly dished out by London’s Caribbean migrants in the 1950’s and by the regional Asian Youth Movements of the 1970’s. The phrase “no platform” was well established by the time I first experienced antifascism at the end of that decade. It isn’t about supplication; it’s a simple ultimatum to those in power: “Call your dogs off or we’ll tear the place up”.

Your original snowflakes weren’t students asking for safe space, they were Jewish commandoes, their wives, girlfriends and mates, Asian youths, rude boys, miners, dockers, Brighton rockers, and East End pugilists looking after their manor. There isn’t, and never has been, a right to free speech – liberals don’t go asking the state to grant it. For a detailed explanation of how and why the state grants rights, see here: It’s a useful social skill not to piss off those around you to the extent they want to hurt you. So if your career path relies on vilifying, excluding or slandering the poor, migrants, LGBT people etc, making others fear for their safety, and you fear for your safety as a result, that’s fine by me. If you’ve got a contentious opinion you aren’t prepared to physically stand up for, I won’t give it the time of day.

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2 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Industrial Workers of the World Dorset.

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  2. Reblogged this on Anarchy by the Sea!.

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