The Soapbox: Fascism: Let it be fought, not forgotten.

I would like to express my concern towards some of the criticisms posed to the LS regarding the publication of the interview with Nick Griffin (Volume 43, Issue 4: Leeds Student speaks to Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP). Whilst the idea of “No Platform” for fascists is important to consider, the publication of Griffin’s views in a newspaper should instead be seen as an opportunity for us to come out and defend democracy.

My grandfather was arrested by Augusto Pinochet’s fascist regime in Chile in 1973 and imprisoned in the Santiago Stadium alongside many who were later tortured or killed. Later, he was exiled from Chile and he moved to the safety of Britain along with his family, including my mother. My family knows the damage fascism can cause. To this day, a culture persists in Chile that encourages the public to “forget” the fear and the atrocities of Pinochet’s regime as a means of “moving on”. I do not see this as a logical approach. How can we possibly protect the future of democracy if we forget how it has been dismantled in the past? In the same respect, how can we ignore those such as Griffin who seek to dismantle our democracy now? If we ignore the views of the far Right, we allow them to grow in the background, unchallenged.

The assertion that the publication of this interview will lead to the British National Party’s politics becoming more popular is a defeatist sentiment. The paper has fulfilled its duty to expose the danger of the BNP’s policies. The next step is to analyse the economic and social factors such as unemployment and poverty that cause prejudice to develop. If we skim over the causes of ignorance and prejudice, we allow the forces of stagnation to overcome the course of progress. For this reason, I am disappointed to hear that some in the NUS and a group of Leeds Socialists have criticised this paper for publishing the interview.

The paper did not legitimise Griffin’s racist politics. Publication does not amount to vindication of the author’s views. Furthermore, some have said that arguing for the publication of this interview in the name of freedom of speech is paradoxical as it contains the ideas of a man who would censor the press. But why should we censor ourselves to achieve this end? Would that not be a greater contradiction? Serving the interests of the wider public should be the priority above protecting an ignorant minority from prejudiced views.

Indeed, a newspaper such as Leeds Student is an appropriate environment for exposing extreme views because we have the opportunity to speak out and voice our opposition to them. This is unlike the scenario of racist mass murderer Anders Breivik when he was put on trial last year: the Norwegian court was right to not have his racist testimony broadcast live as there was no facility for his views to be challenged in the courtroom at that moment.

Withdrawing the Griffin interview will not help to protect our democracy, it will do the opposite. Exposing Nick Griffin’s authoritarian views has shown the strength of feeling amongst us against the far right. We are now expressing our own views, we are debating them and, as a consequence, we are fortifying our democratic ideals. The struggle for democracy is never over; there are always powers that would thrive in its absence. So let’s fight fascism, not forget it.

By Leo Garbutt
Photo: An anti-Pinochet protester confronts a truck armed with a water cannon. Courtesy of Ciberprofe.

A shortened version is included in the Feedback section of this week’s printed issue (02/11/12).

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