Would the Real Anti-Racists Please Stand Up?

Not you, Hope not Hate.

by Rivkah Brown

17 June 2024

An image of Nigel Farage, taken from below, with a photographer in the background
Britain’s Reform UK party leader Nigel Farage holds a general election campaign event in London, June 14, 2024. Photo: Reuters/Hannah McKay

Today Reform UK launches its hotly awaited manifesto in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil. Among those waiting with bated breath for Nigel Farage to uncover his cauldron of boiled bat shit will be Hope Not Hate (HnH), “the UK’s leading campaign group against the far right”.

Farage and HnH go way back: in 2017, HnH launched a libel suit against Farage after he claimed the group used “violent means” (mostly leaflets). HnH dropped the case after Farage withdrew the claim but seven years later, the beef remains fresh: HnH’s menacing leafleters have been targeting Clacton since Farage announced his candidacy, while its Twitter henchmen have relentlessly hammered Reform.

It isn’t just Farage HnH has in its crosshairs, though. The group has also been shoving pieces of brightly coloured paper with George Galloway’s face on them through letterboxes in Rochdale, and recently called for Liz Truss’s expulsion from the Conservative party. HnH has it in for everyone, it seems, except Labour. Curious.

The Labour-shaped hole in Hope not Hate’s work is a new development. Throughout the Corbyn years, it was one of the primary organisations calling out racism within the party, doing tireless campaigning and commissioning expensive polling on the subject (odd, some might say, for an organisation whose nominal target is the far right).

What’s changed? Could it be the fact that two of HnH’s six charity trustees, Gurinder Singh Josan and Anna Turley, are Labour candidates? (Labour baroness Ruth Smeeth is also its former secretary.) Maybe it’s this that has meant that HnH has kept shtum as people like Luke Akehurst – a man who has suggested that anti-Zionist Jews aren’t real Jews and that Black Jews have “some inner conflict” – breeze into the Commons. Or maybe HnH’s studied silence isn’t simply the product of this specific conflict of interest. Maybe the conflict of interest is a symptom of something deeper: HnH’s puddle-deep anti-racism.

I’ve always mistrusted self-professed anti-racists who centre “hate” (see: Hope not Hate, the Campaign for Countering Digital Hate, #NoSpaceForJewHate). Racism is a social structure, and therefore demands a political framework; hate is a feeling, and so needs no explanation. Its ineffability makes it extremely easy to depoliticise – or worse, selectively politicise – oppression.

HnH does this supremely well, cherry-picking which hatreds it hates in a way that just so happens to swerve centrists: the section of its 2024 ‘State of Hate’ report on anti-trans sentiment makes no mention of the infamous Rosie Duffield, a woman without whom no history of British transphobia would be complete. It also means HnH can target leftwingers on the most spurious grounds: in 2017 it put Jason Okundaye, then president of Cambridge’s Black and minority ethnic campaign, on blast on its Facebook page for calling all white people racist (a claim that, were HnH to have any coherent conception of racism, it would understand is not remotely racist).

In this, organisations like HnH find themselves conforming perfectly to the establishment line, which right now is that far-left and far-right are equal and opposite dangers to our society, a contention made most notably in Rishi Sunak’s apocalyptic post-Galloway speech and John Woodcock’s anti-protest report.

This assertion, of course, overlooks the genocidal mania that animates much of the Labour right, among them HnH’s own officers, at least one of whom belongs to the pro-genocide Jewish Labour Movement, which last year demanded MPs vote down the Gaza ceasefire amendment. Because “haters” are people who do bad tweets, not people who want to send unmanned death drones to disembowel children thousands of miles away.

Rivkah Brown is a commissioning editor and reporter at Novara Media.

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