WHERE ARE ALL THE BLACK ACTIVISTS?
The last major demonstration by anti-racist organisations again begged this question. On February 15, members of many organisations, including the Anti-Nazi League, Anti-Racist Alliance, Militant Labour, Youth Against Racism in Europe, and even student unions assembled outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference hall in London to demonstrate against the Italian Fascist leader, Gianfranco Fini.
Gianfranco Fini is the leader of the former Italian Social Movement (MSI) now renamed Alleanza Nationale (National Alliance). With the forced exit of former Italian Premier Silvio Belusconi, Fini has been thrust into reckoning to lead the government. There lay the root the February demonstration.
Fini joined the MSI - the legacy of the infamous Benito Mussolini - in 1967. He was involved in violent right-wing activities for the party until he gained a semblance of respectability after being voted in as the Secretary of the MSI Youth Front, in 1977. In 1983, he was elected into the Italian parliament and in 1987 - with the support of Mussolini devotee Georgio Almirante - he was selected as party leader. He openly maintained his fascist stance, proudly calling Mussolini "the greatest statesman that ever lived". This position he maintained until Berlusconi's forced departure suddenly created a vacuum.
In his bid to fill this vacuum, the wily Fini decided to change his party's image to something more voter-friendly. His first act, to this end, was to change its name because it was inextricably linked to Mussolini and Fascism. Overnight, MSI became National Alliance. At the same time, he jettisoned his fascist stance, swearing that he had given up fascism for good. Even then, he remained unrepentant for his past actions. "Fascism," he declared "was not a mistake. It was just a historical phase which we had to pass through."
Having so speedily changed name and pretended to change political conviction, Fini's next aim was to acquire respectability in the eyes of the international community. There lay the reason for his trip to Britain. Here, he addressed the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and met with many influential members of the Conservative party and Italians resident in Britain.
Apart from the fact that his political conversion is a clear case of opportunism, the National Alliance still remains essentially the MSI. The same pro-Mussolini members remain. The party retains its links with fascist groups all over the continent and continues to organise attacks against immigrants in Italy.
Although Black people tend to be the greatest victims of racist attacks all over Europe, we - to the great frustration of activists - do not seem to actively participate in the fight against racism. In spite of the large spread of organisations that made up the anti-Fini demonstration (about 500 people in all, no doubt reduced to this number by the last minute change of venue by the Royal Institute in its bid to shake off the demonstrators) there was only a handful of Black faces present. Marc Wadsworth, former secretary of ARA, holding aloft a Haringey ARA Banner, stood out in the crowd not because he is a media personality but because he is Black.
Lessons from history should warn us against the dangers posed by the likes of Gianfranco Fini. In Pre-Hitler Germany, Jews enjoyed a much more privileged and prosperous lifestyle than Black people in Britain today. Yet, it took just one despot to change all that. Let no Black person rest complacent in the belief that the atrocities that took place in Germany in the 40s cannot be repeated in 90s Britain. 50 years is but a short time in history and many of those who committed crimes against the Jews are still alive. Worse, the sentiments that created the holocaust still fester in the hearts of the likes of Gianfranco Fini.
Black people cannot afford to stand with folded arms, complacent in the mistaken belief that the CRE, the equal opportunities policy and the "tolerant" British public will prevent the persecution of Black people. When Hitler went for the Jews, erstwhile friendly neighbours turned their backs or became informers. Nobody stood up for them. The problem was that the rise of Hitler was not curtailed. But then, in many ways, the manner of his rise was unexpected. With the likes of Fini, we have ample warning.
The apathy shown by Black people goes deeper than events like last month's demonstration. When the ANL organised a rally following the death of Joy Gardner, the same question arose. In the many anti-apartheid demos that contributed to the demise of the racist regime in South Africa, insignificant numbers of Black people participated. To the great sadness of this writer, when Nelson Mandela was freed from jail five years ago and people poured onto the streets in celebration, there were hardly any Black faces to be seen. That day, in Hammersmith - a few miles from the South African embassy, the scene of a big celebration - a much less publicised event was packed full of Black people - the event was a record scratching competition!
It is hard to accept the ignorance theory as an explanation for this apathy. Black people are very aware, just complacent. One needs to see the turnout of Black people at the yearly Anti-Racist Alliance Benefit concerts. There, far away from any real threat to the right-wingers, hordes of Black people loll, listening to the sometimes slack lyrics. Most of them care little for the ideals put forward by the show. All they are there for is the free music. Ask the same crowd to march upon Westminster and it would fritter away.
Racism and Fascism are on the increase all over Europe. We have begun to feel its growth here with the rise of right-wing groups, but it appears to Black Perspective that Black people will not sit up until the enemy is right on our doorstep. So come on BNP, come on NF and Combat 18. Kick Black people out of their inertia.