Anti-fascist campaigners were celebrating this week after Bath university withdrew permission for the Nazi leader Nick Griffin to speak on campus.
Griffin had been invited to Bath university by Daniel Lake, an economics undergraduate at Bath – who just happens to be head of the youth wing of the British National Party (BNP).
The university’s initial decision to give a green light to the BNP sparked outrage among students, staff and anti-fascist campaigners.
A demonstration against Griffin was organised by Unite Against Fascism and the UCU lecturers’ union. Sally Hunt, joint general secretary of UCU, spoke out against the invitation.
The university bowed to pressure from students and lecturers on Thursday of last week and cancelled the meeting.
Jen Russ from Bath UCU described how the university had mobilised against the fascists. “Within days of the announcement the joint campus unions had met,” she told Socialist Worker.
“Over 700 complaints showered into the university from national trade unions, the National Union of Students (NUS), shocked individuals and anti-racist groups.
“All the education unions made their opposition to the visit known – including ones from Ireland and Greece.
“The student union called a special meeting to debate and pass a statement condemning the BNP and opposing Griffin’s visit. Students queued for half an hour before the meeting to be sure to get in. LGBT and minority ethnic student groups were at the centre of the campaign.”
Bath university students’ union is now planning a Love Music Hate Racism gig on campus to build support for the campaign against the BNP.
John Perry, UCU regional assistant general secretary, welcomed the university’s belated decision to block Griffin. “We’re very pleased – it’s a good result all round,” he told Socialist Worker.
“The police were monitoring our protest – they knew how many coaches were coming. The cancellation was the result of our pressure, our unity and our show of strength.
“But the real work starts here. We need a real debate on campus about academic freedom and its abuse. The majority of people at universities are opposed to the BNP, but we have to win them over to the argument that you cannot treat them on the same level as other parties.”
Rob Owen, general secretary of Manchester university student union and member of the NUS national executive (elect), said the win at Bath would help spread understanding of why students should pass “no platform” positions against fascists.
“No platform is a tactic based on mobilising the mass revulsion against fascism into a force which can shut fascists out of mainstream debate and campus life,” he said.
“Where it has worked in Leeds and Manchester we started by pulling together a large, diverse group of students into a movement of meetings, anti-racist nights and demonstrations.
“In this environment the argument for no platform for the fascists is clear. We are the democratic anti-fascist majority – and we have the right to exclude organisations from our movement who would wish to see us destroyed.”