The Anti Nazi League and its lessons for today

Holborow, Paul
Date Written:  2019-07-01
Publisher:  International Socialism
Year Published:  2019
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23769

Interview with Paul Holborow, organising secretary of the Anti Nazi League in 1977-1980.



The Anti Nazi League and the mass movement it generated in the late 1970s is one of the great achievements of the revolutionary left in post-war Britain. The experience is particularly important today with the growth of the far right internationally. Paul Holborow, organising secretary of the Anti Nazi League in 1977-1980, and today an activist in Stand Up to Racism, talked to Alex Callinicos and Esme Choonara....

Enoch Powell made one of his most vicious speeches in January 1976 threatening “racial civil war”. Bob Mellish, the Labour chief whip echoed him, declaring in the House of Commons in May 1976 to Labour and Tory cheers: “enough is enough—rehabilitation of Indians back to India”.1

The electoral figures that the National Front achieved are very important. In 1977, they obtained 119,063 votes in the Greater London Council (GLC) election, 5 percent of the overall vote, up from 0.5 percent in 1973. They stood in 85 out of 92 London constituencies, and knocked the Liberals into third place in a third of the constituencies. It was on that basis that Martin Webster and John Tyndall, the two leaders of the National Front, could announce that they were going to run around 320 candidates at the general election, which people expected in the autumn of 1978 but actually took place in May 1979. That was symbolic because, had all the candidates won, it would have given them a majority in parliament....

So we had made a promising start. We then mounted a number of publicity stunts, one of the most important of which was when neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier Manfred Roeder, who wrote a sympathetic history of the Waffen SS, came to Britain to launch the book. By this time David King (who was the first design editor of the Sunday Times colour supplement) had produced for us five magnificent posters. (He subsequently designed the iconic ANL badge and the yellow ANL lollipop.) At the press conference, which was covered by both television and many newspapers, I managed to hold up one of these posters behind his head. That was important in terms of projecting what sort of organisation we were going to be.

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