This month at The Social Change Agency we have been looking at different organisations and campaigns that make up the racial equality movement. Founded in 2004, HOPE not hate offers a positive, peaceful and engaged way to combat fascism and racism in the UK. Working with local people to carry out targeted campaigns, HOPE not hate has become one of the largest and recognized action groups in the country. We recently caught up with Nick Spooner, Organizer at HOPE not hate to learn more about their work, campaign strategies, and get some advice for other campaign groups!
Do you see Hope not hate as building a movement or joining an existing one? If the former, what contribution does Hope not hate make towards the movement for racial equality in the UK?
I suppose the answer is somewhere in the middle. HOPE not hate is part of a diverse ecology of groups working in the fields of anti-racism, anti-fascism and social and racial justice. We are one strand of this movement, and our specialties and specific talents mark us out from others operating in the same fields, just as theirs do in relation to us. In terms of “movement building” in particular: our community organising projects have consistently focused on that notion, of bringing people together and undercutting the opportunities for the far right to organise in our communities. That said, the legacy of the HOPE not hate research team can be traced back to the 1930s in Britain, so our presence is writ large in the history of antifascism in this country.
How does Hope not hate inspire and encourage collaboration between organisations and individuals within the movement for racial equality?
I would say that the primary manner in which we do this is through our training and educational programmes. We have spent a great deal of time over the last 3 years investing in activist and supporter development by offering training in community organising, and campaigning. Either by working in partnership with other organisations or encouraging their attendance at our workshops, we make sure that we are all in the process of learning from one another. Outside of the classroom, we partner with other campaign groups and trade unions on big issues and around certain events, such as the recent anti-Trump demonstrations.
How does Hope not hate share knowledge and information within the movement, would you say that there are any specific comms or digital tools you utilise?
As I alluded to in an earlier question, research plays a substantial role in the functioning of HOPE not hate and it always has done. The research manifests itself in many ways, from weekly summaries of what the far right, or certain individuals therein, have been up to, right through to long-form pieces that take many months to collate. Our massive report into the International Alt-Right from last year would be a good example of this. Most of this material is freely available online in the form of blogs or articles, but necessarily we do charge a small fee for some of the larger reports. We also have a bi-monthly magazine publication. We make heavy use of email to get supporters information and news that they need to keep up to date, while also launching digital campaigns online so that people can be active in support of the issues we’re working on. We use social media channels heavily, especially Facebook, and we’re making more use of video than we used to. We recently launched our podcast too!
What would you say your main campaign strategies are, any advice you can give to other campaign groups?
Broadly our main strategy is to expose and undermine the far right at the ballot box and in the community. As the far right have been so utterly destroyed at the ballot box, they are finding new ways to stir up division and hatred, increasingly online, meaning antifascists have to be able to adapt to meet the new challenges that emerge. On top of this, as I’ve said, we also work to up-skill our activists and supporters in the fields of community organising and campaigning, and we also run voter registration campaigns to limit the scale of the democratic deficit in this country. When you throw in our excellent schools-based education courses on top of that, we really do cover a large amount for what is a small organisation. In terms of advice for other campaign groups, I think the late, great Bob Crow said it best: “If you fight you might lose, but if you don’t fight you will always lose.”
What do you think the biggest challenges are for the racial equality movement in the coming years and how do you see the movement overcoming them?
There are some significant challenges facing us at the moment. As I said earlier it’s a massive cause for celebration that actual fascist groups have been obliterated at the ballot box, but the reality is that a good chunk of their rhetoric has simply been subsumed into the mainstream. The Overton Window on a number of issues pertaining to immigration, and especially to Islam and Muslims, has been dragged further towards the right. Furthermore, 15,000 people marched in London a couple of months ago in support of the convicted felon and thug, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”), after he was locked up for nearly caused a mistrial of alleged sex-offenders. His is a movement that is very well-funded by anti-Islam groups and individuals from the United States and if you couple that with Lennon’s seemingly insatiable desire for self-promotion and publicity as well as his playing fast-and-loose with the truth, then it would appear that that movement will not be disappearing any time soon. And on top of all of this, we are now in a “post-organisational” far right state, where traditional local far right structures have broken down, and adherents are now concerning themselves with radically shifting culture through online platforms, hoping to see a change in the political landscape follow. As a movement we have to be better at dealing with this, and HOPE not hate is making some exciting steps to tackle this head-on.
Interested in movement building? If you, your team or interested stakeholders to design and improve your movement for maximum impact, check out our Movement Building Canvas Workshop on the 12th of September in London. More details can be found here