On Tolerance – Frank Furedi

April 2024 Forums General discussion On Tolerance – Frank Furedi

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  • #81580
    jondwhite
    Participant

    I went to Tolerating Autonomy a talk with Frank Furedi in Manchester on Tuesday night. Frank Furedi is a university professor who has been in Revolutionary Communist Party (could still be – should have asked) and lectured in Columbia University in America. He completely glossed over his period in the Revolutionary Communist Party even when challenged indirectly (no one mentioned the RCP by name) he said he's been completely open about his past, true, except for the RCP period. He called himself an absolutist libertarian in respect of free speech and promoted his book "On Tolerance". Twice he dodged questions about why he supported censoring fascists a couple of decades ago.

    He delivered a good friendly talk on free speech and the chairperson explicitly invited disagreement and chairing generally over contributions was a light touch, almost allowing a dialogue. Anything other than light chairing on the topic of free speech would have been hypocritical, but to be kind to them, I think all their events are like this. It wasn't like a typical left meeting, both in content and form. In content, no-one mentioned class, and the discussion of free speech was almost apolitical, Furedi arguing censorship came from both left and right. In form there was no political line being pushed by the speaker or the contributors, except for a general liberalism from some contributors. Furedi argued in favour of moral autonomy and I think even used the term individual sovereignty.

    It was done under the auspices of the Institute of Ideas events called Manchester Salon (part of a festival called Battle of Ideas). I went to Peter Hitchens book launch The Broken Compass in Foyles, London a couple of years ago – organised again as a "Salon" by the Institute of Ideas. Both had a very culturally middle-class atmosphere, with professional lighting, "Battle of Ideas" banner for the platform, professional (definitely not cheap looking) brochure of other events and most people seemed to be attached to a glass of red wine. Manchester's event was held in a crumbling warehouse turned gallery type place, round the corner from, but during the Labour conference, I wondered if any Labour members were there.

    Contributions jumped all over the place (faith schools, Hitler, mentions of Rushdie and Anti-American riots in the Middle East etc.), so it was hard to think up a relevant one. Especially one that wouldn't be returning to a point (by the time it was made), possibly two contributions ago. In the end, I didn't say anything. One contribution challenging Furedi assumed everyone present was libertarians, Frank replied that he assumed the majority present were supportive of censorship. Really this is to the talk's credit, that no-one had the hubris to assume (or claim for political advantage like the SWP) that everyone present agrees with them. In conclusion I think the best I could have said was that censorship is friend of power and dictators (it is one of the first things Hitler did) who cannot argue rationally. But that with the internet, censorship is redundant and free speech is not under threat as Furedi seems to think. The Anti-American riots would be pointed to but I think these may be the last gasp of censors.

    Furedi mingled before and after the event, but I could think of nothing I wanted to say or ask so left.

    An audio recording was made and is available on the Manchester Salon website.

    http://www.manchestersalon.org.uk/tolerating-autonomy.html

    #90036
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Interesting that somebody else should be taking the same line as us on "free speech", including allowing the far-right to express their views, with a view to them being demolished in the course of free examination, discussion and debate.One of the items for discussion at this year's Autumn Delegate Meeting is:

    Quote:
    The Party has a tradition of organizing debates with opponents of all political stances, no matter how challenging. We propose therefore that the Party approach the far right of which the English Defence League would provide us with the most political capital.

    Kent & Sussex Branch see this as a publicity stunt which, even if it did not take place in the end, would still raise the question of free speech and our support of it.In their supporting statement they say that one

    Quote:
    reason for targeting the EDL specifically is their willingness to debate anyone, which they have stated many times.

    If they have said this, then we should definitely take up their challenge just to show that we are prepared to take them on. We can't allow them to get away with saying that they made such a challenge but nobody took them up.But can someone provide a reference to where they've said they're prepared to debate anyone?

    #90038
    Ed
    Participant

    Thanks for those links Tom, very helpful. I've heard them issue a challenge a couple of times on talk shows and stuff a quick google search didn't bring up any of those I've seen. Earlier this year they formed an alliance with the British Freedom party so they are making a transition from being a pseudo street gang into the political arena. However, I've not heard too much about them since then and so I'm not as confident of the headline grabbing effect I originally thought a debate might have. But you never know unless you try and as I've always said the exposure the party can get from  it will come down to how we handle it.

    #90039
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Looks as if the Muslim Debate Initiative (whoever they are) take the same sort of line as us on debating the far-right:http://thedebateinitiative.com/2012/10/03/press-release-an-mdi-response-to-those-in-opposition-to-holding-a-debate-with-the-edl/In any event, they don't agree with the SWP, UAF, etc's policy of "No platform for fascists".I hadm't realise that all this is recent (this week). If we want to mount a publicity stunt we could offer to chair the debate between the MDI and EDL on our premises.That would be publicity both for us and for our stand against the Trotskyist censors and for free debate.

    #90037
    Tom Rogers
    Participant

    Is the EDL purely a street protest movement or do they officially engage in debate?  There doesn't appear to be anything on their website about it, at any rate, but I know that Tommy Robinson has debated with his Muslim opponents (for e.g.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hus7Ce89R0U).  I'm unclear whether this was on an official EDL platform or just in his personal capacity.  Something called the Muslim Debate Initiative ('MDI') challenged the EDL to a debate fairly recently (http://englishdefenceleague.org/edl-news- scroll down to relevant blog entry) and the EDL accepted the invitation.  The EDL now claim that the MDI cancelled at the last moment.  An explanation from the booked venue, Conway Hall, is here:http://conwayhall.org.uk/statement-regarding-muslim-debate-initiative-event  Security concerns.

    #90040
    Tom Rogers
    Participant

    Robinson is (still, I think) joint vice-chairman of the British Freedom Party.  The BFP also allows EDL members to stand as electoral candidates under the BFP franchise.  To put it simply, the BFP is a 'centrist' far-Right off-shoot of the British National Party.  The founders basically disagreed with the BNP's 'whites-only' membership policy and were expelled for this reason, ironically not too long before the Party's constitution was revised along the lines they wanted.  An interesting thing about the EDL (or at least, interesting to me) is that while they are certainly of the 'far Right' milieu, they cannot seriously be considered fascist or National Socialist.  I would even question whether they are racist.  To find the real ethno-Nationalist hardliners and National Socialists proper you really now have to be looking in the National Front.  Even the BNP has been pretty much purged of the ideological purists, right down to the grassroots level.So far as most on the far-Right are concerned, the National Front is where it's at now, but that's not saying much.  A debate with the National Front (someone like Richard Edmonds, say, or Kevin Bryan) would be interesting but not all that entertaining.  The National Front is alive but it's a dud: its leadership failed to capitalise on the capitulation and disintegration of the BNP.  The whole Nationalist movement isn't just fractured, it's shattered.  They missed some really big opportunities, and there is a lot of bitterness.  They seem to do more fighting among themselves than anything else (a little like the far-Left at times).  The EDL are generally seen as something of a joke among far-Right activists, and I don't see that they have much credibility in the far-Right 'community', but the dismissiveness is partly ideological, down to the fact that the EDL is moderate, multi-ethnic and pro-Israel (and thus 'pro-Jew').The idea of chairing a debate between the EDL and the MDI is a great one, though.  Go for it.  It would be especially interesting to see questions fired at them by SPGB members and very entertaining watching them squirm, as inevitably will happen when they face a rational and reasoning audience.  Definitely one for the archive, if someone can film it.

    #90041
    Ed
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    I hadm't realise that all this is recent (this week). If we want to mount a publicity stunt we could offer to chair the debate between the MDI and EDL on our premises.That would be publicity both for us and for our stand against the Trotskyist censors and for free debate.

    Oh wow THAT IS A FANTASTIC IDEA!!!!  

    Tom Rogers wrote:
    The idea of chairing a debate between the EDL and the MDI is a great one, though.  Go for it.  It would be especially interesting to see questions fired at them by SPGB members and very entertaining watching them squirm, as inevitably will happen when they face a rational and reasoning audience.  Definitely one for the archive, if someone can film it.

    They would probably end up agreeing on certain positions

    #90042
    DJP
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    we could offer to chair the debate between the MDI and EDL on our premises.

    Not sure about the sensibleness of holding such an event at HO though. We would need to have serious security arrangements, to think otherwise would be a touch naive

    #90043
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    There is an EDL demonstration in Sunderland at this very moment against the building of a Mosque  and I accidently drove past. Not sure I would like to debate these people. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151449912253858

    #90044
    northern light
    Participant

    Hi TheOldGreyWhistle,                                        Reminds me of the night in 84, when I was standing outside Vane House, at Dawdon pit, and scores ofyoung lads came down the road, and across the fields. The night shift was coming out, and these "pickets" were hell bent ongetting the men out on strike (democratically, of course). They smashed up a car, and threw a few stones, and made a lot of noiselike in that video you posted. No fireworks though, but it worked

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