Oxford Unite Against Fascism (UAF), the local section of a national anti-fascist organisation, have called upon the Union’s President Olivia Merrett and the Standing Committee “to recognise that inviting fascists to speak is also a reflection of the institutional racism that exists within the Oxford Union.”
This move comes in the wake of the Union’s declaration last week that it is institutionally racist, in response to the “colonial comeback” debate cocktail.
The Union has previously drawn criticism from a range of groups for hosting speakers such as Nick Griffin, David Irving, Tommy Robinson. Last term, wide protests arose when Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s right-wing National Front party, delivered an address at the Union.
In a recent apology, posted on the Union’s Facebook page, the Standing Committee wrote: “The Standing Committee commits to eradicating racism and addressing the issues of institutional racism that it has recognised.”
Oxford Unite Against Fascism have said that part of a strategy to combat racism in the Union and wider society must be the refusal to grant a platform to far-right political leaders who espouse anti-immigrant and Islamophobic views.
Kate Douglas, a representative of the group, said: “The Oxford Union has contributed to a climate where racist thugs have had the confidence to march on the streets of Oxford.”
“Fascists express the most extreme forms of racism,” Douglas continued, “and for the Union to refuse to recognise this would show the Oxford Union’s apology to be insincere and their commitment to anti-racism to be a sham.”
This is not the first conflict that Oxford’s UAF chapter has sought to influence the Oxford Union’s activities. UAF were instrumental in the March protests over the Union’s giving a platform for Marine Le Pen. The UAF also helped organise the protests during the 2007 Union visit by Holocaust denier David Irving and BNP Leader Nick Griffin.
The anti-fascist group is now seeking to test the type of commitment made by the Union in its recent apology, which said: “With these commitments we join the pre-existing movement to address the pernicious problem of racism.” The language of the apology does not specify what joining these movements entails. The group’s letter to Olivia Merrett said that to implement this statement would require the Union “to not issue any further invitations to fascists to speak.”