1st Edition

No Free Speech for Fascists Exploring ‘No Platform’ in History, Law and Politics

By David Renton Copyright 2021
    174 Pages
    by Routledge

    174 Pages
    by Routledge

    No Free Speech for Fascists explores the choice of anti-fascist protesters to demand that the opportunities for fascists to speak in public places are rescinded, as a question of history, law, and politics. It explains how the demand to no platform fascists emerged in 1970s Britain, as a limited exception to a left-wing tradition of support for free speech.

    The book shows how no platform was intended to be applied narrowly, only to a right-wing politics that threatened everyone else. It contrasts the rival idea of opposition to hate speech that also emerged at the same time and is now embodied in European and British anti-discrimination laws. Both no platform and hate speech reject the American First Amendment tradition of free speech, but the ways in which they reject it are different. Behind no platform is not merely a limited range of political targets but a much greater scepticism about the role of the state. The book argues for an idea of no platform which takes on the electronic channels on which so much speech now takes place. It shows where a fascist element can be recognised within the much wider category of far-right speech.

    This book will be of interest to activists and to those studying and researching political history, law, free speech, the far right, and anti-fascism. It sets out a philosophy of anti-fascism for a social media age.

    1. Introduction

    Part I: History

    2. Free Speech c.1640–c.1972

    3. The Exception: Fascism and Anti-Fascism

    4. No Platform in the UK 1972–1979

    5. A Path Not Taken: The United States 1977–1979

    6. The Right Demands a Respectful Audience 1980–2020

    Part II: Law

    7. The Wrongs of Hate Speech

    8. Hate Speech, No Platform and Competing Rights

    9. Hate Speech and the State

    Part III: Politics

    10. The Battle Against Hate Speech Goes Online

    11. On Being Silenced, Masculinity and Victimhood

    12. The Ideological Capture of Free Speech

    13. Who Are the Fascists; Tactics for Those Who Aren’t

    14. Conclusion


    David Renton is a British historian and barrister. His other books include Labour’s Antisemitism Crisis: What Should the Left Have Done? (Routledge 2022) and Never Again: Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League 1976–1982 (Routledge 2019).

    "Detailed, well-researched and considered...a fascinating, thought-provoking and important contribution to the study of No Platform." - Paul Jackson, Searchlight.

    "This book is about a lot more than the rights and wrongs of the policy of No Platform for fascists. Renton looks at the history of censorship and how it was the right wing that imposed it and the left which always fought it....Renton’s book offers a thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion of the issue of free speech." - Mike Phipps, LabourHub.

    "A valuable practical contribution....By describing the history and development of no platform and articulating clear left positions on free speech, No Free Speech for Fascists can be a useful contribution to struggles against a fascist milieu that, much like a century ago, has the potential to grow into a much larger threat. Amidst the noise of the culture wars, it can be challenging to focus on the specific threat of fascism within a resurgent far-right, and such clarity as can be found here is worth having." - Katie Feyh, Tempest.