1st Edition

No Platform
A History of Anti-Fascism, Universities and the Limits of Free Speech

ISBN 9781138591684
Published May 11, 2020 by Routledge
238 Pages

USD $44.95

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Book Description

This book is the first to outline the history of the tactic of ‘no platforming’ at British universities since the 1970s, looking at more than four decades of student protest against racist and fascist figures on campus.

The tactic of ‘no platforming’ has been used at British universities and colleges since the National Union of Students adopted the policy in the mid-1970s. The author traces the origins of the tactic from the militant anti-fascism of the 1930s–1940s and looks at how it has developed since the 1970s, being applied to various targets over the last 40 years, including sexists, homophobes, right-wing politicians and Islamic fundamentalists. This book provides a historical intervention in the current debates over the alleged free speech ‘crisis’ perceived to be plaguing universities in Britain, as well as North America and Australasia.

No Platform: A History of Anti-Fascism, Universities and the Limits of Free Speech is for academics and students, as well as the general reader, interested in modern British history, politics and higher education. Readers interested in contemporary debates over freedom of speech and academic freedom will also have much to discover in this book.

Table of Contents

1. ‘No Platform’ in Historical and Contemporary Context  2. Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Free Speech before ‘No Platform’  3. The Student Movement and the Prelude to ‘No Platform’  4. The National Union of Students and ‘No Platform’ in the 1970s  5. Expanding ‘No Platform’ in the 1980s  6. Hard Right Politicians and Student Protests at Universities in the 1980s  7. Into the Twenty-first Century  8. Why ‘No Platform’ Matters

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Evan Smith is a research fellow in history at the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Flinders University in South Australia. He has published widely on the history of political extremism, social movements, national security and borders in Britain, Australia and South Africa. He is the author of British Communism and the Politics of Race (2018) and co-editor (with Jon Piccini and Matthew Worley) of The Far Left in Australia since 1945 (Routledge, 2018).


"No platforming is the subject of much polemic but very little in the way of grounded knowledge. No matter how many times activists remind us that choosing not to give a racist, sexist or transphobic speaker a platform is not the same as censoring their words, free speech absolutists say the contrary. In No Platform, Evan Smith has given us a detailed reconstruction of the history of the principle in Britain, avoiding the very polemic that its defenders are accused of, and using student and activist accounts to read ‘against the grain’ of a ‘prevailing narrative’ that constantly undermines the fight against gendered bigotry and racial hate. At a time of rising openness to white supremacism, No Platform is a must-read for all who seek to learn from the past in order to build for a more just future." - Alana Lentin, Associate Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis, Western Sydney University

"Evan Smith’s No Platform is an essential read for anyone interested in the contemporary reactionary context. Smith offers a lucid, powerful and thoroughly researched history of the no platform tradition and its impact on the moral panics created by the right and the shaping of much of our political discourse today. It is not just an exceptional academic work, it is an incredibly useful and empowering account of why bad ideas cannot be allowed to thrive unchallenged and how they can and should be defeated." - Aurelien Mondon, Senior Lecturer at the University of Bath (PoLIS Department)

"Evan Smith’s authoritative account of ‘no platform’ politics is both a compelling contribution to the field of far-right studies, and a critical contemporary intervention. Contrary to the lazy assumption that the tactic is nothing more than an anti-democratic refusal of thought and engagement, his nuanced account of its shifting and conflicted historical shape reveals it as a focus through which situated understandings of free speech, democratic expression and political equality have been consistently formed and negotiated." - Gavan Titley, Senior Lecturer, Department of Media Studies, Maynooth University