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Nick Cohen
Sunday 28th June 2009
Blacklisting White Supremacists

I've a piece in today's Observer which I found a real struggle to think through. The question was, should BNP members be banned from working in the public sector solely because they are members of the BNP? Certainly, I would expect any black, Jewish or Asian citizen to feel profoundly uneasy if they found that the man handling their tax affairs or charging them with an offence belonged to a racist party.

Equally, if I found that a teacher at my child's school was a BNP member, I would be outraged and probably get him out of there. However, in the end blacklisting because a public servant is a member of a legal political party however foul struck me as wrong in principle if there were no other charges to lay against him or her and you could not prove that they left their politics at the office door. In the piece, I look at the very mild purges of communist sympathisers in the Fifties, and how the worst thing that happened to Eric Hobsbawm was that he was not promoted. (He would have been shot, if he had been foolish enough to have fled Nazi Germany to Stalin's Soviet Union rather than boring old England in the 1930s, as this wonderful piece by Christopher Hitchens explains here). In the current issue, Jonathan Foreman describes in his memoir of his father how Britain provided a home for artists fleeing the anti-communist purges of Hollywood. His account left me feeling rather proud of this country. Blacklists are not our way. My piece is here

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About Nick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Fourth Estate) and What's Left? How The Left Lost Its Way (Harper Perennial). Living With Lies, a collection of his writing for Standpoint, is available as an ebook. 

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