The British National Party (BNP) has been picking up seats in elections recently, including their first place on the London assembly. What is fuelling this disturbing trend?
There are several factors. The first is simple – they tell lies. The BNP trades on whipping up fear and creating scapegoats out of immigrants and ethnic minorities.
For instance, in the London borough of Barking & Dagenham, the fascists claimed that council housing had disappeared because it was being given to black Africans. The truth is that there is a chronic shortage of council housing in the borough – and the BNP councillors there voted against building new homes.
It’s important to tackle these lies. But there are deeper reasons for why the BNP is attracting so many votes. One is the fact that the mainstream parties have significantly less local involvement and engagement than they once had.
The BNP has exploited this political vacuum to present itself as some kind of political alternative. We need to expose their claims on this front too.
More broadly, in places such as Stoke-on-Trent or Dagenham there has been a decline in stable workplaces such as factories, as well as social changes that wide swathes of society have not benefited from.
Young people in particular have a sense of hopelessness about their future.
On top of this, an atmosphere has been built up by mainstream newspapers of scapegoating migrant workers, eastern Europeans and Muslims.
This creates a reservoir of bitterness and hatred in society that the BNP taps into.
So how do we go about stopping the rise of the BNP?
It’s worth pointing out that, despite their recent electoral gains, the BNP only attracts a tiny minority in society. The majority is always anti-fascist and most people vote for democratic parties.
So we need to mobilise this anti-fascist majority. That means getting ordinary people out in their thousands – like at the Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) carnival back in April, or on this Saturday’s demonstration.
When we do that we pose a living example that the Nazis are wrong. We march together, we live together and we learn together.
We have to challenge the Nazis where they are trying to build a base.
It’s also vital that we expose the BNP as a fascist organisation. It is currently following a strategy of posing as “respectable” and pretending to be a legitimate political organisation.
We have to make it clear that the BNP is not a party like any other. No democratic party operates by using threats of violence and thuggery against their political opponents.
Isolating the BNP can stop the fascists from recruiting and pulling in people attracted by its racism.
What role can trade unions and political parties play in the anti-fascist movement?
The most successful campaigns – such as the Anti Nazi League in the 1970s and 1990s – pulled together trade unions, political parties and different community groups.
These campaigns are not simply about getting people out to vote – although that is important – they are also about providing a challenge on the ground to stop the fascists from building.
Because fascists operate both legally and illegally, it is not possible to challenge them by relying on the courts and the law.
Trade unions have historically been a vital bulwark against the fascists. They have both grassroots and national organisation.
They can only work by being united – so they have to oppose racism and all the divisions that the Nazis love to foster.
The key components of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) are trade unions, black, Muslim and community groups, LGBT groups and socialists.
It is also important to involve political parties, but the anti-fascist campaign should not just become a machine to gather votes for any particular political party. UAF calls on people to vote for whoever they want to stop the BNP.
Why is it so important to build the movement against the BNP?
The Nazis in Britain aren’t marching on the street at the moment. This is a sign of their weakness. However we can see in both Italy and France that the fascists will turn their votes into street marches – unless we can weaken them further.
We need to create a vibrant culture of people on the ground challenging the fascists everywhere they go.
This won’t happen overnight. It’s going to be a long process of arguments that carefully expose the BNP’s real history, from the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s all the way through to the National Front until today.
The key question is what type of society we want to live in. The fascists in the BNP want to bring back the very worst parts of human history.
They want to repeat the Nazi Holocaust, to stoke up racism and antisemitism, to attack Muslims, trade unionists, gays and lesbians.
They want to make all those evil things acceptable in our society again.
Only by standing together can we reject this poisonous form of politics.
That’s why we all have a responsibility to step forward, unite and defeat the Nazi BNP.