For years the mainstream media has peddled a myth about racism and fascism – that they are primarily an affliction of the “white working class”, and that respectable people steer clear of such unsavoury political affiliations.
In fact historically fascism has been a primarily middle class phenomenon.
The fascist parties created in Italy, Germany and elsewhere in the 1920s drew their core support from the “petty bourgeoisie” – small businessmen, the self-employed, minor professions and the like.
During times of crisis these people often see their livelihoods destroyed – but they do not have the traditions of collective resistance found among the working class.
That is one reason why they are particularly prone to the radical right wing rhetoric of the fascists.
The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky described how fascist organisations built up their base out of such “human dust”.
Membership records from the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s show how the party drew its support from the lower ranks of the middle class.
Last week’s leak demonstrates that their political heirs in the BNP follow precisely the same pattern.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the BNP gets no support from the working class.
The leaked list includes a number of workers, including at least five former shop stewards.
And in times of economic crisis and where socialist organisation among workers is moribund, the fascists can get a foothold and a hearing in working class communities.
Last weekend saw Hazel Blears, secretary of state for communities and local government, give the government’s response to the BNP leak.
Certain aspects of Blears’s statement were welcome, including the new emphasis on anti-fascist campaigning by the labour movement in the tradition of Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League.
But she distorts the picture by insisting on viewing the BNP through the lens of the “white working class”.
This notion that white workers have their own distinct interests is at best misleading and at worst plays into the BNP’s hands.
For more information on the campaign against the Nazi BNP contact Unite Against Fascism – phone 020 7833 4916 or go to » www.uaf.org.uk