With two months to go before the European elections on Thursday 4 June, anti-Nazi campaigners are stepping up their attempts to block the fascist British National Party (BNP) from grabbing seats in the European parliament.
Fears over unemployment and the recession, disarray among Labour activists, racism in the press and the collapse of the hard right UK Independence Party have all come together to fuel the BNP's chances in the election.
But campaigning against the BNP can still make a crucial difference on the ground – both in terms of spreading the message that the BNP are Nazis, and in terms of increasing the turnout of the anti-Nazi vote.
The European elections are run on a proportional representation basis. This means the fascists only need around 10 percent of the vote to grab a seat in some constituencies. But it also means that every vote against the BNP helps to keep them out of office.
Martin Lynch is convenor of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) in the Black Country. He spoke to Socialist Worker about BNP activity in his area – and what local campaigners were doing to stop the fascists.
'The BNP are more cocky than they've been for a long while,' he said. 'There's a small but active group of BNP members who have been running stalls around the Black Country. They've popped up in Stourbridge, Dudley and Kidderminster recently.
'But it's patchy – the fascists are still relatively weak in places such as Wolverhampton and Walsall where the left and the labour movement has been active against them.'
On occasions UAF has found out about these stalls and mobilised local activists to turn up and confront the fascists, he adds.
But this is just one aspect of a broader strategy that aims to spread the anti-BNP message as widely as possible.
'We need to engage with large groups of people – and that involves working with organisations, not just talking to individuals on the streets,' says Martin.
'We've been making links with trade unions on a branch and regional level, as well as local mosques and other community organisations. We have to talk to a large number of people if we're going to make a difference at the European elections.'
One recent success was a UAF regional dayschool that saw 70 people hear a variety of trade unionists and anti-fascist activists talk about the fight against the BNP in the West Midlands.
Meanwhile, the BNP's leader Nick Griffin has continued to run into protests on his 'Battle of Britain' fundraising tour.
Previously the Nazis have had venues cancelled on them after local anti-fascists found out about their plans.
Griffin pitched up in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire on Wednesday of last week. East Midlands UAF found out about the event and called a protest against it at short notice.
Around 50 people gathered to protest outside The Nags Head pub, where the fascists were meeting. The protesters included activists from Notts trades council and local branches of the Unison, GMB and Unite unions.
They handed out UAF newspapers and a specially printed leaflet to passers-by explaining the reasons for the protest.
'The response was 100 percent against the BNP,' said Dave Kuivala, a local worker who was on the protest. 'We gave out hundreds of leaflets and newspapers. There will be more events, leafleting and lots to do between now and the European elections.'
Love Music Hate Racism festival in Stoke
This year's LMHR festival is to take place at Stoke City's Britannia Stadium on Saturday 30 May. The line up will be unveiled soon but tickets are on sale now – go to » scfcdirect.com or phone 08716 632 007.