There is a terrible danger that the fascist British National Party (BNP) could make a major breakthough on 4 June by winning seats in the European parliament elections.
This would give the BNP a chance to entrench and legitimise itself as a political force in Britain and across Europe.
It would become Britain’s fifth biggest party – with its MEPs able to grab over £350,000 every year from the European Union.
It would also be able to link up with other European far right groups in the parliament, such as France’s Front National, Italy’s Northern League and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang.
The BNP is feeding off the political climate created by the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.
It is reaping the benefits of the use of the poisonous slogan “British jobs for British workers” by scapegoating “foreign workers” and immigrants for the recession.
It is also feeding off the general climate of racism against Muslims, asylum seekers and eastern European workers.
The decline in New Labour’s vote, and the collapse of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) since it won 12 MEPs in 2004, could help the BNP to make gains.
The BNP threat exists across Britain. It is targeting seats in the North West of England, Yorkshire & Humber and the West Midlands – three areas where it polled large votes in the last European elections in 2004 and in subsequent council elections.
But even in London, one of the largest multicultural cities in the world, there is a real threat that the BNP can build on its success in getting a seat in the London assembly last year.
The proportional representation system means that the BNP does not need to win a majority to get elected.
In the West Midlands for example, the BNP would need to poll about 11.5 percent to win a seat – which would mean an increase of just 4 percent on its 2004 vote.
Despite the objective circumstances, the rise of the BNP is not inevitable – and what we do in the next days and weeks can make a critical difference in stopping them. This means building the broadest possible movement to mobilise people in a mass campaign against the Nazis. This movement needs to involve every organisation, particularly the trade unions, and any person who hates what the BNP stands for.
Unite Against Fascism (UAF) groups across the country are attempting to do this.
They are organising mass leafleting, days of action, gigs and other events to spread the anti-fascist message.
Wherever the BNP tries to organise, UAF should be there – organising to counter every Nazi stall, meeting, rally and demonstration. We have to continue to expose the BNP as a fascist organisation.
But we also have to mobilise the anti-fascist majority in the major cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and London to get the vote out in opposition to the BNP.
Even a small rise in the anti-BNP vote could make all the difference by increasing the number of votes to win a seat in the European parliament.
The work we do now can go beyond the European elections and help to lay the basis for longer term networks of anti-fascists who can drive back the BNP.
The size of the European electoral constituencies means that we need big anti-fascist events and broad initiatives to create momentum against the BNP, and to inspire people to get involved in the campaign.
The Love Music Hate Racism festival in Stoke on Saturday 30 May is the biggest such event, but there are also rallies, gigs and other events planned across Britain.
Mass leafleting is going to be crucial – and UAF activists are organising stalls to do this at shopping centres and transport hubs.
UAF is calling on supporters to join in national days of action against the BNP on 2 and 3 May, 16 and 17 May, 31 May and election day, 4 June.
If there’s a campaign in your area, get involved. If there isn’t, set one up. Everyone can play a part in driving back the Nazis.
Weyman Bennett is joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism. He writes in a personal capacity. To get involved go to » www.uaf.org.uk