The campaign to stop fascist BNP leader Nick Griffin becoming MP for Barking hit the streets again last Saturday.
Griffin is planning to stand in the constituency in the upcoming general election.
Around 100 anti-fascist activists took part in a successful day of action organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF).
Campaigners delivered 14,000 leaflets, putting the case against the BNP across two wards in the constituency.
They also ran a lively stall in Barking’s shopping area that met with a very good response.
More than 100 local people signed up to keep in touch with the campaign and to get involved.
Clara Osagiede, an RMT union rep for the cleaners on London Underground, lives in Dagenham.
She said, “We’ve got momentum and we can stop the BNP. People don’t really know what the BNP is. The BNP stirs up hatred, to divide and rule.”
Francis is from Ghana. He is a building worker but is struggling to find work.
He said, “Barking is a very friendly place to live.
“But there are so many people looking for work. You call the jobcentre about a job and it has already gone.
“If you are a banker you are OK.
“But if you are a building worker, like me, then it’s another question.”
The BNP tries to use competition between workers for jobs and services to stir up racist divisions.
There are important arguments to be won if the BNP is to be effectively challenged.
There are many people who hate the BNP but who wrongly believe that migrants are a cause of unemployment and cuts in local services.
The campaign against the BNP needs the broadest possible unity.
But comments like those by Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP for Barking, in the Daily Mail last week are the worst way to challenge the Nazis.
She wrote that “economic migrants” should only get access to social housing and other key benefits based on “what they have paid into the system”.
She claimed people in Barking had “legitimate concerns about the strain that the growth in the local population had placed on jobs and services”.
This is a dangerous concession to the arguments of the BNP. Far from undermining it, these comments will boost the fascists. Simon Darby, the deputy leader of the BNP, welcomed Hodge’s comments with glee.
He wrote on his blog, “Picking up the Daily Mail this morning and reading how Margaret Hodge is now adopting BNP policy in a bid to cling to power empowers me with a sense of almost biblical righteousness.”
Migrants are not to blame. Hodge admits that, “of course we need to build more houses”.
She then claims that “there won’t be a return to the 1960s and 70s when we saw mass building of council houses”.
Why can’t we do this? There are thousands of building workers, just like Francis, looking for employment.
A good first step would be to end the government’s insistence that councils like Barking hand over the millions of pounds they collect in rent to the Treasury.
Barking currently has to pay £20 million a year towards a national “housing debt”.
This money could be used to refurbish existing council properties – and to start building new council homes.
The next UAF day of action in Barking is on Sunday 21 February, 12–4pm. For further details go to » www.uaf.org.uk or phone 020 7801 2782
Unite Against Fascism
national conferenceSaturday 13 February, 10am to 5pm
TUC Conference Centre, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS