Where does the fight against the BNP go next in Barking and Dagenham, following the total wipeout of all 12 of the Nazis’ councillors?
A meeting of Barking and Dagenham Unite Against Fascism (UAF) on Tuesday discussed the how the BNP was defeated and how to carry on the anti-fascist struggle.
Alys Zaerin, the regional organiser for UAF in Barking and Dagenham began by celebrating a “fantastic victory” over the BNP.
But she added, “the BNP does have a base here. It would be a mistake to lose the networks UAF has built up.
'There is still work to be done to ensure the BNP can’t crawl back. We want to drive racism out of workplaces and communities across Barking.”
Simon Assaf from UAF, added, “What we did was the electoral equivalent of stopping the blackshirts at Cable Street in the 1930s or stopping the National Front in Lewisham in 1977.”
“Nick Griffin and the BNP put a huge emphasis on winning in Barking and Dagenham.
“They are in crisis because they realise that the white working class rejected them.”
Simon added that the defeat for the electoral wing of the fascists may mean a strengthening of the street wing, the English Defence League.
“We now need to isolate the EDL,” he said. “Our victories in Barking and elsewhere—like Stoke—can be a stepping stone to doing that.”
Three Labour councillors attended the meeting.
Darren Rodwell, is a newly elected councillor for the Alibon ward, where he defeated Bob Bailey, the BNP’s London organiser.
He said that he joined Labour after the election of the 12 BNP councillors in 2006.
“I am proud to have stood side by side with UAF.
“We in the Labour Party knocked on 140,000 doors, spoke to just under 40,000 residents over the last three and a half years.”
“But the job is not done. There is a long four years ahead. If we stop campaigning then the BNP will be back in 2014. Fascism is like a cancer—unless you totally cut it away, it will return.”
Dominic Bryne, the branch secretary of Barking NUT teachers’ union, spoke about the success of the NUT sponsored day of action against the BNP organised jointly with UAF.
He also said, “When Love Music Hate Racism went into schools it had an impact, and students encouraged their parents to vote.”
A number of people said they hoped that LMHR would now be able to hold a carnival in Barking.
George Barratt, Labour councillor for Mayesbrook ward, said “UAF made a tremendous contribution. The Labour Party is very focused on local issues.
“UAF provided a very political slant, it focused on the very serious threat we faced with the BNP.”
He added that one lesson from the campaign he drew was that, “when the parliamentary left and the left outside parliament work together we can achieve great things.”
Roddy from the Socialist Workers Party celebrated the joint work that had defeated the BNP. He added,
“We want to turn our victory into something permanent. There is a big whirlwind of cuts coming. We need strong trade unions to fight back, or the Nazis can grew again.”
The austerity cuts the new government is set to unleash will be a challenge to the Labour council. Will they resist them or will they implement cuts?
Imposing cuts would be a disaster and allow the BNP their best chance of reviving locally.
One person at the meeting said he had taken part in both UAF’s campaign in Barking but also with other anti-fascist campaigners.
“I preferred UAF’s approach of talking to people one on one and not just leafleting. When we were out canvassing we convinced a lot of people not to vote for the BNP, ” he said
A notable feature of the meting was that a number of people with an African heritage who now live in Barking attended. Several spoke about their elation and relief at the BNP’s defeat.
One woman who lives on the Gascoigne estate said, “When the BNP won those councillors in 2006 I asked everyone, ‘where were you?’ Next time you must vote. When I heard that this time it was ‘nil point’ for the BNP I was so happy.”
Marcel, originally from the Ivory Coast and Mike from Nigeria had both campaigned to get people to vote against the BNP.
After the meeting, Marcel and Mike took us around a number of local shops run by Africans to meet people they had involved in spreading the anti-BNP message.
It is clear that the formal, organised, campaign run by UAF had helped galvanise opposition to the BNP far across the borough.