The Nazi British National Party (BNP) has announced that it intends to stand more than 100 candidates in the forthcoming election. It is clearly hoping to capitalise on its 2004 Euro election vote, where it received more than 800,000 votes — the highest vote ever for a Nazi party in British history.
Over the last few years the BNP has tried to emulate the strategy pursued by other European fascist parties. Its leaders want to portray the BNP as a “normal political party”. Gone for the time being are the skinheads and their Nazi regalia.
But beneath the suits and ties the BNP still remains a Nazi party. In 2002, just after the BNP gained three council seats in Burnley, leader Nick Griffin bragged that his ultimate aim was an all-white Britain. And at Christmas 2004 he was arrested on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred.
Across Britain people are mobilising to stop the Nazis. In order to organise an effective campaign it is worth looking at the BNP plans for this election.
A leaked memo to regional BNP organisers stated, “Although we in all probability will not win a seat in the general election, we must use the opportunity to build local BNP groups and become accepted and respected in our target wards.”
The goal is building a base for the next round of council elections in May 2006. Each BNP region has been instructed to identify one key constituency where it will focus all its resources.
The main focus will be Keighley in Yorkshire where Griffin is standing. Other targetes are Burnley, Stoke South, Dagenham and Broxbourne.
A mass campaign to undermine the BNP is well underway. Unite Against Fascism was formed at the end of 2003. It brought together the Anti Nazi League and National Assembly Against Racism, trade unionists (every major union in the country is affiliated to Unite), community and faith groups.
Last Saturday Unite organised a 450-strong conference — the biggest anti-fascist conference for over ten years.
However in Keighley the Labour Party, alongside the local trades council and the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, has launched a localised campaign against the BNP organised along the lines of “Vote Labour to stop the BNP”.
Of course the Labour Party and its members despise the BNP as much as anyone else. But as Labour MP for Dagenham, John Cruddas, pointed out when he addressed last weekend’s Unite conference, promoting the BNP threat was one of the key ways of mobilising demoralised Labour voters.
Unite activists will be doing all they can to stop Griffin in Keighley. But there are real dangers of an anti-Nazi campaign that focuses on voting Labour.
The BNP has been able to make electoral gains on the back of a demoralised electorate who hate what Labour has done. And when the Labour government attempts to out-Tory the Tories on the question of asylum and immigration, it stokes up racist sentiments.
In Keighley Labour MP Ann Cryer has campaigned against Asians arranging marriages with a partner from the subcontinent. She says that many cannot speak English and are therefore guilty of disadvantaging their children and segregating themselves.
Not only does this kind of talk legitimise the BNP, it alienates Asians, blacks and anti-racists from voting Labour. What is needed is a campaign that unites and maximises the numbers who are opposed to the BNP — whether they vote Labour, Respect, Green or not at all.
With more and more people becoming disillusioned with Labour, the BNP will fight the election on the politics of despair — racism, bigotry and Islamophobia.
That’s why Respect is so important. In Bradford in Yorkshire and in 30 other seats Respect will be campaigning on the politics of hope — of opposition to war and privatisation and for the rights of refugees.