In June, the British National Party won the first ever seats for a fascist party at a British national election. Those who have tried to downplay the significance of its breakthrough in getting MEPs elected in the North West and Yorkshire regions do a disservice to everyone threatened by the rise of the extreme right. It was wrong to promote complacency about BNP prospects before those elections and it is even more dangerous to underestimate the significance of these results. In fact, the BNP has been steadily building electoral support over recent years, first gaining seats on local councils, then a seat last year on the London Assembly and now its first ever seats in a national election. That reality has to be faced up to and understood if the trend is to be reversed. As we have already seen on television, radio and in the press, these results have enormously magnified the ability of the fascists to preach their doctrine of hate. There will be more racist attacks, more homophobic violence and more attacks on Muslims, Jews and other minorities as a result. This has been borne out by the recent hate crime statistics, which show that racist attacks have increased up to 27-fold in areas with an increased BNP presence. Not only that, but MEPs receive massive financial resources which will now be used by the BNP to target key seats in the next parliamentary and local elections. And mainstream parties will bend to BNP politics in the mistaken belief that this will stop its growth when it will only legitimise its ideology of division and hate. The anti-fascist movement must review its strategy to deal with the increased fascist threat. There have been many debates in recent years and reality has now put them to the test.
First, we must understand what fascism is. It stands for the destruction of the trade unions, the left, democratic freedoms and rabid racism and homophobia, posing a mortal threat to those it targets. At any particular time its targets are selected to take advantage of the prejudices that exist in society and are promoted by the media and mainstream parties. In the 1930s, for example, a cutting edge of the nazis was anti-semitism. Today's fascists are as anti-semitic as ever, but the main prejudices they feed upon and promote are racism and Islamophobia. Any strategy which does not confront racism and Islamophobia head on will fail to defeat the fascists. Equally, anyone who thinks you can have an anti-fascist movement in Britain today without black, Asian and Muslim communities playing a central role alongside trade unions, the left and the lesbian and gay communities is simply splitting the forces that need to unite to defeat the fascists. A united strategy which brings together all these social forces and challenges the racist myths which are the cutting edge of the BNP is the key to success. It successfully stopped the BNP in Oldham when it was on course to make a breakthrough in 2001 and removed it from Tower Hamlets council in 1994.
The anti-fascist movement's strategy must be based on what works, not wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of trade union funds on a strategy that divides and weakens the anti-fascist majority. The BNP vote was based on real racist hatred, as shown in a Yougov poll for Channel 4 on the European elections. The results indicated that a third of BNP voters thought there was a difference in intelligence between black and white people. Ninety-four per cent thought that all further immigration should be halted. Forty-four peer cent disagreed with gay and lesbian couples having civil partnerships equal to marriage. Seventy-nine per cent thought Islam was a serious danger to western civilisation. The BNP courted these voters in the run-up to the election, stating that black and Asian people in this country should be classified as "racial foreigners" to be "repatriated" - something which would only be possible through violence and destroying democracy. Its website also targeted three MPs on a list of "liars, buggers and thieves," including Chris Bryant and Ron Davies, as part of a list of criminals that was designed to whip up homophobia. Even with the option of voting UKIP, the BNP used the fears and prejudices fanned by the economic crisis to consolidate a racist vote.
The anti-fascist majority has received a wake-up call. We don't need puffed-up claims of BNP crisis. We need an accurate assessment of what the BNP is and an effective strategy to unite the core forces who can lead the majority to defeat them.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.