The British National Party’s continuing electoral advances have propelled the party onto the national stage and initiated a debate about why it is achieving historically unprecedented results for the far right in Britain. What is driving its recent successes, how might it be stopped and what is the role of the left in this effort?
This debate is essentially over strategy: about our relation to anti-fascism and what it ought to be in today’s conditions. There is one question that is not being asked, though: is ‘anti-fascism’ the answer to the BNP? Keiron Farrow says it isn’t
The statistics are telling. The BNP now has 60 local councillors and a similar number of parish councillors. By comparison, previous fascist groups had managed three councillors in total in the previous 80 years (this is without counting the seats won and subsequently lost by the BNP). The party has one member on the London Assembly, and now two MEPs in Europe.
Its overall vote has risen in successive local, general and European elections. At locals it has risen to an average of around 15 per cent, while in the European elections the party polled 943,598 votes nationally, 6.2 per cent of the total (up 1.3 per cent on 2004). At Westminster level there are three constituencies where the aggregate ward votes at the 2008 local elections put it in first place.
The BNP had 10,000 members at the end of 2007 – a figure that is likely to have risen since – providing it with a large and expanding activist base. It is not, by national standards, a huge organisation; it is a ‘large small party’ – at best the sixth biggest in the country. Nor, despite its advances, does it pose any immediate threat of gaining serious power. The real danger lies elsewhere, as will be outlined later
.....etc etc etc....
I offer a few positive suggestions towards a new approach.
1 Community unions
We could form ‘community unions’, unconnected to Labour, possibly funded by trade unions but with organisational independence assured, that would work directly on helping to meet the needs of those politically abandoned working-class communities where conditions are deteriorating by the day. These would be based around the self-identified needs and plans of those communities – which can only pit them head-to-head against the BNP and the political mainstream.
The types of small victories that can be won on this terrain should be viewed not only as being worthwhile in themselves, but also as contributing to the re-emergence of community confidence in political self-assertion, the necessary first steps towards achieving further-reaching change. There are already existing groups engaged in this sort of practical activity, such as the London Coalition Against Poverty, Haringey Solidarity and the Oxford and Islington Working Class Associations (see Red Pepper Oct/Nov 2007).
The need for these to be open membership union-type organisations rather than party membership-type groups is a simple practical one. People will join unions at work as they recognise collective needs that exist over and above the heads of political disagreements, and the same is true of community needs. And once there is widespread identification (even passive) of the needs of an area/workplace with the existence of a union it becomes very hard to shift; that identification becomes a power in itself. Parties are too narrow to play this role under today’s conditions – they exist on a different level – but there is no reason why they cannot play a role within these broader open groups.
2 Focus on policy
We should develop the ‘expose them’ model into one that, instead of revealing ineffective details about individuals, concentrates on why their polices will not deal with the social problems driving people into their arms. If we cannot make this clear to those already intensely concerned with these issues then our propaganda is failing and is at best talking to those who would never vote BNP anyway. This will require a direct challenge to Searchlight/UAF and other mainstream anti-fascists as they continue to empty their publications of all but the most inane type of content criticised above. This, of course, needs to be linked to the activity of the ‘community union’ type groups mentioned above.
3 Abandon Labour
Searchlight need to abandon their default pro-Labour position and use their existing networks and resources to get behind local campaigns, actively challenging the conditions that are breeding support for the far right. (This seems unlikely to happen.)
4 End the marches
Stop the marches, labelling, shouting, and so on. Marching into an area that you do not know and have no continuing interest in and shouting what’s right for that area is alienating and counter-productive. People do not like being told what’s best for them and will kick back against or simply ignore this sort of activity.
All of this can be performed without capitulating to racism and without writing off vast swathes of the population. It has to be"
http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Anti-fascism-isn-t-working and note there are replies ( which imho fail to deal with the critique at all) from UAF and HnH
Also check debate at http://www.urban75.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=300349