The British National Party is a fascist party and must be treated as such. Don’t be fooled by their growing electoral success. Don’t think that because “ordinary” people, and even non-racists, are voting for them and joining them that the party has somehow changed. Elected positions and an influx of “moderate” members will not transform the party.
In the BNP, power and policy flow from the top down and the party is run by veteran fascists who won’t deviate from their long held agenda. Whatever they say in public, these people are committed to creating an authoritarian regime, to severe limits on individual and collective freedom in every sphere of life, to racial segregation and eventual removal of non-white people. On top of this, the BNP has a stated commitment to maintaining capitalism and free enterprise, contradicting its claims to be an “alternative”, radical or even revolutionary party.
Yet the BNP will push its electoral strategy to the limit, seeking to capitalise on any and every source of voters’ fear and discontent. These range from local community concerns to disgust over MPs’ expenses, from fears about the economic crisis to concerns over immigration, radical Islam and terrorism. The BNP don’t care what the issue is, or whether people’s fears are justified; they just tailor the message in an attempt to win people over. This is what fascists have always done. They will use the electoral system, democratic “freedoms” and the notion of freedom of speech to put across their poisonous message, For as long as they can, they’ll portraying themselves as a democratic party, acting within the law and seeking to gain power by legal means. Ultimately, their aim is to silence all opposition.
strategy of tension
Yet BNP leaders know that there are limits to their electoral support, even in cases like the recent Euro poll, where the voting system, low turnout, economic uncertainty and popular anger at the “political class” all played into their hands. They know that there will always be a majority opposing them.
How then, can they get around this? In the past, fascists have played the parliamentary game while also exacerbating tensions in society which they hoped would drive people into their camp. In Italy, in the 1920s and as recently as the 1980s, fascists sought to use class conflict, the strength of the left and the perceived threat of revolution to persuade powerful sectors of society, inside and outside of government and industry, to opt for an authoritarian “solution”. In the ’20s this “strategy of tension” worked, with Mussolini’s minority fascist party attacking the left and being hoisted to power by its influential conservative friends. In the ’80s it failed, but only at the cost of many lives, as fascist gangs and their allies in the state structure engaged in armed actions and bombings.
In Britain today, the organised working class has taken a battering and, despite some encouraging signs lately, cannot be painted as being about to seize control. How-ever, this won’t stop the BNP denouncing opposition to it as “red mobs” in an attempt to whip up fears of political violence on the streets. Two days after his election, BNP leader, Nick Griffin, was calling on police to “get a grip” on anti-fascist protestors – the first step in the authoritarian solution he advocates for all Britain’s ills. But the BNP’s main arena will be race and immigration. It will be here that they try to whip up fears of impending social conflict, of the destruction of “traditional” British values and institutions and of the “indigenous” population becoming a persecuted minority in its own country. Here, the BNP will be helped not just by the undercurrent of racism still present in British society, but by those sections of the media and the political elite which feed it on a daily basis with scare stories about everything from asylum seekers, immigrants and Islamists to the EU. Though these media outlets do not support the BNP, their expressions of nationalism and xenophobia inevitably play into the party’s hands.
But for fascists, even this fetid mix of fear and paranoia is not enough. They are already seeking to spice it up with racial violence on a frightening scale. The BNP argument will be helped enormously if they can point to actual conflict between ethnic groups, and moves are already afoot to provoke this. While the BNP itself will seek to retain its democratic and legalistic image, other far right groups, some linked to the party, some not, are already taking to the streets trying to ignite violence. The BNP will deny any ties with them, but will seize upon any resulting clashes to argue that multiculturalism doesn’t work, that black and Asian youth are attacking whites, and that the “indigenous” population can no longer tolerate this state of affairs.
On May 24th, groups calling themselves “March for England” and “United People of Luton” supported a protest in the Bedfordshire town over an earlier Muslim demo against troops returning from Afghanistan. Though some of the organisers denied this was a racist march, around 400 people, some masked, and including known fascists, assembled and roamed the streets waving British and English flags. Asian-owned shops and cars were attacked and police intevened to prevent the mob descending on the Bury Park area, a centre of the town’s Asian community. “March for England” have said they are planning future events.
new phase of conflict
This was barely reported by a mainstream media still playing down the BNP’s potential at the Euro elections, but it is a portent of what is to come and a clarion call to anti-fascists. We are entering a new phase of conflict with the far right and we must be absolutely clear about what we are doing and why. Fascism is about far more than racism, and a reinvigorated far right will not just focus on its perceived racial enemies. Its activists are already targeting radical bookshops, social centres and those on the left. Should the economic crisis deepen, especially in conjunction with the collapse of parliamentary “legitimacy” in the eyes of many and increased racial tension, elements of the state, business and conservatism will begin to contemplate supporting the BNP. By any assessment, this scenario is still far down the road, and circumstances may never bring it into being. But we can ensure that this cannot happen by attacking the BNP and its ilk now, by preventing them from organising and developing their strength, and thereby eliminating them as a potential or actual ally of other anti-working-class forces in society.
Defeating fascism is an integral part of building a revolutionary movement. It increases our combativeness, forces us to communicate our ideas to ever wider circles of potential sympathisers and exposes as false the liberal arguments that fascists have a right to “free speech”, that parliamentary democracy is a defence against the far right, and that relying on the forces of the state is the best way to protect working people from oppression and violence. We must close down fascism as a first step to ridding our class of all of the parasites currently exploiting us and living off our backs.
what is to be done?
Build SF – we have a great tradition of anti-fascism and must recruit on the basis of that and of our work today. We are the revolutionary alternative.
Support wider militant anti-fascist campaigns – that means Antifa (www.antifa.org.uk/) which already has many anarchist adherents. It’s the only national anti-fascist organisation with a policy of “no platform” for fascism, of not allowing the BNP to organise, speak or campaign without physical opposition. If there are like minded people in your area, form an anti-fascist group and get affiliated to Antifa.
New links with those threatened by fascism – the BNP seeks to “divide and rule”, preferring to defeat us piecemeal than to take on a united, militant anti-fascist movement. Anyone who agrees with “no platform”, whether part of organised anti-fascism before or not, now needs to organise around it. A primary responsibility for anti-fascists is to make direct links with communities which fascists will target. This does not mean going to “community leaders” (unless they genuinely back a no platform approach), but making efforts to draw in disaffected and angry members of those communities which militant anti-fascism has often previously struggled to connect with. We can much more quickly raise the numbers we need to swamp fascism by dramatically and imaginatively broadening our networks of supporters. New times call for new tactics and we must look outwards and break down barriers between people willing to confront the BNP.
No platform for fascists – don’t be conned by liberal notions of free speech or of appearing “anti-democratic” by preventing the BNP from organising or speaking. No measure of electoral success can be allowed to legitimise fascism. Organise direct action against all fascist manifestations – stalls, leafleting, meetings, venues, marches. We have made a good start with this. Griffin and Andrew Brons were forced from public view outside Westminster the day after the election. In Manchester the next day, they were boxed into a run down pub owned by a BNP supporter, only fending off protestors with the aid of the police. These protests were organised mainly by Unite Against Fascism, linked to the SWP and reformist trade unions. It has in the past sought to prevent direct action so it remains to be seen whether the BNP’s electoral success will prompt it to take “no platform” more literally.
Keep up the pressure – Griffin says of anti-fascists that “in the end they will get bored”. He clearly intends to put across the party’s message in Britain, rather than jet off to Brussels and fiddle expenses. This will be a crucial contest of will with a BNP desperately trying to be an accepted and permanent feature of the political landscape, to “normalise” and “decontaminate” itself in order to rise up the greasy political pole. Anti-fascists must wreck this strategy at all costs.