The financial crisis, offering nothing in the way of hope for working class people in Britain, also gives the British National Party dangerously big opportunities. Predictably the far-right party have been very vocal about what they can gain out of the thousands of job losses and financial insecurity of workers.
Speaking back in October 2008, BNP Deputy Treasurer David Hannam was blunt about how his party should approach the crisis; “economic meltdowns are one of the drivers of political revolutions and the BNP must be ready to take advantage of the mess all the other parties have made of the economy”.
The BNP leadership claims to be ideally placed to see substantial growth in its support as a direct result of the crisis. Sickeningly they are probably right. With the help of the mainstream right-wing press and its fear-mongering, more and more working class people are questioning what the hell has got us into this mess and why, with all the money we give them and all the resources they have, did the Labour government not predict and prevent the downturn in the markets?
While left points out that capitalism doesn’t work for workers, and tries to convince people of our ideas, the BNP are doing the same and trying to gather around working-class people looking for political answers after being so obviously let down.
The BNP website praises European countries, like Belgium, that are opting to keep their borders firmly closed to immigrants from newer EU countries for a further three years. Belgium, they say, wants to “protect” its workers from the hanging threat of increasing unemployment.
This helps the BNP build their approach to the crisis upon their usual base, yet fervently denied, racism, stating openly that “We must safeguard all British jobs and ensure that they are only filled by British workers who are spending their wages in the British economy supporting their families here. Not migrant workers sending the money to dependents in Poland”.
The BNP claim that the only way to respond to economic instability is to withdraw fully from the international market, to become entirely self-sufficient, to close borders to import and export of everything from food to workers and even to reclaim the oceans to ensure “that British fishermen can once again provide fish for our tables rather than Spanish fishermen provide food for theirs”.
Hannam, when addressing a meeting of the BNP Scarborough and Ryedale’s branch, told members that “each immigrant who entered Britain decreased job prospects for native British workers. Our freedom is linked to the financial state of the country, and in a recession it is the workers who are first and hardest hit. The truth is that in an economically declining society, the worker is hit, but even in a so-called economically growing society, it is the worker who also gets hit. Successful monopolies are a by-product of globalism, and it is monopolies that decrease the demand for workers.”
So the BNP are relying heavily on the fear within working-class communities as a result of the financial instability in the recent months. Thousands of job losses, the closing of high street shops and the freeze in the housing market many serve as evidence to workers of the accuracy BNP’s doom-filled prophecy of their fate under the weight off the crisis.
It is not inevitable that there will be a sudden rush on BNP membership forms being dowloaded from their website. It is not a given that financial instability provides an instant lift to recruitment figures of the fascists. The economic crisis of the 1970s was predicted by the National Front to be a perfect recruitment ground for their thuggish brand of extreme right bullshit; but any boost to their numbers was patchy and short-lived. By the early 1980s they hardly existed despite the three million unemployed and a bank base rate of 15%.
But we cannot bury our heads in the sand and just hope that the BNP won’t grow; it is our responsibility to be talking to these workers about socialism. We are the ones to be offering answers, and answers that aren’t fuelled by racism and hatred.
It is our duty as socialists to be doing everything we can to ensure that people find their political alternative in working-class politics built on internationalism and not in the hands of the racist, sex, homophobic and, yes, anti-working class BNP.