The election of two British National Party fascists to the European Parliament was not just a symbolic victory for reactionary ideas and organisation in this country. The victories of Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons have given a massive boost in confidence, prestige and — importantly — money to the BNP.
Nationwide the BNP won 943,598 votes or 6.2% of the vote. Election after election, the BNP are winning more support, more votes at the ballot box. Add on the votes for other parties to the right of the Tories (UKIP, for example) and the total “far right” vote increases to around 23% — or almost a quarter of all voters.
A YouGov poll conducted after the latest election shows that 87% of BNP supporters consider immigration to be the number one issue facing the country. 94% of them think all immigration should be stopped. 74% feel they don’t have enough money to live on and 57% think the Labour Party no longer represents their interests.
Anti-fascists and the broad labour movement need to digest the meaning of this data and face the burgeoning realities of the political landscape: The combined far-right vote is increasing and the Tories look set to win the next election; a vote for the BNP or UKIP is not simply a “protest” against Labour, but an expression of anti-immigrant and racist thinking; the economic crisis and the manifold betrayals and attacks on the working class by this government have left people desperate and disenchanted.
If the left understands how the political picture is changing, we can be sure that the right wing and the fascists have some feel for it too.
In Eastern Europe racist, nationalistic and xenophobic ideas received a massive boost in the wake of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes. “Socialism” was discredited and the far-right exploited subterranean tensions between ethnic and national groups to build a political base. This resulted in mass racist attacks, the further destruction of solidarity and in some cases widespread ethnic cleansing and war. Today, fascist and right-wing parties enjoy significant popular support and wield real political influence.
We do not face the same situation in Britain but we can see the similarities: the discrediting of the traditional party of the working class and “socialism”, a crisis wracked economy, pervasive anti-immigrant and nationalistic ideas, the expression of real racist sentiment at the ballot box and on the streets. The BNP has already invested huge amounts of energy and money into breaking down working class solidarity and unity, with their increased funding and confidence we can expect to face a renewed political onslaught.
The labour movement and the left needs to begin a process of re-organisation if we are to resist the rightward drift and engage in battles on our own terms. But we also need to organise specifically against the threat posed by the BNP fascists. This should be a continuing campaign based on working class politics, a campaign rooted in the labour movement, a campaign that mobilises the working class. We need to organise politically but we also need to perform a basic job: to knock some of the confidence out of the BNP and their supporters.
The first big opportunity to do this is on 15 August when anti-fascists from Nottingham, Derby and Amber Valley have called a national demonstration against the BNP’s “Red, White and Blue” summer festival.
We need the biggest possible turnout to demonstrate that in the face of the fascists’ attempts to undermine it, working class unity and solidarity – across racial, ethnic and sexual lines – is still a force to be contended with.