By Pete Radcliff
The BNP finished its Red, White and Blue Festival in Codnor, Derbyshire on 5 August. Once again they were able to organise this mass fascist rally without facing national mobilisation from either of the two anti-fascist groupings, Searchlight or Unite against Fascism (UAF). Nor did they face any obstruction from local Labour councils or the police or fire services they are in charge of.
Is this because the BNP are a dwindling threat and there are more important priorities? Hardly! The BNP have never done as well as they have in the 2005 and 2006 local elections.
Is it because the cause of anti-fascism has been marginalised in the labour movement and to mobilise against it would meet with no support? Well perhaps, but if so why do both Searchlight and UAF speak, in the triumphalist terms they have, about the 2006 BNP results and the strength of the alliances they have built against it?
The truth is that the BNP are increasing in strength and the anti-fascist left are both politically and organisationally seriously in disarray.
At the time of going to press, it is not possible to say how many attended the BNP festival. The BNP claimed they would have 2-3,000.
What we do know is that:
* There was a hearing of Amber Valley council that considered a drinks and alcohol license on 18th July. At that panel, made up of mainly Labour members, the police made no objection to the BNP event as they expected no serious anti-fascist presence at it
* Many more racists, particularly from nearby Notts and Derbyshire areas, attended their first fascist event and undoubtedly have been closer integrated into BNP structures.
* Whilst Seachlight provided useful information to the local Labour MP, Judy Mallaber, objecting to the event, nothing was done to consider organising the affiliates of either Searchlight's Hope not Hate campaign nor the UaF to stop the event happening.
The UAF did send out an email through its union affiliates asking union members to vote in an online poll of the Derby Evening Telegraph about whether the event should go ahead. Ironically the futile nature of that method of protest was revealed by the fact that the BNP internationally mobilised far more votes, by a margin of 4 to 1, in defense of their rights to hold this fascist rally.
14 years ago the BNP were far less of a threat than they are now. But in response to the victory of one BNP councillor, Derek Beackon in Tower Hamlets, in the order of 20-30,000 marched in Welling against the BNP having an office there.
What should genuine anti-fascists do, who are concerned about the growth of the BNP?
Firstly, organise on the ground in the localities near to where the BNP organise. Indeed there are many local groups doing precisely that.
Secondly, recognise that the BNP feeds off not only off ignorance and racism but also genuine working class grievances about housing, low pay, jobs and war in Iraq and so an anti-fascist campaign has to encourage genuine trade union and community campaigns of working class protest as a real alternative to the BNP racist poison.
Thirdly, demand that a real national anti-fascist campaign must be built on the same principles. National and local working class organisations must go beyond the tokenistic responses of simply approving an affiliation to this or that inadequate national anti-fascist organisation.
Unions, Labour Party organisations and other campaigns in Derbyshire, Nottingamshire and elsewhere are responding to these threats. Activists in many of the areas subjected to intensive BNP activity are starting to organise local meetings and campaigns. Notts anti-fascist activists are holding stalls in Kirkby-in-Ashfield and elsewhere in Notts. Derby Race Equality Council has called a meeting to discuss the formation as of a Far Right Monitoring Council for the area.
But to turn out the numbers that could have stopped the BNP festival only a few miles from both Nottingham and Derby, requires a national mobilization and a genuine militant and working class national campaign.
Before the BNP organise their next festival - and they have already announced that it will be in the same place in Derbyshire — we have to recreate such a national campaign.