Some on the left seem to have decided that the size of the leaked BNP membership list is bad news for the fascists.
“A weak divided party exposed”, the Socialist Party headline tells us: the list “makes it clear that the BNP is a relatively small party... with just over 3,000 members classed as activists, it is welcome news that the BNP has capitalised so little on the enormous anger against New Labour, Tories and Lib Dems that exists.”
The coverage in Socialist Worker has been more ambiguous on this point, but SWP members have also been using the argument that the BNP is still a very small party.
This misses the point spectacularly. Yes, compared to the main bourgeois parties, and in historical perspective, the BNP is very small. But it has grown spectacularly in the last ten years, and is now bigger than the organised far left.
In 1997, according to Nick Lowles of Searchlight, the party had 600 members; in 2000 this figure had risen to 3000; the new list is 13,500. Even if the number classed as activists in the strict sense is significantly lower, this is still a huge leap. As for having only 3,000 activists, that is probably about three times bigger than the Socialist Party’s entire membership!
We should not allow ourselves to be paralysed by the strength of the BNP, or imagine that the far right is an unstoppable juggernaut. But the danger seems to be rather that the left will lull itself to sleep, convinced that the news is not so bad after all.
SWP/Unite Against Fascism “leader” Weyman Bennett has undermined an anti-fascist protest again.
Having learnt nothing from the SWP’s sectarian fiasco in Derbyshire in August, Bennett worked with the police to prevent anti-fascists from sweeping the BNP off Liverpool’s streets on 29 November.
The BNP had announced it would be organising a national leafleting drive in the city at 11am. 250 activists, the majority local to Liverpool and with a strong labour movement presence, gathered that morning to oppose them.
A week before, 12 BNP members had been arrested and charged with distributing literature designed to incite racial hatred. In the event, however, the Attorney General over-ruled the Merseyside police to insist that the fascists’ racist propaganda derby was legitimate; the cops spent their day defending the fascists.
They had help from help from Bennett, who, advised by the police, announced that the BNP were not going to turn up. As a result, when 100 BNP members arrived at about 11.30am, the protest had shrunk to less than 100. The protest was swelled by passing locals disgusted at the presence of the BNP on the streets of their city, but prevented from fully confronting the fascists by overwhelming police force.
Then the police decided to move the demonstration on. Bennett, acting as their representative inside the anti-fascist movement, declared that the protest would have to retreat, but he had negotiated “five more minutes” of chanting. When the majority refused, he abandoned the protest, leaving it to be pushed away by the police.
This is getting seriously worrying. Twice in less than six months, the SWP has been so determined to undermine any anti-fascist protest it does not control that it has worked with the police to effectively protect the fascists from mass mobilisations. We need to make sure every labour movement activist, and every SWP member, knows what happened in Liverpool