BNP: product of reformism’s failure
Just what is it about the BNP that the vast majority of British workers find so nauseating? In the run up to the 2004 local and European elections, all manner of people, organised in their respective groupings, mobilised against them, from the Labour and Conservative Party activists and the myriad left-wing groups, to student bodies, church groups and unions like the CWU who informed members that their “conscience clause” gave postal workers the choice not to deliver BNP material if they found it objectionable. The anti-nazi organisation Searchlight even produced 28 versions of a newspaper targeting the BNP election campaign and distributed 1.5 million of them in areas where the BNP were most active.
Many were clearly panicked at the thought of widespread BNP victories and this afforded the BNP media coverage which was out of all proportion to the size of their organisation. An eve of poll message from Nick Griffin, the party’s fuehrer, on the BNP website of 9 June, stated that they “were on course for a political earthquake”, that the BNP would be “breaking through with three or four Euro MPs”. Yorkshire, the BNP claimed, was to be their “jewel in the crown.” Two days earlier the same website had this to say: “Today in London a Monk came up to us. He said he had voted for the Conservatives all his life but this year he was voting for the BNP. He informed us that most of the Monks in his monastery were also voting BNP.” One wonders whether the fascists of the BNP had been taking tips in humour from their favourite comedian Bernard Manning.
And so it came to pass that the BNP managed to gain four new councillors in Bradford in four wards. This ‘jewel’ was out of a record 101 candidates they fielded across Yorkshire.
Elsewhere, the BNP made a breakthrough in the south of England, taking three seats in Epping Forest in the local elections. And in Burnley, the BNP gained one seat but managed to lose the other seven in which its candidates were standing. In the North East, where the party stood a full slate of 25 candidates in Sunderland, they failed to make any promised gains.
Leader Nick Griffin, who in April had invited over Le Pen, the Nazi leader of the French National Front, to plan how they could work as a team (or rather comedy duo) when Griffin became MEP for the north west of England, failed to take the seat he hankered after. No BNP candidate succeeded in getting elected to the European parliament and in the London mayoral elections the BNP ended up in sixth place and failed to secure the votes required to get representation on the London Assembly.
Regardless of how much these smiley-faced fascists claim to have changed their image, booting out the boneheaded troublemakers of yesteryear, they still represent the politics of hate – and their writings and statements still contradict the respectable shirt-and-tie image they try so hard to project. This was much evident from their election manifestoes, especially that used for their London Assembly campaign and entitled London Needs the BNP.
The manifesto began with a subject the BNP are famous for – the strange obsession with the colour of human skin. It opened: “Within another generation, without political change, London will not even be recognisable as a European city”. Considering the diversity of cultures existing peacefully side by side in most European cities London, in a generation, would very much be like any normal European city. It asserted that the “remaining British people in London are faced with progressive marginalisation” because there are too many non-whites, neglecting to mention the way capitalism itself marginalises, atomises and alienates not just individuals but entire communities.
There then followed the usual rant against asylum seekers, “both legal and illegal” and Ken Livingstone and the Labour Party were said to be responsible for “this new influx that is about to engulf us.” Here again, no mention of the fact that within the EU alone, the UK was recently ranked 10th in number of asylum applications compared to the country’s population or that the government has recently brought in measures that make it far more difficult for people from a variety of countries to claim asylum in the UK – together with a reduction of appeal rights for a host of countries. Neither does the BNP acknowledge that the Home Office itself has recognised that asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants have made a huge contribution to the economic and cultural life of the UK, bringing with them a wealth of skills and knowledge.
Law and order, another BNP favourite was then tackled. Having informed us that recorded crime has risen by 1000 percent (how they love nice round figures) since the 1950s they go on to cite the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers as claiming that mass immigration had “brought new levels of organised crime, drug dealing, gun crime, prostitution, fraud and kidnapping,” before advocating the reintroduction of the birch and the death penalty and a policy of zero tolerance. Again, no mention that one BNP London Assembly candidate was a reputable soccer thug, that the BNP National Development Officer, Tony Lecomber, has twice been imprisoned or that BNP leader Nick Griffin was given a suspended sentence for incitement to racial hatred. A visit to the Searchlight website will reveal that the BNP has a membership full of unsavoury characters. Moreover, in the year following the first BNP council victory in Milwall in 1993, racial assaults increased by 300 percent. It seems crime will only be tolerated when it is the BNP and their supporters who are carrying it out.
Next was the issue of “security” with the BNP promising to “make London safe from the threat of terrorism”, by deporting “Moslem fundamentalists”. Their TV election broadcast, which was edited, though downloadable later from the BNP website, was similarly Islamophobic, blatantly hinting at a hyped threat of Islamic terrorism. Significantly, the last terrorist bombs to go off in London which killed and injured members of the white working class were set off back in 1999 by one-time BNP activist David Copeland, who, when apprehended , said his aim had been to start a race war which would lead to a BNP government being elected. And the BNP National Organiser has a conviction for setting off a home-made nail bomb and possessing hand-grenades and electronic detonators. Moreover, Griffin’s political mentor is the Italian Nazi terrorist Roberto Fiore; the very same Griffin who once went to Libya to gain support from Colonel Gadaffi and who was all too ready to share a platform at a Cambridge seminar in July 2002 with Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri, the despicable Muslim fundamentalist, currently awaiting extradition to the USA for alleged terrorist crimes.
And so the manifesto continues, each statement showing the BNP to be the intolerant, narrow-minded, racist bigots they have always successfully presented themselves as, before closing on a subject covered in the May issue of the Socialist Standard (‘The Beauty Trap’), namely the forthcoming erection of the statue of Alison Lapper: “Just as Ken Livingstone dislikes anything English he equally disapproves of anything British, which is why we are now to have a sad limbless body on the vacant fourth plinth rather than a British statesman or woman. A BNP Mayor would have this dreadful thing removed.” In this regard the BNP are in keeping with their beliefs on the white master race. Indeed, their National Organiser considers people with learning difficulties to be “sub-human” and those with disabilities to be “genetically inferior”. As true heroes of the white working class they claim to be the BNP have said they will introduce a GM programme to get rid of those they consider “inferior”.
The 800,000 workers who fell for this sort of rubbish across Britain and gave the BNP their votes in the European and Local elections on 10 June are the misinformed products of the demoralising system we know as capitalism, deluded into thinking that one main issue – a total halt on asylum – would suddenly improve their miserable lives. In truth, a shortage of council housing and poorly maintained housing estates, low wages and pittance benefits are no more the fault of asylum seekers than is the hole in the ozone layer. At the end of the day the BNP promised voters little more than extra space at the trough of poverty and tens of thousands wanted it.
Of course, the BNP were fortunate to ride a wave of patriotism—a tool they can use to great effect when it suits—in the run up to the election, with voters going to the polls as the 60th anniversary of D-Day was being commemorated and rammed down our throats every night on TV, and the English football team were gearing up to compete in Euro 2004 and when manufacturers were reporting sales of 4 million St George flags. And neither is their raw brand of nationalism that unique in today’s climate where the UKIP can make huge gains in the European elections on a “say no to Europe” platform, proclaiming the merits of British sovereignty, and where the Labour Party is all to ready to send British troops off to far away lands to protect the interests of Britain’s ruling elite.
Furthermore, we can only wonder at the mainstream parties fears of a surge in support for the BNP. Considering the views of the Labour and Conservative parties on asylum (Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech springs to mind) and the former’s part in upsetting the Islamic world so much recently, their objections to the BNP do seem a little hypocritical. They may genuinely abhor the racists of the BNP but have been unsuccessful in confronting them where they have made political gains because to do so would mean acknowledging the shortcomings of a system which they champion and which gives rise to the politics of racism.
If anything the BNP are the product of the total failure of all the reformist parties to make capitalism a fit society to live in. And this is not the fault of the mainstream parties, for they are controlled by the system and not vice versa despite their claims and promises. When capitalism fails to deliver, when despondency and shattered hopes arise from the stench of the failed promises and expectations that litter the political landscape, is it any wonder that workers fall for the scapegoating lies of fascists and the quick fix they offer?