December 21, 2006


Mike Ion is right to post over at his blog about the Guardian's undercover operation inside the BNP which revealed that the BNP is increasingly targetting Middle Class areas within London and hopes to get a seat or two in the London Assembly. Some of what the report portrays- codes for accessing emails, secret names, people hiding their proffessions is very interesting- for a supposedly democratic party, the BNP seem very hesitant to confirm either who they are or what they really think.

Mike proposes a grand alliance to sweep away the BNP between the democratic parties and anti-racist groups. He wants the BNP isolated and exposed for the incompetent nutcases that they are. BNP councillers have been singularly inefficient wherever they've got into power: being accused of committing benefit fraud, a council candidate has been arrested for explosives offences, five councillers have been accused of electoral fraud and at least one of assault. In Barking and Dagenham, Dan Kelley a BNP counciller resigned admitting that

There’s meetings that go right over my head and there’s little point in me being there

The BNP quite clearly are incompetent when elected and do not serve the communities they aspire to serve. It isn't difficult to work out that this is a party of morons and fools- who will never serve the whole community and barely disguise an ugly fascist and racist past.

But is Mike right about the way to deal with the BNP? The BNP's main strength seems to come out of a vague xenophobia, the kind of anti-immigrant feeling the Tories occasionally play to and a sense that foreigners or "ethnics" get the best resources. BNP members also have a sense of anti-establishment feeling, that everyone is out to get them, that the mainstream condemns their point of view and that the establishment is hiding some nefarious and illusory plot to destroy Britain. Their online newspaper for instance is called "The Voice of Freedom" and their website at present calls upon readers to send a card to "political prisoner" Kevin Hughes (arrested for a racist attack in a pub on a Kurdish asylum seeker).If we are looking for a means to weaken the BNP we are looking really at a means to weaken their support, to diminish their attraction.

There are arguments that condemnation works. The BNP is attempting to get into posh London council boroughs- the Guardian mentions Chelsea and Kensington amongst others- and those are just the kind of places where social stigma really matters. Where the tactic of making BNP support unthinkable has a real effect upon people. Where politics is partly a matter of fashion, isolating the BNP has an impact in pulling people towards the Tories and away from that kind of logic. It also makes the arguments that the BNP espouse unsayable in certain circles and again that makes the arguments less strong- one of the things about politics is that as soon as you express an argument you become anchored to it and you have to think it through and provide it with cohesion. Making supporting the BNP something you can't do in company actually weakens the political resolve of those who might think about supporting it.

On the other hand social stigma means that the minority who do support the BNP become even more fervent. There is a case for the Tories and major parties keeping up their attacks on the BNP (and incidentally moderating their attacks on each other, when Tony Benn labels the Tories racist he diminishes the shock value of that accusation when played against the BNP) but there is also a case for the rest of us concentrating on calmly exposing what the BNP say and what the press often report about say asylum seekers which buttress the BNP's claims. If members and supporters of the BNP beleive that they are oppressed, then shouting at them and coalescing against them won't neccessarily persuade them of anything. But demonstrating that the general climate of fear about immigration is exaggerated, that Islam is a religion containing both peaceful and violent factions and that most Muslims in the UK are of the first not the second persuasion, destroying some of the historical illusions- the ideas of unique Western civilisation, those are the ways forward. Sometimes a reasoned discussion can obtain more success than a denounciation- lets see people like Blair and Cameron with their legendary charm get out and do some public speaking, do some debating against Griffin and his cohorts of hate.

There is plenty of fantastic work being done to expose the BNP and its faulty ideology. But we are faced with a situation where the BNP seems to be gaining votes and support. I've reflected on some of the more sociological reasons before here but there are real actions that we can take. Condemnation can work but it must be accompanied by reasoned explanation. If we just condemn we feed into the fantasy that there is an establishment hiding a truth about Britain, we must take on and expose the ideas and the fallacies. Particularly we must defend the idea that there are many Muslims, a vast majority, who are non-violent and perfectly ordinary- indeed just like Christians or atheists who care much more about their children's school than the state of the world and who have political views that they attempt to acheive with peaceful means. We should also make more of the links between the British and American far right and terrorist groups, Daniel Pipes, a blogger with whom I often disagree has documented some cases here.

The BNP can be defeated- they lie far more than they tell the truth and are incompetent when they get in. But they won't be defeated if all we do is yell insults at them- we must expose and persuade- show that they are wrong about the facts, inadequate when in power, have no answers to the problems that Britain and the world face and fail at the base to understand the fundemental equality of all human beings. We must expose their attempts to become respectable and show they are still racist, we must also show why racism is a self defeating and obnoxious outlook upon the world.


CityUnslicker said...

The best way to defeat the BNP is through UKIP (not that I am a member). Many people do have concerns about the huge waves of immigration initiated by Labour over the last few years. UKIP has a very moderate but sensinle political position on this; the BNP do not. People need an outlet, the left hate the BNP for purely ideological reasons, by never admitting that the BNP serve any prupose they cannot defeat them.

Secondly, 'defeating' the BNP sounds to me like 'defeating' the IRA. It is not possible (yet) to stop peopl ehaving their own beliefs, no matter how unpleasant.

Gracchi said...

I can see what you mean- it strikes me that the worst thing that can be done is to mix up legitimate politics like UKip's anti European stance and the Tories anti immigrant rhetoric with the BNP's stuff which is why I think we should be cautious about the word racist. Defeating the BNP is a problematic phrase, its like a war on terror, but I do think that its worth changing people's minds if we can. Obviously its difficult sometimes but I don't like the rising trend of BNP council seats and possible challenges for the European Parliament and House of COmmons.

Political Umpire said...

Good post as always and I agree that a more subtle approach is needed than with regard to, say, the hacks like Littlejohn who are never going to be persuaded by anything like an argument. Neither are the BNP. But there are two things we need to remember about the BNP, which you've outlined in this post.

The first is that the BNP have a disastrous record as councillors when they have gotten into power, for reasons distinct from their political ideology.

The second is that, uncomfortable as it might seem, the BNP preys upon real concerns of working class people (and middle class as well) concerning immigration, crime unemployment and a few other of the perennials. It is therefore worth fisking, as it were, their policies, such as they are, in order to see that they are not offering a viable solution at all, merely bigotry in whatever form they think they can sell to the voters.

So maybe contrary to what I said in the other post, it is worth spending the time pulling apart their arguments (such as they are), though it might be pie in the sky to hope that the average BNP supporter will listen.

OldAtlantic said...

There are only 2 ways to stop BNP (1) Complete Muslim takeover, impose Sharia law, ban BNP and its members in waiting (2) stop immigration.

Out From Under said...

Of course they're keen to hide who they are. Sadly we don't have the freedom to express your political views without fear. BNP members have been sacked or hounded out of their jobs or demonised. If I was a member I'd be pretty careful too.

I have a short post about it here.

Ian said...

I'm with Gracchi and the Umpire on this. Expose the incompetence of those few who do get elected, and fisk the policies.

Out From Under, the trouble with that appeal to the right to freedom of expression, as I see it, is that it very often seeks to stifle any right of reply. Is it OK for an individual, even a BNP member, to feel free to express their political opinions? I think so. Is it OK for those individuals then to complain when other people express their disagreement? Nope.

Gracchi said...

I agree with Ian. I am against any attempt to ban the BNP but if someone supports them I will make and have made in the past my objections to that support plain.

Old Atlantic I don't agree with either of your points. Curiously enough as Daniel Pipes points out there are plenty of links between those seeking to impose Sharia law and the BNP and others- in many ways the BNP are just the white version of those that would seek Sharia law. As for immigration- immigration is a major concern in this country and the different democratic parties have different agendas on it. But their agendas are all based upon the equality of people whatever race they are whereas the BNP oppose that argument.