By Pete Radcliff
The BNP successes in this election were not as high as were anticipated. Instead of the 100 council seats they claimed that they would have at the end of this election, they only have the 50 or so that they started with.
But there should be no complacency! For those who have been watching on the ground what is going on, the election has revealed a considerable growth of the BNP in the last 2 years. The BNP came within 2,580 votes of winning a north Wales regional seat in the Welsh assembly election. In many areas they were close to getting people elected and turnout in these elections was higher than expected.
This year, the BNP have made a point of doing 'community campaigning' before the election and canvassing and recruiting during it. And at the end of the day it is how many people that the BNP organise that should concern us, not necessarily how many people vote for them.
But their vote was not as high as they claimed. Why is that? Does this mean they are no longer the threat that they earlier appeared?
A realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of BNP is important. It shouldn't be based on exaggeration or adopting a triumphalist pose with the aim of making yourself look good. That is only too common in anti-fascist politics and is not helpful.
For example, is it true to say that they been beaten back by a 'qualitatively higher level of anti-fascist campaigning' in these elections conducted by Unite Against Fascism (UaF), as the SWP claim? We remain unconvinced.
Where, if this were true, are the broad UaF branches in the localities or the democratic union caucuses that arranged the ½ million leaflets that the SWP claimed were distributed? Or have the SWP been doing it all by themselves? 1,000 leaflets distributed by each of their active members, perhaps… or perhaps not.
UaF leaflets may have been used. After all they had not been as bad during the election as earlier ones had been. But the truth is that UaF, as a broad working class based organisation, barely exists, outside a few areas that are outside SWP control.
Undoubtedly many labour movement activists have taken initiatives and been out there active during the election period against the BNP. They have used whatever resources they could get hold of, whether they were from the Searchlight based Stop the BNP campaign or from the UaF.
The results also seem to indicate that the BNP overestimated their possibilities and over-reached themselves with standing in nearly 800 district council seats. They will undoubtedly be disappointed and face problems as a result. Extravagant claims by the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, about likely BNP electoral successes is likely to lead to some instability in their organisation. The more purist of its fascist membership, a still significant proportion of the BNP, have been unhappy about Griffin's electoralism and his attempts to promote respectability.
But Griffin can point to the fact that the BNP have undoubtedly built extensively over the last 2 years.
- They have elbowed in front of UKIP (and Veritas), the alternative parties that previously picked up disillusioned right wing Tory voters.
- In a great many elections, they have pushed in front of the usual third placers whether it was Lib Dem, Labour or Tory. And far more frequently than usual pushed into second place.
- Their total aggregate vote (although it hasn't yet been calculated) is probably in excess of 200,000
(Figures computed after this article was written actually show that the BNP had in excess of 310,000 votes in England and Wales, 270,000 votes in district/borough council elections in England alone and a further 42,000 votes in the Wales Assembly elections, see comment below)
So despite the fact that the BNP is likely to suffer serious internal dissent, as fascist parties are prone to, it is not likely to seriously obstruct their continuing growth or lead to factional warfare within the BNP.
What should we do?
As our earlier article argued, this should still be a wake-up call to the trade unions. There will probably be many trade unionists amongst the 200,000* people who voted for the BNP.(now known to be over 300,000 see above).
These are people who will probably not even know that the trade union movement rejects all that the BNP stands for. Their political education will owe more to the Sun than it will to their union. They will not even know that there is serious dissent to the government's actions within the labour movement. Other BNP voters, either in unions or out of them, will believe that trade unions have given up on politics; that they are an expired force; and that the age of class politics is over. That can only add to their confidence in their racist politics.
If the union leaders were to argue, organise and fight against the government, for both their union's policies and for their members, then the BNP would appear as weak, as rabid and as incoherent as they really are. It is only the trade unions' silence that allows the fascists to be audible. Were the unions to loudly argue for non-racist answers to the political problems that people face, then the racist nationalist inanities would be widely seen to be as laughable as they actually are.
That is why AWL members will be arguing for the labour and trade union movement to reflect on this election with the intent that never again will it be as quiet on the racism that infects our society and on the working class and socialist answers that are the real alternative to the fascism of the BNP