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“The world is a dangerous place to live in; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
Albert Einstein – refugee from Nazi Germany
As a matter of the greatest urgency, we are calling for the broadest unity against the alarming rise in racism and fascism in Britain today.
Over the last decade, racism and Islamophobia in society have grown. As a result, we have seen an increase in racist violence and attacks on multiculturalism. This culminated in the rise of far right and fascist organisations, in particular the British National Party (BNP). However, though persistent, long term, anti fascist, campaigning the BNP are a pale shadow of what they once were.
The BNP tried to present itself as a ‘respectable’ political party. In fact it was, from its inception, a fascist party. As history shows, fascism stands for the total annihilation of whole communities, freedoms and democratic rights.
The BNP sought to attract votes on the basis of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia and the vilification of refugees and asylum seekers. The BNP stands for the expulsion of Black and Asian people from this country, the destruction of the trade unions, the promotion of violence and hatred and the elimination of basic democratic rights.
The BNP now has no councillors across Britain. In May 2008, though, the party gained a seat on the London Assembly, polling 130,174 votes — 5.33%. And in the 2009 Euro elections, the BNP succeeded in gaining two MEPs, including party leader Nick Griffin.
This represented a major electoral breakthrough for the BNP, giving them access to huge resources, influence, greater respectability, and the ability to work with other far right and fascist parties in Europe.
Successful campaigning by UAF and antifascist activists in the 2010 general and local elections dealt the BNP heavy electoral blows. It lost more than half its council seats and was humiliated in its key target area of Barking and Dagenham, in east London, where it lost all 12 of its council seats and Griffin was pushed into third place in the Barking parliamentary seat.
But there was no room for complacency. The BNP still got a worrying 563,743 votes across the country, in 2010 and increased its vote in some areas. The continuing economic crisis gave the party opportunities to spread its racist poison.
North West UAF were at the centre of the Griffin Must Go campaign, over several years, in the region. Griffin and his co BNP Euro MEP, Brons, both lost their seats in May 2014, in a poor night for the fascists. Working with a number of trade unions, faith groups and a host of others, UAF celebrated years of unrelenting work, seeing off the key British fascist, in 2014. Anti fascists, including UAF, did not let the pressure drop and in the 2015 general election, the BNP saw a 99.7% drop in votes. They were all but destroyed and are a small, minor group, today.
In addition, the English Defence League – an organisation of racist thugs with links to the BNP – has also been pushed back into the margins. It has long targeted Muslims and mosques, whipping up hatred, division and violence where it has been allowed to march. EDL supporters stabbed a man in the evening after the EDL demonstration in Bolton in March 2010. EDL supporters ran riot in Stoke-on-Trent earlier in the year, attacking the local Asian community and police.
EDL supporters have paraded their violence on YouTube and caught on camera giving Nazi salutes during their rallies and marches. Since 2009 and the EDL’s outpouring of Islamophobia, UAF has patiently worked with a broad range of allies, centrally trade unions and many in Muslim communities to combat the EDL. Years of steadfast work, and numerous counter demonstrations helped to pile pressure onto the EDL. The EDL’s own combination of ineptitude and blatant racism also were important in undermining their trajectory. Key victories for UAF and supporters were in Walthamstow in September, 2012, see here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9gwqbJkOKg and in Tower Hamlets, in September 2011 and 2013. The EDL never recovered from such mobilisations against them.
In October 2013, the group’s leader and deputy leader, Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll, resigned. The unrelenting work of anti fascists was central in their decision. They remarked that on many occasions, anti fascists mobilised against them which often demoralised their activists. Though Robinson has tried on occasions to make comebacks eg with the short lived PEGIDA UK, he is in the UK, isolated and on the fringes of political activity. The EDL limps on but is a tiny sect, notorious for its drunkenness and ability to foster internal divisions.
The far right, since the implosion of the BNP and EDL, remains fragmented, violent and a small series of groupings. One such, National Action, was recently proscribed by the government, for its open call for terrorist actions. Groups such as Britain First came to wider attention, following the appalling murder of Jo Cox MP, in June 2016, by a white supremacist. Various fascist groups who rioted in Dover in January, 2016, such as the North West Infidels, have seen a number of individuals jailed, one for seven years, following an horrific attack on a photographer, in the town.
We believe that these dangers require a strong and united response from all those dedicated to freedom and democracy. We must combine our forces and unite in a broad and common front against this common threat.