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No Pasaran Youth against Racism in Europe magazine: Issue 11, Summer 2003
What We Thnk
Who opened the door to the BNP?
The anger and alienation that the British National Party (BNP) have been able to exploit are both products of the looting of Britain by big business carried out over the last 20-30 years.
Under the rule of first Thatcher, then Major and now Blair, most of Britain's public assets have been 'sold' off. This legalised robbery (commonly known as privatisation) has created a disastrous and lethal situation on the railways, destroyed the ability of the National Health Service to provide decent health care, cut local services to the bone and sacked a huge number of public sector workers in the interests of increasing profits for their new, private bosses.
The destruction of British manufacturing industry was a deliberate policy of Thatcher. She aimed to destroy strong trade unions by attacking trade union rights and by shutting down the industries the strongest unions were based on. These jobs were then replaced with casualised, insecure jobs where workers are at the mercy of their bosses.
Britain is now a low-wage economy. British workers work the longest hours in Europe but lack of investment in machinery or training by the bosses means that productivity is still low. Unemployment and under-employment are a huge problem. In some areas there are now three or more generations who have lived their lives on benefits, without finding regular work.
Instead of investment to provide jobs, services and solutions to these social and economic problems, New Labour have continued the Tory policies that are destroying our communities.
In an attempt to divert anger away from their policies, New Labour began to scapegoat asylum-seekers for the lack of local services in Dover and other areas early on in their first term of office. Under pressure from the media, New Labour began a series of attacks on asylum rights that still continue today.
These attacks - including vouchers, dispersal, increases in the use of detention and deportation, and now the scrapping of benefits for the majority of asylum seekers who apply in-country - have had two effects. They have made it much harder for asylum-seekers and refugees to get the rights they should be entitled to, but also they have reinforced the worst prejudices about asylum seekers spread by the media, implying that asylum-seekers come to Britain because they are attracted by benefit levels etc.
New Labour have also spectacularly failed to deal with institutional racism. Forced to call the Lawrence Inquiry soon after they were first elected in 1997, New Labour were opposed racism in public while privately they were giving the green light to allow the police to continue as before.
The refusal of the government to sack Paul Condon (Chief of the Metropolitan Police) and their failure to take disciplinary action against any of the police officers most involved in ensuring that the murderers of Stephen Lawrence were never convicted, was a message that the police and racists up and down the country understood as: 'you can get away with it'.
Racist attacks and harassment
In the year after the Lawrence Inquiry, the level of racist attacks reported to the police more than doubled. Since then, they have been rising steadily.
Meanwhile, police harassment of black and Asian communities has intensified. Police stop and searches of Asian people increased by 16% in 2001-02 compared with 2000-01; those of black people increased by 6%; while those of white people fell by 2%. In London the Metropolitan Police stopped 40% more Asians and 30% more black people, but 8% fewer white people.
The terrible social and economic conditions that the majority of people suffer from in Britain, combined with New Labour's whipping up of prejudice and encouragement of racism, has provided the BNP with the opportunity to grow.
Why is the establishment so scared of the BNP?
The establishment is happy to whip up racism and prejudice as long as these things serve its purposes, but now the situation has escalated out of its control. Now that the BNP has shown that it can exploit the same issues, the establishment is worried about the increasing instability this can cause in Britain (e.g. the riots in Oldham and other towns in 2001, and the rise in attacks on asylum-seekers).
The BNP is an embarrassment to the establishment, who fear that the BNP may provoke a mass movement of young people determined to stop the growth of the far-right. The last thing that the government and big business want is the radicalisation that such a movement would bring.
This is the real reason why the main parties and the mainstream media in Britain have united against the BNP. Not because they are democrats - since when have careerist politicians or the multimillionaire press barons really represented the needs of working-class people? Not because they are against racism - they are quite happy to use racism and other prejudices such as Islamophobia when it will serve their own purposes.
An opposition to the BNP that depends on careerist politicians from the main parties is doomed to failure. Having opened the door to the BNP, New Labour and the other main parties are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Who can stop the BNP?
The forces that are capable of taking on and defeating the far-right are the trade unions and the left, combined with young people and local community campaigns. A mass movement is needed that can organise mass action - demos, protests and community self-defence - against the threat of the BNP, as well as win the battle of ideas with them.
However it is not only the movement organised specifically to combat the BNP that has the power to stop their growth. As the interview with a French activist on page 9 shows, a big working-class movement can marginalise the far-right.
With the continued attacks on workers and the welfare state from New Labour, anti-racists and the left must link up with the trade unions in an effort to build a movement to defend workers' rights and put a halt to the government's privatisation madness, attacks on pensions and . . .
On the next page we set out the key aims and methods that the YRE believes are needed in today's campaign against the growth of the BNP.