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Stop the Nazi BNP!
The threat of fascism
- questions and answers about the Nazis in the 1930s and today
Youth against Racism in Europe
questions and answers about the Nazis in the 1930s and today
how the BNP was stopped in the 1990s
The local elections of May 2002 saw the best ever vote for the neo-Nazi British National Party.
As well as winning three council seats in Burnley they came close to winning over ten more: in Burnley, Oldham, Stoke and other parts of the country.
At the same time, figures released by the police showed a 10% rise in racist attacks in the last year, including an increase of 13% in the number of racist assaults and woundings reported to the police.
Far-right gains across Europe . . .
Votes for far-right parties have increased in France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and other countries across Europe.
The neo-Nazi Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc) in Belgium won 9.9% of the vote in national elections in 1999 and became the largest political force on Anwerp Council in 2000.
Far-right parties have been in government coalitions in Austria since February 2000 and Italy since 2001. In April 2002 the Front National got through to the second round of the French presidential election with 17% of the vote - their highest ever - in the first round of elections.
. . . provoke mass demonstrations
However these far-right successes have been met with big protests. Mass demonstrations rocked Vienna after the FPO was invited to join the Austrian government; the largest attracted 300,000. This year in France, well over a million people demonstrated against the FN on May Day.
The FN was only able to mobilise 10,000 people on a demonstration in their support – a tenth of what Le Pen had said they would get and small by comparison to the mass demos against them – and their vote in the parliamentary elections on 9th June dropped to 11% from 18% in the second round of the presidential election in May. They didn’t win a single seat in parliament.
Mass movement needed in Britain
Mass protests like these, combined with mass campaigns of education to expose the far-right’s real agenda and linked to a strategy that takes up social and economic problems (like unemployment, low pay, cuts and privatisation in public services), can halt the rise of the neo-Nazis and broader far-right movements.
This pamphlet shows why building a movement against the BNP is so important today. It explains why neo-Nazi, or neo-fascist groups like the BNP are a threat; how their heroes, the Nazi Party in Germany, managed to seize power in the 1930s and what we can learn from that today. The article about Tower Hamlets explains how the BNP were defeated in Britain in the 1990s with a determined mass campaign.
The threat of fascism
Fascism (what today’s neo-Nazi groups aim to build) was a mass movement, mainly based on the middle classes. It aimed at smashing democratic rights, particularly working class organisations, and protecting the power of big business. Fascist regimes came to power in Italy in 1922, in Germany in 1933 and in other European countries afterwards.
They built up support by a combination of radical (left-wing sounding) rhetoric and playing on prejudices that were already widespread in society. In Germany anti-Jewish (anti-Semitic) prejudice was high before the Nazi Party ever came on the scene, whereas in Italy it wasn’t nearly so strong.
Mussolini and his Fascist Party in Italy therefore didn’t use anti-Semitism until very late, when they were relying on Hitler for support during the second world war.
In contrast Hitler and the Nazis in Germany consciously promoted anti-Semitism from the beginning, with tragic consequences.
Today the BNP are using racism and prejudice against Muslims and against asylum-seekers to try to gain support because these prejudices have been increasing amongst a layer of people in Britain. The government, careerist politicians and the media bear much of the responsibility for spreading and encouraging Islamophobia and prejudices against asylum-seekers.
New Labour encourages racism
Just a week before the May local elections, Home Secretary David Blunkett was still helping to legitimise racist ideas by saying that asylum-seeker children were "swamping" local schools.
This was after years of inflammatory language against refugees and the scapegoating of refugees and asylum-seekers by New Labour, the Tories, the Liberal Democrats and the media. All of this helped open the door to the BNP.
How do the BNP get support?
Most BNP voters cast their vote in despair, as a protest against the main parties. There was undoubtedly a racist vote too in some areas. However the main reason some people have started to look towards groups like the BNP is because they feel betrayed by the mainstream parties, who all act the same.
Hopes that Labour would improve public services and conditions for working class people have been betrayed. New Labour have continued to follow Tory policies to help their big business allies. They have attacked public services more viciously than the Tories, signing contracts to subsidise private companies’ profits in return for them running parts of the NHS or education.
The privatisation rip-off
Since New Labour were elected in 1997 private companies have been promised £96 billion tax-payers’ money by New Labour in return for investing £16 billion in privatisation schemes. Where will the money come from? No doubt, further cuts in services.
Just one of New Labour’s actions - cutting corporation tax to the biggest companies when they were first elected in 1997 - has given £10-14 billion from the government to big business every year.
New Labour’s anti-working class policies
At the same time New Labour have scrapped free university education, set the minimum wage at poverty levels and excluded young people from it. They are trying to force unemployed and disabled people off benefits into insecure, low-paid jobs with virtually no rights.
They have done virtually nothing to stop the jobs haemorrhage from previous industrial heartlands, or invest in new jobs to help give those communities a chance.
Collapse in support for traditional parties
No wonder many people are looking for an alternative. However it would be wrong to view the increased votes for the BNP as a general shift to the right by voters in England. The votes of many socialist organisations and candidates standing against cuts in services and privatisation increased substantially in the local elections, showing that many people are looking for a positive alternative to the mainstream parties.
Police protect the Nazis
Despite the role that the BNP and neo-Nazi National Front (NF) play in whipping up racism and encouraging tensions and violence in local communities, the police on virtually every occasion act to protect the BNP and NF and harass and threaten anti-racists protesting against them.
During the last year and a half the police have helped ban a number of anti-racist events, particularly in Oldham and Burnley, attempting to prevent a movement against the BNP from developing. The free run this gave to the BNP was a major factor in allowing them to gain so many votes this year.
We believe the neo-Nazi movement – in Britain the NF and the BNP – should not be allowed to abuse our democratic rights in order to try to destroy them. Rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, trade union membership etc were won through struggle, not given to us by the government.
To allow these rights to be used by neo-Nazis is giving them the chance to take away the rights of the people that the BNP target - Black and Asian communities, Jewish people, gay men and lesbians, disabled people, trade unionists, socialists and others - to live and walk the streets in peace.
Mass campaign needed
We believe neo-Nazi organisations must be driven out of our communities and prevented from organising: not by relying on the police or authorities but by mass movements against them involving local people, trade unions, community groups and the anti-racist movement.
The main task the campaign against the BNP faces now is to prevent them getting any more members elected to council seats in Burnley or elsewhere, and to defend the communities under threat from them where they have councillors or a local base.
Through this campaign, if it is properly organised, we can begin to marginalise and isolate the BNP and do our best to prevent their councillors from being re-elected.
The article about how the BNP were defeated during the 1990s in Tower Hamlets explains how YRE has organised similar campaigns in the past and the importance of:
Jobs, homes & services – not racism
YRE knows that unity is strength. By uniting, against the neo-Nazis, bosses and career politicians who are attacking our rights, young people and trade unionists can secure a future free from racism, poverty and exploitation.
YRE secretary, July 2002
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- questions and answers about the Nazis in the 1930s and today