The European elections and the BNP, an anarchist perspective
The views in this post are my own, and do not reflect those of the whole organisation (though some comrades share the views within it).
In the wake of the election of two BNP MEPs, It is important to recognise the hysterical nature of some of the response to the European elections. Both the left and liberal sections of the capitalist media talk of the ‘rise of the BNP’. Even the Daily Mail – a paper which supported Hitler and Mosley’s blackshirts until it was threatened with the gag by the British government – splashed the headline “March of the extremists” across its front page the morning after the elections.
It’s difficult to talk of a “rise” of the BNP when their actual vote is smaller than that in the 2004 elections. The BNP got in is mostly due to external factors; the low turnout, the total collapse of the labour vote in the wake of the expenses scandal and the increased distribution of votes across smaller parties. Elections to the European parliament are determined by the complicated D’Hont system of proportional representation, which increases representation by smaller parties. The turnout was extremely low, in the UK it was just 34.48%.
The fact that UKIP came second, picking up two and a half million votes has mostly gone without commentary, despite the fact that like the BNP it stands for the halting of all further immigration, imposing a ten-year freedom of speech restriction on immigrants, for the imposition of “unicultiralism”, would restrict “British jobs for British workers”, calls for the prosecution of “disloyal” opinions, etc.
This is largely due to the left having a vested interest in promoting the fascist threat – leftist groups recruit off the back of it, presenting themselves as the only serious opposition to the “Nazi BNP”, and monopolising anti-fascism by controlling front groups which dominate opposition movements.
None of this is to say that the BNP aren’t scumbags. They are a racist party whose core movers have long histories of involvement in fascist policies. They stand for an all white Britain, and the elimination of ethnic minorities through “firm but voluntary” “repatriation” schemes. Quite how these schemes are “firm” is never explained, but given that they consistently claim that they stand to put white people first, they must therefore plan to put none-whites second. The pressure of being a second-class citizen is presumably the “firm” incentive to leave the country. Moreover, they aim to repeal all anti-discrimination legislation and give employers free reign to deny people employment on the basis of skin colour. They want to grant whites first preference in jobs, housing and education, in other words bringing in legally sanctioned racism.
Their concern for maintaining the “identity” of Britain is quite clearly racist – they wouldn’t halt all immigration, as immigration would still be allowed for Western European whites! They want to outlaw mixed-race marriage and “miscegenation” irrespective of the cultural “identity” of the children born. They build their paranoid politics on the most outdated 19th century conceptions of nationalism and race, claiming that nations have a genetic, racial basis and deliberately distorting the work of geneticists such as Professor Brian Sykes to claim a prehistoric genetic basis for the ‘British people’(Sykes’ own work concludes that race is a myth, and he has no time for such overt misrepresentation).
However, the BNP does draw support at local and European elections as people attach their problems, insecurities and alienation to immigration and vote for the BNP. Poor job security, unemployment, the housing crisis and deteriorating public services gets bound up with immigration not just in BNP propaganda but in the pages of the Sun and the Mail. The BNP prey on these myths, but they are not solely responsible for propagating them.
Our approach should be to counteract the various racist, nationalist and xenophobic myths surrounding immigration, attacking the attitudes which the BNP feed off but which are much bigger problems in themselves than the BNP getting members in the European parliament. We must also oppose the practical effects of these myths, as it has been a labour government which has been attacking immigrants in a concrete way – the same labour government which the mainstream anti-BNP campaigns have sought recognition from.
What follows, in conclusion, are suggestions about how to go about this.
*We need to counter myths about the relationship between immigration and jobs on both a factual and theoretical level.
For example, the idea that immigration is forcing UK workers out of jobs overlooks the fact that there are over 5 million UK workers abroad, and nearly 3 million currently working in other countries. If Britain were to expel migrant workers and close the door to the circulation of labour, we could expect other countries to do the same – leading to a flood of ‘repatriated’ Britons who would more than make up for the replaced migrant workers. The competition for jobs would still be there.
Such national divisions should also be opposed from the perspective of basic class solidarity. If we allow bosses to divide us up on the basis of nationality, we won’t be able to join together and struggle in our interests. The rail workers currently on strike are fighting together irrespective of ethnic or national origin, and the workers who recently occupied the Visteon plants in Belfast, Basildon and Enfield overcame the racial, national and sectarian divides erected to divide workers.
*We need to counter racist myths about housing
A commonly repeated claim by racist and nationalist groups is that the current housing crisis is the result of asylum seekers and immigrants taking up social housing: specifically that they get to jump the queue.
This ignores the facts. Asylum seekers are not allowed ‘recourse to public funds’ – i.e. council housing. Some become eligible if they are given leave to remain, and are therefore understood as fleeing legitimate violence. They are then treated the same as everyone else. These people occupy less than 2% of council houses. The people who are prioritised by the council are prioritised due to relationship break down or parental eviction, not due to being immigrants, and the group most likely to be housed are the elderly.
The housing crisis is the result of the selloff of the social housing stock under right-to-buy, and the fact that recent governments have failed to invest in new social housing projects. Over a million homes lay empty after being bought as speculative investments. The problem is that capitalism doesn’t function to meet our needs; it functions to ensure that invested money becomes more money.
*We need to remember the current politicians carry out real attacks on immigrants
The BNP, UKIP and their ilk might be an unpleasant bunch of bigots, but we have to remember that it is the labour government which is sending thugs into immigrants’ houses at dawn, expanding the deportation system.
The current asylum and immigration bill making its way through parliament would restrict immigrants’ ability to claim benefits and apply for council housing for at least five and up to ten years. The immigration detention estate has expanded a great deal under New Labour, with deportations up and new immigration detention centres being build around the country. There are 13 of these immigration prisons in the UK, which routinely detain children. 30,000 people pass through them every year.
The difference is that the BNP and their fellow-travellers can only fantasise about attacking migrants; the Labour party has been doing it for the past 12 years. The Tories look likely to pick up the torch after the next general elections. We need to carry on the fight against these real attacks on not lose sight of them thanks to the appearance of the BNP in the European parliament.