With the European elections looming, visit any main town across the length and breadth of the country during the day and you will be sure to find BNP activists in smart suits handing out glossy leaflets in the High Street and their message of "Yes to Putting British People First" – a message of course earlier put out by Gordon Brown, a message that has done much to hinder the campaign against the racist BNP.
Barnsley – target for BNP vermin
In Barnsley, the home of Arthur Scargill, the centre of the miners strike of 1983/84 and a town with great traditions of trade union and labour movement solidarity the BNP have been granted a stall in the town centre by the local council where they are free to peddle their propaganda and arrogantly declare that they are the fastest growing political party in Britain. They have told people that they are confident that they will win a seat in Yorkshire and Humberside at the forthcoming European elections where they need only about 11.5% as against the 8% they gained in 2004. Even the national press are now rating their chances highly.
In an effort to gain respectability the BNP claim to be the new voice of working people accusing New Labour of selling out and encouraging a policy of swamping Britain with migrant workers to steal local jobs from local people. With New Labour in meltdown and the Tories and Lib Dems totally discredited in Barnsley they are finding an echo among working class people, an echo that seems to louder than in the past.
We know that behind the thin veneer of respectability the hard core types of the BNP are the same old fascists that have been around since Mosley in the 1930s. Only their tactics have changed to take advantage of people’s fears and the uncertainty about their future. Same old BNP, always cheating!
Griffin comes to town
However, such is the confidence of the BNP that they recently held a "public" meeting addressed by their leader Nick Griffin at the Fleets Pub in Barnsley. The 300 strong meeting was swelled by supporters from other towns in South Yorkshire bussed over to Barnsley to give the impression to Griffin that Barnsley is now a strong recruitment centre for the far right. The meeting attracted a reported and subsequent article in the Times (12.05.09)
The danger is that if the BNP are successful in gaining a seat in Yorkshire and Humberside this will boost not only their confidence but also their coffers. This will help them in their aim to recruit more members and make even more serious challenges at local and national elections.
The local Barnsley TUC has mounted a public campaign aimed at countering the blatant opportunism of the BNP in preying on people’s fears over jobs and their future. The three Barnsley local Labour MPs, all ex miners and NUM activists, are taking a leading role in the campaign. At Griffin’s meeting in Barnsley the TUC were allowed to stage a protest for a short time and only 150 yards away with a heavy police guard including mounted police. We got the message over but only our protest, of around 200 demonstrators, was dispersed by the police at 8 pm, did Griffin arrive.
Last Saturday morning, we staged another demonstration near the BNP stall in Barnsley town centre which was attended by over 300 people. We were allowed to approach 50 yards from their stall and made our voices heard. Copies of Socialist Appeal were earlier sold adjacent to the BNP stall despite the abuse hurled at myself for being Scottish "and not from Barnsley." Most of the good people of Barnsley will not be intimidated by threats and the politics of hate and fear but they deserve a Labour Party which will look after their interests before the bankers and big bosses. The local message from anti-fascist campaigners against the BNP is "If you want to give New Labour a kicking, vote for anyone apart from the BNP." Sadly this rubbish slogan does little other than ironically play into the hands of those BNP people who simply reply "told you, even they admit that they are all the same." We do not believe that Labour and the Tories are all the same despite the best efforts of the party leaderships. People vote for parties not against them. The best way for the BNP to be defeated is for workers to vote Labour and be given a reason to vote Labour.
Socialist programme the way forward
Only an immediate commitment to a bold and fearless socialist programme can undermine the conditions that suit the BNP and allow their racist agenda to gain an ear. A turn towards socialism on Labour’s part would do much to repair the damage caused by the recent parliamentary expenses scandal (click here and here to read more on this) and ensure that Labour’s lost millions of voters – turned off by 12 years of New Labour sellouts – would return to their traditional home leaving the BNP and the rest high and dry.
Richard Vivian, Barnsley Central Labour Party (personal capacity)