Tuesday, 9 June 2009

What Nick Griffin's election to Europe means for the North West and the anti-fascist movement

British National Party leader Nick Griffin yesterday secured his first position as an elected representative, just managing to take the last of 8 European parliament seats ahead of Green Party candidate Peter Cranie. Griffin himself, in a statement on the BNP website, called it the party's "defining moment." As with most nationalists, he was unable to resist overloading his words with jingoistic absurdism that means - ultimately - very little at all;
Tonight has shown that the mettle of the men and women who created the British Empire, who fought like lions in the furthest corners of the globe, who sacrificed like titans in Flanders, who endured the Blitz and who stormed the beaches of Normandy, is still alive.

The far left and the Tory types who thought that the British spirit was dead and that they could walk all over 10,000 years of history, tradition, culture and heritage, were wrong. The British lion has awoken, and its roar will now be heard throughout the world.
The reality, however, is that - entirely as predicted - the BNP were able to gain their first European parliamentary seats (there was a second in Yorkshire) due to a low turnout and voter disillusionment with the major parties. The predicted "surge" in support for the far right, in fact, never happened.

In the North West, the increase in BNP support was marginal. They barely upped their share of the vote to 7.96%, just ahead of the Greens' 7.63%. In Liverpool, meanwhile, the locale of the defining moments in their North West campaign - from the arrest of 12 activists for inciting racial hatred in distributing the Racism Cuts Both Ways leaflets to prominent Merseyside BNP members Peter Tierney and Steve Greenhalgh's vicious assault on local anti-fascists - they polled at just 6.4%.

It was the on the day of the protest against the arrest of the "Liverpool 13" [sic] that Griffin decided to stand in the North West. The party spoke of "an almost surreal level of support for the British National Party" in this "traditionally militant left-wing city" whilst claiming that as "the few hostile reactions were most likely from the bussed-in far-leftist outsiders" it was likely they would "retake the streets of Liverpool." On the day, though, thanks both to a concerted grassroots campaign by local people and the city's proud tradition of opposition to racism and fascism, the BNP came dead last. That this occurred despite an incredibly low overall turnout, contrasted with the generally high turnout the BNP pushes for amongst its supporters, suggests that 6% may be an overestimation of BNP support in the city.

Would that the rest of the North West had followed Liverpool's example.

However, the campaign to keep Merseyside, indeed the North West, fascist-free does not begin and end with the European election campaign. This barely-scraped victory, based on but a few thousand votes in Oldham, will no doubt inspire further attempts by the far-right to make in-roads in the North West, and we must be ready to face this challenge.

The Labour government is in meltdown, with "rebel" MPs looking to remove Gordon Brown as head of the party Prime Minister, whilst the Conservatives seek to capitalise in time for the general election. What this overblown squabble between the two sides of the same failed, neo-liberal ideology means for ordinary people is the threat of a drive even farther to the right. With low turnout and overall voter disenfranchisement giving the illusion of greater support for the fascist fringes, the hawks of the mainstream have the perfect excuse to repress the poor and working class, to scapegoat immigrants and refugees for their own follies, and to shore up the interests of dominant elites. All in the name of "populism."

No genuine movement to resist the injustices of the current system can succeed whilst a party representing the fascist extreme of the exact same agenda pushed by the Labour-Tory spectrum is able to present itself as any form of credible "alternative." Thus, any rejection of the dominant system must neccesarily include an equally vociferous rejection of the pantomime fascists waiting in the wings. And a popular movement against the worst elements of society cannot stand or fall with one election.