Monday, 8 November 2010

The negatives of the court case against the BNP

In February, the British National Party voted to change its constitution to allow non-whites to join, after legal threats from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). But both sides have today returned to court after the EHRC declared that the new rules are still "indirectly discriminatory."

The matter in contention is that members have to support the "maintenance and existence of the unity and integrity of the indigenous British." Or, if you will, that those joining an ethnic nationalist political party have to support the basic principles of ethnic nationalism. Not something I'd ever do, for reasons that shouldn't need stating, but then I'd never try to join the BNP.

Nor, it seems would very many other people. The party is imploding, with prominent members and supporters defecting all over the place, and those left facing liability for bankruptcy. As a consequence, the BNP has lost around 4,000 members in a few months.

So if, as Nick Griffin claims, the EHRC court case amounts to an political attack and an attempt to crush the BNP, then it is a redundant attempt. Why bother to kill something that is already in its death throes? If the aim is a mercy killing then court cases, which have a tendency to drag on endlessly, are not the way to go. All it will do is give Griffin the opportunity to write more begging letters.

Besides which, the case remains something which I believe that antifascists should not support.

Of course, I utterly despise the BNP. They are reactionaries and fascists, and attempts to gain political power and put their ideology into practice should be met with fierce resistance. That is why militant antifascism exists, and the people of Britain should not be shy of using direct action to stop the BNP from putting their ideas into practice.

However, although antifascism is an end in itself, it is also a part of class struggle. It is emphatically not a defence of the status quo, and should not be conducted in league with the state.

As such, having the state decide what can and what cannot function as a political party is a dangerous precedent. Although the BNP offers them a convenient excuse to enact such a policy, they would be far from the only target. As experience with both the police and the intelligence services should show, the "domestic extremists" of the radical left are always far more of a concern to those in power. Reactionary movements such as fascism can be used to serve propaganda needs, and even the physical suppression of dissent, whilst genuine radicalism threatens established power.
The initial legal action set the precedent for the courts to challenge political organisations over freedom of association. This one is going after the idea that a group may admit only people who agree with the basic principles or ideals upon which it was founded. Neither of these things are the exclusive remit of fascist groups.

It should not be hard to see how rules against freedom of association or recruitment on the basis of agreeing with any given ideology might be used against the working class. At least as zealously, if not more so, as they could be against the far-right.

Not to mention that destroying the BNP will not destroy fascism or fascist ideas. It will push some fascists back towards the overt racism and street violence of the old BNP and National Front. Others will adapt to the new restrictions and emerge in a different form, as is the case with the British Freedom Party. You cannot destroy fascism as a force without confronting the ideology behind it.

Few people will mourn the demise of the BNP, no matter what form that takes. But we should not delude ourselves that setting precedents for state power over political organisation is a victory for antifascism. If anything, it risks being just the opposite.