Home > General Politics, Labour Party News, Miscellaneous, Race and Colour > Equalities and Human Rights Commission vs. the BNP

Equalities and Human Rights Commission vs. the BNP

Obviously I am not friend of the bunch of racist twats in the BNP. What’s that I hear you say? They’re not racist, they’re just standing up for Britishness? Er, not according to this “Golly trial” that was going on at one of their festivals. Not only that, when they do get people elected those people are joke-candidates: witness Richard Barnbrook’s lies about knife crime resulting in hearings by the London Assembly. Or Simon Darby, who made the funniest comment I have ever read from a professional politician:

“If I went to Uganda and I went to a Ugandan village and said that the people there were genetic mongrels and that they had no right to their Ugandan identity, I would be picking out spears for days.”

Best use of cultural cliché ever. The remarks were made in the context of attacking Archbishop of York John Sentamu for encouraging people not to vote for the BNP. Bearing in mind that this Archbishop frequently goes off on one about the great conspiracy of secularists and the centrality of Christianity to Britain’s culture, you’d think the BNP response would have been moderated to something like “We are disappointed…but actually Dr Sentamu agrees with us on a bunch of things.” It’s true that no ineptitude is more welcome than that of an enemy.

Notwithstanding stupidity, or that their full-timers are embroiled in power struggles when not suffering ‘depressive illness’, the BNP are still a threat. This will not be helped by the announcement that the BNP are to face court over their non-compliance with the 1976 Race Relations Act. Apparently the party dedicated to ‘voluntary repatriation’ and the Sieg Heil salute doesn’t offer enough employment opportunities for black or Asian people. Next Trevor Phillips’ merry band at the EHRC will be telling us they haven’t employed enough Jews.

A great number of people in this country feel alienated from the institutions of power and the ‘respectable’ faces of democracy and civil society. Pitting these ‘respectable’ faces against the BNP will not warn people off the BNP, it will solidify their reputation as anti-establishment. I have no doubt that the EHRC doesn’t see it like this: they have a duty under the law etc etc, it’s not a choice, it’s built into their mandate etc etc. But I suspect that go-to excuse of the BNP is at least partially correct – that the Labour government have a hand in this somewhere. At the very least, it is endorsed by the upper echelons of Labour, as Harriet Harman made clear today.

Moreover, the use of what will be presented as ‘human rights’ legislation against the BNP easily feeds into their narrative about how human rights is designed to work against white people, to the benefit of minorities. Law or not, this could all too easily backfire from the point of view of those who wish to defeat the BNP and fascist sentiments they represent. At the very least, the BNP will point out that this is persecution of minorities like the  “Celtic Scottish folk community” or the “Anglo-Saxon-Norse folk community”.

Worse still, the BNP might actually change its constitution so that it explicitly permits the admission of non-whites: I can’t think of  better (but completely meaningless) symbol which the BNP could use to fuel the “we’re not racist, just British” meme. Whatever the BNP constitution says, black or Asian people are not going to be signing up to the BNP in record numbers – the text of said constitution can’t change the violent, alcohol-driven, jackbooted, Sieg Heiling, lumpenprole, white trash membership and the ‘welcome’ they would give to ethnic minority members.

The use of State mechanisms to suppress a political party is not acceptable: the alternative, an activist response, is a much better idea.

We need to move beyond the ‘beat them in the great debate’ attitude of some more liberal commentators on the issue: as I have pointed out on numerous occasions, democracy is not just a great debate. The BNP take advantage of disaffection with prevailing norms, keeping the working class divided and opposition to capitalism weak, but they operate within the same paradigms as the establishment: on immigration or Europe for example, the BNP may be more ‘radical’ but they present the issue in essentially the same way as Right-Tories and UKIP.

This is why anti-fascists shouldn’t be sharing a platform with UKIP, Tories or Right-Labour speakers: they can denounce fascism all they want, but their presentation of the issue is only different by degrees. The solution to fascist appeal is not the restriction of immigration, or to pass laws forcing the conformity of ethnic minorities to rose-tinted majority archetypes or the denunciation of everything European as “Marxist”. It is the unity of the working class in the face of common exploitation, not one subset blaming that exploitation on the other.

Additionally, such establishment politicians often shy away from awakening the socialist solidarity of many trades union members (however those members vote come election time), preferring instead to rest with high-profile speakers and conventions. Whereas we could have the CWU organising boycotts of fascist leaflets and journalists and publishing workers refusing to print or broadcast BNP advertisements, an activity based on the active political choice of individuals rather than the power of the State, politicians run from this option as they always have.

At root, that is our only choice: either to abdicate our responsibility to organize mass opposition to the fascists, allied to mass organisations like the trades unions, or to leave it to the pontifications of our politicians, many of whom are compromised by their role as the root of much working class alienation, and their use (abuse?) of State power. So, hands up, who thinks the windbaggery of Harriet Harman and her parliamentary colleagues is going to get the job done?

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  1. Chris Baldwin
    August 25, 2009 at 9:11 am | #1

    The “Beat them in the great debate” attitude is especially misguided, because how do you debate with liars?

  2. August 25, 2009 at 10:00 am | #2

    Dave

    You state: ‘The use of State mechanisms to suppress a political party is not acceptable: the alternative, an activist response, is a much better idea.’

    I agreed that activist action will be more effective, and indeed that in this case using the mechanism of the law will be counterproductive, but your suggestion that using ‘state mechanisms’ in any way to ‘suppress’ the BNP is wrong gives me pause for thought.

    Haven’t you elsewhere argued that unions should press for ‘state mechanisms’ i.e. some of government policy/legislation to exclude BNP members from working as teachers?

    Yes, the main thrust for the use of state force to suppress the BNP is from activisits in this case, but it is still the use of a state mechanism to achieve the goal. And yes, you might argue that stopping a BNP member being a teacher is different from stopping the BNP as a political party, but in terms of the potential for the action backfiring and allowing th BNP to take on its prefered position as ‘victim’ of state repression, there are similarities.

    I think broadly we agree, but that that there are nuances around what the use of a ‘state mechanism’ actually entails, and that where its use is the result of activist engagement, (so even. for example, picketing/leafleting the police till they stop a BNP march, as has been Hope Not Hate’s modus operandi, the debate about tactical nouse is more important than the principle of ‘state mechanism’.

  3. August 25, 2009 at 11:23 am | #3

    I don’t think calling for a ban by a particular Union and calling for a ban by the State can be remotely equated – nor do I think you can call the governing structures of a Union a “state mechanism”.

    For a start, to take my last point first, the structures of a Union operate at a much reduced remove than the structures of the State. The intervening body here is a quango, which no one elected and the workings of which we have never been consulted about. If we compare that to one of the more active unions that operate against the BNP, the National Union of Students, the “No Platform” policy is debated every year at multiple universities around the country. Or take the NUT: its recent ‘political fund’ has been set up to battle BNP propaganda and lies – but that’s something that is debated by members at each National Conference. Both of these are ‘activist’ responses even though they employ a procedural and structural framework.

    To consider my first point, there is as we’ve discussed elsewhere, a massive difference between the State banning ‘discriminatory’ parties and Union members actively deciding to have nothing to do with them, and to give them no access to Union positions and funds. I did argue, at one point, that Unions should push for state legislation – but then I reversed my own position in an immediately subsequent article to propose instead that teachers, parents and students should unite to get rid of fascists who are allotted positions where they’d be responsible for people of ethnic or religious minorities.

    As for picketing/leafleting the police, I think that’s the wrong way to go – and that Hope Not Hate get involved with that had slipped past me. As is easily seen from Northern Ireland, having the police stop a march solves absolutely nothing. The group prevented from marching mounts a campaign to protest its victimisation, and more extreme elements have themselves an orgy of violence. Counter-demonstrating, leafleting the communities and helping to dry up support for the BNP is always going to be far more effective than merely encouraging the police to stop the march.

  4. August 25, 2009 at 11:43 am | #4

    I’m not suggesting for even a mini-millisecond that union structures, however occasionally state-like, are actual state structures. I thought your BNP teacher argument had been that unions should press, through organised action, the DCFS (a real state structure) to impose a ban, rather than orchestrate an effective ban themselves. I’m sorry if I remember your argument wrong (I can’t find the original article – can you link me back to it?).

    As for the Hope Not Hate issue, I again don’t remember the exact details but they did lead a campaign to get the Liverpool (April/May ’09) banned by the top police person, which involved mass emailing/letters (rather than leaflets). I have a hazy memory of something involving local picketing also, but may be wrong.

    All things considered, my poor memory means that the original comment was really quite deficient then, but I think my key point – that we shouldn’t simply rule out the appropriate use of ‘state mechanisms’ if activists force their use – remains valid enough.

  5. August 25, 2009 at 11:58 am | #5

    The first one, pro sacking them all immediately without the need for solidarity and socialist action can be found here: http://thoughcowardsflinch.com/2008/11/19/get-them-out/

    The second one, which takea a more considered role (e.g. denouncing the rubber stamp of parliament etc) can be found here: http://thoughcowardsflinch.com/2008/11/20/irreconcilable-differences-positive-intolerance/

  6. Ralph Musgrave
    October 10, 2009 at 4:36 pm | #6

    BNP fascist?

    Chambers Dictionary defines fascism as being composed for four or five characteristics, one of which is “militarism”. Labour plus Tories took the British military to Iraq (“for the oil” according to Alan Greenspan) and a million Muslims and Kurds died as a result. In contrast the BNP always opposed the war. Who are the fascists on that score?

    And then there is small question of the million or so Muslims and Kurds killed. Who are the racists?
    The BNP are going to have to kill an awful lot of Muslims etc before they become more racist than Labour or the Tories.

    Another element of fascism as per Chambers dictionary definition is “restrictions on personal freedom”. There have been dozens of articles in broadsheet newspapers in the last year cataloguing the attacks on civil liberties and human rights by Labour.

    And then there was the undemocratic (i.e. fascist decision) to implement a policy of mass immigration to the UK, a decision taken without consulting and against the wishes of the majority of Brits: a decision backed by Labour and Tories and opposed by the BNP.

    The list of Labour and Tory fascist characteristics is endless. It’s a moot point as to who the fascists are, isn’t it?

  7. October 10, 2009 at 4:54 pm | #7

    What a laughable argument. By this definition, Hitler and Mussolini and their confreres didn’t become fascist until they had taken state power, which is obviously not true.

    Fascism is a political ideology, one espoused (and indeed practiced) by the BNP. Labour, the Tories etc, they have their own ideologies. You can attempt to argue that Labour is worse than the fascists, but not that they are themselves fascist – indeed such a thing makes a mockery of the concept of political ideologies.

    Finally, the idea that Labour and the Tories “undemocratically” introduced immigration is frankly laughable. First of all, it would be Liberals and Tories, and secondly these were the parties with the highest votes in parliament. For a given value of democratic, that’s democracy.

    I really wish you BNP lot would get a brain, read a book or simply stop coming by to try and annoy me with silly arguments.

  8. Ralph Musgrave
    October 13, 2009 at 5:03 pm | #8

    Dave’s claim that on the dictionary definition of fascism a party cannot be fascist till it is in power is odd. Dictionary definitions of fascism say it is composed of different characteristics or policies. A party that is nowhere near power can perfectly well have one or more of these characteristics or policies. To that extent it is fascist, isn’t it?

    Re his second para Dave says “Fascism is a political ideology, one espoused (and indeed practiced) by the BNP.” Well, fascism may be a precisely delineated ideology in Dave’s brain, but the rest of the world has got its knickers in a twist as to exactly what fascism is. George Orwell claimed that the word fascist is meaningless. Tim Garton Ash expressed a similar view in an article in The Guardian a few months ago. That was why I started my above post with a definition.

    Dave objects to the claim that Labour “are themselves fascist”. That is a fair point. One cannot call any party 100% fascist or non fascist. Thus the last sentence of my above post should have read “It is a moot point as to which party is the more fascist”.

    Re Dave’s penultimate para, I am baffled by his claim that it was Liberals and Tories who implemented large scale immigration (as opposed to my claim that it was Labour and Tories). Large scale immigration started post WWII (Windrush and all that). The last Liberal government left office in 1915.

  9. October 13, 2009 at 7:12 pm | #9

    What audience are you playing to, Ralph? There’s no-one here but me, so address me, rather than some third party.

    Firstly you employed the dictionary definition of fascist. I disagree with elements of the definition, which is understandable because the dominant ideology of those behind the dictionary is liberalism, small ‘l’. This eradicates the class element which should be imputed; but for the sake of argument let’s play your game.

    The idea that a party must be near state power in order to be fascist comes from you, not from me. You claimed, for example, that the BNP would have to kill a lot of Muslims before they become ‘more racist’ than Labour or the Tories.

    If racism is to be measured by bodybags then you’re not comparing like with like; the BNP is a political party, Labour was in government, commanding – in theory – the State, as were the Tories when it was their turn to gun down various foreigners in the name of the Empire or whatever. Of course the BNP couldn’t have killed as many Muslims – though I’m sure amidst all the racial violence the BNP has attempted to stir up, some poor Muslim chap has been killed.

    Not to say that the BNP wouldn’t kill Muslims with abandon, if given state power. That’s the key point here: what a party promises in order to win elections, and what it’s real agenda is, can be two different things.

    In the case of the BNP, which has a very sinister, almost terroristic element to its Party – racist chanting, burning of dolls, seig heiling etc – I suspect the divergence between manifesto and reality to be even sharper than for the mainstream parties.

    In fact, if the BNP won a general election, the ‘mood’ that would have to exist for that to happen – paranoia about foreigners, a visceral reaction against anyone different – would be different to today and more likely to provoke a pro-war hysteria than the multicultural anti-war movement numbering in the millions that socialists built against the Iraq war.

    You move on to claim that only the BNP has been consistently against the war. Well, the war wasn’t exactly front and centre of the 2001 manifesto for Labour or the Tories either – so I don’t imagine that programmatic concerns mean much to political parties. Indeed the BNP, when it has elected officials, is stunning in contradicting its own populist rhetoric – as recently in Kirklees where the last remaining BNP councillor in the area voted enthusiastically for public service cuts ranging from £250m to £400m that will inevitably lead to further privatisation.

    There are plenty of examples of this type of thing – I’m just giving the most recent. This despite running on anti-privatisation, defend services platforms.

    So you’ll forgive me if I doubt any assurances that the BNP harbour no desire for war, the sort of nationalism which sustained the British Empire or any type of racist sentiment. If they ever get state power, the real nature of the BNP will reveal itself – just as the real natures of the Tories and Labour have – and that real nature is fascistic.

    Anyway, if you want an example of militarism that the BNP IS committed to, well a perfect example is the mini-manifesto claim in 2007 that the BNP would strengthen the conventional armed forces (against what, exactly? Are the Irish threatening to invade?) and that they would create an ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent – so basically building a bunch of new nuclear weapons, since the current bunch all belong to the USA. There’s another party doing that at the moment…isn’t it one of the parties that the BNP constantly attacks though?

    I’m not arguing that militarism is the defining feature of fascism, you understand, but on your own argument, the BNP are actually arguing for higher defence spending and more people in military uniform than Labour – and certainly more than the Tories, who’ve announced plans to slash defence spending. Heaven only knows what use it would all be put to. Maybe defending us against those evil hordes of invading Roma?

    Anyway, I’m belabouring the point so let’s move on.

    Your next point attempts to claim that no party can be entirely fascist or entirely non-fascist. Which is almost as much nonsense as the idea that fascism is really “left-wing” because it demands state intervention in the economy. I would contend that parties can be defined as ‘fascist’ or ‘non-fascist’ and that this cannot be determined by breaking down ‘fascism’ into a series of policies and measuring which other parties have them.

    Fascism, like socialism, labourism, liberalism (the Tory, Lib-Dem and Labour variants) and every other ideology are part of the process(es) of capitalism and cannot be understood by abstracting them from that process. I don’t expect you to acknowledge this but I think the truth becomes evident when you consider that on your definition no party can be defined as any given ideology – all parties are simply a mishmash of every ideology – whereas on my view the parties separate into distinct elements according to their relation to the capitalist process.

    Frankly I could care less what Timothy Garton-Ash or George Orwell said. Orwell in particular was a terribly woolly thinker – a much better journalist-cum-story teller than a political theorist.

    Your last point then makes issue of my contentions that the Liberals and Tories oversaw the beginnings of mass immigration – even for a moment supposing that you are right, I notice you don’t address the point. You claimed that decisions on mass immigration were taken “without consulting and against the wishes of the majority of Brits”.

    Well first of all, you can’t possibly know that the majority of Brits were against immigration. Secondly, on the subject of consultation, the ’48 Nationality Act was introduced by the Tories and approved by the massive Labour majority. The Labour re-election in 1950 and the subsequent Tory governments didn’t campaign for nor really interfere with immigration law and when they were defeated by Wilson in 1964, there was still no mass pressure to change immigration law.

    So what’s your point? Are four general elections not enough consultation?

  1. August 25, 2009 at 10:57 pm | #1

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