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?