The Socialist Unity Network

A strategy for fighting fascism

Nick Bird



Peter Cranie's articles on how to stop the BNP in the north west deserve a response. The problem he addresses is real and serious. However, whilst he makes some interesting points about the functioning of the PR system for the Euro elections I feel that, for socialists, the political implications of his argument are highly questionable to say the least.


For a start, Peter approaches the issue of defeating the BNP from a purely technical perspective. He does concede at one point that "this is a challenge beyond these elections" but sheds no further light on this thought. And his assertion that "if we can stop them here, this June, they will collapse" suggests a rather simplistic understanding of the process whereby fascists have managed to insinuate themselves into council chambers in alarming numbers.


We all want to stop the BNP getting an MEP, and not just in the north west, but planning your electoral strategy with a calculator is a dangerous business. And in Peter's case it leads to some quite extraordinary statements coming from someone on the radical left. What are we to make of the warning that "it is important that the Tory share of the vote does not drop too much" or the "reluctant" suggestion that anti-racist votes would even be better going to the Tories than Respect? I diagnose a case of virulent electoralism leading to severe disorientation.


The pervasive hostility in society towards asylum seekers has been created and legitimised by both Labour and Tory leaders (and the right wing newspapers). Coupled with the effect of economic policies that leave many people in poverty and without hope, it has led to a climate in which the BNP can show up and pose as an alternative. Stopping the BNP is not just about juggling votes and hoping for the best, it is about finding a way to undermine their foothold in these communities.


Part of that is exposing the BNP's true nature, but equally it requires consistent work by socialists to offer those disillusioned with mainstream politics a choice based on working class demands and solidarity. It is no use telling people to vote for the parties that have driven them to desperation in the first place. This is why, incidentally, I think it is a mistake by Socialist Alliance/Respect leaders to abandon a serious intervention in the local elections this year.


Nonetheless, Respect is better placed to offer this kind of alternative than the Green Party. Respect is led by socialists and is gaining some support in the unions. If Labour's traditional support continues to haemorrhage, particularly amongst trades unionists and Muslims, Respect has the potential to become a significant pole of attraction.


We should not let our approach to the Euro elections be shaped solely by a defensive reaction to the risk of the BNP. We have clear message of opposition to the war in Iraq and of social justice and equality. I have long believed that the BNP feeds off people's fear and despair, and the job of socialists cannot be to fight it by tactical voting but by giving people back a sense of hope and the belief that they can shape their own communities through a collective endeavour.

April 2004

Peter Cranie's article on this site
How we beat the BNP in the NW