A strategy for fighting fascism
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
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
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