More than 100 people attended the regional conference that took place in Nottingham on January 19th called by Nottinghamshire Stop the BNP and sponsored by a number of trade unions and campaigning organisations in the Notts area and other parts of the East Midlands.
The conference was called to discuss a campaign to stop a repeat of the 2007 BNP “Red, White and Blue festival” in Codnor near both Derby and Nottingham.
It attracted significant representations from a number of unions particularly the FBU from Lincoln, Loughborough, Derby and Leicester. FBU delegates came even from as far away as Gloucester.
The conference decided to continue to organise against BNP events as the Notts Stop the BNP campaign had done in October when it peacefully blockaded a meeting of the BNP that was to be addressed by their party leader Nick Griffin, thereby preventing it going ahead.
The conference agreed to continue to “actively seek out and work with black and minority ethnic communities including Muslims” and to “collaborate with religious organisations against racism and against the far right” but “at the same time (to) be explicit in … (its)… support for the rights and liberation of LGBT people and the rights of women including the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.”
A speaker from the successful Kirklees campaign gave examples of the way women from the Muslim communities, normally not encouraged to take part in political actions could be drawn into political action both generally against racism and for their own interests.
The Midlands TUC spokesperson, Alan Weaver, and Christine Shawcroft of the Labour Party National Executive argued that the focus had to be on getting the major “credible” parties elected against the BNP. However most delegates spoke against becoming defenders of the government’s or of other parties’ records.
The conference agreed, without any votes being cast against, to recognise that the actions and policies of the Labour Government had in fact created the environment that had helped the BNP grow. It noted that BNP growth had resulted from “the downgrading and destruction of channels for political representation through the Labour Party” and “the failure of …unions to act as a pole of attraction for workers angry at the way society is run”. It also accepted that “it is an essential aspect of effective anti-fascist campaigning …that we
• encourage genuine non-racist action for working class interests on housing, employment and welfare rights as well as
• promote non-racist democratic working class organisations, such as trade unions, to organise around such issues.”
The campaign noted a split in the BNP which had led to many leading BNP figures locally, including Broxtowe councillor Sadie Graham, leaving the BNP and setting about forming their own party. It was noted that this new party looked as though it was going to be essentially the same as the BNP with the same racist policies, the same connection with individuals and organisations promoting race hate and having Nazi histories. The meeting decided it would deal with this new “party” in the same way as it does the BNP.
A call was made from the conference to call for a major mobilisation against any attempt to repeat the 2007 BNP Red, White and Blue festival in the region including
• demanding that councils block permission for any repetition of this event;
• calling on trade unions to refuse to do any work that might facilitate the BNP event
• calling on thousands of local people to join the campaign in filling the surrounding area in mass protest should any such event take place in 2008.
The organisations represented at the conference will now need to make representations to national anti-fascist organisations, in particular those with extensive trade union backing like Searchlight/ Hope not Hate and Unite against Fascism. A campaign is needed that is independent of the government and other capitalist parties, mobilizing the trade unions and working class communities against both racism and the causes of racism. Such a campaign could send the BNP and the Voice of Change split from the BNP back into the political margins.
But that will require an end to the “lowest common denominator” politics of the major national campaigns and their conciliation on the one hand (UAF) to religious reactionaries such as in the Muslim Council of Britain or on the other hand to supporters of the government as seen in the Hope not Hate campaign.
The Nottingham conference showed that such politics are not necessary to create a vibrant campaign. In fact the experience of the Nottinghamshire campaign over less than 10 months showed that a desire to revitalize critical political life in working class communities is essential for the success of any anti-fascist campaign.
• A mass leafleting of Brinsley by over 20 activists on the day following the conference informed local residents of the mutual Nazi allegations being made by each side of the current internal BNP civil war, and called on Brinsley people to demand the resignation of Sadie Graham as Broxtowe councillor. Great pleasure was taken in delivering a copy of the leaflet directly to Sadie Graham’s door, to the anger of a group of burly men who came out of the door but decided to take no action against the large group of anti-fascist leafletters.