Fascism — rampant, unashamedly racist and would-be pogromist fascism — is now stronger than it has been in Britain since the 1970s. In the number of council seats held by the fascists, it is stronger now than in the 1970s.
In Barking and Dagenham, in East London, the BNP won 12 seats. It gained a total of 32 new councillors, and re-elected one, across the country, bringing its total to 48.
There is a poisonous mixture that is creating this reaction amongst a minority of white workers in areas of east London, the North West, the Midlands and Yorkshire:
• A right-wing New Labour central government which rules with obvious contempt for its traditional working-class base
• Local government which is detached from the working-class electorate and which fails to provide high quality services
• Unemployment and poverty faced by many white workers, often concentrated on particular estates, and set alongside the very visible, conspicuous wealth of others
• Lack of strong, visible, campaigning working class and socialist organisations in many working class areas
• Crumbling public services and lack of affordable, decent housing
• Media and mainstream political parties agitating against asylum seekers who are said to be stealing services, jobs and homes
This is still a long way from any prospect of the BNP taking power in Britain. But the results point to the possibility of the BNP gaining a majority on some local councils in the near future. Complacency would be criminal. Fascism can build quickly on what it already has — if it is not stopped.
If the rational revolutionary left does not find a way to unite and work effectively against fascism, then it will grow.
In many European countries, fascism has become a powerful political force, building on anti-immigrant, racist, and xenophobic feeling. In Britain now, as in much of Europe, it appeals to native white working-class people who are under pressure from the insecurities, social dislocations, housing and other shortages, social exclusion and social atomisation of life under globalising capitalism.
It builds on real working-class grievances, but has no solution to offer. It offers scapegoats instead. It sets one section of the working class against other sections of the same class.
It has grown in Europe because of the bankruptcy of the traditional working-class parties. For a long time, the development of fascism in Britain has lagged behind its growth in mainland Europe. At the end of the 1970s Mrs Thatcher’s Tory party politically gazumped the fascist organisations that had grown up in the 1970s, partly in opposition to the socially-liberal Tory party of Edward Heath (which had, for example, let large numbers of British-passport-holding Uganda Asians into Britain when Uganda’s dictator Idi Amin expelled them).
Thatcher’s Tories catered for the narrow-minded “patriotic” bigots who had come to support the fascist movement of that day, the National Front. The Tories of today do not.
The surprising thing is not that fascism is growing in Britain, but that it has taken so long to develop. Labour helps the fascists indirectly by disappointing any hopes workers had of improvement, by turning the Labour Party into a Tory-clone party; it helps them directly by the scandalous agitation of government ministers against refugees, illegal immigrants, and foreign criminals. David Blunkett was perhaps the worst of them when he was Home Secretary, but by no means the only one.
The BNP reaps where Labour ministers — including the prime minister — sow. The fascists can and do say: Look, they agree with us! Immigrants are the problem! But they just talk! We will act!
Labour, pandering to the racist and xenophobic press, primes the guns for the BNP to fire.
British fascism is growing not only because of the hijacking of the Labour Party by the Blairites and New Labour’s bankruptcy as any sort of working-class or even any sort of reformist party. It is also growing because of the bankruptcy of the traditional revolutionary left in Britain.
In inner East London, in Tower Hamlets, Respect, the party faced up by George Galloway and controlled by the Socialist Workers’ Party, did well too on 4 May. It won 12 councillors. All the Respect candidates elected were Muslims with some local communal base. The biggest “revolutionary socialist” party in Britain, the SWP, has now immersed itself almost completely in Islamic communal politics.
It is the backbone of Respect, the party which “fights for Muslims”. It supports Muslim — and other — faith schools. It celebrates the victory of the political Islamists Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections.
Socialists defend immigrant and Muslim communities against organisations such as the BNP. Where necessary we defend them physically. But we defend them under such general slogans as “Black and white, unite and fight”, or “immigrants and others are sisters and brothers”.
Our fundamental responsibility and our basic policy is to unite the working class. We know that working-class unity is the precondition for being able to solve the social problems which the fascists and racist exploit and use to divide workers.
Quite apart from any other considerations, workers of different backgrounds cannot be united by “socialists” who immerse themselves in the communal and even religious identity of one of the communities.
The other side of the immersion of the erstwhile revolutionary socialists in Islamic communalism is the encouragement of the old-established white communalism which the BNP fastens on and politically exploits. The savage truth - but it needs to be said - is that Respect in inner East London and the BNP in outer East London are mirror images of each other. They are the twin poles of a division of the working class into two hostile, competing, inter-warring communal camps, one led by the BNP and the other supported - not led by, far from it, supported - by the erstwhile revolutionary socialist left now bizarrely turned Islamic-communalist.
The self-immersion of large sections of the once-revolutionary left in political Islam, which has been stinking up British left politics for the last three years, now threatens to poison the wells of broad working-class politics.
What is to be done about that?
The labour movement must begin to mobilise against the BNP, under its own banner and with its own demands which seek to provide answers for the working class as a whole.
Too often the unions have submerged themselves inside campaigns like Unite Against Fascism (UAF) which do little on-the-ground work, have almost no roots in the areas most affected by BNP agitation, and provide few answers beyond "Don't be racist".
Yes, anti-racism, and solidarity with asylum seekers, are the starting points for our activity, but we need a movement which will agitate for homes for all, jobs for all and a re-building of public services.
That’s why we believe that anti-fascism must be working-class anti-fascism. Bourgeois anti-fascism – the sort that courts the support of right-wing politicians and consciously avoids policies capable of addressing the needs of the working class - will never have a grip on the motivations of those white workers who back the BNP.
And we need to turn the left back to the working class. The absence of working-class organisation — socialist political organisation and strong unions — is also a factor here.
The idiotic turn being made towards the mosques — by the SWP and others –is the opposite of what is needed. In the East End of London such policies lead to racial division and segregation in schools and tag the left with favouring Muslims above others.
We oppose racism against Muslims. But we approach the question of racism and fascism from a class perspective.
A rational, anti-communalist, secularist left is being defined and redefined in battle against the emergence of sharia-socialism - which now includes the biggest contingent of "revolutionary socialists" in Britain! - but it needs to define itself positively. It needs to spell out the political platform on which it stands, and regroup - even if only, in organisational terms, very loosely.
The best election results for fascists since the 30s - and perhaps ever - are an event which should concentrate the minds of socialists.