Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sometimes it's worth ignoring the BNP

In today's Morning Star I have an article arguing that sometimes at this election it will be worth ignoring the BNP rather than organising against them. Interestingly veteran letter writer Kieth Flett has got his response in already with a good letter in tomorrow's edition.

On a personal level this was a response to they way some people in Lewisham greeted the news that the BNP would be standing a Mayoral candidate.

I love sanctimonious posturing personally but it can be an inappropriate response in an area where the BNP will get a derisory vote. Going around telling everyone they are standing and how terrible they are is a tactic that we already know will drive the BNP vote up.

From the very first time the BNP had a councillor elected, on the Isle of Dogs, the tactic to mobilise the anti-fascist vote has acted to both drive up the BNP vote and the anti-fascist vote. It works because it ensures the BNP do not get more votes than the other parties, not because it decreases the far right vote - it simply doesn't.

It can make those who oppose racism and fascism feel like they've done 'something' to go out leafleting informing the entire population that the BNP pose a threat at the election, but the key question is whether doing more work than the fascists to advertise their presence is a worthwhile exercise.

It simply does not make sense in an area where the BNP will be getting perhaps 1% of the vote to employ a tactic that we know will increase the number of people voting for them.

The election is not about the far right and we shouldn't turn it into a battle against the BNP where it is not. Obviously there are a handful of places at this general election where mobilising the anti-fascist vote is the most crucial thing to do, Barking is a case in point. If you're passionate about stopping the Nazis get yourself to one of these areas.

In most areas the idea that running around shitting yourself because some sad tosser has told the papers they'll be representing the master race at the election, come on, get a sense of proportion. Shouting fire when there isn't one cannot be justified simply because fires can be very bad things when they do happen.


ModernityBlog said...

The problem with ignoring the BNP, Jim, is that it largely accepts the normalisation of the BNP as inevitable.

I think that is a very dangerous approach.

But I would agree with many of your points and think we need a slightly smarter way of dealing with the EDL and the BNP.

I favour a refounding of a national antiracist campaign, with an emphasis on building up local groups, etc.

claude said...

I agree with Jim. I've been saying it for a while. The attention the BNP have been handed in the last two years or so is wholly disproportionate to their actual size.

And what does "normalising" the BNP mean, exactly?

We have at least three tabloids acting almost completely as their mouth piece.

The worst that we can do is to amplify the fact that a party interpreting the worst of the Daily Mail's rectal instincts are actually there!

Jim Jepps said...

Ignoring them is not the same as normalising them (treating them as if they are a normal political party) because it acts to exclude them from the political debate where they have no capacity to make their own waves.

Although I agree that we need a refounding and rethinking of anti-fascism I do have a concern about what building local groups actually entails.

ie in order to have a functioning life the temptation will be to do anti-fascist work even where there is no fascist presence and that work only serves to help the local group continue - for its own sake.

In Cambridge, for instance, there's a brilliant guy who organises wonderful, regular LMHR gigs. But Cambridge is an area where the BNP got literally one of their worst votes in the *entire country* at the Euros.

As activity it does nothing to set the BNP back and does not create activists who do meaningful anti-BNP work either. Politically the gigs simply act as re-affirmation, although they are fun.

I believe Sun Tzu said something along the lines of 'Do not do what you want to do, do what your enemy least wants you to do.'

I think the anti-fascist movement has been doing what it wants to do and sometimes (not always) this has helped the BNP not hindered it.

To re-iterate in void misinterpretation: I'm for a targeted approach that takes the BNP seriously where they are a serious force and marginalises them, starving them of the oxygen of publicity, where they have yet to gain a foothold.