September 16, 2009

Beating back the BNP in Barnsley

Red Pepper magazine is running a debate on the future of anti-fascism, one we'd like to bring to the Lancaster Unity community. With Red Pepper's agreement we have republished two of the three articles here and here, each with a different take on the way forward. Belatedly, here is the third and (for the moment) final article...

There is certainly a need for new ways of taking on the BNP, says Paul White, but that doesn’t mean ditching the old ways as well

In the build up to the recent elections in Barnsley, we distributed both UAF and Hope Not Hate leaflets to a much larger section of the electorate. These were the standard-issue ‘Vote Anyone but Nazi’ literature, highlighting the Nazi backgrounds and criminal activities of the BNP’s leading members and candidates. In addition, we held two rallies in the town centre as part of our ‘Reclaim our Town for Democrats’ campaign. This was a response to the BNP having had a regular presence in the main shopping precinct for the past few years on a Saturday, with a stall distributing literature and selling their newspaper. On top of all this, we had established a regular Love Music Hate Racism event at a local club in an attempt to bring young people into the campaign, and to raise awareness.

Despite our best efforts, Barnsley has found itself labelled the fascist capital of Britain, with the BNP achieving its highest percentage of the vote here. Disregarding the factor of the collapse of the Labour vote, it became obvious that simply saying ‘don’t vote BNP/they’re Nazis’ plainly hadn’t worked – again!

There is certainly a need for new ways of taking on the BNP as they become an increasingly more serious threat to everything we have been fighting for all these years. We’ve begun this reflection in Barnsley.

First, while in the past we were just active around elections, we will be active all year round, in the market place, on the streets, on Facebook, in the local press, around football matches – really involving the people of Barnsley. We’ve set up a Barnsley FC supporters group against the BNP, and we are reclaiming the market place.

Second, we are becoming much more deeply engaged with local campaigns addressing the root causes of the many social issues and problems in Barnsley that allow the BNP to capitalise on people’s disaffection. This means defending the health service, campaigning for affordable/social housing, defending jobs. We marched through the city centre last month against job cuts. The BNP had nothing to say.

It would obviously be great if we had candidates standing in the next elections who could offer an alternative, but this is something that will no doubt be discussed in the future.

However, for those of us in localities like Barnsley where the BNP is active and visible, we cannot afford to completely ditch our existing structures, contacts and networks in order to start afresh. We need to maintain our relationship with local trade unions, regardless of what we feel about the Labour Party (I, for one, would not be actively encouraging people to vote for them). The unions provide a vital link to organised workers within the area – significantly, this is something the BNP does not like. We need to learn from what hasn’t (and what has) worked, and develop new strategies and methods, hopefully involving a wider layer of campaigners. We need to be realistic about what works, and what doesn’t. The stakes are far too high to be dogmatic.

Paul White is a trade unionist, socialist and Green Party member

Red Pepper


??? said...

Here is a photo of the C18/BNP member bev kerry:

Jamie The Antifascist said...

Sounds like a very long, and very tiring road ahead for anti-fascism in Barnsley but if is what it takes to beat the fascists, then so be it. If this campaign goes into action and we do manage to beat the BNP on their home-turf, it could prove a major break through in getting rid of of the BNP "hotspots" such as Stoke-On-Trent once and for all..

UK Fightback said...

Good article - it's nice to read a bit of common-sense for a change!

There's often bitter debate about which strategy is best to fight the BNP etc, and many of those arguments are based on the (universally false) assumption and/or implication that for some reason Anti-Fascists should only adopt ONE approach.

Certain strategies work best in certain circumstances, but not in others. Some strategies work best AGAINST some individuals, but less well against others. Some strategies work best FOR certain Anti-Fascists who have particular interests and skills, but don't work well for other people whose talents lie elsewhere. Am I really saying anything controversial here?

The first job of Anti-Fascist activism is not to find fault with people who happen to think differently from us, but to ENCOURAGE people and to harness their ENTHUSIASM

Anonymous said...

@ UK Fightback

Absolutely spot on. No Platform would have been a stupid policy to apply to Maureen Stowe. It would have been absolutely the right policy for the BBC to have applied to Griffin, but sadly it didn't. Horses for courses.

Thankfully we are having this discussion. There was a time when even trying to discuss new thinking was tantamount to heresy.

Anonymous said...

"Barnsley has found itself labelled the fascist capital of Britain, with the BNP achieving its highest percentage of the vote here". Are you sure? I think you'll find that Dagenham, Thurrock and Stoke all had higher BNP votes in June. Barnsley's is the biggest in the North with Rotherham just behind. But good luck with the work. I'm from Barnsley originally and know what you're up against.

Anonymous said...

"Barnsley has found itself labelled the fascist capital of Britain, with the BNP achieving its highest percentage of the vote here".

That should have the rider in the European elections.

Elsewhere Bark & Dag is the facsist capital being the place with the greatest number of bnp councillors.

Depends how you define it.

Also changes, once it was Burnley.

Luckily the BNP is yet to show that it can sustain its strongest areas. Big test will be Bark & Dag, with Bailey disgracing the BNP there and Barnbook taking the electorate for granted it's unlikely to be an easy local election for the BNP.

And Griffin is likely to fall out with the Barnsley newbies so that will fail too