The Socialist 26 November 2008 |
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BNP membership list: A weak divided party exposed
Despite the huge amounts of media coverage the British National Party has received over the years, the publication of their list of members, ex-members and others makes it clear that the BNP is a relatively small party. In fact the very publication of the list by a disgruntled member reflects the divisions and splits the BNP regularly faces.
Naomi Byron, Youth Against Racism in Europe
With just over 3,000 members classed as activists, it is welcome news that the BNP has capitalised so little on the enormous anger against New Labour, Tories and Lib Dems that exists.
The BNP has, over recent years, attempted to hide its racist, neo-Nazi ideas, trying to present itself as an electoral alternative to the three main political parties. As working-class people gave up voting Labour in their millions the BNP has opportunistically and falsely tried to attract support by posing as the saviours of working people.
But the BNP has no solutions. Where members have been elected they have often voted for cuts in services. They attempt to scapegoat migrants rather than build effective opposition on the basis of workers' unity and struggle. The tension between the hard line neo-Nazis, who make up the leadership, and the newer BNP supporters attracted to the BNP's more populist, radical-sounding rhetoric is exposed by this publication.
The leak may lead to a number of members leaving or failing to renew their membership at the end of the year. Many people are also likely to be put off joining if they aren't confident their details will be kept securely, particularly those in jobs like the police and the prison service who are banned from membership of the BNP.
Many on the list deny their membership of or even support for the BNP. However, the attacks coming from New Labour politicians and the media may also serve to solidify the incorrect image the BNP attempts to create - that it is an anti-establishment voice.
Despite the attempts of the BNP's leadership to remake their image as a respectable political party the truth is that their ideas encourage violence, racial tensions and physical attacks on their opponents.
On Saturday 15 November two young Socialist Party members were attacked by a far-right thug for joining a protest against the BNP conference in Blackpool. Despite press releases the media failed to pick up on this opportunity to expose the violent side of far-right organisations. Yet, reflecting the incredible amount of media coverage the BNP receive relative to their size, there has been a frenzy around the unconfirmed car fire outside one of the addresses on the list.
The strange mix of people on the list include an ex-serviceman from the "Rhodesian Forces", various people who worship the Norse god Odin (a favourite in far-right circles), and at least seven people with email addresses that include the number 88 (among far right circles this stands for HH or Heil Hitler). Several have stood as election candidates for all three of the main political parties and the Green party.
The list reflects important lessons. After a huge campaign, based on uniting the local community, inflicted several political defeats on the BNP in Tower Hamlets, East London 15 years ago, its membership has still not recovered. There are only 21 people from the borough on the list, and only four on the Isle of Dogs where the BNP's first ever councillor was elected in 1993.
The list certainly contains a warning. There are more than 1,600 named people in Yorkshire and more than 580 in the West Midlands. But they only claim 33 activists (members who are trusted to speak to other members/contacts) between the ages of 16-23. Young people, facing the sharp end of the economic crisis, must be mobilised in campaigns for jobs and homes not racism.