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Neo-Nazis blast a warning
THE NEO-Nazi British National Party (BNP) won 13 council seats in the elections and now have 16 elected local councilors. Their eight councillors in Burnley now make the BNP the official opposition to Labour.
This and other gains means a certain political breakthrough for the BNP, who have struggled to hide their neo-Nazi ideas to gain votes and new members, although they are still far from an important national force.
By Naomi Byron, secretary, Youth against Racism in Europe and Clare James, national organiser International Socialist Resistance.
Many seats were won with very small majorities, and they failed to make the breakthrough they hoped for in areas like Sunderland (where they stood 22 candidates but none were elected).
The election of further BNP candidates is dangerous however, encouraging increasing divisions, racial tensions and prejudice locally.
The BNP's leaders and key activists are neo-Nazis, believing that whites are superior to all other races. Their ultimate aim is a Nazi dictatorship, like Hitler in Germany or Mussolini in Italy, that can smash all working-class organisations and democratic rights.
They use racism and all other common forms of prejudice, to divide working-class people and help big business to keep exploiting us all.
The BNP leadership have been trying for years to build a far-right party which can attract support beyond a few scattered individuals. Time and again they have failed, defeated by mass movements against racism and fascism.
But now, when millions are alienated from mainstream political parties and looking to punish the establishment, the BNP try to 'rebrand' themselves and lose their neo-Nazi image.
The asylum issue undoubtedly helped the BNP, particularly after many mainstream newspapers and politicians linked it to the terrible level of local services (in fact produced by years of cuts and privatisation). BNP members are delighted that the media and mainstream political parties are 'legitimising' their anti-asylum seeker views in this way.
Particularly in relatively better-off areas with a mainly white population, racism was a big factor in BNP's votes. However, most BNP voters are not convinced neo-Nazis, or even support all of the BNP's public (very watered-down) policy statements.
Most people who are eligible to vote don't vote in local elections, not seeing any point in voting for careerist politicians who promise the world and then do exactly the same as the party that were in before, while services are allowed to run down.
Much of the BNP's new vote comes from people who don't agree with the BNP on many issues but want to punish the establishment and the careerist politicians who represent it.
Sadly any progress for the BNP, with their policies of division and hatred, will make it harder for local communities to unite in campaigns to improve services and end the neglect that they have suffered for years.
The establishment is uncomfortable at the BNP's growth and fears that a new anti-racist movement could develop in response. New Labour and other mainstream politicians argued for people to vote for any of the three main parties, whether you agreed with them or not, just to keep the BNP out. But it's their unpopular policies that opened the door to the BNP.
To halt the BNP's growth we need to build an anti-racist movement and a genuine left alternative to the mainstream political parties and the far right. Such an alternative must take up bread-and-butter issues like jobs, housing, low pay and privatisation. It must oppose the pro-big business policies of New Labour and the BNP with working-class unity and the power of the trade union movement.
In The Socialist 10 May 2003: