Archive article from The Socialist Issue 350
BNP: a party with no solutions
THE BRITISH National Party (BNP) is out again campaigning for votes. But do they really offer an alternative to the main parties? NAOMI BYRON investigates.
IN AN attempt to appeal to working-class communities who have suffered under years of Tory policies, the BNP have cynically begun to appear to oppose privatisation, above-inflation rises in council tax and to talk about support for workers' rights.
The BNP is happy to ask for votes at election time. However where the BNP have councillors they have failed to fight for the people who elected them on even these basic issues.
In Burnley last year, the BNP councillors didn't even turn up to the meeting where New Labour pushed through £1 million of cuts and an increase in council tax well above inflation.
Far from helping local communities resist the attacks they face from government or find solutions to the social problems caused by low pay, unemployment and job losses, the BNP is making it harder for working-class people to fight back.
The BNP plays on divisions and prejudices, trying to confuse the issues and divert attention from the real causes of our problems: the profit system we live in and the pro-big business policies of the three main parties.
Most long-standing BNP activists are hard core neo-Nazis, who believe in building a mass movement to smash the trade unions, workers' organisations and all the democratic rights we have won through decades of struggle.
Fed up with getting no support, the BNP have changed their public image. Through this they have attracted a layer of new members and supporters, though the leadership and main activists of the BNP still support the same ideas.
Spreading racism and division
IN DEWSBURY, where the BNP is active, their presence is spreading fear amongst the Asian community. A local resident told the socialist: "It's been very hard. Young lads going out in the evening, it's hard for them because they know that the BNP are around.
"Young girls can't go out and socialise in the evenings. In some places where BNP members live, people are scared to go there and visit their parents or families in case they get beaten up."
In Halifax where the BNP have three councillors, there has been an increase of 21% in racist attacks in one year, according to West Yorkshire Police Authority.
Vicky from Halifax is clear that the BNP's presence is fuelling racism. "It existed before they had councillors but it's very much in evidence now and it's filtering down into high schools which is very frightening."
Backing bullying bosses
THE BNP try to present themselves as being pro-union and supporting workers' rights. However, when workers are forced into strike action by bullying bosses the BNP stab them in the back.
During the firefighters' strike 18 months ago, the BNP called for firefighters to be banned from taking strike action (BNP website, 13 Nov 2002).
Dave Simpson, from Manchester FBU, was part of the strike. "It's important for any public servant to have the right to strike. The FBU has had to use strike action to stop cuts within the service. These cuts agendas are right the way up and down the country.
"Before the most recent pay dispute we had strike action in Merseyside and Essex - strike action which had to be taken as a last resort to defend the fire service to an acceptable level that is safe to serve the public. The strikes succeeded in both cases in preventing the cutbacks.
"If the employers were able to ban firefighters from striking we would see the fire service being completely decimated. We would also see the beginning of a target-driven fire service, much like the constraints that are on the NHS, the ambulance service and the police service at the moment."
Mainstream parties to blame
IT IS the policies of New Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats that are to blame for the rise of the BNP. They are the ones who are selling off or shutting down our public services, allowing industry to collapse with massive job losses or conducting unpopular wars for profit and prestige.
But when anger grows against their anti-working-class policies these career politicians are quite happy to scapegoat groups like asylum seekers and refugees for the problems that they have created themselves, further fueling divisions, prejudice and the growth of the BNP.
Instead of paying huge amounts of money to support New Labour, the trade unions should be discussing how to form a new party to represent working-class people. A genuinely democratic and accountable new party, involving trade unionists, socialists and young people, is desperately needed.
We need to change the way society is run. Socialist Party members are campaigning to provide a real alternative to the main parties and their profit system: a socialist society, run democratically for need not profit.
Socialist policies such as renationalisation of public services under democratic workers' control, proper investment in education, health and public transport and a minimum wage set at a level people can actually live on, would help to solve the problems that the BNP is trying to exploit.
BNP betrayal in Stoke
RECENTLY THE BNP have been putting out leaflets saying that the council tax should only be increased by the rate of inflation. Andy Bentley, Stoke Socialist Party reports
This is surprising because on 4 March, on the day when Socialist Party members handed in a petition with 5,000 names on it, calling for no increase at all in council tax, Stoke's two BNP councillors voted with the Tories, New Labour, Liberals and Independents to impose a council tax increase of 4.9% on top of a 10% increase last year.
Particularly in a notoriously low-paid area like Stoke this will have a dramatic effect on a lot of people. So clearly, even based on their own pledges and promises, the BNP have betrayed thousands of people in the area.
Halifax school - BNP fail to campaign
EARLIER THIS year Halifax council's Conservative-dominated cabinet voted to close Mixenden Community primary school. Nobody spoke against, but four councillors abstained on the vote to close the school, three of those were the BNP councillors and the fourth was a Lib Dem councillor. Vicky Perrin, Halifax Socialist Party, reports
The BNP and their councillors haven't actually laid themselves on the line at any time for this. They haven't spoken out. They weren't there at any of the consultation meetings. They are very much just going through the motions, they just see it as a community issue to get power on the back of.
Socialist Party members have collected hundreds of signatures on petitions against the closure of Mixenden School, and suggested the idea of a demonstration to the campaign, which was organised by parents and residents recently and was very successful.
Socialists make a real difference
IN COVENTRY three Socialist Party councillors have helped save a day centre for the elderly, a local primary school and local festivals. At the meeting to set the council budget for 2004-5 their rejection of cuts forced New Labour to back off on £1 million of cuts in social services.
Socialist Party councillors have opposed all privatisation schemes, and succeeded in pushing Coventry Council to oppose the privatisation of Royal Mail and post office closures, and oppose top-up fees for university.
They have also fought for and won many improvements, for example a new 'pocket park' for local kids in a deprived area and the local marketing of jobs from a new stadium complex.