The Labor Party lost votes and seats in the parliament. The Tories may yet cobble together a majority coalition and once again install a Thatcherite prime minister. Yet, in the London borough of Barking, the vote for the Labour incumbent increased, and Nick Griffin, the chairman of the white-ist British National Party (BNP), suffered an ignominious defeat. The BNP’s loss was all the worst for them because they had held seats on the local council and bragged that they would become the majority ruling party in the borough–a proposition that would have catapulted white nationalism into the center of English politics. Instead, the BNP lost every seat they had held on both the Barking borough council as well as every seat in nearby Dagenham. And they lost several council seats they had in other boroughs as well.
This stunning repudiation of racism and anti-Semitism was engineered by “Hope Not Hate,” the campaign affiliate of Searchlight magazine, an anti-fascist anti-racist monthly published without fail since 1975. The May 2010 issue was Number 419. (The cover features rocker Billy Bragg telling a less-than-salubrious character where to get off.) Since its founding, The Institute for Research and Education for Human Rights has worked with Searchlight, and this writer has been a regular contributor to that magazine since 1988. Last June, IREHR vice-president Devin Burghart watched closely as Hope Not Hate activists campaigned against the BNP during the European Elections (see “Planes, Trains and a Big Red Bus“).
For people in the United States to understand the significance of these election events, a bit of background might be necessary. British National Party leaders and others of that ilk have been working closely with their American counterparts since American Nazi Party chief George Lincoln Rockwell went to England to create, with Colin Jordan, the World Union of National Socialists in 1962. In the decades since, David Duke took a turn transplanting his Knights of the Ku Klux Klan to the UK, and David Irving and other British Holocaust deniers have cultivated customers on this side of the Atlantic (Irving often “winters” in Key West). The most famous British export was the white power skinhead subculture–with its boots, braces and Skrewdriver music recordings. A phenomenon I describe in Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream.
Even before the BNP’s creation in 1982 out of a badly fractured British National Front, its leaders spent a considerable amount of time cultivating supporters and dispensing advise here in the USA. John Tyndall, the BNP’s founding fuehrer, made numerous trips across the Atlantic, visiting with at various times: William Pierce of Turner Diaries fame, the remains of the white Citizens Councils, Willis Carto’s Populist Party factions, and Atlanta attorney Sam Dickson–a ubiquitous figure at American Renaissance conferences. With Pierce, Tyndall discussed the necessity to build an organization based on national socialist ideology, but without the attendant swastikas. With Dickson, the topic was white supremacy’s “11th Hour.”
Once the BNP’s current chairman, Nick Griffin, succeeded John Tyndall, the British organization’s relationship with American white nationalists became both more practical and strategic. The American Friends of the BNP started raising funds in 1999, and Griffin credited it with making a “significant contribution” to his party’s 2001 election campaign. At several venues in the DC area, including American Renaissance, Griffin counseled white nationalists to foreswear the “boots” of paramilitarism and put on the “suits” of electioneering.
Over the last eight years the BNP had done just that in the UK, building a base in wards where the Labour Party had once held unquestioned sway, and winning borough council seats while waving banners proclaiming “British Jobs for British Workers.” Last June, Nick Griffin was one of two BNPers to win seats in the European parliament, and with them the relatively fat purses available to MEPs for office and administration. In this election, the BNP put forward more than 300 candidates, aimed for council majorities in several boroughs and a seat in the English parliament for Griffin. Although they received an aggregate of 562,977 votes, a jump of almost 2% more than a year ago, the increased total was due to the fact that they ran more candidates.
To counter the BNP, Searchlight magazine and the Hope Not Hate campaign used a two-pronged strategy: Research the party’s weak spots and expose its long-embedded Naziesque politics and personalities. When the party had an internal spat over money and power, its opponents in local communities knew about it and were able to use that information to good effect. That has been Searchlight’s stock in trade for decades. Added to this has been the Hope Not Hate rather magnificent grass roots campaigning. Knowing that Barking and Dagenham were BNP target zones, for example, HnH mobilized 541 community-based volunteers to deliver 91,000 newspapers in a door to door organizing effort on April 17. Similar mobilizations occurred through the efforts of almost seventy different HnH affiliates across England, Scotland and Wales.
This local-based strategy stands in marked contrast to anti-fascist practices in the past, when protest marches and street fighting were thought to be the only way to fight the racists and anti-Semites.
This particular battle is not over, however. Nick Griffin still holds his seat in the European parliament. And if the Liberal Democrats succeed in their effort to win European-style proportional representation, the fight will become particularly hard fought in the future. But with large numbers of community volunteers ready to step out in the street and talk to their neighbors, the Hope Not Hate campaign has shown something anti-racists everywhere need to relearn.
As for American white nationalists, they watched BNP votes results coming in over the weekend as if it was their own party running for elected office. A thread on the Stormfront.org website began with congratulations for the BNP. “Kudos to BNP for awakening tens of thousand,” one of the early posts read. But as the discussion continued, it grew less optimistic about the outlook for white nationalists. “Unfortunately, GB like America …where through sheer force of numbers, the invasion of our lands by subhumans will have us a distinctly powerless minority in just a couple of decades,” another worried, “to rid a house of roaches, voting will not do…you have to exterminate.”
Leonard Zeskind, author of Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, is president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.