Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Far Right and the Need to Listen

Nick Griffin’s invite to a garden party at Buckingham Palace – like his invite to BBC Question Time –was issued to him as an elected member of the European Parliament. Whereas Griffin was royally trounced on Question Time, his invite to Buckingham Palace was withdrawn at the last moment and the prawn sandwiches (on white bread, obviously) were left uneaten. The reason cited was that Griffin “overtly” used his invitation for political purposes.

The incident raises the perennial question of how to deal with the far right. It has been argued that fascist parties should be banned – I do not agree. It has more frequently been argued that fascist parties should be denied a platform and this has seen the BNP disenfranchised from university debates and electoral hustings around the country – again, I do not agree.

The reason I disagree is not because I am a libertarian on a crusade to champion free speech. Neither is it because I am a Nazi. It is because I feel that challenging the BNP’s rhetoric of hate is the best way to fight fascists. Fascism is based on lies and fear - both of which can be exposed when confronted. Peter Tatchell challenged Nick Griffin today and how did the BNP react? With aggression and violence. This exposure and publicity severely harms the BNP. Griffin himself has denied the Holocaust on a number of occasions – but the horrors of the Holocaust are as close as you can get to historical fact. For every one person attracted to their views, ten times more are appalled by their ill-informed macho idiocy.

Seeing the BNP in national media swells the ranks of the anti-fascist movement. The BNP lost all 12 of their councillors on Barking and Dagenham council because of mass mobilisation. The increased turn-out which facilitated this wasn’t because the electorate was particularly politicised, it was because they recognised the threat of the BNP. They knew through the national media that the possibility of BNP gains were very real and that inspired millions to fight. Without this publicity, they could’ve crept in through the back door.

Banning parties of the far right serves to galvanise and invigorate their cause. It creates martyrs out of morons and the underground threat is even harder to monitor. Movements are given lifeblood by a veil of mystique, intrigue and sense of rebellion – but remove this shroud and they can be fought and exposed.

Potential BNP voters shouldn’t be pushed further to the margins of society, they should be re-engaged and their concerns should be addressed. The BNP thrive in places of white working-class deprivation where the scapegoat of immigration is their bloodlust. But disquiet around immigration is usually a proxy for other concerns – availability of jobs, job security, affordable housing, crime – and the problem of the BNP can only be truly combated when these core issues are addressed.

Therefore, not only should the BNP be fought openly and honestly to expose their abhorrent views, we also need to listen to the concerns of the vulnerable and marginalised people on which the BNP prey. Only then can we tackle the cause and effect of the far right.

1 comment:

Ollie@Eyes on Power said...

I have to say I agree with you 100% Dan. The only way to extinguish the lure that the BNP offer to uninformed voters is to inform them of what the BNP really stand for by challenging and defeating them in open debate. Under political scrutiny the BNP's beliefs and ideals highlight their extremism from the political mainstream, as Griffin's question time appearance showed, far better than just hurling abuse at them and masking their ability to speak.

As you say the BNP do thieve in areas of working-class deprivation and use immigration as a constant answer to all the problems voters in these areas face. The Joseph Rowntree trust found in their 2004 study of three northern towns with high levels of BNP support (Oldham, Burnley and Halifax) that in council elections "BNP voters are younger and more likely to be male compared with voters of any other party". When you consider that the highest rate of unemployment in the UK is with people aged between 16-24 you can see how the BNP can take advantage of the lack of opportunities this demographic face and lay the blame squarely at immigration.

Unfortunately the new government seem to be striving to increase the problems for young people (greater unemployment, cancelling the future jobs fund and the creation of a two-tier education system) which may well lead to greater support for the far right in the coming years.

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