Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fascism watch: (South) London

I haven't been too closely following the twittering over the leaking of the BNP's membership list. The meme that seems to have emerged in the mainstream press: that the leak may have been a victory for the BNP, because it shows the membership to be a cross-section of society - "people like you and me". As Stan Moss notes
In the Guardian, you get Lola Adesioye writing this: "While I find BNP ideology abhorrent, the publishing of this list has brought home the fact that the people who belong to the party are ordinary British citizens [...] more understanding of the party and those who belong to it is, therefore, vital. This could be an opportunity for some open engagement and dialogue".
This line is idiotic. Duncan points out some of the BNP members "like you and me" revealed by the list:
  • A self-proclaimed witch.
  • The suggestion that a mental health nurse take a look at BNP legal 'expert' Lee Barnes.
  • One guy who loves England so much he emigrated to Poland.
  • Someone with suits of medieval armour offering to joust for rallies.
Malcolm Redfellow gives us some more:
  • Mr Chris M**, whose email is panzerm**@yahoo.co.uk
  • Mark S****, whose hobbies embrace “WWII re-enactment, military buildings”
  • Mr M***** who is listed as “HM Forces (3 tours N.I). Rho[d]esian Security Forces. Freelance security: Africa/South America/Europe. Hobbies: military history.”
  • the “Vera Lynn act” and her “military vehicles - owner of a WW2 jeep”
  • people with the following e-mails:boudicawarrior@yahoo.co.uk, pagan-warrior@hotmail.co.uk and odinswarrior@fsmail.net
  • Mr S**, who is an active Odinist/member of Pagan organisations.
  • Mr David W** is a member of the Manteca, California, cell of the BNP and has the e-mail address odinthor@comcast.net
Hardly people like you and me.

Closer to home, I am pleased that (as revealed by Transpontine) SE8 (Deptford) appears to be BNP-free zone, while Eltham, a little further out, is a stronghold (see helpful map here). In Greenwich, to cut and paste from Transpontine, one member is Sean Pearson, who stood for the Conservatives in a 2006 local election in Greenwich Glyndon Ward and was until last year chair of the Swinton Circle - a group on the far right of the Tory Party (Malcolm Redfellow has more on this as well).

More suprising are the BNP members who have stood for the Green Party, including Keith Bessant in Cheltenham and, very close to home for me, the Green candidate in Telegraph Hill ward. What does that say?

Meanwhile, the BNP's biggest electoral success so far, Richard Barnbrook in the London Assembley, has failed to make any kind of impact, as reported by Tory Troll. Dave Hill argues that Mayor Boris' policy of ignoring him is not the right one: he needs to take on a more robust line:
Johnson's problem is that in some parts of London the issue isn't receptive to being neutralised, not least because the BNP inflames it. Their work is made easier by the failure of a range of politicians to demonstrate to some white voters that they haven't been forgotten and are not being unfairly treated by comparison with other ethnic or cultural groups in the capital. Barnbrook and his ilk are eager to persuade them that they are, and to depict Johnson as being complicit.
The mayor needs to respond more positively, but how? He is inhibited by subscribing to a rightwing narrative about dominant "liberal elites" and "politically correct thought police" undermining "common-sense" values and national identity that the BNP has seized on too. Johnson's policy director Anthony Browne, the former Policy Exchange director, has been a conspicuous perpetrator of this emotive tripe, both in articles for the Spectator under Johnson's editorship and in a pamphlet that the BNP praised to the skies. [H/t to 853 for links]
The mainstream parties - Labour with its obsession about British jobs for British workers, the Tories with their lazy criticisms of multiculturalism - have helped fuel the rise of the BNP.

The left, on the other hand, doesn't help by countering it with a caricatured version of the political correctness the BNP talks up. Hence calls for people on the list to be sacked - calls Ian Bone rejects:

Does anyone seriously believe that sacking a BNP teacher in Dagenham at present would be a blow against fascism? Will the predictable parachuting in of chanting SWP ‘ANTI-NAZI’ lollipops outside the local school to get a teacher sacked do anything to advance the cause of anti-fascism? Perhaps while we’re at it we could sack BNP working classs supporters from the working class? That’d fuck ‘em. The much harder task is to defeat the BNP politically.
Answers on a post card please.

[P.S. Loads more links from Modernity.]


UPDATE, MONDAY 1ST DEC
More relevant reading (clarifying some of the comments below).
  • Transpontine updates the Telegraph Hill Green story, and defends pagans.
  • Another local, Brett, voted Green on the Hill, worries that he may have voted for a Nazi accidentally.
  • Dave Hill on Boris Johnson's welcome support for amnesty for illegal migrants in London (aligning him with John Cruddas, one of the most consistently anti-fascist of New Labour MPs, and against Phil Woolas, the New Labour MP who most consistently feeds at the BNP policy trough).

12 comments:

fred vest said...

bob, you've purposely picked out a handful of people from a list of 13,000 and then used that small sample to rubbish the myth that the BNP is attracting membership from large areas of society that, up until now, most lefties, anti-racists or indeed the govt have refused to acknowledge

no single handful of people from that list is going to be representative due to the very fact that they are picking up members from all walks of life, and just because some of those members don't happen to be like 'you or me' it doesn't mean others aren't - and despite this very obvious fact there seems to have been little contemplation (in the media) as to why this is the case, instead all we've had is moral outrage and curtain twitching leaving us with the same old liberal anti-racist, 'vote anyone but the bnp' stance that is largely responsible for the rise of the BNP in the first place

Bob said...

Ok, I guess that's true Fred. I 100% agree with what you say about the lack of contemplation, moral outrage etc. I also agree that there is a need for a political strategy - not just a vote anyone else strategy, but a genuine commitment to the issues facing the communities which are voting BNP.

However, I still think there is room for a strategy puncturing the idea that they are a serious political party and showing that they are full of nutters. The few I've picked (or, rather, which Duncan and Malcolm have picked) are not the only ones of that ilk: there are loads like that.

By the way, I hate to link to the BNP, but there's a great diagram here: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=16519

fred vest said...

i agree bob, but the fact stands that they can pull in close to a million votes at things like the european elections, rather than stand around rubbishing the people who make that happen, time would be better spent considering why it happens and what gives rise to the circumstances that allows it to happen

overall i think all the attention on the leaked membership list drags away a much needed focus as to why 'ordinary' people who are not racist have, or are considering, voting for the BNP. Sure a fairly sizeable chunk of people who vote BNP are racist, but if you look at every council seat the BNP have picked up over the last few years, 99% of them have been taken from labour, now i'm not saying it's impossible for people who previously voted labour to be racist, but it's clear a huge swing in support for the BNP have come about because of the political vacuum caused by the convergence of the three mainstream parties around a market based economy and all that stems from that, for all the BNP's faults (both political & otherwise) they have been very effective in exploiting that gap and so far there has been no effective attempt at any counter to that, instead the lazy media and lollipop wavers continue to remain infatuated with focussing on the image of the BNP and their ill fitting suits

the other thing about the list is that paper membership really tells us nothing about the actual engine room of the party, out of the 13,000 members, only 3,000 are marked down as activists, and probably a chunk of these don't do that much more than the odd leafletting now and again - on one hand this may suggest they are not maybe as strong as is being made out, but on the other if they can get near on a million votes from a activist base of less than 3,000 - how much could that be leveraged if that level of activists were to double/triple etc..which is perhaps not an unreasonable thing to suggest may happen, given the fairly small base at present

was interesting to see they even had an ex sinn fein member

ModernityBlog said...

Bob, thanks for the link and good points in the post, when I am feeling a bit more chirpy I'll write more on the political issues around the Leak and how it is a good thing, if used correctly.

Laban said...

Boris : "He is inhibited by subscribing to a rightwing narrative about dominant "liberal elites" and "politically correct thought police" undermining "common-sense" values and national identity".

Is that the same Boris who just proposed an amnesty for an estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants ?

King Creole said...

You're going to think I'm silly, but I never really twigged it was *that* Brockley. Hiya! I'm just over there, past One Tree Hill. *waves*

Anonymous said...

Pointing someone out of that list for being a self-confessed pagan is a bit like pointing someone out for being a self-confessed jew.

echo said...

There's not much that be inferred from the list, other than that BNP members tend to live in houses. As opposed to living in, say, tents or birds' nests.

The BNP have been making recent moves to engineer ructions within UKIP, in the hope that a chunk of the UKIP membership can be lured in their direction. The leak may timed to scupper that particular plan.

Time will tell what the real effect of the leak has been. Last year's BNP membership figures as reported by the Electoral Commission were around 9,200.

Present social, economic and political conditions would be expected to favour the growth of a populist anti-immigration party like the BNP. Indeed, conditions are near optimal for them.

If there is no significant growth in membership or electoral representation by end of this year, then they run the risk of losing momentum and slowly sinking, which is so often the fate of small parties who mainly rely on protest votes.

max said...

Oh come on, can you deny that no matter what the walk of life you all have in common that hate has frozen some important part of your brains?

bob said...

I have removed a comment from Red Squirrel, a BNP activist, which said: "There are no 'typical' BNP members, just as there are no 'typical' Labour or Conservative voters. We cover the whole spectrum." I believe in free speech, but this is my house and I have no obligation to let just anyone in, and I do not want my blog linking to pro-BNP blogs. The comment is the one that Max (comment above this) is replying to.

Too many issues to deal with in this dicussion thread! I basically agree with Fred's analysis. I would not prioritise putting in the time to find the nutjobs on the BNP membership list - but as others have put in that time, it hardly detracts from the political struggle to pass it on.

Many who vote BNP, and many passive members, are not bizarre Odinists or geeky military history nuts; many are not even racist. The challenge is to understand why they make that choice, and what we have to do to counter it. (And a lot of the answer to the first half is the failure of the left, of the Labour movement, and of mainstream politics.)

Nonetheless, the reason it is disturbing that thousands of people are voting BNP (in a way that it would be slightly less disturbing if thousands of people were voting UKIP) is that, behind the exoteric veneer of populism is an esoteric Nazi core. Exposing this (including pointing out the Odinists) is part of the political struggle.

I have nothing against Paganism as such, by the way, but everything against neo-Nazi forms of paganism. If pagans get involved in green politics, for example, becuase of their beliefs, then fine. But if they get involved in fascist politics because of their faith, then not fine.

Finally, Laban, Boris may make the occassional "progressive" political gesture, but the overwhelming weight of his statements (and of other writers in the Sepectator under his editorhsip) are to weigh in against multiculturalism and "political correctness".

(Incidentally, I completely support Boris' proposal for amnesty, a commitment he made to the London Citizens assembley, and thus politically hard for him to back out of - see Dave Hill for a good mini analysis http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/24/boris-johnson-immigration .)

Mnemosyne said...

What's the link between paganism/witchcraft and the extreme right?

?

?????

I thought it's a uniquely Hungarian blend. Now I have to wonder whether we are such a special nation after all. The right end of the spectrum is really fascinating (if you can call them that) around here: their events often feature flocks of shamans and other types of natural healers and soothsayers, people who live in yurts and dress like like proto-Hungarian nomadic horsemen and their wives from 900 AD(outfit and lifestyle complete with ancient bows and arrows, felt hats, beautifully decorated leather flint holder bags on their belts) (http://gportal.hu/portal/maghar/image/news/Szkita_hun_magyar_harcos-.jpg), others who blend ninja masks with the baggy shirts and pants of XVIII century bandits (http://m.blog.hu/ki/killtheradical/image/nb.jpg). Regular WWII uniform fetishists and militaria enthusiasts and Nazi skins are quite a boring bunch with no sense of style compared to this lot.

Bob said...

Good question Mnemosyne, but I don't know the answer. Certainly, it's not just a Hungarian thing: there are lots of fascists in Britain into versions of Celtic and Norse paganism - although it is important to stress that they are a tiny minority in the pagan world.