November 24, 2009

Tackle the real issues of the English Defence League (EDL) & the British National Party (BNP)

The united demonstration in Barking against the candidacy of BNP leader Nick Griffin must not be the last example of unity in the struggle to prevent him becoming an MP.

But anti-fascists must also be vigilant about what kind of campaign they organise.

There have been a number of unfortunate examples in the past when demonstrators have come from outside to show the flag and have alienated communities by their activities, including abusing local people as racist without justification.

The first thing to be recognised by anti-racists from outside Barking is that local anti-fascist organisation already exists.

There has been consistent leafleting and other activities, designed to show the local electorate that, whatever the justifiable grievances over government action or, more accurately, inaction, a vote for a racist party is not the way forward.

Until recently, people in Barking could find jobs in Ford, the docks and many local factories, but those days are gone and the government has not done anywhere near enough to stimulate growth and provide proper jobs.

Tackling the lack of jobs in areas such as Barking is essential to minimise working-class alienation.

It is bizarre that much of the media, including the BBC, portrays the BNP leader as somehow representing what it calls the "white working class."

Like Oswald Mosley before him, Griffin comes from a wealthy land-owning family and was able to buy a farm in mid-Wales without ever having done a proper job in his life.

The idea that he shares any life experience with the working-class people of Barking is laughable.

However, his candidacy does indeed pose a challenge there, since the incumbent MP was also born with a silver spoon in her mouth, married into further wealth and slipped easily from the far-left of Labour's London municipal politics to the neoliberalism of new Labour in Parliament.

And her pronouncements on immigration have proved helpful to the BNP, which will use them during the election.

One of the greatest failings of the Labour government since 1997 has been to adopt the Tory policy on housing, encouraging an unsustainable private housing boom, handing over huge swathes of council accommodation to private landlords and refusing to finance upgrading of homes unless tenants vote for transfer to the private sector.

The net result has been negative equity and repossessions for many working people who could not meet their repayments.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of families are stuck in never-ending queues for council accommodation because of stock transfers, tenants' right to buy and government refusal to fund a massive council housebuilding programme.

The blame for pressure on scarce housing resources in places such as Barking lies four square with the government not with immigrants to Britain.

Yet local MP Hodge said in 2007: "Most new migrant families are economic migrants who choose to come to live and work here. If you choose to come to Britain, should you presume the right to access social housing?"

This was a despicable attempt to scapegoat migrants rather than accept that inadequate council housing was the fault of her government.

Housing and jobs remain the key issues that are exploited by racists to set worker against worker and damage the class unity that is essential to not only see off a fascist carpetbagger but build progressive policy alternatives to new Labour's neoliberalism.
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