What now for anti-fascists?

Searchlight editor Steve Silver says that the left must show it has better answers to the concerns of ordinary people than the BNP

June 1, 2004
2 min read

Once the elections are over we will need to continue organising in a serious and systematic manner if we are really going to drive the BNP back on to the margins of society. The only way to deal the party a fundamental defeat is by destroying their bases in our localities.

This doesn’t mean we need to produce an endless stream of anti-BNP leaflets. What is needed is work that shows that the institutions of the anti-fascists – trade unions, democratic political parties, religious and civic bodies – have better answers to the concerns of ordinary people than the fascists, and that they are serious and relevant organisations.

This will need to be done not by propaganda alone but by painstaking day-to-day work on bread and butter issues – the very issues that the BNP exploits. These issues will change with the locality; it seems self-evident that only local people can determine what matters to them most – whether it is the closure of a hospital or library, or a hike in council tax. In some places, such as Oldham and Bradford, trades councils will be able to play a leading role in this work. In other places different organisations are better placed.

One of the best examples of the way that racism and fascism have been countered by broader activity has been provided by the work of the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality’s Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit (RAMU). Because racists are often involved in all sorts of other anti-social activity, RAMU has pioneered work on individual estates against all the anti-social activity there. It has held meetings to address problems of bullying and safety, and has opened debates about the best way of dealing with anti-social neighbours.

That approach unites local people. And the lesson doesn’t need driving home when people discover, through their own experiences, that the organised racists are also the people harassing old people, causing criminal damage and generally making everyone’s lives a misery.