Behind the well-known images of BNP rallies and EDL protests, there’s another startling dimension to the crisis of ultra-right nationalism that is often missed when we talk about such groups. It’s easy to picture an EDL supporter as some skinhead brute with Swastikas tattoos, but the bulk of support for these groups lies in already-fractured communities standing on the precipice of economic destruction.
With the Government pressing ahead with their draconian cuts, working class communities are being hit hardest as benefits are slashed, jobs become sparse, and the price of just about everything skyrockets. Along with various political scandals and the news heralding moral decay, people have become disaffected and very, very angry.
Enter characters like Nick Griffin and Tommy Robinson, false prophets for fixing our ‘Broken Britain’. By proclaiming themselves as outside the political system which has created this mess, the BNP and EDL are able to capitalize on the fears of these communities.
Their policies are as simplistic as they are sensationalist, and in times of desperation the scapegoating of immigrants and Muslims by the BNP and EDL becomes all the more effective, as people yearn to find something in society that is the cause of their troubles.
What’s worse is that these claims aren’t entirely without foundation; the ‘Broken Britain’ dilemma hasn’t arisen from immigration but integration, or rather, the lack thereof. Multiculturalism under Blair did nothing to merge the nascent migrant communities with the local ones, instead isolating them in separate council estates, ticking boxes off the minorities checklist in a vain attempt at encouraging diversity.
This has left an open goal for the real fascists running the EDL and BNP. When different cultures are kept separate, it becomes impossible for them to understand one another, and this lack of understanding breeds the fear that the EDL and BNP use to fuel their xenophobia.
So how can we on the left reach out to BNP and EDL supporters? Various groups such as Unite Against Fascism and Hope not Hate’s methods of protest and canvassing work wonders in halting the militaristic advance of these nationalist protests which we know so well, but we can no longer sit back and wait until the BNP and EDL have dug their heels in before we take action.
This cannot be achieved through party politics, though. Attaching labels to our message will only repel those who have been worse affected by cuts and community disorganisation, and the BNP plays off of this. Nor can it be achieved through childishly berating communities into loving one another.
Proper integration and cultural understanding only be achieved through community action. Local activists who know the community rifts must work to bring the people together, introducing parents’ associations, religious groups and other community hubs to their respective counterparts.
By encouraging understanding and cooperation, these communities will see they are all under the same threats from austerity, and that division will only perpetuate the problems. Furthermore this will safeguard vulnerable and angry individuals from the poisonous and dangerous ideals of the BNP and EDL.
These groups aren’t a medium for inherent racism and intolerance as some might suggest, they are merely ideological opportunists playing on the misguided and disaffected parts of society, and it is our duty as believers in equality to prevent the spread of such ideas before they can even get a foot in the door.