The State of Hate in 2013
By Matthew Collins and Nick Lowles
Arrests for violence, growing evidence of involvement in terrorism, the re-emergence of the old Combat 18 factions, confrontation on the streets again over Northern Ireland; it was almost as if we were in 1993, not 2013 last year.
Our research has provided us evidence that even suggests that the BNP actually had a larger paid-up and active membership in 1993 too. As we begin 2014, a total and complete electoral demise of the extreme far right in this country is within our grasp.
The BNP, still the only serious electoral threat from the fascist movement in Britain, is itself almost on the brink of abandoning serious electioneering. It’s leader, Nick Griffin, has for two years slowly convinced those still close to him, that the party must begin to reconcile itself to the idea that for the foreseeable future at least, the BNP’s flirtation with the political mainstream is over.
For Griffin himself, this has been a long and bitter realisation. He actually began making plans for what most in the BNP was unthinkable, at a secret meeting in Stoke way back in 2012. Publicly, it was not until October last year that he actually admitted that he may not be re-elected to the European parliament in 2014.
For Griffin and the BNP, what is most bitter is that the conditions for electoral success, would appear perfect. Immigration scare stories, Islamist terrorism on the streets of the capital, ‘Muslim’ grooming gangs and deep and severe cuts to public services all conjure up an impression for many that the BNP must be cleaning up dissatisfied voters in their thousands. But it is not to be. Griffin is facing defeat in his bid to defend his European seat and the party will almost certainly be wiped out of local government.
The fortunes of the BNP splinter-group, the British Democratic Party, look even bleaker. Despite emerging with the promise of replacing the BNP as the dominant group on the British far-right, the BDP is disappearing without a trace.
The BNP has been usurped by UKIP, whose increasingly tough stance on immigration and migration is both more appealing for BNP voters but also reaching sections of the population that would never had countenanced voting for a fascist party.
2014 will be UKIP’s year and will be the year when Britain joins many other European countries in having a sizeable right wing populist party. And after May’s elections, the BNP might appear a distant memory.
It has been a roller-coaster of a year for the English Defence League (EDL). It began with leader Stephen Lennon in prison and increasingly dispirited with the direction it was going. Then, after the murder of Lee Rigby, it sprung into life once again and attracted more than 100,000 new supporters on Facebook.
However, their bubble soon burst and their demonstrations quickly became smaller once again. By October Lennon had had enough and, together with Kevin Carroll, unexpectedly quit the organisation.
The EDL continues but it is almost certainly going to be a mere shadow of its former self.
Lennon has been replaced by a committee of leaders who, at a recent leadership meeting, decided to try to make the group more mainstream. They agreed to try and kick out Nazis from within their ranks and even open up dialogue with moderate Muslims. However, this is unlikely to make much difference to their fortunes. To all intents and purposes Lennon was the EDL and without him it is nothing.
Yet the decline of the BNP and EDL does not mean the threat has disappeared. We are likely to see a fracturing of the movement, with actions being more localised and perhaps more militant. Thousands of young men have been radicalised by the BNP and EDL and these people will not vanish overnight. In some cases we will see EDL supporters drift into UKIP while others appear to be moving over to the more hardline and confrontational National Front. Others, as we have seen in Leicester and Lincolnshire, will get involved in local community actions against migrants and campaigns against mosques.
The EDL and its satellite “counter-Jihadists” groups are a serious disengagement from civil society. The levels of violence they are capable of, the intimidation of progressive people and a complete and a serious rejection of a multicultural Britain for a society, sees them now advocating increasingly serious levels of violence, murder and terrorism like their founder Stephen Lennon prophesised would happen after the Breivik massacre in 2011.
Much of this talk is of course just drunken social media bluster; however, there are a number of cases before the courts where we can identify the influence of the English Defence League.
We are even seeing a return of some of the old faces from Combat 18 and with scores to be settled from the death of Chris Castle, in 1998, there is likely to increased activity from this quarter. Charlie Sargent and Martin Cross are both out of prison and this appears to have reawakened Will Browning from his semi-political retirement. They might be ageing and represent a long-forgotten chapter in the history of the British far right but their hatred of one another still burns strong.
As antifascists we take a great deal of pleasure in the credit for the plight of the BNP and even the non-electoral English Defence League (EDL).
Publicly and privately, both on the streets and even inside the BNP, we have engineered a lot of the disasters that have befallen the party. Griffin himself was also one of our greatest assets. But we shall not rest on our laurels. Griffin is frustrated: he is frustrated that his party was ill-prepared for an onslaught, he’s furious how quickly people buckled and jumped ship when the going got tough and how little of the BNP’s real central message was imparted on its membership. He once declared that the BNP was going to be a “revolutionary” party, we could be about to witness the BNP attempt at least, to play out a bloody revolution. But of course, the hyperbole came to nothing and he has only himself to blame.
However, there is no time to rest on our laurels. The face of the British right is changing rapidly and so we need to prepare to deal with the new challenges we will face. And in UKIP, and their right wing populist appeal, we have an even bigger job to do in the future.