The British far right – still a worry?

I received an interesting email today from the Hope Not Hate Campaign asking for my feedback on an essay they have recently penned that examines the state of the far right in Britain today.

In Britain today, there are almost as many workers unemployed as in the 1930s and many people, experiencing poverty living difficult lives. There are over one million young people unemployed. The media remind us on a daily basis of the fear of a double dip recession and many ordinary working people are losing faith in politicians led by a coalition government sharing an ideological addiction to austerity.

Such economic conditions and disillusionment with mainstream political parties should be perfect for racist politics. Research shows that economic pessimism is a key driver in attitudes towards ‘outsiders’ and there is plenty of pessimism about.

So, with the economy faltering, austerity biting and economic pessimism growing, the conditions for racism and racist scapegoating could hardly be better. The British far right should be having a ball…but surprisingly it appears, racist groups such as the BNP and the EDL are contracting and morale is dropping.

Hope Not Hate’s essay charts the seemingly sorry state of affairs for far right groups such as the British National Party (BNP) following its disastrous defeat in Barking and Dagenham and the English Defence League (EDL), who, at one time had a membership of 90,000 and who could at one point rely on thousands joining it’s organised marches, but are now in decline amid internal warfare and demoralisation. The essay examines the causal effects that have led to the British far right becoming so fragmented and examines who might gain in any upturn.

But it also spells out that there is no room for complacency. The essay chillingly concludes: “The British far right is fragmented and bitterly divided and in the short term this will continue. While we might enjoy the short-term respite there is no room for complacency. Sooner or later the traditional far-right, in the guise of the BNP or EDL, or the Radical Right, in the guise of UKIP, will re-emerge as a major political threat. In the meantime, we should brace ourselves for an upsurge in organised and unorganised racist and political violence.”

Video clips and footage that pay tribute to Oswald Mosley and his fascist movement of the 1930s still appear in abundance on the internet and worryingly, messages of support for Mosley and his Blackshirts suggest the prospects for increased racial violence and terrorism. We must all, as members of society, members of our own communities, as trade unionists or supporters of anti racist organisations stand together and say no. The clear determination of anti fascist demonstrators to ensure that Mosley and his supporters did not march down Cable Street nearly 76 years ago must be remembered. Scenes of violence between the demonstrators, the police and members of the BUF, albeit quite horrific, demonstrates how such united determination, by so many, put a stop to such obscene displays of fascist and racist behaviour.

We must be mindful of the ease in which fascism might take a foothold once again in our society, particularly at such a time of economic crisis, when young and old appear to no longer be able to differentiate between the policies of the major political parties and who may easily seduced by the promise of something ‘different’.

You can help shape the strategy of Hope not Hate by participating here.