After its recent electoral breakthrough, the British National Party (BNP), a fascist organisation that wants to institute a Nazi dictatorship and a whites-only Britain, is trying to establish itself as part of the mainstream of politics in the UK.
A key step was leader Nick Griffin’s recent appearance on the flagship BBC show “Question time” which had previously refused to allow the BNP to appear.
The BBC defended their decision as upholding freedom of speech, claiming that they were obliged to have Griffin on, since voters had elected two BNP members to the European parliament in June.
Anti-fascist demonstrators demanded that the BBC deny Griffin any media platform. This was criticised by some on the liberal left in Britain, who argue that debate will demonstrate to the public the vile character of the BNP.
This is an absurdly irresponsible position. By allowing Griffin to speak the BBC gave Griffin’s repulsive views oxygen.
They also neglect the impact Griffin’s words have. When the BNP gets coverage this translates into real violence against non-whites.
Shortly after the BNP electoral success in June there was a wave of racist assaults across the northwest of England. Recently there has been a rise in racist violence especially in areas with a strong BNP presence.
The BNP, like other European fascist organisations, have attempted to make themselves appear respectable.
They have ditched the term “white” and now talk about the culture and the rights of the “indigenous” people of Britain—as if this means something other than “white power”.
The fascists aim to win a mass base through building support in elections, and using the credibility elected positions give them to become part of the political mainstream.
Despite the suits and carefully worded messages to poor white communities reeling from New Labour pro-market policies, the BNP remain deeply committed to using violence on the streets.
The horror of Hitler’s rule was far too great for people to forget the Nazis’s rise.
There were two elements to their march to power. First, they ran in elections like any other political party. The established political parties of the Weimar Republic were committed to defeating Hitler through electoral and constitutional means.
But they allowed the second element of the Nazi strategy to go unchallenged. The Nazis organised thousands of thugs with the aim of establishing a dictatorship that crushed any element of democracy in Germany.
They violently attacked trade unionists, gays and Jewish people. The Nazis used their dominance of the streets to wipe out any democratic space that could be used as a rallying point against their rule.
History teaches us that they must never be given a street, a television microphone or a podium again. Nazis who want to crush free speech do not deserve the right to use it.
Some people accuse socialists of lacking commitment to freedom of speech in arguing this.
Socialists have been on the frontline of the great majority of battles for democratic rights.
Lenin and the Bolsheviks defended freedom of religious expression. In Germany in the 1930s socialists attempted to mobilise to defend besieged democratic institutions against the Nazis. In Brisbane in the 1970s socialists played a leading role fighting the Bjelke-Petersen government for the right to march.
Marx himself campaigned against censorship as a young radical journalist and remained committed to the fight for democratic rights throughout his life.
For Marx the most important issue was whether or not the particular campaign for freedom of assembly or freedom of the press increased the chances of the oppressed and workers playing a greater role in politics.
Here Marx is writing about the value of political posters in communicating ideas during times of social upheaval:
“And what contributes more to keeping revolutionary passion alive among the workers than precisely the posters, which transform every street corner into a big newspaper in which the workers passing by find the events of the day recorded and interpreted and the various viewpoints presented and debated.”
Griffin’s words divide and poison working class communities. They seriously weaken the ability of working people—Asian, black and white—to unite to defend jobs and services.
No matter how often someone indignantly cites Voltaire, “I do not agree with what you say but I support your right to say it”, it can’t alter the fact that allowing Griffin to speak increases violent racist attacks and assists him in building an organised pledged to destroy democracy.
Huge numbers of people are required to mobilise and silence the likes of Griffin once and for all.
By Adrian Skerritt