The Nazi British National Party (BNP) has been making a serious attempt to gain ground in recent elections.
It has benefited from the disgraceful game of 'I'm tougher than you on asylum seekers' and 'Muslim = terrorist' that much of the press and many politicians indulge in.
That's why the formation of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) was so brilliant ('That was then, this is now', June SR). It helped bring together anti-Nazis and anti-racists to push a clear 'Don't vote Nazi' argument across unions, schools, colleges, in clubs, on the streets and in our communities.
It also promoted the need to vote, especially in the proportional representation elections in the London and European elections where percentages really mattered. It was fantastic to see that the BNP did not win in those elections or indeed in some of the council elections, but its vote is still cause for concern. In London it came behind Respect in the election for mayor but in the list election the Nazis polled over 90,000 votes. Most worryingly, they polled around 720,000 in the European election.
On top of this, although they lost some councillors in the local elections they ended up with a gain of four councillors, which means they have 21 councillors (although they'd hoped for more than this). There aren't 720,000 Nazis in Britain but it's still a massive vote.
After the elections two things are clear. Firstly, constant opposition to the Nazis is still vital. Every time they try to build we need to oppose them - whether by doing the little things such as leafleting, scraping off their stickers and posters, writing letters to local papers, or the big things like building demos to oppose them (like the fantastic one against Le Pen) or the Love Music Hate Racism carnivals and gigs. Unite, with its links to the trade union movement, is a brilliant organisation to do this.
Secondly, there needs to be an alternative such as Respect. There is a pool of committed anti-Nazis who want to oppose the BNP, and another pool who want to oppose Blair from the left on a whole range of issues including Iraq. We need to work with all these people.
We must talk with our friends and workmates. This is what a mate and me have tried to do in a small way in the council we work in. We have tackled arguments about asylum seekers and though not everyone agrees with all of what we say we do get the alternative argument out. We have written a four-page bulletin titled 'Why We Defend Asylum Seekers' which was widely distributed through the union branch.
Mates from work leafleted their own streets and estates and the local shopping centre with UAF leaflets, and we collected well over £300 for UAF and £110 for Respect and sell at least 20 copies of Socialist Worker and ten copies of Socialist Review regularly. We have a little network of people around us who in turn have a network around them so we feel that we are a small part of something much bigger.
By working together we will make a difference, so it is up to us to ensure that the promising start that Respect has made can be built on while the Nazis are flushed back into the sewers. Building a left alternative and an anti-Nazi movement is not a choice - both can and must be done.