Anti-fascists keep BNP on the run

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The Nazi British National Party (BNP) had hoped to build on the election of their two MEPs in June. Instead they have found themselves hounded wherever they go. Their first post-election press conference ended in farce as leader Nick Griffin was covered in eggs and forced to flee.

But their biggest setback came with the protests outside their annual Red, White and Blue "festival" in Codnor, Derbyshire, last month. Unite Against Fascism (UAF), the Midlands TUC and local groups called a national protest that mobilised over 2,000 protesters.

As anti-fascists marched and rallied, hundreds also occupied roads leading to the event, "kettling" it. Protesters defied threats of mass arrests and prevented BNP members and supporters from getting in. Reports suggest the festival was a third of the size of last year, and that the protests may have succeeded in driving away the BNP's softer periphery.

The Nazis tried to portray their festival as a traditional "British festival". UAF and the TUC exposed it as the fascist rally it was. A PR disaster followed, as the media published images of sieg heiling Nazi thugs.

Real tensions are developing inside the BNP. Many, like Griffin, want to continue to build an electoral base. Others want to use their electoral success to organise on the streets, to intimidate and threaten the left and organisations that oppose it.

Since the Euro elections a number of anti-fascists have been threatened or attacked by Nazis. One organiser of the Love Music Hate Racism festival in Stoke was attacked, and UAF joint-secretary Weyman Bennett was assaulted and received a number of death threats.

A by-product of this desire to take to the streets has been the formation of the English Defence League (EDL). This is a mixture of BNP members and racist football hooligans.

The BNP has a history of supporting such organisations. In the early 1990s BNP members set up Combat 18. The group protected BNP rallies and was involved in a number of horrific attacks on anti-fascists and ethnic minorities.

In the early 2000s the BNP used the National Front to stir up race riots in Oldham and Burnley. The EDL's first foray into stirring up race hatred was in Luton on 24 May this year. They rampaged through the town centre attacking the Asian community.

When the EDL announced its intention to return on 8 August, Birmingham UAF, backed by local residents, faith communities and trade unions, called a counter-protest. The EDL were chased off with chants of "Black and white, unite and fight" and "Nazi scum out of Brum" from hundreds of young Asian, black and white people from the city alongside trade unionists and anti-racists.

There is no short-term solution to stopping the BNP. Their election victories mean this will be a long struggle. It is vital that we deepen the roots of UAF, and build its support in the trade union movement and local faith, college and community groups. At the same time we must savour our victory at Codnor.