John Shemeld's letter (July/August SR) was well argued. Indeed for five minutes he convinced me.
But then I tried to relate that to my experience in the May elections. I stood as a Socialist Alliance candidate, and while we were canvassing on the estate, people kept bringing up the issue of asylum seekers, but the same people agreed with everything else we were saying! That is because we were talking about how neo-liberalism is making people's lives shit. We stuck to our guns and argued against the racism and people respected us for that, especially because our counter-argument that the rich were the real enemy and were trying to scapegoat refugees did strike a chord.
Of course some of our support came from traditional old-Labour supporters, but our appeal was wider because we also said that voting for the Socialist Alliance would put a fire cracker up New Labour's arse. We got 11 percent of the vote in a solidly working class ward. I know for a fact that a fair number of people who voted for us were racists, and some would have voted for the BNP if they could. They voted for us, even though all of our election material said that we defend asylum seekers, because they were voting for a fight. They believed we were different from New Labour, and that we were outsiders who share their anger. We have to remember that most BNP voters are not hardened Nazis, and angry workers who listen to the BNP will also listen to us. These workers can be won to anti-racism.