THREE stories in the papers this week remind us that the dangers of racism and fascism are growing.
The first concerns the BNP and the BBC. The BBC had already agreed to let BNP leader Nick Griffin appear on one of its Question Time programmes and forced Cabinet Minister Jack Straw to either agree to sit on a panel with a notorious fascist and Holocaust denier or leave an empty Labour seat on the panel. He should, of course, have refused to appear; it would have embarrassed the BBC more than Labour. And representatives of other leading parties should also have refused to appear, leaving the BBC with no programme. As it is, that responsibility has now fallen on the more principled broadcasting union Bectu, whose members are refusing to film the event.
Then last weekend BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat programme interviewed two leading BNP members, including their publicity director Mark Collett. But the two were introduced simply as “two young guys who are members of the BNP”. This provoked hundreds of complaints to the BBC, including from Welsh Secretary Peter Hain who pointed out that the interview was in clear breach of BBC guidelines and “shows how shaky is the corporation’s grip on the far right,” and called for a rethink before Question Time.
BBC executives are claiming they have an obligation to respect the right of a minority who have voted for the BNP. Others claim that BNP and other fascists should be invited into public discussion meetings and programmes so that astute interviewers and opponents can show them up as ignorant brutes.
But it doesn’t work like this. Not all the BNP are idiots and they welcome the opportunity to present themselves on respectable BBC programmes as a respectable party with acceptable views. When interviewed they do not tell the truth. And even if 99 per cent of the listeners/viewers are disgusted by them, they know that there are still many uninformed and naïve listeners out there who will fall for their message.
And experience shows that wherever the BNP or other racist and fascist groups get a hearing it is shortly followed by an increase in attacks on black and ethnic minorities. At the moment Muslims are their favourite targets. Their right to speak in public comes at the expense of other people’s safety.
When the BNP had a headquarters in Welling in the London Borough of Bexley in the 1990s their presence alone sparked hundreds of racist attacks in the neighbourhood, including several racist murders. The most famous of these was the killing of Stephen Lawrence in Eltham. They have only to announce their presence to attract racist scum from far and wide.
And this tactic is behind the second worrying story this week — the violence kicked off by the English Defence League in Manchester last Saturday. This follows the pattern of the National Front tactics a few years ago. Having very few members, they adopted impossibly ambitious programme of marches and rallies, knowing that even if they did not attend, news of their intent would bring all the local racists out of the woodwork, who would get drunk waiting for them to show and the go and attack local Asian and Black communities.
They counted on the local racist police not intervening until the Asians and Blacks were provoked to come out of their homes to defend themselves and then it was the alleged violence of the immigrants that hit the headlines and stirred up race hate between whites and ethnic minorities.
That is also the plan of the EDL. They got around a ban on marches by organising a static rally. These thugs — many of them also BNP members, football hooligans and former squaddies — claim to be focussed against Islam as a repressive and foreign religion. The truth is many of them just enjoy a good fight and the violence that is bound to intensify racist divisions. This will benefit the BNP electorally.
The third worrying story is the links the Tory party is now making with far-right European politicians with neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic links. Among these is Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, who recently said in an interview with the Jewish Chronicle that the massacre of hundreds of Polish Jews in Jedwabne by other Poles was a lesser crime than the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. And that he opposed a demand for an apology for the crime.
We must sustain the policy of no platform for racists and the police and local authorities have a responsibility to veto those who set out deliberately to provoke racist violence.