For six years, Matthew Collins was at the heart of far-right groups in the UK: the south London organiser of the National Front (NF), a close confidant of the leadership and seen by some as a potential future leader of the party. He was also a volunteer at the British National Party's (BNP) head office and active on the streets with the violent neo-Nazi street fighters Combat 18. Now a committed ant-fascist and worker for Searchlight.
"This Government is not taking the EDL seriously," Collins says. "These are working-class people who have run out of hope and understanding. If it wasn't radical Islam it would be something else. Increasingly, they have been overrun by Nazis from the old BNP and NF seeing the opportunity to take street violence back to the old levels, seeking a civil race war, this time white Christians against Muslims.The last thing we should do is to listen to their demands. But we do need to deal with the issues on which they thrive: identity, alienation, the emasculation of the white working class, job insecurity." He shakes his head. "Everyone's talking at them and not to them. Reaching out to communities, that is such middle-class bollocks. We need to embed ourselves in communities, take on the lies, redress the inequalities that grate on people. And we have to discuss immigration properly without demonising asylum-seekers."
The Socialist Party can understand such sentiments expressed in the above. Where the mainstream parties were seen as having let voters down, that was where the Far Right found the greatest success. Also heartened by what they perceive as a lowering of tolerance for Islam, the EDL has become more obsessive - the new issue is Islam. Labour and the Tories may well abhor the policies of the BNP/EDL, but have been unsuccessful in confronting them where they have made significant political gains because to do so would mean acknowledging the shortcomings of a system they champion and which gives rise to the politics of race and hate.The BNP/EDL are more the product of the total failure of all the reformist parties to make capitalism a fit society to live in. Misinformed workers who fall for the Far Right's propaganda are the products of the demoralising system we know as capitalism, deluded into thinking that neo-nazi solutions to social problems – which they have been led to believe are largely rooted in the colour of a person’s skin or their religion – would suddenly improve their miserable lives. In truth, a shortage of council housing and poorly maintained housing estates, low wages and pittance benefits are no more the fault of asylum seekers. At the end of the day the BNP/EDL simply put together a better package of lies and, just like the other reformist parties, promise a little more than extra space at the trough of poverty – and many disillusioned worker , their minds numbed by the politics of reform fall for the scam. With workers continually let down by the promises of reformism and the lack of any prospect for change from any other parties, are being attracted to the radical posturings of Far Right with their promises, geared toward insularism, putting “The British” first, by protecting their “homeland” and ending their unemployment by prohibiting “foreign” people and products. When capitalism fails to deliver, when despondency and shattered hopes arise from the stench of the failed promises and expectations that litter the political landscape, is it any wonder that workers fall for the scapegoating bullshit of fascists and the quick fix they offer?
Not only does the mainstream political parties but the Left also pandered to prejudices with the slogan “British jobs for British workers”.
The BNP has an economic policy (and it's not just send all non-white people and Eastern Europeans back to where they came from and give their jobs to British workers.)
“All the old parties are in the pockets of the banks and big business. Lab-Lib-Con all pretend to be worried about job losses but have allowed globalisation to destroy jobs and drag down wages...We will protect British jobs from cut-throat foreign competition and put British workers first – every time!..Globalisation has caused the export of jobs and industries to the Far East, and has brought ruin and unemployment to British industries and the communities who depend on them. Accordingly, the BNP calls for the selective exclusion of foreign-made goods from British markets and the reduction of foreign imports. We will ensure that our manufactured goods are, wherever possible, produced in British factories, employing British workers. When this is done, unemployment in this country will be brought to an end and secure, well-paid employment will flourish.”
That's easier said than done. Basically, it's a proposal to try to isolate capitalist Britain from the world market. But this couldn't be done without making things worse. Yet the BNP was not the only party to advocate such a pie-in-the-sky policy as a supposed way to secure jobs and end unemployment. Here is what the No2EU, led by Bob Crow of the RMT union and supported by the Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star) and the ex-Militant Tendency Trotskyists had to say. “Nation states with the right to self-determination and their governments are the only institutions that can control the movement of big capital and clip the wings of the trans-national corporations and banks...To revitalise the economy, Britain must return to creating wealth based especially in manufacturing, hi-tech and trade across the world...To return to an economy based on manufacturing requires massive investment and where appropriate protection of home industries. It is the only way to ensure jobs and a decent safe future for the peoples of Britain.”
They, too, dream of a national capitalism permanently providing high wages and steady jobs. No wonder the groups that made up No2EU refuse to debate with the BNP. When it comes to economic policy, it wouldn't be much of a debate as they wouldn't find much to disagree about, especially as the BNP also advocates "the renationalisation of monopoly utilities and services, compensating only individual investors and pension funds". The Left see the fascists as rivals for leadership.
Liberals and leftists alike will not debate fascists, because they have no real answers to their arguments. They both support nationalism and its logic, albeit qualifiedly. Their differences with the fascists are those of degree not of quality. What is the differences between “moderate nationalism” and “moderate racism”? Both are absurd creeds used to mystify and divide the workers. Dividing the workers against the fascists will not ultimately bring the resolution of these problems, nor will simply appointing a different set of leaders to save us. Only the clear understanding that workers of all types share a common interest against the capitalist system, and that its replacement with socialism will end the social conditions that breed such violence will be of any use to us. That understanding will only come about through trusting the workers to think for themselves, instead of trying to crush the fascists with state power or street politics.