The BNP, anti-semitism and Islamophobia

Do not be fooled, the BNP is a fascist organization and racist to the core

By David Landau

“Of course we must teach the truth to the hardcore…. when it comes to influencing the public, forget about racial differences, genetics, Zionism, historical revisionism and so on…. we must at all times present them with an image of moderate reasonableness.”  Nick Griffin, Chairman of the BNP, writing in the Patriot, Spring 1999.

LAST WEEK the Argent newspaper group, who produce local newspapers across London and the South East, took an advertisement from the BNP with a picture of a white nuclear family saying “People Like You Vote BNP – British National Party Putting Londoners First”. We know that they are very selective about which Londoners they want to “put first”.  But the it seems that the Argent Group were not simply seduced by the money, but fooled into thinking that the BNP is just another party participating in the political process.

The fact that the BNP is just a newish manifestation of an old party going back to the British Brothers League through the British Union of Fascists through the National Front was completely lost on them. They now seem to have seen the error of their ways and have agreed to put the money made on this advertisement to charity. Part of this rumour of respectability is the suggestion that the BNP isn’t anti-Semitic any more. The fact that their leader Nick Griffin used to be an outspoken Holocaust denier, who compared believing that 6 million were murdered with believing that the earth is flat can be put aside as a youthful indiscretion. They have apparently changed their ways.

They even have a Jewish councillor in the person of Pat Richardson (nee Feldman) in Epping Forest. To understand this we need to recognize that anti-Semitism plays a different role in fascist thinking than other forms of racism. Anti-Semitism has been an organizing principle of most fascists. Jews are the Bankers and the Bolsheviks who conspire together to control the world in which the rest of us are pawns and victims of their evil plans. These ideas borrow heavily from medieval Christian ideas about Jews as Christ Killers and Usurers.

This conspiracy theory has been upset by the rise of Islamaphobia. For many fascists, and Nick Griffin and other leaders of the BNP are part of this wing, the central organizing principle is now Islamaphobia. It is the Oil Sheikhs and the Terrorists who are calling the shots, dividing the world against itself and threatening ‘our’ Christian way of life. Leaflets and papers by the BNP portray Muslims praying outside a church on the village green and bombed buses.

In the London elections their main leaflet contrasts a picture of an all-white street Coronation party with protesting Muslim women in veils. Griffin himself wrote a 15-page document explaining to his supporters why Islam is the main enemy now. He explains how it would be a mistake to see Islamic fundamentalism as an ally, as some fascist organizations do – my enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend. But this is a big give away – the Jews are still one of the enemies. How the two enemies are related is something that I don’t think they have a theory about.

The second factor is that whereas Islamaphobia is now respectable and falls from the lips of the politicians and front pages of the newspapers, anti-Semitism, in the public arena at least, is taboo, although there is still plenty of it around. The third issue is Zionism and the state of Israel. Ruth Smeed of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said recently in the Guardian: “The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web – it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support for Israel.” In what passes for fascist thought Zionism, Jews and Judaism are usually all rolled together as one thing.

It is this wrong equation which is part and parcel of them seeing Jews and Muslims as intrinsic enemies, which of course we are not. For some fascists Israel lies at the heart of the evil Jewish conspiracy. But on the other hand we have a state which is fiercely nationalistic, whose Government is underpinned by an ideology which wants an exclusive Jewish state if this were possible and a state controlled on behalf of its Jewish population in actuality. So the BNP leaders, most prominently Lee Barnes, present Israel as a model to aspire towards, an example which British Nationalists should follow. But it would be a huge mistake to assume that this means the BNP leadership or rank and file love the Jews. Ruth Smeed beware.

Others whose anti-Zionism merges with anti-Semitism are horrified with this turn. Israel Shamir, who claims once to have been Jewish and whose work is greatly admired by Gilad Atzmon, polemicized against Barnes thus: “I do not feel at ease accusing you and your comrades of betraying the Britons and joining with the Jews, but if I’d keep mum, stones wouldn’t.” Again there are lessons about friends and enemies which the left needs to learn.

To conclude, the BNP remain a fascist organization and racist to the core. Currently Islamaphobia plays a central role along with attacks on migrants of every kind. Anti-Semitism is hidden but rumbles away at the heart of the beast. Jews, Muslims, people of all faiths and none, migrants and settled communities have a common cause with workers as a whole in ensuring their upward path is halted and that they are thrown down and dashed on the rocks.