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racism and politics

The far right exists in the United Kingdom, and is presently a dangerous threat in communities such as Oldham. Jason Wood looks at the British National Party and how much success it's been having as of late.

What is the British National Party?

The British National Party (BNP) was founded in 1980 by a former National Front (NF) member. The current Chairman, Nick Griffin (a Cambridge Law graduate) was also involved with the NF until 1989. Griffin strongly denies any links with the NF, citing them to be extremist factions and the like. Analysts argue that the NF and BNP are always working side by side; the NF doing the violence and protest, while the BNP intellectually chips in to reap the rewards.  

The Policies

The BNP opposes what they call 'non-white' immigration. Their number one policy commitment is to stop non-white immigration, invite non-white settlers to return to their own 'ethnic land'. They state in their policy brief that they have nothing against other ethnic groups but want to the defend their British identity which they feel is disappearing. They have an outlined manifesto with commitments to ending foreign aid, whilst instigating 'national service' for young people in the armed forces. Among their other commitments, they target health, the environment and other political topics without any analysis. They are anti-European on integration and would increase spending to the defense budgets. They use statements that refer to 'stolen jobs' and 'wasted taxes'. On law and order, they advocate the return on capital punishment, together with an end to 'political correctness' in the legal sector. Much of their policy literature is based on a fear that whites will disappear altogether. They picture a future that Nick Griffin says is likened to Genocide - "white people will become the minority in every country in the world." (The Observer 3/9/2000). 

What's the danger?

Britain, whether you agree or not, likes to trumpet itself as a 'tolerant', free society with an inclusive agenda. Even the Conservative Party with its dreadful record on 'race' has a strong new right agenda that is pro-immigration, albeit purely for capitalist reasons. However, as people will be aware, these credentials ring hollow when it comes to discussing the recent uprisings amongst Asian young men in Oldham. During the months of May and June, 'racial tensions' have exploded throughout the area, focusing national political and media attention on the area. Shahid Ashrif on this site explores the Oldham situation in further depth. In the aftermath of these clashes, the British National Party decided to field Nick Griffin as its parliamentary candidate in Oldham West.

where do you stand on racist attacks?

"If a race-attack takes place, and the victim is black or Asian, the result is an endless media circus, howls of condemnation against the perpetrators, and more calls for repressive crusades against supposed ‘racism’. If a race-attack takes place, and the victim is white, the result is usually total silence. No condemnation, no media fanfare, total silence. By contrast, the BNP condemns all racial attacks, including those on non-whites. It is not the fault of individuals that they are in our country, and the answer to the problems caused by mass immigration must be solved by democratic political change, not by violence." 

Oldham's recent tensions have been attributed to far-right plans to march through the city and further aggressive moments by groups like the NF. During the election, politicians remained unacceptably quiet when it came to Oldham, and the Prime Minister spoke only briefly to support 'in full' measures by the police to contain the trouble.

why are you opposed to mixed-raced relationships?

"When whites take partners from other ethnic groups, a white family line that stretches back into deep pre-history is destroyed. And, of course, the same is true of the non-white side. We want generations that spring from us to be the same as us, look like us, and be moved by the same things as us."

Nick Griffin and the BNP have scored political capital by being in the aftermath of far-right invoked racial tensions. Interestingly, whilst every single news report began with something along the lines of "Asians take to the streets to riot" etc, there was little mention that out of 30 arrests, 27 were white people. By entering Oldham at this point, Griffin can gain large support from members of the public. 

Tactics similar to this have been used in Kent (to capitalize on the back of Asylum fears) and London (to dismiss the McPherson report).

Does the BNP have an active opposition?

All major political parties dismiss the BNP. Nick Griffin has a previous conviction for incitement to racial hatred. During the election, all BNP candidates were banned from making a speech at the counting ceremonies. They responded by demonstrating against this.

In terms of opposition on the ground, as it were, groups like the Anti-Nazi League and Youth Against Racism in Europe have actively based their campaigns on wiping out the BNP. This is often channeled through protest, demonstrations and direct action, all of which has brought a media frenzy against them. 

Our roles as educators...

Firstly, we need recognition that far right groups are alive and well, functioning in a political climate that fosters racism. The government and Conservative approach to asylum seekers has encouraged peoples' perceptions about 'race'. This, in turn, with deprivation in inner cities creates a healthy ground for racism to flourish.

As a result of this, and with the NF incited problems, the BNP can create a political campaign. In Oldham, this is evidenced.

Developing practice

Work with both white and black young people needs to take place. Workers will obviously develop different strategies based on their experience and the situation where they are. However, it is a good idea to tackle the issue of the BNP head on, for little is actually known about what they stand for and what they would do if power was elected to them.

One useful way that I have done work in the past is to actually have BNP resources to hand to explain what they mean. For example, the increased their emphasis upon defense and even national service for young people can be compared to studies around Hitler's youth movements. Whilst young people are studying history at school, pieces of work that ask questions such as "What would have happened if Hitler had won the War?" can provoke some heated ideas. You can stem that onto "Is fascism still around today?" When young people begin to share ideas, you can present them with some of the literature and ask them what kind of feelings they provoke. You can access a range of BNP propaganda at

As stated before, much of the BNP 'facts' can be strongly contested even without much research. However, as with every educational activity, back up what you say. Young people have a right to full and frank information that is supported. 


BNP on Immigration: Its about YOUR jobs! Positive discrimination sends white people to the back of the queue in getting jobs and promotions. Response: You can argue that positive discrimination is actually illegal and does not take place. Another good tool is to ask how many influential people in a young people's life are actually black...How many Black managers can they point to? How many political leaders and other key figures are Black? Perhaps even go as far as to explain why equal opportunities policies exist and why they are used.

Some useful resources that may help you:

Black Information Link

Campaign Against Fascism & Racism 

Commission for Racial Equality

Britkid Anti-Racism Game (Online Educational Tool)

For more resources and analysis, keep visiting the Black Perspectives section of this site.

Jason Wood

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