Yesterday, 15th April 2010, the BNP held a demonstration outside UK border agency workplace, Lunar House, in Croydon. Lunar house is the site for screening refugees; many immigrants and their families need to visit the centre as their immigration status is processed. The BNP chose to demonstrate in the middle of a working day precisely because they could intimidate these people and disrupt the workforce at Lunar house.
They declare that ‘Britain is full up’. If they were to gain power they would not only see that immigration controls are tightened to choking point, but would call for the deportation of existing immigrants and their children. Charlotte Lewis, BNP candidate for Carshalton and Wallington (present at the BNP demonstration), requests a Britain in which every citizen can trace their heritage back to this small leafy island for thousands of years. I wonder if, in Lewis’ vision, those born in the former colonies whilst their parents were proudly oppressing native people in the name of ‘Empire’ would be booted out on account of their international lineage? I doubt it, but consistency and depth are not strong features of the BNP’s political and historical analysis.
But why are the bigots gaining popularity at such a steady rate? It’s complex. The BNP are capitalising on fear; an inevitable by-product of recession. They are endorsed and amplified through increasingly right-wing media. The mainstream political parties have allowed this fear to paralyse too many fragments of the populous. They are selling off our services and sitting back to watch the spectacle: migrant workers bear the brunt of the anger.
Our three prospective leaders are responding to the BNP’s growth by echoing their sentiments ‘without being racist’. This was made clear in last night’s leadership debate. Nick Clegg (the nation’s new hero) even mentioned the phrase ‘good immigration’; an implicit suggestion that there must be such a thing as ‘bad immigration’. He outlined a policy which would see immigrants being placed only in regions that had a need and a desire for them. What would this look like? A single non-white family in every village- but no more than that or the community might collapse? Or the emergence of poorly resourced and neglected ghettos so that communities in which UKIP and BNP have a stronghold don’t need to be bothered by having to mix with foreigners? Protect the popular electorate after all. If a migrant worker loses their job or struggles to find work will they have lost their ‘use’? Perhaps he’ll issue badges that say ‘good’ or ‘bad immigrant.’ Clegg’s policies, virtually indistinguishable from the other two mainstream parties in political ideology, patronise racist principles. He is endorsing a notion that there should be one rule for ‘them’ and another for ‘us’: the acceptable and ‘non-racist’ face of segregation.
Given that we are not going to find a voice within mainstream political politics that actually defends the rights of migrants, and their entitlement to freedom of movement, it is all the more important that those who oppose the BNP are able to mobilise against them at a grass roots level. This is why it was particularly inspiring when members of PCS, the public and commercial services union, organised a counter demonstration at Lunar House yesterday. The counter-demonstration aimed to show the BNP that they are opposed wherever they stand and to send a message of support to those immigrants who needed to walk past the BNP into Lunar House; we wanted them not to feel affected by their racist venom.
To some extent the counter-demonstration was successful ; we outnumbered the BNP and we shouted louder than they did (not to mention that there was more cultural diversity amongst our contingent!). I can’t, however, resist from feeling disappointed by the outcome of yesterday’s events. There was the predictable regurgitation of popular holocaust-related chants and the subsequent arrogant dominance of a certain popular left-faction. In the interest of left-unity I will not explore this in further detail, apart from to express the equivalence of an impatient sigh.
I have been puzzled, however, by the behaviour of a number of anti-fascist anarchists who ignored call-outs from all key organisers to keep this protest peaceful for the sake of the workers who wanted to feel confident enough to come out in their lunch break without consequence and, as previously mentioned, to ensure that the immigrants using the centre did not fear violence. About half an hour into the demonstration about 12 black-hooded folk decided to run through the demo from behind chanting ‘hooligan, hooligan’ (presumably intending to label the BNP, not themselves). They took it upon themselves to try to storm through the police to get to the BNP action and ‘beat the shit out of them’. Now, unsurprisingly, coverage of the event focuses on a boy in a black-hood getting arrested and all of the arguments that so many people worked hard to convey through this counter-demonstration are sidelined to give way for such headlines as ‘Antifascists clash with BNP outside Lunar House’ and ‘violence as BNP launches campaign’. I almost feel like the media might’ve tipped the lads in order to create a familiar and sensational narrative.
I’m not opposed to the public expression of anger towards the BNP. I’m angry towards them myself, if provoked I couldn’t promise not to want to lash out (despite my meagre frame). However I’m angry that these young’uns elect themselves as our foot-soldiers without anyone asking them to do so.
This demonstration was called by workers- it is a brave and noble thing to do to demonstrate at your workplace. If more union branches were able to empower workers to make a stand at their workplace then the public would see the true number and nature of people who are opposed to the BNP; it might just help those wavering BNP/labour voters to make an informed decision. As long as the simple caricature of the violent anti-fascist thug is allowed to pervade public opinion then we are, to some extent, silencing our own movement; limiting the many voices of protest in favour of one arrest. To fellow demonstrators: Please, lets choose our moments for martyrdom and work together on it.
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