Recession politics: The HOPE not hate campaign in 2011

Searchlight Magazine by Nick Lowles | Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The coming year will be dominated by economic hardship as the austerity measures begin to bite. Job losses, increased taxes and rising living costs will put everyone under strain and, as history has taught us, when people feel under pressure so resentment, fear and hate rise.

The HOPE not hate campaign in 2011

The coming year will be dominated by economic hardship as the austerity measures begin to bite. Job losses, increased taxes and rising living costs will put everyone under strain and, as history has taught us, when people feel under pressure so resentment, fear and hate rise.

Against this background the HOPE not hate campaign is more important than ever.

May's local elections will once again be the main focus of our campaigning year as we ensure that the British National Party is unable to make any political breakthrough. Despite its current problems the BNP will be looking to exploit economic hardship and growing pessimism.

All-out elections will take place in Stoke-on-Trent and across much of the East Midlands, areas where the BNP has previously done well. Other key areas include Greater Manchester and South and West Yorkshire. There are also signs that the BNP vote is recovering in places where the fascist party made its initial breakthroughs during the 2002 to 2006 period but was subsequently beaten back.

We are also likely to see an improvement in the BNP vote in areas where the Liberal Democrats have performed well in recent years, often on an anti-BNP ticket. These include wards in Burnley, Pendle, Bradford and Kirklees.

The Welsh Assembly, contested under proportional representation, offers an opportunity for the BNP, especially in the North Wales constituency where it missed out only narrowly in 2007.

Much of our work will consist of providing support and guidance to broader campaigns. We have to ensure that those fighting the cuts and trying to keep communities together are equipped with effective tools to fend off racists and allay people's fears. We must be prepared to join with other groups to defend local communities. This is not about politicising the HOPE not hate campaign, but about recognising that divided and weakened communities open the door for extremists.

HOPE not hate activists in Stoke-on-Trent who last year helped lose the BNP three council seatsHOPE not hate activists in Stoke-on-Trent who last year helped lose the BNP three council seats

The BNP enters 2011 in a dreadful state but we must guard against complacency. Politics can change very quickly and as people really start to struggle suddenly we could be faced with a resurgent BNP. Its success in recent years has been achieved in a relatively benign economic climate. If it can somehow overcome its present problems then we could be in trouble.

Violent incidents sparked by the English Defence League would be another potential trigger for a resurgent right. While the EDL has no political outlet, its brand of provocative marches and violence whips up tensions and trouble in communities and can quickly lead to communities becoming polarised and so susceptible to a racist message.

Over the past six months the EDL has emerged as the principal far-right threat in the UK today. Its anti-Muslim message has given it a wider appeal as it taps into a general and growing Islamophobia, which is both widespread and acceptable in a way that the BNP's hardline racism is not.

The threat of the EDL poses new challenges. The EDL is not a fascist organisation and we have to deal with the EDL differently from how we deal with the BNP. Our campaigning needs to be peaceful and non-confrontational, and involve longer term work in communities to break down division and suspicions. We also need to be clear that we oppose all extremism that tears communities apart. We will be launching a new national campaign on this theme later this year.

Last year was one of amazing achievements for anti-fascism. The current demise of the BNP stems from its humiliation in Barking and Dagenham, which was itself a product of the most intensive anti-fascist campaign to date. Over 1,500 people got involved on the ground and almost 7,000 donated online.

This year the challenges will be different but they are certainly there. As people struggle in these difficult economic times there is an even greater need for anti-fascists to be active and involved.

Have your say

Do you agree with our strategy? Do you have any ideas about what we should be campaigning on in 2011? How can we bring divided communities together?

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Thanks

Nick

Nick Lowles


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