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If this is failure, what would success look like?

With 563,000 votes the BNP has conclusively surpassed its predecessor the National Front but the Labour-oriented left are politically incapable of recognising this, let alone responding to it.

In all the mainstream analysis of the recent elections, there has been one consistent, ever-present, thread: unanimous delight and relief at the ‘failure’ of the BNP. The Guardian asked, in what reads awfully like a planted Searchlight propaganda piece, “is this the end for Nick Griffin’s party?” (link). Weyman Bennett of Unite Against Fascism declared that ”The BNP’s vote has been paltry. This just shows that the party’s increased exposure has exposed them for what they are. The BNP fielded more candidates than ever and yet the party has gone backwards.”

What are the reasons for such triumphalism? Because, unlike the Greens, the BNP failed to gain a Parliamentary seat (“The party was thrashed in its two key parliamentary constituencies of Barking and Stoke Central”); and their failure to not only win control of Barking and Dagenham council, but also to retain any of the 12 councillors elected there in 2006 who were standing for re-election (which the Guardian referred to, completely straight-faced, as “the miracle of Barking”). Of the 28 BNP councillors who stood for re-election on 6 May, 26 were defeated.

So on the face of it one might think it a good day for the good guys, with the fascists vanquished at every turn. However, in the mainstream coverage there was at least one Cassandra who dared to rain on the parade. Commenting on the euphoria surrounding the Green breakthrough in Brighton, Julian Baggini wrote: “If you find this result exciting, then you should find the performance of UKIP and the BNP even more frightening. The stark facts are these. Nationally, the Green Party’s share of the vote actually went down 0.1% to 1%. In terms of vote share, the BNP (1.9%) and UKIP (3.1%) both did better than the Greens. Nearly twice as many voted BNP as did Green, while three times more people backed UKIP. The BNP almost tripled its support compared to 2005, while UKIP received around half as many votes again as last time.” (link)

The small fact of the BNP tripling its total vote to 563,000 from 192,000 in 2005, which in turn quadrupled from 47,000 in 2001, evidently doesn’t trouble the Guardian, Searchlight or Unite Against Fascism: in their eyes, the BNP’s loss of a few councillors and the failure to win a Parliamentary seat this time round seems to be sufficient to offset these gains.

Even the “miracle of Barking” can be explained somewhat easily: huge amounts of resources poured in by Labour and its allies to counter the most imminent threat, coupled with the council elections taking place on the same day as the general election making it easier for Labour to get its vote out. The BNP still doubled its total vote in Barking and Dagenham to almost 31,000 from 15,700 last time.

Nationally speaking, the BNP tripled its number of candidates and tripled its vote: vote per candidate marginally rose from 1647 in 2005 to 1663 this time round, meaning they were able to triple their national reach without any drop-off in average return. Before the election, Griffin declared that “This is the last election the British National Party fights as a large small party – we are now a small LARGE party”, and they accomplished this mission.

This is significant: it is the transition the National Front tried to make in 1979, and failed (they pulled in 191,000 votes from 303 candidates). The BNP have succeeded: not only are they no longer a small party, they are still a growing party with momentum behind them. And it is UKIP, rather than Hope Not Hate or Unite Against Fascism, that is their biggest obstacle.

In fact, it is from Nick Griffin himself that the best, most objective analysis of the BNP’s electoral performance has come. In two pieces on the BNP website, Griffin states that where they went head-to-head with UKIP, the BNP won out by 178-123; against the Greens it was 134-23. The BNP saved a record number of deposits and the 6,620 votes Griffin won in Barking was “the highest number ever cast for a BNP (or in fact for any British nationalist party) candidate in a general election”.

Furthermore, he notes that their reverse in Barking and Dagenham was “not some terrible indictment of our councillors or leadership, but simply the result of a paradigm shift in the quality of Labour’s election-winning machine. Four years ago, the British National Party, Respect and the Christian People’s Alliance between us dealt a series of shattering blows to Labour, particularly in Barking & Dagenham, Stoke, Tower Hamlets and Newham. Rather than losing heart and wasting time blaming each other, Labour took this as a wakeup call and set about improving their election machine… It didn’t just knock us out in Barking & Dagenham and take 10 of Respect’s 11 seats in Tower Hamlets, but it also eliminated all opposition on Newham council, wiping out Respect and turning a confident Christian People’s Alliance challenge into the loss of all three of their existing seats. Despite Blair, despite Brown, the strong local challenges of three radical alternative parties have been crushed, leaving the whole of East London, from the edge of the City right out to the horsey fields of Essex, a Labour one-party state”.

Specifically, Griffin is referring to Labour’s use of Blue State Digital, the American internet strategy consultancy that played a key role in the Obama election campaign (link). Certainly, the IWCA has often wondered in recent years how Labour has managed to produce the ‘L-vote’ seemingly out of nowhere.

It scarcely needs to be said that the left, including the IWCA, would kill for the kind of results that the BNP are getting, and which are being dismissed as a failure by the likes of the Guardian and Searchlight. The front page of Hope Not Hate’s website currently reads: “Barking and Dagenham: Labour 51 BNP 0″. Is this what anti-fascism is for? To get Labour, meaning the likes of Margaret Hodge, re-elected (for a glimpse of Ms Hodge’s character, see To keep the centre-ground safe for neo-liberalism?

“Labour 51 BNP 0″ completely ignores the fact that it is Labour’s betrayal of the working class that has driven the growth of the BNP. The Guardian, Searchlight, Hope Not Hate and the Labour party itself cannot face this simple truth, and they can do very little about it except deploy their resources where the need is most urgent. This time they have succeeded in covering the biggest holes in the dyke, but the sea-level outside keeps on rising, as it has been doing for years and will continue to do, until it is either too late or the root causes of the BNP’s ascent are addressed. Labour and its middle-class left allies are politically incapable of prosecuting this task.

32 Responses to “If this is failure, what would success look like?”

  1. BobFromBrockley Says:

    Excellent analysis.

    A couple of points;

    1) On the Labour resurgance: I don’t think it was just a case of the machine getting the L-vote out, let alone its use of the internet to do so. I think it is a combintion of working class voters (rightly) afraid of the Tories and therefore more motivated to vote and to vote Labour; Labour politicians like Margaret Hodge attempting to do what Thatcher did in 1979 to break the NF vote, i.e. sounding more tough on immigration; an indictment of the fact that BNP (and for that matter Respect) councillors, once elected, pretty much always turn out to be useless (in this, Griffin’s analysis was wrong); and, in Barking, genuine anti-fascist instincts (if laced with WW2 style little England nostalgia) making people want to vote out the BNP.

    2) What are the implications of this for anti-fascist strategy? Does it change anything for the IWCA? Does it just reaffirm the need for a working class political alternative (something that hasn’t managed to get much traction yet)? Is there a case for a new anti-fascist movement outside the liberal UAF/HnH machine?

  2. Martin Says:

    “Does it just reaffirm the need for a working class political alternative (something that hasn’t managed to get much traction yet)?”

    That’s exactly what it does. Getting from here to there is what now has to be addressed.

  3. Chaney Says:

    ‘Is there a case for a new anti-fascist movement outside the liberal UAF/HnH machine’ probably not if you understand anti-fascism to mean merely opposing the BNP only to safeguard the centre. Is there a case for a working class national network to challenge the BNP politically at a street level and confront the centre from the left then there probably is.

  4. Paul West Says:

    I don’t agree with a word of this. Their vote tripled only because they stood three times as many candidates. Their % was static.

    This is like reading something from the 1970′s left sectarian playpen.

    They’re melting down, and the biggest reason they’re melting down is because even they can see their results were crap and many of them have lost hope.

    So, just when they’re on the run, just when they’re coming apart at the seams, along come you to give them just what they need to boost morale. They’re posting this everywhere.

    Some antifascists you are!

  5. Anon Says:

    The BNP polled ave. 3.84% from 330 seats, the Greens polled ave. 1.81% from 337 seats, the BNP beat the Greens, UKIP (only 3.52%), and the English Democrats.

  6. Ross Says:

    Did you actually read the article?

    “Nationally speaking, the BNP tripled its number of candidates and tripled its vote: vote per candidate marginally rose from 1647 in 2005 to 1663 this time round, [b]meaning they were able to triple their national reach without any drop-off in average return[/b]”

    if you think the bit in bold suggests they are melting, on the run and coming apart at the seams, then your adopting the same ostrich like approach that the article sets out to confront

  7. The Watchman Says:

    Funny really, you seem to give them a glowing report. To claim they saved 73 deposits as compared to zero in 1979 is a little foolish. In 1979 a party needed to get 12.5% of the vote to save a deposit. 30 years on at that level they would have saved just one deposit.

    You can talk about their vote tripling since 2005, but they did stand 3 times as many candidates. What’s more, I believe their average vote per constituency was virtually the same as it was in 2005. This if anything suggests stagnation.

  8. Duncan Says:

    Yeah this is definitely what will save the BNP from meltdown, this article from the IWCA.

    Numbskull. Do you not understand that having the capacity to stand three times as many candidates and win the same level of votes is evidence of the party growing?

    This is an excellent analysis.

  9. GOSH Says:

    What the IWCA detractors are ignoring is that despite all the smaller parties being squeezed, the Greens losing seats and Respect effectively wound up, the BNP were one of the few to actually increase their overall vote share. We are also in danger of forgetting that UKIP in direct competition with the BNP for the anti-immigrant/anti-Muslim vote took a million votes. Which makes it 1.5 million votes for the far and fascist right overall. Approximately an eightfold jump from what the NF managed in 1979. And this after 30 years of race awarness and multiculturalism.

    Another aspect of the election not emphasised is that for the first time immigration was back on the agenda for all three party leaders during the pre-election debates. Moreover it was when Clegg’s was forced to defend the Lib Dem policy amnesty for illegal immigrants that his popularity nose-dived.

    How much has that to do with the BNP’s national profile infecting the wider body politic?

    Quiet a bit you’d imagine. If not not, how then to explain why four out of of the six declared candidates for Labour leader heavily flagging immigration as a problem in their opening addresses?

    As in many other countries in Europe the impact of the far-right should not be judged merely by how many they manage to attract to their banner but how they force their opponents to respond.

  10. Joe Says:

    Ah, so another ‘thumping defeat’ for the BNP? As of course was last year’s election when they gained ‘just’ 2 MEP’s. As was the ‘pathetic failure’ to get more than one candidate elected to the London Assembly. Add to this the ‘collapse in morale’ after the fored change in the constitution. Griffin’s ‘disaster’ on Newsnight. The ‘fatal damage’ inflicted when their membership list was leaked. Or when Griffin and Collett were accussed of race hate crimes. Or the ‘pitiful’ return of just 3 Councillors in just one town in 2002. Or the ‘embarassment’ of polling just 100,000 votes across the entire country in the Euro elections in 1999?

    With a record of defeats like that and yet another recent triumph for the forces of good it’s really a wonder they don’t just give up.

  11. Paul West Says:

    Absolute bollocks – including your planted comments.

    The BNP is in the shithouse. It’s breaking up.

    So idiots like you give them cause for hope?

    You’re antifascists like I’m the sugar plum fairy.

  12. Joe Says:

    The problem with with the likes of the ‘sugar plum fairy’ is that they won’t or are unable to distinguish between objective analysis and fawning propaganda; an inablility to separate the notion of ability from approval.

    Just like football fans who because they envy a certain opposition player or fear him because of the threat to their teams chances, the standard visceral response is to call him ‘overrated or simply ‘shit’.

    Clearly this shalloness is not confined to football forums. George Orwell, summed it up rather well. Speaking of Salvadore Dali he described him as both a brillant draughtsman – and a clinical – psychopath.

  13. Martin Says:


    To repeat: they have tripled their national reach whilst maintaining their average return. This is a significant achievement: it does not represent stagnation, it represents expansion. If it is such a straightforward feat, why have Respect not been able to manage it? Or the Greens? Or the IWCA, for that matter? And whatever you think, the IWCA does not possess life-or-death power over the BNP, much as we’d like to.

    One more thing (and this goes for everyone): if you can’t defend your position or make a point without resorting to foul, abusive and insulting language, you can go elsewhere. The moderators don’t need to put up with it, and we won’t put up with it.

  14. John, Todmorden Says:

    Over and above all other ideas the main objective of the middle-class liberal left, and the aforementioned groups to which many of these individuals are affiliated to, (Searchlight e.t.c) seems to be the desire to see the BNP’s demise. There doesn’t seem to be much analysis of the BNP’s policies from the liberal left. The monotonous, lazy ‘fascist’ accusation, the intimation that the BNP are a ‘one issue’ party of hatred and their condemnation of working class workers who vote BNP seem to be their overarching intentions. They don’t investigate as to why in particularly the working class vote BNP but just maintain the loathing, pitying and the assumptions that the working classes are stupid if they vote BNP.
    Whatever the rights and wrongs of the BNP may be, there should be a more detailed examination of the BNP’s ideas by the liberal left and a much more thorough explanation as to why they feel that the BNP must be vanquished. The liberal left should acknowledge that many BNP voters are not reactionary morons but have actually considered the BNP’s policies much more conscientiously than the liberal left gives them credit. Sections of the working classes are voting BNP because they have studied the BNP’s policies and feel that the BNP are closest on a wide spectrum of policy as to how to make life more tolerable for themselves.
    In my opinion, the left as a whole needs to ‘explain’ to the working classes if they are able, why they accuse the BNP of extremism. The accusation that the BNP are a right wing party without a true social conscience needs to be explained, especially since some of the BNP’s policies appear to be in favour of public ownership in certain areas. They need to explain why the BNP’s version of right wing ideas are necessarily bad for the working classes and left wing ideas are necessarily good for the working classes.

  15. Paul B Says:

    The cobweb left’s response to half a million votes for the BNP, a million votes for UKIP and the attempt by maionstream politicians to opportunistically ‘get tough’ on migration is revealing.

    As John states there is no attempt by the middle class left to deal with the problem through political means -instead we have ‘anti fascists’ urging people to smash the BNP by voting Labour (hopeless not hate). In other words, their position is that the best way to stop the rise of the far right is to vote for the party who have created the conditons for it to expand in the first place. Their position is that the best way to fill the vaccum in working class areas is to vote for the party that consciously abandoned the working class.

    As usual their position is defended by people like Paul hysterically abusing those who choose not to bury their head in the sand to what is objectively happening.

    It’s been said before – but it needs saying again and again. There is no way back for Labour or the middle class left (the SWP storming of ACAS on Saturday represents a new low). They are finished and their isolation from the class they purport to ‘lead’ is vast and growing.

    Others on this thread have posed the question of the need for a working class alternative. How this can be achieved is what needs to be emphatically focussed on.

  16. sean Says:

    Here we go again capitalism proved to be economicaly and morally bankrupt the main stream partys running full pelt to the right the rise of the far right which the state will use to do there dirty work againts any working class oposition who rise againts them and the libreal left fighting a rear gard action on be half of the state [Keep voting labour and every thing will be all rite].
    Sugarplum fairy take the blinds of mate the real world of politics is about to side swipe you.

  17. Bobby the bigot Says:

    Good analysis of the recent election. Unfortunately it appears some contributors above ‘cant see the wood for the trees’ and buy in to the BNP are finished Hope not Hate/UAF sugarplum fairy tales.

    The so-called left would give there right leg and Tommy Sheridan’s boll**** to get the type of votes and media exposure the BNP have recieved. Not to mention the new supporters/ members and cash that goes with it!

    Keep up the good work.

  18. BobFromBrockley Says:

    How depressing that the cobweb left, as Paul puts it, can’t see reality staring them in the face, and continue to claim that half a million BNP votes is something other than a success for the BNP. It doesn’t matter whether this constitutes growth or stabilisation (quibbling over the number of seats etc is meaningless, as we can’t really compare like with like). The point is huge numbers of people voted BNP and they have acheived a nation-wide visibility they could only dream of just a few years ago.

    Of course, they didn’t manage to capitalise on the post-Euro election momentum as much as they would have wanted, and Griffin turned out to be more of a liability than they expected, but still…

    However, the news emerging that Griffin is stepping down changes the equation. For all his outbreaks of lunacy, it is hard to see another BNP contender taking the small large party strategy forward. So, maybe Duncan will turn out right.

    So, as Paul says, the key question is how to build the working class alternative. I think it is instructive to see how Labour did try to find its way back to its “core vote”, and that they succeeded in this at the polling booths in some areas, partly by doing what they used to do (actually knocking on doors in the estates) and partly by trying to present themselves as tough on immigration. It also seems as if the anecdotal evidence is building up of people joining and re-joining the Labour party in a kind of back to the 1980s mentality in response to the Con/Dem government. This is a factor we need to take seriously in building a working class alternative – and who wins the Labour leadership will make a little difference to how much it counts.

    My view, for what it’s worth, is that a strategy which seeks to create a party-type structure, with views on everything and an orientation to elections, is the wrong response. I think the key is being more locally responsive, flexible and issue-based. I think we need to acknowledge that we might find oursellves working with and alongside Labour party people in some areas on some issues, while against them in other areas and other issues. And I think we need to focus on the issues, the campaigns, and not on building the party, as the dismal hsitory of decades of British Trotskyism surely teaches us.

    Red Action won the respect of others in the anti-fascist movement in the 1990s because of its unswerving commitment to the whatever was the best strategy to fight on the issues it fought on, even (especially) when that meant unseating the orthodoxies of a previous moment (as with Filling the Vacuum). With the turn to the IWCA, many independent people, rightly or wrongly, saw the priority becoming building the party (building the IWCA) and were turned off (often burnt by experiences of the Trot cults sacrificing campaigns for the good of the party). This is, in my view, why IWCA failed to benefit from the momentum of AFA, while being too small to really go it alone. In other words, in my view, the next phase has to be about building an open, flexible, broad-based movement, in which people can be invovled with committing 100% of their free time, and not an old-style party-like structure.

    Sorry to go on a bit.

  19. Jammy Dodger Says:

    This article is totally naive. UAF, Searchlight and The Guardian know full well that the BNP’s half million odd supporters are a very serious problem, the reason for what IWCA see as their “triumphalism” is their desire to ENCOURAGE Anti-Fascist campaigners and to DISCOURAGE their Fascist opponents as much as they possibly can in context of this particular election result.

    Yes the BNP vote tripled since 2005, but only because the BNP fielded 3 times more candidates, and equally the BNP attracted 1 million votes in 2009, which was cut by 460,000 in 2010, so IWCA’s analysis is incomplete, and, even if it wasn’t, British voters have hardly embraced the “alternative” offered by the anachronistic and exclusionary workerism of a frankly microscopic party like the IWCA.

    You should also be aware that Nazis have re-posted the IWCA article on their Stormfront forum as “evidence” of the BNP’s electoral “success”

  20. NE 29 Says:

    The BNP were building in places for the future local elections. If seats were targeted for percent gains, then only 200 would have been contested.

    The North East fielded two candidates in 2001, up to nine in 2005 not retaining a single deposit.

    Then a full-slate of 29 in 2010 retaining 10 deposits.

    HnH readers take note: The BNP retained the Gateshead deposit, your results are wrong.

    I’m sure the communist party candidate Martin ’177 votes’ Levy in Newcastle East would have preferred a failed BNP type vote and became the 4th party in the North East.

    IWCA are right in this article looking at the facts without the spin.

  21. NE 29 Says:

    Sorry, BLAYDON not Gateshead

  22. Martin Says:

    Jammy Dodger:

    Comparing their performance in 2010 to 2009 is meaningless and disingenuous, European and general elections are different things with different voting systems. Your other points have already been addressed. And here’s a tip for future reference: if you’re going to try to post under multiple usernames, I suggest you do it from different locations for each identity, because we can see the IP address.

    Some of the points that Bob and William make are not too far removed from what we’re currently thinking and discussing internally. We’ll be making a fuller statement in due course.

  23. WILLIAM LAWS Says:

    Jammy Dodger:

    Your triumphalism seems to confirm that the fake-left now think fascism and bourgois democracy are distinct entities, rather than one being the form the other takes in time of crisis What difference does it make that the IWCA article was pasted on Stormfront? The fact that the far -right can take more comfort from an objective assessment of where we are than a fake-left claiming victories that havent happened says all we need to know about the fake left. I see from The Guardian today that having “beaten” the BNP, Lowles, UAF etc are going to clear the streets of the “most dangerous threat in three decades”………….the EDL!!! Maybe its all a question of scale? Just as Antifa used to chase the BPP ,UAF are going to hound the EDL and the real business will get ignored. So long as the cops dont take the crash barriers away, the Trots and anarchos are desperate for the fash to go “back to the streets” rather than have to address how their own political failings stop them being able to intervene between the BNP and the working class.

  24. Waterloo Sunset Says:

    This article is totally naive. UAF, Searchlight and The Guardian know full well that the BNP’s half million odd supporters are a very serious problem, the reason for what IWCA see as their “triumphalism” is their desire to ENCOURAGE Anti-Fascist campaigners and to DISCOURAGE their Fascist opponents as much as they possibly can in context of this particular election result.

    So what you’re saying is that they’re deliberately lying for propaganda reasons. Do you honestly think that has long term potential as a strategy? The fact you think working class people are too stupid to see through this kind of thing is very telling.

    It’s not like this is a new tactic either. It’s been used for years with no success. I remember the same kind of people telling us that the BNP had been defeated when Derek Beacon was voted out.

  25. Rob Ray Says:

    “So long as the cops don’t take the crash barriers away, the Trots and anarchos are desperate for the fash to go ‘back to the streets’.”

    Less of the assumptions please, a good chunk of the anarchist movement and no doubt the Trots are hoping for nothing of the sort, except insofar as it might help alienate the far-right’s own cobweb conservatives. The anarchist writer Paul Stott for example has been on the leading wing of the “back to dog-shit politics” school of anti-fascism at least as much as the IWCA has.

    Actually, I’d recommend trying his and Kaf’s two-parter in Black Flag magazine as a good companion to this piece, PDFs here:

  26. Wiliam Laws Says:

    Rob Ray-I read the 2 Black Flag articles as you suggest. Both provide useful overviews of where we are now in terms of facts and figures, voting stats etc,but they are woefully inadequate re tactics and strategy. The article in BF 227 proposes ” dedicated work in our communities and workplaces around
    working class needs and encouraging working class communities to act for themselves in pursuit of those needs.And that means taking on small activities to win – confidence building measures as
    well as spectacular ones.” This is about where AFA had reached when the debates took place which resulted in the formation of the IWCA-when most of the anarchists involves spat their dummies and devoted themselves to chasing the ever dwindling BPP round Yorkshire in the pretence that there was still a solution available solely “on the streets.” Fifteen years on, the Black Flag article offers the same abstractions which forced the debates to a head around the IWCA. There are 2 reasons for this-the anarchist groups appear inacapable of confronting honestly their own distance from working class communities and hence finding any way back to them, and , faced with the need to articulate a concrete local politics that goes further than demands for “direct action” they split into as many people as are in the room at the time.For all the rhetoric, the membership of most anarchist groups is middle-class-and they appear not to have grasped the real extent of alienation from Labour until it blew up in their face. The article in BF 228 is frankly pathetic.Discussing anti-fascist strategy in Barnsley-which appeared to consist of knocking over a BNP stall and an expose in a local paper (liberal anti-fascism with a bit of direct action to give it a radical gloss) the article asks “Is it that anti-fascist tactics such as the above no longer work, that they do work but need to be sustained, or that they will only work if attached to a more detailed community presence? Time will tell.” Time and the growth of the BNP vote long ago answered that-the liberal anti-fascist coalition is a busted flush- even with a few punch-ups thrown in. The growth of the BNP is predicated on a set of politics based on the racialisation of class questions-even in recognising this, the BF articles propose the same tired solutions-either cross-class coalitions or lurking round the fringes of UAF demos looking for stray fash to batter .The London assembly picket the BF 228 article lauds managed to combine the falings of both tactics by having the anarchists call their own pointless demo!”Several weeks of hard leafleting and stickering to build a large counter demonstration under the banner “No to the Crook,
    the Toff, the Cop and the Fascist” ” sounds like liberal anti-fascism to me- with the obligatory “nasty Nazi” name calling included. When the IWCA was formed, with the goal to build a concrete anti-Labour and anti-BNP politics within the working class, it called the bluff of those within and outside AFA who’d got as far as recognising the necessity of “work in our communities and workplaces around working class needs” (qu BF 227) but were not prepared to abandon their own organisational/sectarian/ ideological positions and dirty their hands in doing so. All the two BF articles show is that the anarchist movement is still asking the same questions it was 15 years ago, but has learned nothing and is still coming up with the same dead-end solutions.

  27. Rob Ray Says:

    K first of all I didn’t suggest they were was offering answers, in fact the final sentence of both pieces pretty much amounts to asking the anarchist movement to think about its tactics given the framework offered. I merely said it was a good companion piece which incidentally highlights that the anarchist movement isn’t just about boots on faces, which I’ll stand by.

    Secondly, given that the IWCA has not significantly grown beyond Oxford for 15 years, the words pot, kettle and black spring to mind if we’re talking about models which have failed to make a mark on far-right expansion. I do respect the IWCA’s analysis, but shouting about who had the right idea is really a bit pointless given the context we have here.

  28. Joe Says:

    Rob Ray is confusing the undeniable success of the IWCA pilot schemes, (yes all of them on the ground ) with the seperate challenge of directly dealing with the BNP advances politically and b) building a national organisation. Ever since the emergence of the IWCA critics have been busy confusing steps one with steps two and three. So let look back to step one and how it occurred.

    The first step of the iWCA pilot schemes was to test out the iWCA analysis on the ground in working class estates. The various boroughs that became the focus of the pilot schemes were picked almost entirely at random in the sense that the wards where a focus was eventually brought to bear were precisely where we had members prepared to put their head over the parapet and stand for elections.

    In other words, and this is important, there was never any hand picked wards or candidates. First come first served. It was in essence a political experiment. So from a scientific view the more haphazard the selection process the better.

    The other way it worked, such as as in Islington, was to leaflet across the entire borough and then select the estates where the core message was most resonant. Out of there it was hoped first members and then candidates would emerge. And so it proved.

    Pound for pound the results of that work from 1998 to 2006 saw the IWCA gains four cllrs, and come within a 100 votes of two more in outside of Oxford in Hackney and Clerknwell (2006) and take 19% of the vote in inner city Glasgow (2003) in a six horse race by-election against no less than 5 genuine national parties (if you include the SNP).

    A set of results that are arguably the most impressive the working class left has enjoyed post war.

    Far more impressive in scope for instance than the single BNP success in 1993. But nonetheless the strategy that deliverd for them there, was they recognised the correct one. And eventually it became the basis for tremendous growth, though they had a decade to wait for it, starting with Burnley in 2002.

    Right, so where does that leave us? One we know that the IWCA strategy works on the ground and orientating to working class communities is not only correct historically but can deliver in practice in relatively short space of time under certain conditions. That was step one.

    So how does any of this apply to stopping the BNP advance (put up candidates against them and so forth) in the here and now? Well, in truth, not much.

    It is far more important at this juncture that a core working class philosophy is reconstructed out of the debris of at least the last 50 years; core values and a method working that will stand the test at both a micro and macro level. That is step two.

    Step three, is to develop an infrastructure that is capable of delivering that core message nationally and in doing so compete with both with the BNP and an increasingly faltering Labour Party and movement for working class hearts and minds.


    No. The BNP have a considerable head start. A membership they claim is fast approaching 15,000 target and an income in excess of £1.5 million a year. So at present they are as predicted, filling the vacuum. But we also know they do not have all the answers. Sooner or later they will have a real crisis of identity (not the relatively minor stumblles heralded by lefties as ‘The End!’ each time they occur) but they can survive that too and prosper if our side is not sufficiently organised to take advantage.

    Indeed the working class left organised is exactly what will cause the crisis to occur.

  29. BobFromBrockley Says:

    During Step 1, the IWCA was successful according to most ways you could calculate it, in small areas where there was already a Red Action/IWCA organisation base. Intensive, very dedicated, very disciplined work paid real dividends. However, the scale of RA/IWCA presumably was not enough to do this on a bigger geographical scale, and the situation since 2005 suggests to me, as a relative outsider, that it is almost impossible to sustain over time. To get to step 3, it seems to me, the IWCA needs to find a way to reach out to people that are outside the RA core, and also to accept that some of these people simply aren’t capable, for both good and bad reasons, of the level of day to day dedication and discipline that core RA members were putting in. This means, I think, that during Step 2 the IWCA needs to take a more open and engaging attitude towards others who are playing in the same sort of ball park (e.g. perhaps the anarchists mentioned by Rob Ray) and laying off a bit on the confrontational attitude. I just don’t think that the existing IWCA can do it alone.

    And, as Joe says, addressing the BNP in the short term has to be kept separate from the task of building working class politics. If we accept getting to Step 3 will take a lot of time, if it is ever successful, then the vacuum will remain. Can we live with letting the BNP continue to prosper in that vacuum?

  30. Paul B Says:

    Bob, I’m not sure I understand what you mean by ‘laying off a bit on the confrontational attitude’. Who has been confronted? Why? When? By who exactly?

    It is true that IWCA have displayed a lack of appetite for ‘debate’ with the middle class left. It is also true that the IWCA does not prioritise the adventure of interventions – Iraq, Palestine, save the NHS or whatever this weeks cause might be and which the left has no chance of influencing.

    However, far from confrontational it is based on an assessment, a correct one in my view, that most of the left is at best irrelevant and at worst an active impediment to building progressive working class politics. Squandering resources interacting with them is pointless.

    I do agree with you that where we are it is many miles from where we need to be. I also think your earlier comments about the need to be locally responsive, flexible, listening to people and not talking at them is critical. As Martin has said internal discussions are underway broadly around these sorts of questions. Solving ‘getting to step 3′ is something everyone interested in working class confidence and progressive politics needs to be thinking about seriously.

  31. Rob Ray Says:

    The question I would ask then is what impact in terms of active members – ie. the supporters who can form the structural stability to free up other IWCA members to have as their primary role spreading its influence beyond the immediate area – the last ten years has had in particular.

    Has the core group grown significantly? If not, that doesn’t bode well for the future of step 3 if local votes aren’t translating into high levels of self-activity and concrete support for the IWCA within the community/local workplaces over the course of a decade or more of graft.

    I’d certainly agree there’s little point in orienting to the cobweb left – the various hangups and sectariana might well be an active hinderence – but for reproduction and expansion of the model active support has to come from somewhere. This is all a genuine question btw as I don’t know about the IWCA’s situation atm.

  32. zico Says:

    First Comment – be gentle (!!)

    This is an interesting and insightful article. Some points about the BNP:

    They have suffered from a leadership challenge recently – (ex) East Midlands Regional Organiser Sadie Graham was fired for this, and also because they believed she was the person who leaked the membership file. (I am not sure but I think she sued for wrongful dismissal and won)

    (–blonde-university-graduate-held-BNP-internet-leak.html – apols for daily heil link)

    She makes some interesting observations, though:

    “The problem is the leadership or lack of it, there is no party structure, no shadow cabinet, regional, national organisation and accountability are extremely poor…”


    They have been sued by Unilever over the Marmite ™ debacle – I wonder whose dumb idea that was.

    Then there is this:

    I personally agree with William Law above (“Griffin’s own past is interesting in this regard-he’s moved across the spectrum of the far right leaving chaos -and no intellectual accounting of his odyssey from political soldier (hah!) to Euro MP-in his wake.(Like many a spook he went to Cambridge…)” and believe the BNP are just there to divide the working class up, they have no intention of trying to actually achieve any sort of political power or influence: “their councillors have performed as a bunch of drunken incompetents and the likes of Barnbrook would be an embarassment to any organisation” – quoting Law’s again! Griffin is the son of a Tory MP and privately educated, what he thinks he has in common with the working class i don’t know.

    The things the BNP are doing right: Using Technology – Facebook pages, Youtube channels; focusing on issues that affect the working classes with high visabiliy (race/islam/immigration), having people like (until recently) Sadie Graham on board.

    Can someone pass this on to that guy napier who keeps banging on about how great they are in his comments on another article I read on this site.

    Sorry to go on a bit.


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