Friday, 1 August 2014

British fascism weakened

From Searchlight by Sonia Gable:

The resignations of Nick Griffin from the chairmanship of the British National Party and James Dowson from the leaderships of Britain First are welcome and will weaken British fascism.

Griffin, who stepped down from his position on Saturday 19 July, had presided over the big growth and subsequent decline of the BNP since he was elected party leader in 1999. The party started its run of council election wins in 2002 (apart from one short-lived success in 1993) and at its peak had around 60 councillors. Griffin’s biggest victory was his election to the European Parliament in 2009, along with Andrew Brons.

But Griffin was always divisive. His period as chairman was marked by internal strife, which Griffin always survived but which weakened the party. He even managed to fall out with Brons, meaning that the two were unable to maximise the benefit of their election as MEPs – thankfully.

Whether Griffin went of his own accord or was pushed is unclear – probably a bit of both. There were always calls for his removal, but he had his own group of supporters in powerful party positions.

Griffin claims his departure was his own decision. In his resignation statement he says he had intended to hand over the chairmanship some time ago, and it is true that he did express that wish a few years ago. He says he stayed on to help the party through a concerted attempt to destroy it, and that his two aims – to make the party financially stable and to end “a four-year electoral drought” – have been achieved.

He may technically have ended an electoral drought by virtue of the re-election of one BNP councillor this year, but the party now only has two councillors nationally and its vote in this year’s European elections was derisory. Whether any more BNP councillors will be elected is doubtful. Strangely Griffin claims Brian Parker’s election to Pendle council was in June, when in fact it occurred in May: an indication of Griffin’s detachment from British politics?

Griffin remains as BNP president, a new position created for himself. He claims it will enable him to give his successor, Adam Walker, “advice and support” and that he will still speak at party meetings, write for party publications and generally play an active role. Whether Walker will want Griffin constantly looking over his shoulder is unclear.

Possibly more useful to Griffin is having a title behind him in his new role. Griffin has for several months preposterously claimed sole credit for Britain not declaring war on Syria and now intends to build on his “historic intervention” with “a very much harder campaign to expose and resist the latest neo-con campaign to herd the public into confrontation and conflict with Russia”.

Griffin has been friendly towards Russian President Vladimir Putin for some time. In December 2011 he visited Russia to observe the state parliament elections and declared that Russian elections were “much fairer than Britain’s”. And in 2007 Griffin went on a speaking tour in the USA that was arranged by a wealthy American far-right extremist called Preston Wigington, who has extensive links with Russian fascists.

During his period as an MEP Griffin built many links with European fascists with whom he now wants to “build a pan-European campaign for peace and to resist the utter evil of those who seem hell-bent on plunging us into another world war, against the last bastion of our race on the planet”.

In case anyone doesn’t quite get his meaning, Griffin spells out his target: “the neo-con drive to make the world safe for US oil giants, the internal banks, global corporations and Zionist supremacism”. Back to old-fashioned antisemitism then.

As for Walker, who succeeds to the leadership by means of Griffin appointing him deputy leader immediately before his resignation, he is hardly less divisive than Griffin. There is no love lost between Walker and the BNP’s treasurer Clive Jefferson, which bodes ill for the party’s future financial health.

And a party that really wanted to be taken seriously would hardly appoint as leader a man who last year was banned from teaching for life after he after he admitted verbally abusing three pupils and slashing their bicycle tyres with a knife.

To cap it all, Walker’s first public act as BNP leader was to insult Britain’s war dead by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honours Japanese war criminals responsible for the deaths of thousands of Allied troops and civilians during the Second World War.

Griffin’s claim that he made the party financially stable has an element of validity though the party remains heavily dependent on legacies from dead members, hardly a reliable source of income. The BNP would be doing even better financially had not Searchlight helped the sons of a dead BNP supporter prevent their father’s estate worth £389,000 going to the fascist party.

As it is, the party managed to make a profit of £160,000 in 2013 despite increasing staff costs, by spending very little on campaigning and avoiding paying past legal expenses, a policy that resulted in Griffin’s personal bankruptcy at the beginning of 2014. The BNP is still insolvent but to a lesser extent than before and to some extent the insolvency is technical – the result of provisions rather than actual debts, though the party still owes too much to HM Revenue and Customs.

One interesting point is the revelation in the 2013 accounts that the party has set aside £56,467 as a “future wage guarantee fund”. A note to the accounts states that “certain funds have been set aside to meet future guaranteed salaries, these funds will be applied over the next four years”. Whose salaries are being guaranteed is not revealed. It may be members of Griffin’s family: Griffin’s daughter and her husband have positions in the party. Or it could be salaries of key Griffin allies or even Griffin himself who, since losing his seat in the European Parliament and being declared bankrupt, appears to have no means of support.

A full analysis of the BNP accounts will appear in the next issue of Searchlight.

One man who had a huge impact on the BNP financially was James Dowson. Over the three years he was associated with the BNP he raised nearly £2 million for the party, and for a period in effect owned the BNP, a conclusion I reached after analysing the BNP’s finances. The money went to Griffin’s head and he spent far more on profligate legal actions and other ventures, resulting in the BNP’s and his own insolvency. After parting company with Griffin, Dowson went into business with the former BNP councillor Paul Golding and a small bunch of Islamophobes to form Britain First, which has punched its way into the news by invading mosques to distribute so-called British Army Bibles.

No doubt it was Dowson’s fundraising that paid for the Bibles and activists’ travel to the group’s target mosques, and his departure, announced on 27 July, is therefore welcome. Britain First’s importance has been greatly overstated, in some instances by anti-fascists looking for a raison d'ĂȘtre after the demise of the BNP. Nevertheless Britain First certainly had the ability to cause community tension.

Interviewed by the Mirror, Dowson, who professes Christianity, albeit of the rabid anti-Catholic Orangeman variety, said: 
No matter how many times I told him [Paul Golding] I did not want decent Muslims intimidated, he just continued doing it.

I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I tried, you cannot escape from the fact that the group is being overrun with racists and extremists. I think he is fooling himself and lots of people that Britain First is a Christian group. Sadly, it has just become a violent front for people abusing the Bible.
We can only agree with Dowson's conclusion about Britain First’s false Christianity, except for the fact that it was never anything else. Dowson was misguided (at best) in being taken in by Golding and his Islamophobic comrades.

In his resignation statement Dowson announces his “retirement from all political activities forthwith”, claiming that he wanted to concentrate on his family. Dowson has a history of moving from one extremist venture to another so we can only wait and see whether he really has retired. If he really is a Christian, I hope he takes some time to consider the true meaning of Christian love. Be a Christian evangelist and moral crusader by all means but gentle persuasion is better than force. Imposing faith by violence is intolerable whoever does it. And fascism and racism are wholly contrary to Christian principles, whatever some fascists and racists might claim.

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