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Barking and Dagenham
BNP fiasco but vigilance essential
AS RICHARD Barnbrook, leader of Barking and Dagenham council's far-right BNP group, started ranting down his megaphone, over 300 anti-fascists ran to the park perimeter to drown him out.
The BNP has twelve councillors in the area and billed this as a national rally - originally with its leader, Nick Griffin, speaking. But the turnout on 9 December was pathetic, 50 at most. The usual BNP suspects huddled around Barnbrook, with a handful of local people thrown in.
The counter-demonstration, called by Unite Against Fascism, was made up of local trade unionists, left groups and individuals. There was some confusion initially. On arrival we were told that the counter-demo would finish just as the BNP rally was due to start.
This seemed odd. Most people were there to protest at the BNP, not to walk away when it turned up. However, delays in getting the demonstration going and the long list of speakers at the counter-rally at Central Park, Dagenham, meant the demo was still intact as the BNP showed up.
In the end, it all worked out well as 300 people shouted and chanted Barnbrook down. And, after a while, the BNP members drifted away.
This Dagenham flop, coming after similar fiascos in Blackpool and Lincoln, shows the BNP has not been able to mobilise active support in local communities for its divisive, anti-working class and racist policies. Nonetheless, the fact that it can get substantial votes - it's the main opposition to New Labour on Barking and Dagenham council - is a stark warning against complacency.
Counter-demonstrations are an important part of the campaign against the far-right. But they have to be part of active campaigning to defend jobs and services, to unite working-class communities. This is especially so in run-down, de-industrialised areas like Dagenham where many working-class people have a grim existence in dire poverty.
In The Socialist 15 December 2006:
War and terrorism
Violence against women
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
The Socialist Xmas quiz