The British National Party has begun organising “food banks” in East London, one of their historic bases of strength and a target for them in next year’s elections.
At the moment the operation is rather meagre — a stall with a few rows of tins — and is undoubtedly mainly organised to give the fascists a photo opportunity and some publicity. But, as elections approach, this type of activity is likely to increase. Anti-fascists will need to be on the lookout.
This kind of social-welfarist activity is common for fascists. In Greece, the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has organised it on a much larger scale. Golden Dawn food banks ensure that only “indigenous” Greek nationals receive the charity. We can assume the BNP operates an equivalent policy for its hand-outs. If you come across a BNP “food bank” in your area, and you feel safe to do so, confront the individuals staffing it and let them know they aren’t welcome. Talk to the people talking the food, too; if they’re not already aware of who the BNP are, let them know. They might not want to take food selectively handed out by fascists as part of a publicity stunt. If they need an alternative food bank, the Trussell Trust is the UK’s largest mainstream provider and though has its own political problems it currently helps over 500,000 people a year with food.
This is not the only recent example of fascists turning to community-focused organising and activity. This summer, far-right activists in Merseyside organised against the Bedroom Tax, sparking a debate in the Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation about whether to allow the affiliation of the group in which they were known to be prominent.
BNP leader Nick Griffin proclaimed in 2002 that his party was “the only socialist party in Britain”. They have always sought to grow by exploiting onto genuine concerns felt by working-class people — around jobs, housing, or in this case, lack of food — and providing a racist narrative, which blames “immigrants”, to explain where those problems come from. The BNP is cynically latching onto a real problem, felt keenly by millions of working-class people. Food bank usage in the South East of England has increased 60% this year, and the Trussell Trust is opening new banks at a rate of one per week.
As the elections draw nearer and this “working-class”, community-focused aspect of fascist political activity proliferates, we must remember that liberal anti-fascism based on celebrating the status quo, in alliance with celebrities, mainstream politicians, and the police, is utterly bankrupt. Only working-class anti-fascism can cut the roots of racism.