'Notts Stop The BNP' Conference Report

Notts Stop The BNP held a conference in Nottingham to discuss how to counter the threat from the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL). The conference was organised with the support of Workers Liberty. There were Delegates from Stoke, Lincoln, Liverpool, Sheffield, Amber Valley, Birmingham, London and Nottingham - many of whom were members of local anti-fascist organisations, or unions. The RMT had a good turnout. Gary and Claire, reps from East Ham Branch; Janine, London transport regions regional secretary, members from East Midlands Central and Birmingham Rail branch and I were in attendance.

The conference began with a look at the EDL and BNP. This introduction discussed the EDL's current form as being loosely organised, purportedly around a single issue - radical islam. It was emphasised that their is a likelihood of it morphing into a fascist organisation akin to the BNP. EDL - BNP links were also discussed ; there are many dual members in these organisations. The EDL however does have members from various ethnic backgrounds which it was suggested could lead to splits and movements within the EDL if and as BNP members become powerful within the EDL.

It was suggested that the best way to fight fascist groups, is using socialist principles to give people who are voting for these organisations an alternative. Many BNP voters are angry over issues such as lack of jobs and poor quality housing. The BNP is twisting these concerns to blame ethnic minorities and immigrants and therefore increase membership. A socialist anti-fascist organisation should counter this by demonstrating to BNP voters that jobs and decent housing are unavailable because of capitalism and that voting for a fascist organisation won't alter that reality. A socialist organisation could as it would mean a fair distribution of wealth with all in society having decent housing and jobs.

There was then a talk regarding recent EDL demonstrations. The police behaviour was condoned at these events, as in many areas such as the Bolton demonstration, it appeared the police were protecting and giving preferential treatment to EDL members, and the anti-fascist demonstrators were the ones being treated as the threat by police.

Three workshops were then held. These were about 'Stopping the EDL', 'Fighting the BNP' and 'Trade Unions against BNP.' Discussions took place during these workshops and were reported back to conference afterwards.


Trade Unions against BNP
The general feeling was that unions should involve and mobilise their members and promote anti-fascism directly amongst members. It was suggested that unions are 'out-sourcing' their anti-fascist activities to groups such as Hope Not Hate (HNH) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) rather than directly dealing with these problems using their own networks.
The group debated that when affiliating with groups such as HNH and UAF, unions should promote their own working class agenda into these organisations, for example putting motions through branches to this effect. Many unions would be of the assertion that it is capitalist principles that leave people unemployed and in poor housing, so the question was asked why are these principles - in this workshop groups experience - not being put to groups such as HNH and UAF.

It was also said that the 'EDL/BNP are nazis' approach won't change the vote of people on council estates and that educating people through leafleting and so on would be the way to counter fascist groups. A socialist candidate alternative was also strongly opined to be a way to counter BNP support.

Stopping the EDL

The 'Stopping The EDL' workshop, reported back that they did not believe the EDL to currently be fascist but may become so in future. They also said that it was not overtly linked to BNP but has many duel members. The organisation has - it was discussed -violent elements and is racist but promotes itself as a populist organisation .There is currently no firm organisation within the EDLbut that this could also change - the group was described as being fluid which could lead to it morphing or splitting into more openly fascist groups.

Fighting the BNP

This workshop came to a similar conclusion to that regarding stopping the EDL. The difference here is that the BNP has a wider range of policies and also has members who are councillors and MEPs. The best counter the workshop report said was the need to get more info out to voters and to provide a real alternative - again focusing on the theme that ran through the conference that the best counter to fascists feeding off peoples need for housing and jobs, is to provide these things through socialism.

More direct action at rallys was also suggested. The question was asked why are police at rallies acting against anti-fascists not the BNP and the EDL.

When the conference convened after a lunch of vegan soup, samosas and cake, motions were debated and voted on. The motions regarded the state of the EDL and how bestto oppose the group, how best to fight the BNP, and the formation of a working class network against racism. An emergency motion was also tabled in light of the police behaviour at a recent EDL demonstration in Bolton. All of the motions were carried with a sizeable majority.


  • The EDL - What it is and how to oppose it
  • This motion stated that the EDL is a racist, populist organisation whose main political tool is organising street provocation. The EDL has successfully drawn black and non-Muslim Asians into its group, which has given it an air of legitimacy to some members and critics. It presently only has a skeletal organisation. The EDL feeds of working class disillusionment. If it's marching goes unchecked it could lead to a spread of fascism and mass mobilisation is needed to stop them marching. EDL's slogans feed the general public's Islamophobia which is pushed into peoples consciousness by media and government attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers.

  • Fighting the BNP
  • The BNP has grown in support and the group have tried to legitimize themselves. The current methods of groups such as HNH and UAF are not working in countering this threat. A union based local campaigns would be best to counter the BNP. Union members need to be mobilized with campaigns aimed at informing voters of the BNPs intentions.

    Working class network against racism

    The motion notes activities by HnH and UAF are carried out on a national scale and that unions use their materials and rallies. UAF and HNH are failing in their approach as they do not adapt tactically to the EDL threat or specifics of BNP policies. A network for local anti-fascist organisations will be formed to support established groups with a representative committee over seeing it.

  • Bolton demonstation police behaviour
  • The police at the Bolton demonstration against the EDL march focused on stopping protesters using kettling. The police told mosques, young people and residents not to attend the anti-fascists demonstration. The police approach needs to be condoned and countered.

It was decided as the meeting drew to a close that a committee be set up to represent local anti-fascist groups and unions. The committee could then discuss how to move the cause forward by expanding union and other anti-fascist groups involvement and producing materials for local anti-fascist groups to use to counter BNP claims about housing and jobs and give alternative solutions to people voting for a racist organisation.

The committee will also organise a counter-demonstration against the BNP's Red, White and Blue festival. The location and date of this event were unknown, but when they are members would be informed and people mobilised to counter the demonstration.