On 20th October 2009 a list containing personal details of BNP members was leaked for the second time by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. According to Wikileaks the latest data reflects the state of the party membership as of April 2009. An analysis of the data alludes to the successes and failures of the antifascist movement within the UK.
The claims of a ‘surge’ in BNP membership since the European elections appear to be false. The figures show a unique paid annual membership of 11,811 which is significantly less than the 14,000 recently claimed by the BNP. The list leaked in November 2008 showed a membership of 12,802 names although this list was widely regarded to include non-members who had shown an interest in the party.
Wikileaks state that a total of 35,000 memberships appear on the list, but after this number reached 33,000, 100,000 has been added to all subsequent membership ID numbers. “It has the effect of making the BNP look larger to new recruits and those they talk to, since the numbers on their membership cards are all over 133,000” say Wikileaks. This was a tactic originally adopted by the German nazi party after 1919 who added 500 to every member’s number to exaggerate the party’s strength, and was regarded as a key propaganda tactic to increase support.
The number of lapsed memberships also appear to be significantly high which indicates the party is poor at retaining committed support. A member of the state-funded antifascist group ‘Searchlight’ stated “people join the party because they’re angry, agitated or curious, but they leave in equal numbers out of the bottom”. However most BNP supporters are unlikely to join a political party so the figures exhibit a skewed representation of the current landscape of fascism in the UK.
Griffin originally threatened that ‘those who are responsible for the latest attack will be tracked down and exposed’, but is on the backfoot now claiming the list is a ‘forgery’. This claim will be of tactical use to the BNP as it will serve as a de facto response to anyone who wishes to raise questions about the list. Clearly the corporate media furore over the list will have died down by the time the truth comes out. However the BNP themselves could face criminal prosecution since organisations have an obligation to take reasonable steps to secure personal data, if proven genuine this would be the third occasion on which they have failed to do so.
The purported growth and shrinkage of the party’s influence in different areas is interesting. The BNP have seemingly increased membership in some economically hard hit towns and in areas where they have had active campaigns such as Leicestershire. Likewise the list suggests they had a significant fall in support in Leeds, Keighly, and other areas throughout Yorkshire; areas heavily targeted by antifascist activism. “This is to be celebrated and proves that antifascist tactics in those areas has worked and should be emulated by antifascist groups in similar areas” stated an antifascist activist who wishes to remain anonymous.
On Thursday antifascist activists intend to disrupt and hold the BBC Question Time programme under siege to deny Griffin a platform to promote the BNP’s race hatred. If the programme goes ahead then the leak could potentially provide fuel for tough questioning. Griffin could be questioned over the alleged inflation of membership numbers, their failure to comply with race discrimination legislation, links to the EDL, and an alliance with an overtly racist party in Hungary. However, this seems unlikely when taking into account Craig Murray’s view that there is an “astonishing right wing bias on the panel”, and now the BBC have stated their committment to vet the Question Time audience for ‘antifascist protestors’, whilst allowing BNP supporters access to the floor. Whilst the programme is likely to provide primetime photo opportunities for mainstream politicians and through the roof ratings for the BBC, it is unlikely to provide much comfort for the black, asian, chinese, jewish, refugee, migrant, gay, transgender, and disabled people who would be adversely affected by the rise of fascism in the UK.
Meanwhile, former military chiefs have warned that the armed forces are in danger of being hijacked by far-right groups. Whether this is a side effect of the BNP’s success targeting their most obvious demographic, or if this is endemic of a more sinister trend is yet to be established. The BNP’s links with the jackbooted fascist Jobbik party of Hungary are rarely questioned. The Jobbik party successfully infiltrated the trade union of Hungarian police officers to further the persecution of Roma people, creating a definition of ‘gyspy crime’ as a pretext. Evidence of widespread abuse of Muslim civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan by British military personnel has already come to light, any growth in fascist support throughout the military could potentially further this trend as well as increasing racial tensions domestically.
What is certain is that the BNP have successfully capitalised on the government’s ‘war on terror’ propaganda, and tapped into the jingoistic support for imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan drummed up by the state and corporate media. Jack Straw’s appearance on Question Time as the Labour opponent of Griffin is of particular irony. Despite the cries of foul play from mainstream political parties against the BNP, they have all played a role in laying fertile ground for the rise of fascism, and it is up to us to oppose it on all it’s fronts.