|There's No Image to Beat the Image of Success!||John Tyndall takes issue with the trimmers|
Recently I took part in a political discussion with a group of people all of whom adhered broadly to the nationalist and radical-right consensus, but some of whom were not members of the British National Party. One of those present ventured a theory as to the (so far) inadequate number of people joining and voting for the BNP, in particular those from what we might refer to as the managerial classes. This he attributed to the party's faulty presentation of its political aims and its image of being too extreme.
I disagreed with him, and later, reflecting on the discussion, I felt there might be some usefulness in putting my reasons for this disagreement into an article.
For many years, a debate has raged in nationalist circle on this matter of presentation, image and general political tactics. It was taking place in the 1960s, when I was active as a publicist for the nationalist cause; it will probably be taking place for a long time to come. I have listened to a great many opinions on the subject in the vast majority of cases coming from well-intentioned people and often highly intelligent people at that. At the same time I have tried to penetrate through to, observe and analyse the thoughts in members of the British public (and other public for that matter) which influence their decisions as to whether to become involved with political parties and, when so, which parties I have formed a number of conclusions, some of which are heavily at odds with the neat theories fashionable among many patriots.
The first thing we have to understand in assessing our position as a political movement is that we live, and operate, in a society gravely atomised, fragmented and subject to a deep cynicism with regard to any ideals that are concerned with things higher than individual self interest. For this we have to thank the Right of on conventional politics much more than the Left, Toryism much more than Labour although New Labour having digested so much of the Tories' spiritual outlook, there is not now a great deal of ideological space between the two.
And it is fair to say that this cynicism is much more deeply entrenched the higher we look in the social, educational and occupational scale. The so-called managerial classes simply do not possess the altruism which fired their grandfathers and great grand-fathers who answered Kitchener's call to rally to their country in 1915 and after.
This should not be a cause for despair but it should induce us to adjust our expectations - at least in the short term - of the possibilities of what we an a achieve.
Nor should it be taken to indicate that the classes of which we are speaking totally lack any genuine concern over the state of the country, that they are so utterly preoccupied with "looking after number one" that they can spare no thought for Britain's future and have no sincere desire to see things take a change for the better.
It is only that in the crassly materialistic and everyone-for-himself, i.e., that Britain has become a society in which personal ambition has been elevated to the very summit among human qualities, and the visible symbols of personal achievement have been presented as the most worthy human goals - the ideal of public service for the good of one's country takes a lower priority. And where it occurs to people at all, the preferred method is, in 99 cases out of 100, going to be one that involves the minimum personal hassle and risk. The safe way of fighting those evils that are damaging Britain (as long as the illusion can be maintained that there is such a way) is going to be much more attractive than the dangerous way inherent in the life of an active nationalist.
Of course, most of this is the product of a certain perception. The reality is usually different. The perceived dangers of activism in such a party as the BNP simply do not materialise in the way that many imagine them to do, but in those quarters where the perception exists and for as long as it exists - it is going to handicap us. The man (or woman) who has what it takes to make a reasonable success of his or her life, to build a rewarding and socially prestigious career and/or to marry well and raise a happy family, and who in fact is well on the way to the attainment of such fulfilling achievements, is likely to exercise a great deal of caution about becoming involved in something which is thought, rightly or wrongly, to involve considerable upheaval, a considerable disturbing of the calm of private existence.
This is not to say that such a person is always going to be so utterly self-centred as to decide to do nothing, to let the country go to rot in total disregard for its fate and total preoccupation with private and personal interest. But it does create the great temptation to seek ways of action and service that can be engaged in comfortably, painlessly and without trouble. Such concerns do not exercise the same restraining influence on those in the population with much less to lose.
But there is a further consideration. The British political system as we have often observed in these columns is heavily weighted against small parties and in favour of mainstream parties. The man or woman who seriously wants to do something about the state of the country, but is deterred by the imagined dangers of participation on what some would call the extremes of politics (i.e. a party like the BNP), has a ready-made excuse to avoid the latter: it offers no immediate prospect of being where the actual power is. No matter how disgusted or disillusioned such a person may be with the parties of the mainstream, in such a party which to all effective intents and purposes today means the Tory Party - some avenue for action is offered, no matter how far from perfect it may be, while the history of parties belonging to the extremes - parties of open, full-blooded nationalism - suggests a future in which well-intentioned patriots will be condemned to spitting in the wind - excluded completely from the practical political process and, at the same time, denied a proper hearing (however undeservedly) by the mass media.
This is a gloomy picture of the situation which I, for one, have never shared. Why not so I shall in due course explain. Nevertheless it is a picture that appears very real to many who contemplate political action for the betterment of Britain.
Interwoven with this picture is the question of political careers. The man or woman with sound political intentions is likely, logically enough to find some attraction in a life-time dedicated to politics free from the irksome chore of having to earn a living by work in the outside world. In this there is nothing dishonourable; when one is able to give 100 per cent of one's attention and energy (outside domestic cares) to political work, one can obviously do a great deal more than if such work is confined to leisure hours. Having myself made the decision many years ago to pursue politics as a full-time occupation, I cannot criticise others who aim for the same thing.
Again, participation in a mainstream party provides an avenue to the achievement of this ambition, while involvement in a party of the fringe offers far less in the. way of such opportunities. Only a tiny few of us can pursue the latter type of career if indeed career is the appropriate word for a life with very little (up till now at least) in the way of financial inducements.
Taking these realities into account, politics in modern Britain provide a classic example of the human tendency to seek to reconcile the course of cowardice with that of practical common sense, to offer a rationale for the avoidance of the real battle for our race and nation by resort to the formula of the art of the possible.
It is in these circumstances that great numbers of people of good political instincts and with the desire to act are seduced into the dead end of establishment politics: that dead end - which of course they do not see as a dead end - offers them a vehicle, as they perceive it, to campaign for the things they think right, without the potential embarrassment of being publicly spotlighted as a right-wing extremist and, on the other hand, with the prospect of a career in parliament to boot.
It is an illusory picture, but it is a highly attractive one, beckoning the would-be political crusader who especially if he or she has a family to think of, lives in a nice house with a not insubstantial mortgage and wants, without years of waiting and hoping, to influence the political process.
The real deterrent
The message that I hope I can get over to my fellow patriots is that it is this - and this above all - which acts as the main deterrent to great numbers of good people whom we would like to see join and become involved with the BNP.
It is, at the same time, a deterrent which human nature being what it is - is difficult for most folk to acknowledge, even to themselves. Far more comforting is it, because more satisfying to self-esteem to protest that BNP policies are off-putting, too extreme, harsh, inhumane, suggestive of fascism, nazism and other buzz-words guaranteed to dull the faculties, terminate reasoned debate and provide escape route from the essential battlefield on which, at the end of the day, the struggle for the future of Britain will have to be fought.
The ordinary average voter - unlike the would-be political activist and prospective career politician does not have to contend with the same deterrents. He or she is not interested in a life of full-time politics. He or she has no ambition to get into parliament in the foreseeable future, if ever. And, not least, he or she is able in secret to make a political choice by dropping a marked paper through a slot in a ballot box with no-one knowing from whom it comes.
But - one factor operates in the case of this voter in the same way as it operates in the case of the person who wants to make a much bigger commitment to politics. He or she wants to make a vote count. In the present political environment of Britain, this is looked at more often in a negative than in a positive way. The purpose is to prevent being elected the candidate one most opposes rather than help to be elected the candidate one most supports. And where this opposition is concerned, it is only serious in the case of the opposed candidate who is in with a chance; it matters little in the case of the also-rans. In effective terms, it means that the voter who has come to detest a Labour government (or council) will most likely vote Tory simply because that provides the most effective way of stopping Labour getting in; likewise when the situation is reversed, and people vote Labour to keep the Tories out. In areas where Liberal Democrats are contenders or (as in the case of Wales or Scotland) where there are bogus nationalists who could conceivably get elected, the issue is a shade more complex; but the same basic rule applies: a vote for a candidate or party seen as having no hope of winning is regarded as a wasted vote no matter in what private sympathy the elector may be with the policies that candidate or party stands for, always assuming (and it can be a big assumption) that the voter is aware of them!
SuperstitionNevertheless, despite the vast amount of evidence there is that this is what determines people's political decisions - the decision of some to join and become active in political parties or the decision of many more to vote for them the superstition still persists among many patriots that would-be joiners and would-be voters are inhibited by some consideration of moral conscience from supporting a party that is presented as being offensive from that standpoint, and that if such a party has its image revamped so as to make it less offensive everything will change: the prospective joiners will join and the prospective voters will vote! All that is wrong at the moment is that we are perceived to be "not nice enough". Trim this policy and trim that policy. Smooth this edge and polish that edge. Jettison our extremism and assert our moderation do all these things and the legions of activists and voters just waiting for a new party with such an impeccable gloss will come flooding towards us. How great it would be if things were that simple!
I should not have to spell out to the reader that this is not a recipe for being nasty instead of nice, for going out of our way to exhibit extremism and reject everything suggestive of moderation, for jack-booting our way around in the manner of Combat 18 and making no effort whatever to present an acceptable face to the British public. It should go without saying that imagery is important; that good public relations should be cultivated; that presentation of our policies in reasonable and civilised language is a practice at which we should aim at all time. These are truths so elementary that it becomes intensely irritating when people stand up and, with all the pomposity of schoolteachers talking down to kids, lecture us on the virtues of good image-making as if we had never heard of the idea.
The point of what I am saying is that the perceived notion of a bad image is not the main factor - or indeed any significant factor at all - making for the present difficulty that we encounter in turning our party from a small group on the fringes of politics into a great national mass movement. The source of the difficulty must be sought in other directions, and I have tried here to indicate where those directions lie.
How Millwall was won
Much has been made in discussions among nationalists of the BNP s council election victory in London's Millwall in 1993 and its subsequent loss of the seat won. But in all these discussions I have often heard much more nonsense spoken than practical political wisdom.
Prior to the winning of the seat the party had acquired in the area a reputation of being too uncompromising and, if anything, rather strident in its way of going about things. Of course, in the election campaign itself its workers were on their very best behaviour, calling politely on doorsteps, speaking with courtesy and friendliness to the voters and in every way putting themselves across as people with whom the local Eastenders could identify as being part of the local community (as indeed most of them were). This was always the BNP rule in elections long before that vent and has remained the rule since. Any departure from the rule would be plain political idiocy.
But this campaign was conducted against a background of activity in the area over several years in which the party had in no way identified itself as a bunch of milksops. To abandoned, alienated and angry Eastenders it had become the last hope. It had staged several marches through the local streets, all of them attended by rowdy demonstrations by the far left. It had held public meetings with the same responses, some of these in involving violence from its opponents - in the face of which its own men gave more than as good as they got. Far from this, putting off the local people, it earned the BNP the reputation of being their sturdy champions. And neither had those local people been frightened away by the parties uncompromising stance on the issue of race and immigration; if anything, this was its strongest attraction for them.
Regularly, local newspapers screamed hate and horror against the BNP, urging voter to reject it This had very little effect; on the contrary, to many it served as a recommendation!
Through this gradual build-up, supplemented by systematic canvassing, the party broke through to win 20 per cent of the vote in Millwall ward in October 1992. In doing so it broke a mould. It eliminated in a stroke the idea that it could never win: it convinced large numbers of electors that a vote for the BNP was not a wasted vote. Clearly, a number who had sympathised with the party in that election but, thinking otherwise, voted elsewhere would vote for us the next time round.
This happened just eleven months afterwards, when the BNP candidate Derek Beackon, obtained an historic 34 per cent of the poll and won the seat. What had made this possible? Precisely the demonstration on the previous occasion that the BNP was not an also ran, but was up among the main contenders!
Labour dirty tricks
So why, then, was the seat subsequently lost in the local government elections in May 1994. It certainly was not lost because the local voters decided in the meantime that the BNP was too extreme, having not thought any such thing eight months earlier! A combination of adverse circumstances worked against us on the latter occasion, the two main ones being a general nation-wide swing to Labour due to the emerging honeymoon with Tony Blair - and a quite unscrupulous operation by the local Labour party whereby large numbers of Asians not previously on the electoral roll had, by some miracle, come to be on that roll! Far from the party's votes declining, they had in fact increased. In the previous election Derek Beackon obtained 1,480 votes; in the later election his vote rose to 2,041. The difference, of course, was that the Labour vote had risen more - mostly due to the factors I have stated. At the same time, all over the East End of London BNP candidates frightened the daylights out of the establishment by their near-success in several areas. Plenty of campaigning energy and hard work were the causes of this upsurge, not a choirboy image nor pussy-footing policies.
Our problem since Millwall has been that we have not succeeded in continuing and extending this winning streak. There have been a number of factors accounting for this, most of them far beyond our own control. For a while, the Blair honeymoon was one of these, though that is now turning sour. Another - in the case of the East End of London at least - has been the demographic trend whereby many of the hard core of our voters have moved out of our strong areas and into the neighbouring county beyond. This is an inevitable trend wherever ethnic minorities form sufficient of a large portion of the population to make life uncomfortable for the native Whites.
Electorally, the BNP's most fruitful areas are traditionally the ones where there is sufficient of an ethnic minority presence nearby to stimulate awareness of a race problem, but not such a big one as to constitute a major portion of the vote.
If nationalists themselves have contributed, by their own errors, to further Millwalls not occurring, it has been mainly through their still lamentable disunity. A number - getting entirely the wrong signals from failures at further break-through - have left the fold and wasted their time with alternative political experiments that have led nowhere. Some have tinkered with schemes for new parties. Others have sulked on the sidelines offering only carping criticism when they could have been far better employed putting their talents o work in something constructive for the BNP. Yet others have sought panaceas in the form of changes of political clothing.
All of which have amounted to evasions of the most important issues before us, and the priorities they impose on us. These are:-
Obviously, the term political impotence - suggestive as this is of failure - must be qualified: we did not fail at Millwall; and numerous subsequent electoral efforts cannot fairly be described as failures in relation to the odds against us and the possibilities open to us - some recent local government results being cases in point. I speak of failure only in the context understood by would-be supporters of the BNP among the general British public. To them, simply, we have failed if we hold no power!
The top priority
How is this to be remedied? There has been building up a general consensus within our movement that top priorities must now be given to the acquisition of a few favourably situated local government seats. Of course, the importance of winning such seats is not a new development; for a long time it has been accepted. However, in the past the investment of effort and resources in this direction has had to compete with other undertakings prioritised equally highly. In the immediate future, these priorities must alter overwhelmingly in favour of a drive to register real victories in the one area where they might shortly be achieved: the election of BNP councillors. Millwall showed that it can be done. There must be more Millwalls - and before very long!
Such an achievement would change, overnight, the perspectives in which the British public views the BNP. It would also change the attitude displayed towards us by the mass media. This does not mean that those media would become less hostile; it does mean that their hostility would be tinged with respect, and that we would consequently be treated as if we counted, and thereby deserved a hearing - if only to appease our rowing supporters.
This does not mean for one moment that the BNP should abandon the field of parliamentary elections - albeit that this is an area where we cannot expect our candidates to be victorious for some time yet. Regular challenges in the parliamentary field need to be made to remind the public of our presence as more than just a municipal party. Also, credibility from gaining council seats can greatly improve our support in parliamentary ones. When I won 7 per cent of the poll as BNP candidate in Dagenham in June 1994 it was in the wake of the party's strong showing in local government elections just a month earlier - the one bearing crucially on the other.
Of course, it is one thing to state that the BNP needs to begin again winning local government seats; it is another thing entirely to put that resolution into practice. Also, no doubt, there will continue to be arguments, as there always have been, as to how best this can be done. But let us at least reach firm agreement on one thing: it is the image of our perceived political failure and weakness that provides, right now, the greatest deterrent to national support. Correspondingly, it will be an image of growing political success and strength that will provide the greatest boost to the removing of that deterrent. Recognition of this should at least clear the decks of much useless ballast in the way of internal debate, and enable us to concentrate on the real priorities ahead of us.
And at the end of the day there is no substitute for the success of the BNP. To those who continue working within the main-stream parties on the grounds that there is where the power is, we must put the challenging question: power to do what? No power which precludes taking the measures necessary for the political, economic, national and racial salvation of Britain - measures which past precedent makes clear will never be taken by the Tory party nor any of the others - is in the slightest way worth having.