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Opposing cuts, defending communities

On the same day that David Cameron launched a salvo against multiculturalism the neo-fascist English Defence League marched in Luton. David Braniff-Herbert reminds us the far right may be down but not out.

In a few months time the British National Party have an opportunity to come back from the dead, to wreak havoc with the politics of hate, by peddling on peoples worst economic fears.

The Coalition Government has not just cut away the very few strands of hope communities rely on in the form of council and council-funded services but put this year's electoral protest vote in the worst possible position. Whilst Labour may assume the vote is theirs for the taking, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pointing the 'Labour's economic mess' finger will have a strong resonance with voters this May. Who to vote for? The party that was in government for 13 years but failed to get your kids in work after they left school or graduated? Or the other two parties that took your kids benefits and your mother's disability allowance away? These are real questions that could lead to a surge in the far right vote.

People are looking around for answers to explain why there are no jobs or affordable homes and many are being presented with the 'We all live in the same boat' answer. Well, come on, it makes sense that if we are all in a boat and too many people get in then we sink. It's pretty easy to understand that argument but last time I checked we don't live in boats. Maybe people get sucked into that crap because the reasons why the economy failed are old and tired? Communities want to know the answers for their current situation but the political party mainstream are not articulating the possible solutions. Trust is the key factor in this and not because of the expenses scandal, because the guys that promised no tuition fees put them up three-fold and the guys who say they are now on your side introduced them in the first place.

The BNP are likely to be rubbing their hands and seeking a come back tour this year in the same places where they were before, the same communities affected most by the Coalition's cuts and where the BNP have won before. But that's where my threat ends and our hope begins because there is always hope.

Last May we saw the tide turn on the far right in Britain. If the anti-fascist movement was fighting the British National Party in a video game then the knock-out round was called Barking and Dagenham. Those monsters in suits paraded round the East London borough with smug looks on their faces, impressed with their elected titles and looking forward to the next prize which they felt was rightfully their's: Barking and Dagenham Local Authority.

What a shock it was to them when on Friday 6th May 2010 the returning officer read the result for each of the 51 wards in Barking and Dagenham announcing that the Labour Party had taken every ward. 51-0, KO!

The victory was an outstanding success for the community campaign which was run by HOPE not hate. The campaign clearly demonstrated that building positive coalitions with faith groups, trade unions, political parties and other organised groups within the community provided communication action networks that delivered our key campaign messages effectively.

In the campaign we focussed activity on delivering our newspaper and other literature door-to-door, a usual key-move in the campaign game. We also promoted these events as 'Days of Action' to the community and surrounding boroughs, but when 541 people turned up we realised we had found our unique strength.

We targeted women and ethnic minorities with direct mails to ensure that the representative strength of the anti-BNP vote was in full force on Election Day.

Our online campaign was also our power base, with over 120,000 active subscribers we ran a successful online phone bank aimed at getting out the anti-BNP vote in Barking and Dagenham and Stoke-on-Trent. Working with the same people who ran Barrack Obama's online Presidential campaign we were also able to mobilise online support into offline community action across the UK.

This campaign is our interpretation of community organising and that is how anti-fascists won last year. But for this year that model needs to evolve to the next level. The anti-cuts movement is providing people with an action-based forum that seeks to find solutions for their communities' needs. The demands of the movement are ironically not anti-cuts, they are for a manifesto of hope: that we can change our community together, that we can create our own answers and hold our Government to account. That's the kind of politics that will win the estates if the messages are bold in educating against the far right, for it is the far right that will present the other deadly alternative.