Protesters are organising for a mass demonstration against the far-right British National Party (BNP) on Monday, 16 January outside Leeds Crown Court where BNP ‘fŸhrer’ Nick Griffin and his sidekick Mark Collett face charges of ‘inciting racial hatred’.

Ian Slattery, Socialist Students, Huddersfield University

That description barely scratches the surface of their crimes. Griffin’s BNP have been the ‘legitimate’ front for Britain’s racist minority.

It is no coincidence that four of the most brutal racist murders of the early 1990s (including the killing of Stephen Lawrence) took place near Welling in south London, home of the BNP headquarters.

Back then the BNP never hid far from their violent core. Many members were involved in setting up Combat 18, a paramilitary organisation designed to protect the BNP and attack their enemies.

C18 and BNP members attacked Mansfield National Union of Mineworkers’ offices and Tower Hamlets Nalgo (now UNISON)’s offices in 1992, as well as numerous attacks on gay pubs, anti-racist and socialist organisations and Black, Asian and Jewish people.

In 1999, Griffin took over the BNP leadership from the openly neo-Nazi John Tyndall and tried to make the party more ‘respectable’, attempting to gain electoral support from right-wingers who felt the Tories had become too weak, and a small layer of the white working class desperate for an alternative to New Labour.

Despite becoming less extreme and offering ‘concessions’ such as ‘voluntary’ repatriation of immigrants (all non-whites in BNP-speak) instead of forced repatriation, the BNP are still a racist, neo-Nazi organisation.

However, their changes won them votes. In Yorkshire and Lancashire, where the BNP have most of their councillors and won back around a dozen deposits in the 2005 general election, minority groups are worried at the BNP’s support.

Socialists and trade unionists must explain to people, on the streets and in the universities, colleges, schools and workplaces what the BNP are about. Thousands voted for them because they wanted an alternative to the big three parties, a group who will put people before businesses. In reality, the BNP offer no such hope.

Next Monday, people will stand up to the fascist bullies. Socialists aim to build a lasting and real alternative to the big business parties. Working-class unity is essential to defend jobs, wages and conditions and to stop attacks like privatisation.

We must build a real alternative both to the major parties of big business and to the BNP’s murderous cul-de-sac of racism, prejudice and hatred.

Demonstrate against Griffin and the BNP

Monday 16 January

9.00 am outside Leeds Crown Court, Oxford Row.

Organised by Yorkshire and Humber TUC and UAF.