For those campaigning for tolerance and community cohesion across the country, the current state of the British far-right is cause for much celebration. The British National Party – whom HNH have consistently campaigned against and were instrumental in defeating in Barking and Dagenham back in 2010 – lost 99.7% of their vote in the 2015 election, the English Defence League are rudderless and plagued by in-fighting (like the majority of far-right groups), the geographical split of the National Front has caused many to abandon their post, and the once-threatening newcomers, Britain First, are nowadays spending most of their time in courts of law instead of their usual practice of invading mosques in an attempt to spark riots.
However, for those of us who believe the UK should be a home to all, regardless of ethnic background or religious affiliation, the rise of the populist right-wing party UKIP, with its anti-immigration ideology, threatens to jeopardise community cohesion and provoke intolerance and regressive social ideas, in which marginalised communities and vulnerable groups turn against each other in the struggle to cope with the failure of resource distribution and decreasing opportunities.
On an international level, we are experiencing the worse refugee crisis of our era. It is now the case that 1 in 122 people on this planet is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum. But in spite of this global tragedy, Britain seems to have renounced its moral mandate to harbour those in need of HOPE, home and safety. Indeed, the United Nation High Commission of Refugees estimates that Britain has taken in only 0.6% of the world’s refugees, in what appears to be a deliberate decision of isolation and to use aggressive strategies, hostile language and policies that criminalise those who make the treacherous journeys to our shores in hope of a better life, or even just to survive.
Furthermore, as the impact of £15bn of cuts begin to bite, and the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society experience their full force, our communities are set to drift apart. We’ve seen it before. Fragmented communities become vulnerable to those peddling hatred and division, assisted by a powerful right-wing media that fuels a pervasive blame culture. HOPE not hate’s own experience of working with and for the many, at the grassroots level, shows that this identity and political vacuum will be filled by extremist groups or individuals in order to advance their agenda of intolerance, securing their own position of power in the process.
We are at a crossroads in modern Britain. Do we stand aside as the effects of the financial crisis and rise in intolerance ravage our communities? Or do we make good on our words and campaign for a better Britain, one that serves all instead of the few, and one that we can all be proud of?
We at HOPE not hate believe in the latter, and if you do too, then we would like to invite you to our forthcoming national ‘HOPEcamp’: a 4-day residential, community organising training camp, where activists can come together and learn from successful social justice campaigns about how to unite communities and build collective power. At the camp, localised strategies will be created and facilitated by HNH organisers.
Following HOPEcamp, we aim to employ 6 individuals as paid organisers.
Together, we can continue our proactive work with communities, to help them find their voice and address their issues, whilst at the same time building stronger communities that are resilient to the politics of hate and division.
To apply for HOPEcamp, please visit: hopecamp2015
I look forward to hearing from you.
Nick is the South East Organiser with the national anti-racist campaigning organisation, HOPE not hate (HNH). He was part of a grassroots coalition against ‘Immigration Street’, filmed in a diverse area of Southampton, by production team behind ‘Benefits Street’. Due to community pressure, the show, which initially was supposed to be a 6-episode series, ended up airing just one episode.