Online shop reveals the true BNP

The BNP's Excalibur stocks a "Golly Collection". Need any more proof of the party's racist nature?

The BNP's attempts to adopt a mask of respectability are proving ever more effective. From winning its first seats in the European Parliament to Nick Griffin's infamous appearance on Question Time, the far-right party is edging its way into the political mainstream.

But how can we oppose the politics of race, fear and hatred and stop the "normalisation" of the fascists? The answer, as demonstrated by the newly established Expose the BNP website, is to show the party's true nature, rather than lazily reporting its vision of Britain's doom.

This is remarkably easy to do. While party propaganda and Griffin's speeches carefully avoid racist references, such a deeply prejudiced organisation cannot conceal its core beliefs.

Potential voters should visit Excalibur, the BNP's online shop, which betrays an unhealthy interest in race and genetics (which, despite Griffin's denials, are obsessions the Nazis shared).

Four Flags: the Indigenous People of Britain is a booklet the BNP says "proves that the vast majority of the British people have ancestors going back to the last mini-Ice Age more than 12,000 years ago".

Although this may seem irrelevant in the context of the coming general election, it demonstrates the main appeal of the BNP -- especially when it is coupled with exaggerated claims about immigration. This is the party's technique for creating fear of an Immigration Invasion (the name of another book that Excalibur sells), which it says is destroying Britain.

Excalibur also boasts the "Golly Collection", a range of items based on the dolls now widely seen as racist, especially since a 12-year-old girl burned one at a BNP event. The party refused to comment on what place the dolls had in a shop whose stock includes DVDs on the Zulu wars and books such as Race, Evolution and Behaviour and Folk and Nation: Underpinning the Ethno-State (which Griffin co-authored).

The website also sells T-shirts bearing the slogans "It's cool to be white" and "British by birth: English by the grace of God" as well as one that warns asylum-seekers: "Don't unpack, you're going back."

Even with a small membership of about 14,000 and limited electoral support, the BNP is damaging to British politics and society, not least because two of its members represent us in the European Parliament.

To ensure that Nick Griffin joins Oswald Mosley as an unpleasant footnote in the history textbooks, politicians must challenge the view that the BNP is the only party with a clear immigration policy, addressing the concerns of people who feel that immigration is out of control, but without pandering to bigotry and intolerance.

Journalists must challenge popular myths, rather than repeat misleading claims that fuel the BNP's politics of fear.

What they fear is the truth -- that no one will vote for a party of hate. To see the truth for yourself, just visit their online shop.

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When the world seems dark and terrifying, we shouldn’t feel ashamed to dream of Utopia

Right now, the future seems dark and frightening and it is precisely now that we must continue to imagine other worlds and then plot ways to get there.

There are many cruel and routine lies we tell to children but perhaps the most indicative is this: if you tell anyone your wish, it won’t come true. This parable was probably invented by parents trying to avoid the trauma of not being able to give their children what they want but we carry it with us to adulthood, when it is repeated to us by our leaders. Don’t tell anyone the sort of world you would like to see – at best you’ll be disappointed and at worst you’ll be arrested.

“We want more.” This week, exhausted by the news, I dragged myself out of the house to a book fair, where I came across a new collection of utopian fiction by radical women. That was the first line and it stopped my breath in my throat. When basic survival seems like a stretch goal, caught as we are between the rich and the rising seas, hope feels like an unaffordable luxury. The precise words I used to the bookseller were, “Shut up and take my money.”

There has never been a more urgent time for utopian ideas, precisely because the concept of a better world has never felt further away. Right now, world leaders are deciding how many cities are going to sink before something is done to reduce carbon emissions. They are meeting in Paris, which very recently saw the opening scene of a new act in everyone’s least favourite dramatic franchise, “War in the Middle East”. We seem to be living in a dystopian trilogy scripted by a sadistic young-adult author and I very much hope that our plucky young heroes show up to save the day soon, even if there’s a clunky love triangle involved.

Dystopias are easy to construct: to paraphrase the novelist Kim Stanley Robinson, you might as well pick five news headlines at random, make a collage and there’s your plot. Utopias are harder. Utopias require that we do the difficult, necessary work of envisioning a better world. This is why imagination is the first, best weapon of radicals and progressives.

Utopian stories existed long before the word was coined by Thomas More in the 16th century to mean an ideal society, or “no-place”. Plato’s Republic has some claim to being the first but there are as many Utopias as there are communities that dreamed of a better life. The greatest age of utopian fiction was the turn of the last century and it is no accident that the early 21st century is a great age of dystopian fiction. The ideology of late-capitalist patriarchy has become so all-encompassing that it no longer looks like ideology. Fredric Jameson observed, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism” – and the reason for that is not that capitalism is the inevitable destiny of humankind but that we have spent our lives being told that even thinking about any other future makes us ridiculous.

Most leftists do have an idea of the sort of world they would prefer to see. We don’t say what we want for the same reason that we were told as children not to tell anyone else what we wished for – because it’ll be awkward and painful if we don’t get it.

When I think about Utopia, I think about my grandmother. My mother’s mother left school at 13, lived through the Maltese blockade and was obliged by religion and circumstance to marry young, suffocate all her dreams of education and adventure and spend her life taking care of a husband and six kids. Half a century later, I can choose when and whether to have children. I can choose to live independently from men. I regularly travel alone and there are no legal restrictions on getting any job I’m suited for.

The kind of independence many women my age can enjoy would have been almost unimaginable half a century ago – but somebody did imagine it and that is why we got here. A great many somebodies, over centuries of struggle and technological advancement, asked how the world could be different for women and set about making it happen.

Exactly a century ago, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novel Herland envisioned a society of women in which production was communal, motherhood was valued, relationships were equal and rape and violence were unknown. Reading Herland today, it is striking that for every proposition that came true – women are now allowed to divorce their husbands and participate fully in political life – there are two more that seem as far-fetched now as they did in 1915. Motherhood is still not valued as work. Women are still expected to organise our lives around the threat of sexual violence. But all that can change as long as we continue to ask for more.

For as long as I have been a feminist, I have been asked – usually by grumbling men – when, exactly, we will be satisfied; when women and girls will decide we have enough. The answer is contained in the question: because the instant that we do decide that we are satisfied, that there can never be a better world than this, is the instant that the future shuts down and change becomes impossible.

Utopia is the search for Utopia. It is the no-place by whose light you plot a course through a harsh and unnavigable present. By the time you reach the horizon, it is no longer the horizon but that doesn’t mean you stop going forwards.

Right now, the future seems dark and frightening and it is precisely now that we must continue to imagine other worlds and then plot ways to get there. In the midst of multiple global crises, the only truly ridiculous proposition is that things are going to stay exactly the same.

Human societies are going to change beyond recognition and from the conference table to the streets, our best shot at surviving that change starts when we have the courage to make impossible demands – to face down ridicule and say, “We want more.”

Laurie Penny is a contributing editor to the New Statesman. She is the author of five books, most recently Unspeakable Things.

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State