Groups such as the Anti-Nazi League have been infiltrated by elements from Class War, Militant and the Socialist Workers Party. One result is that peaceful protests against racism, such as the demonstration in Welling, south-east London, on 16 October, degenerate into confrontations with police.
'Violence with Violence', a World in Action programme due to be broadcast tonight, looks behind the public face of anti-racist groups such as the Anti-Nazi League.
More militant than its rival, the Anti-Racist Alliance, it fights racism by confronting the BNP on the streets. Its main organisers are both members of the SWP.
One former member admitted the ANL was prepared to use violence against the police in order to satisfy its aims. 'If the police block their way, they'll use whatever means necessary to break their ranks,' he said.
Other groups, such as the recently formed Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE), were set up by Militant to recruit young people from the anti-racist movement. Although it does not officially advocate violence, World In Action discovered a hidden group of 25 within the organisation called the 'Away Team', used for defence and confrontation.
On an anti-racism demonstration in Brick Lane, east London, on 19 September, the Away Team, posing as racists, were driven into the BNP ranks by police who assumed that they too were right-wing extremists. They then attacked the BNP members. Twenty-three charges against team members have since been through the courts.
Panther UK, another group originally set up by Militant to recruit young black people, recently split into two sections; one that believed in confrontation and another that did not.
Mike Beckham, the programme's producer, said the violent factions were seriously undermining the anti-racist cause. 'What appears to have happened is that anti-racism is a single-issue cause like the poll tax and acts as a kind of catch-all for some of the extreme left-wing groups to jump on board,' he said.
According to Ken Livingstone MP, a supporter of the ARA, this is just what the BNP wants. 'No one's discussing their policies. Now the question is the violence of the SWP, arguments between the police and the SWP about who is to blame.'
World in Action 'Violence with Violence'; ITV, 8.30pm tonight.Reuse content